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Pre-Combine Mock Draft: Patriots have options

02.23.12 at 9:07 am ET
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With the NFL combine set to kick off, WEEI.com will be in Indianapolis to follow the action and get a feel for which players might be headed to Foxboro.

It will be particularly interesting to see how receivers fare in workouts, as the Patriots, who have two first-round picks (Nos. 27 and 31) should be in the market for one despite not having drafted one in the first round since 1996 (Terry Glenn). Will any of the receivers in this year’s class be worth it? We should find out over the next few days.

There’s still plenty to be learned, so here’s an early mock draft to kick things off. We’ll have an updated mock following the combine, and there should be some big changes depending on how players fare in Indianapolis.

1. Indianapolis (2-14) Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

This pick is as sure as a sure thing gets, meaning that for the first time since 2009 (Matthew Stafford) there will be little suspense at the combine regarding who will be chosen first overall. The selection of Luck is a no-brainer, but the highly touted Stanford signal caller has some enormous shoes to fill.

2. St. Louis (2-14) Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

The last wide receiver to be drafted second overall was Calvin Johnson back in 2007. Is Blackmon Calvin Johnson? No, but he would immediately become Sam Bradford’s best weapon after amassing over 1,500 receiving yards and 18 touchdown catches last season. It initially seemed that Blackmon would run on Sunday, but ESPN is now reporting that he might not. Whenever he runs, if he can wow scouts with a time anywhere from the mid-4.4′s to the low 4.5′s, he’ll likely cement his status as a top-5 pick.

3. Minnesota (3-13) Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Though he declared for the draft after his junior year, Kalil has long been destined to be a top-5 pick. Consider that last year’s ninth overall pick, USC right tackle Tyron Smith, was playing right tackle because he couldn’t take the left tackle job away from Kalil. If the Rams opt to take him second overall, Minnesota would have an interesting choice between Blackmon and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

4. Cleveland (4-12) Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

The Browns’ history of first-round quarterbacks is downright scary, with the likes of Bobby Garrett (traded before playing with the team, wound up playing just nine games in his career), Tim Couch (released in 2004) and Brady Quinn (Brady Quinn) among them.  Griffin’s wide-ranging skill set will bring excitement to a team that’s lacked it for years. The Browns spent a third-round pick on Colt McCoy in 2010, but Griffin is on another level.

5. Tampa Bay (5-11) Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

According to Pro Football Focus, Ronde Barber led NFL cornerbacks in missed tackles with 22. According to anyone with eyes, the Bucs were a defensive train wreck last year. Part of that had to do with injuries on the defensive line, but the secondary was woeful when healthy, and Barber is at or near the end of his playing days. 

6. Washington (5-11) Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

You would have to think Griffin would be their man if he were still available with the sixth pick, but with him off the board, there isn’t a quarterback that justifies value here. Considering where the likes of Jake Locker and Christian Ponder went last year, that might not necessarily stop the Redskins from reaching for someone like Ryan Tannehill. For now, we’ll give them Reiff, who can team with Trent Williams to protect whoever does end up under center for Washington.

7. Jacksonville (5-11) Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

The Aaron Kampman signing has been a bust simply because he hasn’t been able to stay healthy in his two seasons with the team, so Jacksonville could take Coples to team with Jeremy Mincey (remember him? Yep, he ended up being better than Derrick Harvey). The Jaguars could also surprise everyone and grab Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

8. Carolina (6-10) Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

This has been a popular pick in mock drafts, and for good reason. The Panthers got an offensive jolt from 2011 first overall pick Cam Newton, but before they settled on Newton, but they just as easily could have chosen Marcell Dareus. Brockers can stop the run, and the Panthers had the league’s 25th-ranked defense against the run last season.

9. Miami (6-10) Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

Boy oh boy does this team need a quarterback. Is ninth overall too high for Tannehill? Maybe in the sense that there are better players at other positions on the board, but if the Dolphins are convinced that Tannehill can be their franchise quarterback, it doesn’t matter. Remember, fourth overall for Philip Rivers was once considered shocking.

10. Buffalo (6-10) Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

The Bills went from being everyone’s favorite story (4-1 through the first five weeks) to being the Bills (2-9 the rest of the way). One of the reasons was the 371.1 yards per game they allowed, so landing a pass-rusher like Ingram could help those numbers.

11. Kansas City (7-9) Luke Kuechly, ILB, BC

Here’s something that can be said for elite inside linebacker prospects: They don’t fall. Think back to the likes of Patrick Willis (11th overall, 2007) and Rolando McClain (eighth overall, 2010). Even Jerod Mayo, who was by no means considered a top defensive player in 2008, still went 10th overall. Keuchly is that kind of prospect, and as a result could wind up going as high as sixth overall to the Redskins.

12. Seattle (7-9) David DeCastro, G, Stanford

The Seahawks could use help on either side of the line, and assuming they will one day find a quarterback, the selections of DeCastro will make his life easier. The workouts have yet to be done, but DeCastro figures to remain ahead of Georgia’s Cordy Glenn as the best guard prospect in the class.

13. Arizona (8-8) Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

The Cardinals got perhaps the best defensive player in last year’s draft in Patrick Peterson, but they could still stand to add another corner to upgrade over the likes of Richard Marshall and A.J. Jefferson. It isn’t their most pressing need, but Jenkins was a star at Florida being bounced out of the program.

14. Dallas (8-8) Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

It seems that every year the Cowboys need help in the secondary, and after allowing 244.1 passing yards per game (24th in the league), this year is no different. Kirkpatrick has very good size (6-foot-2 4/8, 190 pounds) and a good 40-time could help him go in the top half of the first round.

15. Philadelphia (8-8) Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

After looking like a pretty stacked team on paper going into the season, the Eagles have needs at plenty of positions — even cornerback. Given the uncertainty of DeSean Jackson‘s future, we’ll give them Wright for now.

16. New York Jets (8-8) Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

The Jets would hit a home run with this pick if Richardson were to fall this far. They could use someone to share carries with Shonn Greene, and LaDainian Tomlinson is both old (33) and a free agent. Richardson Is an exceptionally balanced back, as he has good speed for his size and is tough to bring down.

17. Cincinnati [from Oakland (8-8)] Mark Barron, S, Alabama

The Bengals need a corner (or two) badly, but with the three best corners off the board, they would find better value in addressing another need in the secondary with Barron, who is this class’ top safety.

18. San Diego (8-8) Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

Upshaw is pretty tiny for an outside linebacker (6-foot-1 4/8), but his instincts and skill make up for his lack of size. He had seven sacks last season at Alabama, and ESPN’s Scouts, Inc. rates Upshaw as the draft’s 10th-best prospect heading into the combine.

19. Chicago (8-8) Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

Current starting left tackle J’Marcus Webb might be Jay Cutler‘s worst nightmare, as Pro Football Focus rated the 2010 seventh-round pick the worst starting left tackle in the league. The Bears landed a solid right tackle in Gabe Carimi last year, and it’s time for them to upgrade on the left side.

20. Tennessee (9-7) Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

Konz is as good a center prospect as you’ll find, so while the Titans may have needs elsewhere (notably on the defensive line), they can protect Locker or Matt Hasselbeck better by upgrading at center. It will be interesting to see whether Locker takes over as starter next season after playing sparingly as a rookie.

21. Cincinnati (9-7) Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Would the Bengals spend first-round picks on receivers in consecutive years? After landing an absolute stud in A.J. Green with the fourth overall pick last year, they could still stand to improve their thin group of receivers. One way of doing that might be to surrender one of their first-round picks by signing Mike Wallace away from the Steelers, or they could roll the dice with Floyd.

22. Cleveland [from Atlanta (10-6)] Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

If the Browns land their man at quarterback at No. 4, they’€™d be wise to upgrade the defense with this pick. Mercilus led the nation with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles last season, and his size (6-foot-3 6/8, 263 pounds) might provide versatility for him to play either with a hand down or standing up as pass-rushing linebacker. Teams will find out in the next few days whether he’€™s fluid enough to potentially play linebacker.

23. Detroit (10-6) Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

Stafford finally stayed healthy, and in doing so proved that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Now the Lions should reward him by giving him some more time to survey his options. This may be a little high for Adams, but it’s worth the reach if it means making Stafford even better.

24. Pittsburgh (12-4) Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis

This one doesn’t need much explaining. Casey Hampton is 35 years old and spent last season injured, while Chris Hoke recently retired. Nose tackle is a clear need for the Steelers, and Poe is a great fit.

25. Denver (8-8) Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia

The Broncos need help on the offensive line, and Glenn might be the best offensive lineman on the board at this point. Starting left guard Zane Beadles is just 25 years old, but he’€™s had a rough go of it in his two seasons. It might already be time for an upgrade.

26. Houston (10-6) Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

It’€™s been Andre Johnson and everybody else in Houston for too long. There are concerns about Jeffery’€™s weight and timed speed given that weight, but he reportedly has shed his extra pounds and is down to around 220 pounds. According to Scout.com’€™s Aaron Wilson, Jeffery hopes to run in the 4.5 range. If he does that, there’€™s a good chance he’€™ll be a first-round pick.

27. New England [from New Orleans (13-3)] Rueben Randle, WR, LSU

Because we can’t predict trades, we’re going to be outrageous and conduct this mock draft as though the Patriots will use the both of their first-round picks. With the top three corners off the board and receivers going fast, the Pats would be wise to scoop up Randle and finally give them a nice big receiver (6-foot-4, 208 pounds) with good hands to complement their tight ends.

28. Green Bay (15-1) Vinny Curry, OLB, Marshall

For the last couple of drafts, the Packers have had good pass-rushing linebackers on the board when they’€™ve selected late in the first round, but they’€™ve passed in order to upgrade their offensive line. With that line now strong, they should pull the trigger and find a complement to Clay Matthews. Curry would be a good fit.

29. Baltimore (12-4) Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State

Ray Lewis says he isn’t ready to retire, so why not secure a top talent at inside linebacker for the perennial All Pro to show the ropes?  Burfict is a strong tackler, and though he has had disciplinary issues in the past the team could look past them just like they did with their top picks of the last two drafts in Sergio Kindle and Jimmy Smith.

30. San Francisco (13-3) Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers

Could five wide receivers go in the first round? Consider that seven went in first round back in 2004, so anything is possible. The 49ers are legitimate, but they don’€™t have a legitimate wide receiver outside of Michael Crabtree. With Crabtree, Sanu and Vernon Davis, Alex Smith would have as good a group of weapons as he’€™s had since being drafted in 2005.

31. New England (13-3) Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

Cox would provide great value here, and you’d have to think Bill Belichick would leap at the chance to land a guy he can use inside in the 4-3 or on the end in the 3-4. The Pats released Mike Wright on Thursday, and Cox would help the Patriots’€™ defensive line return to its glory days of having Wilfork, Richard Seymour and Ty Warren. Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones could also be an option, but not if Cox is available.

32. New York Giants (9-7) Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

We nearly went with Miami running back Lamar Miller in this spot just because Brandon Jacobs (contract) and Ahmad Bradshaw (durability concerns) leaves the position uncertain for the Giants, but then again Miller isn’t exactly the picture of good health given his shoulder injury last season. Instead, the Giants can upgrade at tight end and give Eli Manning another weapon in Allen.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, Fletcher Cox, Justin Blackmon
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