This is my first and only written 2012 Mock Draft. Many of you have been following my video series. I encourage you to watch the videos. However, things have changed since I started the series. This is my new, updated mock draft. I put my heart, soul, and about 8,000 words into this. Enjoy.
1. Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
No surprise here. The Colts will take Andrew Luck No. 1 overall in the 2012 NFL draft. Luck is simply a fantastic prospect. I made a scouting report on him last year, and my opinion of him hasn’t changed. Luck is a once in a generation prospect. He’s extremely smart, accurate, and he does a stupendous job of evading pressure. His mobility is easily the most underrated aspect of his game. His rushing numbers from his sophomore season were fantastic. He got 453 rushing yards and had an 8.2 yards per carry. Those numbers are impressive enough by themselves, but it’s even more impressive when you remember that, in the NCAA, sacks count against a quarterback’s rushing hard tally. The fact that Luck got 453 rushing yards and an 8.3 yards per carry in a pro style offense in a league in which sacks count against a quarterback’s rushing tally is amazing. He wasn’t as good a rusher last year because Stanford lost Doug Baldwin, so teams felt comfortable using a spy to keep him in the pocket, but he was still a great player. Amazingly, in 3 seasons as a starter, he was sacked only 23 times. That’s not only a testament to his O-line, but his pocket awareness and ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly. He’s a fantastic player.
2. Washington Redskins- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Washington paid a lot to get Griffin, but he is worth the hefty price tag. I wrote a scouting report on him a few months ago. I really think he is an excellent player. Many fans, when they see a rushing quarterback who didn’t play in a pro style offense, automatically write the player off as a “system quarterback,” and they usually cite accuracy. For this reason, many fans “guaranteed” that Cam Newton would suck. But that’s not always the case. The biggest problem with most system quarterbacks is not accuracy, like many assume, but actually whether or not they have the intelligence to learn/call plays and run a pro style offense. Vince Young is a great example. Young scored a 6 on his original Wonderlic. To put that into perspective, a score of 10 implies the person taking the test is literate. Vince Young showed in the NFL that he was not smart enough to call plays in an NFL offense. However, Cam Newton scored a 21 on his Wonderlic (implying he has about a 102 IQ), and he has proven to be smart enough to run an NFL offense so far. Even without knowing his Wonderlic score, I know Griffin is smart enough to master an NFL playbook. The guy graduated from Baylor in three years with a 3.6 GPA in political science. Even though he was never asked to call a play in college, there is no doubt in my mind that he is smart enough to learn, and he should be an excellent NFL quarterback.
3. Minnesota Vikings- Matt Kalil, T, USC
Once again, no surprise here. I personally believe Kalil is overrated, and that teams should start to avoid drafting offensive tackles in the first round. I wrote about it earlier in the year. Frankly, being an offensive linemen in the NFL these days is harder than it has ever been before. Why? Because there is a new found balance of 3-4 and 4-3 defenses in the NFL. The modern day tackle is asked to block athletic 4-3 defensive ends like Jason Pierre-Paul and powerful 3-4 defensive ends like Justin Smith. Frankly, it’s just about impossible to find a tackle who is athletic enough to block Pierre-Paul but strong enough to block Smith. So offensive line play has dipped in the last few years, since it is incredibly difficult for an offensive linemen to have success in every game. The biggest issue with drafting offensive linemen is the fact that a 3-4 and 4-3 balance is nonexistent in college football. Roughly 90% of the teams in college football run a 4-3 defense, while rough 60% run a 4-3 in the NFL. Guys like Kalil (and Russell Okung) have literally never blocked a defensive linemen their own size in their entire life. Only two teams in the Pac-12 run a 3-4 defense (Stanford and Cal), and neither of them use a right end nearly as big as the 3-4 ends in the NFL. Kalil has never blocked a player over 280lbs in his life. How can we be confident that he won’t play like crap the second he is force to block someone as big as he is? Most 3-4 ends are 295-310lbs. And roughly 40% of the teams in the NFL run a 3-4. We have no reason to believe that Kalil isn’t going to be terrible the minute he blocks someone his own size. Russell Okung flamed out the minute he blocked a 3-4 end. I expect the same thing to happen to Kalil.
4. Cleveland Browns- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
I personally believe Trent Richardson is a bit overrated, but this wouldn’t be a horrible pick. With Peyton Hillis gone, running back is an enormous need, and Trent Richardson would fill that need. I feel, though, that Richardson is a bit overrated simply because he lacks acceleration ability. For a guy 230lbs, his top speed is quite simply jaw-dropping, but it seemingly takes him forever to reach top speed. Of course, he does an amazing job of breaking tackles and he has good vision, but that lack of acceleration still makes me think he is overrated. When I watch him play, the name that keeps coming to mind is Jonathan Stewart; they both take a long time to accelerate, but their top speed is jaw dropping for their size and they can really break tackles. I’m not saying Stewart is a bad player. He’s an above average starting running back. That being said, if we were to redo the 2008 NFL draft, would you use a top 5 pick on Stewart? I’d say no. And I also wouldn’t use a top 5 pick on Richardson.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
This would be an excellent pick for Tampa Bay. I wrote about Morris Claiborne earlier in the year. Many people remember that last year I said Patrick Peterson was incredibly overrated. I stand by what I said. Claiborne, however, is as good as advertised. Claiborne is dominant in press man coverage and has excellent speed & ball skills. I think he will be a fine NFL player. The only thing that makes me unsure about this pick is the Buc’s inexplicable decision to give Eric Wright a five year, 37.5 million dollar contract. Quite a head-scratcher, but the Buc’s still need a cornerback, since Ronde Barber is ancient and Aqib Talib is probably going to jail.
6. St. Louis Rams- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Again, not a big surprise pick. Justin Blackmon is destined to be the Rams’ next Torry Holt. Like Holt, Blackmon has mediocre measurables and seemingly doesn’t have a high ceiling. Frankly, wide receivers who are 6’1 and run a 4.5 40 grow on trees in the NFL. But with Blackmon, his measurables don’t matter, because he makes up for them by being spectacular in every other facet of the game. He’s years ahead of his time as a route runner; he does an amazing job of changing speeds in his routes, he is extremely physical, he does a good job of using his body to create separation, and he has loose hips that allow him to do an excellent job of changing directions in his routes. He also has excellent hands and body control in the air. This year, St. Louis is going to get their next Torry Holt, and boy does Sam Bradford need him.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
I personally don’t have too much confidence in Melvin Ingram, but he is the kind of guy whom the Jaguars would pick. People claim he is versatile, but I would counter by saying he is in a positional limbo, a positional “no man’s land.” He seems to have no natural NFL position. To me, he doesn’t have the height/length to play 4-3 defensive end (6’1 and 31 1/2 inch arms, shortest of any lineman at the combine), yet, at the same time, he isn’t a good fit for 3-4 outside linebacker, since he has no experience playing outside linebacker and I question whether or not he will ever be able to hold his own in coverage against anyone. He is too bulky and not flexible enough to cover running backs, yet, at the same time, he isn’t tall enough and doesn’t have long enough arms to cover tight ends. In that sense, he reminds of Brandon Graham. He has no natural position in the NFL. He does sound like the kind of player Jacksonville would get, though. This wouldn’t be a horrible pick, but I still believe Ingram is overrated.
8. Miami Dolphins- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
I hated making this pick. I really did. I personally believe Ryan Tannehill is an extremely overrated project at quarterback. He has lots of potential, but he has rarely put it together on the field in his career. His quarterback rating of 133.2 was good for 56th in the NCAA. Not exactly too impressive. He threw 15 interception, 6th most in the NCAA. Tannehill may be fast, but Andrew Luck got more rushing yards in his sophomore season than Tannehill did in his entire career (453 yards to 369 yards), so he doesn’t use his speed as well as many think. So, even though he has great arm strength, unbelievable speed, and excellent pocket presence, what good is it if he can’t produce? I don’t know how to answer that question. And I didn’t know how to answer that question in regards to (gulp) Blaine Gabbert last year. Last year, Gabbert’s quarterback rating of 127.0 was good for 69th in the NCAA. So far, in the NFL, he is simply horrendous. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happened to Tannehill. I wouldn’t touch Tannehill with a ten foot pole, but Miami will. They need a quarterback, Tannehill’s former head coach Mike Sherman is their new offensive coordinator, and Miami has a long history of drafting every player that I deem overrated. Tannehill’s gonna end up here. I think Miami will regret it.
9. Carolina Panthers- Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
I have a high opinion of Cox, and I believe this would be an excellent pick for the Panthers. The Panthers need a defensive tackle. Actually, they need two, since both Terrell McClain and Sione Fua sucked last year. Actually, they need three, since McClain and Fua sucked so much last year that I wouldn’t even characterize them as good “depth,” even if they had two good starters. Cox, sadly, isn’t three defensive tackles, but he’s easily the best player available for the Panthers. I think he is a good prospect that fits the Randy Starks mold. He is probably versatile enough for 3-4 end, but I don’t advocate position changes unless they are absolutely necessary. Cox’s combine really sums him up very well. He had 34 1/2 inch arms, which was 5th longest among all defensive linemen at the combine, and he managed to do a surprising 30 bench reps. 30 bench reps is only average, but it is spectacular for a player with such long arms. This is because players who have, for example, 31 inch arms, only need to lift the bar up 31 inches for a rep, while guys like Cox need to lift the bar about 35 inches. Cox had the greatest combination of length and strength of anyone at the combine, at it could make him dominant in the NFL. He has unlimited potential if he can learn how to use his long arms to dominate with pass rush moves, but can still be moderately successful by simply driving every offensive linemen he touches off the ball.
10. Buffalo Bills- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
I believe this would be a good pick for the Bills. People have been predicting that they will draft a tackle. I think that’s ridiculous. Buffalo allowed fewer sacks than any team in the NFL (23) last season. People point out to the fact that Buffalo lost Demetrius Bell. But Bell missed weeks 5-14 due to injury. He was very useful when healthy, but the offensive line still did a pretty good job without him. Floyd is a solid prospect. His tremendous size and ability to use physicality in his routes make him tough to cover, and the way he uses his body makes me think of Anquan Boldin. He doesn’t have too much short area quickness or speed, but his tremendous height and long arms make him a big target. His powerful body also makes him effective after the catch. Buffalo could definitely use a wide receiver opposite Stevie Johnson. Floyd fits the bill. And fits the Bills.
11. Kansas City Chiefs- Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Figuring out who the Chiefs would draft was hard. Really hard. Right tackle is no longer a need since they signed Eric Winston. Many people have predicted that Dontari Poe would go here as the heir apparent to Kevin Gregg. I like Poe, but I have been trying to make a habit of looking at a team’s tendencies when making mock drafts, and one of the first things I can’t help but notice when looking at the Chiefs’ draft history is that they NEVER draft small school prospects. In both 2010 and 2011, they have waited until their last pick to choose a player who didn’t play in a BCS conference. Yeah, that’s right. Not only do they avoid FCS prospects, but they won’t draft anyone who didn’t play in a big six conference. Even players in the Mountain West aren’t on their wishlist. Some people have suggested Luke Kuechly. Frankly, instincts is Kuechly’s best asset, and switching defensive schemes can only hurt Kuechly’s precious instincts, so I don’t think putting him in a 3-4 is a good idea, plus I don’t trust him in a 3-4 for other reasons that I will not delve into. I don’t see what kind of role Michael Brockers has in a 3-4 anyway, but, regardless, I have a feeling the Chiefs aren’t going to draft another 4-3 defensive tackle with the intention of making him a 3-4 defensive end (see Dorsey, Glenn and Jackson, Tyson). Some have said interior line, with the imminent retirement of Casey Wiegmann and the mediocrity of Ryan Lilja. No center is worth taking here, plus I think the Chiefs still like Rodney Hudson, and Ryan Lilja wasn’t as bad as advertised last year. Enter Kendall Wright, who would be an awesome complement to Dwayne Bowe. Jonathan Baldwin showed absolutely no promise during his rookie season, and Wright is an awesome player. Wright’s stock fell due to a slow 40 time at the NFL combine, but I think the 40 yard dash can be ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, speed is important, but I don’t believe the 40 yard dash is always an accurate measure of speed. Some guys seemingly don’t get slower with the weights of 15 pounds of pads on their body, while some seem very slow while wearing a football uniform. A great example is Antonio Brown, whom I called the most underrated player in the draft two years ago. At the 2010 combine, Antonio Brown saw his stock fall after running a 4.50 40. However, he is a lot faster than that 40 time suggests. Kendall Wright is also much faster than his 4.61 40 suggests. Don’t be surprised if he is the next Antonio Brown. Steve Breaston was decent last year opposite Bowe, but he could be upgraded, and Wright could get the job done.
12. Seattle Seahawks- David DeCastro, G, Stanford
I realize this is a major surprise pick. Most people have Coples going here. I don’t see that happening. Chris Clemons was an excellent defensive end last year. He got 11 sacks and did everything right against the pass. Red Bryant, their strongside defensive end, was also very good, but a very strange player. He was a 328lb run stopper who swallowed every lineman and running back he touched. However, he was a non-factor against the pass. Overall, though, Red Bryant did a great job in his weird role of run stuffing 4-3 defensive end, so, oddly enough, both of Seattle’s defensive ends were good players last year, even though as a team, they were horrible rushing the quarterback. Most would suggest that Bryant moves to defensive tackle, but I believe that is an awfully big transition, and one that would not be easy for him. The Seahawks seem content with 1 pass rusher and 3 run stoppers on their defensive line. It kind of worked last year. Enter David DeCastro, who would fill a need at a major position of weakness for the Seahawks. They probably had the worst guard tandem in the NFL last year (Robert Gallery an John Moffit) and DeCastro is an excellent player. He is a mauling run blocker who also uses great technique on pass plays. He should be just fine in the NFL.
13. Arizona Cardinals- Riley Reiff, T, Iowa
I’m sure the Cardinals would love to see Reiff fall in their laps here. Every Arizona Cardinal offensive tackle who got over 500 snaps (Levi Brown, Brandon Keith, Jeremy Bridges) sucked , and Reiff would be an immediate improvement over all of them. Reiff reminds me of former Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga; both have average height, short arms, and mediocre athleticism, but get by with excellent fundamentals, good hand usage, and solid on field intensity. Bulaga has been excellent in the NFL. I’m sure Reiff will be good as well.
14. Dallas Cowboys- Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
The truth is, the Cowboys don’t really need a nose tackle. However, if they got 1, Jay Ratliff could move to the outside while Poe mans the middle of their 3-4 defense. Many have suggested that the Cowboys would draft a 3-4 outside linebacker, but I don’t see that happening since they franchise tagged Anthony Spencer. I don’t necessarily agree with this decision, but, to me, it shows the Cowboys really have a lot of faith in their 3-4 outside linebacker, Spencer and DeMarcus Ware. I like Poe. Most fans don’t seem to have a high opinion on him, citing mediocre stats against weak competition, but, in Poe’s defense, the fact that he played at Memphis hurt his production more than it helped him. Teams facing Memphis felt comfortable quintuple-teaming Poe (okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration) without having to worry about any other Memphis defenders making a play. Poe is the kind of guy Dallas would get. I am usually very cautious in regards to making a player switch schemes/positions (Poe played a 1 technique in a 4-3), but Dallas is fearless (Sean Lee and Bruce Carter), so Poe is the kind of player they would want for nose tackle. Poe earned the nickname “the dancing bear” after his freaky NFL combine, in which he ran a 4.87 40 at 346lbs while doing 44 bench reps. I haven’t seen a player perform like that at the combine since 2010, when a backflipping defensive end named Jason Pierre-Paul shocked the world with his combine. I think Poe will be fine in the NFL, but he is very raw and his instincts need a lot of work. Luckily, he is raw as a 4-3 defensive tackle and a 3-4 nose tackle, so a scheme change wouldn’t be a big deal.
15. Philadelphia Eagles- Mark Barron, S, Alabama
I feel pretty confident about this pick. I don’t believe Kuechly is going here since the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans. Defensive tackle is an overrated need. Cullen Jenkins was just fine last year, Derek Landri flashed potential in limited playing time, and I feel Mike Patterson will recover from his seizure. I’m an epileptic myself, and I honestly don’t see how seizures can affect an NFL career unless they happen on a weekly basis. When I have a seizure, I usually lose consciousness for 12-18 hours, and I wake up feeling like I just took a nap. Seizures aren’t painful in anyway, and they don’t affect my body’s performance in anyway. As long as Mike Patterson never has a seizure on game day, he should be fine. Enter Mark Barron, who would fill an immediate need at safety. The Eagles had two second year safeties manning the fort last year (Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman). Both of them were below average, but, unlike Coleman, Allen has the physical ability to improve. Coleman is barely average and has already maxed out his potential. He’s 5’10 and not too fast, but he makes the most of his physical ability. Sadly, that’s not enough for Coleman to keep his job. Barron is a good safety prospect who excels against the run. The Adrian Wilson comparisons are apt.
16. New York Jets- Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois
I love Whitney Mercilus. To me, he resembles Aldon Smith but with slightly shorter arms. Last year, I loved Aldon Smith. I was one of the only scouts in the business who didn’t think the 49ers were crazy for choosing him in the top ten. And I believe Mercilus is worthy of a top 10 pick too. What makes Mercilus (and Smith) so special is phenomenal hand usage. Both do a brilliant job of using their long arms to shed off blocks. They were both extremely quick with their hands and used phenomenal fundamentals ahead of their years, and it makes them relentless pass rushers. Many scouts are divided as to what position Mercilus will play in the NFL; 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end. To me, most of his pass rush potential lies in a 3-4, but he will excel stopping the run in a 4-3. The reason why I love him as a pass rusher in a 3-4 is because his hand usage allows him to harass and overwhelm blockers all over the line. His fundamentals allow him to shed blocks against both the strongest and the quickest offensive linemen in the NFL, so he can wreak havoc with 3-4 defensive line stunts and delayed blitzes. Many question whether or not he will be successful in coverage because of his tight hips. I think he’ll be just fine, as long as his primary role in coverage in man coverage against a tight end. Tight ends aren’t exactly fluid athletes, and they won’t be able to expose his tight hips. On the other hand, if he plays in a 3-4 defense, he loses some of his excellent instincts that he used to stop the run. I truly think Mercilus is a fantastic player, and I believe this would be an excellent pick for the Jets, who absolutely need to improve their pass rush.
17. Cincinnati Bengals-Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
I’m not too high on Coples, but this would be great value here. The Bengals could use a defensive end thanks to their nonexistent exterior pass rush. You know your defensive ends suck when a defensive tackle (Geno Atkins) leads the team in sacks. Sure, Atkins was awesome, but not that awesome. Frostee Rucker is gone, Michael Johnson sucks, and the only end who flashed potential on that line (Carlos Dunlap) wasn’t given much playing time. Dunlap looked awesome whenever he was on the field, but the Bengals didn’t let him see the field often. Coples is a solid prospect, but what worries me about him is the fact that he played 3 technique defensive tackle in college. I tend to be a real traditionalist when it comes to positions, but, if Coples wants to play in the NFL, he is almost certainly going to have to move to defensive end. And that’s a big transition. Going from defensive tackle to defensive end means learning all sorts angles, learning new techniques, and redeveloping your instincts, and we can’t be sure that Coples will be able to make the transition. It’s a risk. But, at pick 17, I’d say Coples is (barely) worth the risk.
18. San Diego Chargers- Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
If you read my description of the Jaguars pick, you may recall me saying that Melvin Ingram is in a positional limbo. Many have said the same thing about Courtney Upshaw. But I have just a little bit more faith in Upshaw than I have in Ingram. One, Upshaw already has experience at 3-4 outside linebacker. Two, he is one inch taller than Ingram and his arms are an inch longer. And three, Upshaw’s hips may have looked incredibly stiff at the combine, but that’s largely because he showed up at 272lbs. I think he went into the combine hoping that he would be a defensive end, but I think it’s more likely that he’ll need to lose 20lbs and settle for 3-4 outside linebacker. Other than that, they are similar prospects. Like Mercilus, I love the way Upshaw uses his hands (though he isn’t as good as Mercilus), and I believe that he has underrated strength and he plays with excellent on field intensity. The Chargers are desperate for a pass rush. Upshaw fits the bill.
19. Chicago Bears- Cordy Glenn, G/T, Georgia
No matter what position they use Glenn, this would be a good pick. Frankly, every player on that offensive line sucked last year. I think Glenn would be an upgrade at LT, LG, C, RG, and RT. Sure, he’s never played center in his life, but it’s still hard to imagine him being worse than Roberto Garza at center. The Bears O-line sucked last year. I’m surprised Jay Cutler didn’t die. I like Glenn. As I ranted on about in the Matt Kalil pick, I think it’s ridiculous for teams to have confidence in certain linemen that have never faced a 3-4 defense in their life, considering 40% of the teams in the NFL run a 3-4. For example, Kalil has never blocked a defensive end over 280lbs. In the NFL, roughly 40% of the defensive ends are over 295lbs. How can we be confident that Kalil isn’t going to look like crap the minute he faces someone as big as he is (i.e Justin Smith)? We can’t. However, I believe we can be confident in SEC linemen, since the SEC has more 3-4 defenses than any conference in the country. I believe the exact number is 4 out of 12 (Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss, but I’m not 100% sure about Ole Miss), or 33% of the conference. That’s as close as we’ll get to an NFL like balance. Unlike guys like Kalil, Glenn has actually faced and had some success against some 3-4 defenses. And that’s why I have faith in him.
20. Tennessee Titans- Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
I love Kuechly. I really do. Most people think I’m crazy for having Kuechly falling this far, but not a lot of teams with picks between 10-20 need a 4-3 inside linebacker. I don’t think Kuechly is a good fit in a 3-4, Seattle has David Hawthorne, Philadelphia just got DeMeco Ryans, I thought that the Bengals probably wanted Coples more than Kuechly (plus I don’t think they will give up on Maualuga), and the Bears have Urlacher. Admittedly, the Bengals become a possibility if Coples goes to Seattle, and the Bears could choose Kuechly if they want an heir apparent to Urlacher, but, as it stands right now, I don’t expect either of those things to happen. If Kuechly falls here, Tennessee will be set with about 6 years of the best linebacker core in the NFL. Colin McCarthy, a rookie from Miami last year, has the athleticism and potential to move to the weakside (although he did just fine as a middle linebacker), while Kuechly plays middle linebacker and Akeem Ayers holds down the strong side. I loved McCarthy out of college and, even though I hate position changes, I am 100% confident he could move and play very well as a weakside linebacker, and, paired up with Kuechly and Ayers, Tennessee could have a terrifying linebacker core. I love Kuechly. He brings new definition to the word “tackle.” Stats just say whether or not players make tackles or miss tackles. Luke Kuechly doesn’t make tackles. Luke Kuechly creates tackles. I swear, the guy finds so many fantastic ways to get to the ball carrier. His instincts are off the charts. If I were to compare him to anyone, I would say Sean Lee, the former Penn State middle linebacker. Lee has been very good in the NFL (although he probably shouldn’t have gone to a team that runs a 3-4, because it shows off his limitations in man coverage), and Kuechly should be a bit better. Kuechly was more athletic out of college and didn’t have durability issues. Other than that, they are similar prospects. One other thing I’d like to clear up; I think the idea of Tennessee going after a corner is crazy. Even after losing Finnegan, they still have Jason McCourty, one of the better corners in the NFL, and Alterraun Verner, a player whom I had a man crush on out of college. Verner has been great in the NFL in limited playing time. Kuechly would be a great pick for Tennessee.
21. Cincinnati Bengals- Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
If this mock draft comes true, than Cincinnati would have had the best draft class of any team in recent memory. Quinton Coples and Stephon Gilmore is a dream scenario for them. I love Stephon Gilmore. I think he is Charles Woodson with less ball skills. I love big corners. I believe they are the secret key to a well disguised blitz scheme because of their ability to jam receivers off the line of scrimmage and make the receivers take extra time to get into their routes, allowing safeties to cheat up on the line of scrimmage knowing that they have the extra time to get deep into a cover 2 deep zone because the receiver will take a long time to get into their route. And the position on the field of the safety can tell a quarterback when a blitz is coming, as reference in that article. Gilmore is awesome, and the Bengals need a corner. Their are questions regarding the health of Leon Hall, and, frankly, they needed a corner anyway. This would be a spectacular pick for the Bengals.
22. Cleveland Browns- Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford
As I mentioned with Kalil, I don’t really believe in drafting offensive linemen in the first round these days. I think it’s way too risky. Like Kalil, Martin has never faced a defensive end his own size in his life. Thanks to the rise of the 3-4 defense, 40% of the defensive ends in the NFL are over 295lbs. There is no way to guarantee that Martin will be able to handle these guys. On the bright side, Martin played right tackle, as opposed to left tackle, in college. That means he faced bigger defensive ends than Kalil. Martin actually even got the opportunity to block Trevor Guyton, a 285lb 3-4 end from Cal. Guyton is a solid NFL prospect too, who is likely to be roughly a 4th round pick in this year’s draft. Guyton only got 2 tackles in the game. With Martin, at least we have some reason to believe he can block someone his own size, unlike Kalil, who has never touched anyone over 280lbs in his life. But I still think it’s a risky pick. If I had to compare Martin to anyone, I’d say Derek Sherrod with more length. He’s taller and his arms are longer, but both are excellent waist benders that play with respectable on field intensity and are fundamentally sound. After releasing Tony Pashos, tackle became a major need for the Browns. Many will argue that the Browns need a wide receiver, but, frankly, Holmgren never drafts wide receivers or quarterbacks in the first round. To be honest, I’m not all that confident they’ll draft Trent Richardson. Admittedly, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy Holmgren would pick. However, I do have confidence in the fact that they will take Martin. It is the kind of move Holmgren would make.
23. Detroit Lions- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
I might as well copy-past much of my reasoning with Stephon Gilmore to Cincinnati with this pick. I love Kirkpatrick. I love big corners. I believe they are the secret key to a well disguised blitz scheme because of their ability to jam receivers off the line of scrimmage and make the receivers take extra time to get into their routes, allowing safeties to cheat up on the line of scrimmage knowing that they have the extra time to get deep into a cover 2 deep zone because the receiver will take a long time to get into their route. And the position on the field of the safety can tell a quarterback when a blitz is coming, as reference in that article. Kirkpatrick is awesome, and the Lions need a corner. Now, of course, the Lions don’t draft for need, but I would argue that Kirkpatrick is the best player available here, which works out well for the Lions. Kirkpatrick is as tall as corners get. The only corner in the NFL who is as big as Kirkpatrick but and the hip flexibility to remain at corner instead of moving to safety is Nnamdi Asomugha. I sincerely believe Kirkpatrick has the hip flexibility to stay at corner. If it weren’t for his character issues in regards to the marijuana arrest, I think Kirkpatrick would be a top ten pick. This is great value for the Lions.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers- Donta’ Hightower, ILB, Alabama
If I’m a 3-4 for defensive coordinator, Donta’ Hightower is a once-in-a-lifetime value pick that I would be clamoring for. Donta’ Hightower can play a huge role in the Steelers defense. I believe one of the most underrated positions in the NFL is 3-4 inside linebacker. 3-4 inside linebackers essentially need to know how to play inside linebacker and outside linebacker since blitzes are so common in a 3-4. The coverage responsibilities are huge. Take Brian Cushing for example. He needs to have the instincts and run stopping ability of an inside linebacker, but he also need the size and athleticism necessary to hold his own in man coverage against a tight end whenever Brooks Reed blitzes. That’s a big role. Inside linebackers are never asked to cover a tight end or running back, unless they are in a 3-4 defense. That’s a huge responsibility, but I actually think Hightower can handle it. One, he already has experience playing 3-4 inside linebacker. I’m not sure if I’ve ever scouted a player who already had experience at 3-4 inside linebacker in college. He already knows what it is like to cover a tight end while Courtney Upshaw us blitzing. Two, I think he has the size, wingspan, and athleticism to be respectable in man coverage against a tight end at the next level. That’s big. Last year, James Farrior and Larry Foote split time at 3-4 strongside inside linebacker. Neither of them had the size and athleticism to cover a tight end when Lamarr Woodley blitzed. If the Steelers were to draft Hightower, Mike Tomlin would have the freedom to do something he has never been able to do before in his career with the Steelers; call for a Lamarr Woodley blitz without having to worry about the tight end. Donta’ Hightower will take care of the tight end. And he will be a fantastic player for the Steelers.
25. Denver Broncos- Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
I finally took Brockers off the board. To be blunt, I have no idea why anybody has a high opinion of Brockers. No matter how much film I watch, I can’t see what there is to like. The only think I see is incredible length. His arms are crazy long, which gives him potential to develop dominant pass rush moves. I don’t like everything else I’ve seen from him. His quickness is awful and his strength is mediocre. But I need to conform a little bit. Everyone else has Brockers as a first round prospect. I’m going to have to bite the bullet, and put him in the first round, whether I want to or not. Denver is incredibly desperate for a defensive tackle, especially one who can rush the quarterback. Ryan McBean sucks, Brodrick Bunkley is gone and Marcus Thomas is completely useless on pass plays. This pick makes some sense.
26. Houston Texans- Lavonte David, ILB, Nebraska
This may come as a surprise, but I believe Lavonte David could be an awesome player for the Texans. To all fans; as a general rule of thumb, any player who is listed as an outside linebacker on some draft sites but an inside linebacker on others is usually a great fit for 3-4 inside weakside linebacker. Daryl Washington, Lawrence Timmons, and David are all similar in the respect that scouts are divided as to what position they will play, namely, inside versus outside linebacker. David, Timmons, and Washington are very athletic but are seemingly too undersized for 4-3 weakside outside linebacker. All three of them are generously listed at 6’1, and none of them are too bulky. Typically, when a team has an undersized linebacker, you put him on the inside, simply because they are too small to dominate at the point of attack and can be driven off the ball by tackles on run plays. But putting a guy like David on the inside is a tough pill to swallow; David has the speed and athleticism to cover a running back or even a slot receiver, which is rare to see in a linebacker. Inside linebackers are rarely asked to do much in coverage and they don’t need to be athletic. At 4-3 inside linebacker, his 4.56 40 and excellent coverage skills will be wasted. But, if he plays in a 3-4, his athleticism will go to good use. Whenever a blitz is called, David has the versatility to essentially act like an outside linebacker while the normal outside linebacker is blitzing. Take the Steelers for example. The base defense has James Harrison, the weakside outside linebacker, in man coverage against a running back or, in rare cases, a slot receiver (normally, if a team has three receivers on the field, the defense will just bring in a nickelback). When James Harrison blitzed, Lawrence Timmons, the weakside inside linebacker, took on his coverage responsibilities. It’s really tough for teams that run a 3-4 to find an inside linebacker athletic enough to succeed in man coverage against a running back while the outside linebacker is blitzing. Like Washington and Timmons, David can be that 3-4 weakside inside linebacker that can really help in coverage during a blitz. As a result, David can be incredibly useful to any team that runs a 3-4 defense. He’ll be just as good as Washington and Timmons. Brian Cushing is a phenomenal strongside inside linebacker, who does a good job of covering tight ends whenever Brooks Reed blitzes. But, as a result of the DeMeco Ryans trade, the Texans could use an inside linebacker who can cover running backs whenever Connor Barwin blitzes. David will be that guy. He is one of the most athletic, productive linebackers I have ever seen. This would be a fantastic pick for the Texans.
27. New England Patriots- Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
I personally have no idea what defense New England is going to run next season. Last year, during the regular season, they used a 4-3 defense for the first time in year. However, during the postseason, they switched back to a 3-4. I have no idea which defense they will use last year. As a result of my uncertainty regarding the Patriots scheme, I decided I would mock Nick Perry here, since he actually could work in both defenses. Whether they plan to run a 3-4 or a 4-3, Nick Perry makes sense. Nick Perry has been maddeningly inconsistent in his career, but, in 2011, for the first time in his career, he started to stop the run. I was impressed. He’s also a very athletic prospect, who could play 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end. I personally would choose defensive end, simply because he already has experience there, but, no matter what, Nick Perry should be a decent player.
28. Green Bay Packers- Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
It didn’t take me long to narrow down the Packers options here. I quickly decided it would be either McClellin or Andre Branch. I decided to go with McClellin since he really fits the profile of a Packers pick. When the Packers draft outside linebackers, they tend to be undersized, quick but not fast, and major overachievers in college who always knew how to make the most of their physical ability. Clay Matthews, Ricky Elmore, and Frank Zombo fit this description. So does Shea McClellin. I liked what I saw from McClellin in college. His quickness is undeniable, he plays with excellent on field intensity, and he also does a decent job against the run. He would be immediately useful for the Packers.
29. Baltimore Ravens- Bobby Massie, T, Ole Miss
The Ravens are desperate for help on their O-line, and Massie could fit the bill. As mentioned in the explanation for the Cordy Glenn pick, I like SEC offensive linemen, since they are the only linemen in the country who actually face a reasonable number of 3-4 defenses. Every position on the O-line is a need for the Ravens. Center Matt Birk is ancient, and won’t be around forever. They couldn’t resign Ben Grubbs, so they need a guard. Michael Oher is the subject of a good movie, but he’s not a good football player. He had a great rookie season, but he has struggled ever since. The Ravens other tackle, Bryant McKinnie, is mediocre, and he’s only going to get worse, given the fact that he is 32 years of age. Bobby Massie can’t fill every need, but he can at least help at tackle. Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler and Wisconsin center Peter Konz are also possibilities here.
30. San Francisco 49ers- Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
When it comes to guys like Zeitler, Konz, and even Carimi last year, I follow the not-so-old adage “you can’t go wrong with a Wisconsin offensive linemen.” It’s very true. Their O-line is always the best in college football. That O-line actually made (insert name of Wisconsin running back here) look good, when, in reality, he sucks. Their running backs are mediocre at best. But that offensive line can really run block with the best of them, and they’re not too shabby on pass plays either. Zeitler is an excellent run blocker with good strength. He also plays with excellent on field intensity. He lacks any kind of quickness though, which really hurts him as a pass blocker, and his arms are extremely short. But he should be a good replacement to the crappy Adam Snyder for the 49ers this year.
31. New England Patriots- Kelechi Osemele, G/T, Iowa State
I know what you are thinking. I must be crazy for putting Kelechi Osemele in the first round. Give me a chance to defend myself. First of all, let’s be honest; there is absolutely no point in mocking both Patriots picks. There is a 99% chance that they will trade down with at least one of their picks. In reality, I think this pick will happen if the Patriots trade down to the early to mid second round. Secondly, Bill Belichick and I have always seen eye-to-eye in regards to our opinion of offensive linemen (I loved Nate Solder). And frankly, I love Osemele. Thirdly, this is no crazier than James Carpenter being a first round pick. I can’t emphasize this enough: I love Osemele. I think he is a future pro bowler. His arms are quite literally longer than my legs: 35 and 7/8th inches (I’m pretty short). The only player I remember having longer arms than that at the combine was Tyron Smith last year, whom I believe had arms 36 inches long. A wingspan like Osemele’s is tough to find. In spite of his long arms (if you want to know why I said “in spite,” read the Fletcher Cox to Carolina pick), he did an impressive 32 bench reps at the combine, and his awesome strength is easy to recognize on film. Some suggest he may become a guard. I believe that, if he becomes a guard, he will become an All-Pro guard, but I still don’t think right tackle is out of the question. Many say he lacks the foot speed to play tackle. I’ll admit he has less foot speed than most tackles, but I believe that his size makes up for at least some of his limited mobility. I’ve never seen an offensive linemen that creates as wide a base as Osemele does. He is built like a brick wall. And he doesn’t necessarily need to have quick feet to excel as a pass blocker. House don’t move, but it takes a long time to get all the way around them. Osemele, of course, isn’t as wide as a house, but he is as close as any offensive lineman will get to being the width of a house. And that size will make up for some of his lack of lateral mobility. I love the way he plays the game. He plays with excellent on field intensity, and he has shocking strength along with respectable on field awareness. I think, as a tackle, he could really dominate 3-4 defensive ends, and I think he would be a great player for the Patriots.
32. New York Giants- Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
The Giants have a history of always drafting the best player available. I would say the best player available is Andre Branch. Call me crazy, but, my gut is telling me that the Giants aren’t going to be looking for a pass rushing defensive end in the first round of the draft. So I settled on Harrison Smith, who would fill a major need for the Giants. Antrel Rolle sucks. Plain and simple. He is just crappy in coverage. One of the worst coverage safeties in the NFL. Harrison Smith would be an immediate upgrade. He’s an excellent run stopper with good strength and instincts. The only thing he lacks in my mind is quickness and athleticism with the ball in the air. But he isn’t going to blow any assignments in coverage, and he rarely drops interceptions. I expect him to be a solid player in the NFL. The Giants will be just fine if they draft him.