Can Andrew Luck handle the pressure of being Peyton Manning's replacement?
In my second mock draft, I included a trade in the top ten and a few changes from my previous mock. Most teams stuck with their original selections, but there was movement in the middle of the round.
The Colts have made it official: Andrew Luck is going to be the new face of the franchise. Luck is the most complete quarterback to come out since Manning left Tennessee. He has the size, arm strength, accuracy, athleticism and intangibles needed to lead a franchise for the next 10 to 15 years.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
With the Colts confirming that they will take Luck, Griffin can begin to look for a home in the D.C. beltway. Griffin is an intriguing prospect and should thrive in Mike Shanahan’s west-coast offense. As long as he can survive the first two years, Griffin will have a shot at succeeding in the NFL.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St.
Matt Kalil isn’t in the same class as Jake Long or Joe Thomas, so the Vikings will make a splash and give Christian Ponder someone to throw to. Justin Blackmon is physical, fast and has the hands to be a top receiver in the NFL.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Who jumps into the top-ten?
Ryan Tannehill may intrigue the Browns' front office, but they aren’t ready to give up on Colt McCoy and draft a project. Trent Richardson will give McCoy and the Browns someone to take the pressure off the passing game. Richardson is the best overall running back to come out since Adrian Peterson. Even though he isn’t the once-in-a-generation back that Peterson was coming out of college, he is a complete prospect that will have success early.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
With Aqib Talib’s legal issues and Ronde Barber’s impending retirement, drafting Claiborne is a smart decision. He may not have the highest IQ, but he has football smarts and was able to play in a complicated LSU defense.
6. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
After missing with tackle Jason Smith, the Rams need Kalil to succeed. Justin Blackmon is the ideal pick for the Rams, but after he is drafted by the Vikings, Kalil is the next-best option. Trading down and getting additional picks is also an option as the Rams continue to rebuild.
Matt Cassel hasn’t lived up to expectations, and in drafting a project QB in Tannehill, the Chiefs can allow him to learn on the sidelines for at least one season. Tannehill has all the tools he needs. As long as he works on his decision-making and can improve his accuracy, he will find success in the NFL.
Who slides out of the top-ten
8. Miami Dolphins: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
With the Chiefs moving up to take Tannehill, the Dolphins choose to add another pass-rusher to put opposite Cameron Wake. Coples has the skills needed, but can he overcome the concerns about his motor? If Coples decides to play every snap with the same tenacity, he and Wake will strike fear in opposing quarterbacks.
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Panthers need to upgrade the defense that allowed over 2,000 rushing yards last year. Cox can provide a boost inside, taking pressure off of DE Charles Johnson. The move will also make things easier on MLB Jon Beason. While Dontari Poe made noise at the combine, Cox is the better overall prospect. Carolina could also decide to draft a pass-rusher to go along with Johnson.
10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Bills upgraded their defensive line with free agents; now they must address the offensive line in the draft. Reiff isn’t in the same class as Kalil, but he can step in now that the Bills lost Demetress Bell to the Eagles. The Bills need to protect Ryan Fitzpatrick’s blindside if they want their offense to continue to develop. Wide receiver is another top need, and they could reach for Michael Floyd.
11. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Kansas City Chiefs): Melvin Ingra, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Drafting Ingram will give the Jaguars a pass-rusher opposite the recently re-signed Jeremy Mincey. Ingram is a tweener but has the skills needed to play DE. This is a risky pick, but quality pass-rushers are a necessity in the pass-happy NFL. It is too early to draft a receiver for Blaine Gabbert, and the Jaguars need to bolster a pass rush that totaled only 31 sacks in 2011.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Seattle’s defense is heading in the right direction under Pete Carroll, and Kuechly can be a playmaker at the middle linebacker position. He has great instincts and underrated athleticism. Carroll needs a quarterback on defense, and Kuechly has all the tools needed to be that player.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
The Cardinals need an upgrade at right tackle. Glenn played both inside at guard and at tackle while at Georgia. He has the size and athleticism needed to be a tackle but is better-suited for the right side. This would provide a boost to the Cardinals' offense and give Kevin Kolb more time in the pocket to get the ball downfield to Larry Fitzgerald.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
Poe would be an instant upgrade for an aging Cowboys defensive line. They lack the nose tackle needed to run their 3-4, and when in sub packages, Poe could provide a boost to their pass rush. While there are concerns that Poe is just a combine warrior, he has the physical tools needed to anchor the middle of their defensive line.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
With Andy Reid looking to dump Asante Samuel, the Eagles will look to draft a cornerback early. Kirkpatrick is raw but has elite talent. He is tall and physical, like current corner Nnamdi Asomugha. After struggling last year, Kirkpatrick could be an upgrade for Reid’s defense in 2012.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Upshaw is a prototypical tweener but provides versatility and the pass-rush skills needed to excel in the Jets defense. The Jets need to make a major upgrade at OLB. Adding Upshaw will provide speed outside and allow Rex Ryan to run the defense the way he wants. Calvin Pace has been a solid player, but age is getting the better of him.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland): Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Bengals need to fill the void that was left when Johnathan Joseph signed with the Texans last season. Drafting Gilmore would fill that void. Pairing the talented Gilmore with Leon Hall would give the Bengals a great tandem at corner. Gilmore has the size and elite speed needed to be a ballhawk in the secondary.
18. San Diego Chargers: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
The Chargers have been in need of a pass-rusher since Shawne Merriman left. They have spent first-round picks on OLBs but haven’t gotten the results they hoped for. Mercilus is versatile and talented and can step in right away to provide a boost to the Chargers defense.
19. Chicago Bears: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
This would be a dream come true for Jay Cutler. After acquiring former teammate Brandon Marshall, adding Floyd would solidify the Bears' biggest weakness over the past several seasons. Floyd is a top talent and will drop due to concerns about his durability. He has elite speed and playmaking ability and will be a red-zone threat for Cutler.
20. Tennessee Titans: Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida
Robinson is on the rise, and his 4.3 speed and return ability make him a perfect fit to replace the departed Cortland Finnegan. While scouts may praise Janoris Jenkins, Robinson doesn’t have the baggage concerns. Robinson isn’t the physical player that Finnegan is, but he is a good cover corner with solid instincts.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Bengals addressed their need at corner with their first pick. With their second selection, Barron would pair with Reggie Nelson to give them a safety pairing that will cause fits for opposing quarterbacks. There are concerns about the hernia injury, but Barron’s skills are unquestioned and he would be a steal for the Bengals at No. 21.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
After upgrading at running back, the Browns draft Martin to bookend Joe Thomas and solidify the offensive line. Wide receiver is another priority, but the Browns can’t pass on Martin, who is a top-15 talent in this draft. Martin and Thomas will provide Colt McCoy with the protection he needs to run the west-coast offense.
23. Detroit Lions: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
While this isn’t a need going into 2012, Konz is the best center in the draft and can learn for a year before he becomes a full-time starter in 2013. He isn’t the elite talent that the Pouncey brothers were coming into previous drafts, but he had an excellent career at Wisconsin and has the physical and mental tools needed to be a great NFL center.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Hightower had a great pro day and boasts an excellent resume from his time under Nick Saban. He would be an upgrade over the aging James Farrior and would form a scary MLB combination with Lawrence Timmons. Hightower has shown the pass-rush ability and versatility needed to succeed in Dick LeBeau’s Steeler defense.
25. Denver Broncos: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Peyton Manning may want the Broncos to draft an offensive player in the first round, but the fact is they desperately need a defensive tackle. Manning has shown he can make average receivers look great, but the defense needs to improve. Still adds youth and strength to the middle, taking pressure off Elvis Dumervil. Besides being solid against the run, Still can pressure the quarterback from the inside.
26. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Wright, who played nearby at Baylor, will improve the Texans' receiving corps. He doesn’t have elite top-end speed, but he showed at his pro day that he has the ability to get downfield and make plays. With Matt Schaub returning from injury, the addition of Wright will provide another weapon to an already potent offense.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans): Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Despite the need to upgrade their pass rush, they also need to bolster their defensive line. Brockers can play the five-technique in the Patriots' defense, and he will bring youth and athleticism to the line. Andre Branch is a possibility, but the defense needs to win the battles in the trenches to be successful.
28. Green Bay Packers: Jerel Worthy, DE/DT, Michigan State
The Packers defense is loaded with talent, but they need help on the defensive line. Worthy will occupy blockers, freeing up opportunities for Clay Matthews and other playmakers. Worthy has the speed and quickness needed to shoot the gap, while also possessing the strength to push the pocket, making him a great addition to the Packers' defense.
29. Baltimore Ravens, Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin
The Ravens lost Ben Grubbs to free agency and need to find a replacement. Zeitler is a powerful run-blocker and will open holes for Ray Rice. He is good in pass protection, as he locks in on defenders, preventing them from disengaging and getting to the quarterback. He won’t be as good as Grubbs, but he will step in and be a good interior lineman.
30. San Francisco: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Adding Fleener gives Alex Smith an additional weapon on offense. The connection with head coach Jim Harbaugh will make his transition to the NFL a lot easier. Fleener also allows the 49ers to move Vernon Davis around and take advantage of his unique talents. An above-average blocker, Fleener will provide extra support for Frank Gore and 2nd-year back Kendall Hunter.
Will the Patriots finally take a pass-rusher?
31. New England Patriots: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins will scare off a lot of teams due to character concerns, but the Patriots have shown the ability to take on players like Jenkins in the past. He is as talented as any corner in the draft and has the speed and quickness to keep up with even the fastest wide receivers. Although a little undersized, he did show the ability to defend taller receivers while at North Alabama and at the Senior Bowl.
32. New York Giants: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio St.
If Adams slides all the way to the Giants, they will run to the podium to hand in their selection. Adams would be an instant upgrade at either tackle. He can slide in and protect Eli Manning’s blindside right away. While Adams may be better suited to play right tackle, until the Giants find a suitable candidate he will be more than serviceable.