The rumors are swirling. Draft-day deals are being discussed behind the scenes. Players are rising and falling in the public's eye. Madness is afoot.
The NFL draft is almost upon us.
On this mock, will look at the latest buzz on a few of the swing picks in this year's NFL draft. Will the Minnesota Vikings select Ryan Kalil or Morris Claiborne with the third pick? What will the Cleveland Browns do a pick later?
Questions, so many questions. I'll try to provide a few answers. Can't mock the hustle.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB (Stanford)
No surprises here.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB (Baylor)*
Again, we've known this would be the pick for quite some time.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT (USC)
Now it gets fun.
The winds of speculation are moving toward Morris Claiborne, get that. But I still believe that if the Vikings stay at No. 3, they'll select Kalil to protect last year's first-round investment, quarterback Christian Ponder.
But it makes sense of Minnesota to put it out there that they are leaning toward Claiborne. Consider the following, from Kevin Seifert of ESPN:
[Todd] McShay also noted that if the Vikings truly favor Claiborne at No. 3 and the Cleveland Browns prefer Alabama running back Trent Richardson at No. 4, then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will miss out on their top two priorities in the draft.
Which, among other things, illustrates why it would be in the Vikings' favor to portray more interest in Claiborne than Kalil. Ostensibly, that could motivate the Bucs to offer a trade that would ensure they could draft Claiborne or Richardson at No. 3. The Vikings could then draft Kalil at the Bucs' No. 5 spot and also add an extra pick.
One way or another, I think the pick will be Kalil. Whether or not they can add a few extra picks along with him will depend on whether the Bucs take the Vikings' bait or not.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB (Alabama)
The popular pick seems to be Richardson here, and it makes sense—the Browns need a running back, they need playmakers on offense in general and they need a marketable superstar.
Drafting Richardson would not only be a huge splash for them, but he legitimately is the best available player in my opinion.
He's as versatile as running backs come, he seems to lack any glaring weaknesses and he comes into the NFL with a limited amount of wear and tear after only starting at Alabama for one season. He's the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, and the Vikings most certainly don't regret that pick.
It's unorthodox these days to draft a running back this early. But Richardson is a talent worth getting a bit unorthodox for.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB (LSU)
If they don't trade up to No. 3, they're risking Richardson and Claiborne being off the board. But I'm convinced the Vikings are going to select Kalil, so I think the Bucs stay put and land their shutdown corner of the future.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR (Oklahoma State)
I think this has to be the pick for the Rams. I'd be really surprised if the Rams didn't bring in a playmaker like Blackmon to make life easier on Sam Bradford.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE (South Carolina)
Jacksonville would love to see Blackmon drop to them, but I don't see it happening. When that doesn't happen, they'll look to move out of this pick, but they may be hard-pressed to find any takers.
Jacksonville is sort of stuck here, missing out on the clear-cut elite of this draft class. I can see them also considering Michael Floyd, Dre Kirkpatrick, Stephon Gilmore, Fletcher Cox and Quinton Coples with this pick, and ultimately whichever player has the highest grade should be the guy.
Don't be shocked if that player is Ingram, a beast at rushing the quarterback. Improving the pass rush should be a priority for this team, and Ingram seems like the best fit for a team stuck in a position they'd rather not be in with this pick.
What they do here will have huge implications for the rest of the round, however.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB (Texas A&M)
If they believe he could be their quarterback of the future, the Dolphins need to take Tannehill.
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT (Mississippi State)
This could also be linebacker Luke Kuechly, but I think the defensive line is the bigger need. Plus, Cox could well be the elite defensive lineman in this draft, so this is nice value here.
10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT (Iowa)
Michael Floyd, Mark Barron or a cornerback are also possibilities here, but if the Bills believe Reiff can play left tackle in the NFL, I believe he'll be the pick.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, NT (Memphis)
The Chiefs don't have a pressing need unless you look to nose tackle, and if they want to fill that need via the draft, Poe would be a good place to start.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly, MLB (Boston College)
If he's here, he's the pick. His athleticism and ability to play all three downs will perfectly fit the Seahawks defense.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR (Notre Dame)
They might consider David DeCastro here, but I think Floyd is excellent value here and could make the Cardinals offense formidable next season. Well, if Kevin Kolb lives up to expectations, that is.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S (Alabama)
The consensus seems to be that Mark Barron will be the pick here. He fills a big need, though don't be surprised if they end up taking Michael Brockers.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Brockers, DT (LSU)
If the draft falls this way, the Eagles will gladly snag either Barron or Brockers. Brockers has a ton of upside, so this is excellent value here.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB (Alabama)
He may be dropping according to some of the experts, but he just feels like a Rex Ryan guy to me. One way or another, I think this team goes after an edge rusher.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, OG (Stanford) **
The Bengals will be thanking their lucky stars if DeCastro drops to 17. This is a Bengals offense that is really looking up, and landing the guy many think is the safest pick in this draft is a coup for the team.
18. San Diego Chargers: Nick Perry, OLB (USC)
Some say he's a second-round talent. Some think he could become the best edge rusher in this draft. I think the Chargers will be pleased with the pick.
19. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Martin, OT (Stanford)
The Bears need to protect Jay Cutler, at all costs. Even if they reach slightly for Martin, it's for an important cause.
20. Tennessee Titans: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Alabama)
With Quinton Coples still on the board, Tennessee could go for the free-falling defensive end. But I think they'll address their cornerback need instead, snagging a player I believe is a can't-miss prospect.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kendall Wright, WR (Baylor)
Another excellent pick for this Bengals offense. The Ravens and Steelers better watch out, the Bengals are on the rise.
22. Cleveland Browns: Stephen Hill, WR (Georgia Tech)***
Richardson plus Hill equals a fun future for the Browns offense.
23. Detroit Lions: Stephon Gilmore, CB (South Carolina)
Some people have Gilmore going as high as No. 7. I still think he's the third-best corner in this draft, though the Lions would have to be thrilled if he fell to them. Great pick for Detroit.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, LB (Alabama)
The Steelers could surprise us, but this just feels like a natural fit.
25. Denver Broncos: Jerel Worthy, DT (Michigan State)
This is a reach, though not a huge one, and the Broncos must upgrade the interior of the defensive line in this draft. Worthy is a worthy selection.
26. Houston Texans: Quinton Coples, DE (North Carolina)
Not needing to reach for any position in particular, the Texans can afford to draft the best player on the board. And lo and behold, Quinton Coples is still around, surprising many with his fall this far. Great value here for the Texans.
27. New England Patriots: Chandler Jones, DE (Syracuse)****
The first priority for the Patriots should be improving the pass rush. Consider it done.
28. Green Bay Packers: Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois
Somebody needs to draw some of the attention away from Clay Matthews III. Mercilus will need to be merciless to opposing quarterbacks if the Green Bay defense is to rediscover its 2010-11 mojo.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Cordy Glenn, OG (Georgia)
Adding a guard should be a high priority for the Ravens, and having Glenn fall in their laps will thrill the Ravens.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Rueben Randle, WR (LSU)
Randy Moss is unknown, Ted Ginn is unreliable and Mario Manningham is a solid but unspectacular option. Randle, you are needed in San Francisco.
31. New England Patriots: Janoris Jenkins, CB (North Alabama)
The second area the Patriots need to improve is in the secondary. Bill Belichick will keep Jenkins in line, and get a top-10 value in the process.
32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE (Stanford)
Sure, because what everyone in the NFL wants to see is another weapon for Eli Manning. Hooray.
*The Redskins traded the sixth pick in the first round, along with their second-round pick this year and first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 to St. Louis for 2012's second overall pick.
**From Oakland in the Carson Palmer trade.
***From Atlanta in last year's Julio Jones draft day trade.
****From New Orleans in last year's Mark Ingram draft day trade.
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