This first NFL Mock Draft is primarily based on team need and their draft tendencies while taking into account current player perceptions and some personal evaluations. It’ll be refined in future mocks and later in April will expand to two rounds.
•#1 – Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
It’s a no-brainer here as Peyton Manning was let go because the Colts knew Luck was coming in. There already has been talk from some about RG3 surpassing him in the coming weeks but that is typical as long-anticipated #1 picks inevitably become over-analyzed.
•#2 – Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
The Redskins traded up to get RG3 – giving up their 2nd round pick, 2013 1st rounder, and 2014 1st rounder to move up the 4 spots. He fits the offense perfectly as he’s mobile, has a strong arm, and is quite accurate. They attempted to surround him with some more talent by signing Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan – the cap penalties they incurred (and several potential free agents that re-signed) probably cost them a premiere receiver however.
•#3 – Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC
There probably won’t be a surprise with the Vikings who desperately need a left tackle and Kalil would be #1 worthy any year in which two remarkable QB talents weren’t at the top. Corner and receiver are other areas of need but those positions rarely get drafted this high and especially don’t get taken over cornerstone tackles.
•#4 – Cleveland Browns – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The first compelling decision of the draft comes here with the Browns. They need playmakers on offense but can’t be ruled out from taking Morris Claiborne either and bolstering the secondary. The two big options on offense are Blackmon and Trent Richardson. It’s easier to justify the receiver, who Colt McCoy (or a rookie) desperately need for their development, over a running back when most teams shy away from spending high picks on them.
•#5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Tampa could buck that conventional wisdom and take Richardson here. LeGarrette Blount is not the long term solution as he especially struggles in pass protection and as a receiver – he didn’t produce at a level on the ground to help Josh Freeman regardless. Richardson could help open up the offense which will be aided by the signings of Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks. Morris Claiborne would be the other possibility here as the team does need help in the secondary or an outside linebacker.
•#6 – St. Louis Rams – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Rams are probably hoping that Justin Blackmon falls to them here – or they may decide to trade back up and into the Vikings or Browns spot to nab him. If not though Claiborne is the natural fit. Offensive line and receiver need upgrades as well but they’d be a reach here. Claiborne is the best option at #6 even with the signing of Cortland Finnegan.
•#7 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
It seems like every year the Jaguars have a need to consider targeting pass rush in the draft. Coples is regarded as the top pure DE in the class despite some concerns over inconsistency and effort. Corner or offensive tackle would be other positions that could be targeted here.
•#8 – Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The Dolphins had a disastrous offseason where they found themselves unable to secure any of the three QBs they pursued (Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, Alex Smith). Though Matt Moore is competent no one thinks of him as the QB of the future. Tannehill however could come in, probably best to sit for a season or two, and develop along with his former college head coach Mike Sherman who is now the offensive coordinator in Miami. Other considerations could be at wide receiver though it would seem a reach to take anyone behind Blackmon on the board this early, defensive end with the team going to a base 4-3, or to fill a hole at right tackle.
•#9 – Carolina Panthers – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Panthers desperately need help stuffing the run and Brockers would be a versatile component to utilize on the d-line. Despite a disappointing Combine he has shown great potential and ability for growth that could intrigue a team enough to overlook some issues.
•#10 – Buffalo Bills – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Having addressed the issue of pass rush by signing Mario Williams and Mark Anderson the Bills can look to other needs. Possibly losing Demetrius Bell would open a hole on the o-line so taking Riley Reiff would make a lot of sense. If not they could look at receiver or corner upgrades.
•#11 – Kansas City Chiefs – Dontari Poe, NT, Ole Miss
Desperate for a young and dominant nose tackle the Chiefs could have their guy with Poe who blew everyone away at the Combine. This might still be somewhat high for him but he fits a glaring need better than any other options at this pick.
•#12 – Seattle Seahawks – Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
The Seahawks are in a position where they can nab the best player available. Pass rush is a priority for the team and Upshaw, though seen as unconventional, would be well utilized by Pete Carroll in his defensive scheme. Other possibilities include David DeCastro which would generally be early for a guard (but warranted in his case) or a different pass rusher such as Melvin Ingram or Whitney Mercilus.
•#13 – Arizona Cardinals – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Cardinals have an obvious need at offensive tackle and Martin would be the guy here. They could also look to grab a receiver like Kendall Wright to put across the field from Larry Fitzgerald.
•#14 – Dallas Cowboys – David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Being able to get DeCastro would be a coup for the Cowboys who need help on the interior of the offensive line more than anywhere else. The team could also look to bolster the secondary whether at corner or safety.
•#15 – Philadelphia Eagles – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Though they had a terribly disappointing season the Eagles still have talent all over the field and have made some additions like DeMeco Ryans to fill holes. Jason Peters rupturing his achilles could change this pick or their draft plan – he’ll likely be out for the entire season so now the Eagles don’t have their premiere left tackle. They may need to trade up to get Riley Reiff or even Jonathan Martin. If they stand pat and both are off the board they tend to draft for the trenches. Cox would be a real nice addition to an already solid defensive line.
•#16 – New York Jets – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Bringing in Tim Tebow doesn’t solve any of the Jets woes on offense. They need a #2 receiver here probably more than anything else. Floyd gets the edge here over Kendall Wright due to his frame – he would replace Plaxico Burress as a red zone target and fit well opposite Santonio Holmes. They could also consider a right tackle or pass rusher.
•#17 – Cincinnati Bengals – Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Bengals did a decent job in free agency for their secondary but they need much more help – possibly using both of their first rounders there. Barron would come in and immediately push for the starting strong safety job.
•#18 – San Diego Chargers – Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia
Jared Gaither moves to LT with Marcus McNeill being cut and Kris Dielman had to retire. That makes offensive line a priority and Glenn is an interesting prospect to consider. He played guard until his senior year when he moved to LT and now it’s believed that he could project to tackle at the next level. The Chargers would have the ability to put him where they best saw fit. They could also consider choosing a corner here.
•#19 – Chicago Bears – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Bears obtained Brandon Marshall but that won’t prohibit them from pursuing another receiver. Wright could be the guy here or Stephen Hill who’s stock is steadily rising. Offensive line or corner could be considered otherwise.
•#20 – Tennessee Titans – Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Titans are in good shape need wise having signed Kamerion Wimbley and Steve Hutchinson, though the latter is a short term solution for a weak interior offensive line. Peter Konz is the rare center that could go this high.
•#21 – Cincinnati Bengals – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Having gone safety with the earlier pick another player for the secondary or possibly a receiver could be the call made here. It may be too early to draw from the RB pool but it should be a consideration even with the signing of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Off the field concerns have never really mattered all that much to the Bengals so Jenkins could win out due to his talent.
•#22 – Cleveland Browns – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Considering the Justin Blackmon pick earlier the Browns could go any number of directions here. Offensive tackle, running back, corner, and even a QB could sneak in given the Browns failed attempt to acquire RG3. Gilmore’s stock has risen as of late making him potentially the second CB that could come off the board come draft day.
•#23 – Detroit Lions – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Never having drafted specifically for need the Lions could still try to address weakness in the secondary here or take an offensive tackle to help protect Matt Stafford. Mike Adams disappointed at the Combine so the best choice here might be to grab Kirkpatrick who’s stock has been falling as of late due to a disappointing Combine and off the field concerns.
•#24 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Alameda Ta’amu, NT, Washington
It seems like the Steelers always enter the draft without any glaring needs and instead they’ve been able to take the best player available and bolster strengths. The offensive line could use some attention but Ta’amu would make a lot of sense. Casey Hampton restructured his deal but even still he’s 35 and coming off an ACL injury.
•#25 – Denver Broncos – Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Do the Broncos go offense to help Peyton Manning or continue to build on an improving defense? Defensive tackle, right guard and tackle, and wide receiver would seem the most likely positions for this choice. Still could provide the presence in the interior of the defensive line that is sorely lacking.
•#26 – Houston Texans – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
This would represent a slip for Kuechly who has been talked about as a top 15 pick but linebackers – particularly inside LBs – have been devalued in recent years. Trading away DeMeco Ryans created the opportunity to take advantage if he does fall this far. The loss of Eric Winston opens a hole at right tackle and they could also look to beef up the interior of the defensive line.
•#27 – New England Patriots – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Giving up this pick to sign Mike Wallace would make a lot of sense. The Pats have #31 also with this one being the Saints original pick. A #1 receiver is the top priority but that would be tough to find here with the top three off the board (though Stephen Hill or Alshon Jeffrey could be considered). Pass rush or safety would be other areas to upgrade and the team probably won’t enter the season with Shane Vereen as the starting RB.
•#28 – Green Bay Packers – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Mercilus could be a 4-3 DE or in the case of the Packers 3-4 OLB. The team needs pass rush help from the position where only Clay Matthews has been producing. Safety, corner, or running back would be other directions to look.
•#29 – Baltimore Ravens – Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Hightower has the potential to go higher than this but if here would be a great choice for the Ravens. Ray Lewis is eventually going to retire and he would be prepared to take his place. He has the quickness to rush and a stoutness to stop the run making him ideal for the inside of the 3-4. Offensive tackle or receiver would also make sense here.
•#30 – San Francisco 49ers – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Randy Moss is not a long-term solution and Mario Manningham was a good addition but not the impact type receiver that the team needs. Hill has the combination of speed and size to be just that. Right guard and right tackle are also areas that could be upgraded – otherwise the 49ers could just go best player available.
•#31 – New England Patriots – David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Right now Shane Vereen is the starting RB. The Pats could wait to grab a back later but Wilson could provide the instant impact they need. He had a fantastic combine where he showed off receiving skills that could be especially valuable in the Patriots offensive system.
•#32 – New York Giants – Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Super Bowl winners generally don’t have glaring holes and that is the case here with the Giants. Signing Martellus Bennett won’t stop them from considering a rare talent like Fleener who was incredibly impressive at his Pro Day.