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Updated mock draft: 11th January

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

I’ve gone against my convictions this week. Tony Pauline at Draft Insider.net and SI.com is one of the best in the business at getting the inside edge on what teams are thinking in the draft. Last year he quoted sources claiming Tyron Smith would be a top-ten pick long before people were even including him in their mock drafts. The Dallas Cowboys drafted Smith ninth overall. When Pauline reports on what the teams are thinking, it’s worth taking notice.

Ryan Tannehill isn’t someone I can grade as a first round pick. He was bitterly disappointing during the 2011 season and justifications like a lack of experience were off-set by an ideal environment including high quality pass protection and a cluster of NFL weapons. I’ve not included him in a single projection so far because I didn’t expect him to be drafted in round one. However - despite breaking his foot and pulling out of the Senior Bowl this week - Pauline is today reporting that Tannehill will very likely go in the top-15:

Why is Tannehill making such a bounce up draft boards in recent weeks?  One trusted source told me teams are eating up the quarterbacks upside potential and described it as “the love affair factor”- teams see what Tannehillcan develop into at the next level and can’t stay away.  His athleticism, mobility, toughness and decision making all has scouts giddy. With Cam Newton, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder coming off the board so early in the 2011 NFL Draft, teams now feel they have the green light to select someone such as Tannehill earlier than most anticipate.  Sources are saying don’t be shocked if the Texas A&M product ends up as a top 15 choice, depending on the injury.” – Tony Pauline

It’d be ignorant to brush aside such a report and for those reasons I have to put him in this week’s mock. The question is, how high does he go? I had a strong suspicion last year that Washington were hoping to draft Jake Locker with the 10th overall pick – so much so, I never budged from that predicition throughout the process. Locker fit like a glove in Mike Shanahan’s offense and it wasn’t surprising that the Redskins traded down – rejecting Blaine Gabbert in the process - after Tennessee chose Locker at #8. Tannehill doesn’t have the same upside as the former Washington quarterback, but he has a very similar skill set. Having come so close to getting their man last year, perhaps Shanahan won’t take any chances in 2012? After all, the relative cost of picking in the top-10 is much less these days so he can afford to roll the dice (at least financially). It wouldn’t necessarily prevent the Redskins from signing a prospective free agent like Peyton Manning. After all, Tennessee quickly signed Matt Hasselbeck to a three-year contract after drafting Locker.

The Cleveland Browns still provide healthy debate at #4. I think there’s a good chance they will look at other options at quarterback rather than draft Robert Griffin III and I have to believe  Trent Richardson will be on their radar. We’ll know more depending on what the Browns do in free agency, with Matt Flynn a possible target and maybe even Kevin Kolb if the Cardinals trigger their ‘get-out’ clause after a series of mediocre performances last season. If the Browns do pass on Griffin III, I don’t think it’s a shoe-in that he’d automatically go to Washington. Let’s not forget, many people expected Blaine Gabbert to be the second quarterback drafted last April but he was chosen after Jake Locker. Although the hype for Rg3 is much greater, I still think there’s a very good chance he could fall to Miami at #8 or #9. If the Seahawks want a shot at Griffin, they’re going to have to move up.

For Seattle’s pick this week I’ve returned to Courtney Upshaw. He’s not going to provide that burst of speed in the front seven that Pete Carroll is looking for, but he’ll improve the team’s pass rush. Despite his lack of height, he’s a warrior at the LOS and holds up incredibly well against the run. Seattle could use a lot of different looks, using Upshaw as a power end at times in a front four and in space off the edge on certain calls with the three big bodies in the middle and Clemons at the LEO. They could even try him as a WILL linebacker and certainly he flashed decent mobility against LSU, although coverage skills aren’t a strength. What he could provide is a more balanced attack while helping to build the teams physical style that refuses to concede the run. He’ll be a tone setter, a ring leader and his attitude coincides with the other players already on the team. He might not be the lean, elite edge rusher that usually goes in the top-15 – but there’s every chance he’ll have an impact in the NFL. At the top of this blog post, you’ll find game tape from Upshaw’s performance against LSU in the BCS Championship courtesy of JMPasq.

Note: Yesterday I conducted an interview with Danny Kelly at Field Gulls talking about several quarterback prospects. To see the piece in full, click here.

Updated first round mock draft

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
Despite a lot of talk about keeping Manning and drafting Luck, it remains an unlikely proposition. Long term thinking will win out.
#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
The Rams have to take Kalil, he’s too good to pass up. There’s enough depth at receiver to wait until round two.
#3 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
Minnesota would love a shot at Kalil. Claiborne is a decent consolation prize to improve their struggling secondary.
#4 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Richardson has to be a consideration here, but the hype surrounding RG3 is intense and it’ll be tough for Cleveland to justify passing.
#5 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
Elite talent who will be a star in year one. Tampa Bay get a steal with this pick if Richardson is still on the board.
#6 Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
A foolish reach but Shanahan wants his guy. If Tannehill really is going to go in the top-15, Washington is the obvious choice.
#7 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
This is too high for Blackmon in my opinion, but his production will interest teams. The Jaguars need to help Blaine Gabbert.
#8 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
Miami will pick 8th if they win a coin toss with Carolina. With RG3 off the board, expect Miami to beef up their run game.
#9 Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
A complete lack of defensive line talent could encourage one or two unexpected players to declare. Brockers is one to watch.
#10 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
The Bills go into the off-season needing to improve their pass rush and pass protection. Martin would be a wise pick here.
#11 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
Undersized but a tackling machine. The kind of player Scott Pioli likes to draft for his team.
#12 Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
If the Seahawks want to improve their pass rush and continue to build a defensive identity, Upshaw could be the pick here.
#13 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
With the tackles leaving the board early, Arizona will be forced to address their second most important need – an outside rush.
#14 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
He’s big and good in run support, but struggles in coverage at times. Jerry Jones will like this guy, so will Eli Manning.
#15 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
The Eagles will look closely at the linebacker position and Brown is a good fit for Philly’s scheme.
#16 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
Few players have enjoyed the level of progress shown by Barron in 2011. He’s firmly in the round one equation.
#17 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
Slightly over rated, a technician who looks great on the move but lacks elite power at the point of attack.
#18 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
They won’t franchise Vincent Jackson again and need a weapon for Philip Rivers. Jones could be the complete package. Underrated.
#19 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
The ultimate deep threat. Jay Cutler will get the most out of Wright, who should be able to have a Mike Wallace-type impact.
#20 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
They need to improve their edge rush and Mercilus led the nation in 2011 for sacks. A hard player to work out.
#21 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite cornerback talent but troubled by off-field problems. The Bengals needs to draft a corner and Jenkins is good enough to start quickly.
#22 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Cleveland needs to keep adding playmakers. Floyd has his issues, but put him on that offense with Trent Richardson and it’ll be much improved. They’d still need a quarterback.
#23 Brandon Boykin (CB, Georgia)
He doesn’t have elite size but he’ll light up the combine and push his stock into this range.
#24 Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State)
Although his stock is falling, someone could take a shot on Burfict. My guess is he’ll end up playing in the AFC North.
#25 Michael Egnew (TE, Missouri)
He’s very much the modern tight end – a pure pass catcher who will make spectacular plays downfield.
#26 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
The Broncos run the ball well and could look to add another back to their stable. Carolina had two first round runners under John Fox.
#27 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
I’m still trying to get an angle on Still. It often looks like his best fit may be at the five-technique.
#28 Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro
#29 Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
Sanu can line up anywhere and Jim Harbaugh will find different ways to get him involved. Another powerful weapon for San Fran.
#30 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
In recent years Baltimore have capitalised on players falling into this range to get value. Coples could drop into the late first.
#31 Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina)
Jeffery divides opinion. He is capable of making big plays, but he runs sloppy routes and looks ‘too big’.
#32 Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
He plays a bit like a runaway train. He’s unbalanced but moves well for a big guy. He looks ideal for the 5-technique position.

Updated mock draft: 4th January

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Sam Montgomery tape vs Alabama & Georgia provided to Seahawks Draft Blog by JMPasq

One thing struck me during Pete Carroll’s end-of-season press conference yesterday – his belief in the need for speed. He talked openly about wanting more pace among his front seven, with the pass rush considered a prime target-area for improvement. The Seahawks generated modest pressure during the 2011 season, often relying on Chris Clemons at the LEO specialist position for sacks. The ‘big three’ in the middle – Alan Branch, Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant – combined for four total sacks. If it wasn’t for a seemingly never-ending question mark at the quarterback position, there’s no doubt what Seattle’s most pressing concern would be.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Carroll spent most of his near 50-minute session answering questions about Tarvaris Jackson. It’s hard to get a read on Seattle’s plans solely based on what we discovered here, but it seemed to me that Carroll appreciates what we all know – that Jackson isn’t a long term option, but right now he’s the best quarterback on the roster. The Seahawks need more than 14 passing touchdowns in the regular season. In fact, Matt Hasselbeck and Jackson combined for just 26 passing scores in the last two years. To put that into context, ten quarterbacks scored 26 or more touchdown throws this season alone – including the much maligned Mark Sanchez. Jackson’s scoring totals matched Colt McCoy, were comparable to Blaine Gabbert and Matt Moore had better numbers in 12 starts for Miami. Sure, he battled a torn pectoral muscle. Yet we didn’t see enough from the healthy Jackson to believe he’d taken any giant leaps from his time in Minnesota.

Carroll has actually been fairly open and honest with his press conferences in the past. Last year he spoke of getting bigger up front and making the offensive line a priority. The end product? Seattle spent its first two picks on big bodied lineman. I believe Carroll was 100% telling the truth when he said re-signing Hasselbeck was the #1 priority, but I also believe the lockout and Tennesee’s offer of a three-year deal changed the situation completely. This year, Carroll spoke about the draft depth at quarterback and the amount of work already conducted by John Schneider to get an angle on this QB-class. Perhaps this is just a presumption made far too early to carry any weight, but I felt like the Seahawks weren’t expecting to make any aggressive moves up the board to target Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. I do believe the Seahawks will be prepared to ‘make their move’ one day to get their guy at quarterback, I just feel like that quarterback is probably playing in SoCal in 2012. 

So this brings us back to the front seven. Carroll says he wants more speed and that he’s looking for improved inside and outside pressure. This isn’t a great class for interior defensive lineman, so Seattle may be forced to look at outside rushers and athletic linebackers who can bring it from the WILL position. Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia) would’ve been a perfect fit for the WILL but he’s staying in college. However, a lack of top-end depth could persuade several other players to declare. Michael Brockers (DT, LSU) is among the best interior line prospects in the nation. He’s only a redshirt sophomore and still has a lot of developing to do, but could winning the BCS Championship and seeing a chance to be the #1 player drafted at his position tempt him to turn pro?

Seattle’s pick comes in the form of a different LSU Tiger – outside rusher Sam Montgomery. He’s got a near identical build to Clay Matthews III when he turned pro and a similar intensity on the field. He has nine sacks this season, including a deuce in the 9-6 win over Alabama during the regular season. If the Seahawks are looking for speed and a better pass rush, they could easily line Montgomery opposite Clemons and use a more orthodox 3-4 look with the three big bodies in the middle, while keeping the front four on passing downs. It’s hard to imagine how the Seahawks will significantly improve their pass rush by just improving the outside speed at the WILL linebacker position currently occupied by Leroy Hill. Carroll is quite openly prepared to use a slightly unbalanced line that enhances Red Bryant’s effectiveness as a run stuffer, but also flashes his weakness to provide any kind of edge threat. The only issue is run defense and the lack of size the Seahawks would have at the edge. That’s why they may have to ultimately consider switching to a 3-4 to use players like Clemons and potentially Montgomery, unless they’re going to rely on the linebackers to force runs wide. They have the size at cornerback to manage run support, but ideally you want to remain big up front.

Note: Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers) returns for this week’s mock after choosing to declare. Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College) has been removed after reports suggested he was leaning towards returning to Boston College.

Updated first round mock draft

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
Despite a lot of talk about keeping Manning and drafting Luck, it remains an unlikely proposition. Long term thinking will win out.
#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
The Rams have to take Kalil, he’s too good to pass up. There’s enough depth at receiver to wait until round two.
#3 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Minnesota would love a shot at Kalil. It might be a bit of a reach, but protecting Christian Ponder must be a priority.
#4 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
Last year Cincinnati used this pick to draft a supreme playmaker in AJ Green, before taking a quarterback in round two. Cleveland might do the same.
#5 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
He’s had a fantastic season with six interceptions. This seems like an obvious match for the Buccs.
#6 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
I still predict Peyton Manning will be a Redskin, and that Mike Shanahan will target Ryan Tannehill in round two for the future.
#7 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
This is too high for Blackmon in my opinion, but his production will interest teams. The Jaguars need to help Blaine Gabbert.
#8 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Miami will pick 8th if they win a coin toss with Carolina. If Cleveland and Washington pass, RG3 will take his talents to South Beach.
#9 Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
A complete lack of defensive line talent could encourage one or two unexpected players to declare. Brockers is one to watch against Alabama.
#10 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
If Stevie Johnson doesn’t return, the Bills will be paper-thin at receiver. Jones is the complete package.
#11 Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU)
Built like Clay Matthews and with a similar intensity. Montgomery could play opposite Chris Clemons to improve Seattle’s pass rush.
#12 Barrett Jones (OT, Alabama)
Another underclassmen few expect to declare, but a need at tackle and a weak top-15 group could push him into the NFL.
#13 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
With the tackles leaving the board early, Arizona will be forced to address their second most important need – an outside rush.
#14 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
He’s big and good in run support, but struggles in coverage at times. Jerry Jones will like this guy, so will Eli Manning.
#15 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
The Eagles will look closely at the linebacker position and Brown is a good fit for Philly’s scheme.
#16 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
Few players have enjoyed the level of progress shown by Barron in 2011. He’s firmly in the round one equation.
#17 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
Slightly over rated, a technician who looks great on the move but lacks elite power at the point of attack.
#18 Courtney Upshaw (OLB, Alabama)
The kind of pass rusher San Diego have drafted in the past. They need to find some outside pressure.
#19 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
The ultimate deep threat. Jay Cutler will get the most out of Wright, who should be able to have a Mike Wallace-type impact.
#20 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
Coples is a complete enigma. He has the physical talents to be great, but we don’t see enough of it on tape.
#21 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite cornerback talent but troubled by off-field problems. The Bengals needs to draft a corner and Jenkins is good enough to start quickly.
#22 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Cleveland needs to keep adding playmakers. Floyd has his issues, but put him on that offense with Trent Richardson and it’ll be much improved. They’d still need a quarterback.
#23 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
With 14.5 sacks this year, someone will give him a chance early in the draft. Detroit has bigger needs but could show interest here.
#24 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
The Broncos run the ball well and could look to add another back to their stable. Carolina had two first round runners under John Fox.
#25 Michael Egnew (TE, Missouri)
He’s very much the modern tight end – a pure pass catcher who will make spectacular plays downfield.
#26 Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State)
Although I think his stock is falling, someone could take a shot on Burfict. My guess is he’ll end up playing AFC North..
#27 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
I’m still trying to get an angle on Still. It often looks like his best fit may be at the five-technique.
#28 Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro
#29 Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
Sanu can line up anywhere and Jim Harbaugh will find different ways to get him involved. Another powerful weapon for San Fran.
#30 Jonathan Cooper (OG, North Carolina)
A player not a lot of people are talking about, but has stood out every time I’ve watched the Tar Heels this season.
#31 Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina)
Jeffery divides opinion. He is capable of making big plays, but he runs sloppy routes and looks ‘too big’. Could go much earlier than this, or much later.
#32 Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
He plays a bit like a runaway train. He’s a bit unbalanced, but moves well for a big guy. He looks ideal for a move to the 5-technique position.

Seahawks will pick 11th or 12th in the draft

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

After a 23-20 defeat to Arizona today, the Seahawks will pick 11th or 12th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. They will hold a coin toss with Kansas City, who beat Denver 7-3.

Had Indianapolis, Tampa Bay or Minnesota won today, Seattle would’ve avoided a coin toss. They had been picking at #14 before the final weekend of regular season play, but wins for Philadelphia and Arizona moved the Seahawks up two spots. Their ability to get lucky on a 50/50 chance will determine whether they move up even further. Seattle’s opponents for the season ended 131-125 (0.512), the exact same number as Kansas City. Recent history suggests the coin toss will take place at the combine in Feburary – that is when Jacksonville & Chicago (2010) and Atlanta and Tampa Bay (2006) held there’s.

Here are the players taken in the last three years at #11 and #12:

2009
#11 Aaron Maybin (LB, Penn State), #12 Knowshon Moreno (RB, Georgia)

2010
#11 Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers), #12 Ryan Mathews (RB, Fresno State)

2011
#11 JJ Watt (DE, Wisconsin), #12 Christian Ponder (QB, Florida State)

2012 Draft order so far:
1. Colts
2. Rams
3. Vikings
4. Browns
5. Buccaneers
6. Redskins
7. Jaguars
8. Panthers
9. Dolphins
10. Bills
*11-12. Seahawks/Chiefs (coin toss)

Where will the Seahawks pick if…

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Today is the final day of the regular season with Seattle preparing to face Arizona. So what draft pick will the Seahawks get depending on the different scenarios that could play out?

Seattle can pick as high as 10th, but no lower than 19th. Defeat against Arizona and the Seahawks will pick no lower than 13th. They will jump a spot higher if the following happens:

- Philadelphia defeats Washington at home

- Kansas City beats Denver, plus two of Tampa Bay (@ Atlanta), Minnesota (vs Chicago), Pittsburgh (@Cleveland) and Indianapolis (@Jacksonville) are victorious. In the event only one of those teams win, a coin toss would determine who picks first between Seattle and Kansas City.

- Buffalo wins at New England, plus two of Tampa Bay (@ Atlanta), Minnesota (vs Chicago), Cincinnati (vs Baltimore) and Tennessee (@ Houston) are victorious. In the event only one of those teams win, a coin toss would determine who picks first between Seattle and Buffalo.

If all three scenarios play out and Arizona defeats Seattle, the Seahawks will own the #10 overall pick.

So what about if Seattle wins? The Seahawks could pick no higher than 14th overall and no lower than 19th. If Seattle wins today, they will move a spot closer to #14 with each of the following results:

- Chicago wins at Minnesota

- San Diego wins at Oakland

- Tennessee wins at Houston

- The New York Jets win at Miami

- Dallas wins at the New York Giants

- Oakland wins against the Chargers, but at least one of the following teams win: Tampa Bay (@ Atlanta), Minnesota (vs Chicago), Pittsburgh (@Cleveland) or Tennessee (@ Houston). In the event that Oakland loses and all four of those teams are also defeated, a coin toss would determine who picks first between Seattle and Buffalo.

The ideal scenario is a Seahawks to win today while still getting the #14 overall pick, so it’s time to become part-time fans of the Bears, Chargers, Titans, Jets and Cowboys for 24 hours.

Barkley stays at USC, Seahawks won’t get a QB in 2012

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

In 1993, the Seattle Seahawks drafted a quarterback with their first round pick. It was the last time the Seahawks spent their first draft choice on a quarterback. By 2013, they’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of that event because this situation isn’t being resolved next April.

Matt Barkley’s decision to return to USC next year wasn’t totally unexpected, but it’s completely changed the complexion of the draft. Seahawks fans can almost certainly forget about addressing the team’s biggest need in round one. While there was a pool of three players, they had options to move around and possibly be aggressive to trade up. With Barkley gone and speculation that Robert Griffin III may also return to Baylor, that pool could be down to one player - Andrew Luck. The Seahawks will not be trading up for the #1 pick. Matt Barkley and Pete Carroll have a mutual respect, they’ve worked closely for a long time and I believe a lot of work would’ve been done to reunite the pair in the NFL. He could’ve been the guy Seattle’s front office has been talking about, the player they’d be willing to break the bank for to lead this franchise. In my mind, that opportunity has now gone.

In some ways this allows us all to move on. We can draw a line under the situation and concentrate on other areas of the team. In recent weeks I’ve mocked the like of Courtney Upshaw, Kendall Wright and Devon Still to Seattle and this is the discussion we’ll be having from here on in. It may be frustrating, but that’s the hand that’s been dealt.

This won’t necessarily have a knock-on effect for other quarterbacks. Players like Nick Foles, Ryan Tannehill and Landry Jones had no place in round one to begin with and while the need is huge at quarterback for a lot of teams, I don’t expect to see a cluster of Christian Ponder-style reaches next April. The most likely to be over-drafted is Tannehill purely down to his greater athletic qualities, but even that seems like a stretch. The Seahawks are simply going to have to try and make the most of their picks again, just like they’ve done the last two years. That’s not such a bad thing as they rebuild this roster, but I suspect until they find ‘the one’ at QB, they’ll always be just short.

The big problem created here is the stretching of the talent pool. While Barkley would’ve been an early pick in 2012, he could easily have been the third quarterback off the board. The 2013 class of QB’s was looking incredibly weak – I haven’t identified one current sophomore or junior worthy of a first round grade so far. Now Barkley is the hot favorite to go first overall. Ultimately, the Seahawks will find it harder to trade into the #1 spot than a place lower in the top-ten or early teens. If the depth of quality is permanently spread thin, how can a Seahawks team avoid being terrible and still address this issue?

Griffin may still declare, particularly now that Barkley is going back to USC. If he makes the move – and he should – he’ll be the most desirable player in the entire draft purely because he’s the next in line after Andrew Luck. Every team needing a QB will be desperate to get him, it’ll create a bidding war where the price will be far too high. The Seahawks need to be aggressive, but Griffin is much more of a project than Barkley even if he does have a higher ceiling. Chasing after Griffin wouldn’t be a wise move if it comes at a huge price.

Matt Flynn isn’t the answer, let’s get that straight right away. The Seahawks really need someone who can realistically start at a decent level by 2013, so they won’t have an eternity to groom a long-term project. Tarvaris Jackson has performed above expectations, but he’s still not a player realistically capable of leading this team to the promise land. It’s a serious problem for Seattle – this team is building into a contender, but they still need that player capable of duking it out with the best in the league.

People will want to mention Josh Portis in this debate, but he’s still such a major unknown. Nobody has enough knowledge of Portis to judge whether he even has enough talent to be a good back-up. The Seahawks have basically red-shirted him this year but if he isn’t the #2 quarterback behind Jackson in 2012, when is he going to make that move? We’ll learn a lot in the next 12 months even if Portis isn’t on the field.

It’s probably not what Seahawks fans expected a few weeks ago, or what they even wanted, but the team’s first pick in 2012 is going to be about BPA and adding to the talent pool already created. I just hope they don’t force this issue by making a bad decision at quarterback – just like Arizona and Kevin Kolb – leaving themselves handcuffed and the situation unresolved. I’ve been banging this drum for a long time now, but Austin Davis at Southern Miss would be a wise choice if they’re looking to add a player with eventual starter potential – but we’re looking at quarterbacks beyond the first round now.

Matt Barkley to announce decision at 1pm

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

USC quarterback Matt Barkley will announce his decision on whether he’s turning pro at 1pm today. Early speculation suggests he will be staying with the Trojans for his senior year. Tony Pauline at SI.com is also reporting that Robert Griffin III and Landry Jones could alsoopt to remain in college – three decisions that would completely change the complexion of the 2012 draft.

For starters, will an unexpected player declare sensing an opportunity with so few quarterbacks available? Could a guy like Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia) jump ship with so many teams in need of a quarterback? Will this benefit second and third tier prospects like Ryan Tannehill and Austin Davis? Where does it leave the list of teams searching for a franchise quarterback, including the Seahawks?

Barkley will announce his intentions at 9pm, but our sources have revealed he didn’t receive a favorable review from the draft committee. Although he was told he would be a high pick, the committee highlighted areas to work on. His skill grade wasn’t particularly high.

There’s no doubt that Barkley would’ve been a high first round pick, but it appears a combination of factors could’ve led him to a decision to stay at USC. The Trojans will be Bowl eligible next year, Barkley will be among the favorites for the Heisman Trophy and he’ll have a realistic shot at being the #1 pick in 2013.

Updated mock draft – 21st December

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

This was one of the most challenging mock drafts I’ve ever had to compile, and the Seahawks are 100% to blame. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to project a pick for Seattle. The defense has taken a giant leap forward this year with several players snatching opportunities to become legitimate starters. The offense is coping despite losing several players to injury. The team overall keeps winning and suddenly the playoffs look mildly possible. In fact, had the Seahawks not blown a 17-7 second half lead at home to Washington, they’d be in a very strong position to claim a wildcard berth.

Due to the slow start (including a 2-6 run through the first half of the season) Seattle is only creeping down the draft board rather than catapulting away from the top ten. At the moment they own the #15 pick, still well out of range for the top three quarterbacks barring a minor miracle. This recent run of wins has only confirmed the need to make a move up the board to get their long term quarterback. There is enough talent on this roster to afford spending a few picks on getting that crucial piece of the puzzle. The fans should have faith in Pete Carroll and John Schneider to keep finding gems with the picks they’re left with after such a deal. We all know the QB position involves so much more development and planning when you go beyond the elite few. Heck – even Robert Griffin III should be viewed as a developmental type of player that’s given time to learn before being thrust into the NFL spotlight. This probably isn’t going to be a problem solved by the kind of quality scouting that uncovered Richard Sherman or KJ Wright.

The Seahawks need that one player that can bring this all together and continue the growth of this franchise under Carroll and Schneider’s guidance. Tarvaris Jackson is doing a good job and deserves a lot of credit. People have stopped talking about Matt Hasselbeck for a start and Jackson himself has developed a rapport with the fans and more importantly, his teammates. As well as he’s played at times this season, it’s still a major stretch to think he can lead this team to the promise land.

Projecting trades is even more convoluted than predicting picks, it’s something I’ll never do in the mocks. There’s going to be this underlying theme every week where I feel the need to place a giant asterisk alongside Seattle’s pick. “This week the Seahawks are taking X, but let’s not forget they could trade up for a quarterback.” The madness must end next April, the Seahawks cannot let a talented roster go to waste as many have in the NFL because they lack that one guy who when needed, can duke it out with the best. If Matt Barkley declares for the NFL draft, the Seahawks have to pull up their pants and go get him.

As Adam Caplan tweeted following the win over Chicago, “Say what you want about the Seahawks, but they are going to be good if they can get the right QB. Love the speed on defense.”

So with that out of the way, let’s talk about this week’s pick.

One player I get asked about a lot is Courtney Upshaw (DE/OLB, Alabama). People want to know why he hasn’t been in the mocks before and the main reason is I have a hard time fitting him into a specific position. He’s in the 6-1/6-2 region, so he’s not got the kind of length you traditionally see at defensive end. His physical style and brilliant sense of leverage works best at the LOS though, so will he be as effective moved into space as a 3-4 OLB? He’s a bit of a tweener in that regard.

It put me off giving him the kind of high grade that everyone else appears willing to offer. However, this week I went back and revisited a handful of Alabama games I’ve saved over the season. One thing stuck out to me, and that was a slight similarity between Upshaw and former Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Both have a brawling style, they love to take on blockers and while neither is an elite edge rusher – they maximise leverage and had a lot of success in college. Clayborn is enjoying his rookie year in Tampa Bay so far with 7.5 sacks on a team missing it’s best defensive tackle (Gerald McCoy). I had a look at the physical numbers and Clayborn is only 3cm’s taller than Upshaw, but he’s heavier (281lbs compared to 263lbs) and ran a 4.78 forty yard dash with the extra bulk.

According to the sources we use, the Seahawks liked Clayborn but didn’t anticipate drafting him last April. He wasn’t a LEO pass rusher and didn’t have an obvious role in the the Seahawks front line. Yet there was something they liked about the guy – his style of play, his combative nature perhaps? If only he was a better scheme fit, would he have been a real option? Considering Upshaw plays the game in a similar way, perhaps he’ll get some interest in round one after all? The Seahawks may feel his lighter frame works well off the edge, even if he doesn’t have the kind of break-neck speed or taller frame to be a natural LEO.

The Seahawks use a lot of size in their three man fronts with Chris Clemons playing in space, perhaps they could use some different looks by using Upshaw in more orthodox 4-3 sets? They’ve relied on Clemons for pressure all year (he has 11-sacks, matching his career high from 2010) but they haven’t had the same level or production from Raheem Brock. Could Upshaw provide a fresh dynamic, working with Clemons to enable the defense to get more consistent pressure? It’s really the only thing that’s missing at the moment. Cornerback – a position many considered a big need several weeks ago – now contains two of the most exciting defensive players in the NFC over the last few weeks in Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. At the safety position, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor have grown into the best young tandem in the entire league (no hyperbole, it’s true). KJ Wright is fast becoming an integral player at linebacker. A more consistent pass rush created by a productive three-technique or a further outside threat could turn this defense from blossoming to dominating.

We’ll never be able to escape Seattle’s need at quarterback, but if there really is no chance of moving up to fill that hole then this is another alternative option for the Seahawks next April.

Note: Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia) has been removed this week because he didn’t even file his papers to the draft committee for evaluation. He’s staying at Georgia in 2012. Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers) and Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame) were removed last week after making it clear they wouldn’t be entering the draft.

Updated first round mock draft

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts are facing a difficult situation where they’ll have to either cut Peyton Manning or trade this pick. Interesting times ahead.
#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
The Rams could end up with the #1 pick at this rate. Whether it’s St. Louis or Minnesota that picks here, they should take Kalil.
#3 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
He keeps making plays – eleven interceptions in two seasons. Minnesota’s defense is a mess and needs some help in the secondary.
#4 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
The Browns have a chance to get good quickly by using their two first rounders wisely. They should run to the podium for Barkley.
#5 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
The complete package at receiver – size, speed, good hands, competitive, adjusts to the ball. Ideal fodder for Blaine Gabbert.
#6 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
Richardson will take some pressure off Josh Freeman and add star quality to the Buccs. This would be an exciting pick for Tampa Bay.
#7 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Griffin will help sell tickets in Miami. There’s every chance he’ll go even earlier than this with the hype train rattling down the tracks.
#8 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
If they’re slated to pick after Miami and Cleveland, they could be even more aggressive about landing Peyton Manning.
#9 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Buffalo would love to find a top-end pass rusher, but they also have a need at tackle. This would be a smart move.
#10 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
A tackling machine who will help solidify Tampa Bay’s defense. Blue collar defender with leadership qualities.
#11 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Philly should use this high pick to try and find an impact player. Brown has the talent to be a playmaker in year one.
#12 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
A man of few words and a tackle’s attitude. Scott Pioli has ties to Kirk Ferentz and loves players from Iowa – he’s drafted a few for KC already.
#13 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
They need an OT, but the top three are off the board. The next biggest need is a pass rusher and Branch will start to rise up boards.
#14 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Electrifying receiver capable of having an immediate impact in the NFL. Could be the making of Jake Locker in Tennessee.
#15 Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
The Seahawks rely a lot on Chris Clemons to create pressure, so would they consider adding some help with the aggressive Upshaw?
#16 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
Would they take first-round five techniques in back-to-back years? Coples’ best fit in the NFL will come at 3-4 DE.
#17 Kevin Reddick (LB, North Carolina)
Under rated linebacker who flies around the field and makes plays. He won’t be much of a pass rush threat, but he’ll solidify the strong side.
#18 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
A lot of the Bears’ needs come on offense, but adding another big piece to that dangerous front line could appeal too.
#19 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
He’s a little over rated, but should find a home in round one. Cincy could use a boost among their interior line.
#20 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite cornerback talent but troubled by off-field problems. The Bengals needs to draft a corner and Jenkins is good enough to start quickly.
#21 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
With 14.5 sacks this year, someone will give him a chance early in the draft. New York needs to improve it’s outside pass rush.
#22 Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
He could be better than DeCastro, but doesn’t get anywhere near as much hype. This would be a smart move by Detroit.
#23 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Having drafted a new quarterback earlier, Cleveland now needs to add a playmaker. Floyd has the kind of size Mike Holmgren likes in a #1 receiver.
#24 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
The Broncos run the ball well and could look to add another back to their stable. Carolina had two first round runners under John Fox.
#25 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
He’s big and good in run support, but has struggled in coverage at times. Jerry Jones will like this guy, so will Eli Manning.
#26 Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State)
Although I think his stock is falling, someone could take a shot on Burfict. My guess is he’ll end up playing AFC North..
#27 Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington)
His potential to play nose tackle could keep him in round one, even if his play has been inconsistent for the Huskies.
#28 Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro
#29 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor)
He’s no Phil Taylor, but every time I’ve watched Baylor this year he’s been the one defensive player who looks to have some pro-potential.
#30 Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia)
I’ve seen Virginia twice this season and Aboushi looks like a NFL tackle. Baltimore needs to bolster that offensive line.
#31 Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
He plays a bit like a runaway train. His running style looks off balance, but he moves for a big guy. A 3-4 fit looks ideal.
#32 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
He’s having a good year but his stock is limited due to the position he plays. This would be a nice get for the Packers.

Updated mock draft – 14th December

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

There are several changes in this week’s projection. Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers) and Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame) will return for their senior years and enter the 2013 draft. Andre Branch (DE, Clemson) makes a big jump into the top-15. He’s had a good season (10.5 sacks) and has the kind of relentless approach, burst, length and busy hands that could make him a productive player at the next level. A lack of pass rushers in this year’s draft could easily promote a player like Branch into the top-15.

Washington fans will probably argue strongly against any projection that has them passing on the quarterbacks at #4. However, it almost makes too much sense for Peyton Manning to find his way to the Redskins, offering Dan Snyder a big-name who can instantly make his team a contender in the NFC East. If Indianapolis does intend to keep the #1 pick, they’ll surely have to release Manning. That would allow Washington to solve their biggest problem before the draft and possibly add a dynamic playmaker like Trent Richardson. Mike Shanahan could bang the table for Ryan Tannehill as his long term QB project and eventual successor to Manning. It’s not such a ridiculous proposition, even if Washington passing on Matt Barkley and Robert Griffin III seems like a stretch at this stage.

Of course, such a scenario would push the two quarterbacks down the board, with Griffin III going to Miami at #7 and Barkley to Cleveland at #8. In this situation the Seahawks could realistically see Carolina (#5) and Jacksonville (#6) as possible trade partners. There’s no getting away from the fact Seattle needs to draft a quarterback and sitting around waiting for that player to arrive over the next few years isn’t going to cut it. There is a lot of talent on this team, but the 6-7 record doesn’t lie. If the Seahawks are going to become a regular playoff contender, they need to know who their quarterback is for the long haul.

I don’t include trades in my mock drafts, so we’ll have to keep looking at alternatives even if I’d like to believe trading up is a strong possibility. This week the Seahawks draft Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still.

He’s not the kind of dominating interior lineman we’ve seen available in previous drafts (Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Nick Fairley, Corey Luiget, Phil Taylor) but he’s the best available in this class. The Seahawks don’t run an orthodox scheme, and the current rotation of lineman do a good job against the run. There’s still room for a productive three technique, especially one that can double up as a five-tech on certain downs. Still’s best position may actually be at the five, but he’s also an intriguing developmental option as a penetrative inside rusher. He tends to be inconsistent and his hand use needs to get a lot better – he’s quick rather than powerful or technical. He’ll slip a gap with agility, but when he has to brawl he sometimes struggles. It’s a technique issue more than anything, which is why he might be better taking on one blocker rather than working the middle. His versatility, however, makes him an option for the Seahawks and he’s got the foot speed and mobility to offer something different to this defense.

Updated mock draft – 14th December

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts are facing a difficult situation where they’ll have to either cut Peyton Manning or trade this pick. Interesting times ahead.
#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
The Vikings have many needs, but the biggest is probably at left tackle. Kalil will be one of the best OT’s in the NFL as a rookie.
#3 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
He keeps making plays – eleven interceptions in two seasons. St. Louis’ secondary is plagued by injury and lacks quality.
#4 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
I keep coming back to Peyton Manning and Washington. It’s an ideal fit, allowing the ‘Skins to draft Richardson here and perhaps add Ryan Tannehill later.
#5 Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia)
He says he won’t declare, but after a prolific 13.5 sack season, a top-ten grade could change his mind.
#6 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
The complete package at receiver – size, speed, good hands, competitive, adjusts to the ball. Ideal fodder for Blaine Gabbert.
#7 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Some teams are going to fall for Griffin, who’s ended the year on a crest of a wave. He’ll help sell tickets in Miami.
#8 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
This would be an absolute steal for Cleveland. Barkley is an elite talent who can start as a rookie.
#9 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
A tackling machine who will help solidify Tampa Bay’s defense. Blue collar defender with leadership qualities.
#10 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Philly should use this high pick to try and find an impact player. Brown has the talent to be a playmaker in year one.
#11 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Buffalo would love to find a top-end pass rusher, but they also have a need at tackle. This would be a smart move.
#12 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
A man of few words and a tackle’s attitude. If they appoint Kirk Ferentz as Head Coach, this could be a logical projection.
#13 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
They need an OT, but the top three are off the board. The next biggest need is a pass rusher and Branch will start to rise up boards.
#14 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
The opportunity to move up will surely tempt the Seahawks to be aggressive for a quarterback. If not, Still adds an interior pass rush to go with Seattle’s stable of DT’s.
#15 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
San Diego could take a chance on Coples, who is best suited to the 3-4 defense. Can they pick first-round five-techs in consecutive drafts?
#16 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
He’s big and good in run support, but has struggled in coverage at times. Jerry Jones will like this guy, so will Eli Manning.
#17 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
Could he suffer a fall? He doesn’t have explosive speed, he can make frustrating errors. Blackmon isn’t a top-ten lock.
#18 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
Cincinnati has some promising young playmakers and Miller would add another dimension.
#19 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite cornerback talent but troubled by off-field problems. Cincy needs to draft a corner and Jenkins is good enough to start quickly.
#20 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Jay Cutler will thank the Bears if they make this pick. Wright’s playmaking qualities and deep speed will bring the best out of Chicago’s quarterback.
#21 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
He’s a little over rated, but should find a home in round one. New York can afford to take the best player on their board.
#22 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Having drafted a new quarterback earlier, Cleveland now needs to add a playmaker. Floyd has the kind of size Mike Holmgren likes in a #1 receiver.
#23 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
With 14.5 sacks this year, someone will give him a chance early in the draft. New York needs to add to it’s outside pass rush.
#24 David Wilson (RB, Virginia Tech)
Electric running back who adds another dimension to Denver’s offense. They could also look at Kelechi Osemele.
#25 Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
He could be better than DeCastro, but doesn’t get anywhere near as much hype. This would be a smart move by Detroit.
#26 Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington)
His potential to play nose tackle will keep him in round one, even if his play has been inconsistent for the Huskies.
#27 Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro.
#28 Kevin Reddick (LB, North Carolina)
Bill Belichick doesn’t make obvious picks and could spring a surprise. Reddick can play any of the LB positions – seriously under rated.
#29 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor)
He’s no Phil Taylor, but every time I’ve watched Baylor this year he’s been the one defensive player who looks to have some pro-potential.
#30 Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia)
I’ve seen Virginia twice this season and Aboushi looks like a NFL tackle. Baltimore needs to bolster that offensive line.
#31 Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State)
Although I think his stock is falling, someone could take a shot on Burfict. My guess is he’ll end up playing AFC North.
#32 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
He’s having a good year but his stock is limited due to the position he plays. This would be a nice get for the Packers.

Updated mock draft: 7th December

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

A lot of people aren’t going to like this week’s projection. For whatever reason, a lot of people can’t entertain the idea of stock piling talented receivers. Cornerbacks? Sure. Offensive and defensive lineman? You can never have too many. Receivers on the other are treated with great suspicion. The Seahawks have a better group of wide outs today than they’ve had for a long time, but there’s still room for improvement. Mike Williams has regressed this season while Golden Tate still has a lot to prove even if his performances have been improved in recent weeks. Sidney Rice needs to show he can stay healthy after another injury plagued season and Ben Obomanu is steady and reliable, yet unspectacular. Sure, there have been some high profile busts at receiver in recent years, but there’s also been some big success stories. Busts can happen anywhere, including the much fancied offensive tackle and corner back positions.

What the Seahawks don’t have is a receiver capable of scaring the life out of a defense due to pure speed. This week, I’m sending one of the most under rated players in the 2012 NFL Draft to Seattle. Baylor’s quarterback has received a lot of plaudits this year – including a Heisman nomination – but none of it would’ve been possible without Kendall Wright. Those long downfield passes you see Robert Griffin throwing are often to a wide open Wright, who has the speed to stretch the field and the ability to create separation time and time again. This season he, like Griffin, has taken the next step and become a consistent force in the Big 12. Only one player – Western Michigan’s Jordan White – has more passing yards this season. Wright’s stat line reads: 1572 yards, 13 touchdowns.

The Seahawks need to find a quarterback in this draft, even if that means trading up. BUT… if such an option isn’t possible – we have to look at the alternatives in these mock drafts. I anticipate people will ask why I haven’t got the Seahawks taking Dre Kirkpatrick instead – a player adored by many simply because he happens to be 6-2 and coached by Nick Saban. The Seahawks aren’t desperate to add yet another big cornerback, particularly one who isn’t great in coverage (a pretty big part of a corner’s game, don’t you think?). David DeCastro? Perhaps, but eventually the Seahawks have to trust what they’ve invested in the offensive line, including the coaching staff, and look at other areas of the team.

Justin Blackmon takes a fall this week and I have the Seahawks preferring Wright to his Big-12 rival. Why? The Seahawks already have receivers that offer a similar skill set to Blackmon. What they don’t have – and haven’t had for a long time – is someone with elite downfield speed. If they are forced to look at the best options available in the middle of round one, Wright has to be a possibility. And if Seattle is faced with a situation where they’re rolling with Tarvaris Jackson and developing Josh Portis or a later round pick, Wright is also someone who can have an impact running deep route’s early in his pro-career. The idea with these weekly projections is to run through different possibilities, particularly if the Seahawks are going to win their way out of the quarterback stakes.

A final word on Blackmon falling - many people see him as a top-ten lock. I’m guessing I’ll receive the usual flurry of emails arguing against one of the ‘big names’ falling. That kind of thing happens every year and Blackmon is not a can’t miss type player. If he does go in the top ten, it’ll come with a risk factor and it’ll be a reach based on need. I’ve had Blackmon in the top-five picks in previous projections, today I’m looking at the other possibility that he could fall. He’s not going to run a brilliant time at the combine, he does make several frustrating errors (see this video at the 1:16 mark), he’s not got that elite size that teams dream about and there are some slight concerns with his attitude that will need to be checked out. In many ways he’s similar to Michael Crabtree, but Crabtree was a sensational hands catcher with a tremendous wing span. Last year I gave Blackmon a grade in the 20′s and while I expect he probably will go earlier than that, I’m not convinced he’ll be taken in the same range as superior physical prospects like AJ Green and Julio Jones.

One other note… Indianapolis needs to prepare for a big decision. The noises are already being made that Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck cannot co-exist, something we’ve talked about a lot on this blog. The Colts are almost certainly going to have to choose between the two players, potentially freeing up Manning as a free agent. You have to believe teams like Washington (with an owner like Dan Snyder) will jump at the chance to sign Manning to a bumper deal for 2-3 years while quietly grooming a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill in the background. It’s a possible scenario that could open the door for Seattle if you’re hoping for one of the top three quarterbacks.

Of course, the Luck camp may not see a gig in Indianapolis – and following Manning – as the ideal situation for their man. This is a bad Indy team that could easily go 0-16. Following Manning will be like trying to follow up a brilliant first album. The Lucks could push for a better situation – again, possibly Washington but more likely a team such as Cleveland that has the ammunition to trade up. Getting a big deal for multiple round one picks could help the Colts rebuild their terrible roster, back Peyton Manning who’s done so much for that franchise and still plan for the future at quarterback. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, but I’ll be stunned if Manning and Luck are on the same roster next season.

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts are facing a difficult situation where they’ll have to either cut Peyton Manning or trade this pick. Interesting times ahead.
#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
The Rams need some offensive playmakers more than anything, but they’ll struggle to pass on a talent like Kalil who can anchor their line for years.
#3 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
He keeps making plays – eleven interceptions in two seasons. Minnesota would surely love a crack at Matt Kalil, but he’s off the board.
#4 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
With Gene Smith extending his contract, he’ll be tasked with backing his judgement on Blaine Gabbert. That should include an offensive minded coach and a unique target like Jones.
#5 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
Elite potential and crucially he’s pro-ready. Washington needs someone who can start in year one.
#6 Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia)
He says he won’t declare for the draft, but after a prolific season (including 13.5 sacks) a top-ten grade could change his mind.
#7 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
Cleveland needs a playmaker on offense and Richardson would be an instant star for the Browns.
#8 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
More of a right tackle prospect than a blind-side blocker, Philly needs to sure up that offensive line.
#9 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
We’re told big changes are coming in the coaching department, which usually means a new quarterback. Griffin will help the Dolphins sell tickets.
#10 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Tampa Bay fans say linebacker is a big need, so why not draft a player who’s been compared to Lance Briggs?
#11 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Arizona’s priority this off season has to be finding a left tackle. Martin isn’t spectacular, but he’s the best available here.
#12 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
Tackling machine who looks like a Scott Pioli-type player. A nice fit in Kansas City’s defense.
#13 Quinton Coples (DE, UNC)
The Bills need a pass rusher, but the options at 3-4 OLB are limited. Coples was a lot better in the second half of the season.
#14 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
With three QB’s off the board and no obvious defensive line options – the Seahawks have to think outside of the box. Wright could be the next Mike Wallace.
#15 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
San Diego has to add a reliable feature to it’s defense. Te’o can be a leader who performs every Sunday without fail.
#16 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
There’s a degree of bandwagon jumping when it comes to DeCastro. That’s not to say it won’t help promote the Washington native into this kind of range.
#17 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
Could he suffer a fall? He doesn’t have explosive speed, he can make frustrating errors. Blackmon isn’t a top-ten lock.
#18 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
Cincinnati has some promising young playmakers and Miller would add another dimension.
#19 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
The Jets need to add to their pass rush and could show interest in Mercilus, who leads the NCAA with 14.5 sacks this year.
#20 Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
Looks every bit a future NFL guard. Perhaps a little under rated and closer to David De Castro than most think
#21 Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
Having added an elite talent at running back earlier, Cleveland continues it’s offensive rebuild with a big playmaker at receiver.
#22 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite talent who only falls due to character concerns. AJ Green and Julio Jones had their worst games against Jenkins in 2010.
#23 Kevin Reddick (LB, North Carolina)
Under rated linebacker, would be a nice compliment to Chicago’s defense.
#24 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
Versatile defensive lineman who can fit into a number of looks. Pittsburgh can afford to take the BPA.
#25 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
Tall corner who’s flashed real ability in run support, but needs to improve in coverage. John Brantley shouldn’t be abusing any cornerback in the SEC.
#26 David Wilson (RB, Virginia Tech)
Really productive running back for the Hokies who could have a quick impact in Denver.
#27 Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro.
#28 Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington)
Big nose tackle prospect. Houston switched to the 3-4 this year but could still use Ta’amu’s size up front to anchor their defensive line.
#29 Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia)
I’ve seen Virginia twice this season and Aboushi looks like a NFL tackle. Baltimore needs to bolster that offensive line.
#30 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor)
He’s no Phil Taylor, but every time I’ve watched Baylor this year he’s been the one defensive player who looks to have some pro-potential.
#31 Micheal Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Production machine but issues off the field will prevent him going much earlier than this.
#32 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
He’s having a good year but his stock is limited due to the position he plays. This would be a nice get for the Packers.

Updated mock draft: 1st December

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

On Tuesday I raised a point ahead of this updated mock draft - what if the Seahawks don’t need to trade up for a quarterback? As we saw with Blaine Gabbert last April, teams have contrasting grades on certain players. In that instance Jacksonville aggressively pursued a player that Washington – who desperately needed a quarterback – just weren’t interested in. Despite having a big need at the position, the Redskins completely ignored the options available. Just because a team has a perceived need, it doesn’t mean they’ll just take the next player available in round one. Could this allow a quarterback to slip through the cracks? It’s something we can consider and discuss at the start of December and that’s why I’ve chosen to highlight this in my latest projection.

Scroll down for further analysis after the mock.

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts will need to make a decision on the future of Peyton Manning, but if they keep this pick then Luck will be the choice.
#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
The Rams need some offensive playmakers more than anything, but they’ll struggle to pass on a talent like Kalil who can anchor their line for years.
#3 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
This is too high for Blackmon in my view, but the Vikings need a dynamic, alpha male type at receiver. You have to think they’d love Kalil.
#4 Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia)
He says he’ll return to Georgia, but getting a grade like this could change his mind. He’s a tremendous playmaker with 13.5 sacks this season.
#5 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
Elite potential and pro-ready, Barkley can start in week one for the Dolphins and end the post-Marino curse in Miami.
#6 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
With Gene Smith extending his contract, he’ll be tasked with backing his judgement on Blaine Gabbert. That should include an offensive minded coach and a unique target like Jones.
#7 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Drafting a left tackle should be Arizona’s priority and although this is a reach, Martin is the clear #2 blind-side blocker after Kalil.
#8 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
The Skins need a quarterback, but Mike Shanahan showed last year he won’t just take anyone. Richardson is an elite talent and keep an eye on Ryan Tannehill later.
#9 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
More of a right tackle prospect than a blind side blocker. Kansas City needs better line play to compliment their playmakers.
#10 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
He’s played better the last few weeks. Cleveland’s defense has a lot of young talent and Coples would provide a good compliment to Jabaal Sheard.
#11 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
Keeps making plays in a loaded LSU secondary. He’s not the finished article, but time spent at receiver is obvious given his ball skills.
#12 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
Tackling machine who would provide a solid, blue collar addition to Philly’s defense.
#13 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
He’s not an obvious fit for the two Mike’s – Shanahan & Holmgren. Seattle could benefit if that’s the case.
#14 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Tampa Bay fans say linebacker is a big need. Why not have a player who’s been compared favorably to Lance Briggs?
#15 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
The Bills need a pass rusher. Mercilus also needs to play in space at his size, but will need to prove he can adapt to the 3-4.
#16 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
There’s a degree of bandwagon jumping when it comes to DeCastro. That’s not to say it won’t help promote the Washington native into this kind of range.
#17 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Explosive, under rated playmaker who looks a lot like Mike Wallace. Locker-to-Wright could be a combination for the ages.
#18 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
He’s having a great year and looks like the consistent force he perhaps hasn’t been prior to 2011. His stock is rising.
#19 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
The Broncos are in a difficult position with ‘Tebow-Mania’, yet they need to add something on offense. John Fox had two first round running backs in Carolina.
#20 David Wilson (RB, Virginia Tech)
The Browns need to find a playmaker, whether that’s at QB, RB or WR. Wilson has game breaking speed and finishes runs well for his size.
#21 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
Tall, physical cornerback who will appeal to Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. Specialises in run support, coverage skills need work.
#22 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite talent who only falls due to character concerns. AJ Green and Julio Jones had their worst games against Jenkins in 2010.
#23 Kevin Reddick (LB, North Carolina)
Under rated linebacker, would be a nice compliment to Cincinnati’s defense.
#24 Peter Konz (C, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro.
#25 Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
The Bears need to add a big, consistent receiver to their offense. Sanu will surprise people with early production.
#26 Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia)
I’ve seen Virginia three times in the last two seasons and Aboushi looks like a future pro. Could he rise to this level?
#27 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about inside linebackers in Baltimore? Te’o is the best left on the board here.
#28 Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington)
Big nose tackle prospect. Houston switched to the 3-4 this year but could still use Ta’amu’s size up front to anchor their defensive line.
#29 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
He’s made a lot of mistakes off the field, but despite inconsistent quarterback play he’s maintained solid production.
#30 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor)
He’s no Phil Taylor, but every time I’ve watched Baylor this year he’s been the one defensive player who looks to have some pro-potential.
#31 Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
Looks every bit a future NFL guard. Perhaps a little under rated and closer to David De Castro than most think.
#32 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
He’s having a good year, but looks like a five-technique convert to me and that could hamper his stock.

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Why have you left out….?

There are several ‘big names’ not included in this week’s projection. While I do try to look at different possibilities with these mocks, I’m only judging things as I see them. I wanted to try and justify why some high profile prospects are missing.

Landry Jones (QB, Oklahoma) - I think he’s a completely unspectacular quarterback who will be found out at the next level. He’s not making pre-snap reads, he’ll live or die by the play call. He can’t improvise in the pocket and the modern NFL loves quarterbacks who can extend plays and think outside of the box. Jones is the complete opposite of that – a pocket passer with bad footwork who can’t go through 1-2-3 reads and fire. Mike Shanahan isn’t drafting this guy, Pete Carroll isn’t drafting this guy, Mike Holmgren isn’t drafting this guy. That leaves Miami, Kansas City and Denver. There are better options for the Dolphins and I’m not sure John Elway will be able to leave his front door if the Broncos draft a quarterback in round one. My gut feeling is Jones deserves a mid-round projection, but will end up in round two due to reputation.

Courtney Upshaw (DE/LB, Alabama) - Speed is great when you’re judging a pass rusher, but it’s also possibly the most over rated aspect. I love guys who find ways to get the job done, either with good hands and reach to disengage, or with a repertoire of moves to keep lineman thinking. If you’re doing the same edge rush every time, you’ll get found out. When you combine speed rush, violent hands and a repertoire, you’re onto a winner. I really liked Jabaal Sheard last year because he combined those aspects and played above a lack of elite size. He’s had a decent start to his career in Cleveland with 4.5 sacks so far as a rookie, but I loved that pick for the Browns.  There are a lot of things I like about Upshaw particularly his hand use and ability to gain leverage and avoid blockers because he’s not an elite athlete. At 6-1 and around 270lbs, without eye catching speed, he’s going to need to rely on smarts and technique. But if Sheard with all his talents can’t find a home in round one, then I’m struggling to give Upshaw a better grade. He’s a solid football player, but not the type who usually goes in round one.

Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State) – He’s falling a bit because he’s not had a spectacular season and teams will be wary of his temper and attitude. He’s unpredictable, on and off the field, and I’m not sure how he’ll be received in meetings. He doesn’t play a crucial position in terms of draft stock. There isn’t a team in the NFL who’s a middle linebacker away from a big tilt in the playoffs, so teams may well ask, “Do we want the hassle?” I had him in the 20′s last week, but time to look at the possibility he could be a round one casualty.

Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina) - It’s all about separation in the NFL and unfortunately that’s where Jeffery struggles. He has a big frame, but he’s not getting away from anyone. Jonathan Baldwin had similar size but he was an athlete and ran well at the combine. For all his faults, he went in round one because there is that ‘special’ potential hidden away. He found ways to get open, he’d make spectacular downfield plays. Jeffery hasn’t got it. He’ll run a really average time at the combine, because that’s what the tape shows. He’s not exploding into his breaks, he’s not a really consistent receiver and he tends to run sloppy routes. What he does have is the big Mike Williams type frame, so you’re throwing at a big target. He’s been hurt by a bad quarterback situation at South Carolina this season, but this is a class full of better receivers than Alshon Jeffery.

Brandon Thompson (DT, Clemson) - When you watch Clemson, every now and again Brandon Thompson jumps off the screen and looks like a top-15 talent. You want to buy into his potential, particularly in a weak overall defensive tackle class. However, the flashes are hidden among a lot of average tape. He will have games where he’s just not effective against the run, getting pushed around by interior lineman. Plus, you just can’t get away from the fact that he has 4.5 sacks in a four year career – despite playing on the same team as Da’Quan Bowers, Andre Branch and others taking up double teams off the edge. He’s quite good at slipping blocks and getting into the backfield, but can you trust he’ll finish with that low level of production? For me, he looks like the kind of player who slips into the third round or the late second and you end up getting a solid pro. Maybe one day you wonder how he fell as far as he did? But that’s what happens.

How did you work a quarterback going to Seattle?

It’s not as ridiculous as it perhaps looks. Miami regrets passing on Matt Ryan, but Matt Barkley can make up for that. Mike Shanahan is very picky with his quarterbacks, as we saw when he passed on Blaine Gabbert last year. He isn’t just looking for an arm and athleticism to run numerous naked bootlegs, play actions and out-of-the-pocket deep passes. To some degree, I can see the Redskins buying into Robert Griffin III. However, I can also see Shanahan and Washington targeting Ryan Tannehill outside of round one, allowing them the chance to add a much needed offensive playmaker like Trent Richardson. Cleveland could be a home for Griffin III, but does he look like an ideal quarterback for the Holmgren visision?

We know the Seahawks have a different way of looking at the position to Shanahan, even if both teams are looking for similar functions (arm strength, athleticism, ability outside of the pocket). Seattle had Gabbert #1 on their board among quarterbacks according to our sources, but Washington clearly didn’t rate him. I’m guessing Shanahan would’ve loved to draft Jake Locker, but the Seahawks had him at #6 among quarterbacks behind second round picks like Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton.

If the Seahawks and Redskins are looking at different players in round one, there’s every chance they have opposing views on Griffin III too. In that situation, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility Griffin III could fall to the Seahawks.