NFL Draft 2012: One Prospect Each Team Is Guaranteed to Scout
Now, every team scouts just about every player that comes out of college. But some teams go into more detail than others in terms of bringing them in for interviews and visiting their collages.
Sure, some of these interviews are smokescreens and attempts to fake intentions, but more often than not, there is legitimate interest in the player, regardless of whether or not they are drafted by the team on draft day.
Here is a list of one player every team is going to take a hard look at between now and April's draft.
New York Giants: Zack Brown, OLB, North Carolina
The Giants need to add a few linebackers this offseason, and few are as naturally gifted as Zack Brown. He is the fastest linebacker in the draft, as he doubles as an indoor track athlete and holds his school's record in the 60-yard dash.
However, Brown has plenty of issues to his game to draw red flags. He is not quite as physical as you would like and does not throw himself into plays like other guys do. He misses a ton of tackles by going for the big hit.
Still, Brown has a lot of upside and will get first-round consideration, and you can bet that the Giants are going to do their fair share of homework on him as they try to add more talent to a depleted position.
Washington Redskins: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
There is probably a good 98-percent chance that Robert Griffin winds up in the nation's capital.
Still, you can bet that the Skins will make sure that they prepare for each and every situation, including the Colts taking RGIII over Luck, which seems to become more of a possibility with each passing day.
After making their big trade with the Rams for the No. 2 spot, the Skins will get either of the two quarterbacks, but scouting them and knowing their strengths and weaknesses will make an impact on how they build the rest of their team, which will affect how they draft this year.
After all, the Redskins need to have a plan for every situation, no matter how unlikely.
Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Just because the Eagles have acquired DeMeco Ryans from the Texans a few short days ago, don't think that they are out of the linebacker market. The run defense was bad enough to warrant more than one upgrade at the position.
In fact, Kuechly may be a better fit as a weak side linebacker than as a guy in the middle. Adding him to a lineup that already includes DeMeco Ryans behind a very talented defensive line will give them quite a formidable front seven.
Bottom line: Kuechly is too quality of a football player to dismiss drafting just because they added an aging veteran to the same position.
Dallas Cowboys: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Dallas was able to shore up their secondary woes with the signing of Brandon Carr and Brodney Pool, and their attention should now turn to their offensive line.
The tackle positions appear to be set with Tyron Smith and Doug Free, but the interior line could use an upgrade.
DeCastro is one of the safest prospects in the draft—there simply are little to no weaknesses in his game. With DeCastro, the Cowboys can get back to the power running style they thrive on.
New England Patriots: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
They were clearly not comfortable with giving the injury-prone LaRon Landry a contract after his visit, but they still need a dynamic player in the back end in the worst way.
Barron does everything well but play man coverage, which is okay for a team that uses more zone concepts and does not ask their safeties to play a whole lot of coverage.
However, Barron has injury problems of his own, and the Patriots need to do their homework on him. But Belichick has taken players with injury questions in the past (i.e. Rob Gronkowski), and it has worked out for them more times than not.
New York Jets: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
Ever since they whiffed on Vernon Gholston back in 2008, the Jets have been hesitant to pull the trigger on a pass-rusher early in the draft.
But with the need as glaring as ever, this may finally be the year they do it.
Branch is probably more of a second-round guy with a ton of explosion, but he is a bit raw to be taken with a first-round pick. Rex Ryan personally worked him out at the Clemson pro day, so clearly there is at least some interest.
If the Jets trade down or up into the second round, he will be on the Jets' radar for sure.
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
With Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn officially off the board, the Dolphins are facing another season with Matt Moore at the helm.
They do, however, have one more option to explore, which is taking Ryan Tannehill with their first-round pick.
Tannehill, a former receiver, has a lot of physical tools to be a successful NFL quarterback, but he does not have some of the natural timing and rhythm you see in more experienced quarterbacks. However, with some time, he can be a quality NFL starter.
There is also the connection between Tannehill and Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who coached Ryan at Texas A&M. At this point, it seems more likely that they will take Tannehill than not, so you can bet they are doing more extensive research on him than any other prospect in this draft.
Buffalo Bills: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanord
The Bills have already locked up Scott Chandler, but in today's NFL, tight ends are becoming more of an asset in the passing game, and having two pass catchers can be a real asset to an offense.
He just ran a 4.5 at his pro day, which is nothing short of lightning for a tight end. That kind of time may be able to push him into the first round, especially for a guy that measures at 6'6".
It remains to be seen whether or not he will fall to the Bills pick in the second round, but you can bet they will do their homework on him.
Indianapolis Colts: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
As I stated earlier, there is very little chance that the Colts select anyone but Andrew Luck with the first pick in the draft.
But there is still a chance.
After RGIII's spectacular performance at his pro day, the gap between him and Luck appears to be closing. Stating the possibility that the Colts may take RGIII with the first pick will no longer get you laughed out of the room.
I would still be shocked if they took RGIII, but you can bet they are doing their due diligence with both players.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Jaguars may have added a few bodies at the receiver position in Laurent Robinson (who was vastly overpaid), but they could still use room for improvement.
Wright is an explosive, downfield target that the Jaguars are craving, but his showing at the combine was anything but impressive, and his stock has since plummeted.
There is also the lingering question as to whether or not his success was by his own ability or tied to the incredible play of RGIII.
Still, he will be in the mix when the Jaguars pick at the top of the first round, and they will have done their due diligence on every receiver in this draft, especially an intriguing guy like Wright.
Tennessee Titans: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
When you look at the Titans' roster, they really don't have a lot of holes. But their issues on the interior of the line have been an issue for several years now, and they need an upgrade.
They started by signing guard Steve Hutchinson, but his best days are behind him. The incumbent center Eugene Amano would be better used as a guard or backup lineman.
The Titans probably will not be able to land DeCastro or Cordy Glenn without trading up, leaving Konz as the best interior lineman available when they pick.
Houston Texans: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Once a very complete team, the Texans all of a sudden find themselves with a lot of holes on their roster that were strengths just a few months ago.
After trading DeMeco Ryans to the Eagles earlier in the week, they have a massive hole to fill at inside linebacker next to Cushing. One of the reasons Ryans was sent packing is because he was a two-down player, and missed almost half of the defensive snaps.
Hightower has enough natural ability to play in coverage and even as a pass-rusher on their downs. For a team that lost its best pass-rusher in Mario Williams and a starting inside linebacker in DeMeco Ryans all within the same month, they would love to address both areas with one pick.
Carolina Panthers: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Carolina has not made a whole lot of moves in free agency, and when they have made a signing, they added a player to what was already an area of strength.
They still have a massive hole in the middle of their defensive line, and there is a plethora of guys to choose from in the first round.
Brockers is a good run player, but if you are picking as high as the Panthers are, you need to get a defensive tackle with pass rush ability. Brockers has not shown it on tape, but he has alleged athleticism that excites scouts about his ability to develop into an elite player.
However, after a poor showing at the combine, such ideas have been silenced, but you can bet the Panthers are going to check out everything they can learn about this intriguing player.
New Orleans Saints: Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
Because of the recent punishments levied by the NFL, the Saints find themselves sitting on their hands until the end of the third round.
Tracy Porter is a free agent and does not appear to be coming back, leaving a big hole at the corner position. The Saints will probably try to put Patrick Robinson, a former first-round pick, at the starting spot, leaving the slot corner spot wide open.
Hosley is a ball hawk who led the country in interceptions in 2010 and has the tools to be a quality player. He is physical enough to play in the slot and should get a lot of attention from teams in the draft process.
Atlanta Falcons: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
The Falcons will have to wait until the second round of the draft to pick, but they can still get a lot of quality players where they sit.
Michael Turner was not the same player last year and is clearly on the decline. Sooner or later, they will need to find his replacement so they can continue their run-first philosophy.
Martin is not the flashiest runner in the draft, but he has great vision and does everything well. A good, fundamentally sound player is exactly what a Mike Smith-coached team is looking for in a running back.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
In just about every mock draft I have seen, Claiborne seems to wind up going fifth overall to the Bucs.
Aquib Talib has pending legal complications that must be sorted out, and Rhonde Barber, who announced his return, had one of his worst seasons as a pro last year. Claiborne is polished enough to start away and can even learn a few pointers from Rhonde.
A Greg Schiano-coached team is going to want to upgrade its defense, especially after spending a ton of money in free agency on offensive weapons. I would not be surprised if Tampa goes very defense-heavy in the draft.
Denver Broncos: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
The Broncos struck gold in free agency by luring Peyton Manning to Mile High, but they were unable to keep Brodrick Bunkley, who was a very productive run stopper for them at defensive tackle last season.
This leaves the Broncos very desperate for help in the middle of their line, and with most of the best lineman off the market, they may have to look in the draft to find their guy.
Still is probably the safest bet at defensive tackle. Though a good run player, he is not going to provide a ton of pass-rush ability. But with the Broncos' massive need at the heart of their defense, they will certainly place an emphasis on this year's tackle crop.
Kansas City Chiefs: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
When you look at the Chiefs' roster, there really are not a lot of holes. Being able to snag Eric Winston off the market went a long way in solidifying their line and will allow them to go in a variety of directions in the draft.
As expected, they allowed Brandon Carr to walk in free agency, and he will presumably be replaced by Standford Routt. Routt is a decent fit as a No. 2 corner, but depth remains a bit of an issue, and having three quality cover corners with different abilities is hardly a problem.
San Diego Chargers: LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
After losing Mike Tolbert to the open market, the Chargers will have to add another running back to spell the oft-injured Ryan Mathews.
James is reminiscent of Darren Sproles because of his speed and quick change of direction, but he is not the inside runner Sproles was. As a third-down back, though, James certainly has a role at the next level.
Philip Rivers has already lost a big-time weapon in Vincent Jackson, and the Chargers need to do everything they can to make up for it and keep this offense potent.
Oakland Raiders: Donte Paige-Moss
Moss has the talent of a second-round pick, but with character issues after tearing an ACL and missing 2011, his stock has taken a nosedive.
But in the case the Raiders, with just two picks in the fifth and sixth round, beggars can't be choosers.
They lost Kamerion Wimbley in a cap-saving move and need to find a young player with upside to build around. Given time to properly recover from his injury and adjust to the pro game, Moss could provide a team with some serous value in the later rounds.
Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Between Riley Reiff, Cody Glenn and Martin, the Cardinals are probably going to have a chance to take a top offensive tackle with their first pick to fix one of their holes on their horrific offensive line.
Judging based on value, the odds are that Martin will be the pick, unless Riley Reiff slips past the Dolphins.
Arizona is going to spend some quality time evaluating offensive lineman and will take a long look at what Martin has to offer.
St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
After making the monstrous trade with the Redskins, the Rams have set themselves up to be in good position to take the best wide receiver in this year's draft class, Justin Blackmon.
Even though Blackmon may be the most NFL-ready receiver in this year's class, perhaps the Rams would prefer a guy with more upside, like Notre Dame's Michael Floyd. Before taking Blackmon, they need to make sure that his relatively low ceiling does not minimize the value of their top-10 pick.
In either case, expect the Rams to spend a lot of time evaluating wide receivers as they do everything they can to find help for Sam Bradford.
Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Seahawks really did a number on all of their remaining holes. They added an interior pass rush in Jason Jones, kept Red Bryant and may have finally solved their quarterback issues by landing Matt Flynn.
However, they could use another rusher opposite Chris Clemons, and Coples is worth considering in the first round.
His senior tape was awful, but he had a nice junior season at defensive tackle and blew away the competition at the combine.
Coples is the definition of a "boom or bust" prospect, and the Seahawks will spend a lot of time deciding which category Coples fits into.
San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin
Of all of the teams in the NFL, the 49ers may have the fewest holes. However, they could use a new guard and center to beef up their pass protection and get their running game going on a more consistent basis.
Zeitler is yet another product of a Wisconsin program that ran over everyone over the past two seasons. He could use some work in pass protection, but he is a strong, in-line guy that would be a great compliment to Mike Iupati on the other side.
Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
With RGIII and Andrew Luck a lock to go in the first two picks on draft day, the Vikings are now in the driver's seat.
However, I see only one real option for them at the third spot, USC's Matt Kalil. Kalil has the makings of a franchise left tackle that can stick around for over a decade.
With the massive need the Vikings have on the offensive line, I expect them to spend a lot of time making sure Kalil is the player everyone says he is.
Green Bay Packers: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Packer defense took a major step backward last season, allowing more yards than any other team in the league.
Specifically, they gave up a ton of big plays, which is an indictment on the secondary. In particular, Charles Woodson was guilty on many of such plays. Perhaps moving him to safety and finding his eventual replacement at corner in the draft is the best way to stop the bleeding.
The top corners such as Claiborne, Kirkpatrick, and Jenkins should be off the board by the time the Packers pick, and Gilmore could provide very good value for how late they pick in the first round.
Chicago Bears: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
After adding Brandon Marshall to the mix, the Bears find themselves just a few offensive lineman away from being a very complete team.
DeCastro is virtually guaranteed to be gone by the time the Bears pick, but there is a good chance that the versatile Cordy Glenn will be available.
Glenn can play both tackle and guard but is better suited to play inside at the next level.
Detroit Lions: Janoris Jenkins, CB, Northern Alabama
The Lions may be an elite defense if they had some real talent on the back end. However, by the time the Lions pick, all of the most talent corners will be off the board—except for Janoris Jenkins.
Jenkins has as much talent as the guys getting taken in the top half of the first round, but character concerns will push him to the bottom of the first round. The Lions have their share of public perception issues of their own, so they will have to do their homework and figure out if Jenkins can get out of his own way as a pro.
Baltimore Ravens: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
It is no secret that the Ravens need some help at the receiver position. Anquan Boldin cannot get separation anymore, and Torrey Smith can only run two routes.
Jeffery could be the No. 1 receiver they have been craving for, but he disappointed in his last year at USC and reportedly struggled with his weight. He came to the combine in decent shape, then refused to work out at any of the drills, which makes you wonder if he basically starved himself to lose weight at the expense of his athletic performance.
The Ravens have one of the most rock-solid locker rooms in the NFL, but can Ray Lewis keep an offensive player like Jeffery in line? The onus is on the Ravens to find out for themselves.
Pittsburgh Steelers: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
With the reality of going through the 2012 season without their starting running back Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers need to seriously consider taking a runner in the first round.
By changing offensive coordinators, the Steelers clearly want to get back to running the football. Without a dynamic running back to hand the ball off to, that task becomes exponentially more difficult.
Wilson has a lot of raw ability in terms of size and strength, but he has some problems in blitz pickup and is prone to fumbles. Pittsburgh will have to determine if Wilson can adjust to the pro game quickly enough and whether or not his fumbles were an anomaly.
Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Richardson is clearly the best runner in this year's class and can become one of the best backs in football sooner than later.
Coincidentally, the Browns need a running back and are in a great position to draft him.
However, the Browns must decide whether or not investing the fourth overall pick in a runner is efficient. The Browns have a ton of needs, and if they are going to spend a high pick on a running back, he had better be special.
If the Browns have the slightest inclination that T-Rich is not everything he is made out to be, they should avoid him. Otherwise, he is one of the few players I would break the "don't take running backs early" rule for.
Cincinatti Bengals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
With Andre Caldwell leaving and the pending legal situation with Jerome Simpson, the Bengals find themselves in need of a wide receiver.
Floyd has as much natural talent as any receiver in the class. He's not the vertical type everyone seems to think he is, but he is a big, physical target that can be the ideal partner to A.J. Green.
He has some off-field baggage, including a DUI. He claims to be a changed man, but the Bengals tend to ignore character issues when it comes to evaluating prospects anyway.
Besides, with their two first round picks, they can afford to roll the dice on a guy like Floyd to give Andy Dalton all of the weapons he can get.