By Travis Stahl
It’s almost here! The NFL draft is Thursday, the wait is finally over. This draft seems to hinge on what Cleveland does at pick No. 4. In reality, that’s not the case. The first six or seven players are all pretty much set in those spots in some order. After pick No. 7, this draft will be a free-for-all as the talent level is all graded about the same. Those picks are going to be determined more by team need than anything else so there is the possibility of a lot of trading up and down to get the player you want.
1. Colts – Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford: Duh. Everybody knows what is happening with this pick.
2. Redskins – Robert Griffin III, Quarterback Baylor: See above.
3. Vikings – Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, Southern California: Minnesota is so in love with Kalil that he can’t possibly be the pick here. At least that’s what the Vikings want people to think. Kalil is that rare talent like Anthony Munoz or Tony Boseli that you draft and plug in as your starter for the next 12 years.
4. Browns – Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama: Richardson could easily run for 1200 yards as a rookie. Cleveland has no other threat out of the backfield and Richardson is a game-changer.
5. Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, Defensive Back, LSU: Tampa would love to have Richardson but will settle for Claiborne. The only way this pick doesn’t happen is if Minnesota somehow takes Claiborne at No. 3.
6. Rams – Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State: St. Louis just had Blackmon in for another work-out. Bradford to Blackmon sounds like a winning quarterback-to-receiver combination for years to come.
7. Jaguars – Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State: Cox is the hottest player in the draft right now which is good for Jacksonville. The Jags need help on the defensive line in a big way and a penetrating tackle will do wonders for the team’s pass rush.
8. Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M: Everybody sees this pick coming from a mile away. A lot of experts are now saying though Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden would be a better pick than Tannehill.
9. Panthers – Courtney Upshaw, Defensive End, Alabama: If the Panthers shore up their defense just a little bit this team is going to be dangerous. Do you think Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman want to spend the day running from Upshaw?
10. Bills – Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame: Other than Steve Johnson Buffalo has no weapons in the passing game and it even feels a little uncomfortable to refer to Johnson as a weapon. The Bills needs players who can put the ball in the endzone and Floyd can definitely do that.
11. Chiefs – Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College: Kuechly is a tackling machine who plays every play as if it were his last. With the return of safety Eric Berry the Kansas City defense is looking very solid all of a sudden.
12. Seahawks – Melvin Ingram, Defensive End, South Carolina: Seattle loves the pass rush and realizes the importance of pressuring the opposing quarterback. While Ingram is falling on some draft boards he won’t get past the Seahawks.
13. Cardinals – Cordy Glenn, Offensive Guard, Georgia: Glenn is falling on draft boards too and Arizona doesn’t mind at all. Glenn can play tackle or guard and will start as a rookie.
14. Cowboys – Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama: As odd as it may seem Dallas may trade up to ensure it gets Barron. The Cowboys need help at safety more than any other position and Jerry Jones realizes that.
15. Eagles – Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU: Brockers was super-hot, then super-cold. Now he is hot again and Philly needs defensive help after getting gashed in the run game last season.
16. Jets – Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End, Illinois: Rex Ryan loves the pass rush and Mercilus can get after the quarterback. The Jets are such a mess though unless Mercilus is a star right out of the gate this pick is going to get ripped apart by the New York media.
17. Bengals – Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa: Look what Cincinnati found sitting right here for the taking. Reiff gives quarterback Andy Dalton a little more protection which is nice since the team plays the Steelers and Ravens twice.
18. Chargers – David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford: DeCasrtro is not the sexy pick San Diego fans would like but he fills a huge need. The Chargers line has been steadily declining for years; it’s time for a facelift.
19. Bears – Dontario Poe, Defensive Tackle, Memphis: Poe is falling on many draft boards but Chicago has to roll the dice. Facing Aaron Rogers and Matt Stafford twice a year gives the Bears the incentive to improve the defense.
20. Titans – Stephen Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina: Gilmore will step right in for Courtland Finnegan at cornerback. The only way this pick doesn’t happen is if somebody trades up for Gilmore, which is not out of the question.
21. Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama: Another top pick falls right in to Cincinnati’s lap. Kirkpatrick fills a need on defense and gives the team a corner that can cover the league’s bigger receivers.
22. Browns – Quinten Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina: Team’s either love Coples or hate him. Cleveland needs help on defense and Coples could be a steal at this point in the draft.
23. Lions – Janoris Jenkins, Defensive Back, North Alabama: Jenkins has had some off field problems which scares some teams, but not Detroit. The Lions need help at corner after losing Eric Wright and Jenkins is ultra fast.
24. Steelers – Don’t’a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama: Shouldn’t Pittsburgh be required to draft Hightower just on the principle that it would be horrible to see him play for any other team? Hightower was born to be a Steeler.
25. Broncos – Nick Perry, Defensive End, USC: Denver’s defense was not good at the end of the year and Perry can get after the quarterback. John Fox loves defensive ends and it appears the offense is set with Peyton on board.
26. Texans – Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor: Wright has worked his way back in to the first round with improved 40-times. Plus, Wright stretches the field vertically better than the other receivers still on the board.
27. Patriots – Shea McClellin, Linebacker, Boise State: McClellin is the perfect player for New England, a hybrid 3-4 outside linebacker that chases quarterbacks with a passion. New England is quietly getting back to the defensively philosophy that won Super Bowls, build around the linebackers.
28. Packers – Doug Martin, Running back, Boise State: Martin is not fast, he’s not big and he’s not the best receiver out of the backfield. But, he’s also the hardest worker in the draft and Green Bay loves players that like that.
29. Ravens – Vinny Curry, Defensive End, Marshall : Can you even imagine Curry coming from the opposite side of Terrell Suggs? Scary.
30. 49ers – Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami: San Francisco is only one Frank Gore injury away from being not very good. Miller adds depth and enforces the team’s desire to run the ball at will.
31. Patriots – Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford: With the retirement of Matt Light New England needs some help on the line. Martin is a smart, physical tackle who can team with Nate Solder for the next 10 years.
32. Giants – Coby Fleener, Tight End, Stanford: Eli Manning loves throwing to tight-ends which is a problem because the Giants have none. Fleener is as good as they come at the tight-end position and will open up the middle of the field.