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ANDREW LUCK QB
ROBERT GRIFFIN III
The Andrew Luck era has started in Indy. With Peyton Manning out of town, Andrew Luck will step into a rebuilt Colts team that looks much different than in year's past. Luck will be thrown into a talent-depleted roster, though Reggie Wayne will return after signing a 3-year deal instead of leaving in free agency. Luck is arguably the top quarterback prospect since Manning and his game has no major holes or weaknesses. His onfield composure and leadership is matched by none and it's not a stretch to predict multiple Pro Bowl appearences.
The Redskins sent the #6 overall pick, #39 overall, as well as 2013 and 2014's first round pick to to the Rams for the #2 overall pick, a trade that will likely turn around a struggling franchise into a consistent playoff contender. Robert Griffin III (RGIII) has all-world potential, and he's a terrific fit for Mike Shanahan's offense. Griffin is a superb athlete, he's a former olympic track runner, and he's a much better pure passer than his most frequent comparison, Michael Vick. He may have more success than Andrew Luck early in his career because of the roster support around him.
#3 #4 #5 #6
The argument for Claiborne is clear--The Vikings play Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, and Jay Cutler twice a year, each. Long-time corner Antonie Winfield will be 35 in 2012 and #2 CB Chris Cook could be cut due to off-field issues. Claiborne is a much needed upgrade for their cover-2 scheme, and his ability to play press, zone and man make him a needed asset for the Vikings. There's a chance Rick Spielman is bluffing in order to attract a trade so they could move down. If Kalil ends up the pick here, consider me fooled, though it would make sense.
The Browns must support Colt McCoy and the offense in the early rounds, and a solid ground game will be the key to an effective offense. Despite the need to upgrade at the receiver position, the Browns cannot enter 2012 with Montario Hardesty as their premier back. Richardson is arguably the top non-QB in the draft, and the best back to come out since Adrian Peterson. He's a thick, strong, and quick back with great vision and patience. He has the potential to develop into the top back in the entire league.
MATT KALIL d
The worst case scenario happens for the Bucs--Claiborne and Richardson go 3rd and 4th. The Bucs have big needs at CB and RB, and there's a slim chance they'll trade up to #3 to get their guy. In the event that they stay at #5, they will likely select Matt Kalil. Although they have Donald Penn at LT, Kalil has the potential to be a 15year franchise tackle. Penn could move to RT in place of Jeremy Trueblood, who struggled mightily in 2011. They have a need at LB, but this is far too early to select a middle linebacker like Luke Kuechly. They'll target the best player available, Matt Kalil.
The Rams must improve the weapons for Sam Bradford and the passing game. While Trent Richardson would alleviate the transition from Steven Jackson, Blackmon is the top WR on the board, and he has the potential to be a solid #1 WR, though he'd be a great #2 WR on most teams. He's not quite the player like AJ Green or Julio Jones, but he'll be in line for at least 80 catches consistently. Blackmon is a physical route runner who works best in a the intermediate of the field, Bradford's strength.
The Jaguars are in a bind at #7--the top players on their board are taken and they'll certainly try to trade down into the middle of the first round. In the event that they stay put at #7, they'll select the best player on the board (Gene Smith's forte), Fletcher Cox. While DT isn't the greatest need on roster, Cox would be a valuable penetrating lineman who can amplify the pass rush. NT Terrence Knighton will miss most of the off-season and possibly camp with an eye injury, so depth along the line must be addressed. Gene Smith places a premium on character, which rules out the popular projection, Michael Floyd.
The Dolphins have neglected the QB position for too long. Since Dan Marino's retirement in 2000, the Dolphins have started 16 different quarterbacks. After missing out on Peyton Manning, and passing on Matt Flynn in free agency, the Dolphins will select their franchise quarterback early, and all signs point to Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill is a converted WR with two years of experience in Mike Sherman's offense. He's athletic, he has a reliable arm, and he's a smart and composed kid. It may take time for him to develop into a reliable NFL starter, but he has the tools to succeed.
MIKE BAND'S 1ST ROUND MOCK PICKS #9 thru #16
QUINTON COPLES DE
#9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16
The Panthers must address defense in the early rounds, and Quinton Coples would be an ideal defensive end to pair across Charles Johnson. Coples is an ideal strong-side 4-3 end, but his effectiveness as a pass rusher may never materialize at the next level. Still, he'll be a reliable, mid-level guy who will instantly help stop the run from the front lines. After selecting two DT's in the 2011 draft in the 3rd round, the Panthers add another North Carolina defensive end, to replace their old North Carolina defensive end who now plays in Chicago, Julius Peppers. Coples could fall out of the Top 15 on draft day.
The Bills will address the secondary or the offensive tackle position at #10. If Kalil gets past the Top 6 picks, the Bills would certainly be tempted to move up. If they stay put, Mark Barron is the most logical choice. The Bills want to counter the Patriots tight ends by adding an imposing strong safety who excels at playing in the box and close to the line of scrimmage. He's not an elite coverage safety, but he'll certainly alleviate the matchup problems that Gronkowski and Hernandez pose. Buddy Nix loves his SEC guys. They will also consider CB Stephon Gilmore here.
The Chiefs currently have only two guards on roster, Ryan Lilja and Jon Asamoah, and Lilja is a free agent after the 2012 season. DeCastro is your typical Scott Pioli player. Hard working, blue collar, smart kid who has the versatility to play tackle if needed. DeCastro is arguably the top guard in the draft to come out in some time, and he did an excellent job of protecting Andrew Luck at Stanford.
The Seahawks WILL address the pass rush with the #12 pick, and all signs point to Melvin Ingram as their guy. The Seahawks upgraded the the defensive line in free agency, but they are still missing a feared pass rusher, known in their scheme as the "elephant" position. His reposibility includes rushing off the edge and some looks where he drops back in space. This is Ingram's specialty. He is not your traditional 4-3 end, and he may best fit in a hybrid scheme or a 3-4, similar to what Seattle runs.
The Cardinals restructured OT Levi Brown in the off-season, but they are still missing a right tackle on the opposite side. The buzz is that the Cardinals are considering Rieff, DeCastro and Michael Floyd with the 13th pick, though Rieff is the most likely selection. He's a versatile tackle who could play LT or RT in multiple schemes. He may fit as a guard long-term, but either way, he's a potential 10-year starter with a complete game. Though he lacks ideal arm length that is coveted by tackles.
The Cowboys will address their 3-4 scheme with the #14, either along the line of scrimmage or in the secondary. The Cowboys have limited depth along the line and Brockers is a freakish specimen with the potential to flourish as a space eating, 3-4 end. He's not your prototypical nose tackle, but the Cowboys don't run a traditional 3-4 defense. They are rumored to favor Brockers and safety Mark Barron, though Barron will likely be off the board when the 14th pick comes around.
The Eagles sent CB Asante Samuel to the Falcons for a 7th round choice leaving Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the only reliable corners on roster. They could very well upgrade at corner, especially if DRC isn't retained after the 2012 season. Gilmore has been rising up boards and was rumored to go in the top 10 picks. He's a physical corner who excels in man and zone, and could start at nickel in his rookie season. Gilmore has the ideal size/speed combination that is sought after in cornerbacks.
The Jets will upgrade the pass rush, more specifically the rush outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense with the 16th pick. While Melvin Ingram is their top choice, Chandler Jones fits the bill well. Jones is a long, versatile end who has the full arsenal of pass rushing moves and run stopping abilities to flourish in Rex Ryan's defense. There are rumors that the Jets are trying to trade up for Trent Richardson, but they'll have to move to #3. GM Mike Tannenbaum is not shy to move up in the first round to get their guy--Sanchez, Revis, Keller were first round picks that the Jets moved up for. They may consider Michael Floyd to help the passing game.
MIKE BAND'S 1ST ROUND MOCK PICKS #17 thru #24
MICHAEL FLOYD WR NOTRE DAME
The Bengals will try to upgrade the #2 WR spot opposite AJ Green. They lost Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell to free agency and the goal will be to continue the offenses development, not stall it. Floyd is a long, physical receiver who plays similar to AJ Green, though not nearly as talented. His future success will rely heavily on him being a #2 receiver. If he goes to a situation with an estabilished #1 WR and a reliable QB, he has the potential to flourish.
#18 #19 #20 #21 #22
The Chargers will look to bolster the pass rush from the outside linebacker spot in their 3-4 defense. They signed SLB Jarrett Johnson in free agency to a four-year deal, but he's not a feared pass rusher. The Chargers will look to replace former first round pick Larry English, who has thus far played like a bust. McClellin has been rising up boards in the media circles, but NFL teams had him as a first round since the season. He's a high motor, relentless pass rusher with good instincts and above average athleticism. He'll be a solid pro if he can play the rush linebacker role in a 3-4.
While Kuechly is rated higher by most pundits, including myself, Kuechly falls a bit on draft day, because of the middle linebacker effect--good middle linebackers, who will be solid pros, can be found in rounds 2, 3 and 4 fairly easily. Kuechly is a perfect fit for the Cover-2 scheme as the eventual successor to the 34-year old Brian Urlacher. He can fit as the WILL linebacker and contribute as a nickel backer. He's an athletic, instinctive linebacker with versatility, but he's not much of a pass rusher.
The Titans lost Cortland Finnegan to free agency, leaving a major hole for a corner than can contribute early. Alteraun Verner played well as a rookie, but Jason McCourty is a free agent after the 2012 season, and they must support the secondary. Kirkpatrick's stock is all over the place, but he'll likely end up between picks #17 to #20. He's a long, physical corner who fits best in a zone scheme.
The Bengals want to upgrade at the situational pass rusher spot. DE's Michael Johnson and Robert Geathers are freee agents after the 2012 season, and they want to rotate players along the defensive line to keep the pass rush in full force. Upshaw has been falling down boards recently, because he may not have a true position in the NFL. He's a true tweaner prospect, who lacks the explosiveness to be counted on as a feared pass rusher and the athleticism to be a full-time outside linebacker.
The pledge will be to add playmakers at all of the spots on offense. The Browns will upgrade the receiver position in the early rounds, and Stephen Hill's size/speed combination is matched by none. Team president Mike Holmgren prefers big bodied, physical route runners who can work all areas of the field. Hill ran a blazing 4.36 at 6'4 215. He was primarily utilized as a vertical threat at Georgia Tech, and he'll have to develop a full NFL route tree. Still, the potential is there.
The Lions prefer oversized lineman at all positions on the line. Glenn has the versatile to play tackle and guard at the next level, and his length and strength will attract Detroit at #23. The Lions may not have Gosder Cherilus and Jeff Backus beyond the 2012 season, and Glenn could be the future successor. Depth along the offensive line is needed everywhere. The Lions want to upgrade the secondary, but without a legitimate corner available, they'll settle for an offensive lineman. Glenn would be a great guard prospect, but he might struggle at tackle due to his inconsistent feet.
Hightower is an ideal fit for the Steelers 3-4 scheme. With the recent release of James Farrior, the Steelers will look to add depth to the most important part of their aggressive defense, the linebacker unit. The other inside starter next to Lawrence Timmons is Larry Foote, who will be 32 in 2012 and free agent after the season. Hightower is an ideal inside thumber and his overall game could keep him on the field, even in passing downs. If Hightower is off the board at #24, the Steelers will look to upgrade the offensive line full of holes.
MIKE BAND'S 1ST ROUND MOCK PICKS #25 thru #32
JEREL WORTHY DT
#25 #26 #27
The Broncos WILL upgrade the defensive tackle position early the draft. They lost Broderick Bunkley to free agency and they released Marcus Thomas, leaving Ty Warren, Justin Bannan, and Kevin Vickerson as the only tackles on roster with experience. All three are signed to one-year deals. Worthy is a space eating, 3-technique tackle who can contribute as a penetrating tackle and a space eating body. Worthy is an ideal fit for the Broncos 4-3 scheme.
The Texans will have to upgrade the tackle position after releasing Eric Winston before free agency. The move makes sense long-term because Winston would have demanded a big contract next off-season and they want to pay Duane Brown long-term. If they don't bring in a right tackle through the draft, inexperienced Rashad Butler is slated to start. Martin is an athletic tackle who would fit well in their zone blocking scheme.
The Patriots must upgrade the pass rush, after struggling in that department in 2011. They also lost both of their starting ends, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. The Patriots are big fans of high motor, high effort pass rushers with loads of production. My only concern with Curry as the target is that the Patriots tend to stick with the big six conferences early on. Regardless, Curry is a name to watch out for in the first round and throughout his career. He's explosive off the football, and he's relentless in pursuit. He fits the 4-3 end role well.
#28 #29 #30 #31 #32
The Packers faltered last season because of their poor defense and lack of run game. They will likely go into 2012 without Ryan Grant, and with injury concerns to James Starks and the rest of the backfield, the Packers will want a consistent 3-down back who can play be effective as a receiver out of the backfield in the passing game. Martin is a legitimate NFL back with great vision, balance, quickness and patient feet. He'll flourish in a zone blocking scheme like the Packers.
The Ravens will have to add a center for the future. Matt Birk was re-signed to a three-year deal, but he's 35years old and will likely retire after the 1012 season. Konz has the versatility to play guard or center, and with the loss of Ben Grubbs to free agency. Currently, Jah Reid is slated to start at RG, and they will bring in a young interior lineman to challenge him.
The Niners are all about potential and with very few immediate needs, they can afford to go the high ceiling route. The right guard position is open for competition between Dan Kilgore and a likely rookie. 2011 starter Adam Snyder left for the Cardinals in free agency. Silatolu is a small-school lineman with incredibly quick feet and natural strength. He's an ideal fit for San Francisco.
The Patriots will satisfy defensive needs heavily in the draft. They'll upgrade at defensive end and at defensive tackle, while also addressing needs in the secondary. At #31, they're likely to trade out of the pick… because they're the Patriots. In five of the last eight drafts, the Patriots have gone into the draft with two first round picks. They've used both picks only once. If they do stay put at #31, Dontari Poe would be an ideal developmental nose tackle. They prefer big interior lineman.
The Giants have the luxury of doing what they want with the 32nd pick, and they'll likely select the best player available on the board. With Osi Umenyiora likely out of town via trade, the Giants will want to add as much depth as possible to their defensive line, despite having one of the top lines in the league. Whitney Mercilus is an ultra-productive pass rushing specialist who will contribute as a rotational end. He'll fall to the end of the first round because of his lack of complete arsenal, especially against the run.
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