Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The Colts won the 'Suck for Luck' derby. They've stated they have decided on who they will take and there is no doubt that Luck is their man. The team held a workout with Luck while Griffin turned it down. Indianapolis has spent a lot of time with Luck over the past months.
Luck looks like he is ready to step in and play with fewer growing pains than typical young quarterbacks. This year, he confirmed the hype from 2010 with a super-efficient season, completing 71 percent of his passes for 3,517 yards with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Three of those interceptions came on tipped passes. Luck ran for a couple of touchdowns too. The senior played well in his Fiesta Bowl outing against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, but some missed field goals cost the Stanford Cardinal the victory.
During the regular season, Luck led Stanford to a comeback, signature, triple-overtime win at USC. He showed leadership, fire and bounce-back ability in that game. That was good to see since, typically, the Cardinal blew out opponents. The senior signal-caller didn't have his best outing against a tough Oregon team in Stanford's first loss.
Luck completed 71 percent of his passes in 2010, throwing for 32 touchdowns with only eight interceptions while also running for 453 yards and three scores. Over the last two seasons, he has compiled a stack of dominant tapes for NFL general managers.
On top of his intelligence and quality arm, Luck has excellent mobility to extend plays. He regularly bailed out his line, and his accuracy while throwing on the run is truly phenomenal. Luck had a strong performance at the Combine that was somewhat underrated. He showcased real athleticism and explosion.
Adding to his impressive resume is the coaching Luck received from former coach Jim Harbaugh. Current Stanford offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton is an experienced NFL coach as well. Luck has mastered a pro-style system. The 6-foot-4, 234-pounder looks like one of the safest quarterback prospects of the past two decades. There is little doubt that Luck will prove to the Colts' new front office, coaching staff and ownership that he is worthy of the first pick.
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Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin, III, QB, Baylor
Washington had to do something about its quarterback position, and the team has put itself in position for a special prospect. Griffin should be a good fit in the Redskins' offense, and he could have a Cam Newton/Andy Dalton like impact for Washington in 2012. The Redskins are smart to take advantage of the system and start teaching their playbook to Griffin.
Griffin decisively earned his Heisman Trophy, being truly the best player in college football this year. The 6-foot-2, 223-pounder was a big-play machine. He has a strong arm, is extremely accurate throwing the ball downfield and has superb mobility, having also been a track competitor.
Griffin is very intelligent and a high-character individual. He has the makings of a real franchise quarterback. At the Combine, Griffin showed off his fabulous speed with a 4.41 40-yard dash, and he also impressed everybody with his character and intangibles.
The junior completed 72 percent of his passes for 4,293 yards with 37 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2011. He also rushed for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns. Griffin has the 'it' factor that pushes his team to wins and elevates the play of his teammates.
Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil , OT, USC
I've gone back and forth over this pick in the last 24 hours, but at the at the end of the day I think the Vikings are blowing smoke about liking Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon over Matt Kalil. That sounds like Minnesota is trying to see if a desperate team will give up a truckload of compensation to move up for one of them. That seems extremely unlikely given the other talent available in the top 10.
Kalil is a top-flight left tackle prospect, and Minnesota has to get somebody that can block Julius Peppers, Cliff Avril and Clay Matthews. Plus, all three of those teams are expected to draft pass rushers in the first few rounds. I can't get behind the logic of letting Christian Ponder become the next David Carr.
Kalil's quality play kept Tyron Smith on the right side in 2010. Kalil is extremely athletic, with quick feet that allow him to shuffle and mirror pass rushers while also hitting blockers on the second level of the defense.
The redshirt junior was a decent run blocker at the college level, but for the NFL, he has room for improvement. Kalil needs to become more consistent and add some functional football strength to be able to push defenders off the line of scrimmage. He performed well at the Combine in the speed, strength and agility drills.
Entering the NFL, Kalil's run blocking is a weakness, and he will need to get better at it. That is definitely doable for him. At 6-foot-6, 306-pounds, Kalil is a specimen who should only get stronger as he ages in an NFL strength and conditioning program. Kalil has strong bloodlines with his father and brother making it into the league.
Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
In speaking with some staff members from around the league, they believe that Cleveland is leaning towards Richardson.
This year, Richardson had 24 total touchdowns (21 rushing, three receiving) while running for 1,679 yards. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry with 29 receptions for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Richardson has the explosiveness to break off big plays. Against Arkansas this season, he made a difficult catch on a screen pass and took it 61 yards for a touchdown.
The 5-foot-9, 228-pounder also had dominant games against Florida, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. In both games against LSU, Richardson fought hard against a good defense and played well. He produced even with the Tigers' talented defense focused on stopping him.
WalterFootball.com caught up with his former teammate, Mark Ingram. He explained that Richardson has become a better student of the game, which yielded serious dividends for him in 2011. With better study habits, Richardson now is a complete back with the ability to run through defenders, run away from them, and beat them with intelligence. He can run in short yardage as well as block on third down or run routes out of the backfield.
Richardson ran for 700 yards and six touchdowns in 2010 after rushing for 751 yards and eight scores as a freshman. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry in his first two seasons.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Even though the Buccaneers re-signed Ronde Barber and signed Eric Wright, the team still could use a cornerback. Aqib Talib goes to trial in late June and is in a contract year. Even if he avoids prison, the repeat offender could land a lengthy suspension from the NFL. Tampa Bay could use a long-term solution for the position, and Claiborne is a shutdown corner who fits the defensive scheme.
Claiborne is going to bring speed and playmaking ability to the NFL team that drafts him. The 6-foot, 188-pounder possesses a phenomenal skill set, both as a corner and a dangerous kick returner, and proved that throughout the 2011 season. He has the speed and athleticism to be an elite cover corner with the ball skills to punish teams for throwing his direction.
Claiborne showed off his ball skills this year with two impressive interceptions against Mississippi State. The junior had a signature game for LSU in the first meeting of 2011 with Alabama. Claiborne was rock solid in pass coverage and had an excellent interception that he returned 33 yards. Claiborne made a good read picking up the h-back running an out route, and speedily jumped the route. His clutch interception set up the game-tying field goal that would eventually force overtime. He also had three tackles and a pass broken up against the Crimson Tide in that matchup.
In the rematch, Claiborne was quiet and untested. He had 51 tackles with six passes broken up to go along with six interceptions while averaging 25.1 yards per kick return this season.
Claiborne had an impressive debut for the Tigers in 2010. He recorded five interceptions with 37 tackles and six passes defensed. With Patrick Peterson on the other side, Claiborne held up well with a lot of passes thrown his direction.
St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
This pick is a no-brainer for St. Louis. The Rams have an obvious need to find a game-changing wide receiver to pair with Sam Bradford. Sources have told WalterFootball.com that St. Louis badly wanted Julio Jones last year, and was disappointed when he didn't fall to its pick. This time, the Rams can get a game-changing wide receiver in Blackmon.
The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Blackmon is the complete package as a receiver. He is a tough and physical player who can operate well in the short to intermediate part of the field. Furthermore, Blackmon has the speed to score on any reception and stretch defenses vertically. Even with constant double coverage this season, he stayed productive.
Blackmon had 121 receptions for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2011. The junior recorded big games against two of the better teams he faced in Texas A&M and Kansas State. Blackmon finished his career as the Fiesta Bowl offensive MVP with a massive performance against Stanford, despite playing with a leg infection. He is a game-changer and looks like a young Terrell Owens.
Blackmon could have been a first-rounder in 2011, but decided to return to the Cowboys. He was a dynamite playmaker in 2010, producing 1,782 yards on 111 catches with 20 touchdowns, while being extremely consistent. Blackmon had more than 100 yards receiving in every game he played that season. The one game he missed was because of a DUI arrest. Blackmon has also been actively working with a pediatric cancer charity.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Jacksonville really wants Justin Blackmon, but he is unlikely to get past the Vikings, Browns or Rams. The Jaguars want to trade down, but if they can't, I think they will go with Ingram or Fletcher Cox.
Ingram has versatile size (6-1, 264-276) and he is a special athlete with a unique combination of speed and agility. In the first game of 2011, Ingram recorded an interception against East Carolina. Facing Georgia, he ran a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown and returned a fumble five yards for another touchdown after beating Cordy Glenn on the play. Ingram also recovered a fumble for a touchdown against Vanderbilt.
Ingram was solid in SEC play in 2011. He recorded 48 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, two interceptions and two passes batted away. Injuries slowed Ingram down in the middle of the season, but he played well against Clemson and Nebraska to finish his career on a high note.
At the Combine, Ingram had an unofficial 40 time of 4.66 seconds. He impressed observers with how well he moved in space during the field drills. Ingram has good mobility that allows him to excel in a variety of roles including outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
As a junior, in 2010, Ingram was third in the SEC in sacks with nine (which led the Gamecocks). He also had 11 tackles for a loss, 28 tackles and one forced fumble. Ingram is strong at the point of attack and has the ability to rush from defensive tackle on passing downs. South Carolina played him at end and tackle in 2011.
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The Dolphins need a franchise quarterback, and they have expert insight into Tannehill as current Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was his head coach at Texas A&M. Tannehill's knowledge of the offense would put him ahead of typical rookie quarterbacks. His familiarity with the scheme and coach would instantly accelerate his learning curve.
The 6-foot-4, 222-pound Tannehill is a good athlete who can make big plays with his feet and has a strong arm. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,744 yards with 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this year. The senior also rushed for 355 yards with four touchdowns. Tannehill was inconsistent at times and is still developing at the position. He played well versus Baylor and Missouri, but struggled against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas.
Tannehill has only played one full season at quarterback (20 total games at QB with 19 starts), so he will need time to develop at the pro level. Another negative is that Tannehill has small hands, so fumbling could be an issue. He caught 55 passes for 844 yards and five touchdowns as a wide out in 2008.
Tannehill switched to quarterback in 2010 and played well in the last half of the season as the Aggies' starter. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,638 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Panthers want to improve their pass rush and have done a lot of homework on Coples. Owner Jerry Richardson loves to draft local products. Coples could be their true replacement for Julius Peppers.
Coples (6-6, 284) is the prototypical defensive end for a 4-3 defense due to his combination of size, speed and athleticism. He also played defensive end in a 3-4 set at times this season. Coples showed off his elite skill set with a strong week at the Senior Bowl. He also performed well at the Combine with a 4.72 40-yard dash and a 10-yard split of 1.63.
Coples was double-teamed a lot in 2011, yet still managed to get pressure on the quarterback. He showed the ability to defend the run well, especially versus Georgia Tech. Against Clemson, Coples had a sack-fumble plus another sack that was negated by a penalty. On that play, he bull rushed through a guard.
Coples also is a dangerous rusher when lining up on the inside. As a senior, he totaled 55 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a plethora of quarterback hurries. Coples graded his performance this year as a C, and with his skill set he could have done more. That is why some believe he shouldn't go in the top 10.
At the Senior Bowl, Coples was dominant in the one-on-one pass-rushing drills and showed that he can make offenses pay when they single block him. Coples took complete advantage of Robert Quinn being suspended in 2010 with a breakout season. After producing five sacks as a sophomore in 2009, Coples doubled his sack total as a junior. He also contributed 15.5 tackles for a loss, 59 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Pick change; previously Luke Kuechly, ILB
Buffalo Bills: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Right now, it sounds like Buffalo's pick could come down to Stephon Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron or Luke Kuechly. The Bills need a linebacker to lead their defense. They struggled to stop the run last year, and Kuechly will help them defend against the Patriots tight ends.
Supposedly, Kuechly lacked foot speed, but at the Combine, he ran an unofficial 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds, putting up an official time of 4.58. The 6-foot-3, 242-pounder also did well in the broad jump (10-3), vertical jump (38 inches), and bench press (27 reps). Kuechly has superb instincts and intelligence. He is also incredibly hard-working, and should do a good job of picking up an NFL playbook quickly.
Kuechly is a pure football player. He is hands down more consistent and productive than any other 2012 linebacker prospect. It is not even close.
Kuechly led the nation in tackles this year (just like in 2010), posting more than 30 tackles over the second-highest total. He did that despite not having the opportunity to play in a Bowl. In 12 games, Kuechly made 191 tackles with 12 tackles for a loss, three passes broken up and three interceptions. He was all over the field against Florida State. Kuechly recorded 20 tackles and also helped force a fumble, but he was not officially credited with that forced fumble.
Against Miami, Kuechly set ACC and school records for career-tackle totals, plus provided the game-winning score with a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown. He also had an impressive pass breakup that came deep downfield in tight coverage on speedster wide receiver Tommy Streeter. Kuechly's collegiate career tackle total stands at 532.
Kuechly had 183 tackles as a sophomore in 2010. That included 110 solo tackles. The All-American also contributed 10.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three interceptions.
Pick change; previously Stephon Gilmore, CB
Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
After signing Eric Winston to upgrade their right tackle, the Chiefs can look to bolster the interior of their line with the best guard available. Kansas City could still consider a tackle since Brandon Albert could play guard, but he's in the final year of his contract. The Chiefs might also consider Dontari Poe to play nose tackle, but he is not nearly as safe a prospect as DeCastro. Kansas City may also think of trading up with Jacksonville to land Ryan Tannehill.
DeCastro is so dominant that he is worth a top-15 pick. The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder is an experienced starter who was a Second-Team All-American in 2010 and a First-Team All-American this season. The Cardinal averaged 213.8 rush yards per game with DeCastro paving the way at right guard in 2010. He was an overwhelming force for the Stanford this year.
You could make a strong argument for DeCastro being one of the safest picks in this draft class. He is a powerful run blocker who is phenomenal at pulling and hitting blocks on the move. DeCastro is also very good at getting to the second level of the defense and blasting linebackers. He will quickly become a run-blocking asset in the NFL. Addtionally, there is no drawback with DeCastro as a pass blocker. He has a strong base and stonewalls bull rushes, including from larger defensive tackles.
DeCastro saw his best competition of 2011 when facing the University of Washington. Unfortunately, he rarely went against Huskies standout defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu, but when DeCastro did, he beat Ta'amu on every rep. Stanford ran for 446 yards against Washington. DeCastro also had good performances against USC, Oregon and Oklahoma State.
Seattle Seahawks: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Seattle has to upgrade its pass rush and does so with the best interior pass rusher in the draft via Cox. The Seahawks have shown interest in Michael Brockers and he has had a late surge in his draft stock. I'm tempted to put him here, but will go with Cox for now.
Cox had a good 2011 season where he put some heat on the quarterback and was a quality run defender. Even though Cox was suspended for the first game of the year, he still recorded 56 tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and one forced fumble. Cox has a nice combination of speed and playmaking ability. He has the power to push linemen back and get them off balance along with the speed to shoot by them and get to the quarterback.
Cox had a strong showing at the Combine. The big defensive tackle displayed quick feet and athleticism in the bag drills. Cox (6-4, 298) had a 40 time of 4.79 with a 10-yard split of 1.63. Those are a fast times for a tackle pushing 300 pounds. He is a fast and versatile athlete who looked very good in every drill. Cox did his part to secure a high grade.
Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Cardinals badly need help at left tackle and are fortunate that Reiff falls to their pick.
Reiff was a solid left tackle for the Hawkeyes. At 6-foot-5, 313-pounds, he has the frame to add some more power. Reiff is a technician who was well-coached at Iowa. The junior looks like he has the ability to switch to right tackle, and possibly guard if needed. His natural position is left tackle, and Reiff could turn into a quality left tackle in the NFL. Some believe he would be a better fit on the right side.
Reiff had a very good game this year against Pittsburgh defensive end Brandon Lindsey. The rest of Reiff's schedule this season was very manageable. He had no issues with Michigan's defenders and played well against Nebraska. Reiff didn't allow a sack to Oklahoma's Frank Alexander in the Bowl game, but did surrender a sack to R.J. Washington on a bull rush.
Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Cowboys could really use some help at safety. Signing Brodney Pool isn't a long-term fix. Landing the top safety in the draft at pick No. 14 is a quality value for Dallas.
Barron broke out in 2009 with a dynamite sophomore season, making seven interceptions, 76 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and 11 passes broken up. He had 75 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and a forced fumble as a junior. Barron had some coverage lapses in 2010 that knocked his stock down some, but he built it back up by playing extremely well as a senior.
This year, Barron had big days against Penn State and against LSU, both times. He had 68 tackles (43 solo) with five passes broken up, five tackles for a loss and two interceptions in 2011.
More than his stats illustrate, Barron was all over the field for Alabama. What separates him from other safeties are fabulous instincts. He is always around the football, has good size (6-2, 218) and runs well. Barron could be the hardest-hitting safety in the draft.
Philadelphia Eagles: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Eagles are known to make surprise picks. Asante Samuel has been traded and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is in the final year of his contract. Gilmore has the zone and man skills to play in Philadelphia's defense.
Gilmore was extremely inconsistent this year. He made some great plays followed by some gaffes; had some good games and then some bad games. Gilmore had 46 tackles with four interceptions, seven passes broken up and one forced fumble. He had a near interception and a 57-yard fumble return against Georgia. The junior has a lot of upside and a good skill set. If Gilmore lands with the right coaching, he could be a special player. Gilmore had a good Combine with a fast 40 and an impressive performance in the receiving drills.
The 6-foot-1, 193-pounder had a dynamic 2010 season and was a consistent source of big plays for South Carolina. He totaled three interceptions, three sacks and six tackles for a loss, while recording 79 tackles. Gilmore's run defense is already at a good starting point for the NFL.
Pick change; previously Michael Brockers, DT
New York Jets: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Jets have to get a receiver for their quarterbacks. Santonio Holems could flame out at any time, and they need another player who could be a No.1 receiver. As Walt pointed out, Chaz Schilens is New York's starter. Repeat, Chaz Schilens.
Floyd (6-3, 220) has good speed to go along with his size, body control and strong hands. Plus, he is a polished receiver as a route-runner. Floyd was an unstoppable force in many games this season. He had 100 receptions for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. There were some questions about how fast Floyd was, but he squashed those concerns by running a 4.42 at the Scouting Combine.
Floyd caught 79 passes for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2010. He had a quality sophomore season playing across from Golden Tate, catching 44 passes for 795 yards and nine scores. Floyd has special ability, but he also has had off-the-field problems that make his draft stock harder to predict. It isn't clear how heavily Floyd will be downgraded for that, but the talk in NFL circles is that he has really cleaned up his act and has humbled himself.