All hail RG3, the future of the National Football League.
With April 26th rapidly approaching, war rooms across the league are in hyper-drive tirelessly preparing for virtually every possible outcome.
Though I believe that there will be 2-3 trades in the first round dependent upon falling available talent, I will not attempt to make any callous projections.
This is version 1.0; I plan to update this mock all the way up to draft day.
Quarterback Andrew Luck—Stanford
Analysis: Colts Owner Jim Irsay’s decision to draft Andrew Luck first overall was made even before his decision to fire former team Vice President Bill Polian. Irsay has been here before, and to him the Luck/Griffin debate strongly rivals that of Manning/Leaf in ’98. Luck’s ability as a field general strongly resembles that of Manning’s; the decision is easy. Even if Manning were still a Colt, Luck would be selected number one. It’s just a matter of numbers now.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III—Baylor
Analysis: Had Andrew Luck declared for the draft in 2011, it would be RG3 that everyone would be proclaiming as the next quarterback prodigy and the future of the NFL. Griffin III is just downright intelligent. He can throw an excellent deep ball and displays great touch. If I had to compare him to current NFL QBs, I’d say that he’s got the speed and playmaking ability of a Cam Newton, and Tom Brady’s ability to perform under pressure. RG3’s merchandise and jersey sales are going to be off the charts a la Mike Vick back in 2001-2002. He’s every NFL GM’s dream.
Offensive Tackle Matt Kalil—USC
Analysis: Matt Kalil is an obvious choice here. He comes from a solid pedigree, his brother Ryan is a Pro Bowl center. Matt is the true definition of a road-grading offensive lineman and has a strong future at the next level. He has starter day one potential. Opening holes for all-world running back Adrian Peterson is and always will be Minnesota’s number-one priority.
Running back Trent Richardson—Alabama
Analysis: Initially I was going to project former Texas A & M quarterback Ryan Tannehill here, but I believe the departure of Peyton Hillis carries significant weight. Trent Richardson is by far and away the best running back available in this year’s draft class. He is a physical, highly competitive workout warrior whose skill set strongly resembles that of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Richardson’s experience as a workhouse for the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide will pay immediate dividends for the Browns in 2012.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne—LSU
Analysis: Contrary to popular belief, Ronde Barber will not play forever. The Aquib Talib selection in ’08 was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, Talib has also been subject to numerous off-field issues regarding his conduct, one of which included a felony warrant issued for his arrest in 2011. Though Claiborne scored a four on his Wonderlic Test, the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award winner still possesses superstar potential.
Wide Receiver Justin Blackmon—Oklahoma State
Analysis: Priority number one, surround franchise quarterback Sam Bradford with weapons. Justin Blackmon is the best available talent in this year’s crop of receivers, but the gap between Blackmon and Michael Floyd has rapidly diminished.
Wide Receiver Michael Floyd—Notre Dame
Analysis: Most will scoff at my decision to mock Floyd here, but his talent it undeniable. Gene Smith seems to thoroughly believe in Blaine Gabbert’s abilities and will look to provide him with the tools necessary to be successful. The selection of Floyd should provide the opportunity for Jacksonville’s All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew to maneuver.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill—Texas A & M
Analysis: Tannehill is as much a lock to Miami as the draft's first three selections. If I were to project any trade, Miami possibly trading up to select Tannehill is as good a projection as any. Personally I don’t believe that Tannehill is the answer. I said the same thing when Minnesota selected Christian Ponder 12th overall in the 2011 NFL draft—the jury is still out.
Defensive End Melvin Ingram—South Carolina
Analysis: Outside of the quarterback position, talented pass-rushers are the most coveted position on the football field. Ingram is a do-it-all, powerfully built leverage rusher with Terrell Suggs-esque ability. Look for Carolina to move Charles Johnson to the left end, allowing Ingram the opportunity to create from the right.
Outside Linebacker Luke Kuechly—Boston College
Analysis: I wasn’t overly smitten by Kuechly this time two months ago, but now I believe he is a can’t miss. He shows rare instincts and has outstanding intangibles. I think he’s one of the safest picks in the draft.
Defensive Tackle Michael Brockers—LSU
Analysis: Brockers is raw, but has tremendous upside. He is the prototypical powerful 4-3 one-gap nose tackle. He has the potential to create havoc in the backfield which will ultimately pay dividends for Kansas City’s young secondary. The selection of Brockers here for Kansas City would make a guy like Eric Berry very happy.
Defensive End Quinton Coples—North Carolina
Analysis: If it weren’t for a few character flaws, Coples would be a locked into a top-ten selection. Pete Carroll is well versed in rectifying those issues. Look for Seattle to take a flier on Coples if Kuechly is gone at 12.
Offensive Tackle Riley Reiff—Iowa
Analysis: This selection will be either Reiff or DeCastro. Arizona has to upgrade their offensive line. They find themselves in the perfect situation to do so.
Safety Mark Barron—Alabama
Analysis: I see a lot of analysts mocking Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe here, but I don’t think that Poe is even first round talent. Though I do actually have Poe projected to the Giants at the end of the round. Barron is the best player available at 14th overall and also fills a need for Dallas. He will step into the position and start from day one.
Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox—Mississippi State
Analysis: Jim Washburn loves guys like Fletcher Cox, and the Eagles have already expressed interest in the former Mississippi State standout.
Outside Linebacker/Defensive End Courtney Upshaw—Alabama
Analysis: Rex Ryan’s defenses have always been known for their ability to disrupt opposing back fields. That wasn’t necessarily the case in 2011. New York has to rectify that inadequacy, and a strong pass-rush linebacker like Courtney Upshaw could change the landscape in the AFC East.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins—North Alabama
Analysis: Based on ability alone, I believe that Janoris Jenkins is the best cornerback in this draft. Unfortunately, he’s immature, mouthy, ill-tempered and carries with him a myriad of off-season issues. If he can focus and overcome his checkered history, he is a sure-fire pro bowler.
Guard David DeCastro—Stanford
Analysis: Thanks to former Stanford and current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, guys like David DeCastro, Andrew Luck, Jonathan Martin and Coby Fleener were all bred in a pro-style offense. That in itself bodes well at the next level, and provides teams the type of game footage necessary to confidently pull the trigger early. DeCastro isn’t an elite athlete but he doesn’t have much downside outside of that. The offensive lineman position itself is deep in this year’s draft, but there aren’t many locks like DeCastro available.
Outside Linebacker/Defensive End Whitney Mercilus—Illinois
Analysis: Mercilus declared early but has the potential to be an elite pass-rusher at the next level. He shows great effort and plays with purpose. See Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick—Alabama
Analysis: The departure of Courtland Finnegan makes the cornerback position a need for Tennessee heading into the draft. Dre Kirkpatrick is a proven playmaker and is coincidentally the best cornerback available at this point. An excellent consolation prize for the Titans at 20th overall.
Guard Cordy Glenn—Georgia
Analysis: This is the best-case scenario for the Bengals. With already addressing a need at the cornerback position at 17th overall (thanks to the Raiders), the Bengals luck out with Glenn still available at 21. I have to believe that Cordy Glenn is somewhere in the top 3-4 on their draft board.
Cornerback Stephen Gilmore—South Carolina
Analysis: With a run on cornerbacks already under way, look for Cleveland to lock in the cornerback position opposite Joe Haden. I actually believe that Gilmore would be better suited for the safety position.Stephen Gilmore is Darrelle Revis physical and has the potential to be a solid player at the next level, but I don’t believe that he has the tools to overcome certain inconsistencies. He lacks top-end speed and requires the perfect situation to remain at cornerback.
Offensive Tackle Jonathan Martin—Stanford
Analysis: I’m not one of those people who believe that Detroit “needs” to address the offensive line position with the 23rd overall selection. But, I do firmly believe that Lions general manager Martin Mayhew will take the best player available, and Jonathan Martin is just that. Martin’s three years starting experience in Stanford’s pro-style system makes him very desirable. Drafting Martin and inserting him at the right tackle position would allow Detroit to move Gosder Cherilus to the interior. I believe that Detroit could see Martin at the blind side by 2013.
Inside Linebacker Dont’a Hightower—Alabama
Analysis: Hightower was the anchor of the Alabama championship defense for a reason. He is dominant. He just looks daunting; he fits the Steelers’ mold to a T. Imagine this if you can: Harrison, Timmons and Hightower. Absolutely devastating, so goes the Pittsburgh tradition.
Wide Receiver Kendall Wright—Baylor
Analysis: It was evident following the Andre Johnson injury that Houston needed help at the wide receiver position. Though I don’t believe Wright will be anything more than a decent number-two at the next level, he had a strong pro day. All things considered he is still a definite upgrade over Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones.
Outside Linebacker/ Defensive End Nick Perry—USC
Analysis: Every year I hesitate to even try to act like I know what I’m talking about when trying to project anything that has to do with New England’s draft plans. If I had to project anything I would say that this selection would be traded, possibly to Detroit. But, Perry fills a need for New England and is the best player available at this point.
Outside Linebacker/Defensive End Shea McClellin—Boise State
Analysis: Though McClellin predominately played defensive end at Boise State I believe his abilities better translate to the type of outside rush-backer position prominent in the Kevin Greene linebacking system. I think that McClellin would flourish behind a guy like B.J. Raji, and opposite Clay Matthews.
Center Peter Konz—Wisconsin
Analysis: Matt Birk is old, Ben Grubbs is gone and Peter Konz is good. Konz fits Baltimore’s blocking scheme perfectly, and from here on out Baltimore will be about what makes Ray Rice happy.
Tight End Coby Fleener—Stanford
Analysis: A two tight-end set featuring two playmaking pass-catching tight-ends would be lethal in the NFL. Oh that’s right, that’s what is happening in New England right now. Head coach Jim Harbaugh knows and loves this former Stanford stand-out. If Fleener slips past San Francisco here, don’t expect Indianapolis to hesitate pulling the trigger on him at the top of the second round. As a matter of fact, Fleener probably wouldn't even slip past New York at 32.
Defensive Tackle Jerel Worthy—Michigan State
Analysis: The Patriots should look to continue to upgrade their defensive line here with Worthy. The former Michigan State standout has shown the propensity to dominate, but displays poor stamina. Worthy is still very talented and versatile enough to make an immediate impact for the Patriots.
Defensive Tackle Dontari Poe—Memphis
Analysis: Poe is obviously physically gifted and displays rare quickness and athleticism for a player his size. Initially I had him falling out of the first round, but in lieu of my BPA structure, I believe that New York could take him at 32. Yes, I know that he could go much earlier. But, if I see serious inconsistencies in Poe’s game from my couch in Indiana, you can be sure that elite scouts and talent evaluators are seeing the same thing.