Free agency is in full flow, so before we get into this week’s projection I wanted to consider how it’s impacting the draft landscape:
– The Bills are going all-in to sign Mario Williams and it seems like a deal is close. Williams will spend a third day with the team on Thursday as the two parties hammer out a contract which could threaten Calvin Johnson’s record-breaking extension. This is fantastic news for the Seahawks, as it increases the chances Buffalo won’t draft a pass rusher at #10. With so much money invested in one star defensive end, expect the Bills to target offensive lineman in round one.
– Jacksonville likewise re-signed Jeremy Mincey, their best pass rusher. They still need more at the position, but having only been able to attract Laurent Robinson to Florida – could they possibly consider looking at a wide receiver at #7? They need to support Blaine Gabbert if they want him to succeed.
– The Dallas Cowboys have been busy, acquiring Brandon Carr today and also hosting Dan Connor. This says to me that they’re trying to address key needs at cornerback and linebacker to draft an interior lineman in round one. Cordy Glenn and David DeCastro could be in play at #14.
– The Seahawks re-signed Red Bryant and Marshawn Lynch, ensuring they weren’t left with any extra holes going into the draft. Linebacker is still an area of need with David Hawthorne (receiving interest from New Orleans) and Leroy Hill on the market, but Pete Carroll highlighted the position as an area for improvement at the end of the 2011 season. The Seahawks will kick the tire’s on the free agent quarterback market – which could be boosted in the next few days if players like Kevin Kolb are released. Matt Flynn and Chad Henne will only be offered competitive ‘Tarvaris Jackson’ type contracts, if they’re even offered a deal. This team appears to be setting itself up to attack the position next year to get the player the fans crave in Seattle.
– Unless the team shows any serious interest in a player like Kamerion Wimbley when he’s eventually cut by Oakland, it appears the Seahawks will be set up to draft a pass rusher at #12. I’m not expecting the team to draft a quarterback until round three at the earliest, but Brock Osweiler and Kirk Cousins are probably the two players to keep an eye on in that range.
– The Seahawks should be applauded for their work in free agency so far. The priority was always to re-sign Marshawn Lynch and Red Bryant. Job done. Anything else is a bonus.
– It’s also worth touching on why it’s not the end of the world that Seattle will not be introducing Peyton Manning and Mario Williams to the media this week. This remains a very fluid rebuild for the Seahawks, it’ll take time and maybe every one of the five-years on Pete Carroll’s contract before you see his vision completely installed. Spending over $100m on Mario Williams would’ve excited a few people, but it would also mean potentially difficult decisions down the line. When you have a player on the kind of salary Williams will command, the cap ramifications could mean you’re not be able – for example – to franchise Earl Thomas when he’s up for renewal. Perhaps it’d be a case of keeping Thomas, but losing Kam Chancellor or Russell Okung? The Seahawks want to sign great players, but they also want to reward their own first and foremost. That’s how you build. While the options at #12 won’t be as emphatic as Mario Williams, they will still find a prospect capable of complimenting the teams pass rush.
– One final quick thought – it seems like it’s becoming a six-player race at the top of the board. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kalil, Justin Blackmon, Morris Claiborne and Trent Richardson are looking pretty safe to be the first six players off the board – with the only real debate at picks 4-6. Cleveland could draft any one of Blackmon, Claiborne or Richardson – with Tampa Bay and St. Louis picking through the scraps.
It’s a two-round projection this week by popular demand. I’ve listed some of ‘the next best available’ for round three at the bottom and also offered some thoughts on what I don’t like about the projection (they’re never perfect). So before you throw your computer across the room (Doug) after seeing Seattle’s pick, please read my explanation.
Updated first round mock draft
|#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
|#2 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
The inevitable part II.
|#3 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
Minnesota won’t waste any time calling Kalil’s name. He has elite potential. The inevitable part III.
|#4 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
This is where it gets interesting. The Browns must have a plan. Will it be to reunite Weeden and Blackmon in Ohio?
|#5 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
The biggest spenders in free agency, Tampa Bay could still use a stud cornerback.
|#6 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
The Rams know this is now a three-draft plan. This guy will be a star, so take him and don’t look back.
|#7 Melvin Ingram (DE, South Carolina)
The Jaguars need to improve their pass rush and will have their pick of the group at this spot.
|#8 Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
Plan B if they can’t pursuade Peyton Manning to take his talents to South Beach?
|#9 Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
Carolina will probably have a good look at Dontari Poe, but the upside of Cox could win the day.
|#10 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
Buffalo are desperately trying to get a deal done for Mario Williams. If they land the star prize, they’ll go offensive tackle here.
|#11 Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis)
Nose tackles who weigh 345lbs and move as well as this guy don’t last long in round one.
|#12 Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
The Seahawks’ draft priority is to improve their pass rush. Upshaw will have a big impact on Seattle’s defense.
|#13 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Whoever is playing quarterback for Arizona next year, the Cardinals simply must draft an offensive tackle.
|#14 Cordy Glenn (OT, Georgia)
The moves made in free agency will allow the Cowboys to target Cordy Glenn or David DeCastro at this spot.
|#15 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Why not get a big possession receiver to compliment newly re-signed DeSean Jackson?
|#16 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
The talent is there, but teams have concerns about his 2011 tape and his run defense.
|#17 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
Cincinnati will want to make sure one of their first round picks is a corner, but DeCastro is hard to pass here.
|#18 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
With the top offensive lineman leaving the board before the #18 pick, San Diego may fill another big need here.
|#19 Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
Trading for Brandon Marshall will allow Chicago to concentrate on the best lineman available at this spot.
|#20 Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
There’s always a shock in round one. Konz is good enough to justify a pick this early and will play in the league for a decade.
|#21 Doug Martin (RB, Boise State)
An extreme playmaker who will have an impact from day one. He could be the second coming of Ray Rice.
|#22 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
Cleveland could use another edge rusher and this guys production last year could intrigue the Browns.
|#23 Stephon Gilmore (CB, South Carolina)
A smart performance at the combine will promote Gilmore’s stock into the bottom half of round one.
|#24 Mike Adams (OT, Ohio State)
There are some legitimate concerns about Adams’ play, but Pittsburgh may take a chance.
|#25 Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College)
Yes he performed well at the combine – but he’s still a middle linebacker, a position with a restricted value.
|#26 Stephen Hill (WR, Georgia Tech)
He’s a tremendous athlete who makes spectacular plays. It’s more than combine hype that puts Hill in round one contention.
|#27 Kevin Zeitler (OG, Wisconsin)
He’s rising up the boards and could be seen as a solid pick for a team looking for a long term piece to their offensive line.
|#28 Vinny Curry (DE, Marshall)
The Packers are running out of options to improve their pass rush and could consider Curry in this situation.
|#29 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
Having attacked the receiver market in free agency, San Fran could draft Kirkpatrick to play corner or safety.
|#30 Dont’a Hightower (LB, Alabama)
The very definition of a defensive prospect who fits in Baltimore. A tough football player, simple as that.
|#31 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
His ability to line up in multiple spots could attract the Patriots, who are looking for more pass rush.
|#32 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Brown is full of potential and could go earlier than this. New York would be a nice landing spot.
#33 St. Louis – Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
#34 Indianapolis – Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
#35 Minnesota – Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
#36 Tampa Bay – Bobby Wagner (LB, Utah State)
#37 Cleveland – Brandon Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State)
#38 Jacksonville – Reuben Randle (WR, LSU)
#39 St. Louis – Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
#40 Carolina – Jayron Hosley (CB, Virginia Tech)
#41 Buffalo – Ronnell Lewis (LB, Oklahoma)
#42 Miami – Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
#43 Seattle – Mychal Kendricks (LB, California)
#44 Kansas City – Bobby Massie (OT, Ole Miss)
#45 Dallas – Jared Crick (DE, Nebraska)
#46 Philadelphia – Nick Perry (DE, USC)
#47 New York Jets – Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina)
#48 New England – Shea McClellin (DE, Boise State)
#49 San Diego – Brandon Brooks (OG, Miami OH)
#50 Chicago – Dwayne Allen (TE, Clemson)
#51 Philadelphia – Brock Osweiler (QB, Arizona State)
#52 Tennessee – Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse)
#53 Cincinnati – Casey Heyward (CB, Vanderbilt)
#54 Detroit – Brandon Boykin (CB, Georgia)
#55 Atlanta – Josh Robinson (CB, UCF)
#56 Pittsburgh – Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
#57 Denver – Brandon Thompson (DT, Clemson)
#58 Houston – Josh Chapman (DT, Alabama)
#59 New Orleans – Lavonte David (LB, Nebraska)
#60 Green Bay – Kirk Cousins (QB, Michigan State)
#61 Baltimore – Harrison Smith (S, Notre Dame)
#62 San Francisco – Orson Charles (TE, Georgia)
#63 New York Giants – Kendall Reyes (DT, Connecticut)
#64 New England – Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Best available in round three: Sean Spence (LB, Miami), Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington), Chris Polk (RB, Washington), Jerel Worthy (DT, Michigan State), Dwight Bentley (CB, Louisiana-Lafayette), David Wilson (RB, Virginia Tech), Cam Johnson (DE, Virginia), Logan Harrell (DT, Fresno State), Bruce Irvin (DE, West Virginia), Robert Turbin (RB, Utah State), Mike Martin (DT, Michigan), Brandon Washington (OG, Miami)
Things I’m not happy with (because a mock cannot be perfect…)
– Brock Osweiler dropping to pick #51. In my opinion, he’s clearly the third best quarterback in this class and worthy of a tentative first round grade. However, opinion is mixed and it’s difficult to find a home for him earlier than this. The Seahawks might avoid the quarterback position in the first two rounds, but they must sprint to the podium if Osweiler is there in round three.
– Kansas City really needs to repair their offensive line and it could hold them back considering the talent they have at the skill positions. At the same time, can they afford to pass on a future nose tackle who could anchor their defense for years to come?
– I don’t do trades and the exception for Robert Griffin III has since been justified. However, I suspect we’re going to see an awful lot of movement this year – maybe more than ever. For that reason, I don’t expect the majority of mocks you’ll see over the next few weeks to hit the mark – including mine.
– I’m concerned about the sanity of some readers (I’m looking at you, Doug) after mocking Upshaw to Seattle again this week. I know, I know. Look – I’m not doing this to provoke people, I’m not doing this because I’m unable to move away from my own high grade of Courtney Upshaw. This is not a man-crush. I actually intended to move away from this pick today. However, with events working the way they have in free agency and with Buffalo in pole position to re-sign Mario Williams, I worked through each pick carefully and couldn’t see a realistic way of avoiding it. I’m preparing my crow pie just in case the Seahawks pass on the guy on April 26th, but I will not go out of my way to deliberately make a projection I don’t trust. It was the same last year with Jake Locker going in the top-10 – I always believed it would happen… 100%. So why stray? We look at alternatives during the week and will continue to do so (expect a big article on this subject later in the week). For now – I apologise, but it is what it is.