The combine is in the books and it’s time to take stock on where we’re at with less than two months to go until the 2012 draft. I want to offer three thoughts today, starting with this week’s projection:
– Many people are tired of seeing Courtney Upshaw mocked to the Seahawks. However, there’s no point deliberately manufacturing situations that have no chance of happening. This team is zoning in on pass rushers and will almost certainly have the opportunity to draft one of the big three – Upshaw, Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples. While speculation is rife about the Seahawks making a splash on Mario Williams, we have to remember that Pete Carroll and John Schneider are on the record for saying they’ll build this team through the draft. That means a pass rusher in round one, with only one obvious wild-card alternative (a certain Alabama running back, who is too good to pass if available at #12). No offensive lineman. No wide receivers. Sadly, no quarterbacks. This will be a situation where a need (pass rush) fits supply (defensive end) and the Seahawks aren’t exactly hiding their intentions.
– The Rams will trade the #2 pick, otherwise known as the rights to Robert Griffin III. Several teams interviewed the Baylor quarterback at the combine, but the Seahawks did not. Many wondered whether this was a sign of secret interest, comparable to Mike Shanahan’s stealth pursuit of Jay Cutler in 2006. That is categorically not the case and Seattle will not be trading with St. Louis. The situation is like poker – the Rams have a great hand and they’re looking to draw others in to increase the pot. The more people at the table, the higher the stakes. The Seahawks have no interest in helping St. Louis drive up the price. Cleveland, Washington and Miami are all reported to have discussed a possible trade and the more teams willing to fight over Griffin’s services, the higher the price becomes. An inter-division trade was never realistic and simply won’t happen, so walking out of the casino is Seattle’s best move. They’ve left the table – not interviewing Griffin III was a statement to the rest of the league. St. Louis are still going to get a great deal, but at least the Seahawks won’t be making it any sweeter.
– Various sources are talking up Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn to Seattle, but I understand interest is minimal and virtually non-existent in both players. For several weeks now we’ve suggested keeping an eye on the trade market for a deal that isn’t abundantly obvious. What we know is Manning’s eventual destination could be the catalyst for a trade which would see another current starting quarterback move to Seattle. Before everyone jumps to conclusions and assumes Mark Sanchez, we also understand the team in question isn’t one which has been heavily touted in the media as a suitor for Manning. The deal is far from probable, rather just possible – and will depend on a.) Manning’s health and b.) where he signs. There’s no guarantee that a deal will get done, indeed it’s been described as more unlikely than likely. However, it’s worth noting that the Seahawks will be trying to upgrade the position this off-season even though they may not draft a quarterback in the first three rounds.
Onto this week’s mock draft. I’ve included a second round in the projection.
|#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
Indianapolis will need to work out a way to build around Luck, and fast. This is a roster starting from scratch.
|TRADE #2 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
The Rams are trading this pick, the only question is whether Griffin III will be a Brown or a Redskin.
|#3 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
Minnesota won’t waste any time calling Kalil’s name. He has elite potential.
|TRADE #4 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
I wouldn’t take Blackmon this early, but the Rams need a playmaker more than anything else.
|#5 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
Linebacker and cornerback are the two biggest needs on this team, but they must be tempted by Trent Richardson too.
|#6 Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
If the Redskins don’t trade up, it’s hard to see them drifting into another year without some long term thinking at quarterback.
|#7 Melvin Ingram (DE, South Carolina)
The Jaguars need to improve their pass rush and will have the pick of Ingram, Upshaw and Coples.
|#8 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
The Dolphins will pursue Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn and could look to improve their offensive line to support such a move.
|#9 Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis)
Players who weigh 345lbs and move as well as Poe don’t last long on draft day. Carolina will transition to more 3-4 looks.
|#10 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
Moving to a 4-3 defense makes Coples a solid fit here. The Bills desperately need to improve their pass rush.
|#11 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
Richardson is too talented to keep falling and if he drops out of the top ten, he probably won’t get past Kansas City and Seattle.
|#12 Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
People are sick of seeing this projection, but in this situation it would be a certainty. I’m not going to project scenarios that won’t happen.
|#13 Cordy Glenn (OT, Georgia)
Glenn showcased enough athleticism at the combine to suggest he can stay at tackle at the next level. He’s rising in a big way.
|#14 David De Castro (OG, Stanford)
Dallas could attack the corner market in free agency, allowing them to target Glenn or De Castro at this spot.
|#15 Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College)
Andy Reid has avoided drafting linebackers in the past, but may play it safe here and fill a position of need.
|#16 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
New York needs to improve it’s pass rush. Branch has a ton of potential and can transition to the 3-4.
|#17 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Explosive athlete who will convince a team early in the draft that he’s worth a high pick.
|#18 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
The Chargers need to find pass rushers, but they also need to rebuild their offensive line. This would be a good start.
|#19 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Floyd’s combine performance was good enough to confirm his likely position within the first round.
|#20 Nick Perry (DE, USC)
Tennessee are another team that has to look at the edge rushers. The tape doesn’t always match Perry’s excellent combine performance.
|#21 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
Tall, physical cornerback who specialises in run support but his coverage skills need work.
|TRADE #22 Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
St. Louis has some edge rush talent but they don’t have a space clogger in the middle. Brockers could be BPA at this stage.
|#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 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
He could go much earlier than this, but positional need could lead to a slight drop. Denver could use a talented young safety.
|#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 Peter Konz (C, Wisconsin)
Nick Mangold, Alex Mack and Peter Konz. That’s how good Konz is leaving college.
|#28 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
He proved in Indianapolis that he has the physical attributes to match his mass-production in 2011.
|#29 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Wright could drop a bit after running slow times. San Francisco won’t care – they’ll find ways to max-out his talent in different ways.
|#30 Dont’a Hightower (LB, Alabama)
The very definition of a defensive player who fits in Baltimore. A tough football player, simple as that.
|#31 Casey Hayward (CB, Vanderbilt)
Bill Belichick likes to draft defensive backs early and he could entertain another cornerback with this pick.
|#32 Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
A great athlete who might fall due to needs elsewhere. A tough player to project, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he went in the top-15.
#33 St. Louis – Kevin Zeitler (OG, Wisconsin)
#34 Indianapolis – Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington)
#35 Minnesota – Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
#36 Tampa Bay – Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
#37 Cleveland – Rueben Randle (WR, LSU)
#38 Jacksonville – Jayron Hosley (CB, Virgnina Tech)
#39 Washington – Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
#40 Carolina – Mychal Kendricks (LB, California)
#41 Buffalo – Ronnell Lewis (LB, Oklahoma)
#42 Miami – Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse)
#43 Seattle – Doug Martin (RB, Boise State)
#44 Kansas City – Kirk Cousins (QB, Michigan State)
#45 Dallas – Jared Crick (DE, Wisconsin)
#46 Philadelphia – Brock Osweiler (QB, Arizona State)
#47 New York Jets – Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina)
#48 New England – Vinny Curry (DE, Marshall)
#49 San Diego – Shea McClellin (DE, Boise State)
#50 Chicago – Jerel Worthy (DT, Michigan State)
#51 Philadelphia – Brandon Thompson (DT Clemson)
#52 Tennessee – Brandon Boykin (CB, Georgia)
#53 Cincinnati – Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
#54 Detroit – Brandon Washington (OG, Miami)
#55 Atlanta – Orson Charles (TE, Georgia)
#56 Pittsburgh – Bobby Wagner (LB, Utah State)
#57 Denver – David Wilson (RB, Virginia Tech)
#58 Houston – Josh Chapman (DT, Alabama)
#59 New Orleans – Sean Spence (LB, Miami)
#60 Green Bay – Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
#61 Baltimore – Harrison Smith (S, Notre Dame)
#62 San Francisco – Coby Fleener (TE, Stanford)
#63 New York Giants – Dwayne Allen (TE, Clemson)
#64 New England – Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)