Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Bengals need a cornerback and Kirkpatrick won't make it to their second first-round pick, No. 21. Chicago or Tennessee could take him if Cincinnati doesn't pull the trigger.
Kirkpatrick's draft stock took a hit with his January marijuana arrest. The charges were dismissed after Kirkpatrick's friend claimed the weed belonged to him, but teams will still question Kirkpatrick on his decision-making for putting himself in that position. There is no doubt that he is a physical defender who also has good speed.
The 6-foot-2, 186-pounder has the height and leaping ability to play with any big receiver in the NFL. He showed his speed with an unofficial 40-yard dash of 4.43 seconds. Kirkpatrick recorded 53 tackles with three interceptions and seven passes broken up in 2010. He had 30 tackles (24 solo), nine passes broken up and two forced fumbles this season, but no interceptions.
On physical, textbook tackles, Kirkpatrick forced two fumbles against Penn State this season. He was a violent force against Arkansas, but did not play well versus Florida, being beaten in man coverage for a 65-yard touchdown by speedy wide out Andre Debose. Debose also beat Morris Claiborne for a 65-yard score.
Kirkpatrick played well against LSU in the first matchup this year. He did an excellent job of shutting down wide receiver Rueben Randle. Kirkpatrick finished the shortened evening with four tackles. He was knocked out of the game after a cheap shot to his throat from Tigers cornerback Tyrone Mathieu during punt coverage. In the rematch, Kirkpatrick got some revenge by playing extremely well. He shut down Randle once again, and also had two tackles for a loss.
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San Diego Chargers: Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse
The Chargers grabs a pass rusher. They badly need to find someone who can pressure the quarterback.
At first glance, Jones' 2011 production is not very impressive. The redshirt junior accumulated only 38 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and one interception. However, when you consider that Jones accumulated that in only seven games, it looks much better. He missed five games with a leg injury in the first half of the season, but came back strong with four sacks in three games after returning to the lineup.
Jones (6-5, 265) has a nice combination of size and speed. He is physical with offensive linemen and understands leverage concepts. Jones does a good job of getting underneath the pads of linemen to get pressure on bull rushes. He also has good pursuit skills and a quality motor. Jones typically tries to beat tackles with either his speed around the corner, or his strength on a bull rush. He is going to need to add some rip, spin and other pass-rushing moves to compete in the NFL.
Jones had four sacks as a sophomore, so he never had a season of big-time production at the college level. Like many underclassmen, Jones is a raw athlete who needs to be developed. In college, he could live off his athletic ability, but in the NFL, he will need to expand his game. Jones did not have a good performance at the Combine.
Pick change; previously Michael Floyd, WR
Chicago Bears: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
The Bears wanted to sign Mario Williams in free agency, but missed out on him. Chicago could target a defensive end or cornerback in the first round to upgrade its defense.
Mercilus had a strong Combine performance with a 40 time of 4.63 while doing well on the bench press and in the other drills. It confirmed that he has the athletic talent to be a first-round pick.
Mercilus was the most productive pass rusher in college football in 2011. He led the nation in sacks and forced fumbles with 16 and nine respectively. Mercilus also had 57 tackles and 22.5 tackles for a loss. He was relentless at getting to the quarterback.
Mercilus' first step is very explosive, and it quickly gets him up the field. His speed and ability to cut to the inside are excellent, too. Against Ohio State's Mike Adams, one of the best offensive tackles Mercilus played this year, he beat Adams for 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Mercilus was tough on Wisconsin and its powerful offensive line with a sack-fumble on a bull rush through massive right tackle Josh Oglesby. Routinely, Mercilus plays with ideal pad level and body lean.
Tennessee Titans: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Titans could use help on the defensive line. They've missed out on Kirkpatrick, so they go with a difference maker up front. In their division, they have to stop Arian Foster and Maurice Jones-Drew, so it makes sense for Tennessee to add the best run-defending lineman in the draft.
The LSU defensive line was comprised of future NFL starters, and defensive tackle Michael Brockers was one of the leaders of the group. He was a disruptive force in 2011, totaling 54 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, two sacks, one forced fumble and one blocked kick.
Brockers is a well-rounded player who is fast and strong. The 6-foot-5, 322-pounder has great length with long arms (35 inches), although he will need to work on his strength, having produced only 19 reps on the bench press at the Combine. Brockers could stay as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense or move to defensive end in a 3-4 set.
Pick change; previously Dontari Poe, DE
Cincinnati Bengals: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Marvin Lewis is said to covet Upshaw badly, and the Bengals could use help at end.
Upshaw is a legitimate 3-4 outside linebacker, but after his Senior Bowl weigh-in, he definitely fits as a 4-3 defensive end also. The 6-foot-1, 272-pounder has the size to hold up on the edge and also has the athletic ability to rush the passer with speed as well as power.
Upshaw had a strong week at the Senior Bowl, and he consistently won his matchups in the one-on-one pass protection drills. Upshaw did not participate in the field work at the Combine. He may be better off dropping some weight to maximize his speed and agility in the NFL.
Upshaw finished 2011 with 52 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, an interception and two forced fumbles. Against Florida, he totaled four tackles with three tackles for a loss, one interception and one sack. Upshaw returned that interception 45 yards for a touchdown, while his sack knocked the Gators starting quarterback, John Brantley, out of the game.
The first time versus LSU this season, Upshaw gave the Tigers offensive linemen all they could handle. He was consistently pressuring the quarterback and defended the run well. Upshaw had one sack but had a number of near sacks with hits on the quarterback with six tackles. The second game against the Tigers was more of the same for him. He collected seven tackles (6 solo), one tackle for a loss, and a sack.
In 2010, Upshaw led the Crimson Tide with seven sacks plus contributed 52 tackles, with 14.5 tackles for a loss and four forced fumbles. He definitely is a perfect fit for NFL 3-4 defenses.
Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Cleveland grabs a speed receiver to take advantage of safeties stacking the box to stop Trent Richardson. The Browns' offense needs playmakers and point producers. They've addressed that with these two first-rounders.
Wright's stock slid after his disappointing performance at the Combine. He had an atrocious 40 time of 4.61, but at his pro day, Wright rebounded and ran in the 4.4s. That performance should have him back in the top-25 picks.
Anyone who watched Baylor in 2011 can see that Wright will bring a downfield explosive element to any NFL offense. He was an unstoppable receiver in the Big XII this season. The top target for quarterback Robert Griffin III, Wright burned secondaries with big plays downfield throughout 2011. His blazing speed is hard for defensive backs to contain, and he has good hands with the ability to make difficult catches along the sideline.
Wright caught 108 passes this year for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns. He caught 112 passes in 2010 for 952 yards and seven touchdowns. Wright was very consistent in his four years at Baylor. He caught 66 passes for 740 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore. Wright had 50 receptions for 649 yards and five scores in his freshman season. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder could line up outside or as a slot receiver, but he will be a deep threat to help stretch defenses downfield.
Wright proved to be extremely durable at the college level, having never missed a game over four seasons of playing time. He recorded at least two catches in every outing of his collegiate career.
Detroit Lions: Cordy Glenn, OT/G, Georgia
Detroit hosted Glenn on a visit, and the team definitely needs offensive line help. Janoris Jenkins would be a great pick, but it doesn't look like the Lions are too keen on him.
The 6-foot-5, 345-pound Glenn fits a power man-blocking scheme. He is a force as a run blocker who moves pretty well for his size. Glenn has some flexibility to move around the line, but as a pro, he would be most dominant at guard. Georgia played him at left tackle in 2011, and against Boise State, he was abused by Shea McClellin. Glenn also allowed a sack and some pressure against LSU.
If moved he back to guard, Glenn could be a real force. He could also play right tackle, but may not have the feet to play left tackle in the NFL.
Glenn had a strong Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine. He played better as the week in Mobile progressed while going up against some excellent pass rushers. Glenn ran a 5.15 40-yard dash at the Combine, an impressive time for such a large man. He has long arms (35 3/4) that would help him on the edge. Scouts have told WalterFootball.com that they believe Glenn is quick enough and mobile enough to play in a zone-blocking scheme as well.
To stay up to date on the Lions and all their moves in the draft and free agency you should read MLive's Anwar Richardson. He has the pulse of Detroit's organization.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower , ILB, Alabama
Pittsburgh needs youth in its front seven, and Hightower has Steelers' pick written all over him. He is more proven and safer than Dontari Poe.
At 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, Hightower is a physical, in-the-box defender. He regularly beat collegiate offensive linemen without difficulty. The intelligent junior was the signal-caller for the Crimson Tide defense, a complex collegiate scheme. At the Combine, he ran the 40 in 4.62, a good time considering his heavy weight.
Though a season-ending knee injury cost him the majority of the 2009 season, Hightower came back in 2010 to record 69 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss. This season, another year removed from the injury, he looked much better. Hightower was a real force in many games in 2011. He shows the ability to rush the passer well on blitzes and is a tough run defender. Hightower has also demonstrated the ability to move to outside linebacker on passing downs and rush off the edge. Thus, he can be a three-down defender in the NFL.
Hightower had 85 tackles with 11 tackles for a loss, four sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and three passes batted away this year. He had a dominant game against Tennessee and played well in both contests versus LSU. Against Georgia Southern, Hightower blocked a field goal and it looked like he was spiking a volleyball. Hightower is a real presence in the tackle box.
Denver Broncos: Kendall Reyes, DE/DT, Connecticut
Denver could use a defensive tackle who will fortify its run defense while also pressuring the quarterback. Reyes could take advantage of quarterbacks stepping up in the pocket to avoid the edge rush. Plus, finding a tackle to push the quarterback to the edge and into the arms of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil would make the defense even more dynamic. The Broncos brought in Reyes for a pre-draft visit but did not do that with some other first-round tackles.
Reyes was one of the standouts at the Senior Bowl. He dominated the North offensive linemen in the pass-rushing one-on-ones in practice. Reyes was winning with bull rushes and speed rushes. He followed that up with an excellent Combine, running a striking 4.79 in the 40-yard dash with 36 reps on the bench press.
The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder played well this season, collecting 46 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss. He also returned a fumble nine yards for a touchdown. Reyes had 39 tackles with 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, four passes broken up and one forced fumble in 2010.
Although he has a nice combination of size and speed, Reyes needs to work on his agility and get better at dropping his hips and shoulders so he can redirect. That would make him a more dangerous pass rusher. However, Reyes is a quality run defender with some pass-rush ability.
Houston Texans: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
This is one of the toughest picks to project. The Texans' biggest need on their roster is arguably for the right side of their offensive line after they lost both Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston. Houston has some youth at linebacker with Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed and Brian Cushing. The team also brings back receivers for its receiving corps, but the line is a different story. With Martin at right tackle, the Texans can let Rashad Butler and Antoine Caldwell battle for right guard with the loser providing some depth.
'Moose' Martin (6-5, 312) was an excellent player for Stanford. He dominated the Pac-10/12 the past few seasons. Martin has the pass-protecting potential to be a standout tackle, and is a tenacious run blocker. He does a fabulous job of setting the edge, and the Cardinal had a lot of success running behind him with David DeCastro pulling from right guard. Martin is experienced at protecting a franchise quarterback and the pressure that comes with the position.
The early-entry will need some work to develop his pass protection at the pro level, but he has big upside. Martin could be an excellent right tackle, so some teams could draft him for that side.
New England Patriots: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
It is a tough call between Poe and Shea McClellin, but Poe can be a difference maker up front and a potential heir apparent to Vince Wilfork. That is harder to find than an outside linebacker.
Poe is a massive load at the line of scrimmage. The 6-foot-4, 346-pounder is difficult for offensive linemen to move, and he is dependable to fill his gap and keep linemen off the linebackers. Poe had 41 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks in 2010. He totaled 33 tackles with eight tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble this year. Poe looks like he will be a good nose tackle in the NFL in a 4-3 or a 3-4.
Poe was the most impressive defensive linemen at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, and he may have helped himself more than any other prospect in this draft class. Poe blew up the Combine, making huge waves with his foot speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.87 and 4.94 unofficially. His official 40 time was 4.98 while his 10-yard splits were 1.70 and 1.68.
Those are stunning times for a defensive tackle who is as heavy as Poe. He also was strong in the bag drills on the field. Plus, Poe recorded the largest bench-press total with 44 reps.
Pick change; previously Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB
Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
The Packers' pass defense was vulnerable all year and finished last in the NFL's regular season statistics, allowing 299.8 yards per game through the air. Green Bay had only 29 sacks this year, and no Packers defender was able to total seven sacks.
Green Bay is supposedly hot for McClellin and sent a huge contingent to his pro day. That makes a lot of sense as he is a perfect fit in the team's defense on the opposite side of Clay Matthews. McClellin is a Packers-type player as he is a pure football player.
McClellin put on 12 pounds from the Senior Bowl to the Combine, and even with that extra weight, he had a sparkling time of 4.62 in the 40-yard dash. At 6-foot-3, 260-pounds, McClellin is big enough to be a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he is probably too small to play defensive end in a 4-3 defense. McClellin should, at least, hold his weight, if not add some more to be an edge rusher in a 3-4. The versatile athlete could play some inside linebacker in a 3-4 as well.
McClellin started off this season extremely well with a huge performance against Georgia, recording six tackles with 2.5 sacks. He dominated highly-touted Bulldogs offensive lineman Cordy Glenn. McClellin has good technique with a fabulous motor, production and consistency. He recorded 46 tackles with seven sacks, eight tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and a blocked kick in 2011. McClellin has a nice repertoire of pass-rushing moves. He is quick off the edge and has great instincts that allow him to be very disruptive.
McClellin had 9.5 sacks with 13.5 tackles for a loss, 30 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble in 2010. Aside from playing as a traditional defensive end, he lined up as both a stand-up rush linebacker and an inside linebacker for Boise State.
Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Ravens need a young center as Matt Birk is nearing the end of the line. They re-signed Birk, 35, but Konz could play guard as a replacement for Ben Grubbs until Birk retires.
The Wisconsin center had an excellent 2011 season run blocking for running back Montee Ball. The Badgers had success running up the middle behind Konz all year. He had an excellent game blocking Nebraska defensive tackles Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler. Konz also did well against Michigan State's Jerel Worthy. Konz is a good pass protector as well.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder is bigger and more powerful than many centers, with better athleticism than one might think. He is a pure road grader as a run blocker. His Combine bench press was disappointing (18), but Konz has a lot of great tape to keep him in the first round.
San Francisco 49ers: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
One of the 49ers' few needs is depth at wide receiver. They can take their time and develop Hill. San Francisco took a similarly superb athlete last year in Aldon Smith. Hill can learn behind Randy Moss for a season and eventually replace the future Hall of Famer.
In the weeks leading up to the Combine, I started off my paragraphs on Hill by writing this: "[he] has big-time potential, and could develop into a steal. After Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas, Hill is the latest in a line of Yellow Jackets receivers who are big, fast playmakers who were underutilized at Georgia Tech."
Then the Scouting Combine happened, and now, Hill is a sensation after being a workout warrior in Indianapolis. He blazed a 40-yard dash time of 4.36 with a staggering time of 1.20 in the first 10 yards. Hill's vertical jump and broad jump were excellent as well. He used the Combine to skyrocket his draft stock.
Going back to his game performance, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder made big catches downfield, averaging 29.3 yards per catch in 2011. The Yellow Jackets' offense didn't throw the ball often, but when it did, Hill was typically wide open as defenses were so focused on stopping the option running attack that he would burn right by the soft coverage. Hill caught 28 passes for 820 yards and five touchdowns this season. He had 15 receptions for 291 yards with three scores as a sophomore in 2010.
New England Patriots: Nick Perry, DE, USC
I don't like mocking this pick because I believe the Patriots are going to trade it. If the draft played out like this and they couldn't make a deal, which is extremely unlikely, they could double up on the defensive line and take the best player available in Perry. He can be an end in their 4-3 or an outside linebacker in their 3-4. New England also hosted Perry on a visit. Clearly, the Patriots need more than one pass rusher.
Perry pushed his stock up with a dominant showing at the Scouting Combine. He unofficially ran the 40-yard dash in 4.50 and officially in 4.64. Additionally, Perry had 35 reps on the bench press while also leading the defensive linemen with a 38.5-inch vertical jump. The Combine proved that he has the complete package: production, athletic ability and size.
Perry really improved in 2011 and was a force for USC. He had 54 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss with two passes batted and three forced fumbles. Perry broke out with eight sacks as a freshman. In 2010, his numbers dipped to four sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss.
The 6-foot-3, 271-pounder has added a lot of weight and strength for the NFL. He is a little stiff and his best fit may be in a 4-3 defense, but many believe he can play outside linebacker in a 3-4. Perry is very fast and has a good repertoire of pass-rushing moves.
New York Giants: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
The Giants have a few options with this pick. They could address right tackle, defensive tackle, tight end or running back. Martin is the best player available, and New York could use more talent for its backfield.
Martin had a fabulous week at the Senior Bowl. He did well in pass protection and blitz pickup while also being a tough runner. The 5-foot-9, 219-pounder is very fast with a bodybuilder's physique. At the Combine, Martin was excellent. He had unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.57 and 4.47 seconds along with 28 reps on the bench press.
As a senior, Martin averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 255 yards and two scores. Additionally, Martin averaged 33.8 yards per kick return this year, including a touchdown return against Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl. He ran for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns while making 28 receptions for 338 yards and two scores in 2010.
Martin is quick to the hole with the speed to break off long runs. He also has the strength to break tackles and finishes his runs well. Martin has three-down starting potential in the NFL.