By Travis Stahl
We’re getting close now as the first round of the draft will be televised on ESPN Thursday, April 26. With the new collective bargaining agreement in place, there could be a lot more trade activity in the draft this season. Rookie salaries are paid on a set scale and greatly reduced from what they used to be so it is now less expensive and more attractive to move up in the draft. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict which team is moving up and where they are moving up to. We know the top two picks are set, after that things could get really wild.
1. Colts – Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford: Don’t believe one word of the rumors floating around that the Colts might actually draft Robert Griffin III instead of Andrew Luck. That is never going to happen. Luck is the pick and gives the Colts a cornerstone quarterback for the next 10 years at least.
2. Redskins – Robert Griffin III, Quarterback Baylor: Washington gets the quarterback it has so desperately needed. RGIII will start from day one for the Redskins so the team might take a couple of early losses. If Washington follows the same game plan Carolina did with Cam Newton than RGIII will be fine.
3. Vikings – Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, Southern California: Minnesota is going to be bad this upcoming season so this pick is about the future. There is no Adrian Peterson to start the season and quarterback Christian Ponder has nobody to throw the ball to. Building on the offensive lines is always a smart plan and Ponder needs a player like Kalil to watch his back.
4. Browns – Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama: There are no running backs on the Browns roster that can legitimately enter the season as the starter. Cleveland could trade down out of this spot to a team that wants to draft Ryan Tannehill, but if they stay put the Browns have to take Richardson, he is a home run hitter.
5. Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, Defensive Back, LSU: If Claiborne comes in and plays even average as a rookie the Bucs defensive line will be the best in the league. Claiborne and Ronde Barber can provide enough time for all Tampa’s linemen to work up field and collect ton of sacks. Richardson would have been nice, but Claiborne is a nice consolation prize.
6. Rams – Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State: Some teams are starting to rate Michael Floyd ahead of Blackmon. They’re wrong. Blackmon is not a big receiver like Calvin Johnson but he plays much bigger on the field and is hard to bring down. Blackmon has been compared to Terrell Owens, only without the crazy factor.
7. Jaguars – Melvin Ingram, Defensive End, South Carolina: Ingram is shooting up draft boards and is the hottest name in the draft right now. Jacksonville has been searching for someone to pressure the quarterback for years. The Jags need somebody to get the job done in a division with two young quarterbacks.
8. Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M: Why does it feel like Miami is getting tricked with this pick? We don’t know if Tannehill is going to be a good quarterback in the NFL or not, this just seems like a pick that the Dolphins are making because they think they have to.
9. Panthers – Courtney Upshaw, Defensive End, Alabama: If you want to beat the Saints you better be able to pressure Drew Brees and Upshaw can do that. Carolina’s pass rush last season was non-existent allowing opposing quarterbacks time to pick the secondary apart. Upshaw is a fiery competitor who can wreck havoc in the opponent’s backfield.
10. Bills – Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford: This pick should be obvious but I’m still counting on Buffalo screwing it up somehow. Martin would greatly solidify the Bills offensive line which in a word is awful. Buffalo began the trend of building on the lines two years ago so the plan should continue. A lot of draft experts have stated Buffalo would draft to fill its pass rush needs but with Mario Williams now signed the Bills can look elsewhere.
11. Chiefs – Dontario Poe, Defensive Tackle, Memphis: Poe immediately changes the Kansas City defense. People are comparing Poe’s abilities to those of Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, which is what the Chiefs are hoping for. In a division with Peyton Manning you can never have enough good defensive players.
12. Seahawks – Malcolm Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame: The consensus is that Seattle will continue to build its defense, but the team needs receivers. Sidney Rice and Golden Tate have not produced as expected and new quarterback Matt Flynn needs some targets. Floyd is a hot commodity right now and the Seahawks would be lucky to find him here.
13. Cardinals – Cordy Glenn, Offensive Guard, Georgia: Arizona’s line coach Russ Grimm is going to love coaching Glenn. Offensive line has never been a high priority for the Cardinals but now they a good one as Glenn can play guard or tackle. If Arizona wants any chance of competing in the NFC West they better start running the ball better and Glenn can help with that right away.
14. Cowboys – Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama: Apparently Jerry Jones has fallen in love with Barron. Last season Jones fell hard for tackle Tyron Smith and the Cowboys drafted him in the first round. Barron would definitely fill a need as Dallas safeties have been horrible. Barron is smart and a leader on the field and would give Dallas the kind of secondary versatility the teams hasn’t seen since Darren Woodson retired.
15. Eagles – Riley Reiff, Offensive tackle, Iowa: Michael Vick is great when he has an offensive line that can protect him and that was a rarity last season in Philadelphia. Reiff is a physical blocker and Andy Reid loves to build on the lines. The Eagles offensive line was paper thin last season and in the NFC East if you can’t block, you can’t compete. With the loss of offensive tackle Jason Peters for the entire 2012 season Reiff almost becomes a necessity.
16. Jets – Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End, Illinois: New York thinks adding Tim Tebow fixed the offense so Rex Ryan can now focus on defense. The Jets, for all their defensive posturing, couldn’t pressure the quarterback at all last season. Mercilus can get to the quarterback but Ryan will have to trust him to play as a rookie.
17. Bengals – Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State: The only player being talked about as much as Poe is Cox. This is the Carson Palmer pick the Bengals got from the Raiders and adding Cox at this pick is a steal. Cincinnati would have liked Floyd but Cox gives the defensive some inside pressure and a heck of a run stuffer.
18. Chargers – David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford: Phillip Rivers needs time to throw the ball and Ryan Matthews needs room to run, DeCastro can accomplish both of those tasks. San Diego’s offensive line has been woefully thin that last couple of years and DeCastro is a star.
19. Bears – Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State: After the trade for Brandon Marshall Chicago doesn’t need to draft a wide receiver here for Jay Cutler. That’s good news because the offensive line is still terrible. Adams and last year’s first-round pick Gabe Carimi give the Bears a powerful offensive line that could really pound out some yards on the ground.
20. Titans – Stephen Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina: My friend Steve knows more about Tennessee than Titans owner Bud Adams and he says this pick is Gilmore. With the loss of Courtland Finnegan the Titans have a hole at cornerback that needs filled. Gilmore has the size to line up against division rival Andre Johnson twice a year.
21. Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama: Cincinnati is tickled to find Kirkpatrick here as the defense continues to grow. Kirkpatrick is a physical, lock-down corner that can cover the opponent’s top receiver one-on-one. The Bengals might be looking at a top-five defense next season.
22. Browns – Quinten Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina: This is the pick the Browns picked up last year from Atlanta and it pays off big time. Couples is a top-ten talent that Cleveland is lucky to find sitting here. The Browns really need more help on offense but passing on Couples here would be criminal.
23. Lions – Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin: If the Lions are going to take the step to the next level they need to upgrade the offensive line. Konz is an unbelievable talent that can step in and be the leader of the offensive line from day one. This isn’t a glamour pick but Konz is the kind of player that can partner with Matthew Stafford for the next 10 years.
24. Steelers – Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College: Pittsburgh would love to draft offensive line help here but the team can’t pass on Kuechly. The Steelers are old at every position across the board on defense so an infusion of young blood is critical. Pittsburgh can plug Kuechly in at linebacker and feel secure for the next 10 years, he is a leader in every sense of the word.
25. Broncos – Nick Perry, Defensive End, USC: With Peyton Manning on board the offense is now solidified. John Fox loves to draft defense and Perry would be a great addition to a unit that was murder on quarterbacks at the end of the season. Perry would give Denver four legitimate pass rushers to send into the backfield. Everybody thinks the Broncos need to draft wide receivers for Manning to throw to but Peyton has a way of making average players look better so Eric Decker should be just fine.
26. Texans – Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech: Hill has snuck in to the first round according to a number of scouts after he put up quicker than expected 40-times. Houston needs a receiver on the other side of Andre Johnson and Hill can stretch the field vertically.
27. Patriots – Dont’a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama: When New England was at its best defensively its linebackers were the core of the unit. The team got away from that philosophy and the defense struggled as a result. With Hightower teaming with Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo though the Patriots are once again stacked linebacker for years to come.
28. Packers – Doug Martin, Running back, Boise State: Ryan Grant won’t be back and Green Bay is unsure if James Starks can stay healthy for more than two quarters in a row. The Packers have said upgrading the running game is the top priority of the offseason and Martin is a definite upgrade. The former Bronco isn’t flashy but he does everything you would want a running back to do very well.
29. Ravens – Vinny Curry, Defensive End, Marshall : Baltimore really wanted Barron but will settle for Curry. In the NFL it’s all about getting to the quarterback and Curry is as good at that as anybody. Baltimore has always built its team around defense and Curry continues the trend.
30. 49ers – Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami: In case you didn’t know, Frank Gore is old. Its amazing Gore has held up this long considering he seems to get hurt every season. Enter Miller who is a Gore clone. The basis of Jim Harbaugh’s offense is running the ball and Miller can team with Kendal hunter to give San Francisco a duel threat out of the backfield.
31. Patriots – Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU New England continues its steady reloading process on defense with another piece to the puzzle. Brockers have been dropping on draft boards and New England doesn’t mind one bit. Brockers is raw but loaded with talent which the Patriots need along the defensive line.
32. Giants – Coby Fleener, Tight End, Stanford: Fleener was Luck’s favorite target at Stanford and gives Eli Manning a receiving threat over the middle he has never has. The comparisons being made around the league are that Fleener is similar to Rob Gronkowski.