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Draft King Analysis
January 2, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

Reader feedback is always welcomed here on Draft King. Sound off with your thoughts on Twitter (@LouPickney) or via email at LouPickney@gmail.com.


As you might have noticed, I've changed the layout a bit here on Draft King. After much consideration, I've expanded the width of the page, which was almost comically small on widescreen-style monitors. This might not sound like a big deal, but between worrying about how the new look comes across and concern over how retrofitted old articles might look, I've tried to be cautious. And keep in mind that I'm not a code guy -- I taught myself how to write .html and .shtml only because I had to do so to build a website as a freshman in college in 1995, and I've remained stubbornly stuck to the DIY approach to website building.

I've checked how the modified site looks on various computers and in various browsers, but it's entirely possible things look out of place somewhere that I haven't checked. If things look amiss, please let me know.

The revised 2012 NFL Mock Draft is online here, though as of this writing it's just a list of players without explanations for them. That's coming soon, though here is an idea with my thinking on some things near the top of the board:

-Andrew Luck is going #1 overall to Indianapolis with or without Peyton Manning. The timing of the Colts firing Bill Polian and Chris Polian today was interesting. I realize this is "Black Monday", the day after the end of the NFL regular season where pink slips are handed out en masse, but it's interesting to me that it happened one day after Adam Schefter reported that the Colts planned to draft Robert Griffin III with the #2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft if they ended up in that position and Luck went #1. I'm not sure if those two things (firings and info leak) are connected, but there has been a communication breakdown for some time in the Colts organization, perhaps most notably present in Indianapolis' odd decision to activate Peyton Manning from the PUP list before the start of the 2011 season.

Irsay told reporters that the $28 million roster bonus due to Peyton Manning as of 3/9/2012 isn't an issue, noting that he paid Manning $26 million for this past season knowing that it was an iffy situation on the potential for Manning to be able to play. Ultimately it's Irsay who pays the bills, and if he wants to keep Manning and also add Andrew Luck into the mix, that is what will happen.

The days of $50 million guaranteed for rookie picks in the NFL are over, likely for quite some time. Cam Newton received just $22.025 million guaranteed in a four-year deal from Carolina as last year's top pick, and it seems that it will be economically viable for the Colts to both keep Manning and also draft Luck and still work within the confines of the salary cap.

-With the Rams dismissing GM Billy Devaney, it means whoever replaces him won't have the specter hanging over him of giving 2009 #2 overall pick Jason Smith, an offensive tackle from Baylor, $33 million guaranteed before he played a single NFL down. Due in part to health problems stemming in part from suffering multiple concussions, Smith has failed to become the dominant offensive tackle that the Rams had hoped he be by this point. In short, it should make it easier for the Rams to select USC left offensive tackle Matt Kalil in this spot, particularly if they are able to tap into what looks to be a loaded WR free agent market in March.

Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon should also receive consideration for this spot, and he had a fantastic night against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl to cap his college career. But it will be much easier for the Rams to sign a high-caliber free agent wide receiver in March than trying to sign an elite offensive tackle prospect -- truly elite offensive tackles in their prime seldom hit the open market.

Morris Claiborne
Morris Claiborne has had a great season for LSU. (Icon SMI)
-What Minnesota does at #3 depends on many factors, from what teams looking to trade up for RG3 might offer to their own relative needs at wide receiver and corner. I give the nod to LSU CB Morris Claiborne for now, as the Vikings were #31 in the league in points allowed (28.1 per game) and #26 in passing yards given up (251.2 per game) in 2011. With the NFL leaning more and more toward benefiting high octane passing attacks, the Vikings would be wise to draft Claiborne, who looks as this point to be the top draft-eligible defensive prospect.

-I'm in the minority on this, but I believe Colt McCoy can succeed as an NFL quarterback if surrounded with the right talent. By drafting Blackmon at #4 overall, and possibly by also adding a veteran free agent or two to go with 2011 second-round selection Greg Little, the Browns could have some weapons in place for McCoy to utilize and showcase the pinpoint passing potential he showed in his time at the University of Texas.

-Dre Kirkpatrick going to Tampa Bay at #5 makes sense, both from a talent and a team need standpoint. Ronde Barber's contract expires after the year and it seems highly unlikely that he'll be sporting a Buccaneers uniform next season. Meanwhile, Aqib Talib is a very talented corner, but the off-field trouble he has encountered has been a distraction at times. And, even if Talib is healthy and avoids further off-field trouble, he can't cover the entire secondary by himself.

That's a quick look at the top five. With players deciding to stay or go pro early at a rapid pace at this time of the year, figuring out who will actually be in the mix and who won't will require some vigilence. My plan: unless a player has made it strongly clear that he plans to stay, like what Matt Barkley did at USC (complete with the school fight song being played), I intend to keep players who might have indicated plans to return to school in the queue of players who might be drafted. Just because a player says he's going back to school doesn't mean he actually will, particularly if those comments come before that player's team plays in its bowl game.

Coming soon: further consideration of the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft and more explanation and description of the thought process behind my projections.


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