In this week’s projection I wanted to contemplate the potential impact of the scouting combine, with work-outs beginning on Saturday. Who could rise? Who could fall? Will we see any significant changes when players have been tested and interviewed in Indianapolis?
I’ve already discussed the possibility that Zach Brown could be set for a boost after he tests at the combine – Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State) may also surge up boards after he works out on Monday. Cox plays like a runaway train – he can be off-balance, but he’s all power and speed and can play both off the edge and inside in 4-3 and 3-4 looks. He’ll be listed above 300lbs but could run a surprisingly fast forty-yard dash for his size, potentially pushing him to the front of the class for interior defensive lineman.
Melvin Ingram, Quinton Coples and Courtney Upshaw are all jostling for position with all three likely to be drafted within the first sixteen picks. Ingram is expected to make the greatest impression as he’s clearly the most agile and will easily record the best forty-time. Coples and Upshaw can stay ahead of Ingram on a lot of draft boards by running respectable times and performing well in other drills. This is a big opportunity for Ingram, though.
Other players will emerge that have so far not been considered likely first round options. Rueben Randle (WR, LSU) was a victim of the Tigers’ offense and has a lot of pro-skills. He can jump ahead of several prospects with a good performance in Indianapolis and that element of unknown – and potential – could work in his favor. New England likes to draft defensive backs early and Casey Hayward (CB, Vanderbilt) could be a name to keep an eye on in the back end of round one.
Dre Kirkpatrick and Devon Still could be set for a fall. Alabama’s Kirkpatrick isn’t a great cover corner and his reputation is largely based on size, run support and hard-hitting. He was exploited by Florida’s John Brantley (not exactly a prolific SEC quarterback) and may not show the kind of fluid hips and straight line speed to warrant some of the inflated reviews he’s received in the last few months. Still hasn’t got the same high ceiling as a Michael Brockers or Fletcher Cox and could fall victim to need. He’s already a fifth-year senior with some previous injury history and teams may feel he’s already peaked and doesn’t possess enough upside to warrant a high first round selection.
I’ve maintained the trade touted in last week’s mock because I think it’s increasingly likely we’ll see a deal which will make Robert Griffin III the #2 pick. The most obvious trade partner is Cleveland, who would surrender their two first round choices to take the Baylor quarterback. Last week I looked at St. Louis going OT/WR with their new picks, this week it’s WR/OC. The center position is taking on an increasingly important role in the NFL and Peter Konz is an underrated prospect coming out of Wisconsin. Don’t be surprised if the Rams look to boost their interior with a pick like this. Will they take Blackmon at #4? It really depends on how they grade Riley Reiff, Mike Adams and Jonathan Martin. If they don’t see an offensive lineman worth the #4 pick, Blackmon has a shot.
As for the Seahawks – nothing much has changed. They’re still out of range for the top two quarterbacks, still needing to focus on their second biggest need at defensive end and still relying on which players leave the board before their pick to dictate the selection. Upshaw is the least likely to impress at the combine, but I suspect he’ll maintain a high grade on many boards and could easily be a top-ten pick. The trio of Ingram, Upshaw and Coples really could go in any order – making Seattle’s choice at #11 or #12 a question mark right up until Buffalo’s pick is called.
Updated first round mock draft
|#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts might as well call the pick in now. Indianapolis will draft Andrew Luck. No trade offer will change that.
|*TRADE* #2 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Cleveland would need to part with both first round picks to draft RGIII. It appears likely some form of deal will take place here.
|#3 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
This would be a dream for the Vikings. They get a left tackle with elite potential.
|*TRADE* #4 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma St)
If Blackmon is going to go this early, he’ll need a good performance at the combine. This might be too high for the Rams.
|#5 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
You have to believe Greg Schiano would love to draft Trent Richardson. Cornerback is also a need, so Claiborne is an alternative.
|#6 Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
This would be a foolish reach but Shanahan wants his guy. If Tannehill really is going to go in the top-15 as speculated, Washington is the obvious choice.
|#7 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
Assuming the Jaguars attack the market for receivers in free agency, Gene Smith can concentrate on defense.
|#8 Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
Carolina wants to use a lot of different defensive looks and Cox is scheme versatile. He could light up the combine.
|#9 Melvin Ingram (DE, South Carolina)
A blistering forty yard dash could push Ingram up the boards. Right tackle is another likely target area.
|#10 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
The Bills could switch to a 4-3 and that makes Coples rather than Upshaw or Ingram a more likely pick here.
|#11 Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
This could be Seattle’s ideal situation. Upshaw would have an instant impact, balancing out the pass rush with Chris Clemons.
|#12 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
This is a little high for me, but Scott Pioli will almost certainly like DeCastro and he has a little Logan Mankins about him.
|#13 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
Reiff is a solid, blue-collar lineman. But is he spectacular enough to go in the top 5-10?
|#14 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Jerry Jones wants to rebuild his secondary. Jenkins is the best corner available, but needs to prove off-field issues are in the past.
|#15 Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
Philly should do what it takes to keep DeSean Jackson grounded, then set out to draft the BPA. It could be Brockers.
|#16 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
The Jets need pass rushers but will be hard pushed to pass on the electrifying Wright to boost that stagnant offense.
|#17 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Brown could be set for a big jump after the combine. Cincinnati could solidify their defense with two first round picks.
|#18 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Martin could suffer a fall if there isn’t an early run on offensive tackles. San Diego would get a bargain here.
|#19 Rueben Randle (WR, LSU)
Randle struggled for an impact in LSU’s offense but he has a lot of tools to be a success at the next level.
|#20 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
Safety is a need for Tennessee and Barron is clearly the best available in this draft class.
|#21 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
I don’t expect a big performance at the combine, which will put Kirkpatrick’s inflated stock into perspective.
|*TRADE* #22 Peter Konz (C, Wisconsin)
A surprise choice, but the center position is growing in importance in the NFL. Konz has tons of potential and would be a fine pick.
|#23 Cordy Glenn (OG, Georgia)
Glenn could play right tackle or move to guard. This would be a good fit for Detroit, even if they have greater needs.
|#24 Mike Adams (OT, Ohio State)
This is the domino effect on a quiet left tackle market early in the draft. Pittsburgh need to bolster their offensive line.
|#25 Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College)
He’s under sized but what a tackler – he’ll get close to 100 tackles in year one. Kuechly will also provide needed vocal leadership.
|#26 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
The Texans saw life without Andre Johnson and might add another receiver as insurance.
|#27 Casey Hayward (CB, Vanderbilt)
Hayward could move into this range if he performs well at the combine. New England loves to draft defensive backs.
|#28 Vinny Curry (DE, Marshall)
He has the production and enough power – he has a lot to gain at the combine by flashing mobility and speed.
|#29 Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
Sanu can line up anywhere and make plays. San Francisco use a lot of gimmicks and needs a sure-handed catcher.
|#30 Dont’a Hightower (LB, Alabama)
The type of player that just fits in with Baltimore’s defense. This would be a fantastic addition for the Ravens.
|#31 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
It comes down to upside and teams early in round one may be put off by an average ceiling.
|#32 Sean Spence (LB, Miami)
Underrated linebacker who makes up for a lack of great size with speed, instinct, tackling and elite recognition skills.