|Mock draft, take 3: Free agency shakes up team needs||03.15.12 at 11:45 pm ET|
Free agency has begun, and some — but not all — of the big names have been signed. That means that teams are filling their needs on the open market, while other teams are losing players and seeing holes appear on their depth charts.
All of that makes for some big changes in this edition of the WEEI.com mock draft. It’s our first mock since the Redskins traded up to No. 2, and the first since the Bills made a major splash with the Mario Williams signing. Peyton Manning‘s decision will change things the next time around, but here’s how the mock shakes out this time:
1. Indianapolis (2-14), Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Releasing Manning was the latest indication that there’s no question as to what they’ll be doing with the first overall pick. Luck’s going first, and Robert Griffin III is going second. The draft might as well start with Minnesota on the clock.
2. Washington [from St. Louis (2-14)] Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
It seems the national opinion to this trade (picks No. 6, 38, first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 in exchange for No. 2) went from “The Redskins lost their minds” to “We can see why they did it.” Honestly, the latter reaction may be more correct. As insane a haul as that is to move up just four spots, it will be worth it if Griffin is as legitimate as he seems. Giving up this year’s second-rounder meant no chance at getting Griffin a star receiver, but the Redskins did the best they could by signing Pierre Garcon.
3. Minnesota (3-13), Matt Kalil, OT, USC
This pick becomes the first one in the draft that figures to have even a drop of suspense. Kalil makes perfect sense for the Vikings given that they have a need at left tackle and a young quarterback to protect, so expect him to be the guy at No. 3.
4. Cleveland (2-14), Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
There’s nothing you can say about the Browns other than that they really, really blew it. They had the ammunition to make a big trade for the second pick, and unlike the Redskins, they would have been able to trade three No. 1’s without leaving themselves depleted pick-wise. What do the Browns do now? Do they stick it out another year with Colt McCoy? Ryan Tannehill might not be much of an upgrade, so after initially appearing poised to get a franchise quarterback, they might come out of this draft with the same group of signal-callers they had to begin with.
The fact that they have no shot at RGIII leaves the Browns in quite a mess. They need receiver help, but ask Braylon Edwards how things went the last time they spent a top-five pick on a receiver when they didn’t have a quarterback. Their best option might be trading down and taking Richardson, so we’ll give them Richardson here for now.
5. Tampa Bay (5-11), Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Bucs went out and spent a bunch of money, but they did it wisely. They addressed big needs at receiver (Vincent Jackson), guard (Carl Nicks) and corner (Eric Wright), the latter of which was their biggest issue. Now, they don’t necessarily need to go with Claiborne fifth overall, and perhaps they might take a good look at Richardson if he’s on the board. Still, Claiborne is an elite talent, and you never know what’s going to happen with Aqib Talib.
St. Louis [from Washington (5-11)] Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Blackmon had been a popular pick for the Rams in mock drafts when St. Louis was picking second overall, so this selection would both give Sam Bradford a legitimate weapon and provide value, but that’s not what the Rams should do. What they should do is make a serious bid to trade up to No. 3 and get Kalil. They certainly have the ammunition to do so, and it won’t cost them nearly as much as the Redskins paid to move up. If they can use their own second-round pick to move up to No. 3, they should do it.
7. Jacksonville (5-11) Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Outside of Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars are positively dreadful offensively. It may only be a year into his career, but it’s looking like the Jaguars swung and missed with Blaine Gabbert in last year’s draft. When he doesn’t have time, he panics, and it’s all too apparent that he’s afraid to get hit. While the long-term solution might be to get a better QB, for now they might as well improve their offense line, adding a stud to play right tackle and hope to protect Gabbert better.
8. Miami (6-10) Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The Dolphins may have felt they had their hands tied during the RGIII sweepstakes. After all, if they thought they had a chance at Manning, it would be counterproductive to trade assets that could get Manning weapons on another quarterback. If Manning does not sign with the Dolphins, expect them to go after Tannehill in hopes of finally brining stability to the position. As far as the other side of the ball goes, kudos to Miami on the Richard Marshall signing.
9. Carolina (6-10) Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Prior to the combine, Michael Brockers was the favorite to go to the Panthers in this spot, but Poe was the defensive tackle that stood out the most in Indianapolis. The Panthers need help at the position, so they would be wise to add either of the two.
10. Buffalo (6-10) Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
Imagine if this happened: A four-man front of Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Coples could make for the most dangerous defensive line in the league. The Bills entered the offseason needing pass-rushers (plural) badly, and if they came out of it with both Williams and Coples, they would turn a major weakness into a major strength as they make the transition to a 4-3. Coples had 7.5 sacks as a senior at UNC. There are other solid options to further improve their defense at No. 10, with both Luke Kuechly and Janoris Jenkins available.
11. Kansas City (7-9), Luke Kuechly, ILB, BC
Kuechly has been projected to Kansas City in each of our mocks thus far, and for good reason. He’s an elite inside linebacker and those simply don’t fall. The Butkus Award winner ran a 4.58 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, proving his athleticism in case any doubters remained.
12. Seattle (7-9) Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Seahawks need a quarterback, but they won’t get one here. They also need someone who can get after the quarterback, and Ingram fits the bill. Cornerback is also an area of need for Seattle, so don’t count out Jenkins if he’s on the board.
13. Arizona (8-8), Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Luckily the Cardinals were able to re-sign former fifth overall pick Levi Brown after cutting him, but they still need another tackle. Martin is capable of coming in and starting right away.
14. Dallas (8-8), David DeCastro, G Stanford
The Cowboys need help at both center and guard, so they can address their weakness early with the best interior offensive lineman in the draft. Jenkins previously seemed to be a good fit and still may be, but the signing of Brandon Carr makes corner less of a pressing need.
15. Philadelphia (8-8) Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Brockers was considered a slam-dunk to go in the top 10 before the combine, but bad numbers in Indianapolis have teams anxiously awaiting his March 22 Pro Day. Unless he falls on his face, his stock shouldn’t plummet past the middle of the first round, so the Eagles would probably be happy to take him here.
16. New York Jets (8-8) Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Mark Sanchez isn’t going anywhere, as the team made clear when they gave him an extension Friday evening. Now, the team’s priority should be getting him some weapons. Floyd’s 37 touchdown catches are the most in Notre Dame history.
17. Cincinnati [from Oakland (8-8)] Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
We had Alabama corner Dre Kirkpatrick in this spot in our last mock draft, with the line of thinking that the Bengals would overlook character concerns (Kirkpatrick was arrested for possession of marijuana) to fill their need at cornerback. They would certainly have to overlook character concerns with Jenkins (three arrests, two of which were for marijuana possession), but the former Florida star (he was kicked off the team) has major talent.
18. San Diego (8-8) Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
Robert Meachem will be a good enough replacement for Jackson, so the Chargers shouldn’t worry about receivers in the first couple rounds of the draft. What they need is offensive line help, so they should take the best player at either tackle or guard at No. 18.
19. Chicago (8-8) Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Jay Cutler has needed a receiver since he got to Chicago, and the Bears finally got him one by trading for old pal Brandon Marshall. That should make receiver less of a priority in the first round for Chicago, meaning a corner at No. 19 would make more sense. Again, Kirkpatrick’s character was in question at the combine, but that can be solved with a positive meeting.
20. Tennessee (9-7), Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Steve Hutchinson signing was great for the Titans, as they entered the offseason needing a pair of guards and a center for their offensive line. Getting both Hutchinson and Konz would go a long way in addressing that need. If Glenn is on the board, they could draft him and grab Georgia teammate Ben Jones in the second round to play center.
21. Cincinnati (9-7) Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
With cornerback addressed at No. 17, the Bengals can either add a safety (Mark Barron or Harrison Smith) or address their offense at No. 21. The idea of second-year quarterback Andy Dalton having A.J. Green and Wright to throw to might be too enticing to pass up.
22. Cleveland [from Atlanta (10-6)], Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
The Browns had better make both of these two first-rounders count if they were right in not trading them to the Rams for RGIII. Mercilus can have an enormous impact as a pass-rushing specialist, as he led the nation with 16 sacks last year and had nine forced fumbles.
23. Detroit (10-6), Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana
The Lions could have used a cornerback before free agency started, and now that they have lost Wright to the Bucs, they definitely need one. Johnson is big and physical and is considered by many to be a first-round talent despite having only played one game against FBS competition in college.
24. Pittsburgh (12-4), Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The Steelers could go in a number of different directions with this pick, but we’ll stick with Hightower to improve a thin crop of inside linebackers. Cornerback, left tackle and defensive tackle are among the other positions Pittsburgh could stand to address.
25. Denver (8-8), Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Offensive tackle is the much greater need here, but unless the Broncos want to take a chance on Ohio State’s Mike Adams, there won’t be any value at the position here. Instead, they can go to the other side of the ball and find a boatload of talent with the versatile Cox.
26. Houston (10-6) Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
The Texans will be able to live without Mario Williams, and it’s actually their offense that should get attention in the first round. Arian Foster and Andre Johnson aren’t going anywhere, but Matt Schaub could use another weapon and Johnson is the team’s only legitimate threat at receiver.
27. New England (from New Orleans), Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Depending on what the Pats do with Devin McCourty, they should be looking to go with either a cornerback or a safety with one of their first-round picks. Yes, they added Steve Gregory, but Barron is on another level. His selection would mean that McCourty could stick at corner, with the team hoping Ras-I Dowling can be healthy enough as a second-year player to prove why he was the 33rd overall pick a season ago.
28. Green Bay (15-1), Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Packers could stand to add a safety, so if Barron is on the board, he might be the pick. If he isn’t there, they can either go after Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith or give themselves a legitimate rush linebacker not named Clay Matthews.
29. Baltimore (12-4) Vinny Curry, OLB, Marshall
Losing guard Ben Grubbs to the Saints should hurt, so the Ravens could do a few different things with this pick. They could try to replace Grubbs with Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler, go after a wide receiver or try to improve their pass rush. We have them going with Curry, who had 11 sacks last season.
30. San Francisco (13-3) Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
The 49ers signed Randy Moss, but they have to know better than to count on him. While the Moss signing could pay off, they still have a long-term need at receiver after the departure of Josh Morgan. Randle has good size and great hands.
31. New England (13-3) Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Consider this a caving in of sorts. We were high on Hill before he lit up the combine, but the idea of him being a first-round pick has always been a stretch. Still, with Brandon Lloyd not (yet?) signed, the Pats’ need at receiver persists, and there is no bigger risk/reward player at the position this year than Hill. He’s got blazing speed, a big frame and is a plus-blocker. If everything comes together, Hill could be a star.
32. New York Giants (9-7) Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
The Giants signed Martellus Bennett, and that means they don’t have to spend a first-round pick on Dwayne Allen or any of the other underwhelming tight ends in this year’s draft class. The Giants still need help at guard, and Zeitler comes from a factory for NFL offensive linemen.
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