By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) 55 days and counting until the 77th annual meeting of NFL franchises to select eligible football players. The NFL has truly become a 365/24/7 operation – especially for draftniks. So with the combine completed, here’s my first take on how the first round will shake out.
Three teams are armed with two first-round picks:
● The Cleveland Browns (via their trade with Atlanta last year, who traded up to select Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones)
● The Cincinnati Bengals (via their trade with Oakland last season for quarterback Carson Palmer)
● The New England Patriots (via their trade with New Orleans last year, who traded back into the first round to select Alabama running back Mark Ingram)
The Cleveland Browns extra picks could be in play. For a downtrodden fan base that is desperate for a reason to believe, the answer may come in the form of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. While Griffin didn’t throw at the combine, he turned heads with a blazing 40-yard dash, showcasing the athleticism he brings to the position. In this mock, I’ve assumed that the Browns have traded both of their first-round selections to St. Louis.
1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The Colts hope lightning strikes twice and they have a repeat of the 1998 draft, where they made Peyton Manning the top overall selection. While I like Andrew Luck’s chances in the NFL, I don’t see him being the same prospect that Manning was coming out of Tennessee.
2. Cleveland Browns from St. Louis Rams – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
In this draft, I’m assuming the Browns outbid the Redskins and other suitors for the right to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin really burst on the scene in 2011, posting Nintendo-like numbers en route to winning the Heisman trophy. Griffin’s athleticism and accuracy make him an intriguing NFL prospect, and with the right coaching and supporting cast, his ceiling is higher than that of Luck.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC
It sounds odd to say it, but the Vikings Week 16 win over the Redskins was about as costly as a win can be. They lost star running back Adrian Peterson to a torn ACL, rallied to win the game, the Colts inexplicably beat the Texans, and the Vikings ended up losing out on the ultra-valuable #2 pick. However, USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil is a nice consolation prize. Kalil will be a blindside anchor for the next decade, which is something that doesn’t come around very often.
4. St. Louis Rams from Cleveland Browns – Justin Blackmon, WR, OSU
I’m assuming that the Rams won’t re-sign wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, so this pick becomes somewhat of a no-brainer. Quarterback Sam Bradford suffered through a sophomore slump with very ineffective play, but wasn’t the only factor. Poor pass protection, and limited weapons – until Lloyd arrived via trade – were big culprits. In Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, Bradford gets a legitimate No. 1 WR to work with.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claibourne, CB, LSU
In a division with the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers, the Bucs must improve a secondary that gave up 30 passing touchdowns last season. Claibourne is the best pure cover corner in the draft, who was lost in the shadow of teammate and fellow cornerback sophomore Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu.
6. Washington Redskins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Losing out in the RG3 sweepstakes, the Redskins turn to Tannehill as their quarterback of the future. While, I don’t believe Tannehill is worthy of the sixth overall selection, I felt the same way last year when Jake Locker went off the board at No. 8, Blain Gabbert went off the board at No. 10, and Christian Ponder went off the board at No. 12. Granted, last year was different in that the draft preceded free agency, but every year quarterbacks go higher than expected. Tannehill is that guy this year.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
When a guy named Jeremy Mincey leads your team with eight sacks, you’re in desperate need for help on the edge. Quinton Coples has the explosiveness teams look for in a traditional RDE, with the ability to dip his pad level and either powerfully rip his way through a block, or simply use his speed to win the edge.
8. Miami Dolphins – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Seeking a complimentary pass rusher to the speedy Cameron Wake, the Dolphins pluck Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw was my favorite player to watch in college football last season, as he was simply dominant on the best defense in the land. Upshaw primarily played OLB, but when he showed up to the Senior Bowl at 273 pounds, he showed he can play OLB in a 3-4 or put his hand on the ground as a 4-3 DE.
9. Carolina Panthers – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Seeing that the Panthers spent two third-round draft picks last year on defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, this pick may raise some eyebrows. But the bottom line is, McClain and Fua shouldn’t preclude Ron Rivera from adding a talent like Brockers to the mix. Brockers didn’t ‘wow’ at the combine, but his tape shows that he will be a stout point-of-attack run defender, who will immediately bolster a porous Panthers’ run defense.
10. Buffalo Bills – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Burned by divisional foe Miamis selecting Upshaw, the Bills are forced to address another need. With left tackle Demetrius Bell set to test the free agent waters, the Bills have some uncertainty on their offensive line. Reiff played left tackle at Iowa, but his short arms may make him better suited for the right side. If the Bills are able to re-sign Bell, they have a solid set of young bookend tackles.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Dontari Poe made a lot of money at the recent underwear olympics in Indianapolis (a.k.a, the NFL Scouting Combine), dazzling teams with freakish athleticism for a man his size. Putting Poe next to defensive end Tamba Hali on the defensive line will give opposing protection schemes nightmares for years to come, and strengthen an already impressive Chiefs’ secondary.
12. Seattle Seahawks – Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
Reunited and it feels so good. Current Seahawks and former USC Trojan head coach Pete Carroll selects a guy he recruited to USC back in 2008, DE/OLB Nick Perry. Perry has an explosive first step and primarily uses his speed to get to the quarterback. With solid teaching – specifically hand-fighting techniques – Perry could become one of the better pass rushers from this draft class. Putting Perry opposite Chris Clemons gives the Seahawks a nice set of edge rushers.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Cardinals are in desperate need of an upgrade at offensive tackle, and Stanford’s Jonathan Martin is a great fit. Martin played left tackle at Stanford, but may be better suited to play right tackle in the NFL. However, with the very mediocre Levi Brown as the current starter at left tackle, the Cardinals may be forced to make Martin the blindside protector of whichever quarterback that lines up this fall in Arizona.
14. Dallas Cowboys – David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Plastic-faced owner Jerry Jones’ face may crack from the ear-to-ear grin he’ll have when the draft’s best interior offensive lineman – Standford guard David DeCastro – is still on the board for the Cowboys. Already considered to be the closest thing to a sure thing on the offensive line, DeCastro showed incredible strength and agility at the combine, making this a great value pick for a Cowboys team in desperate need of talent on the interior of their offensive line.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
The Eagles defense is like an Oreo cookie, strong on the top and bottom and very soft in the middle. The second level of the Eagles defense is in need of a serious talent infusion, and Boston College’s Luke Kuechly is the pick. Everyone was quick to point out the ever-popular “football IQ” with Kuechly, but his stellar athletic performance at the combine solidified Kuechly as the top linebacker prospect in this year’s draft.
16. New York Jets – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
In order for the rotund Rex Ryan’s defense to operate, pressure from the edge is essential, and the Jets simply aren’t getting enough of it. The Jets will be tickled to see South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram on the board. Ingram is one of the best pure football players on the board this year. Not only did Ingram terrorize offensive lines, he was on the hands team on onside kicks, and was used as an up-back on a fake punt – which he took 68-yards for a touchdown. Ingram should be able to make the transition to the 3-4 OLB, and give the Jets a new piece to work with on defense.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from the Oakland Raiders) – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Don’t look now, but the Bengals are building something really special in the Queen City. After striking gold in last year’s draft with wide receiver AJ Green and quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bengals round out the trio with Alabama bowling ball running back Trent Richardson. There’s a chance a team may trade up for Richardson – as he’s one of the five best players in the draft – but in this scenario, he slides to the Bengals.
18. San Diego Chargers – Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississipi State
The Chargers have major needs on the offensive line, so they could be tempted by Cordy Glenn or Mike Adams in this slot, but the upside of Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox is too much to pass up. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was the scapegoat in last year’s 8-8 season, but clearly the Chargers lack firepower in their front seven. Cox would be ideal as a five-technique end in a 3-4 scheme.
19. Chicago Bears – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
While it’s been my preference for the Bears to dedicate their first-round selection to a young cornerstone on defense – preferably a defensive end or cornerback – Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd is just too good of a value at this point in the draft. The Bears have lacked an impact receiver for a decade, and Floyd would give quarterback Jay Cutler a big target to go up and get it, and be able to win jump-ball situations in the red zone. Floyd is a polished receiver who bolstered his stock by running well at the combine.
20. Tennessee Titans – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Don’t let Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus’s first name fool you, as his last name is more fitting. Mercilus burst onto the scene in 2011 registering 16 sacks, 22.5 tackles-for-loss, and tied an NCAA record with nine forced fumbles for the Illini, earning All-American honors in the process. Mercilus is a late bloomer, who will immediately bolster an anemic Titans pass rush.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The pot possession charge against Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has been dropped, as a buddy copped to the charges – a buddy who will probably get a nice fat check in a few months from Kirkpatrick – but it still calls into question Kirkpatrick’s character. Physically, Kirkpatrick is the prototype for the next generation of cover corners with long arms and a great size-to-speed ratio, which could make him impossible for the Bengals – a team not shy about bringing in players with character concerns – to pass on.
22. St. Louis Rams – Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Jeff Fisher is thrilled to see a talent like Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still on the board at No. 22. Fisher’s defense was at it’s best in Tennessee when he had big-bodied Albert Haynesworth anchoring the middle of the defensive line. When he keeps his pad level low, Still is able to anchor at the point of the attack and occupy two blockers. The Rams have talented linebackers, but need serious help on the defensive line to improve their porous run defense.
23. Detroit Lions – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Janoris Jenkins is yet another talented cornerback with character concerns, stemming from the increasingly ubiquitous pot bust. I heard that kids smoke pot in the daytime in college, but refused to believe such a cockamamie notion. I’m more amazed at the fact that Jenkins already has four kids under the age of 4, sounds like Antonio Cromartie II. While Jenkins doesn’t have imposing size, he is a strong cover corner who would fit in well in Gunther Cunningham’s scheme.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Cordy Glenn G/T, Georgia
The Steelers offensive line was a mess last season, especially on the edge. Losing Willie Colon in the pre-season to a torn triceps set the tone in what turned out to be a rocky season, where quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was battered. Georgia’s Cordy Glenn plays stiff from time-to-time and tends to play too upright, but is powerful at the point of attack. Glenn showed impressive athleticism at the combine, and his versatility would allow the Steelers to first try him as a tackle, but kick him inside to guard if he struggles to protect the edge.
25. Denver Broncos – Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
While the Broncos could use some help in their secondary and interior defensive line, Tim Tebow needs all the help he can get in order to become a marginally capable NFL quarterback. Nothing helps a young quarterback like an athletic tight end patrolling the middle of the field, so Georgia’s Orson Charles is the pick. Charles athleticism and performance earned All-American honors last season, helping make the decision to forgo his senior year an easy one.
26. Houston Texans – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
A poor combine showing for Kendall Wright – specifically, a slow 40-yard dash time – has dropped him into the bottom half of the first round, and the Texans capitalize. My question about Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright is, is he a receiver who simply benefited from RG3’s stellar quarterbacking? Or does he have the skills to excel at the NFL level? To be determined. Either way, it was apparent last season that the Texans desperately need a complimentary receiver to Andre Johnson.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans Saints in Mark Ingram trade) – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
When Julian Edelman is matched up against Anquan Boldin in the AFC Championship game, your secondary is a mess. South Carolina junior cornerback Stephon Gilmore is the best cornerback available to the Patriots. Gilmore is a tall, physical corner, who is adept in press-man coverage, but needs to improve in zone concepts.
28. Green Bay Packers – Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Packers are in the market for a center, so Wisconsin’s Peter Konz is a great value at No. 28. Konz is the best center prospect in this year’s draft, but at 6-foot 5-inches and 315 pounds, he possesses a frame you don’t typically see in a center. Longer arms are a good thing for tackels, but can be problematic in the interior of the line as smaller and quicker tackles can get underneath his punch. Konz also lowered his stock with 19 reps in the bench press.
29. Baltimore Ravens – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
High fives all over the Ravens draft room when Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower is still on the board. Hightower will step in immediately at an interior linebacker spot for the Ravens, and be the successor to Ray Lewis. Hightower is the most physically imposing prospect in this year’s draft, who regularly delivered NFL-like shots at Alabama.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
I’ve said it all season long that the 49ers were a wide receiver away from being legit. So it makes sense for them to take a shot on a physical specimen like Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. Hill opened a lot of eyes at the combine with a blazing 4.3 40-yard dash, on a 6-foot 4-inch frame. You can’t teach people to have that size-and-speed ratio. Coming from an option offense at Georgia Tech, Hill will have a steep learning curve with the NFL route tree and working through jams, but his upside is very tempting.
31. New England Patriots – Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Once again, the Patriots make a selection to bolster their secondary, this time with Alabama’s Mark Barron. Barron will be an ideal in-the-box strong safety, who can physically attack downhill against the running game. Pairing Barron with Patrick Chung gives the Patriots an enviable young safety tandem.
32. New York Giants – Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
I’m still tormented by images of Giants tight end Jake Ballard tearing his ACL not only on the field, but again on the sidelines during the field test. Earlier in the game, fellow tight end/h-back Travis Beckum also tore his ACL, so the Giants do have needs at the position. Stanford’s Coby Fleener is the pick here for the Giants. While Fleener isn’t an in-line blocker, he has room to develop that aspect of his game, but will immediately add to an already potent Giants passing attack, by capitalizing on single safety coverage up the seam.
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.