Spiel’s First Published 2012 Mock Draft: Post-Free Agency Fun
By Alex Wiederspiel
Now that the brunt of free agency has cleared up where some of the dominoes will fall I am going to throw in my first comprehensive mock draft of the season. It may be late, but it was worth the wait.
1. Indianapolis Colts (2-14) — Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
While there are a very small minority of scouts that believe the Colts could select Robert Griffin III at this pick, it’s extremely unlikely considering the Colts didn’t even interview Griffin. While it’s not unheard of for a team to draft a player without interviewing him, it is almost unheard of for a team to draft first overall and take a player that they didn’t even interview. While Jim Irsay is still trying to pretend he has some semblance of competitive advantage by going through the process, it was reported in January by Chris Mortensen that the Colts had already made up their mind. Regardless of a little RGIII hype (and I’m not buying into this yet…I think a lot of it is coming from Washington who wants Luck to fall to 2), the Colts are still going to take Luck and I think it’s a foregone conclusion at this point. There’s really not much more that can be said on Andrew Luck, but something important that does need to be addressed is something Greg Cosell of NFL Films pointed out. He talks a lot about how Luck was “managed” at Stanford so that he could be more efficient.
First, and I’d like to point this out, I’ve been saying that Jim Harbaugh quarterbacks are more efficient because of the better play calling, but that doesn’t mean managed deserves a negative connotation. Consider that Andrew Luck was calling his own plays…he was “managing” himself in a sense. In essence, because Luck was calling his own plays, it sort of negates what Cosell said about him being “managed.” Luck was running the best offense for Stanford–consider that for a second–college student running an entire offense. Luck has the look of an elite NFL quarterback, and if not elite, then he’s going to be just a step below. While he needs to improve his intermediate accuracy and drive the ball a little more consistently, there is little that needs improvement on Andrew Luck.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis Rams, 2-14) — Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
RG3 fits awfully well into a Kyle Shanahan offense. He’ll be required to throw on the run and utilize the deep ball. There are a couple of concerns about Griffin, namely his penchant for taking big hits. He wasn’t an injury liability per se, but he wasn’t the model of health while in school and with the amount of big hits he takes it’s hard to imagine that he is going to continue to stay healthy in the NFL. The other concern with Griffin is going to be his consistency and accuracy on short and intermediate throws–more importantly short throws. However, his upside is out of control when you consider his killer instinct and natural talent. RG3 is not a finished product, but he’s far closer to “finished” then most people think. Washington simply needs to be patient with him. While I don’t like the addition of Pierre Garcon, Garcon’s natural playmaking ability after the catch could help mask some of RGIII’s early problems in the short area passing game.
3. Minnesota Vikings (3-13) — Matt Kalil, LT, USC
One thing I’m not ready to do is buy Matt Kalil as a future elite left tackle. As a prospect, he is most definitely elite when you consider his size, measurables, and natural ability in the passing game. But Kalil needs to improve on his ability to read schemes (sometimes he struggles picking up the right man), improve his overall ability as a run blocker (when he locks on he’s good, but Kalil gets lost in traffic far too often for my liking), and make sure he can maintain the weight he has added since the season ended. If he can maintain (and even possibly add) his weight around 310 pounds he should be able to stay at left tackle in the NFL, but if he starts dipping under 300 like he was in college and he may be limited to the zone blocking scheme.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12) — Quentin Coples, DE, North Carolina
If I know this much, it’s that Quentin Coples is going to be overdrafted by somebody. He looks like he could be an elite 3-4 defensive end in the NFL just on natural ability, but as a 4-3 blind side rusher he’s being over sold. At best he can play the strong side and be a great run defender and provide you with consistent pressure but never put up elite production. His measurables at 6’6” 284, running a 4.7 40 and having above average arms (33 1/4 inches) make him the prototypical end, and in Cleveland he’d play on the strong side where he’d be most effective at the next level. The major concerns about Coples on the field are his questionable motor (looked placid at times in 2011) and his lack of polished pass rushing moves. Coples does have elite athleticism, great discipline in the running game, and really solid instincts. One off-the-field concern that actually ties into on-field concerns was that he “took 2011 off” to prepare for the draft. Those rumors will stick with Coples until he can prove himself on the field in the NFL. Cleveland has two first round picks in a receiver heavy draft, and can wait until 22 to look at a receiver (assuming they are not sold on Justin Blackmon, and I’m not totally sold on him yet).
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) — Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Picks four and five are crucial picks in this draft, and the top 10 will likely look decidedly different if the Buccaneers choose Morris Claiborne here, or even if they decide to get really wacky and choose Justin Blackmon. While the Buccaneers can’t consider receiver a need after adding Vincent Jackson to the receiving corps. it would be hard to pass up having their top three receivers be Jackson, Mike Williams, and Justin Blackmon (Blackmon in the slot is something I’m definitely sold on). But we know Greg Schiano is all about accountability, and he’s big on having diverse running backs. Legarrette Blount does one thing well–run. He can’t pass block or catch out of the backfield, which made for a very stale Tampa Bay offense this season and certainly hurt Josh Freeman as teams cheated towards the pass when Blount wasn’t in. Richardson is the complete package, and one of the “safest” in the draft–if such a thing exists. If Tampa Bay doesn’t snag Richardson here, he could go into free-fall mode as running backs generally do on draft day…all the way to the middle of the first round (though I highly doubt he gets by the Jets or Bengals). The Buccaneers used their excessive salary cap room for a major make-over this off-season, and they’re building around Josh Freeman by adding the top two free agents on the market in Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson. Continuing to build around Josh Freeman is the only way to build this team successfully–and adding a dynamic play making back like Trent Richardson who can take a load off of Freeman when he’s struggling and be a security blanket in the passing game is another piece to the puzzle.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins, 5-11) — Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
I don’t buy Blackmon going in the top five. There hasn’t been a single receiver at this height go in the first round since 2009–that was Michael Crabtree at 10th overall. Big, rangy, athletic receivers are in right now for NFL teams–and Blackmon may have strong hands and is great after the catch–but he’s undersized by current trends and has an undeveloped route tree. That being said, Blackmon could be an explosive Anquan Boldin in this league if he can develop a bigger route tree. Cleveland could definitely snag him at 4th overall, but I just can’t imagine the trend of “smaller” receivers being bucked here. The Rams can’t pass on him because of how much they have invested in Sam Bradford, and Blackmon has great potential. Cleveland has a ton of “huge” needs, and while St. Louis isn’t exactly well off, they have one pressing, dire need above all things and it’s surrounding Sam Bradford with quality weapons. Bradford was the last true “draft boomer” as I like to call them–by that I mean the exorbitant contract he received. Bradford not succeeding could push the Rams out of St. Louis and would be a devastating financial set back. There is nothing more important than helping Bradford develop.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) — Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Claiborne is everything you want in a corner–5’11”, 188 pounds, long arms capable of getting in between the ball and the receiver, and outstanding athleticism. My only concern when it comes to Claiborne is his discipline on the field. He seems to have no problem in coverage under usual circumstances, but is susceptible to falling for double moves and the pump fake. Jacksonville doesn’t have as big of a need at corner after signing Aaron Ross, but Ross signed only a 3-year deal and honestly is a classic Jacksonville free agent bust waiting to happen (which is why it’s good they didn’t overpay at only 5 million a year). Derek Cox is solid, albeit inconsistent, and Rashean Mathis is getting up there and recovering from an injury. It’s not their biggest need anymore, but he’s the best player available and down the line there is no question the Jags are going to need Claiborne on what could be (down the line…if they EVER develop a pass rush) a championship caliber defense. Other potential players here include Riley Rieff and Melvin Ingram.
8. Miami Dolphins (6-10) — Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
While I consider “stock” to be something of an imaginary trait that doesn’t really apply on draft day, there is a certain point where you realize that a player actual does have stock and it actually has risen. What causes this? First and foremost, the Dolphins made a clear point that they wanted to address the quarterback position and failed to land either Peyton Manning or, even more shockingly, Matt Flynn. Owner Stephen Ross has made it perfectly clear that the Dolphins are going to upgrade at quarterback, and they’re not going to go in with just Matt Moore and David Garrard on the roster. Unless the Browns shock the country and draft Tannehill at fourth overall, he’s going to be available here. Tannehill’s arm is absolutely fantastic. He’s a great athlete and he’s also surprisingly polished mechanically for a former wide receiver. He comes from Mike Sherman’s pro-style offense…and guess who the offensive coordinator is now in Miami–Mike Sherman. Tannehill still has a lot of developing to do though. He’s a terrible decision maker–often times trusting his receivers and his arm way too much. Still, some of the bad decisions that resulted in interceptions had a lot to do with poor receiver play (I like Jeff Fuller, but he’s got terrible balance and doesn’t go after the ball at it’s highest point…ever). Tannehill has the potential to be the Philip Rivers of this draft, and with the right coaching can really develop into a great player. The thing I love most about him is that, as a former wide receiver, he’s great with ball placement (for the record: originally recruited as a quarterback, converted to receiver so he could get on the field, and moved back to quarterback when playing time became available). As for Miami, this is a risk, but a calculated one. They’ve been searching for a quarterback to replace Dan Marino for over a decade–it’s time to take the plunge on a quarterback in the first round.
9. Carolina Panthers (6-10) — Riley Rieff, RT, Iowa
A 6’5”, 313 pound tackle, Rieff has slightly smaller arms then one would hope for a tackle (33 1/4 inches), but he’s a good run blocker and a surprisingly good technician in the passing game. He sometimes struggles with the bull rush, but he is very different from the previous highly touted Iowa linemen who have gone in the first round. Rieff will struggle a little in pass protection on the right side, but he can play either tackle spot in the NFL and in Carolina sometime down the line he may need to move over to the left side. But, fortunately for both parties, he’ll get to start on the right side. The Panthers are going to have to decide what to do with oft-injured Jeff Otah. When he’s in, he’s absolutely dynamite, but Otah’s inability to stay healthy has really plagued him the last three years of his career. If the Panthers choose to go another route, they could draft a receiver early (though current “stock” suggests the Panthers will not do that here) it wouldn’t shock me if Carolina decided to make a move for Justin Blackmon (or if he fell here he’d absolutely be the pick). Carolina also has needs at defensive tackle, linebacker, and cornerback. While Carolina should go best player available, the best thing they can do is go BPA on offense to continue surrounding Cam Newton with weapons.
10. Buffalo Bills (6-10) — Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Buffalo’s aggressive free agency can assist them from drafting a pass rusher in the first round, though don’t count out Melvin Ingram here if he’s the best player available. Buffalo has some needs along the offensive line, but they aren’t necessarily dire right now. Receiver is another option here, but with a plethora of corners available here and really Buffalo’s biggest remaining need the Bills will have an interesting decision to make–Kirkpatrick, Janorris Jenkins, or Stephon Gilmore. Kirkpatrick is probably the least athletic of the three, but the most well-rounded and polished. He’s a solid form tackler and can play both man and zone equally well. The biggest concern I have with Kirkpatrick is his average vertical. He doesn’t really attack the ball at it’s highest point, but he plays the ball well and can also be a violent hitter. Don’t be surprised if Kirkpatrick winds up moving to safety at some point in his career–and not because he can’t play corner–but because he can be elite at the position with a little extra weight on his frame. For the skinny on Jenkins and Gilmore…read on.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9) — Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
The biggest fraud in the entire draft is Dontari Poe. He weighed in at 6’4”, 346 pounds, ran a 4.87 40, and benched 44 reps at 225. That’s awesome. Good for him. But the on field play shows something completely different. He doesn’t play the point of attack well, almost always tries to shoot the gap, and is undisciplined in the run game. He’s being considered a nose tackle–but he plays like a three tech pass rusher. That’s not going to fly in the NFL–especially if a team decides they want him at the nose because they think he can be like Kris Jenkins or Shaun Rogers. Rogers would be the ideal scenario here since he was a gap shooting nose tackle in Cleveland, but he wasn’t great at the point of attack. Jenkins was elite at both and that’s what teams are hoping Poe can be. I don’t think he can be, and I’ve seen Kansas City make a couple of decisions based on outstanding athleticism but not the best on-field performance (Tyson Jackson and Jonathan Baldwin are up on the list there). David DeCastro is a serious possibility here, and should be the pick here, but somebody is going to overdraft Dontari Poe.
12. Seattle Seahawks (7-9) — Luke Kuechly, MLB, Boston College
A glaring need at linebacker and one of the most instinctual players in the nation could lead Seattle down an all to familiar path. Kuechly is an okay cover backer, but needs to stay in zone. In the running game he looks like strictly a 4-3 linebacker. Kuechly isn’t incredibly athletic, though his 40 time would say otherwise. He doesn’t change direction as well as his numbers suggest, but it’s not necessarily a weakness. I’m not suggesting Kuechly will bust, but he’s one of the highest touted inside linebackers to come out in a while and that concerns me. He doesn’t shed blocks well, but as a sideline to sideline linebacker he could excel.
13. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) — Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Ingram is one of the most controversial prospects in the draft. Many are concerned by his short stature for a pass rusher (6’1”) and his exceptionally short arms (31 1/2), but on tape he’s outrageously athletic, changes direction well, and has an outstanding motor. He has a diverse array of moves, but he needs to refine them–consistency is going to be big for Ingram. As a success, I can totally see him being a LaMarr Woodley type of player. I have a hard time seeing Ingram as a complete bust, considering his versatility (he lined up at end, tackle, and linebacker in college), but if he does fail it will have more to do with his inability to polish his talent. Should Arizona pass on Ingram they’ll look at Jonathan Martin or David DeCastro.
14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) — Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Dallas is actually in pretty good shape right now. They can more or less go best player available right here after handing out money to free agent guards Mackenzie Bernadeau and Nate Livings. Dallas was busy for a team with limited cap space. They also signed Lawrence Vickers, Kyle Orton, Dan Connor, Brodney Pool, and Brandon Carr. All their team needs have been addressed in free agency. So what should Dallas do? It’s time to play with the big boys in the division and get the Cowboys pass rush working. DeMarcus Ware, is of course, the best pass rusher in football. But Anthony Spencer has disappointed as a pass rusher. He’s inconsistent more so then anything else–but an outstanding run defender. Upshaw’s upside is big, but he lacks refinement in rushing the passer. In Dallas, he comes into a good situation where he won’t have to start and the team won’t lose much in run defense. For Upshaw to find success, he has to develop and refine more pass rushing moves. He also has an inconsistent motor. In all honesty, Upshaw could slide on draft day, but the athleticism is quite impressive. If Upshaw is developed properly he can be a great all-around player, but he’s a high risk pick. For a team like Dallas that doesn’t have glaring needs right now that’s okay. If the Cowboys choose to pass on Upshaw here, Janorris Jenkins and Stephon Gilmore will be major possibilities here.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8) — Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Eagles aren’t looking for some giant, massive defensive tackle to stuff the run. In fact, the Eagles defensive line is really dedicated to rushing the passer. In the Wide 9 technique, defensive linemen almost exclusively are attacking the quarterbacks and allow the linebackers to clean up the run. Philadelphia just traded for DeMeco Ryans (who hopefully, fully removed from injury now, will take to the Eagles scheme and get back to being one of the best in the league) and have a promising outside linebacker in Jamar Cheney. Look for Philadelphia to snag an outside linebacker later in the draft and as an alternative to this pick–a big, tall wide receiver. As for Cox, he’s an outstanding, well rounded defensive tackle with a great first step, explosiveness, and even some pass rushing moves to go along with the natural ability.
16. New York Jets (8-8) — David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
The Jets are in a pretty good position for what they need. It comes down to wide receiver, offensive linemen, and pass rushers. There other big need, free safety, isn’t really an option here, but look for that in either the second or third round. For the Jets, this is a BPA move. The other thing…both of the Jets starting guards–Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson–are in the final years of their contract. Moore is coming off a terrible season in the running game (did not deserve his Pro Bowl bid), and Slauson may have a future at right guard, but he’s coming off of extensive surgery to repair tears to his labrum, biceps, and rotator cuff. 5-6 months of rehab are involved, which means Slauson won’t be able to be installed in Sparano’s offense during OTA’s and mini camps. The Jets are also looking at a possible fix at right tackle, and DeCastro could play there as well, but after playing right guard last season where he thrived at Stanford he should probably stay there. DeCastro is an outstanding all-around linemen–particularly as a pass blocker. Other options here include Michael Floyd and Cordy Glenn (more on them later).
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland Raiders, 8-8) — Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia
The Bengals let Nate Livings (along with a plethora of other players) walk in free agency. The Bengals have to be committed to the success of Andy Dalton after the flashes of potential he showed this season. First and foremost, that means protecting him. Andre Smith has been a disappointment at tackle, and may be better off moved to guard. Smith’s injuries have kept him off the field more then anything else, but his run blocking was sub-par this year. Glenn has played almost every position on the offensive line in his time at Georgia, and most importantly he’s actually good at everything he does. A natural knee bender with outstanding strength, size, and arm length–Glenn looks like he could be an elite guard in the NFL. He’s 6’5”, 345 pounds with nearly 36 inch arms. Whether it’s at guard or right tackle, Glenn has all the makings of an outstanding lineman.
18. San Diego Chargers (8-8) — Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson
The Chargers have a plethora of needs, and probably the most important one is at right tackle. If Cordy Glenn doesn’t go one pick earlier I would wager that the Chargers would take him (but the Chargers rarely take first round linemen under A.J. Smith). The Chargers were able to snake Jarrett Johnson away from Baltimore, and while Johnson is an outstanding run defender he’s not an elite pass rusher. Johnson will set the edge, but the Chargers need to add another pass rusher in the worst way to compliment Shaun Phillips. Branch, like most pass rushers, is going to be hit-or-miss. He’s an elite athlete with good instincts, but very inconsistent in the running game. He doesn’t have a ton of moves, but has a refined spin move and is great in the bull rush. Still, the amount of inconsistency that he displays needs to be solved if he ever wants to be the player he can be. Other potential choices here could be Jonathan Martin (unlikely since he should stay at left tackle in the NFL), Whitney Mercilus, Nick Perry, or the big upset pick could be Alameda Ta’amu (more on him later).
19. Chicago Bears (8-8) — Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Whitney Mercilus is a strong and athletic 6’4” 261 pound defensive end with nearly 34 inch arms. He’s also been extremely productive–22.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks last season. But Mercilus has virtually no moves, he’s just a strong bull rusher with a solid motor and decent instincts. He’s not elite in the running game and is something of a one-year wonder. But Mercilus could be Ray Edwards-esque on Chicago’s strong side constantly taking advantage of the lack of double teams. One-year wonders don’t have a high success rate in the NFL, but Mercilus’ 2011 season was outstanding.
20. Tennessee Titans (9-7) — Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Titans have a couple of glaring needs, but they aren’t very far off (nobody listened to me when I said that last year). They may take a step back in wins this season, but not in excitement–especially if Jake Locker wins the starting job (which, lets be honest, he will). The Titans have addressed a couple of needs in free agency by adding veterans Steve Hutchinson and Kamerion Wimbley, but after losing Cortland Finnegan to the Rams at a position they already needed, the Titans are in prime position to draft a corner. Jenkins is a fascinating prospect. He doesn’t play much press, but he’s incredibly instinctual and plays bigger then he is at 5’10” 193 pounds. He’s got surprisingly long arms (32 inches) for a corner of his size and he does a great job mirroring receivers. He’s great at reading a quarterback’s eyes, and he’s also excellent in run support. On the field, Jenkins may actually be the best corner in this draft. Off-the-field, he’s out of control. Multiple marijuana related incidents, a plethora of rugrats to his credit, and poor off-field interviewing that make many consider him an off-field liability. Jenkins may fall even farther on draft day, but I think if he was clean on-the-field he’d probably be going ahead of Morris Claiborne. So take that into consideration that he’s unlikely to fall all the way out of round one. And remember it only takes one team to believe they can “fix” Jenkins’ problems. That being said, Aqib Talib and Jimmy Smith both fell on draft day despite unbelievable natural talent. Other options here will include Stephon Gilmore, Peter Konz, Kelechi Osemele, and maybe even Nick Perry (doubtful after the Wimbley signing).
21. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) — Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
As previously mentioned the Bengals need to continue building around Andy Dalton, and they don’t know the status of Jerome Simpson and Jordan Shipley is an injury liability. A.J. Green is going to be an elite receiver, but the Bengals can take some serious pressure off of him and avoid double teams by adding another big receiver in an offense that doesn’t really need another downfield threat–but a big sturdy possession receiver. Floyd does a great job breaking tackles, but could stand to expand his route tree (still fairly well developed for a young receiver, but really doesn’t run downfield well), he has a large catch radius, and generally attacks the ball at the highest point. He comes from both a pro-style offense early in his career and a much more spread attack later on. Figuring out how he’s going to develop in the NFL is a little questionable, and Floyd has a couple of off-field incidents that are hurting his “stock” as well. I’m not the biggest Floyd fan, but I think as a complimentary possession receiver he can have a really successful NFL career–assuming he can stay out of trouble.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta Falcons, 10-6) — Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
If Alshon Jeffery hadn’t let himself balloon up to over 230 pounds last off-season there is no chance that he’d ever have reached this point. In fact, Jeffery may wind up being the best receiver in this class. He’s slimmed down to 6’3”, 213 pounds and seems committed to keeping the extra weight off. Combine that with horrendous quarterback play in 2011 and it’s no wonder Jeffery’s numbers took such a nose dive after a monstrous 2010 season where he posted an absurd 88 catches for over 1500 yards and 9 touchdowns in USC’s pro style offense. Jeffery has a ridiculous catch radius, attacks the ball at the highest point, and is pretty athletic for a big man (even when he was at 230 pounds). He uses his size very well and has outstanding concentration. He was a deep threat South Carolina because of his size, and if he can carry that over to the NFL, things really shouldn’t change too much for him. He’s a great route runner, and the only concern is whether Jeffery can keep his weight down. If he can…he’s going to be a steal at this point in the draft (maybethe steal of the draft).
23. Detroit Lions (10-6) — Jonathan Martin, LT, Stanford
Detroit has been desperately looking for a replacement for Jeff Backus for years, and an adequate one has never really come to play. He’s an average run blocker who needs to add some strength, but as a pass blocker he’s a pure technician with outstanding footwork and a clear comfort level on the field. He’s 6’5”, 312 pounds with 34 inch arms but lacks nastiness at times on the field (a lot of linemen do when they come out). I can’t really emphasize how important it will be for Martin to add some strength–it’s the biggest cause of his inconsistent play on the field. He almost always gets beaten by inside moves and is consistently beaten by the bull rush. However, I’ve seen more then a few left tackles come out that had that problem (D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Duane Brown come to mind) and they’ve been able to overcome it. Can Martin?
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) — Mike Adams, LT, Ohio State
The Steelers have to be crazy if they think that Marcus Gilbert is going to be able to play left tackle next season. He struggled in pass protection on the right side, and I can’t imagine it getting much easier for him on the left as Gilbert isn’t an athletic stud, but a mauler. Adams is 6’7”, 323 pounds with 34 inch arms and is one of the most well-rounded linemen in the draft. Adams was suspended as part of the Tattoogate scandal. It also really hurt Adams that he was only able to do 19 reps on the bench at the combine. He’s also not a natural knee bender and could stand to play with better leverage. That being said, it’s another case of talent trumping tape.
25. Denver Broncos (8-8) — Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Konz is a fascinating prospect. He’s a bigger center then you would usually see (6’5”, 314 pounds), but also outrageously athletic for his size. He’s a really solid pass blocker, but he also doesn’t play with leverage well and even worse he seems to lack upper body strength for a guy of his size. Oddly enough, Konz may be better suited for zone blocking scheme despite his size, but if he can add some upper body strength he can be absolutely elite at the next level. Nick Mangold has proven that taller centers can succeed in the NFL. Still, I have my concerns. But Denver has to keep Peyton Manning upright, and J.D. Walton has really struggled since the Broncos drafted him.
26. Houston Texans (10-6) — Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
I will be honest I’m not a huge Stephen Hill fan, but late in the first I think it’s an acceptable pick. He’s an outstanding athlete at 6’4”, 215 pounds with almost a 40 inch vertical and ran a 4.36 40 yard dash. But he has virtually no routes in his route tree (hey Demaryius Thomas…) and really lacks focus which has led to some very easy drops. Hill has to learn how to be a receiver, but Houston adds a great deep threat with Stephen Hill. Still, there is an awful lot of work that Hill needs. He can be eased in slowly in Houston where they’ve been looking for a number two receiver for years.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans Saints, 13-3) — Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
Perry is one of the sexiest players in this draft–21.5 sacks in three years of action with USC, an amazing motor, and measurables that make NFL GM’s drool. He’s 6’3”, 271 pounds and ran a 4.5 40 yard dash, put up 35 reps on the bench and had a great broad and vertical jump along with really solid 33 inch arms. Perry could wind up going in the Top 20 very easily on draft day, but right now I still have him going a little later in the draft. I’m a big Nick Perry fan when you put all the pieces together. He has a couple of moves (a fantastic inside move and a really solid swim) and great strength. He plays the run pretty well thanks to great instincts and good change of direction ability.
28. Green Bay Packers (15-1) — Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU
I’m not high on Michael Brockers in any way, but this is definitely a BPA pick and Ted Thompson loves to draft best player available. He’s 6’5”, 322 pounds with long arms and great athleticism, but he gets pushed around at the point of attack quite a bit and really needs to slim down a little so he can bulk up with upper body strength. He’s a little raw and undisciplined and I don’t like Brockers in the first round. I won’t be shocked if he falls all the way out of round one. Other potential picks here for Green Bay include Stephon Gilmore or Vinny Curry. I actually think Green Bay will trade out of this spot inevitably as the choices here don’t really fit for the Packers.
29. Baltimore Ravens (12-4) — Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Don’t be shocked if Hightower goes as high as 16 to the Jets or 24 to the Steelers, but right now I have him at 29 to Baltimore. Hightower is an outstanding run thumper who also has awesome pass rushing ability for an inside linebacker. He has lined up at end and outside linebacker, but athletically projects inside in a 3-4 at a healthy 6’2”, 265 pounds with good straight line speed and surprisingly long arms (32 5/8 inches). He isn’t the best form tackler, but as he recovers from an injury he suffered two years ago he’s beginning to look more instinctual on the field and could even move outside and play an Ahmad Brooks type role somewhere. He’s not the best form tackler, but can be a violent hitter and a game changing player on the field once he’s totally recovered from a knee injury that ended his 2010 season.
30. San Francisco 49ers (13-3) — Kelechi Osemele, OG/OT, Iowa State
At 6’6”, 333 pounds with nearly 36 inch arms he is an enormous, powerful, run blocker whose best fit is probably inside at guard. He plays with surprisingly good leverage for a man of his size and does a great job mirroring pass rushers. He’s also a mauling blocker, but he struggles sometimes with speed rushers and it’d be shocking to see him staying at left tackle in the NFL. In San Fran he’d undoubtedly play either right tackle or guard and be a great fit as a run blocking mauler.
31. New England Patriots (13-3) — Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State
I’m not a huge Devon Still fan, but he’s the prototypical size for a 3-4 defensive end at the next level. He’s 6’5”, 303 pounds with 33 1/4 inch arms and has good instincts, but he lacks pass rushing moves and often gets beaten at the point of attack. But he’s an outstanding athlete and looks the part. New England showed us all last year they weren’t afraid of project players like Nate Solder, so this isn’t totally out of the question.
32. New York Giants (9-7) — Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Even with the signing of Martellus Bennett, the Giants should still look to address the tight end position. Bennett is a mismatch, but has never put it all together and the Giants committed only one year to him and didn’t pay him starters money. Fleener is a deep threat and a major mismatch at 6’6” 247 pounds with great athleticism, solid hands, and long arms. He’s got a big catch radius and should be an outstanding player in the NFL.