1. Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck (Stanford)
The quarterback situation in Indianapolis will undoubtedly be one of the bigger storylines of this NFL offseason. Peyton Manning, perhaps more than any other player in the league, is the face of his organization. He has carried the Colts for his entire career and made Indianapolis one of the NFL’s elite franchises over the past decade plus. Ultimately, however, pragmatism often rules in the NFL, and it just makes little sense to invest heavy money in an aging quarterback who has had continuous health issues over the past calendar year. That should open the door for Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, and assuming he even approaches the hype that surrounds him as a prospect, the Colts will secure elite quarterback play for another ten or more seasons. Despite a decorated career, Bill Polian’s recent drafts have left a lot to be desired and left the Colts with one of the more underwhelming rosters in football. Polian and his son are now gone, meaning it is time to start anew in Indianapolis. That starts with Luck.
It has been a long time since the NFL has seen a trade in the top five picks. But with the new CBA, it has become much more realistic. Washington and Cleveland seem like the ideal candidates to trade into this spot, but the thought is that the Redskins may be a little more desperate to move up at this point, even though the Browns have more early round ammunition. Washington is a quarterback away from really being a contender in the NFC East, and Griffin is a unique talent who could do big things in Mike Shanahan’s system. Predicting trades is always a near impossible task, but mock drafts are inherently inaccurate in any event, so it is always fun to tinker with various scenarios.
Owning one of the more talented rosters in the NFL just years ago, the Vikings have become a mess; they’re an amalgam of aging former stars and youth with limited potential. Fortunately, they’re in a nice spot here, as their biggest needs line up well with the value that will be on the board. Should Kalil be available, he is a no-brainer for a Vikings team that has struggled in pass protection for years and could really use a blue chip lineman to protect Christian Ponder. Kalil is considered by many to be the second best prospect available and he would go a long way towards rebuilding an abysmal offensive front in Minnesota.
Running backs in the top five is extremely rare, especially as the position continues to be devalued, but Richardson is a huge talent and the new structure of the CBA should allow more teams to simply go with the best player available. The Browns offense can use a talent infusion and Richardson is a potential workhorse who can contribute immediately. With two first round picks, Cleveland can effectively rebuild the offensive unit and it starts here with Richardson.
Claiborne is a great blend of value and need. With the tools to be a top-notch cover guy, he can aid a defense that was simply run over during the second half of the year, and features the aging Ronde Barber and the knuckleheaded Aqib Talib in the secondary. Despite an abysmal 2011 campaign, the Buccaneers don’t have a ton of glaring needs, so they can afford to simply sit back and take the best talent available in the fifth slot.
The trade down works out wonderfully for St. Louis, as they gain picks to fill a variety of needs and still end up with the draft’s top receiver. Desperate for playmakers outside, especially with Brandon Lloyd likely moving on, the Rams turn to Blackmon, whose physical, rugged style should make him a popular target of Sam Bradford. If the Rams are going to get a big return on their investment in Bradford, they need to surround him with more talent and Blackmon’s one of the best offensive talents on the board.
Upshaw had a strong Senior Bowl, and perhaps most importantly he proved he was capable of playing with his hand on the ground. Despite lacking elite measurables, Upshaw is a smart, hard-working player who uses his savvy to consistently produce. The Jaguars have a huge need at defensive end and Upshaw seems to fit the profile of guys that Gene Smith is fond of come draft day.
Brockers is the ultimate upside pick in this year’s draft. A mammoth defensive tackle with the ability to shed blockers and get upfield, the only real question marks surrounding him are consistency and experience. Those are often issues with redshirt sophomores, and despite the concerns, Brockers is a legitimate top ten talent who should entice a team like Carolina, who was abused on every level of their defense in 2011. If they can tap Brockers’ potential, he could have a Kevin Williams type of impact in Carolina.
Coples rehabbed what was perceived to be damaged stock at the Senior Bowl, consistently overwhelming offensive tackles and showing that he is a force against both the run and the pass. If the Dolphins officially move to a 4-3 defense, they will need to retool their personnel and the defensive line is always a good place to start.
Buffalo has never been afraid to march to the beat of a different drummer on draft day, regardless of the regime in charge. While Perry may be a top ten reach early in February, this may be his value come late April. Arguably the pass rusher with the highest upside in this entire draft, Perry and his explosive first step would be a nice fit for a Bills team that’s simply incapable of getting to the quarterback.
Poe’s got his own gravitational pull, but he is more than just a space eating nose tackle. With nimble feet and the ability to get upfield, Poe offers scheme versatility and offers the Chiefs some options along their defensive fronts. Scott Pioli built a dynasty in New England largely thanks to premium picks on the defensive line, and he could go back to the well here with Poe, who’s potential a Haloti Ngata type of presence along the defensive line.
Seattle has done a nice job of adding defensive pieces during Pete Carroll’s tenure. But they still have one of the blandest offenses in football, lacking big play ability at any position. An upgrade at quarterback is certainly needed but they could also use an explosive playmaker on the outside. The speedy Wright can put pressure on safeties and open up the middle of the field for Seattle’s other offensive weapons. Wright’s stock seems to be moving in the right direction this offseason and he could push to be the second receiver off the board.
The Cardinals would be weak-kneed if Reiff slipped to number thirteen. While it is rare for offensive tackles to dip – if anything, they get pushed up the board – Reiff does fall in this scenario thanks to a variety of factors. A steady player who figures to be one of the safer picks in the draft, Reiff would help solve offensive line issues that have plagued the Cardinals for the better part of a decade. Regardless of who’s under center for Arizona in 2012, they need better protection up front.
Dallas’ secondary was repeatedly blasted in 2011 and they’re short on talent across the board. You can’t read too much into Jenkins’ season at North Alabama but he has three solid years of tape at Florida and is a legitimate top fifteen talent. Assuming he can shake off some of the baggage that led to his dismissal from Florida, he could be a nice fit for the Cowboys. Even if he fails to shake the baggage, Jerry Jones may not care.
This is one of those picks that makes so much sense that it is nearly guaranteed to not happen. The Eagles have huge issues at linebacker and Kuechly is the type of solid, steady presence that would aid the group immensely. Not a premier athlete, Kuechly relies on smarts and instincts and simply has a nose for the football. He would improve a defense that is long on talent but was short on production in 2011.
Ingram is a special athlete with solid size, and the type of versatile weapon that Rex Ryan could do wonders with. Ingram was very productive in 2011 and at times was simply dominant. The Jets are still in need of pass rushers despite the Aaron Maybin renaissance and Ingram has scheme versatility that suits New York well.
With two first round picks, the Bengals have the ability to go with a luxury pick, and also working in their favor is the fact that Floyd may be the best player on the board at this point. A big, physical receiver who is ready to contribute early, he would pair with A.J. Green to give Andy Dalton a pair of dynamic weapons on the outside.
The Chargers could use help at both tackle spots if Marcus McNeil’s future remains in jeopardy. Mike Adams had a strong senior campaign, and was at times dominant. He’s become a top twenty pick and would be a valuable addition for San Diego.
The Bears go back to the offensive line with their first round pick as they attempt to fix a unit that is still problematic. DeCastro is one of the draft’s safest picks and could be an All-Pro type of player inside. With DeCastro and 2011 first round pick Gabe Carimi, Chicago would finally have some talent up front.
Kirkpatrick may be a bit overrated as a prospect, but he is still an excellent value this late in round one. A physical, rangy corner, Kirkpatrick displays good instincts and using his size to bully receivers at the line of scrimmage. A recent arrest for marijuana possession could hurt his stock. It is not the pot use so much as the decision making that will make some teams shy away. In this scenario, it is the Titans gain.
Defensive tackle is far from the Bengals biggest need. However, value can often trump need on draft day, and Still is one of the best defensive lineman available in a weak class. Deep defensive lines can fuel a good defense, and with the addition of Still the Bengals would be able to rotate a group of talented lineman.
Come draft day, there is a good chance that Tannehill goes higher than this. Quarterbacks get pushed up the board and Tannehill is a toolsy kid whose best days may be ahead of him. For Cleveland, he may finally solve their issues under center, and he has a skill-set that could mesh well with Pat Shurmur’s offense.
Despite having a need, the Lions have largely ignored their offensive line in recent drafts. That ends here, as Konz fits the Lions best player available policy. A gifted center with a strong all-around game, Konz can replace Dominic Raiola early and stabilize the interior of Detroit’s offensive front.
The Steelers are always forward thinking with their draft picks, and with both Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu aging, it may be time for some young blood at the safety position. Barron is a heady, savvy safety who is an excellent value this late in round one.
Denver’s defense took some huge strides forward in 2011, carrying the Broncos against mediocre opposition during their playoff run in the middle of the year. Still, there is work to do, and adding some talent to the interior of their defensive line is a good place to start. Cox is a versatile lineman with untapped potential.
The Texans turnaround on defense was remarkable. They’re all of a sudden loaded with defensive talent and have the luxury of taking the best player available late in round one. Despite a quality linebacking corps, the Texans may lose DeMeco Ryans this offseason, and despite his flaws, Burfict is a dynamic talent with All-Pro potential. He would add more dynamism to an already stout defense.
The Patriots have lacked a pass rush for a long time, and despite a plethora of high picks in recent years, their defense still lacks top end talent and depth. Branch, while not flashy, can get to the passer and may even be able to bulk up and line up outside in a 3-4 front. New England has often had supersized outside linebackers and Branch may be another one in that line.
The Packers can use help at five technique, and Crick was a true threat to the first round before his serious injury in 2011. Even with the injury, Crick may be the type of steady defensive line presence that 3-4 teams covet towards the end of round one. He could step in and start from day one and aid a Green Bay defense that slipped in 2011.
Jonathan Martin slips here thanks to the fact that there are just more gifted lineman in front of him. Still, it is hard to see a guy with his resume slipping too far, and Baltimore always finds a way to nab guys who fall farther than they should. The Ravens have a need at left tackle and are able to fill it without spending a premium price.
Jim Harbaugh has made finding smart, committed players a priority, and the tough Zeitler could line up across from Mike Iupati to give the 49ers one of the better guard duos in the league.
A strong Senior Bowl has put Glenn firmly in the first round picture, and the mammoth guard could help an aging Giants front that can desperately use help on the interior. The Giants are among the best run draft rooms in the NFL and they always find a way to collect talent. Glenn’s a guy who could go much higher and offers solid value at the end of the first stanza.
Despite their best efforts, the Pats are still short on talented corners and go to the well early once again. Dennard, while not flashy, is a capable corner who should have a steady career as a number two.