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Draft King Analysis
March 31, 2012
Lou Pickney,

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Lock it in: I'll be in attendance at the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City next month. It's been more than six years since I was last in New York City, when I spent two weeks working out of the Sirius satellite radio headquarters in Manhattan in a producing role with the Bubba the Love Sponge radio show in January 2006. I can't wait to get back up there.

NYC is like no other place on earth, and I look forward to my trip there immensely. Hopefully I will have enough stories and observations and interactions from my visit to fill multiple articles on here. It will be nice meeting up with some media and NFL Draft people who, up until this point, I've only interacted with via the internet. Plus I look forward to seeing the fans in attendance and observe the behind-the-scenes happenings that might not be obvious to television viewers of either ESPN or the NFL Network's respective coverage of the draft.

This would probably be a good time to look through the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft to look at possibilities, trends to watch for, and a feel for how some evaluations for players at certain positions (particularly defensive line) vary considerably.

Top three: Stanford QB Andrew Luck to Indianapolis at #1, Baylor QB Robert Griffin III to Washington at #2, and USC OT Matt Kalil to Minnesota at #3. There's a slight chance that the Vikings could go with LSU CB Morris Claiborne, but Kalil is the near-consensus top offensive lineman in this draft and he would fill a considerable need for Minnesota.

Four through six: This is where things get interesting. Cleveland at #4 is an enigma at this point. Huge need at running back combined with the incredible talent of Alabama RB Trent Richardson makes the Browns going RB at #4 a possibility, even with the value of running backs having dropped thanks to NFL rule changes made for player safety reasons. If the Browns like Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill, who had a solid pro day this past week, it's possible he could go in the #4 spot. That would be a mistake in my estimation, but it's a possibility nonetheless.

The Browns drafted Florida CB Joe Haden at #7 overall in 2010 and signed him to a 5-year, $42.2 million contract with $25.6 million guaranteed -- one of the last huge draft pick paydays given out before the rookie system was overhauled under the new NFL CBA. Haden has lived up to the hype so far, boosting Cleveland's secondary and being an important part of the Browns pass defense, which didn't get the credit it deserved last season for its strong play. Haden's big contract figure would seem to make it somewhat cost prohibitive to draft Claiborne here, even though rookie guaranteed money isn't at the massive size it once prior to the last CBA.

Michael Floyd
Michael Floyd scored 38 touchdowns in four seasons at Notre Dame. (Icon SMI)
At #5, Tampa Bay would be well-advised to snatch up Claiborne to help its lack of cornerback depth. Tampa Bay signed UFA CB Eric Wright earlier this month, but with Aqib Talib facing legal problems and Ronde Barber fighting back Father Time, Claiborne makes all kinds of sense for Tampa Bay. The best case for Tampa Bay is Cleveland taking Tannehill at #4 since the Bucs won't be looking for a QB at #5 and such a move would mean they would have a chance to choose from all non-QBs except Kalil. If Claiborne goes at #4, the Bucs may find themselves choosing between Richardson, Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon, or Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd.

Noteworthy on Floyd: I've had him ahead of Blackmon for some time, but it wasn't until recently that I began hearing people note that Floyd could actually go in the draft over Blackmon. Floyd has superior size and speed, and he proved in 2011 that he can be an effective, if not dominant, receiver even with sub-par play at quarterback. Also, while Floyd caught plenty of heat for his DUI, it's not as if Blackmon doesn't have one, albeit one of those make-believe "under 21" DUIs where Blackmon was well below the .08 legal limit in Texas but still took a charge because of his age.

At #6, the Rams should be in position to draft at least one of the two between Blackmon and Floyd, which would be advisable for a team that had sub-standard skill at WR in 2011. Giving $50 million guaranteed to Sam Bradford and then not providing him with capable receivers is a bit baffling to me, but perhaps there's a correlation between that and the house-cleaning in St. Louis that included the front office.

Rest of the top ten: Jacksonville at #7 could either go wide receiver or pass rusher. Notice that there's a theme here of players who either impact a team's passing game or a team's pass defense, connected directly with the aforementioned NFL rule changes. Miami at #8 could go in several different directions: Tannehill if he's still around or Floyd/Blackmon if one (or somehow both) are still on the board or with a pass rushing threat. At #9, Carolina could consider a cornerback like Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick, but they might also have their pick of the litter at defensive tackle, which would fill a need spot at a position where top-tier free agents rarely hit the open market. Finally, at #10, Buffalo could do any number of things, but offensive tackle (like Iowa OT Riley Reiff) could end up being the direction that the Bills take.


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