I received many e-mails and tweets about my 2013 NFL Mock Draft and the upcoming NFL Draft in general. To share the answers to the questions publicly, I decided to start up a mailbag column. Pass along your NFL draft questions and comments. I'll put together a mailbag periodically that answers questions/comments sent via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @draftcampbell.
From Tyler Little, Washington D.C.
"What do you think of Melvin Ingram's chances of winning the defensive rookie of the year (DROY) award?"
Right now, I would bet heavy on Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly to win the DROY. I think he is going to remodel the team's defense. The Panthers were weak in the front seven at stopping the run last year, but I think Kuechly will put an end to that; he did at Boston College. Plus, he is superb against the pass in coverage although he also has underrated blitzing ability.
Considering all that, I think Kuechly will have a big 2012 stat line of tackles with some sacks, forced fumbles and interceptions. The DROY award is inclined to players with big numbers, and I think he'll have some impressive totals.
After Kuechly, I think Ingram is definitely in the mix. I could see him having a nice sack total and he looks like he is ready to provide an immediate impact. The Chargers need Ingram to step up, so he will see plenty of opportunities to rush the passer.
The other three rookies who have been really impressive this preseason are Jets defensive end Quinton Coples, Patriots outside linebacker Chandler Jones and Broncos defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. I think Coples and Jones will post nice production this year, but not enough to compete with Kuechly. That will be the case for Wolfe as well. As I stated before the draft , Wolfe was my top sleeper pick on offense or defense in the 2012 draft class. He's off to a great start for Denver and is going to be an instant contributor this season.
Those are the top-five candidates currently, in my opinion, but I'll be moderately surprised if Kuechly doesn't win it.
From Mark Thomas, Plant City, Florida
"What do you think about the Bucs signing Jordan Shipley?"
I think Tampa Bay may have made a really good move by claiming Shipley off waivers. It is a no-risk, potentially high-reward transaction. He's still working his way back from his knee injury, so this move may not pay off in 2012. However, if the team is patient with Shipley, he could provide a big reward in 2013 as a slot receiver.
Shipley had a lot of fans in the Bucs organization at the time of the 2010 NFL Draft, and he was one of the receivers who Josh Freeman was hoping Tampa Bay would draft. Shipley could be a dangerous slot receiver in the NFL given his quickness, route running, hands and intelligence. He also could factor into special teams.
Shipley comes with a cheap contract so there is no downside to giving him a chance. If the Bucs are generous in giving him some time to work his way back from that nasty knee injury, he could pay off big time. If Shipley, Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams pan out, the team could have some nice receiving options to pair with Vincent Jackson.
From Tanner Moffatt, Provo, Utah
"I have noticed that recently diminutive, quick running backs, i.e. Darren Sproles, have been fairly popular among teams in the NFL. It seems that coaches (finally) realized that these athletes provide a good change-of-pace type running back who can also catch the ball out of the backfield, an extremely valuable asset against vastly slower linebackers. In April, players like Isaiah Pead, LaMichael James, and Ronnie Hillman were selected within the first three rounds. What running backs who fit this profile could you see show up in college football this season?"
Every year there are a number of smaller speed backs who enter the draft. My highest-ranked back who is draft eligible of that ilk is North Carolina redshirt sophomore Giovanni Bernard. He burst onto the scene with 1,324 yards and 13 touchdowns (5.24 average) last year. Bernard (5-10, 205) also showed fantastic receiving ability with 45 receptions for 362 yards and one touchdown.
What makes Bernard even more intriguing is he has more mass to him than James and Hillman. That could make Bernard more durable in the NFL. He has the speed to take runs the distance and should be even better in 2012.
Clemson's Andre Ellington is another good option to consider. He has some real speed and scat back ability. Ellington averaged 5.3 yards per carry as a junior in 2011, totaling 1,178 yards with 11 touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 109 yards.
The senior has better receiving ability than the numbers indicate. The Tigers didn't have much of a reason to pass the ball to the running back with receiving weapons like Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and tight end Dwayne Allen.
Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham is coming off a injury, but he was excellent before getting hurt last year. Graham ran for 958 yards and nine touchdowns in only eight games. The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder needs to stay on the field this season.
Other smaller speed backs include Oregon's Kenjon Barner - lightning fast but has fumbling issues, USC's Curtis McNeal, Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy and Florida's Mike Gillislee. All are worth keeping an eye on.
From John, Birmingham, Alabama
"I have a question about the 2013 NFL Draft. What probable playoff team do you think has the most chance to move up in the draft, that are missing a piece or two to make them a legetimate Superbowl team, like the Falcons did to get Julio Jones a couple of years ago. Could you see someone make a play for David Amerson like Green Bay or the 49ers? What if Marcus Lattimore makes a jump into the top 10 with a good year and combine, could you see Detroit or Jets making a move? The Patriots package some picks to move up high enough to get a Star Lotulelei or a Sam Montgomery. The Texans making a play for a Keenan Allan? Or what scenario could you see play out? Thanks Charlie."
Good question John. As far as playoff teams moving up. I can think of a couple of candidates. Here's a quick list.
Chicago: Phil Emery has been very aggressive in trades since he took over. I could see him leaping up to grab a left tackle to try and take advantage of a closing Super Bowl window.
New England: The Patriots moved up this year twice and I could see it happening again. Tom Brady won't play forever so the time is now. As for the position they would target, that is harder to predict, but I'm thinking defensive backs or offensive line.
New York Jets: Currently I don't have the Jets in the playoffs, but the team is always a candidate to make some bold moves. An offensive tackle or pass rushing outside linebacker would be the targets in my opinion.
Atlanta: Julio Jones looks like he is about to become a top receiver in this league. Thus, the Falcons will boast about the deal they did to get him. Maybe they do it again to get Matt Ryan an elite left tackle.
I don't think Houston would be a candidate. In speaking with sources there, the team is more inclined to move down or take the best talent who falls to it. That has worked well for the Texans, so I don't see them going away from that.
Green Bay is pretty aggressive late in the first round or on day two, but hasn't shown the inclination to give up a future first-round pick under Ted Thompson. Thus I think the Packers are a long shot to do that.
It is definitely an interesting question to ponder and the last two drafts with the rookie wage scale have prompted teams to be more aggressive.
From Mimad, Rochester, Minnesota
"I think that the Bills would draft a quaterback if they are picking high or trade down. They just got Cordy Glenn and I think he will be okay or be given another year to prove himself. I think that the rest of the team will be good except the quaterback position. Fitzpatrick just can't play consistently the whole season. I think they would trade down and try to get Geno Smith, and I think the Bills could also use a wide receiver."
I've been mocking a quarterback in the first or second round to Buffalo for a while now. The long-term starter is not on the roster with Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen battling it out to be Fitzpatrick's backup. I think Fitzpatrick can be a good quarterback for the Bills this year, but they have to keep him healthy. That means even avoiding the nagging injuries.
That is where Glenn comes in. We have to agree to disagree on him. I studied the rookie extensively before the draft, and I don't believe his feet are quick enough to be a left tackle in the NFL.
I think Glenn could be a good guard or right tackle. I'd be worried about how he is going to play against the Patriots' young edge-rushers and, of course, against veterans like the Dolphins' Cameron Wake; Quinton Coples, now on the Jets, gave Glenn a butt-kicking at the Senior Bowl. So that is all six divisional games where I see Glenn being overmatched. Franchise left tackles with pass-blocking ability don't fall to the second round.
I think the Bills could have needs at quarterback, left tackle and wide receiver for the 2013 NFL Draft. Either Logan Thomas or Smith could be nice fits in Buffalo's offense. I agree with you that the team could use another receiver to pair with Stevie Johnson.
From Matt, Iowa
"Big fan of Walt's site and your contributions to it -
Do you think that the MLB/ILB position is important enough in today's NFL to warrant using a first-rounder? Everybody seems to like drafting LBs, like your Alec Ogletree pick to the Bears in your 2014 NFL Mock Draft, whereas I think that OL and DT are higher team needs as of late. I know that the Bears don't have much talent behind the LB position that is so crucial to the Cover-2, but wouldn't it make more sense to pick up a pass-rusher/pass-protector (or maybe a skill position player on another team) in the first and a LB maybe a round or two later?"
Thanks for the support! I do think the middle linebacker position is important enough to warrant a first-round pick. Luke Kuechly was underrated this year and has been extremely impressive thus far for Carolina. A three-down linebackers are assets in pass defense and run defense. They impact the game even when they don't make a tackle by their presence alone, e.g. commanding blocks and making the correct calls and audibles. They are on-the-field generals.
It is nearly impossible to have a good defense without a strong middle linebacker. I think there will be a lot of teams regretting they didn't take Kuechly, just like there are teams that regret passing on Patrick Willis. If the linebacker is a play-maker, he is going to have a big impact. I agree that the position, overall, is being downgraded in the NFL draft.
I think a left tackle could definitely be a higher priority for Chicago depending on how the 2012 season goes, but that is only if a good one is available. The Bears could be picking late in the first round and starting left tackles don't typically fall that far.
Still, if J'Marcus Webb and Chris Williams don't get it done, the position will have to be fixed heading into 2013. Thus, linebacker could still be a need in 2014 if the Bears get another couple of years out of their veterans. I think defensive tackle could prove to fix itself with young tackles Brian Price and Stephen Paea. They need some time with Rod Marinelli, but both are talented with upside.
Having difference-makers at linebacker is critical for Chicago's defense. The team's version of the Tampa 2 doesn't function well without them, so the Bears need a premium player in the middle of the defense. Landing one is definitely a need with the age of Urlacher and Briggs.