Get ready for the NFL draft with my latest mock exercise.
Now that we are inside of a month to the 2012 National Football League draft, I believe we have entered the phase on the schedule when mocks are the most fun and, more importantly, instructive.
While some significant (read: draft-altering) free-agent moves will still be made between now and April 26, the majority of teams have made most, if not all, of the acquisitions they are going to make that will principally affect their draft strategy.
Have a gander at my latest first-round mock, sprinkled with the extra tidbit of predicting each projected pick's rookie contract with his drafting team. Each of the eight slides features four selections with some accompanying analysis on certain choices of note. And in this edition I have refrained from predicting trades that have not occurred in an effort keep the team/slot/player fits as streamlined as possible.
Ultimately, I think Claiborne poses the best value for Browns.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford University
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $25 million, $15 million signing bonus
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $23.85 million, $14.15 million signing bonus
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, LT, University of Southern California
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $23.15 million, $13.8 million signing bonus
4. Cleveland Browns: Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State University
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $22.33 million, $13.25 million signing bonus
Analysis: Draftnarnia is a twitter (pun intended) over the differing merits between Claiborne, running back Trent Richardson or wide receiver Justin Blackmon should the Browns stay put and choose at four.
I do not think that Blackmon projects as an elite player in the NFL, so he is off the table right away for me. I lean toward Claiborne with the idea that between an elite-projecting shutdown corner and running back, the former represents much greater value.
Cox is on the move, all the way up to the six-spot.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, University of Alabama
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $20.9 million, $12.3 million signing bonus
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $18.35 million, $10.6 million signing bonus
Analysis: Along with at least one other draftnik, this is as high as the industry has mocked Cox at this point in the process to my knowledge. Blackmon is still the consensus pick at this spot and I think we are going to find out just how smart and disciplined Les Snead is based on the execution of this selection.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples, DE, University of North Carolina
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $16.3 million, $9.25 million signing bonus
Analysis: Since taking the reins in Jacksonville in January 2009, this will be general manager Gene Smith's fourth consecutive draft in this range on the board.
His first-round picks—2009 left tackle Eugene Monroe, 2010 defensive tackle Tyson Alualu and 2011 quarterback Blaine Gabbert—have been complete disasters in their six combined career seasons save for Monroe in 2011. The blindside bookend appeared to hit his stride in his third campaign.
What I glean from this somewhat abbreviated sample is that Smith has struggled with the execution of these picks but that he is also not averse to selecting players that may be slow-starters.
Coples fits this bill, as there is ample industry support that he is the most talented defensive end prospect in the class. Others, myself included, think he fits better as a five-technique in a 3-4 alignment and that his lack of suddenness, agility and motor will limit him as a pass-rusher.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M University
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $14.25 million, $7.9 million signing bonus
It is not a stretch for Blackmon to fall to the Bills at 10.
9. Carolina Panthers: Dontari Poe, DT, University of Memphis
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $14.15 million, $7.83 million signing bonus
10. Buffalo Bills: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State University
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $13.6 million, $7.5 million signing bonus
Analysis: Barring the re-sign of Demetrius Bell, or another related move at left tackle, the blind side will remain Buffalo's biggest need entering the draft. But rather than reach for Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin, I see Buddy Nix sticking to his board.
A legitimate No. 2 wide receiver, which Blackmon can very likely be, to pair with Steve Johnson also addresses a current offensive weakness and Nix was part of the Chargers' brain trust that used high picks on wideouts Craig Davis (2007), Vincent Jackson (2005) and Reche Caldwell (2002).
Along with his own selection of C.J. Spiller ninth overall two years ago, he does not appear to be philosophically opposed to taking offensive skill very early in the process.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Riley Reiff, OL, University of Iowa
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $12.7 million, $6.92 million signing bonus
12. Seattle Seahawks: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford University
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $11.5 million, $6.10 million signing bonus
Upshaw crashes the 1st-round party at lucky No. 13.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, University of Alabama
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $11.2 million, $5.9 million signing bonus
Analysis: This prediction will likely draw the ire of some fans and draftniks alike for its seeming departure from conventional wisdom, which is that Melvin Ingram is the superior outside linebacker prospect or that the Cardinals will address its biggest need and take Jonathan Martin at offensive tackle.
Ingram is the better athlete but I see Upshaw as the better football player, now and in the future, and predict that he will enjoy one of the best NFL careers of any prospect in this class. I also think his fit in Ray Horton's defensive scheme will have him sitting here as Arizona's best player available.
Martin's potential at left tackle is certainly tempting but his pure rating is probably down further in the first round, a reach the Cardinals are not comfortable making with Upshaw available to them.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick, DB, University of Alabama
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $10.65 million, $5.5 million signing bonus
Analysis: With the pick of the litter amongst the second defensive back candidates off the board, I see Dallas valuing Kirkpatrick's potential versatility (cornerback and free safety) over Stephon Gilmore and Mark Barron.
This pick could really go any of the three defensive backs and it would not surprise or be hard to defend.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Mark Barron, SS, University of Alabama
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $10.42 million, $5.22 million signing bonus
16. New York Jets: Melvin Ingram, OLB, University of South Carolina
Contract prediction: four years, $9.88 million, $5 million signing bonus
I still see Floyd sitting down in the 20-spot to the Titans.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Stephon Gilmore, CB, University of South Carolina
Contract prediction: four years, $9.68 million, $4.86 million signing bonus
18. San Diego Chargers: Cordy Glenn, OL, University of Georgia
Contract prediction: four years, $9.42 million, $4.69 million signing bonus
19. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford University
Contract prediction: four years, $9.27 million, $4.58 million signing bonus
20. Tennessee Titans: Michael Floyd, WR, University of Notre Dame
Contract prediction: four years, fully guaranteed, $9.3 million, $4.61 million signing bonus
Analysis: Despite all of the top-10 talk recently, I still think Floyd falls to 20 and the Titans. He makes sense for them as a fallback potential No.1 wideout if Kenny Britt cannot provide consistent health or does not re-sign. And in the least, he gives them a chance at a complementary threat.
Wright could be a high-flying playmaker in Cleveland.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Luke Kuechly, MLB, Boston College
Contract prediction: four years, $9.16 million, $4.58 million signing bonus
22. Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor University
Contract prediction: four years, $9.06 million, $4.44 million signing bonus
Analysis: There is talk of Cleveland, after staying out of the quarterback free-agent mix and missing on the rights to Robert Griffin III, selecting Brandon Weeden with this pick. But I think they will be rewarded by getting a potentially elite playmaker in Wright and targeting Weeden with their early second-rounder.
23. Detroit Lions: Lavonte David, WLB, University of Nebraska
Contract prediction: four years, $8.99 million, $4.4 million signing bonus
David is certainly not a household name in first-round mocks at this point but he is starting to gain some traction as a late-first possibility and I am an early entrant to this thinking. His only on-paper blemish is his size (6'0.5" 230 lbs.).
But despite this seeming drawback, he plays the run extremely well due to his awareness, quickness and sure tackling. And while he will be susceptible to being swallowed by bigger blockers at the second level, he actually has quality shedding skills. Anyone who doubts this guy, I recommend watching his tape.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers, OG, Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State University
Contract prediction: four years, $8.76 million, $4.24 million signing bonus
Mercilus falls further than I have him rated.
25. Denver Broncos: Peter Konz, C, University of Wisconsin
Contract prediction: four years, $8.66 million, $4.175 million signing bonus
Analysis: According to ProFootballFocus, the Denver Broncos had the second-worst combined blocking grade during the 2011 regular season, much of which is attributed to its offensive line. While Peyton Manning's mastery will mask some of that in 2012, upgrades must also be made because of the mobility difference between him and Tim Tebow.
Konz is the top offensive lineman on the board at this point and comes with the added bonuses of being versatile on the interior, at center and guard, as well as a skilled run-blocker coming from the Badgers.
26. Houston Texans: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford University
Contract prediction: four years, $8.56 million, $4.1 million signing bonus
Analysis: In a prediction not seen in any other online mock scenario, Houston parlays its perceived depth and takes a luxury pick with the best available offensive player on its board.
Although neither are strong blockers, Fleener will team with Owen Daniels to give the Texans a lethal two-tight end threat in the pass game that will rival the duos in New England and Denver.
27. New England Patriots: Whitney Mercilus, OLB, University of Illinois
Contract prediction: four years, $8.46 million, $4.03 million signing bonus
28. Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, OLB, University of Southern California
Contract prediction: four years, $8.41 million, $4 million signing bonus
Fleming scores a debut in my latest 1st-round mock.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Jamell Fleming, CB, University of Oklahoma
Contract prediction: four years, $8 million, $3.73 million signing bonus
Analysis: This pick becomes especially viable if the Ravens lose corner Lardarius Webb in restricted free agency, currently carrying a first-round tender, which I believe is a very reasonable play for a team with money and the need, possibly the Cincinnati Bengals.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Michael Brockers, DL, Louisiana State University
Contract prediction: four years, $7.79 million, $3.59 million signing bonus
Analysis: The 49ers have the most complete and deep roster heading into the draft in a few weeks. As such, their pick is one of the most difficult to predict, as well as a lot of fun to mock with all of the possibilities.
Ultimately, I fall back on who I think will be the best player available on their board and it is Brockers. His inexperience and rawness will not be exposed as badly playing behind an experienced and quality 49ers defensive line where he can learn and back up at all three positions while rounding out his development.
31. New England Patriots: Devon Still, DE, Penn State University
Contract prediction: four years, $7.6 million, $3.45 million signing bonus
32. New York Giants: Kelechi Osemele, OL, Iowa State University
Contract prediction: four years, $7.5 million, 3.38 million signing bonus