Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This has for the most part been the "Andrew Lock" since the season ended. He might have fallen short in the past two Heisman Trophy votes to Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, but as an NFL prospect, Luck has fewer detractors than either of them. At Stanford, he made a supporting cast of receiving targets better and behind a top shelf offensive line was very accurate. It is too much to look at him as the next Peyton Manning, and the Colts are going to struggle for at least a year or two even in a soft AFC South division. Houston, which No. 18 owned, is the new bully on the block.
Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
Well, this is not very much fun. The mock portion of the draft has not begun yet. This is more like evaluating what will happen. The Redskins gave up a lot for the right to select the dynamic Heisman Trophy winner. Is Robert Griffin III worth it?
For me, this move has potential disaster written all over it. I have followed Griffin since high school when he was a record-setting hurdler who gave up a chance to set the national record to enroll early at Baylor for football. Griffin has a lot of athletic ability, but will be going to a team short several premium picks and already short on talent relative to its division. I am concerned about Griffin�s ability to develop in this situation, but if anyone can succeed under these circumstances, he is the guy.
Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Why would the Vikings do anything other than take a safe left tackle to protect their new franchise quarterback who has the front office�s support? As everyone knows by now, Kalil's brother Ryan is a stud center for the Panthers and Matt was the reason last year's No. 9 overall pick Tyron Smith played right tackle at USC. Minnesota would love to trade out and still secure him, but I don�t see that happening. This is absolutely the right move for the Vikings.
Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Colt McCoy should not have been handed the keys to this franchise, but Mike Holmgren�s ego got in the way of common sense. He thought he could find another Joe Montana in the third round. Now they are paying the price after being outbid for the right to draft Robert Griffin III.
What the heck do they do know? I mulled over giving them a bookend corner for Joe Haden last year, and with LSU�s Morris Claiborne on the board they have another chance to bolster an already stout young secondary, but as Walt pointed out in his mock draft how much better can you get than No. 1? The Browns are dead in the water without a quarterback in the AFC North, especially if Andy Dalton progresses. They can either draft one of the two Big XII quarterbacks or throw a bunch of support behind McCoy.
This would be doing the latter. All Richardson has to do now is avoid the cover of Madden. It is risky to spend a high pick on running back, but this is an exception. In the past 10 drafts, only seven backs have gone in the top 10 and Adrian Peterson is probably the only one who has justified it. Darren McFadden might if he can ever stay healthy and Reggie Bush has been somewhat polarizing depending on the source, although most would agree he has not been worth it.
Pick change; previously Ryan Tannehill, QB
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Their offense was a wreck last year, but with Trent Richardson off the board, this is the pick that makes sense. Cornerback is a big need and Claiborne is an absolute stud. What more can be said about this pick that hasn�t already been said?
Pick change; previously Trent Richardson, RB
St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Sometimes a pick seems to be set in stone early in the draft process, and, in the end, it winds up being off. This might be the case with the Rams and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. They took a bounty of picks from the Redskins to move down four slots and now have the classic decision to make: need or value?
Great front offices choose value every time. I like Blackmon and think he has been run through the ringer a little too much, but that�s what the draft process does to prospects. It�s part of the deal. They fill a key need by selecting him here. Their other option is waiting until the second round hoping Baylor�s Kendall Wright is available.
Pick change; previously Morris Claiborne, CB
Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Mocking for this team gives me a headache. The Jaguars want to surround their young quarterback Blaine Gabbert with talent, and the best way to do that is to secure a wide receiver. However, the top targets don�t fit Gene Smith�s high-character profile. Another cog for the defensive line would put Jacksonville's defense a step closer to elite status. The offense has been killing the team's chances. Going 5-11 when the defense holds the opposition to a maximum of 17 points in half of the games is a joke. If the defense can generate a pass rush, the Jaguars will be hard to deal with.
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Matt Moore battling David Garrard for the starting quarterback job must have Miami's fan base rushing out to buy season tickets, right? The assumption is that Tannehill is going to be available for the Dolphins to select here, but it would not stun me to see a team trade up to No. 7, where as everyone knows, Jacksonville is dying to move down, or if Cleveland takes him flat out, although that seems unlikely. As it sits, Miami gets a quarterback to develop and their fans can dream of a better tomorrow.
Pick change; previously Justin Blackmon, WR
Carolina Panthers: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
It will be tough for the Panthers to spend a premium pick on a defensive tackle given what they did in the 2011 NFL draft. They still might, but the late money is coming in on either Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly or South Carolina corner Stephon Gilmore. There is always a surprising player taken higher than expected for much of the draft season and this could be it. Carolina has a need and could slide down several spots before securing him. I�m not going to project the trade because it will give me a headache.
Pick change; previously Fletcher Cox, DT
Buffalo Bills: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
The offensive line has been an issue for the Bills for a while so Iowa�s Riley Reiff has to be a consideration. They made free agent moves to attack opposing quarterbacks and this is another nice addition for their front seven as they move to the 4-3. I am reluctant to put linebackers high, but this feels just right to me.
Pick change; previously Riley Reiff, OT
Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Scott Pioli likes to build in the trenches, and he likes to get elite prospects. When I first ran through this, I had DeCastro�s teammate Jonathan Martin here, but in terms of talent evaluation compared to positional value, it is definitely the right move to select DeCastro. He was a major reason quarterback Andrew Luck went relatively untouched the past two years on the farm. Another possibility is combine star Dontari Poe out of Memphis.
Three years ago, I implored the Chiefs to take B.J. Raji even though he was a reach at No. 3, but they went with Tyson Jackson. We�ll see if they finally go after a nose tackle instead, possibly after trading down.
Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
I can�t help thinking the ability to rush the passer will help keep Coples in the middle of the opening round. Maybe he slips to the Bears at No. 19, and this seems like his ceiling, but I like the fit. Pete Carroll can start his motor and the Seahawks need to sack the quarterback. I�m not sure too many mock drafts are going to get this pick correct. Could they take Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox? I also wouldn�t be stunned to see them trade down for Alabama linebacker Dont�a Hightower.
Pick change; previously Luke Kuechly, ILB
Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The team's strategy is to not take offensive linemen early, but maybe it gives Russ Grimm Stanford�s Jonathan Martin to work with here. The Cardinals need to get the running game going to help out whoever ends up as their starting quarterback in 2012. Ryan Williams will be coming off a season lost due to injury and Beanie Wells finally cracked 1,000 yards in his third year in the league.
If Arizona can open up some holes for this duo, the team might finally have a running game. However, the flip side is taking a superior talent capable of helping out the struggling quarterback situation. Floyd is a polarizing prospect. I have always liked him in this range, perhaps higher. Putting him with Larry Fitzgerald makes sense.
Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
The secondary has been in a sorry state for a while now and as I always say there are two ways to solve that problem. One is to draft talent there and the other is to address the pass rush. Everyone can chill out now, I�m going with the logical and common choice of Barron whose leadership is needed as much as his talent.
Pick change; previously Quinton Coples, DE
Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Some teams are tough to get a handle on and this is one of them. This is an awesome defensive tackle class and yet it appears the Eagles are locked in on Cox (not that there�s anything wrong with that) and might even move to No. 7 to get him. I�m cheating a little here hoping they take him after moving up without shuffling my mock up. I honestly could see him being available here though.
Pick change; previously Michael Brockers, DT
New York Jets: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Someone has to protect the blind side of Tim Tebow, right? Burn! I kid, I think. Anyway one overlooked aspect of Mark Sanchez�s decline is an offensive line that has, well, declined. Obviously, the Jets want to rush the passer without calling the kitchen-sink blitz, but if Reiff falls to them here it might be a surprise pick they feel compelled to make.
Would the team take Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill instead of filling a need? I think this makes more sense because New York needs to give Sanchez time to operate, and Hill running open deep while Te-chez is staring at the sky makes less sense.