1. Indianapolis Colts – QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
No one is buying owner Robert Irsay’s claim that the Colts are still undecided about who to select with the first pick overall. Indy has cleaned house and will rebuild with the obvious selection as their cornerstone. A white and blue “12” jersey is waiting for Luck.
2. Washington Redskins – QB Robert Griffin III
You might not be a fan of Jay Cutler, but ‘Skins head coach Mike Shanahan drafted Cutler and turned him into a productive pro. Shanahan will do the same with Griffin, with the difference being that Griffin will finally turn Washington into winners.
3. Minnesota Vikings – OT Matt Kalil, USC
The Vikes surprised everyone by selecting QB Christian Ponder in the first round last year. Selecting Kalil would be a no-brainer. The Vikings allowed 49 sacks last year. Ponder already has some good weapons around him. Now he needs protection.
4. Cleveland Browns – RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
RB Peyton Hillis couldn’t leave town quick enough. Cleveland is ecstatic to be rid of a player that put his contract ahead of his team. Quarterback is a dire need for the Browns, but they go with the best player available this early in the draft.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
You know you have problems at D-tackle when you bring in the discarded Albert Haynesworth for depth following some injuries. The Bucs had the league worst rush defense, allowing 156.1 yards per game. While moderately productive at Memphis, Poe became the top prospect after wowing scouts at the NFL Combine.
6. St. Louis Rams – WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Not only did the Rams acquire additional picks by trading down, they still get the player they originally had their eyes on. QB Sam Bradford will have a go-to receiver for years to come after losing Brandon Lloyd in free agency. If the offensive line can stay healthy, Bradford to Blackmon could be a connection we hear from for years to come.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
The DE Aaron Kampman free agent signing was a complete bust and the Jags must move forward from that mistake. Coples is compared to elite pass rusher Julius Peppers. That’s a huge compliment for Coples, but it also says a lot about Coples’ potential.
8. Miami Dolphins – QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
Reaching for quarterbacks in the first round has become a trend, from Tim Tebow (Denver, 2010) to Christian Ponder (Minnesota, 2010), and next will be Tannehill. After failing to woo Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn, the ‘Fins must get a signal caller.
9. Carolina Panthers – CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
The Panthers need defense in any form. On this occasion the ‘Cats go for help in the secondary because in the NFC South ‘Lina has to slow down the likes of Josh Freeman (Bucs), Matt Ryan (Falcons) and Drew Brees (Saints). The Panthers can’t have enough good corners.
10. Buffalo Bills – OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
Buffalo has a young, up-and-coming offensive line that gave up just 23 sacks last year. But they could use stability at left tackle as Demetrius Bell and Chris Hairston split 13 of 16 starts.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Glenn Dorsey isn’t a natural fit in a 3-4 defense and Tyson Jackson, though improved, hasn’t lived up to being the third pick overall. KC’s run defense ranked 26th (132 yards per game) and can use Cox’s strength and quickness.
12. Seattle Seahawks – DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
DE Chris Clemons’ eleven sacks was exactly one third of the Seahawks sack total (33). Seattle also has to plan for the future as Clemons will turn 31 years old in October.
13. Arizona Cardinals – OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
‘Zona was out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes very early. That was probably because the Cardinals couldn’t guarantee Manning’s safety after allowing 54 sacks last year. QB Kevin Kolb could have a bounce back year if the O-line keeps Kolb upright.
14. Dallas Cowboys – CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Signing free agent CB Brandon Carr after releasing Terence Newman only solves half the problem. Dallas must improve the other side of the field as Mike Jenkins has been a disappointment.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – S Mark Barron, Alabama
Philly’s star-studded secondary gets a tough, lunch pail-type safety. Nothing says tough like playing through a double hernia like Barron did.
16. New York Jets – WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
17. Cincinnati Bengals – OG David DeCastro, Stanford
Two-for-one never works in the NFL. Cincy lost two guards in Nate Livings and Mike McGlynn while signing Travelle Wharton. DeCastro will provide depth and will eventually become a starter for the Bengals.
18. San Diego Chargers – DE/OLB Nick Perry, USC
Perry put on some weight after his Spartan days, tipping the scales at 271 pounds at the Combine after being about 250 at USC. Perry should be able to make the transition from defensive end to linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
19. Chicago Bears – CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
Even though the Bears had 20 interceptions, they still gave up 4,065 yards because they see juggernaut offenses Detroit and Green Bay twice a season. They can use some length at corner to defend the Lions’ Calvin Johnson and the Packers’ deep receiving corps.
20. Tennessee Titans – DE Andre Branch, Clemson
Tennessee’s pass rush needs a serious boost. DE Derrick Morgan is improving slowly and DT Jason Jones left as a free agent. LB Akeem Ayers will get chances to blitz, but having Branch coming off the edge full time will help a lot.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama
Controversial athletes don’t scare the Bengals, as the organization isn’t afraid to take a chance on a player with red flags. Jenkins’ talent is too good to pass up as he can be a slot corner on day one and eventually replace Nate Clements.
22. Cleveland Browns – DT Michael Brockers, LSU
The Browns have to deal with three teams that like to run the ball six times a year in the AFC North. The problem is clear as Cleveland had the third worst run defense in the NFL (147.4 yards per game). The Browns will have a young D-line that has a chance to grow together for years.
23. Detroit Lions – DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
Even though the Lions got eight sacks from DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, he isn’t getting younger. The eleven-year veteran has been a pro from day one and a leader on and off the field. Vanden Bosch would be the prefect mentor for Mercilus.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
The Steelers want to get younger, especially on defense. They already released 37-year-old ILB James Farrior and Larry Foote (31) isn’t too far behind. Kuechly probably will be mentored for a year before taking over full time in 2013.
25. Denver Broncos – DT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
Denver’s run defense was almost as bad as their rush offense was good. Opponents tore through the Broncos at a 126.3 yards pre game clip, 22nd in the NFL. With DT Brodrick Bunkley gone, there’s a hole that Worthy can fill immediately.
26. Houston Texans – WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
Health kept the Texans from being at their best last year. WR Andre Johnson fell victim to the injury bug last year, limiting him to seven regular season games. The Texans can afford to develop Hill slowly while he learns from veterans Johnson and Kevin Walter.
27. New England Patriots – DT Kendall Reyes, Connecticut
The NFL’s second worst defense needs help in all areas. Adding Reyes gives the Patriots depth they sorely lacked as injuries piled up along the D-line. With DE Shawn Ellis and DT Gerard Warren possibly retiring, the Patriots can really use Reyes.
28. Green Bay Packers – DE/OLB Vinny Curry, Marshall
The pass defense struggled in part because opponents were able to focus on OLB Clay Matthews without a threat coming from the other side. Consistent pressure from Curry would really help the Packers’ NFL worst overall and pass defense.
29. Baltimore Ravens – WR Rueben Randle, LSU
No offense should have the leading rusher be the leading receiver as well. RB Ray Rice was Mr. Everything for the Ravens, but the lack a number one receiver is holding the Ravens back.
30. San Francisco 49ers – DT Devon Still, Penn State
Still’s stock has dropped during evaluations, allowing the Niners to take the former Nittany Lion. Still will have to wait his turn to get snaps, but he’ll have great veterans to learn how to play the right way.
31. New England Patriots – CB Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska
It will be a wide open competition for the cornerback position and Dennard will be one more vying for snaps. Dennard has solid man-to-man skills to help immediately, maybe as a slot corner to begin his career.
32. New York Giants – LB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
The defense played great when it mattered most in the playoffs, but it almost cost the Giants a spot in the playoffs. It’s one thing to be the fourth worst run defense, but it’s another to allow 4.5 yards per carry.
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