My first post-Super Bowl NFL mock draft features a handful of changes. Most notably is the rise of North Carolina's Quinton Coples who jumps into the Top-Five. The need for pass-rushing defensive ends is what facilitates his rise in the draft. Expect to see a solid combine performance from Coples which will only help his stock.
At this point, Stanford's Andrew Luck to the Indianapolis Colts appears to be the only lock. Many expect to get word about Peyton Manning's future in the next few weeks, which is the final piece in the way of Luck going No. 1 overall.
Of course, the upcoming free agency period will shake up this current mock. Here's a link to five signings that could really facilitate change. Also, my latest Big Board will give you an idea where I rank the top 50 prospects.
Pick: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
The Indianapolis Colts find themselves in a very enviable situation, as they are able to transition from Peyton Manning to Stanford's Andrew Luck. Teams rarely have such a simple plan to replace a Hall of Fame quarterback; just ask the Miami Dolphins who are still searching for Dan Marino's replacement.
Luck's skill set makes him NFL ready and capable of finding early success. He not only possesses all the physical tools but also has a great feel for the position. His work ethic and leadership ability makes him a perfect fit for a team looking to rebuild.
Indianapolis will miss Peyton Manning, but it would be crazy to pass up an opportunity to add another franchise quarterback.
Pick: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
The Washington Redskins hopefully learned from their previous mistakes and avoid signing a veteran quarterback. Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn and Kyle Orton are not what this franchise needs to get back into contention. A young quarterback like Baylor's Robert Griffin III would provide both a long-term and immediate upgrade.
Mike Shanahan wants to win now, but that want could end up costing him his job. He needs to look further into the future and make a move to land Griffin III. The Redskins have a good enough defense to make the playoffs, and I argue that Griffin III can get the offense where it needs to be.
The play of rookie quarterbacks like Andy Dalton and Cam Newton show that you don't need a veteran quarterback to find success. Griffin III's explosiveness and ability to attack the deep part of the field will greatly improve this offense.
Pick: Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
Finding an offensive tackle capable of protecting Christian Ponder needs to be the Minnesota Vikings' top offseason priority. Left tackles are so valuable that they rarely hit the free-agent market, which means Minnesota must address this need via the draft. Stanford's Jonathan Martin is ready to immediately step in and protect a quarterback's blindside.
Martin's quick feet, balance and change of direction ability make him the top pass-protector in this draft class. His ability to anchor against power rushers and beat speed guys to the edge makes him a well-rounded player. Martin needs a little work on his run-blocking ability, but is still above average in that area.
Adding Martin to the mix solves the Vikings' left tackle issue for the next decade.
Pick: Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
North Carolina's Quinton Coples boasts a rare combination of quickness, strength and agility that makes him an excellent pass-rusher. His ability to attack the edge and get after the quarterback will make him a highly sought after prospect. The Cleveland Browns' defensive line is one more defensive end away from becoming an elite unit.
Adding Coples to a line featuring Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin will make it one of the best in the entire NFL. Teams running a 4-3 alignment need to create pressure from their front four, especially the defensive ends. Coples will not only improve the defensive line, but help cover some issues in the linebacking corps and secondary.
Cleveland fans likely want to see Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon with this pick, but pass-rushing defensive ends like Coples are very hard to find.
Pick: Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, LSU
Tampa Bay Buccaneers new head coach Greg Schiano comes from a defensive background and places a high value on that side of the field. LSU's Morris Claiborne is arguably the most talented defender available in the 2012 NFL Draft. His skill set makes him capable of developing into one of the NFL's top lockdown cornerbacks.
Claiborne's ability to quickly flip his hips allows him to limit the space between him and any target. He also possesses the toughness to play bump-and-run coverage. He enjoys playing a physical brand of football and isn't afraid to come up and support the run.
The Buccaneers face a lot of question marks in the secondary, especially at cornerback. Both Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib face uncertain futures. Talib will absolutely have a hard time dealing with Schiano's no-nonsense approach.
Pick: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
The St. Louis Rams' top offseason priority needs to be finding a potential No. 1 receiver. Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is the type of playmaker they need to put around Sam Bradford. Blackmon's combination of size and route running ability will give Bradford a reliable target.
St. Louis takes a little bit of a risk trading down, as someone like the Cleveland Browns could also target Blackmon. However, the extra assets acquired in this trade will help fill some of the many holes on this roster.
It's interesting to point out that both Blackmon and Bradford ran a similar offensive attack in college. Maybe Brian Schottenheimer will consider implementing some of the spread principles. Either way, adding Blackmon is a no brainer and fills a major need.
Pick: Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC
USC's Matt Kalil is an elite prospect who projects as a top-notch left tackle at the next level. He possesses a good combination of size and athletic ability which allows him to make all the necessary blocks. The Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive line allowed 44 sacks last season, which ranked them eighth worst in the league.
Adding Kalil to the mix likely forces Eugene Monroe to right tackle, where he might be able to find more success. Jacksonville has a need at the right tackle slot because of the injury problems of Eden Britton. The presence of Monroe means that Kalil could start on the right side if he isn't quite ready for left tackle.
Jacksonville has plenty of other more pressing needs, but the draft isn't about just filling needs; sometimes getting the best talent available is a better plan.
Pick: Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
Iowa's Riley Reiff quickly worked himself into the Top-10 discussion, and at the very least Top-15. His quickness, strength and fluid movements have some claiming he's the top offensive tackle available. The Carolina Panthers will have a tough time passing up an opportunity to solidify their offensive line.
Jordan Gross spent the past nine seasons protecting the blindside of Panthers quarterbacks, but he is starting to show signs of aging. He might only have about two good seasons remaining at the left tackle spot. Adding Reiff gives Carolina a long-term replacement for Gross and an immediate upgrade at right tackle.
If the Panthers feel they don't have a major need at offensive tackle, they could target Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick or LSU's Michael Brockers.
Pick: Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker/Defensive End, Alabama
The Miami Dolphins' coaching changes are bringing a different defensive philosophy. New defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle will feature a hybrid 4-3/3-4 alignment. This change requires versatile players like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. The addition of Upshaw gives Coyle plenty of flexibility and alignment options.
Upshaw possesses the strength to hold at the point of attack and push the pocket, while also boasting the quickness needed to provide pressure off the edge. At 6'1", 274 pounds, he's big enough to line up at defensive end in a 4-3. However, Upshaw's also athletic enough to drop into coverage from a linebacker spot in a 3-4.
The biggest question facing the Dolphins this offseason is how they will solve their quarterback problems. They could target free agents like Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn or Kyle Orton to come in and compete. However, their best solution might be trading up to land Baylor's Robert Griffin III.
Pick: Melvin Ingram, Defensive End/Linebacker, South Carolina
The Buffalo Bills are moving back to a 4-3 defensive system, thanks to the promotion of Dave Wannstedt to defensive coordinator. This transition means that the Bills will need to focus some resources on finding the pieces needed to run this alignment. South Carolina's Melvin Ingram possesses the skill set needed to fill a defensive end spot.
Actually, Ingram boasts the versatility that could allow him play either defensive end or defensive tackle. His best attribute is his quickness off the ball and athletic ability. This quick burst helps him attack the edge and get pressure on the quarterback. Successfully running a 4-3 scheme requires defensive ends capable of generating pressure.
North Carolina's Quinton Coples would be a better fit for the Bills, but at this point in the mock he is already off the board.
Pick: David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford
Stanford's David DeCastro's consistency and exceptional play put him in position to come off the board early in the first round. Guards aren't typically selected this early, but DeCastro is a rare prospect that appears destined to become an All-Pro. The Kansas City Chiefs have a major need for talent along the interior of the offensive line. GM Scott Pioli won't hesitate to add someone like DeCastro.
Kansas City wants to feature an offense that excels at running the football. This not only requires a good running back but also strong offensive line play. DeCastro's strong leg-drive and solid technique help him drive defenders off the line of scrimmage. He's also a very smart player capable of making the line calls if necessary.
Alabama's Trent Richardson is another possibility here, as the combination of Jamaal Charles and Richardson could be unstoppable.
Pick: Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU
The Seattle Seahawks' unique style of defense requires versatile defensive linemen. LSU's Michael Brockers possesses both the size and athletic ability to fill multiple roles along the Seattle defensive line. He's quick enough to penetrate the pocket and disrupt the timing of the offense, while also strong enough to anchor at the point of attack.
Seattle will likely rotate him between the three-technique and five-technique spots along their defensive line rotation. Finding players who possess the type of upside as Brockers is a very rare occurrence, as not many players can match his size and quickness.
There's a possibility that the Seahawks will want to make a big splash and move up to land Robert Griffin III. It would cost a ton to get into that range, but he's talented enough to make the reward worth the risk.
Pick: Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
Ohio State's Mike Adams used his week at the Senior Bowl to prove he should be considered a left tackle prospect. The fact that he was able to handle pass-rushers like North Carolina's Quinton Coples and Alabama's Courtney Upshaw really impressed evaluators. The Arizona Cardinals' offensive line surrendered a total of 54 sacks, good for second worst in the league.
Adding Adams will push Levi Brown to right tackle, essentially improving two spots along the offensive line. It's Adams' quick feet and balance that make him a good fit at left tackle. The Cardinals can plug him in right away and feel comfortable with him protecting their quarterback's blindside.
Pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
Landing Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick would be a dream scenario for the Dallas Cowboys. They have the poor play of their secondary to thank for missing the playoffs. Starters Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins both failed to meet expectations and may be released in the offseason to save some money. Moving on from both players is actually the first step needed to improve this unit.
Kirkpatrick's length and aggressiveness make him a good fit for the Cowboys' style of defense. Rob Ryan could put him on an island in bump-and-run coverage. This will allow Ryan to draw up some exotic blitz packages designed to generate pressure.
If Kirkpatrick is off the board, look for the Cowboys to jump on North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins.
Pick: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College
The 2012 NFL draft must be where Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles change their thinking about the linebacker position. Reid typically doesn't invest a lot into the position and this year it really hurt the defense. Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly's leadership and feel for the game will allow him to step in and make an immediate impact.
Philadelphia needs a middle linebacker who's always in the right position and rarely misses tackles. Kuechly won't only be in the right position but will also help his teammates line up correctly. The consistency he provides will instantly improve this defensive unit.
Reid and company must avoid the urge to add an offensive playmaker like Baylor's Kendall Wright or Notre Dame's Michael Floyd. They need to improve the defense if they hope to make the playoffs next season.
Pick: Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
Unfortunately for Alabama's Trent Richardson, the running back position doesn't carry tremendous value. He's a Top-Five talent who drops to this spot because many teams feel they can find a starting running back in the later rounds. However, the New York Jets will jump at the opportunity to add a difference maker like Richardson.
New York has Shonn Greene in place as the starter but he hasn't played consistently enough to project as a star player. Even if Greene produces, the depth behind him is lacking with the departure of LaDainian Tomlinson. With the addition of Richardson, the Jets can finally get back to their "ground and pound" offensive philosophy.
Richardson could find himself the target of a team looking to trade up, maybe the Cincinnati Bengals. If he's off the board New York will target a pass-rusher or offensive lineman.
Pick: Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
The fact that the Cincinnati Bengals own two first-round picks gives them some flexibility. This allows them to add South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery to a receiving corps that already features A.J. Green. The combination of Jeffery and Green will give opposing defenses nightmares. This addition also provides some insurance if Jerome Simpson's arrest keeps him off the field.
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green's play this season is what helped push the Bengals into the players. Adding Jeffery to the mix will help both players continue to find success. His play-making ability won't allow opposing defenses to double-team Green.
I've been pushing hard for the Cincinnati Bengals to move up the draft and land Alabama's Trent Richardson. His addition will have a greater impact than Jeffery's.
Pick: Cordy Glenn, Offensive Lineman, Georgia
Georgia's Cordy Glenn doesn't get enough love for his ability to protect the passer. For his size, he has very quick feet, balance and change of direction ability. This past season showed that Glenn is more than capable of playing left tackle at the next level.
The San Diego Chargers face the possibility of having to replace Marcus McNeil, Kris Dielman and Nick Hardwick. Glenn possesses the versatility to immediately replace any of the previously mentioned starters. His future might be at right tackle, but he's more than capable of holding his own on the left side.
San Diego could also look to add some help along the defensive line or at linebacker.
Pick: Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
In recent years, the Chicago Bears passed up the opportunity to land a true No. 1 wide receiver. The recent firing of Jerry Angelo likely brings a change in philosophy. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd possesses the size and quickness needed to develop into one of the league's top pass-catchers.
His strengths separate him from the rest of the Bears' receiving corps, as no one on their roster tops the 6'0" mark. Adding Floyd will give Jay Cutler the type of target he needs to take his game to the next level. He played his best football while in Denver throwing to Brandon Marshall.
Chicago needs their passing game to improve in order to be considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Pick: Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor
The Tennessee Titans' offense ranked in the bottom half of the league averaging only seven yards per passing attempt. This number showed that their passing game lacked explosiveness and big plays. During his senior season, Baylor's Kendall Wright averaged 15.4 yard per catch and a long reception of 87 yards.
Wright's big-play potential will immediately increase the effectiveness of the entire Titans offense. Defenses will need to respect his speed which will likely take a defender out of the box and open more running lanes. His addition also helps keep double teams away from Kenny Britt, the team's other top target.
Tennessee needs to ensure they add offensive weapons for the upcoming promotion of Jake Locker. He isn't expected to become the starter any time soon, but still remains the quarterback of the future.
Pick: Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
The Cincinnati Bengals figure to come out of the 2012 NFL draft adding a potential starting cornerback. Their current roster features Adam Jones and Nate Clements who have questionable futures with the team. South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore fits the type of player Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer like to feature in their secondary.
Gilmore is a physical cornerback who isn't afraid to come up and support the run. His short area burst allows him to quickly break on the football. He also possesses the ball skills needed to convert mistakes into turnovers. Gilmore would be a great addition opposite Leon Hall.
As I mentioned earlier, Cincinnati should consider moving up the draft in order to land a difference maker like Alabama's Trent Richardson. This offense is only a stud running back away from being considered elite.
Pick: Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver, Rutgers
The Cleveland Browns have a major need at the wide receiver position that they failed to address with their first pick. However, this draft has several receiver prospects that make sense with their second first-round pick. The size and suddenness of Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu allows him to both stretch the field and make plays over the middle.
Adding Sanu to a receiver corps already featuring Greg Little will provide Colt McCoy with the weapons needed to succeed. Sanu's versatility will give the Browns' offense some options because he is capable of lining up in the slot and on the outside.
If Cleveland adds a wide receiver earlier in the draft, they could look to upgrade the linebacking unit or offensive line.
Pick: Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, North Alabama
The Detroit Lions' biggest need heading into the offseason is at the cornerback position. Current starters Eric Wright and Chris Houston are solid but don't offer much upside. North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins possesses the quickness, instincts and ball skills needed to make an immediate impact.
Jenkins is the perfect player to take advantage of the already talented Detroit Lions roster. His ability to read the quarterback and jump the route will allow him to tally interceptions. He'll get plenty of opportunities thanks to the pass-rush of the Lions' front four.
Detroit is committed to drafting the best player available, and one can argue that Jenkins is the top player remaining.
Pick: Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama
Alabama's Mark Barron is a well-rounded defender who's capable of supporting the run and holding up in coverage. His leadership skills and football IQ make him an NFL-ready prospect who can contribute both on defense and special teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers need to focus on adding young talent all over the defensive side of the ball.
Adding Barron to the mix gives the Steelers some depth in the secondary and a long-term replacement behind Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu. Both players are over 30 years old and have been in and out of the lineup with injuries. Barron's versatility also means that he can be on the field at the same time as Clark and Polamalu.
The Steelers are at a point where they need to add the best player available to infuse their roster with youth.
Pick: Devon Still, Defensive Tackle, Penn State
The ability to penetrate the interior of the pocket really disrupts the timing of an offense. Penn State's Devon Still boasts the quickness and power needed to get into the face of the quarterback. He also does a great job stuffing the run behind the line, compiling 17 tackles for loss this past season.
Denver's defense is a disruptive interior defender away from being elite. Adding Still to a defense that has edge rushers like Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil makes this team playoff contenders for the next several years. Tim Tebow needs to be surrounded by a strong defense, not explosive wide receivers.
Don't count the Broncos out from making a move for Alabama's Trent Richardson. This coaching staff has no ties to Knowshon Moreno, and Willis McGahee is on the downside of his career.
Pick: Dwayne Allen, Tight End, Clemson
This past offseason, the Houston Texans focused a lot of resources on upgrading the defense. Those upgrades catapulted this unit into one of the top five defenses in the NFL. However, it left the offense in need of more playmakers. Clemson's Dwayne Allen is a dynamic pass-catcher who also does a good job run blocking.
Owen Daniels hasn't been the same since his knee injury, and Joel Dreessen doesn't provide much upside. Allen's quickness allows him to stretch the field and attack the seam. However, his route running ability is what makes him a top-level prospect.
Houston would love to add a play-making wide receiver but nobody remaining is worth a first-round selection.
Pick: Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Linebacker, Illinois
Bill Belichick worked his magic this season and got production out of washed up vets Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. However, neither are the long-term answer to create pressure for this New England Patriots defense. Illinois' Whitney Mercilus possesses the speed needed to attack the edge and get after the quarterback.
Mercilus' versatility makes him a great fit in New England as it will allow them to employ either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Either way, his pass-rush abilities will allow him to make an immediate impact. New England must make upgrading their defense the offseason focus.
I have been critical of Bill Belichick's strategy of constantly trading down in the draft. He has added additional picks but limited the amount of elite talent on the roster.
Pick: Chandler Jones, Linebacker, Syracuse
The Green Bay Packers took a step back this season thanks in part to the lack of pressure generated by Clay Matthews. His ability to get after the quarterback was limited because of constant double teams and lack of another threat. Syracuse's Chandler Jones boasts exceptional quickness and a great motor, which is what makes him such a pass-rushing threat.
He's still raw but his potential as a pass-rusher makes him worthy of a first-round pick. If anyone can make the most of his talents, it's defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Jones' ability to attack the edge will strike fear into opposing offenses and make them regret double-teaming Matthews.
Defensive line is another position that could be addressed by the Packers. Connecticut's Kendall Reyes would be a great fit at the five-technique.
Pick: Peter Konz, Center, Wisconsin
Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk is likely to walk into the Hall of Fame, but at this point the continuation of his career is in question. Wisconsin's Peter Konz is the perfect replacement for Birk, as he boasts equal talents and football IQ. Even if Birk returns for another season Konz can play some guard and learn the ropes.
The Ravens' preference to run the football means that they need an elite player at center. Konz has the strength and technique needed to deal with the massive nose tackles in the AFC North. Baltimore's success depends on defense and their ability to run the ball.
Baltimore also needs to find some youth at the linebacker position. Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict will be under some heavy consideration.
Pick: Nick Perry, Defensive End/Linebacker, USC
In all honesty, the San Francisco 49ers are an elite quarterback away from a Super Bowl appearance. However, they're committed to Alex Smith which means the focus will go in a different direction come April. USC's Nick Perry is the type of athlete who can help enhance the 49ers' pass-rush.
Aldon Smith had an exceptional rookie season but will face increasing attention next season. Adding Perry will help keep the double teams away from the game-changing Smith. San Francisco's success this season is thanks to the play of their defense.
Wisconsin's Peter Konz and Baylor's Kendall Wright would be the pick over Perry if either were available.
Pick: Kendall Reyes, Defensive Tackle, Connecticut
Those who overlook Connecticut's Kendall Reyes will be sorry for passing over him in the draft. His ability to play multiple positions at an above-average level makes him a versatile prospect. Reyes' best football is still ahead of him as I project him as a Pro Bowl defensive tackle.
The New England Patriots need versatile defenders who can fit in either a 4-3 or 3-4 alignment. Reyes can excel at either the three-technique or five-technique position. If the Patriots fail to come out of this draft with a top-level defensive lineman, their play will suffer.
If Alabama's Mark Barron happens to fall to this spot, New England will likely jump on the opportunity to add him to the secondary.
Pick: Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker, Arizona State
Chase Blackburn's play and Super Bowl interception came as a surprise, even to the New York Giants. Despite his success, Blackburn doesn't possess the upside needed to secure the starting job. Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict is the type of athlete capable of leading the NFL in tackles.
His immature issues shouldn't be a major concern for the Giants as they have taken risks in the past. Both Marvin Austin and Mario Manningham were risky additions, but where New York made the picks it was a steal.
An interior offensive lineman like Wisconsin's Peter Konz would be a great addition if he were still on the board. Konz could be available depending on how the draft shakes out.