This updated NFL mock draft provides a look at the good and bad of each projection. No team can meet all its needs with just one pick, but going the wrong direction could have a negative impact. Ultimately, every pick in the draft comes with some sort of risk.
There are several major changes in my latest mock draft. It features an aggressive move by the Kansas City Chiefs to land an intriguing prospect. This trade also impacts the landing spot of LSU's Morris Claiborne, who becomes a major steal for one team.
Pick: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
Pros: Andrew Luck is the top overall prospect and comes along at a point in time where the Indianapolis Colts were looking to make a change. A franchise couldn't ask for a better player to step in and fill the shoes of a legend like Peyton Manning.
Colts fans are getting a smart and dedicated quarterback who will work to ensure he reaches his full potential. His experience at Stanford ensures he'll be prepared to step in and make an immediate impact.
Cons: Adding Luck means the Indianapolis Colts had to say goodbye to Peyton Manning. It's always difficult to part ways with a legend. This will be made tougher if Manning finds early success with the Denver Broncos.
Starting a rookie quarterback always has some bumps in the road, and these bumps won't be easy because Luck's play will be compared to Manning's.
Pick: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor
Pros: Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins finally find themselves a quarterback capable of providing hope. The likes of Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck caused a ton of pain for Washington's fanbase.
Robert Griffin III will make an immediate impact on the Redskins offense, while making it tough for opposing defenses to develop a game plan.
The Redskins won't mess around; Griffin III will be the starter from day one. He'll be joining several new players, including Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Washington's revamped passing game should provide a lot of explosive plays.
Cons: This is another situation where a team must deal with the growing pains of a young quarterback. Unlike the Indianapolis Colts, Washington's coaching staff faces a lot of pressure to win now. This added pressure isn't something that will help Griffin III's development.
I also have concerns with Mike Shanahan's ability to handle a young quarterback. His time in Washington features several situations where he poorly handled his quarterback. The most famous might be the benching of McNabb during a two-minute situation.
Griffin III doesn't need a coach who can't properly manage his team.
Pick: Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC
Pros: The Minnesota Vikings' need for a left tackle can only be filled through the draft. USC's Matt Kalil is superior to any player they could have added via free agency. Having the chance to add an elite tackle prospect isn't something that happens very often.
Minnesota desperately needs to bring in Kalil in order to help protect Christian Ponder. During his career, Ponder has struggled with injuries, something that becomes more of a concern with poor protection.
It's also important to consider the value of the No. 3 pick. Left tackle is a premium position, arguably the second-most important on the field. There's a major drop-off between Kalil and the second-round prospects. This makes adding Kalil at No. 3 the only way to ensure landing a top prospect at the position.
Cons: The only con with this pick is the fact that Minnesota passes on the opportunity to add LSU's Morris Claiborne. Adding a top-notch cornerback should be another major area of focus for the Vikings. Claiborne is far and away the top corner prospect, possessing the capability to lock down a team's top receiver.
After watching plenty of Kalil's games, I've developed some concerns with his ability to reach the edge. At times, he strikes me as more of a right tackle prospect.
If Kalil struggles to hold the edge against speed rushers, he might have to shift to the right side. Selecting a right tackle with the No. 3 pick would be a major overdraft.
Pick: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State
Pros: Selecting Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon gives the Cleveland Browns the playmaking wide receiver they desperately need. Their current roster lacks consistent and explosive playmakers. Blackmon is a highly productive player who also brings a strong work ethic.
He's a perfect fit for the West Coast offense, as he excels at picking up yards after the catch. A receiving corps featuring Blackmon, Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi has some real potential.
Giving Colt McCoy a legitimate weapon finally gives the Browns the opportunity to get a true assessment of his future. If he fails to succeed, Cleveland can look toward adding a quarterback in the 2013 draft, which could feature top prospects like USC's Matt Barkley, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.
Cons: Blackmon is a terrific prospect, but he really doesn't fit the bill of a top-five receiver. He doesn't bring the same type of explosiveness or upside as last year's top receiver, A.J. Green. Teams are always looking to find the most value with their picks, and Blackmon doesn't necessarily bring great value at No. 4.
There's also the presence of Alabama's Trent Richardson, who's receiving heavy consideration from the Browns. Richardson is a better prospect than Blackmon, but selecting a running back in the top five is a tough sell.
Pick: Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
Pros: Alabama's Trent Richardson is one of the top five prospects in this draft. He's an every-down running back who's capable of running between the tackles and breaking off long runs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could use a more explosive option at the running back position.
Coach Greg Schiano wants to feature a run-heavy offensive attack. In order to accomplish this, he'll need multiple options at the running back position. LeGarrette Blount and Richardson would be the perfect tandem to carry out Schiano's offensive philosophy.
Cons: The debate continues to rage on whether or not it makes sense to invest an early pick on a running back. There's plenty of evidence that a team can find a highly productive running back later in the draft or even take a gamble on an undrafted free agent.
Tampa could find more value by adding someone like LSU's Morris Claiborne at No. 5 and then targeting a running back like Boise State's Doug Martin in the second round.
Pick: Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M
Pros: Looking over the Kansas City Chiefs roster, I have a hard time identifying a major need. This team has plenty of young talent at just about every position. However, Matt Cassel hasn't proven he has what it takes to lead a team to the Super Bowl.
The Kansas City Chiefs had Ryan Tannehill in for a visit, and he could be the answer at quarterback. We hear over and over that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. This means finding a top-notch player at the position must be something each team works toward.
Is Matt Cassel elite? Thus far, he hasn't played at an elite level, making the quarterback position a need for the Chiefs. Tannehill's physical abilities give him the potential to develop into a terrific quarterback.
The St. Louis Rams need to address the wide receiver position, but there isn't anyone available worthy of the No. 6 pick. Trading down allows them to get better value and still address their biggest need.
Cons: I have my questions about Tannehill's ability to develop into a good NFL quarterback. His career at Texas A&M was filled with poor decisions and struggles with accuracy. He isn't a finished product and is a very risky pick this early in the draft.
Selecting Tannehill early is risky enough, but trading assets in order to acquire him is an even bigger gamble. Kansas City will really have to do its homework if it wants to make a play to upgrade the quarterback position.
Trading back to No. 11 takes St. Louis out of the range of this year's elite prospects. The Rams might be able to fill a need later in the draft, but they could lose the opportunity to add a real difference-maker.
Pick: Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
Pros: The Jacksonville Jaguars defense appears only a top-notch pass-rusher away from becoming one of the elite units in the NFL. North Carolina's Quinton Coples boasts the skill set needed to consistently generate pressure on the quarterback.
He uses his quickness off the ball and length to employ a wide range of pass-rush moves. Coples isn't just a pass-rush specialist, as he also does an excellent job holding up against the run. Adding Coples gives the Jaguars a potentially dominant player along the defensive line.
Cons: There are legitimate questions surrounding Coples' passion for the game. During his college career, he put up good, but not elite, numbers. The physical abilities he possesses should have resulted in better on-field production.
Another argument for his lack of production is the fact that he faced constant double- and triple-teams. This absolutely should impact a player's numbers, but top NFL players like Julius Peppers find a way to be productive despite the added attention.
Pick: Melvin Ingram, Defensive End/Linebacker, South Carolina
Pros: The Miami Dolphins defense needs to bring in another pass-rusher to complement Cameron Wake and replace Jason Taylor. South Carolina's Melvin Ingram knows how to generate pressure on the quarterback and can do so from multiple spots on the field.
Miami is moving to a hybrid defense, which means it needs versatile players. Ingram gives the Dolphins someone capable of lining up at defensive end, outside linebacker and defensive tackle.
Selecting Ingram means the Dolphins won't add Ryan Tannehill. I have Tannehill rated as a third-round prospect, but other see him as a top-10 player. Pulling the trigger on him this early in the draft would appear to be a desperation move, something that doesn't result in success.
Cons: Failing to bring in Tannehill could also be seen as a negative. The Dolphins absolutely need to find their quarterback of the future, and there's pressure to find that player now.
For all my concerns surrounding Tannehill, there's no doubting his raw talent. He absolutely possesses the potential to develop into an elite NFL quarterback.
Miami is in a no-win situation, as it'll receive some sort of criticism no matter who it picks.
Pick: Morris Claiborne, Cornerback, LSU
Pros: The Carolina Panthers would jump for joy if LSU's Morris Claiborne falls into their lap. He's one of the five best players in the draft, and to land him at No. 9 would be a steal. Claiborne is the type of player who will make everyone around him better.
Carolina's defense allowed nearly 250 passing yards per game last season. Allowing the opponent to pick up big chunks of yards through the air isn't how you win football games. Claiborne possesses the skill set needed to shut down the opponent's top receiving threat.
Cons: Despite its struggles defending the pass, Carolina doesn't have a major need at cornerback. There are plenty of other positions on the defense that have more pressing needs. However, it's impossible to fault the Panthers for pulling the trigger on Claiborne.
Pick: Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
Pros: The Buffalo Bills' decision not to make a strong offer to Demetress Bell leaves a major hole at left tackle. Only Chris Hairston offers any sort of hope of filling the position with a player currently on the roster. Stanford's Jonathan Martin's quickness and fluid movements enable him to protect the quarterback.
Buffalo's left tackle situation has been an issue since it traded Jason Peters. Adding Martin gives the Bills someone reliable they can count on for the next decade. The fact that he excels at protecting the passer and is limited as a run-blocker makes him a good fit for Chan Gailey's system.
Cons: There are some that believe Martin is more of a mid-first-round prospect. His limited strength raises concerns about his ability to contribute in the running game. Teams looking to run a balanced offense might be turned off by his limitations.
Selecting Martin here is based more on need than adding the best player available. Reaching to fill a need doesn't often result in great success.
Pick: Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
Pros: The St. Louis Rams moved down twice in order to ensure they get the most bang for their buck. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd is the type of dynamic pass-catcher this team needs to improve on offense. Sam Bradford can't head into the season with Brandon Gibson as his top playmaker.
Floyd's size and quickness allow him to both stretch the field and work the underneath routes. He has the potential to develop into a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
Continuing to move down the draft means the Rams will add a bunch of extra picks. Because of the wide range of needs on this team, adding extra draft choices is a wise strategy.
Cons: Trading back twice takes St. Louis out of the running for the top prospects in this draft. Sitting at No. 6, it could have the opportunity to land someone like LSU's Morris Claiborne, but he'll absolutely be off the board at No. 11.
Pick: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College
Pros: The Seattle Seahawks must add a linebacker at some point during the 2012 NFL draft. Being able to add Boston College's Luke Kuechly, who's my top-rated linebacker, would be a dream scenario. This Seattle defense doesn't only need help at linebacker; it needs a leader.
Kuechly's football IQ, toughness and effort make him a great candidate to lead a defense. He's the type of player who will always be around the football. He also does a good job ensuring the defense is aligned properly, a very underrated trait.
Cons: I have a hard time finding many faults with this pick, as it both fills a need and brings great value for the Seahawks. However, adding Kuechly doesn't solve Seattle's need for a pass-rusher. It may be faced with having to decide which is more important: a linebacker or a pass-rusher.
Pick: Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
Pros: The Arizona Cardinals' need at left tackle is so great that they must address the position in the first round. They must find someone to help them lower the 54 sacks allowed last season. Iowa's Riley Reiff has enough quickness and balance to hold his own as a rookie left tackle.
Kevin Kolb's future, and thus the future of the Arizona franchise, depends on having more time to find open targets. It also relies heavily on limiting hits to ensure he can remain healthy for an entire season. This team will never get a return on its investment if it can't keep Kolb upright.
Cons: Reiff is a good player, but he doesn't strike me as a can't-miss prospect. There are some deficiencies to his game that might force him to move to right tackle. This wouldn't be a great situation for the Cardinals, as they already have Levi Brown, who was drafted as a left tackle but needs a shift to the right side.
Pick: Dontari Poe, Defensive Line, Memphis
Pros: Memphis' Dontari Poe is a versatile player capable of playing all three defensive line positions for the Dallas Cowboys. His combination of size and quickness helps him hold at the point of attack while also generating pressure.
Dallas' defensive front needs more explosiveness, something Poe will be able to provide. He'll join a rotation that features Jay Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher. One can argue that Poe will immediately be the most dangerous player among the group.
Cons: Poe's college success has come against lesser competition. His draft stock is mostly tied to his potential and not his production. These types of prospects are dangerous, as they have an increased chance of failing to meet their potential.
Pick: Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama
Pros: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarrett are nice young players, but none have locked down a starting spot. Alabama's Mark Barron offers more talent and potential than any of the other safeties on the Philadelphia Eagles roster. His addition would go a long way toward fixing their struggles in deep coverage.
Barron doesn't just bring good range in coverage, as he's also an excellent run defender. Last season, Philadelphia struggled to stop the run because of poor tackling. Barron will immediately give the Eagles someone capable of making plays at the line of scrimmage.
Cons: The Eagles recently used three high draft picks to upgrade the safety position—both Jarrett and Allen were second-round picks. It might be too early to give up on these young safeties.
However, Andy Reid's shaky job status could force him to take a win-now approach. When decision-makers are on the hot seat, they tend to make mistakes in the draft.
Pick: Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker, Alabama
Pros: Selecting Alabama's Courtney Upshaw gives the New York Jets a strong presence at outside linebacker. He's a versatile player who brings the ability to both play the run and rush the passer.
Upshaw is a perfect fit to play the outside linebacker position in a 3-4 and is capable of developing into a perennial Pro Bowler.
New York's defense took a step back last season, with some weaknesses becoming apparent. Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace and Aaron Maybin are decent players, but none of them possess the same upside as Upshaw.
Cons: The Jets absolutely need to come out of this draft with good players at the right tackle and wide receiver positions. The later-round wide receiver talent has a significant drop-off from the first round. At No. 16, New York could have an opportunity to add receivers like Baylor's Kendall Wright or Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.
Conversely, there are some decent mid-round outside linebacker prospects. It's possible the Jets could gamble and wait to add a linebacker later in the draft.
Pick: Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
Pros: The Cincinnati Bengals have a whole host of veteran cornerbacks, including Adam Jones, Terence Newman, Nate Clements and Leon Hall. However, this group lacks youth and explosiveness. South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore would be a great young addition to Cincinnati's secondary.
Gilmore is a physical defender who fits multiple defensive styles. His short-area burst allows him to quickly click and close on the football. He has good ball skills and is always a threat to pull down an interception. Gilmore's willingness to support the run will be very popular among the Bengals coaching staff.
Cons: The recent addition of Terence Newman gives the Bengals good depth at cornerback. It's possible that Gilmore would be relegated to a backup and special-teams role. Most teams expect their first-round picks to make an early impact.
Pick: Cordy Glenn, Offensive Line, Georgia
Pros: Despite the pleas from several San Diego Chargers fans, I see Georgia's Cordy Glenn making the most sense in the first round. His versatility means he could see action at guard, right tackle or left tackle. San Diego needs an upgrade/depth at each of the positions along the offensive line.
Jeromey Clary isn't cutting it at right tackle, a position Glenn could play at a Pro Bowl level. The loss of Kris Dielman leaves a hole at guard, another position where Glenn could excel. I also have concerns about the long-term health of Jared Gaither.
Glenn possesses quick enough feet to develop into a good left tackle in the NFL.
Cons: Right tackle and guard are the Chargers' biggest needs along the offensive line. These prospects can be found later in the draft. However, addressing their need for a pass-rusher might not be as easy after the first round.
Selecting Glenn could mean the Chargers pass on pass-rush specialists like Illinois' Whitney Mercilus, Syracuse's Chandler Jones and USC's Nick Perry.
Pick: Fletcher Cox, Defensive Line, Mississippi State
Pros: The Chicago Bears will use an early draft pick to increase the talent along the defensive line. Lovie Smith and company place a high value on defensive linemen capable of creating pressure. Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox has the quickness and burst needed to generate pressure from multiple positions.
After watching several games, I determined that Cox fits as either a defensive end or three-technique tackle. His combination of size and athletic ability is what will allow him to play multiple positions. In Chicago, he could line up at defensive end on first and second down and then shift to tackle in passing situations.
Cons: In recent years, Chicago has focused a lot of its resources on the defensive line. This left the offensive line, secondary and linebacking corps lacking talent/depth. Using its first-round pick to again upgrade the defensive line will only continue the problems at the other positions.
The Bears have stated they feel good about their offensive line, but if they pass up on the chance to add a left tackle, we could see upheaval from the fanbase.
Pick: David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford
Pros: Head coach Mike Munchak knows the importance of strong offensive line play thanks to his Hall of Fame career as a lineman. The Tennessee Titans offense heavily relies on the success of Chris Johnson and the running game.
Stanford's David DeCastro's strength as a run-blocker makes him a logical fit for the Titans.
Landing DeCastro at No. 20 could be seen as a steal, as he's getting attention from teams as high as No. 11. He will immediately replace Leroy Harris, while also providing some insurance for the aging Steve Hutchinson.
Cons: As it stands, the Titans don't necessarily need to add an interior offensive lineman. They have greater needs in the secondary and at wide receiver. In this mock, cornerback prospects like Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick and North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins are available.
It also might be hard for them to pass up the opportunity to land an offensive playmaker like Baylor's Kendall Wright or Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill.
Tennessee could potentially wait until the middle rounds to address its needs along the offensive line.
Pick: Peter Konz, Center/Guard, Wisconsin
Pros: The Cincinnati Bengals' additions of Jacob Bell and Travelle Wharton are only stop-gap solutions. This, combined with the average play of Kyle Cook, makes addressing the interior of the offensive line a priority for the Bengals. Wisconsin's Peter Konz brings versatility, toughness and a high football IQ to the table.
He could start his career at guard and then shift to center in later years. Konz's experience at Wisconsin gave him the skills needed to have a smooth transition into the NFL. Cincinnati would be doing Andy Dalton a favor by continuing to upgrade the offensive line.
Cons: Konz is a good prospect with the ability to make an immediate impact, but No. 21 might be a bit high to pull the trigger on him. The Bengals might get better value if they added someone like Baylor's Kendall Wright, who's still available in this mock.
Pick: Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
Pros: The Cleveland Browns have a major hole at the right tackle position. They released the struggling Tony Pashos during the offseason and now may be forced to go with the inconsistent Oniel Cousins. Ohio State's Mike Adams is a big, strong and athletic offensive lineman capable of lining up at either tackle spot.
Adams will ensure Colt McCoy is properly protected, while also generating a push to open running lanes. The tandem of Adams and Joe Thomas would give the Browns one of the best tackle duos in the league. Having a solid base up front is often the start of finding success.
Cons: There are prospects like Ole Miss' Bobby Massie and Cal's Mitchell Schwartz who could fill Cleveland's need at right tackle. Both of these prospects could be added in either the second or third round. The Browns have other pressing needs that may provide a bigger impact if filled.
Pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
Pros: As it stands, the Detroit Lions are heading into the season with Chris Houston and Aaron Berry as their starting cornerbacks. This tandem isn't going to hold up well against the likes of Brandon Marshall and the Green Bay Packers' receiving corps.
Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick has the balance and quickness needed to improve the Lions secondary.
Kirkpatrick's long arms and physical play make him a good fit for Detroit's defensive system. He also brings good instincts, which helps him close on the football. Because of Detroit's ferocious pass rush, Kirkpatrick will have the opportunity to pull down some interceptions.
Cons: The fit between Kirkpatrick and the Lions makes a ton of sense, which makes it tough for me to find a negative. However, Detroit's issues protecting the passer also make adding an offensive tackle important.
Jeff Backus is rapidly aging, and Gosder Cherilus continues to struggle with injuries and inconsistency. The Lions' main offensive focus needs to be ensuring the health of quarterback Matthew Stafford. Don't be surprised if the Lions make a move up the board to land a pass-protecting tackle.
Pick: Dont'a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama
Pros: Alabama's Dont'a Hightower is a versatile defender whose best position might be manning the middle of a 3-4 defense. The Pittsburgh Steelers' core defenders are rapidly aging, especially in the linebacking corps. Hightower has the ability to play all four linebacker positions in the Steelers defense.
Originally, I wasn't very impressed with Hightower. However, the more I watched, the more I fell in love with him as a prospect. Dick LeBeau is the best defensive coordinator to ensure Hightower's versatility is properly utilized.
I picture Hightower immediately filling in for Larry Foote, but also playing the role of injury replacement for the rest of the linebacking corps.
Cons: Pittsburgh has a ton of needs across its roster. Adding Hightower means it would be neglecting other, maybe more important, needs. The offensive line is a major concern, and failing to add an impact player could hurt the offense.
Ideally, the Steelers would be able to trade down and add more picks. This would allow them to address their wide array of needs.
Pick: Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Pros: It's a myth that Peyton Manning didn't have good weapons with the Indianapolis Colts. He had the opportunity to throw to the likes of Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark.
The Denver Broncos don't have anywhere near that type of talent on their roster. Selecting Baylor's Kendall Wright would go a long way toward solving that issue.
Wright is a multi-dimensional pass-catcher who's capable of working out of the slot or on the outside. He's shifty enough to create in space and fast enough to stretch the field. He and Peyton Manning would be an excellent match, with Wright playing a combination of a Harrison and Brandon Stokley-type role.
Cons: Despite their improvement, the Denver Broncos defense still has some problem areas. The biggest issues is at the defensive tackle position, which was made weaker by the departure of Brodrick Bunkley.
Manning can survive with the group of Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Matt Willis. However, the defense won't fair well with Kevin Vickerson and Ryan McBean in the middle of the defense.
Denver could pass on Wright and target a defensive tackle like LSU's Michael Brockers or Connecticut's Kendall Reyes.
Pick: Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech
Pros: The Houston Texans lack a real offensive threat opposite Andre Johnson. Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are complementary pieces, but neither strikes fear into a defense. Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill possesses the size and speed necessary to draw coverage away from Johnson.
Houston doesn't just need someone capable of drawing coverage away from Johnson—it also needs someone who can fill his spot in the lineup. In each of the past two seasons, Johnson has missed time due to injury.
Houston's offense isn't the same with Johnson out of the lineup, something the addition of Hill can help rectify.
Cons: Hill is a very raw prospect with only 49 career receptions. Georgia Tech ran a run-heavy option offense that only passed the ball out of necessity. The route tree was very simplistic and far from NFL-style. Hill will need time to learn the pro-style concepts.
Selecting Hill in the first round is tied to his upside. He's a risky pick because of his lack of experience and the unknown of how he'll develop.
Pick: Michael Brockers, Defensive Line, LSU
Pros: The New England Patriots defense was among the worst in the NFL last year, allowing over 410 yards per game. Their problems stretched from the defensive line all the way to safety. This means they could add the best available defensive player with each of their early picks.
LSU's Michael Brockers is a talented defensive lineman capable of playing multiple roles.
Brockers uses a combination of size and quickness to hold at the point of attack, while also possessing the ability to penetrate the pocket. He's a fit at either five-technique, three-technique or nose tackle. Because of Bill Belichick's multiple-front defense, New England needs to add versatile defenders like Brockers.
Cons: Brockers is very raw, boasting limited playing time at LSU. His value is based on his potential, and there's a possibility he winds up as a bust. The uncertainty of Brockers' development could end up hurting the team that selects him.
Thanks to its pressing needs on defense, New England can't afford to miss on its early picks.
Pick: Whitney Mercilus, Linebacker/Defensive End, Illinois
Pros: Clay Matthews' production really dropped off last season, mainly because of the lack of another pass-rush threat. Offenses were game-planning to shut down Matthews and make others beat them. This really hurt the overall effectiveness of the Green Bay Packers defense.
Illinois' Whitney Mercilus has the pass-rush ability to make opponents rethink that strategy.
Mercilus is quick off the ball and does a good job using his hands to keep clean. He's athletic enough to play either defensive end or outside linebacker. In his final season at Illinois, Mercilus recorded 16 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. This proves he's more than capable of creating pressure on the quarterback.
Cons: The majority of Mercilus' production came in one season, raising questions about whether or not he's a one-year wonder. In order to feel completely comfortable, teams like to see sustained success over two years.
Mercilus' major boom brings about flashes of early-round busts like Aaron Maybin and Derrick Harvey.
Pick: Kendall Reyes, Defensive Line, Connecticut
Pros: Connecticut's Kendall Reyes is an underrated prospect who possesses a ton of potential. He'll instantly bring solid play, but his best football is still ahead of him.
After the free-agency losses of Cory Redding and Brandon McKinney, the Baltimore Ravens need to reload along the defensive line. Reyes' versatility will allow the Ravens to use him at multiple spots on the line.
While at Connecticut, Reyes was asked to play all along the defensive line. He showed that he's capable of penetrating the pocket and occupying blockers. His best fit in Baltimore would be at the five-technique, but he can also play some nose tackle.
Cons: Baltimore has more needs than most may realize. The Ravens must find help along the defensive line, at linebacker and on the offensive line. Adding Reyes may not make a lot of sense, as their needs at offensive line and linebacker are greater.
Pick: Kelechi Osemele, Offensive Line, Iowa State
Pros: The offseason must be considered a win for the San Francisco 49ers. They were able to keep their entire starting defense intact, while also upgrading at wide receiver. However, there's still a need along the interior of the offensive line. Iowa State's Kelechi Osemele would be a great addition at either guard position.
Osemele could line up at either right tackle or guard, adding a strong, physical presence at either spot. He's a terrific athlete who only needs to refine his technique to develop into a dominant player. San Francisco's preference to run the ball makes adding Osemele a home-run selection.
Cons: This draft features one legitimate first-round guard prospect: Stanford's David DeCastro. It's very unlikely he lasts until No. 30, but that doesn't decrease how well he fits in this offense. I would love to see the 49ers make an aggressive move to ensure landing this year's top interior lineman.
Pick: Chandler Jones, Defensive End/Linebacker, Syracuse
Pros: The New England Patriots head into the draft without a legitimate pass-rushing force. Last year's top rushers, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter, are unlikely to return to the team. Syracuse's Chandler Jones possesses the type of quickness needed to get after the quarterback.
Jones combines his quickness with a nonstop motor. He's always pursuing the football, which is what makes him such a special player. His best fit is at defensive end, but he's athletic enough to stand up and play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
He'll never be a good cover linebacker, but he won't have any issues rushing the passer from a two-point stance.
Cons: Bill Belichick's roots are with the 3-4 defensive system. Jones can play linebacker, but it would take some time for him to adjust. The Patriots might be better off targeting a player who's a little more fluid and capable of dropping into coverage.
Pick: Coby Fleener, Tight End, Stanford
Pros: The New York Giants' tight end trio of Martellus Bennett, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum offers some solid play. However, none offer the explosiveness of Stanford's Coby Fleener. Adding Fleener would give Eli Manning his first top-notch tight end threat since Jeremy Shockey.
Fleener possesses elite speed and height for the position. He's a matchup nightmare who will command double teams. Manning has always utilized the tight end position, so it's time the Giants provide him with an elite talent at the position.
Cons: The departure of Brandon Jacobs and continuing injury problems for Ahmad Bradshaw makes running back a position of need for the Giants. Passing on a running back at No. 32 could mean they miss out on the draft's top prospects.
Boise State's Doug Martin, Virginia Tech's David Wilson and Miami's Lamar Miller will all be off the board by the end of the second round. If New York wants to upgrade at running back, it'll need to do so at the end of Round 1.
33. St. Louis Rams: Devon Still, Defensive Tackle, Penn State
34. Indianapolis Colts: Jerel Worthy, Defensive Tackle, Michigan State
35. Minnesota Vikings: Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, North Alabama
36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Robinson, Cornerback, UCF
37. Cleveland Browns: Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State
38. Jacksonville Jaguars: Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
39. St. Louis Rams (From Washington): Harrison Smith, Safety, Notre Dame
40. Carolina Panthers: Vinny Curry, Defensive End, Marshall
41. Buffalo Bills: Rueben Randle, Wide Receiver, LSU
42. Miami Dolphins: Mitchell Schwartz, Offensive Tackle, Cal
43. Seattle Seahawks: Andre Branch, Defensive End/Linebacker, Clemson
44. Kansas City Chiefs: Alameda Ta'amu, Nose Tackle, Washington
45. Dallas Cowboys: Brandon Taylor, Safety, LSU
46. Philadelphia Eagles: Zach Brown, Linebacker, North Carolina
47. New York Jets: Jeff Allen, Offensive Line, Illinois
48. New England Patriots (From Oakland): Jamell Fleming, Cornerback, Oklahoma
49. San Diego Chargers: Nick Perry, Defensive End/Linebacker, USC
50. Chicago Bears: Lavonte David, Linebacker, Nebraska
51. Philadelphia Eagles (From Arizona): Brandon Thompson, Defensive Tackle, Clemson
52. Tennessee Titans: Trumaine Johnson, Cornerback, Montana
53. Cincinnati Bengals: David Wilson, Running Back, Virginia Tech
54. Detroit Lions: Bobby Massie, Offensive Tackle, Ole Miss
55. Atlanta Falcons: Mychal Kendricks, Linebacker, Cal
56. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kevin Zeitler, Guard, Wisconsin
57. Denver Broncos: Jayron Hosley, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
58. Houston Texans: Shea McClellin, Linebacker/Defensive End, Boise State
59. Green Bay Packers: Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami
60. Baltimore Ravens: James-Michael Johnson, Linebacker, Nevada
61. San Francisco 49ers: Chase Minnifield, Cornerback, Virginia
62. New England Patriots: Amini Silatolu, Guard, Midwestern State
63. New York Giants: Brandon Brooks, Guard, Miami