A lot can happen in a couple months. Trying to mock with pinpoint accuracy at this juncture is all but a hopeless endeavor at this point. That being said, we have a week until March Madness, so the sports world is at an unusual lack of craziness. As a self-diagnosed football nerd, the late-February/early-march slump is the perfect time to mull over the jumbled pot of alphabet soup that is the NFL draft. Honestly, this is the first draft I've written up that I've had the balls to submit to MTD. I'm no BigBlue, but it's worth a shot.
1. Colts: Andrew Luck/QB (Stanford) Nothing to say about this. We all know, this has been a lock for quite some time.
2. Redskins (from Rams): Robert Griffin III/QB (Baylor) Trade scenario: Redskins trade their first, second, and third picks in 2012 and first and third picks in 2013. It's apparent now that the Rams are going to receive a king's ransom for the 2nd overall pick (a projection that I have been drooling over since RG3 lit up the combine). I believe that this will be the Redskins in the end. The Rams won't want to move down farther than 6 so that they can have a shot at Justin Blackmon, and even thought the Browns have two first-rounders, I think Daniel Snyder, a known risk-taker, will be more willing to mortgage a lot of their picks to acquire the second-best player in the draft. Unlike many of Snyder's other risks, this one is pretty exciting. The 'Skins need to fix their QB solution before anything else, whether it's Peyton Manning or Robert Griffin.
3. Vikings: Matt Kalil/OT (USC) Another no-brainer. The best prospect on the board in this case also fills a big need. I like Christian Ponder's potential, but as a Rams fan, I can testify to the fact that poor protection can ruin a quarterback's career. Charlie Johnson shouldn't be starting on the blind side.
4. Browns: Trent Richardson/RB (Alabama) Ah, finally some controversy. Browns fans may not like this one, but hear me out. I'm going to base this off a set of predictions (it's March 5, why not?) Prediction 1: Peyton Hillis won't be retained. Poor Cleveland never seems to get luck on their side, and I just get the feeling something will break down. Prediction 2: Richardson will re-boost his draft stock to the point where this isn't such a big reach. Richardson's stock has fallen somewhat due to knee concerns. I realize that no RB has been taken in the top 10 since Adrian Peterson, but then again, none have really deserved to until now. Richardson's Pro day will be a big deal. Prediction 3: Browns fans will end up liking the pick. Richardson will bring some consistency to a team that has been lacking just that for quite some time. They will also fall for his blue-collar work ethic.
5. Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne/CB (LSU) I'm a Ronde Barber fan. The man can retire whenever he pleases. Unfortunately, that could be any time now. Aqib Talib's future is also sketchy at best. That's quite a bit of uncertainty for a position that needs consistency. Tampa recently hired LSU's Ron Cooper as defensive backs coach. That combination should make this an easy pick, and likely a very successful one.
6. Rams (from Redskins): Justin Blackmon/WR (Oklahoma State) The Rams luck out here. The trade is undoubtedly the right move to make. This team has too many holes to fill to pass up that opportunity. I'm sure they would feel more secure picking at #4 (getting a guaranteed shot at Kalil or Blackmon) but I can see Blackmon falling to 6. I could also see any of the teams 3-5 taking him. In the end, though, I feel like the former will happen, and the Rams will use the first of their trade-acquired picks on their go-to guy of the future. Sam Bradford is the future of the Rams and needs to be built around. Couple this pick with either re-signing Brandon Lloyd or signing somebody like Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston, and this will be a pretty formidable receiving tandem.
7. Jaguars: Quinton Coples/DE (UNC) The jags are tough to mock. They have this strong tendency to make really strange picks on draft day. Coples isn't exactly a Gene Smith-type pick (Melvin Ingram could make more sense) but there aren't a ton of options that work here, and the Jags need to upgrade their pass rush. Jeremy Mincey is a quality player, but Aaron Kampman just can't stay healthy and Matt Roth is more of a run-stuffer. While finding someone to help Blaine Gabbert would be more beneficial, considering the value of players at #7, Coples makes sense for the Jags.
8. Dolphins: Riley Reiff/OT (Iowa) The Dolphins will make a play for the #2 pick, but probably won't want to pay the high price the 'Skins will offer. Reiff is good value, and I don't see the Phins passing on him. Marc Colombo sucked last year, and Long-Reiff would make a perfect set of bookend tackles for whoever will be playing QB for Miami entering the future.
9. Panthers: Michael Brockers/DT (LSU) It's hard to not like the direction of the Panthers offense. Cam Newton is a stud. So are Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. This offseason, the Panthers should work on doing to their defense what they've been able to do to their offense. Brockers would be a great start. Brockers' combine wasn't great, but his talent is still intriguing. Sione Fua and Terrell McClain are works in progress, and would benefit from being able to work in a rotation next to Brockers.
10. Bills: Melvin Ingram/DE (South Carolina) Another tough team to mock. The Bills have shown lots of interest in Courtney Upshaw, but I think Ingram, at the time of the pick, will present a better value and a better fit for the 4-3.
11. Chiefs: Jonathan Martin/OT (Stanford) I wrestled with mocking David DeCastro here. Clearly, the Chiefs need to address to the tackle and guard positions. That being said, tackle is a more costly position to struggle at, especially with a speedster running back who works best on outside runs (not that there's anything wrong with that). Barry Richardson is not a very good right tackle and would be more serviceable as a backup. Martin is not a sexy pick, but should install more solidity and consistency.
12. Seahawks: David DeCastro/G (Stanford) Two Stanford lineman in a row? I'll take a guess and say that hasn't happened before. Whoever is the Seahawks' QB next year needs protection. Seattle needs help at guard, and are getting the best guard prospect in years. If David Hawthore doesn't come back, expect Seattle to consider Luke Kuechly.
13. Cardinals: Luke Kuechly/ILB (Boston College) ...Speaking of Kuechly, this will be an easy pick for the Cards if he is available. I like Daryl Washington and the young guys on the outside, but the linebacking corps has one missing piece on the inside. Kuechly could both solidify that spot and be the best of the bunch. He has that "it" factor for a linebacker, and reminds me of James Laurinaitis.
14. Cowboys: Janoris Jenkins/CB (North Alabama) This has been a really popular pick on the Internet lately. Most of that stems from the fact that the Cowboys have been looking at Jenkins really hard in the pre-draft process. Also, the Cowboys need real help their secondary, and Jenkins is uber-talented. He brings major character concerns along with him, but Dallas may be willing to take the risk.
15. Eagles: Devon Still/DT (Penn State) For the longest time, I've mocked Michael Floyd here. However, the Eagles just franchised DeSean Jackson. They may still trade him, but for now, I'll just assume he stays. If Luke Kuechly isn't available, this presents a positional value problem for Philly. I heard Ray Didinger said that he thinks the Eagles will use this pick for a DT, and his insight on the Eagles is always trustworthy. Still is a steal at 15.
16. Jets: Courtney Upshaw/OLB (Alabama) Rex Ryan relies way too much on blitzes, because they lack prime talent on the outside. Upshaw at 16 makes too much sense. Upshaw is a talented pass rusher with good work ethic. His presence will help escalate Ryan's D to the level he wants it to be at. In a division where you face Tom Brady twice a year, getting pressure on the QB is essential.
17. Bengals (from Raiders): Dre Kirkpatrick/CB (Alabama) The Bengals flat-out robbed the Raiders in the Palmer trade. It was highway robbery and Bengals fans should still be chortling over it. In this scenario, the first pick acquired in the deal should be Dre Kirkpatrick. The Bengals secondary has room for improvement, and Kirkpatrick has immense upside and great size. The Bengals are known to take chances on guys with character issues, so this a good fit for both sides.
18. Chargers: Nick Perry/OLB (USC) The 3-4 defense, in theory, is based around the idea that you are willing to risk some stoutness on the inside to amp up the pressure on the outside. The Chargers need to work on getting outside pressure, otherwise their entire D suffers. Travis LaBoy and Larry English aren't going to cut it. Nick Perry is a phenomenal athlete and a great fit.
19. Bears: Michael Floyd/WR (Notre Dame) If I were a Bears fan, this is what I'd want. I've seen a few whispers about the Bears considering trading up for Blackmon. That seems dumb to me, since Floyd and/or Kendall Wright could be available by staying put. In this scenario, both are there. I think the Bears would prefer Floyd over Wright. The bears already have speed at the WR position in Devin Hester and Jonny Knox. They need a WR who brings some size (and isn't named Roy Williams). I'm from Illinois so I have plenty of friends who are Bears fans. They all agree that priority numero uno should be getting Jay Cutler some targets this offseason.
20. Titans: Whitney Mercilus/DE (Illinois) Cordy Glenn will be tempting here. The Titans need to upgrade their line and pass rush. However, the guard position in this draft has pretty good depth, whereas the DE class is top-heavy. The Titans will probably want to capitalize on the crop of really good pass rushers available at the fron tof the draft. Karl Klug is good, but was the only Titan to get to 7 sacks last year. Derrick Morgan seems to be a bust.
21. Bengals: Cordy Glenn/G (Georgia) Another good setup for the Bengals. The Bengals line has played really well, but the guard position isn't as solid as it could be. Glenn could be immediately plugged in over Nate Livings and turn the Bengals line from a quality line to a really good one.
22. Browns (from Falcons): Ryan Tannehill/QB (Texas A&M) Hehehe. I have nothing against Cleveand, it's just pure coincidence that they are the subject of some of my more controversial selections. Richardson was a bit of a reach, and this is even more so. However, Tannehill's draft stock is somewhat enigmatic as it is. Furthermore, the Browns have apparently given up on poor Colt McCoy. I wouldn't be surprised if Cleveland makes a move for Matt Flynn, but if not they may prefer to take a shot at Tannehill at 22 rather than settle for mediocrity in a Kyle Orton or Jason Campbell.
23. Lions: Peter Konz/C (Wisconsin) We all know the Lions are a "best player available" team. Not only is Konz one of the best players still on the board, he will bring an immediate upgrade over Dominic Raiola. We all saw what happens when Matt Stafford stays healthy, so the Lions should work to build the best line possible.
24. Steelers: Dontari Poe/NT (Memphis) The Steelers have to like this. Poe had a stellar combine and could easily go quite a bit higher than this. However, I predict that he does not due merely to circumstance. The Steelers like to go BPA, which works out in this case, since Casey Hampton is at the tail end of his career and coming off an ACL injury. Dont'a Hightower is also a strong possibility here.
25. Broncos: Fletcher Cox/DT (Mississippi State) Cox is a prospect on the rise. He was a fringe first-round prospect before, and was able to solidify his first-round status after the Combine. He, like Poe, makes it to #25 out of circumstance. This works out well for the Broncos, who need to find an upgrade next to Brodrick Bunkley.
26. Texans: Kendall Wright/WR (Baylor) You lucky Texans. Kendall Wright could go as high as #7, but, like the two above, falls this far due to circumstance (it wouldn't be a surprise to see someone jump in to trade for him). Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter aren't terrible, they just shouldn't be starting. I think the biggest winner here is Andre Johnson, who will no longer have to suffer the brunt of weekly double-coverage and can flourish even further.
27. Patriots (from Saints): Mark Barron/S (Alabama) The Patriots are the very hardest team to mock, just because they trade away most of their picks and make really random ones later on. I think by in 2030, we will see a draft where it's just the Pats picking 255 times. Whatever, it seems to be working pretty well for them. If they pick here, Mark Barron is too good to pass up. Not only could he go as high as the late teens, he fills a position of need. The fact that Sterling Moore was a hero against Baltimore doesn't change the fact that Julian Edelman was playing in the Pats secondary last year. Some high-end talent is necessary.
28. Packers: Andre Branch/OLB (Clemson) The Packers are hard to mock simply because they don't need much improvement. Their biggest need, in my opinion, is a pass rusher across from Clay Matthews. A big reason Matthews didn't have as big of a year was that teams figured that they could throw the house at him and take their chances with Erik Walden and Frank Zombo. For the most part, this strategy worked. What Kendall Wright does for Andre Johnson, Andre Branch, an underrated high-motor prospect, will do for Clay Matthews.
29. Ravens: Dont'a Hightower/ILB (Alabama) Another steal late in the first round. Hightower is better than #29, but falls due to, you guessed it, circumstance. I used to put Vontaze Burfict here, before Burfict took his draft stock out behind the woodshed and gave it the Old Yeller treatment. Hightower can learn under the great Ray Lewis for a year or tow, then eventually have the tall task of filling his shoes.
30. 49ers: Rueben Randle/WR (LSU) I believe this pick will be a receiver, since I think Josh Morgan will sign somewhere else to a team that offers him a lot more than the Niners will. What receiver it is remains a lot sketchier. It could be Reuben Randle, it could be Stephen Hill, it could even be *gasp* Alshon Jeffery. For the sake of this mock, I'll say they go with Randle. Randle is a solid, underrated prospect who doesn't come attached with as much mystery as Jeffery or Hill, which I think will be what sets him apart in the eyes of Harbaugh.
31. Patriots: Alshon Jeffery/WR (South Carolina) Dun dun dun-dun-dun dun. Another controversial pick. In my opinion, the fact that Wes Welker just got franchised makes this even more likely. Why? Because it means that Jeffery won't be immediately thrown into a pressure cooker. Jeffery can thrive as a rookie, but he needs to go to a place where he can work with experienced leadership and doesn't have to be "the guy" right away. I think New England is a great landing spot for Jeffery, and the Pats will be able to get the most out of his talent.
32. Giants: Dwayne Allen/TE (Clemson) The Giants had a need at TE to begin with, but after Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum both tore their ACLs in the Super Bowl, I became thoroughly convinced that the Giants would use this pick on a tight end. The best case for this is that there will be great positional value at #32. Most likely, they will be the first team to select a TE, so they will have their pick of whichever one they want. In a year where Mario Manningham could be gone, the G-men will need to work to make sure Eli starts 2012 will plenty of targets. While there is some disagreement whether the top TE is Allen, Coby Flenner, or Orson Charles, I give the edge to Allen, who seems slightly more polished than the other two.
33. Rams: Zach Brown/OLB (UNC)
34. Colts: Stephen Hill/WR (Georgia Tech)
35. Vikings: Alfonzo Dennard/CB (Nebraska)
36. Buccaneers: Lamar Miller/RB (Miami)
37. Browns: Mike Adams/OT (Ohio State)
38. Jaguars: Mohamed Sanu/WR (Rutgers)
39. Rams (from Redskins): Jerel Worthy/DT (Michigan State)
40. Panthers: Stephon Gilmore/CB (South Carolina)
41. Bills: Coby Fleener/TE (Stanford)
42. Dolphins: Brock Osweiler/QB (Arizona State)
43. Seahawks: Kirk Cousins/QB (Michigan State)
44. Chiefs: David Wilson/RB (Virginia Tech)
45. Cowboys: Kelechi Osemele/G (Iowa State)
46. Eagles (from Cardinals): Bobby Wagner/LB (Utah State)
47. Jets: Nick Foles/QB (Arizona)
48. Patriots (from Raiders): Vinny Curry/DE/OLB (Marshall)
49. Chargers: Kevin Zeitler/G (Wisconsin)
50. Bears: Zebrie Sanders/OT (Florida State)
51. Eagles: Trumaine Johnson/CB/S (Montana)
52. Titans: Kendall Reyes/DT (UConn)
53. Bengals: Doug Martin/RB (Boise State)
54. Lions: Brandon Boykin/CB/KR (Georgia)
55. Falcons: Chandler Jones/DE (Syracuse)
56. Steelers: Jayron Hosley/CB (Virginia Tech)
57. Broncos: Dwight Bentley/CB (Louisiana-Lafayette)
58. Texans: Harrison Smith/S (Notre Dame)
59. Saints: Brandon Thompson/DT (Clemson)
60. Packers: Jared Crick/DE (Nebraska)
61. Ravens: Ronnell Lewis/OLB (Oklahoma)
62. 49ers: Chase Minnifield/CB/KR (Virginia)
63. Patriots: Billy Winn/DE (Boise State)
64. Giants: Isaiah Pead/RB (Cincinnati)
65. Colts: Leonard Johnson/CB (Iowa State)
66. Rams: LaMichael James/RB (Oregon)
67. Vikings: Nick Toon/WR (Wisconsin)
68. Browns: Cam Johnson/DE (Virginia)
69. Buccaneers: Juron Criner/WR (Arizona)
70. Rams (from Redskins): Josh Robinson/CB/KR (UCF)
71. Jaguars: Casey Hayward/CB (Vanderbilt)
72. Bills; Chris Givens/WR (Wake Forest)
73. Dolphins: Orson Charles/TE (Georgia)
74. Bears (from Panthers): Omar Bolden/CB (Arizona State)
75. Chiefs: Alameda Ta'amu/NT (Washington)
76. Seahwaks: Lavonte David/OLB (Nebraska)
77. Eagles: Dwight Jones/WR (UNC)
78. Jets: Tommy Streeter/WR (Miami)
79. Raiders: *forfeited* (Terrelle Pryor)
80. Chargers: George Iloka/S (Boise State)
81. Bears: Ladarius Green/TE (Louisiana-Lafayette)
82. Cardinals: Bobby Massie/OT (Ole Miss)
83. Cowboys: Mychal Kendricks/ILB (Cal)
84. Titans: Ben Jones/C (Georgia)
85. Bengals: Markelle Martin/S (Oklahoma State)
86. Falcons: Michael Brewster/C (Ohio State)
87. Lions: Tank Carder/LB (TCU)
88. Steelers: Vontaze Burfict/ILB (Arizona State)
89. Broncos: Chris Polk/RB (Washinton)
90. Texans: Amini Silatolu/G (Midwestern State)
91. Saints: Sean Spence/OLB (Miami)
92. Packers: Jamell Fleming/CB (Oklahoma)
93. Ravens: Bernard Pierce/RB (Temple)
94. 49ers: Brandon Washington/G (Miami)
95. Patriots: Josh Norman/CB (Coastal Carolina)
96. Antonio Allen/S (South Carolina)
Well there you have it. I'll take a page out of Abe Lincoln's page and just say, you can't please everybody all the time. Comments are welcomed, as is constructive criticism, but don't be a dick. Otherwise, I will be forced to turn into the French Taunter. Thanks for reading, and good luck to all your teams!