Draft King Analysis|
April 11, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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We're just a little more than two weeks away from the start of the 2012 NFL Draft, and while the top few spots in the draft seem to have been sorted out, there is considerable mystery (and conjecture) about what will happen. Here's my take on how things look at this point for picks #1-16, with #17-32 coming in my next column.
Indianapolis Colts, #1: Stanford QB Andrew Luck will go #1, barring something completely unforeseen happening.
Washington Redskins, #2: The Redskins are in Save Mike Shanahan's Job mode. They mortgaged the future to move up to this spot to select Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, and they dished out some excessive guaranteed money contracts: $20.5 million guaranteed for WR Pierre Garçon (Colts), $7.3 million guaranteed for WR Josh Morgan (49ers) and an even $7 million guaranteed to retain defensive lineman Adam Carriker. It's RG3 unless the Colts shock the world and take him, in which case the Redskins will almost certainly draft Luck.
Minnesota Vikings, #3: Most indications are that the Vikings will select USC OT Matt Kalil, who is worthy of a top pick as the definitive top offensive tackle prospect. It's possible that Minnesota could trade out for the right offer, but I doubt that will happen. There have been some rumblings that the Vikings aren't sold of Kalil, but that either fails the logic test or reveals that Minnesota has a vastly different system in place of evaluating top flight offensive tackles than the rest of the observers and prognosticators out there.
In other words, I don't believe it. Gotta work smarter than that in misdirection season, Vikings.
Cleveland Browns, #4: It's no secret that the Browns were in a bidding war with the Redskins in trying to acquire the #2 overall pick from the Rams, a battle ultimately won by Mike Shanahan and company in DC. And, while that doesn't reflect well on the long-term future of incumbent QB Colt McCoy, it also reveals an apparent unwillingness to sit at #4 and take the third-best quarterback at that spot, which would be Ryan Tannehill out of Texas A&M.
Last year, the Browns traded down from #6 overall (where they could have drafted Alabama WR Julio Jones) to #27, then moved back up to #21 to land Baylor DT Phil Taylor. This time around they have more flexibility, holding the #4, #22, and #37 picks (plus the rest they have in rounds 3-7).
Alabama RB Trent Richardson is the highest-touted running back coming out of college since Adrian Peterson, and he appears at this point to be the most likely option for the Browns at #4.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, #5: It appears that the Buccaneers are most likely to draft LSU CB Morris Claiborne here or Richardson if for some reason Claiborne is off the board. Cornerback is a huge need, and while the Bucs signed free agent CB Eric Wright (Lions), there are giant question marks lingering over Aqib Talib (facing a June trial for assault charges) and Ronde Barber (37 years old) at a vital position. Remember that Tampa Bay is in a division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan -- skimping on the cornerback position is not a viable option.
St. Louis Rams, #6: For a team with desperate need for a top-tier wide receiver, trading down from #2 to #6 and potentially having their pick of the 2012 receiving class would seem to be an ideal turn of events. There is a belief among many observers that Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon will get the nod over Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd, though ultimately it will depend on how the Rams evaluate the two players (and the rest of the field).
Jacksonville Jaguars, #7: Presumptions are that it's either going to be a wide receiver here, most likely Floyd, or South Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram. Jacksonville kept DE Jeremy Mincey (coming off an eight-sack 2011 season) in town with a four-year, $20 million deal ($9 million guaranteed) and signed free agent WR Laurent Robinson (Cowboys) to a staggering five-year, $32.5 million deal ($14 million guaranteed).
Jacksonville keeping Mincey made sense to me, since he showed he could be effective in their system. But giving $14 million guaranteed to Robinson was a risky move, as while Robinson scored 11 TDs in 14 games for Dallas in 2011, he entered last season as a journeyman wideout who didn't make the final 53 man roster in Dallas and was actually cut twice in September 2011 by Dallas.
At this point I figure the Jaguars will select Ingram, though it's hardly a lock. Particularly with the depth that exists at DE/OLB in this draft, it might be tempting for Jacksonville to take Floyd here and then hope to have some skilled pass-rushers fall to them at #38. But Jacksonville has big money invested in Robinson and also WR Mike Thomas, who the Jaguars gave $9 million guaranteed as part of a mid-season contract extension last year.
Miami Dolphins, #8: The Dolphins have indicated that they don't plan to trade up for Tannehill (or anyone else), but if he's on the board here, he might be tough to pass up.
Ingram vs. Tannehill would make for an interesting debate, but the reality is that the Dolphins can't look to Matt Moore and 34-year-old David Garrard as the long-term answer at quarterback, and Tannehill might be too tempting to pass up at this spot.
Carolina Panthers, #9: This could be a good spot for Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox to go for two reasons: the Panthers need interior defensive line help and Cox has above-average skill at pressuring the quarterback from a 4-3 DT position. With the modern NFL being so tilted toward passing, finding interior defensive linemen who can collapse the pocket quickly on passing plays is more of a premium now than ever.
If it's not Cox, or even Memphis NT Dontari Poe (who is an ideal 3-4 NT but who might end up going to a 4-3 team), it could be the other side of the ball to receive attention -- particularly if Floyd falls to #9. WR Steve Smith signed an extension recently with the Panthers, but they could really use a blue-chip wide receiver to go with Smith and Brandon LaFell and company in the receiving corps.
Buffalo Bills, #10: The Bills have a strong need at offensive tackle with Demetrius Bell (now known as Demetress Bell) signing with the Eagles, and Buffalo taking Iowa OT Riley Reiff here looks like a slam dunk. But keep this important draft rule in mind: the further you get from the top of the board, the less likely a "great matchup" of team need and a player filling that position is to actually match up. That's in large part because of how opinions on players tend to vary more and more as a draft rolls on, though in this case I feel fine projecting Reiff to Buffalo since it's still in the top ten and it really would seem to make sense for all involved.
Kansas City Chiefs, #11: It appears that the Chiefs are likely to do one of two things here: fill an interior offensive line need with Stanford OG David DeCastro or fill their nose tackle need with massive Memphis NT Dontari Poe. DeCastro is considered the top interior offensive line prospect by nearly everyone who has evaluated the class, while Poe is far and away the top 3-4 nose tackle prospect for this draft. My personal inclination is to believe that Poe would get the nod over DeCastro if it came down to that, but it's encouraging for Chiefs fans that the best player at each of their two biggest need positions could very easily be on the board when they go on the clock.
One other possibility is Kansas City snapping up Tannehill if he falls past Cleveland at #4 and Miami at #8, though that would depend on how the current Chiefs management views Cassel as a long-term answer at QB. Whatever the case, the Chiefs should be in line to draft a player who will be worthy of the #11 overall spot and also fill a major need, and there's something to be said for that.
Seattle Seahawks, #12: The Seahawks are in Save Pete Carroll's Job mode, and it would stand to reason that whoever Seattle selects here will be a player who they feel can make a major impact right out of the gate. Boston College MLB Luke Kuechly would seem to be a great fit, as while the Seahawks signed free agent MLB Barrett Ruud (Titans) to replace outgoing MLB David Hawthorne, it was just a one-year deal.
There is the outside shot of a player expected to be a top ten guy falling to this spot and trumping Kuechly, maybe a pass rush threat like Ingram, but that would be an unlikely turn of events. Kuechly was a tackling machine on the otherwise forgettable 2011 Boston College team, and he would seem to be a great fit for Seattle if he's on the board at this spot.
Arizona Cardinals, #13: If Floyd falls to this spot, it could be very difficult for the Cardinals to pass on him. Obviously that also depends on who else is on the board; if Ingram falls, he would be an excellent pass-rushing threat to put opposite Sam Acho at 3-4 OLB. Stanford OG David DeCastro should be tempting for the Cards if he is available at this spot, just as Kuechly would be if he stays on the board in the first dozen spots.
Dallas Cowboys, #14: Jerry Jones has indicated that he is interested in trading down from this spot. That might depend on who is on the board at this point. If Poe, DeCastro, or even Alabama SS Mark Barron are on the board here, it might end up being in Dallas' best interest to stick at this spot and select one of those elite talents, each of whom represent the top spot at his respective position in the majority of the evaluations that are out there.
Philadelphia Eagles, #15: Defensive tackle is a major need for the team, and they should have several quality DTs to choose from at this spot. Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State) or Michael Brockers (LSU) or Brandon Thompson (Clemson) or Devon Still (Penn State) or Kendall Reyes (Connecticut) are all possibilities here. Trading down might be a viable option if they like multiple defensive tackles.
New York Jets, #16: Adding a pass-rusher at OLB would seem like a viable option here, potentially Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw. Wide receiver may also be an option here, particularly if Floyd somehow falls to this spot.