1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Pick Analysis: The Colts land their quarterback of the future after gutting almost the entire roster. At least Luck will have Reggie Wayne, but the Colts lost Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez, and Dallas Clark. The biggest thing the Colts need to do now is add a piece to help Luck out. I don’t think we’ll see them make a move back into the first round, but they could use their high second round pick on a wide receiver to try and complement Luck’s skills. He is a potential franchise quarterback in the mold of an Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan. People say he is better than Elway or Manning as a prospect but I disagree that he’s even on a similar level. Those guys make everyone around them better, and as far as I’m concerned, Luck is not yet that kind of player. He is a game-changer, sure, but I don’t think he is legendary just yet. He certainly has the work ethic to develop into such a player, but for now, he reminds me more of a Matt Ryan who needs to be surrounded by elite talent (White, Jones, Gonzalez) rather than a guy like Manning who made Jacob Tamme look like a legit #1 TE.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Pick Analysis: The Redskins swapped picks in the 2012 draft, traded their second round pick, and traded first round picks in 2013 and 2014 in order to get this pick. Based on my opinion of Griffin as a prospect, that was a good move. Griffin–the Heisman trophy winner–has great athletic ability and a really strong arm, and he is going to be a perfect fit in Mike Shanahan’s offense that is predicated on the run setting up the pass. The Redskins also surrounded Griffin with some new toys, including former Colts speedster Pierre Garcon and a player Mike Shanahan thinks is a fast-rising player in Josh Morgan. They also franchise tagged tight end Fred Davis and have been working on upgrading the secondary. I think the Redskins are in a pretty good position here, even if they missed out on a former Shanahan draft pick in Eddie Royal (Chargers). This team was playing really well at times last year, and Shanahan’s job likely relied upon the acquisition of a franchise quarterback. I think RG3 likely has bought him at least a couple more years with the organization.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Pick Analysis: The Minnesota Vikings made a huge move in last year’s draft by taking Christian Ponder in the first round, something that really came out of left field. Ponder actually showed quite a bit of promise in his first few starts with the Vikings, but the offensive line leaves something to be desired. Enter Matt Kalil, one of the most athletic offensive line prospects I have seen in a while. Kalil has all of the talent required to be a Pro Bowl left tackle, and I think he is really a no-brainer pick at this point. The Vikings’ offensive line is in a full rebuild mode, and this would be a great way to start off by getting a staple at left tackle. Kalil is also really valuable on special teams in terms of blocking field goals, something he did really well at USC. He’s got really good footwork and Christian Ponder will be extremely pleased with this choice.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Pick Analysis: The Cleveland Browns missed out on a chance to get Robert Griffin III, and they don’t really appear to be that set on getting rid of Colt McCoy. They are also not in the running for former Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn, even though it was originally reported that he was a potential backup plan. As of last word, Peyton Hillis was also willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Browns, but that also didn’t happen. So, the only logical replacement here is Trent Richardson. Richardson is the best prospect I’ve seen since Adrian Peterson came into the league, and I know people continue to say that over and over again but it can’t be over-stated. Richardson is a bruiser with speed, vision, patience, pass catching ability, and he can also throw blocks on third down. He’s got a killer instinct and can make plays when there’s nothing available. This would be a potential franchise-changing move for the Browns, who are really striking out in free agency, even though I’m not sure they’re exactly swinging for the fences. They have two first round picks, and taking a big time back with the first one could be a great move.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Pick Analysis: Tampa Bay has been one of the most active teams in free agency, and to be honest, I like some of the moves they are making. I think they vastly over-paid for cornerback Eric Wright, but that’s what teams with desperate needs do–they overpay. Wright is a solid player but the Bucs need a starter who can be an impact player. That’s exactly what Morris Claiborne can be. If the Bucs come away from this offseason with Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, and Morris Claiborne, I think the franchise would have to be very happy and the fan base should be excited. They may have overpaid a bit to get it done, but this is potentially a very solid start for the Bucs to continue re-loading. I think they were closer than a lot of people thought, but they play in a really tough division and their young players really suffered from the lockout situation last year, especially a team with a core as young as theirs. Claiborne has potential to be an elite player at the next level with great speed, ball skills, and shut-down ability.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Pick Analysis: Let me just start this off by saying that I think this is a reach for Blackmon but no team arguably in the NFL other than Jacksonville has a bigger and more pressing need at receiver than the St. Louis Rams. Sam Bradford may as well have been throwing to a backup offensive lineman last year, the way it was looking. If Brandon Lloyd wasn’t making plays and getting open, the passing game just was not there for St.Louis. Now, it looks like Brandon Lloyd is going to be moving on from the organization and following former St. Louis offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the New England Patriots. That leaves a huge hole at receiver for the Rams, who drafted Austin Pettis and Greg Salas last year, but neither guy appears to have number one potential at this point. Justin Blackmon is a guy who can come in right away and be that number one caliber guy. He reminds a lot of people of Anquan Boldin, and I think that’s a pretty good comparison though Blackmon is quite a bit faster. He could be a huge addition to the Rams’ offense.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Pick Analysis: This might seem like a reach, but the Jaguars are in a similar situation to that of the St. Louis Rams–they need receivers and they need them fast. Floyd is a potential character risk (DUIs at Notre Dame) but he claims he’s a changed person. Floyd has a ton of talent and potential, not to mention a great combination of size, speed, and hands, but the Jaguars could potentially be mortgaging this pick to the highest bidder if the Dolphins are still in the running for Ryan Tannehill at that point. That being said, if they stay put I think this is a solid move. The Jaguars overpaid for Laurent Robinson, who would have been better served staying in Dallas, but if they don’t start getting Blaine Gabbert some weapons, he is going to start declining even more rapidly than he already apparently is. I think Gabbert certainly has potential and talent, but he’s not going to be any good if their best weapon is Laurent Robinson.
I think the Miami Dolphins are close to signing Matt Flynn, but if they don’t get him (not likely) I think they would look at Ryan Tannehill with this pick. If they do wind up getting Flynn, the Dolphins need to turn their focus to either wide receiver or pass rush. Their pass rush consists of Cameron Wake and not much else. Melvin Ingram is a very versatile player who can line up on the defensive line, at linebacker, with his hand in the dirt or in a two-point stance. He is a pretty solid pass rusher but I would characterize him more as an opportunistic playmaker. Ingram was all over the field for the Gamecocks last year in a bunch of different phases of the game, and he has great athletic ability. I think opposite of Wake, he could be a really nice fit for Miami.
The Carolina Panthers hit a home run last year by drafting Cam Newton first overall, and he wound up as an alternate in the Pro Bowl. He certainly had his moments where he looked like a rookie, but he was a fantastic playmaker and showed much better development as a passer than anyone could have imagined for his first year, especially considering a lot of people thought he was a huge reach with the first overall pick. As good as Newton was, the defense was almost just as bad. The Panthers have quite a few big names on the defensive side of the ball, but the defensive line is lacking talent and Michael Brockers can help fix that. He doesn’t have the elite athleticism that a lot of people hoped for when he left school early, but he has more potential than any other defensive tackle in this class if you ask me.
The Buffalo Bills made a huge splash in free agency, first by signing one of their own in wide receiver Steve Johnson. Then, they signed arguably the biggest prize on the defensive side of the ball in free agency when they acquired former Houston Texans pass rusher Mario Williams for nearly $100 million dollars. Despite the fact that the team has added Williams, there is still work to be done on the defensive side of the ball and Quinton Coples is probably a steal at this point anyways. Coples has a ton of potential, but some are worried about his motor being consistent. I think that Coples has top 10 talent, and could be a perfect fit on the other side of Williams. This move would give the Bills a front four including Coples, Williams, and last year’s first round pick Marcel Dareus.
The Chiefs have been pretty active in free agency, signing running back Peyton Hillis and potentially also adding right tackle Eric Winston. Those two moves would represent significant upgrades on that side of the ball for the Chiefs, and adding David DeCastro could make that offensive unit a top tier quarterback short of being completely dominant. The Chiefs have some holes on the interior offensive line, and this is certainly a bit of a reach in terms of the positional value, but DeCastro could be a perennial Pro Bowl caliber player, which is something that Scott Pioli will take notice of. They could also go for a player like Dontari Poe here to shore up their nose tackle position.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Pick Analysis: This would certainly be somewhat of a wildcard selection, but the Seahawks are definitely in the market for a future potential franchise quarterback. The Seahawks also have needs defensively, specifically in terms of their pass rush but they did get a little stronger in that regard by picking up Jason Jones, formerly of the Tennessee Titans. Tannehill is a guy that I really liked before the season, and I don’t think there was a whole lot else he could have done to impress draft scouts. He has been injured all offseason, but people continue to say he’s simply just shooting up draft boards right now. The former receiver was a quarterback all through high school, so he’s definitely not brand new to the position but he will need some time to develop as an NFL quarterback. I think this could be a very solid pick if the Seahawks are willing to let him develop for a year or so.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Pick Analysis: The Cardinals’ line is in a shambles, but at least they were able to retain Levi Brown. They lost out on Peyton Manning, so their quarterback next year will either be John Skelton or Kevin Kolb, most likely Kolb. Kolb has the potential to be a very solid quarterback, but he can’t do it if he’s constantly on his back. The Cardinals need to upgrade three, maybe four positions on the offensive line with Levi Brown coming back, so getting Riley Reiff could be a huge pickup for them. Reiff is a very talented athlete who is well-coached and has very good fundamentals. He should start off his NFL career as a right tackle but could easily develop into one of the best left tackles in a couple of years.
Pick Analysis: The Cowboys continue to upgrade the defensive side of the ball, though admittedly I’m not exactly sure which direction to go with this pick. They could certainly upgrade the interior of their offensive line as well, but there aren’t many stars on the defensive line in Dallas, and Fletcher Cox has potential to be a dominant pass rushing end in a 3-4 scheme, and he’s flying up draft boards. I love the moves the Cowboys have made by bringing in Dan Connor and Brandon Carr to shore up linebacker and cornerback, but they could still use some more upgrading up front and in the defensive backfield. As of right now, though, the moves they’ve made this offseason should really impact the defensive side of the ball, and getting a talented and aggressive defensive line prospect could be a nice addition.
This might not be the Eagles’ style, but Luke Kuechly is considered one of the safest picks in the draft. The tackling machine from Boston College could be a serious upgrade to a linebacker group that really needs one. Kuechly is intelligent, athletic, and a very hard worker off the field. The Eagles have really lacked a stud leader on their defense since Brian Dawkins left for the Denver Broncos, and Kuechly could provide that. A few scouts were concerned with his lack of playmaking skills, and said that his tackles all came too deep in the defense. I think Kuechly is a special talent and probably the undisputed top 4-3 linebacker in this class at this point. He might not have a Brian Urlacher type of impact, but he will definitely get a ton of tackles and be up for Defensive Rookie of the Year next year.
The New York Jets continue to get nastier on defense. After signing Mark Sanchez to an extension instead of going after Peyton Manning, this franchise is now under the NFL microscope. They need to upgrade their pass rush defensively, and while Poe won’t do that in terms of numbers, he is big and athletic and could probably rotate a couple of different positions along the defensive line. Poe was one of the most impressive players at the entire scouting combine and that type of athletic ability and strength will really get him noticed by Rex Ryan and the Jets. I think this could be a very nice fit if the Jets choose to improve their defensive line.
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