Few utterly meaningless exercises engender more amusement, hysteria and rage than the mock NFL draft. Everyone has their concrete ideas of what will happen, they study their brains out, deciphering proper slotting according to how they view a particular prospect, team need and/or evaluation method, and finding just the right fit at each spot…and then it all goes completely to hell at pick 3. Seriously, nobody knows anything beyond the first couple of picks. In part, this is because at this time of year in the NFL, misinformation is king, and we’re all having ungodly amounts of smoke blown up our collective wazoo. Even those guys with the flawless hair on TV don’t have great success picking who will go where. And don’t even get me started on trying to predict trades. Remember how Shanahan and the Redskins were going to move up for or select one of the many first-round-ready quarterbacks in last year’s draft? Yeah. They took Ryan Kerrigan at 16. Meanwhile, my mock at the top is way too similar to many others, meaning there’s no chance it happens this way because we all fell for the smoke. Got it? Good.
For this Sickness 2012 Mock, there will be a couple of simple ground rules. First: no trades. I’ll mention where appropriate when I think trades are likely or at least more plausible, but that’s it. I’m not trying to go insane attempting to predict the whims of NFL executives. I’m guessing strictly based on my wholly amateur opinion of (1) prospect value and (2) team need and/or history. Second, I try and take into account what a team’s schemes are, and not just throw guys to a team because they need someone at a given position. There’s no point mocking a 3-4 OLB to the Eagles, for example. Different teams are looking for different things, and while I don’t pretend to understand every minute detail of most teams’ philosophies, just know that some marginal thought has gone into the thing. Third, I’m making the traditional guesswork prediction, and then telling you what I would do were I in charge of each team. Full disclosure: I’m not even pretending I have any idea what most of them actually will do. Lastly: we’re here to have fun. I know some of these make no sense. Have you tried this nonsense?!? Mock me all you wish. My skin is thick and my helmet is on!
1. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Guesswork Prediction- Andrew Luck, QB (Stanford). Throw me in with the lot who consider him the most complete, non-speculative, outstanding prospect since John Elway. Luck provides a decision-maker with the comfort of knowing his pre-snap read, adjustment and anticipatory skills have already been tested at an NFL level. A superior athlete in his own right, Luck has the stature to hang in the pocket and shed sacks and the ability to make huge plays outside the pocket and running with the football. The Colts go from one once-in-a-generation QB to the next. They’ve already told us so.
If I Were GM: Luck.
2. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Robert Griffin III, QB (Baylor). Another foregone QB conclusion, and easily the story to watch going forward in the NFL for 2012. If he becomes what the Redskins obviously expect him to given the haul they gave up to get him, he will be a transformative figure in NFL history. Kick your feet up. Watch. Enjoy. Unless you’re a defensive coordinator. In which case, ready thyself. Watch that zone boot. Watch the play-action off the stretch look. Good luck.
If I Were GM: RGIII. (Technically, since I’m a Browns fan, maybe I’d take Matt Kalil here and let Grif fall to 4. Heh. (Damn it.))
3. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Matt Kalil, OT (USC). Rumors of trade possibilities are heating up in all corners as of this writing, and nothing would surprise me. The Rams originally held the keys to the draft, but have long since removed that suspense by making the Griffin trade weeks before the draft. As a result, the Vikes have their choice of a franchise left tackle or an elite corner. As it so happens, they are in desperate need of both in this new passing NFL, and either would be a perfectly reasonable choice. But Kalil not only carries additional premium because he protects the QB’s blind side and has NFL bloodlines, he’s generally considered the superior prospect. This shouldn’t be a tough card for the purple to turn in, but if they don’t take Kalil, heads’ up…because the draft is about to get really interesting.
If I Were GM: Kalil. (Sickness First Commandment: Protect Thy Quarterback.)
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Trent Richardson, RB (Alabama). I go back and forth daily between Richardson, Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne, each of whom I think would be an excellent fit. But ultimately, the Browns need to do two things if they are to live with Colt McCoy for even one more season (as it appears that they might). First, they must shorten the game. Second, they must score more touchdowns. Richardson will help with both. And while I’m not arguing about the general devaluation of the RB position (See the fine piece here by Shawn Siegele), I think exceptions to most rules exist, and Richardson is one to that “rule.” (Many call this stupid. I call it betting against the house. Again, if I can get LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice production at #4…am I bumming that hard?) If Richardson isn’t there, I would guess a trade down or Blackmon.
If I Were GM: Richardson.
5. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Morris Claiborne, CB (LSU). In this scenario the Bucs end up with the draft’s top corner and a potential top-flight starter at a key position (especially in a division inhabited by Drew Brees, Matthew Ryan, Cam Newton and friends). They might be interested in Justin Blackmon, but in my view Claiborne is the better prospect. He plays one of the premium positions, and he’s ready to step in and do the job for which he’ll be drafted on day 1. There’s one other reason: the Bucs have gotten far too old and too non-law-abiding in recent years. This will help re-set the course of the Bucs’ ship.
If I Were GM: Claiborne.
6. ST. LOUIS RAMS: Fletcher Cox, DT (Miss. St.). A lot of noise about this one, which makes me wonder. But Cox is a heck of a talent. And I do seem to recall Fisher having outstanding defensive lines in Tennessee.
If I Were GM: Justin Blackmon. I’d be thinking about trading up to 3 for Kalil, because Sam Bradford ain’t making that new-CBA, slotted rookie money. No, sir. I’ve got big cash in Sammy B, I’m committed to him, and I need to make damn sure I keep division foes like the San Francisco Smiths, the New Orleans…well…y’know…and the sometimes dominant Seahawk front four off his ass. If Kalil is here (and there is a chance), I’d pull that trigger. Otherwise, I’m equipping him with my favorite of the top receivers.
7. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Stephon Gilmore, CB (South Carolina). The Jags seem like as good a bet for a trade as any team in the top 10, so let’s get that out there. Maybe the Jets come up for a Melvin Ingram, or someone else antsy for a corner or offensive tackle. But here, they’re stuck. Wideout is certainly a major need, so Blackmon and Floyd would have to be on the radar. But I still think those corners and pass rushers get pushed up the board, and the Jags could use one of each. Alfie Crow and Peter King beat me to the Stephon Gilmore call (and undoubtedly with infinitely more actual information at hand), but I feel no need to be original here.
If I Were GM: Melvin Ingram. I’m just a believer and think he fits anywhere. I’m probably crazy.
Much of the draft fun will turn on where this dude lands.
8. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Ryan Tannehill, QB (Texas A & M). I honestly have no idea here. Just riding the wave. (Tannehill & Grudes.)
If I Were GM: Probably Tannehill. But I’d be nervous as hell. Blackmon and Floyd would be my other options.
9. CAROLINA PANTHERS: Quentin Coples, DE/DT (North Carolina). Like I said, these guys get pushed up the board. Butch Davis may be known for a lot of things, but let’s not forget that one of them is coaching up quality D-Linemen, and knowing talent at these positions. Coples has plenty. Questions about his motor and tendency to play too upright are totally valid, but so are observations of his considerable ability. Freakishly athletic and versatile enough to play inside or out, someone is going to find Coples well worth the gamble sooner rather than later.
If I Were GM: Michael Floyd. Cam is a special passer, and I like Brandon LaFell a lot. But I also know that Steve Smith can’t play forever and Floyd has dominant potential. I’d take him…then I’d go defense the rest of the draft.
10. BUFFALO BILLS: Justin Blackmon, WR (Oklahoma St.) First, a note: I could see the Bills trading up for someone like Kalil or taking Tannehill if he fell this far. But since I’m not predicting trades…Blackmon would be fantastic opposite Stevie Johnson. Ryan Fitzpatrick would know exactly how to work the ball to Blackmon and to utilize the Oklahoma State star’s Dr. Octopus-like catch radius and aggression for the football. He’s also a nightmare in the open field and often takes more than one small man to bring down. Most mocks have him going higher, and with good reason. But I think there’s a chance he falls with a perception that he is not quite the elite athlete that, say, AJ Green and Julio Jones were a year ago (they went 4 and 6, respectively).
If I Were GM: Again. Melvin Ingram. He’d look nice behind that devastating D-line they’re building. Or book-ending it on certain downs.
11. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: David DeCastro, G (Stanford). I had Dontari Poe in here, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. He doesn’t dominate on tape despite his fantastic measurables and combine workout. Plus, DeCastro is a surefire decade-long starter on the interior line and will help grind out yards with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis pounding through the holes.
If I Were GM: DeCastro.
12. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB (South Carolina). Finally. Coach Pete gets a new toy.
If I Were GM: Ingram. Was that not clear?
13. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Reily Reiff, OT (Iowa). The Cardinals have to protect whomever their quarterback will be, this year and in the future.
IF I Were GM: Floyd. I’m in the minority, but I don’t see Reiff as a surefire left tackle, and would have a tough time taking him here as a result. And Fitz desperately wants Floyd. This would fit.
14. DALLAS COWBOYS: Mark Barron, S (Alabama). All the consensus picks, like the Cowboys taking a defensive back here, make me uncomfortable. It’s just too easy. But they do need ‘em. Badly. Of course, Adam Schefter guaranteed on Wednesday that Barron won’t make it to this slot, so…
If I Were GM: Dre Kirkpatrick. It’s simple. He’s Sabanized and corners are more important to me.
15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Michael Brockers, DT (LSU): Sen Dog assures me the Eagles’ biggest issue is up front on defense and that he’d be enthralled with the addition of the big DL from LSU. Good enough for me.
If I Were GM: Luke Keuchly. They desperately need the upgrade. Of course, it’s at least 50/50 he’s gone before this pick.
Will these guys go nuts?
16. NEW YORK JETS: Courtney Upshaw, LB (Alabama): Smoke, noise, rumors, innuendo…and none of it about Tebow or feet in general. One well-placed rumor had the Jets interested in trading way up for Trent Richardson. I have a real hard time seeing that, but I don’t have a hard time seeing the Jets moving around. GM Mike Tannenbaum has made that a regular practice, and I half expect him to be selecting 8 or 10 spots earlier here. But Upshaw would fit beautifully into Rex’s 3-4 and is a quality thumper.
If I Were GM: Upshaw or Dontari Poe. Poe’s got questions, but Rex has a way with those guys and there aren’t many of “those guys” on the planet.
17. CINCINNATI BENGALS (FROM OAK): Luke Keuchly, LB (Boston College). As I mentioned above, I think in real life he’s gone by here. I just don’t know to whom, and in this particular scenario, he’s still sitting here for the Bengals to pluck up. Marvin Lewis was quoted just this week as saying they’ve “neglected the defense.” Let’s go ahead and assume that gets rectified in the first round.
If I Were GM: I’d go with Kirkpatrick first, but they get him anyway here and I can’t in good conscience just keep letting Keuchly fall. This is madness.
18. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Cordy Glenn, OL (Georgia). The Bolts have been devastated up front with injuries and surprise retirements. Glenn is a big, athletic, versatile plug-and-play guy.
If I Were GM: Glenn. I loved Rumford Johnny’s pick of McClellin here, but I think the OL is a huge need.
19. CHICAGO BEARS: Michael Floyd, WR (Notre Dame). They’d be beyond lucky to get him here and to pair him with Brandon Marshall. Jay Cutler is an immensely talented quarterback who, in my view, started to make the leap into the upper echelon with outstanding play throughout 2011. Add another monster weapon and start doing some real damage to the rest of the NFC North.
If I Were GM: Floyd or Reiff.
20. TENNESSEE TITANS: Nick Perry, DE (USC). Still raw, but a rare athlete at a premium position with a nose for the QB and the power to bring him down when he gets there.
If I Were GM: In all honesty? Janoris Jenkins. Huge risk. But it’s #20, not #2.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Alabama). I’ll be stunned if the Bengals don’t come out of the first round with a new corner one way or another.
If I Were GM: Kendall Wright. Put him opposite AJ Green and watch the points roll in.
22. CLEVELAND BROWNS (FROM ATL): Reuben Randle, WR (LSU). It’ll be interesting to see whether they like Brandon Weeden enough to take him this early despite his advanced age (and if they take Blackmon at No. 4, they might just do that), or whether they look to a less obvious position like rush end. But I think it’s probably a wide receiver or a new right tackle. Several popular choices exist for the wideout spot. I think Reuben Randle makes a ton of sense here, and I hear they’ve got this batch of WR’s all pretty closely ranked.
If I Were GM: Randle. I’d be highly tempted to take Janoris Jenkins, but my team is still too young and developing. I’m a big believer in Reuben Randle.
23. DETROIT LIONS: Whitney Mercilus, DE (Illinois). Lead the nation in sacks, and would have a good chance at early production with guys like Suh, Fairley and Avril eating up blocks. Can learn on the job with the depth currently in place. And the Schwartz wants to destroy QB’s. All makes good sense to me.
If I Were GM: Tough call for me. Since I don’t trust their RB’s to stay healthy? I might look at a quality all-around back like Doug Martin of Boise St. here.
24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Kevin Zeitler, OG (Wisconsin). I have to think Ben is tired of getting demolished back there, and you know with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley in town they’re going to show a renewed commitment to Steeler football and the effective running of the football. Zeitler is a quality player that addresses both of these issues, shoring up the interior of that offensive line.
If I Were GM: Dont’a Hightower. Just seems like a Steeler to me.
25. DENVER BRONCOS: Devon Still, DT (Penn St.) Or maybe Dontari Poe. Or even a running back. But the Broncos must help the middle of that defensive line. I tore them up for not taking Dareus last year (though Von Miller was clearly an outstanding choice), and would do so again if they fail to address what I think is their biggest need.
If I Were GM: Still.
26. HOUSTON TEXANS: Kendall Wright, WR (Baylor). There seems to be a decent amount of disagreement as to what echelon of player Wright is, but he’s a first-rounder in my book. Couldn’t care less about his timed speed, as the tape shows me he knows how to use whatever he’s got to manipulate and destroy db’s. Tough to square up after the catch, a fine route-runner, and sure-handed. Would fit nicely opposite Andre Johnson and give the Texans that #2 that they’ve been looking for for so long.
If I Were GM: Wright or Poe.
McClellin keeps rising.
27. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (FROM N.O.): Chandler Jones, DE (Syracuse). Leaning on my man Rummy, here, and I like Jones a good bit. The Patriots are impossible to predict. I certainly didn’t have them targeting those two rookie RB’s last year. And I fully expect them to trade at least one of these late first rounders.
If I Were Gm: I’d just defer to Belichick. Heh.
28. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Shea McClellin, DE/OLB (Boise St.) Long before he became fashionable with well-known and outstanding draftniks like Greg Cosell, my man Brendan Leister was going crazy telling me how good this guy was. The more Boise video I watched, the more I could see why. Explosive, fantastic get-off, and one of those tough, fundamentally sound Broncos studs. Someone will be exceptionally pleased to get him, and he’d be an insanely good fit opposite Clay Matthews III.
If I Were GM: McClellin.
29. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Dont’a Hightower, LB (Alabama). “Oh, hey. Looky what we found here. A perfect fit for our aging defense.” – Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome.
If I Were GM: I’m a Browns fan. I’d let the Ravens’ pick expire. (Nope. Still not over it.)
30. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Coby Fleener, TE (Stanford). Yes, they have Vernon Davis, and he’s a monster. But perhaps youv’e noticed a team or two looking to run multiple TE threats out there? Plus we’ve got the Harbaugh connection. If Kendall Wright were still available, I’d have done that.
If I Were GM: I might gamble on Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech here. Crazy fast and appears to have every tool in the box. Just didn’t get enough run in that triple option at GT to know for sure.
31. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Janoris Jenkins (CB) Northern Alabama. If anybody can afford to gamble, it’s the Hoodie. Jenkins dominated while in the SEC. Bill likes Florida guys. That’s all I’ve got.
If I Were GM: Jenkins. You bet’cha.
32. NEW YORK GIANTS: Bobbie Massie, OT (Mississippi State). I think the Giants are going to be pleased with just about anything that falls into their lap at 32, and Massie is a big stud OL with major upside. They can take their time and develop him, possibly into the LT of their future.
If I Were GM: Lamar Miller. A fun, luxurious replacement for the Tiptoe Bandit and a fine complement to/insurance for Ahmad Bradshaw. I doubt they’d do it, though.
Post Script: Thank the Gridiron Gods this is over for another year. The Mock Draft is exhausting and infuriating. Enjoy your draft weekend, everyone!