Poor Prognostication: NFL Draft Edition!
Draft day is upon us! No more revised mock drafts, no more changes to the big board, no more having to hear Jacksonville tell everyone how super excited Miami is about Ryan Tanehill, and the cold dreary NFL offseason finally starts to come to an end. With uncertainty coming in the draft, it felt like a good time to dust off our Poor Prognostication skills and do our own Mild Mannered Mock Draft! Of course, the first two picks are certain locks, but after that, it’s a free-for-all! To spice up your draft viewing part, here’s a little Mild Mannered drinking game for you: whenever a player is drafted, drink however many spots I’m off by and enjoy the hangover! Let’s get to the breakdowns!
1. Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck QB Stanford
Luck has been the number one pick since last year’s draft and did nothing during the last season to change that. His ability to command an offense, along with his accuracy and arm strength made this a no-brainer for Indianapolis, who will replace one number one overall quarterback, Peyton Manning, with another. Luck followed up a Heisman runner-up performance in 2010 with another in 2011, throwing for 3,517 yards and 37 touchdowns while completing 71 percent of his throws. The Colts tried to play coy, but nobody doubted for a second that this would be the way they went. If it works out half as well as the last number one pick they made, those Colts season tickets will be selling out again in no time.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis), Robert Griffin III QB Baylor
The Redskins paid a hefty price to move up in order to grab their quarterback of the future, and the Heisman Trophy winner is a lock to put a spark back into the Washington offense. Quarterback guru Mike Shannahan will finally have his quarterback protege to groom and solidify his reputation as an offensive guru, a reputation that has taken a knock with nothing but Rex Grossman to rely on. The Baylor quarterback was electric during his senior campaign, throwing for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns, sporting a 72 percent completion percentage all the way to a Heisman trophy. RGIII brings the physical tools, a huge arm, and incredible athleticism to make an immediate impact. Now the Skins just need to put somebody…anybody around him.
3. Minnesota Vikings, Morris Claiborne CB LSU
From the third pick on, pretty much everyone is looking to trade down. Let’s just say that doesn’t happen, so the Vikings have a choice to make. They have major holes along their offensive line and in their secondary that need to be addressed during this draft, but the physical ability of Claiborne is going to be just too much for a team who watched its secondary make Tim Tebow look like Joe Montana last season. Claiborne showed a willingness to mix it up in the run game, making 51 tackles, while also snagging six interceptions. His size, speed, fluid hips and top of the line ball skills make him the clear cut best available cover corner in this draft class and will make an immediate impact next season.
4. Cleveland Browns, Trent Richardson RB Alabama
The Browns let their top running back, Peyton Hillis, walk after he flirted with the idea of joining the CIA and he suffered a disappointing “Madden cursed” season in 2011 and his backup Montario Hardesty can’t seem to stay on the field, so Cleveland is in the market for a weapon out of the backfield. Richardson is head and shoulders above every other running back prospect and a safe pick to take some pressure off the struggling quarterback position in an extremely limited offense. The Alabama running back rushed for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, displaying a dizzying combination of power, speed, vision, and next level juke abilities, which makes him an obvious choice for the Browns at number four. It isn’t a flashy pick, but the Browns aren’t really a flashy team.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Luke Kuechly ILB Boston College
Tampa Bay watched its season fall apart down the stretch last year, and the collapse of the defense was a major reason why. Mason Foster was thrust into the MLB position last season and looked overwhelmed, prompting a possible move to OLB for him, opening the way for the Bucs to upgrade at their defensive signal caller spot. Kuechy has shown better than expected athleticism through the draft process and has impressed scouts with his incredible instincts. He made 191 tackles last season, and will look to be a tackling machine at the next level as well. He will have to prove himself at just 21-years old, but his ability to read, react, and make a play will quickly make his teammates forget all about his youth.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington), Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma State
The Rams have not been able to get a consistent weapon on the field for Sam Bradford for two seasons now. They brought in Steve Smith from the Eagles, but his knee is still a question mark, and their best receiver, Brandon Lloyd walked to New England after a short stint with the club. The void of elite playmakers on this team needs to get filled and Blackmon is the weapon to do it. While coming in a little shorter than expected (under 6-foot-1), Blackmon still possesses an elite talent level. He’s a great route-runner, versatile, explosive, and works extremely hard to get open. Last season, he caught 121 passes for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’ll be quite the shiny new toy for Bradford to utilize next season.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, Nick Perry DE USC
Jacksonville has been doing everything they can to convince other teams to trade up with them so they can move back. So far, nobody has bitten, but that means the Jags are looking a mid to late round talent. Much like when they took Tyson Alualu with the 10th pick two years ago, much to everyone’s surprise, don’t expect the team to change who it’s going to take if a deal never happens. While their defensive line played well last season, the unit will miss Matt Roth this season and Aaron Kampman can’t shake the knee injuries, so the Jags will look to improve their pass rush with their top overall pick. Perry becomes the first guy off the board in a surprise over other, more highly touted, defensive ends because of his speed, size, and excellent motor. Just because they wanted to pick him somewhere later in the round doesn’t mean they won’t take him when it’s their turn. That’s just the Jaguar way.
8. Miami Dolphins, Matt Kalil OT USC
The Jaguars have been telling everyone that the Dolphins are a lock to take Ryan Tanehill, but improving their offensive line is a bigger concern with this pick. If Kalil falls past Minnesota and Tampa, expect Miami to jump at the chance to draft a solid replacement for Marc Columbo. He’s been touted as the steadiest tackle prospect since Miami took Jake Long, so who better to pair him up with and create a solid bookend of protection for whoever the Dolphins roll out with at the quarterback position. Miami fans won’t like it, as they’ve been chanting for a new QB for years now, but they’ll appreciate it when they get one of the top prospects next year and can keep him upright with Kalil and Long.
9. Carolina Panthers, Stephen Gilmore CB South Carolina
The Panthers need another corner to pair with Chris Gamble, as the rest of their secondary is undersized and got eaten alive by bigger receivers last season. Gilmore will be an instant improvement for the Panthers defense. While he isn’t overwhelmingly spectacular in any one area, he is solid in every aspect. He can handle bigger receivers while also being able to dip well and he shows good instincts, quickness, and ball skills. Last season with the Gamecocks, Gilmore recorded 46 tackles and made four interceptions. His performance was pretty up-and-down, which gave scouts pause about him coming into the draft, but his physical skills and athletic ability have helped his draft stock rise back into the top ten.
10. Buffalo Bills, Michael Floyd WR Notre Dame
Yes, Stevie Johnson is coming back to drop passes in the end zone, but the Bills and their spread attack, need more weapons to maintain the hot start they had in 2011. Floyd is a big-framed receiver who has an uncanny ability to make plays on the ball. He’s dominant against smaller corners and has the burst to burn a defense short or deep. Last season, the Golden Domer caught 100 passes for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns. He will make an excellent compliment to the Bills passing game and help Ryan Fitzpatrick earn some of that rich extension he got last year.
11. Kansas City Chiefs, Riley Reiff OT Iowa
The Chiefs need to add a tackle to their offensive line in order to get their best offensive lineman, Branden Albert, down into his best position, which is guard. Reiff is a big, sturdy, and reliable option for the Chiefs, who will add some depth and meat to the KC offensive line to try and keep a few of their star players healthy and on the field. While Reiff may struggle early with the left tackle position, he’s a complete player who will be a great addition. Anything to help protect the knees of Jamaal Charles.
12. Seattle Seahawks, Melvin Ingram DE South Carolina
The Seahawks are one of the popular picks to take Aggie quarterback Ryan Tanehill, but their biggest concern is on the defensive line. Seattle recorded just 33 sacks last season, 11 of them coming from Chris Clemons. This defense likes to get pressure without blitzing, so they need an elite pass rusher to add to the mix on the defensive line to really help this team out. They have been trying to address this position for several drafts, but have whiffed each time so far. Ingram looks like he could be the elite edge rusher they’ve been looking for, bringing explosive speed from the defensive end position. Last season, Ingram was a destructive force for the Gamecocks, making 48 tackles and recording 10 sacks. His athleticism and versatility will make him a fun piece to move around to harass opposing quarterbacks and allow the Seattle defense to apply some consistent pressure.
13. Arizona Cardinals, Cordy Glenn OT Georgia
The Cardinals offensive line was a mess in 2011. Their only legitimate starter has been Levi Brown, who is often inconsistent in pass protection. The rest of the line consists of players who should be no better than backups. The group, as a whole, gave up 54 sacks a year ago. Adding to the offensive line should be Arizona’s top priority and Glenn will fit in for them quite well. He has great size at 345 pounds, but is also incredibly agile and brings a wonderful versatility that the Cards can use to get him into the best position to help the team. He has played both tackle and guard positions, so he could slot in wherever the need is greatest. At this point, that’s probably anywhere he wants to stand.
14. Dallas Cowboys, Mark Barron S Alabama
The Cowboys were hurt by a lack of playmaking from their starting safeties last season. Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam weren’t good in coverage or tackling, which is a pretty bad combination for a defense. The Cowboys already added Brodney Pool via free agency, but they can’t afford to pass up adding the top safety of this draft class to their ailing secondary. Barron has ideal size, great range and superb instincts for the safety position, and has shown himself to be a solid tackler in the open field. He helped the Crimson Tide to their National Title last season with 63 tackles, two interceptions, and a sack. Jerry Jones isn’t one to let talent slip past him, even if there may be a more pressing need (like the offensive line), and JJ will be plenty excited to see a talent like Barron fall to Dallas at 14.
15. Philadelphia Eagles, Lavonte David OLB Nebraska
The linebacking corps was probably the weakest point of the Eagles team last season, with a host of guys getting playing time that probably should only be backups and special teams players. David should make for a decent upgrade at the position as he added bulk this offseason while maintaining his burst and quickness. The added muscle helped to answer some of the size concerns about the Cornhusker linebacker, who had some of the most impressive tape of any player in the draft. He recorded 123 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and two interceptions last season and looked like he was everywhere at once, flying all over the field. Patching up the linebacking corps will go a long way in helping Philly fans move past the “Dream Team” debacle of last season.
16. New York Jets, Bruce Irvin OLB West Virginia
The Jets didn’t seem to have that same defensive swagger that is expected from a Rex Ryan led group, and part of the reason was the lack of an outside presence to pressure the quarterback. The group of linebackers they currently have are a nice set of complimentary pass-rushers, but they lacked a player to take over and dominate off the edge. Irvin brings a big frame at 6-foot-3, but packs a dangerous wallop of speed, running a 4.50 40 for scouts. He led the Big East last season in sacks with 14 and was fourth in tackles for loss with 14. Some scouts are projecting Irvin to be the best pass rusher in this draft, and the Jets would gladly find a home for him at number 16.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland), Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama
The Bengals return Leon Hall, who is recovering from an Achilles injury, Nate Clements, who is 36 years old, and Adam, don’t call me ‘Pac-Man’, Jones to their secondary. None of those guys give you a lot of confidence in coverage. The Bengals already added some depth at the position with the free-agent acquisition of Jason Allen, but they still need significant help. Kirkpatrick brings elite size at over 6-foot-1 but doesn’t lose any speed or quickness because of it. The Bengals could also look to replenish their offensive line depth by picking David DeCastro out of Stanford.
18. San Diego Chargers, David DeCastro G Stanford
The Chargers are really only set at one position of the offensive line with Jared Gaither. The rest is a glaring question mark that the team wants/needs to address in this draft. Left tackle Marcus McNeill is gone, guard Kris Dielman retired, center Nick Hardwick is in the twilight of his career, and right tackle Jeromey Clary just isn’t very good. Look for the Chargers to take the best offensive lineman available in DeCastro. He is ready to start immediately and contribute. His mix of power, size, and athleticism helped him dominate at Stanford in the run game, as he was able to pull, sweep, and reach the second level with ease. He’ll be a steady and consistent player, making this a safe and easy pick for San Diego.
19. Chicago Bears, Quinton Coples DE North Carolina
Yes, the Bears already have an elite pass rusher in Julius Peppers at defensive end, but they lack a second threat to take pressure and double teams away from him. Coples won’t come in ready to dominate in the pass game, but he has the size, length, and burst to learn from one of the best in Peppers and improve that aspect of his game. He already has shown a great ability to hold the edge and play tough against the run, so he won’t be a liability in the run game while he refines his pass rush. For a team like Chicago, who looks to get pressure from just their front four, you can never have enough talent at defensive end.
20. Tennessee Titans, Whitney Mercilus DE Illinois
Defensive end has been the Titans top priority all offseason, and they helped themselves by signing Kamerion Wimbley in free agency, but there is still a need for another elite DE. Mercilus exploded onto the scene last season for Illinois, recording 16 sacks and 57 tackles. He is athletic and explosive, showing good length and excellent hands. There isn’t a huge body of work to back up his incredible 2011, so it’s tough to say if it was one great year, or a young guy figuring it out. The Titans are hoping for the latter and will look to pair Mercilus with Wimbley to create a fearsome duo to harass quarterbacks with consistent pressure.
21. Cincinnati Bengals, Kevin Zeitler G Wisconsin
If the Bengals pass on adding a guard with their first pick in round one, they can’t afford to miss out again on pick two. Cincy lost two guards in free agency in Nate Livings, who is now in Dallas, and Mike McGlynn, now in Indianapolis, and will likely lose Bobbie Williams to old age. That leaves the Bengals with just last year’s fourth round draft pick, Clint Boling, and free-agent acquisition Travelle Wharton on the roster. Zeitler should add some much needed depth and could start right away. Coming from the offensive line factory of Wisconsin, he’s going to know how to run block, which is something the Bengals have committed themselves to. It’s certainly not going to sell many jersies, but it will help keep second-year quarterback Andy Dalton alive, which is a big plus.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta), Ryan Tanehill QB Texas A&M
As of now, the Browns choices at quarterback consist of incumbent starter Colt McCoy, who may finally be remembering where he is right about now, and career backup Seneca Wallace. Nobody is convinced that either man is the answer in Cleveland, and the fans will be clamoring for some change and hope for the future. If Tanehill falls into the 20′s, look for Cleveland to snatch him up, and for Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay to be flabbergasted over how long he stayed on the board. Tanehill will compete for the starting job and push McCoy to become better or to fall into a backup role as a next generation Seneca Wallace.
23. Detroit Lions, Janoris Jenkins DB North Alabama
The Lions had one of the more explosive offenses in football and are proud owners of one of the most fearsome front fours in the NFL. However, they still struggled to contain teams defensively because of poor play in the secondary. Their best corner, Eric Wright, is gone by free agency, and their other starter Chris Houston is a durability question mark. Jenkins, a former Florida standout, has the physical tools to be a top cover corner in the league, but there are serious questions about his character and mental makeup. Still, the Lions need to make strides in the secondary, so they’ll roll the dice on a troubled prospect who could turn out to be their number 1 shutdown cover corner for several years to come.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers, Jonathan Martin OT Stanford
The Steelers have gotten by with a patchwork offensive line for several years, but it has always come back to hurt them down the stretch. Maurkice Pouncey at center is the only stable starter Pittsburgh has with Max Starks coming off an ACL injury and Willie Colon unable to stay health. Martin would add a blue collar toughness to the line, something the Steelers have lost in the last couple of seasons. His tougness he cultivated in the Stanford running game will make a welcome addition, and create a strong foundation with Pouncey for the future of the Pittsburgh line.
25. Denver Broncos, Fletcher Cox DT Mississippi State
The middle of the Broncos defense has long been it’s weak-point. They’ve added skilled pass rushers on the corners with Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, and their secondary is still pretty good with the aging Champ Bailey still shutting down top receivers. As they continue their transition back to a 4-3, they need to add some bulk in the middle. Cox is a disruptive force at defensive tackle, able to penetrate with a good interior rush using a great burst. He is big and athletic and showed great versatility, making him the perfect choice for the Broncos at 25.
26. Houston Texans, Dontari Poe DT Memphis
The Texans are looking for a nose tackle who can play two-gap techniques as Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell alternated snaps last season as the Texans moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4. They did all right, but the Texans see room for improvement. Enter Poe, who has skyrocketed up the draft boards with his offseason workouts. He has the size to clog the middle at nearly 350 pounds, but also has the athleticism to play multiple gaps. He’s able to move like a defensive end that is around 290 pounds, which gives him a dangerous combination of size, strength, and quickness which could make him the perfect candidate for the Texans nose tackle needs. His on-field performance leaves something to be desired, but the physical tools he has shown scouts will be enough to overcome the bad tape.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans), Harrison Smith S Notre Dame
The Patriots need another safety to pair with Patrick Chung, who has shown a good ability against the run, but has been shaky in coverage. They tried to add Laron Landry in free agency, but missed, so look for them to address this need early. Smith has shown a ball-hawk ability that will allow him to roam the deep middle for the Patriots and allow Chung to move up on run support. At Notre Dame, Smith led the team in interceptions with seven and ranked fourth in the FBS in interceptions per game during the 2011 season. Smith will make an immediate upgrade for the Patriots, who had the worst pass defense in the NFL last season.
28. Green Bay Packers, Shea McClellin OLB Boise State
The Packers are committed to adding another edge rusher to their defense to help take pressure off of Clay Matthews. The defense recorded just 29 sacks in 2011 and it needed to bring pressure from the secondary for most of them. McClellin can add some explosiveness off the edge as he transitions from defensive end at Boise State, where he led the team in sacks with 9.5 and tackles for loss with 13.5, to outside linebacker in the NFL. He’ll need to learn quickly to make the move to a stand up rusher, but he provides the most consistent pressure off the edge of any remaining prospect.
29. Baltimore Ravens, Dont’a Hightower ILB Alabama
While Ray Lewis appears ageless, he won’t be able to play forever, and his run as the Ravens ILB will soon be coming to an end. The Ravens need to find his replacement sooner rather than later. Hightower could be that guy, as he’s shown an ability to rush the passer, play the run, and drop into coverage during his time at Alabama. Last season, Hightower finished second on the Crimson Tide in tackles with 69, had nine quarterback hurries, and three pass breakups. He has versatility, playing at both ILB and OLB during college, so Baltimore will have some options for him and Hightower will inject some much needed youth into an aging Ravens defense.
30. San Francisco 49ers, Michael Brockers DT LSU
The 49ers had the best defense in the NFL last season, getting great production from their starters on the defensive line in Ray McDonald, Justin Smith, and Isaac Sopoaga. The problem is that they don’t have much depth behind those three and Smith and Sopoaga are both in their 30s and McDonald has had issues with his knees. Brockers is a big body who can really move on the field and offers some versatility with his athleticism. He could transition to a 3-4 defensive end and use his skills as a disruptive force to tie up multiple blockers on the edge while also getting good penetration and give the 49ers some much needed insurance and depth on their defensive line.
31. New England Patriots, Courtney Upshaw DE Alabama
The Patriots have perfected using different fronts based on the skill sets of their players, switching seamlessly from a 4-3 to a 3-4 depending on the situation. However, the Pats lack versatile edge rushers that can get pressure from both fronts, which put a lot of pressure on their lack-luster secondary in 2011. Upshaw has gotten himself a “tweener” label, which makes him a perfect fit for a Bill Belichick defense. He has strong pass-rush skills off the edge, violent hands, and a non-stop motor that will immediately upgrade the pressure New England is able to get from their front seven.
32. New York Giants, Chandler Jones DE Syracuse
The Giants have won two Super Bowls on the strength of their pass rush, in particular their defensive ends. They run an aggressive 4-3 scheme that needs all the edge rushers it can get its hands on, and with the injuries to Justin Tuck and the ongoing contract saga of Osi Umenyiora, they can’t pass up a chance on Jones. The Syracuse DE was very good this season, and has impressed scouts and GMs through the draft process. He’s added size, and offers up some solid versatility, with some projecting him to play at both DE and OLB, like another Mathias Kiwanuka. Jones has long arms and moves very well, making it impossible for offensive linemen to keep him engaged. Sounds like the perfect fit for the Giants’ pass rush, doesn’t it?