Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Ever since the NFL Scouting Combine
concluded, many top prospects have climbed up and plummeted down draft boards.
Plenty of rumors have made the rounds, and it's been difficult to distinguish
truth from lies when examining quotes from NFL front office personnel.
Starting Thursday night, there will be no more secrets or smoke screens. The
2012 NFL Draft is upon us, and here's a final look at one way Thursday's first
round might play out.
1. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: ANDREW LUCK, QB, STANFORD
A contract has yet to be signed, but the Colts are a lock to pick Luck, who
will try to fill Peyton Manning's shoes. Some have called him the top
quarterback prospect in the draft since John Elway. Hey, at least they're not
putting any pressure on the kid.
2. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (from St. Louis Rams): ROBERT GRIFFIN III, QB, BAYLOR
Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner, will be compared to Luck throughout both
players' careers. Luck is the consensus top prospect, and he could very well
end up with the superior career, but Griffin is the more likely to succeed in
2012 because the Redskins are currently a more complete team than the Colts.
The Redskins gave the Rams a king's ransom to acquire this pick, but no one
will criticize the move if Griffin turns into a franchise quarterback.
3. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: MATT KALIL, OT, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Since the Vikings have three or four prospects they'd consider drafting here,
a trade down is possible. Maybe the Rams would move up for Alabama running
back Trent Richardson. Perhaps someone will move up here to secure Texas A&M
quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
In the end, though, I think teams will balk at the price it would cost to
trade up to No. 3. If the Vikings keep the pick, it would make sense to take
Kalil, the draft's top-rated left tackle, which also happens to be the team's
biggest need. Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon would be possibilities,
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS: TRENT RICHARDSON, RB, ALABAMA
Plenty of people figure this will be Ryan Tannehill's landing spot. I don't
think the Browns see him as enough of an upgrade over incumbent QB Colt McCoy,
whose struggles could be blamed largely on Cleveland's shortcomings at wide
receiver and running back.
A No. 1 receiver is probably the bigger need, but wide receiver is the draft's
deepest position and the Browns could easily grab one at pick No. 22. It's too
hard to pass up on Richardson, who could instantly become one of the league's
top five running backs.
5. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: MORRIS CLAIBORNE, CB, LOUISIANA STATE
Perhaps the Bucs' front office's hearts will sink a little when Richardson
goes to the Browns, but Claiborne will be a nice consolation prize. Ronde
Barber's likely in his final season, and Aqib Talib is facing a June trial
that could affect his availability for all or part of the 2012 season.
Cornerback is a huge need, and taking the best one in the draft at No. 5 is
certainly worth it, especially when you're playing in a division against Drew
Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton.
6. ST. LOUIS RAMS (from Washington): JUSTIN BLACKMON, WR, OKLAHOMA STATE
This could be a real wild card spot in the first round for several reasons.
The Rams have plenty of needs, and they reportedly like Blackmon and defensive
tackle Fletcher Cox a lot. They also covet Trent Richardson, which would
require a trade up to No. 3 or No. 4. Don't count it out, though, because the
deal with Washington gave St. Louis plenty of ammunition to move up.
In the end, I think the Rams will stay put and draft Sam Bradford a go-to
receiver, which he has sorely lacked.
7. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (projected trade with Jacksonville): FLETCHER COX, DT,
If the Eagles are targeting a defensive tackle, one could argue that they
should stay at No. 15 and still draft a quality one. That's probably what
they'll do if the Rams take Cox at No. 6.
If the Rams don't, though, the Eagles could make the bold move up. They'd have
to surrender their Nos. 15 and 46 picks, but it'd be worth it. Cox is a
perfect fit for the Eagles' wide-nine defense, and this team is built to win
now. A Dontari Poe or Michael Brockers, for instance, would be more of a
gamble. No need to gamble when you're just a couple of pieces away, especially
when you would still have a second-round pick you'd keep (No. 51, which the
Eagles obtained in last year's Kevin Kolb trade).
8. MIAMI DOLPHINS: RYAN TANNEHILL, QB, TEXAS A&M
You never know. Miami traded Brandon Marshall to the Bears at the start of
free agency, so wide receiver is a big need, too. So is defensive end, since
the Dolphins plan to transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense.
If the Dolphins have the chance to pick Tannehill and pass, that would seem to
be a knock on his abilities. Miami's new offensive coordinator is Mike
Sherman, who coached Tannehill at Texas A&M. Surely, Sherman would believe in
him and jump at the chance to work with him again in the NFL, right?
9. NEW YORK JETS (projected trade with Carolina): MELVIN INGRAM, OLB, SOUTH
It's been remarkable that the Jets have fielded a top-five defense in all
three of Rex Ryan's years at the helm, even though they've never possessed a
standout individual pass rusher. The Jets have plenty of other needs (safety,
right tackle and wide receiver immediately come to mind), but the guess here
is that New York will finally address the lack of a big-time pass rushing
Ryan had Adalius Thomas in Baltimore, and now, for the price of the Nos. 16
and 47 picks (with the Jets' also getting the Panthers' fourth-round selection
in the swap), New York will find Ingram too good a fit to pass up. His pass
rush ability as a 3-4 outside linebacker would probably be more of sure thing
than standing pat and taking someone like Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Mercilus or
A trade down to select someone like Nick Perry, Shea McClellin, Vinny Curry or
Andre Branch is possible, too, with Detroit possibly moving up to secure a
10. BUFFALO BILLS: MICHAEL FLOYD, WR, NOTRE DAME
It's hard not to like what the Bills did to improve their defense through free
agency, but now it's time to upgrade the offense. Left tackle is probably the
Bills' biggest need, but it's going to be tough for offensive guru Chan Gailey
to pass up the playmaking skills of Floyd, who could be a Vincent Jackson
clone at wide receiver.
The problem with the available left tackle prospects is that none are likely
worth the No. 10 pick. Iowa's Riley Reiff is a popular mock selection here,
but some scouts question his ability to play left tackle. This might also be
too high to consider Cordy Glenn or Jonathan Martin.
11. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: DONTARI POE, NT, MEMPHIS
This is another wild card spot in the first round. On the one hand, Boston
College linebacker Luke Kuechly or Stanford guard David DeCastro are the kind
of productive, high-character, low-risk players general manager Scott Pioli
usually drafts. On the other hand, the team's biggest need is nose tackle,
which is traditionally one of the hardest positions to fill. A 346-pound,
athletic hole-plugger like Dontari Poe doesn't grow on trees.
If the Chiefs stay put at No. 11, it's going to be hard to pass up a
potentially dominating nose tackle.
12. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: LUKE KUECHLY, LB, BOSTON COLLEGE
The Seahawks' top need is probably inside linebacker, so this would be a
perfect match. A trade up to get Ryan Tannehill is a rumor, too, and there's a
chance Kuechly will be off the board at the time of this pick. If he's not,
though, he should be the selection.
13. ARIZONA CARDINALS: DAVID DECASTRO, OG, STANFORD
Plenty of scouts consider DeCastro one of the surest things in this draft. The
Cardinals need to bolster their offensive line, so this could be the pick,
especially if Michael Floyd and Melvin Ingram are off the board. They could
really use a tackle more than a guard, but they'll likely value DeCastro over
available tackles like Cordy Glenn and Riley Reiff, although Glenn would be a
good fit, too, with the versatility to play either tackle or guard.
14. DALLAS COWBOYS: MARK BARRON, S, ALABAMA
Dallas has been linked to quite a few players at this spot, and it might opt
for the second best cornerback in the draft here. Still, I believe Dallas'
interest in Barron is real, since safety is a need position, too, and he is
better than the next best safety prospects by a wide margin.
Dallas might even be able to draft a cornerback like Janoris Jenkins in the
second (or even third) round, if his projected free fall down draft boards
comes to fruition. Jerry Jones doesn't shy away from players with character
15. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (projected trade with Philadelphia): STEPHON GILMORE,
CB, SOUTH CAROLINA
The Jaguars trade down and still get a player they would have considered at
No. 7, since Gilmore is reportedly the No. 1-rated cornerback on their board.
The defensive line will still need to be addressed, but the projected trade
with the Eagles would give Jacksonville an additional second-round pick with
which it could do just that.
16. CAROLINA PANTHERS (projected trade with New York Jets): QUINTON COPLES,
DE, NORTH CAROLINA
This turns out to be a good deal for the Panthers, whose needs on the
defensive line might have led them to consider taking Coples at No. 9.
Although he has been an underachiever, most scouts would agree he has top-10
talent. Whether he ever realizes that potential, well, that's why they say
the draft is a crap shoot.
17. CINCINNATI BENGALS: DRE KIRKPATRICK, CB, ALABAMA
Character concerns could result in Kirkpatrick dropping a bit in the first
round, but the Bengals would be getting good value here. The pick fills a
major need, too.
18. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: CORDY GLENN, OT, GEORGIA
The Chargers could use a powerful run blocker at the right tackle position,
and the 345-pound Glenn would fit the description. He's also played guard at
Georgia, so his versatility should only make him a more attractive option.
19. CHICAGO BEARS: MICHAEL BROCKERS, DT, LOUISIANA STATE
A defensive end like Mercilus, Chandler Jones or Nick Perry would be an
interesting option, and so would a wide receiver like Rueben Randle, Kendall
Wright or Stephen Hill. The value of Brockers this late in the first round
would be tough to pass up, though. The 322-pounder has great athletic ability
and potential. If he lives up to it, he could be a steal here.
20. TENNESSEE TITANS: WHITNEY MERCILUS, DE, ILLINOIS
This is a tough call, because the Titans could really use a cornerback,
defensive tackle or offensive guard, too. There is some concern that Mercilus
was a one-year wonder in college, but he lived up to his last name in 2011
with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles against quality competition.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS: COURTNEY UPSHAW, LB/DE, ALABAMA
The Bengals probably weren't expecting Upshaw to drop this far, but Marvin
Lewis could find a way to utilize him on a young and improving defense. Maybe
he won't ever be an elite pass rusher, but Upshaw is a solid football player
who could move around into a number of different roles.
22. CLEVELAND BROWNS: RUEBEN RANDLE, WR, LOUISIANA STATE
In another effort to add skill position players to finally help out
quarterback Colt McCoy, the Browns will have a crack at all but the top two
receivers who are off the board (Blackmon and Floyd). They could go with
potentially big deep threats like Wright or Hill, but Randle would probably be
a better fit in Cleveland's West Coast offense.
23. DETROIT LIONS: RILEY REIFF, OT, IOWA
Not expected to drop this far, Reiff is someone the Lions could pounce on,
play at right tackle immediately and groom to eventually replace left tackle
Jeff Backus. Cornerback is also a big need, but the thought is that Janoris
Jenkins' baggage will keep him out of the first round. A trade up to snag
Gilmore or Kirkpatrick is also possible if the Lions can find a partner.
24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: DONT'A HIGHTOWER, LB, ALABAMA
Hard-nosed linebackers have been a Pittsburgh trademark, and Hightower seems
built in the Steelers' mold. Pittsburgh also needs to get younger on the
defensive line, but the inside linebacker talent pool drops off significantly
after Hightower. The Steelers could plug him right into the lineup.
25. DENVER BRONCOS: DOUG MARTIN, RB, BOISE STATE
John Fox likes to have a stable of capable running backs. With Peyton Manning
bringing a pass-first philosophy to the organization, Martin would be a good
fit because of his pass protection skills and three-down ability. The
questions are whether Martin will get past the Bengals, who also need a
running back, and whether the Broncos will instead address defensive tackle at
26. HOUSTON TEXANS: KENDALL WRIGHT, WR, BAYLOR
Offensive line could be a consideration here, but the Texans will have a tough
time passing up the chance to finally pick a wide receiver that would be a
perfect complement to Andre Johnson.
27. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: SHEA MCCLELLIN, LB/DE, BOISE STATE
McClellin, rising up draft boards quickly, would be a great fit with the
Patriots because of his versatility. New England alternates between the 3-4
and 4-3 quite a bit, and McClellin would be able to stay on the field in
28. GREEN BAY PACKERS: NICK PERRY, DE, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
The Packers could go with an offensive lineman here, and there are several
pretty good ones available, but they'll most likely place a higher priority on
finding a pass rusher to line up opposite Clay Matthews. Perry is arguably the
best choice left to provide that skill.
29. BALTIMORE RAVENS: KEVIN ZEITLER, G, WISCONSIN
The Ravens need to get younger at linebacker and in the secondary, and they
could also use a wide receiver. Still, Zeitler would make plenty of sense
because he's the kind of mauler Baltimore likes at guard, which became a big
need when Ben Grubbs was lost in free agency. Ravens center Matt Birk is also
36, and Zeitler has the versatility to slide over to that position in the
30. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: AMINI SILATOLU, G, MIDWESTERN STATE
It could be tempting to take a wide receiver like Hill, but guard is probably
the 49ers' top need. Drafting Division II mauler Silatolu would arguably give
San Francisco the league's best young offensive line.
31. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: KENDALL REYES, DT, CONNECTICUT
The popular belief is that the Patriots won't make both of their first-round
selections, given Bill Belichick's affinity for moving down and stockpiling
picks. That's possible, but with Tom Brady not getting any younger, it might
be time to put considerably more emphasis on the present than the future. To
that end, Reyes would be a welcomed addition, since he would fit nicely next
to Vince Wilfork as a versatile player who can serve as both a 3-4 end and 4-3
32. NEW YORK GIANTS: CHANDLER JONES, DE, SYRACUSE
Ah, the luxury of being the defending champion and able to simply draft the
best player available. The only "problem" is there are so many possibilities
here: Hill if the Giants want to get a wide receiver replacement for Mario
Manningham, Mike Adams, Jonathan Martin or Peter Konz if they want to bolster
the offensive line, and so on. When in doubt, the Giants usually go for the
pass rusher, and Jones' stock has been steadily rising the past few weeks.
Jeff Saukaitis is a former Sports Network writer/editor who has been a
professional sportswriter since 1985.
The Sports Network