The NFL Draft is the high point of the offseason for football fans and now that the league has decided to make the process a three-day event for the second year in a row, it’s going to be a long weekend for fans as well.
Boise State expects to be well-represented in the draft with a handful of defensive stars pegged to go in the top half of the draft while a few old reliable offensive standouts will likely fall toward the third and final day. Draft gurus everywhere are praising two Broncos in particular, linebacker Shea McClellin and running back Doug Martin. Both are expected to go in the top 35 picks and both could sneak into the 1st round.
The draft has already seen one major trade as the Washington Redskins moved up from the sixth pick to grab the highly coveted #2 spot and the chance to draft their quarterback of the future. They gave up this year’s 1st and 2nd round selections as well as their 1st round picks in 2013 and 2014. Many more trades will come tomorrow night in the 1st round as teams jockey for position to grab lottery tickets they hope will come up big.
While it is a fool’s errand to mock a draft that will see nearly one-third of its participants actually draft in their current position, the offseason would not be complete without one. Here is one writer’s attempt to predict the opening two rounds while acknowledging that even a 15% success rate would be outstanding.
Note: New Orleans forfeited their 2nd round draft choice as part of the NFL punishment for their role in placing “bounties” on players for the purpose of causing injuries.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, QB- Stanford
The Colts have already announced that Luck will be the first pick, ending one of the least suspenseful waits for the opening selection in several years. Most project Luck as the most advanced quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning in 1998.
2. Washington Redskins (from St Louis)
Robert Griffin III, QB- Baylor
When the Redskins made their trade with St Louis to acquire the 2nd selection, it was specifically with RG3 in mind. Without a franchise quarterback in more than a generation, Washington has finally made a move that makes sense, albeit one that comes with a steep price.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Matt Kalil, OT- USC
The Vikings will continue to try to shop this pick to anyone that will listen but if they are unsuccessful, they should happily draft Kalil. The left tackle should anchor their offensive line for the next decade while providing protection for last year’s 1st round pick, Christian Ponder.
4. Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson, RB- Alabama
Cleveland will be tempted to look at Ryan Tannehill as a franchise quarterback after being underwhelmed by Colt McCoy last season. In the end, they should give McCoy a chance to improve by giving him one of the most gifted running back prospects in years.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne, CB- LSU
While Tyrann Mathieu, the Honey Badger, got most of the headlines last year, the best player on LSU’s near-national championship defense was Claiborne. Tampa would love to see Richardson available at #5 but if not, they can finally start to groom the successor to veteran cornerback Ronde Barber.
6. St Louis Rams (from Washington)
Justin Blackmon, WR- Oklahoma State
The Rams picked up an extra 2nd round draft pick and two future 1st round picks to move off of the #2 spot, where they were certainly not going to draft a quarterback anyway. Sam Bradford has talent but needs more of a supporting cast. Blackmon has the potential to become a poor man’s Calvin Johnson, which is certainly no insult.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Michael Floyd, WR- Notre Dame
If a team trades up in front of Jacksonville to acquire Ryan Tannehill, that might push Blackmon back into their lap and they would gladly take him. Otherwise, they will attempt to give second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert the other elite wide receiver talent in Floyd. They could also trade back or grab the best available defensive end, Melvin Ingram.
8. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill, QB- Texas A&M
The Dolphins would be thrilled if Tannehill was available at #8 without having to move up to get him. While there are several teams that will talk to the five teams picking directly before Miami, it would be a steep price for any of them to pay which may push Tannehill back to Miami by default.
9. Carolina Panthers
Fletcher Cox, DT- Mississippi State
The Panthers, after having the #1 pick and grabbing Cam Newton last season, will almost certainly look to the defensive side of the ball this year and have a number of intriguing options to choose from. Cox is the top defensive tackle and could start immediately for Ron Rivera’s defense. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore is another possibility in this spot.
10. Buffalo Bills
Riley Reiff, OT- Iowa
The Bills made a big splash on defense by signing Mario Williams and they would be tempted to grab either Cox or Ingram to solidify the defense even further, but they have a gaping hole on their offensive line since losing Jason Peter to the Eagles and Reiff could step right in and start immediately.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
Luke Kuechly, LB- Boston College
There is no question that Kuechly is the top-rated linebacker in this year’s draft class and the Chiefs have a major need on their defensive interior. They would love to fill a hole at nose tackle but short of taking a major gamble on Dontari Poe, there is not a good value at their spot in the draft.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Melvin Ingram, DE- South Carolina
The Seahawks would gladly take Kuechly if he was available but would not be upset if Ingram fell to them at the #12 spot. They need a consistent pass rusher and the South Carolina product would provide just that. They could also put their pick in play to move up and grab Tannehill to be their quarterback of the future.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Dontari Poe, DT- Memphis
The Cardinals would love to be able to add Reiff or Floyd but if both are off the board, they would happily add the impressive Poe. While he did little to stand out on a bad Memphis team, Poe tested off the charts. He could be a workout wonder who flops in the NFL or he could be a late bloomer that just needs better coaching and more time to develop.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Mark Barron, S- Alabama
The Cowboys would do backflips if they could stay at #14 and have Barron fall into their laps. They have needed a playmaking safety for years and Barron is undoubtedly the best of the bunch. If, as some suggest, a team trades up to snag Barron, look for the Cowboys to address their defensive line with Poe or LSU’s Michael Brockers.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Brockers, DT- LSU
Brockers was a very disruptive force up front on a talented LSU defense and his game translates well to the NFL. The Eagles would rather take Reiff or even Barron, but if both are off the board, they should be happy to grab a talented lineman like Brockers to help contain a trio of potentially elite quarterbacks in their division.
16. New York Jets
Chandler Jones, DE- Syracuse
The Jets would strongly prefer Ingram, and could make a splashy move to get him, but if they stay on this pick, Jones would be a solid choice. He has quietly made a rapid ascent up draft boards and now projects as one of the top pure defensive ends in the draft. He could give the Jets a pass rush they sorely lacked last season.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland)
Stephon Gilmore, CB- South Carolina
Gilmore would be an outstanding value at this stage in the draft. Nate Clements and Terence Newman are both aging and the enigmatic PacMan Jones is always one decision away from a lengthy suspension. Cincinnati would happily add Gilmore to solidify the spot vacated before last season by Johnathan Joseph, ironically their #1 draft pick in 2006 out of South Carolina.
18. San Diego Chargers
David DeCastro, OG- Stanford
Taking an interior lineman in the 1st round is always a good way to get your fanbase to grumble but DeCastro is one of the best guard prospects to come into the league in years. He was a rock in front of Andrew Luck last season and could lock down the left guard position for a dozen years.
19. Chicago Bears
Mike Adams, OT- Ohio State
The Bears looked like they were finally putting the pieces together offensively last year, led by Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, but an injury to their quarterback quickly torpedoed their season. They used a 1st round draft pick on Gabe Carimi last season but he profiles better on the right side. Adding bookend left tackle Adams would go a long way toward solidifying their offensive line for several years.
20. Tennessee Titans
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB- Alabama
The Titans would love to see Gilmore fall to them at #20 but he appears to be getting out of reach as the draft gets closer. Instead, they could settle for Kirkpatrick who would be another very nice fit as they battle pass-happy Houston in their division as well as having to deal with the new kid on the block in Indianapolis.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Cordy Glenn, OG- Georgia
If the Bengals can’t grab DeCastro with their first pick, they would settle for Glenn here to help bolster their interior offensive line. The luxury of having two 1st round draft picks is that you can make a splash with one and be reasonable with the other. If they’re looking to make multiple splashes, Baylor receiver Kendall Wright would be a solid fit opposite last year’s outstanding rookie, A.J. Green.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta)
Kendall Wright, WR- Baylor
If the Browns are able to select Richardson with their 1st round pick, they can go a number of directions with their other 1st rounder, acquired when Atlanta moved up to grab Julio Jones last season. Cleveland could select a dynamic receiver like Wright, or they could give Colt McCoy some competition by selecting 26-year old rookie Brandon Weeden out of Oklahoma State.
23. Detroit Lions
Courtney Upshaw, DE- Alabama
The Lions would love to look at one of the top cornerbacks in this spot and could even reach for Janoris Jenkins from North Alabama. They have a solid foundation defensively and Upshaw would add another nice piece to the equation here. If Upshaw is off the board, they may also look to address their tackle situation with Adams or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Dont’a Hightower, LB- Alabama
This pick almost seems too obvious for the Steelers who have been a linebacker factory over the entire existence of their franchise. While their outside linebacker situation is secure long-term with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, Hightower would bring a solid dimension to their interior. If he is not available, grabbing a tackle like Adams would make sense here as well.
25. Denver Broncos
Jerel Worthy, DT- Michigan State
The Broncos desperately need to select a defensive tackle early in the draft but if Cox, Poe and Brockers are all off the board, they may choose to go a different direction. Worthy is a notch below those three but still has a lot of talent. If there is an opportunity to trade down and grab extra picks, the Broncos would likely take it here.
26. Houston Texans
Stephen Hill, WR- Georgia Tech
The Texans would love to pair Kendall Wright with star receiver Andre Johnson but if he is off the board, as expected, Hill would be an interesting fallback. He was under-utilized in Georgia Tech’s option running attack but has explosive talent that could mesh well with Johnson and give Houston one of the most feared groups of receivers in the NFL.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans)
Shea McClellin, OLB- Boise State
The Patriots are always a threat to trade their picks, and could even move up due to having multiple 1st round selections this year. Yet if they stay where they are, they’ll be able to fill a significant need on their defense with McClellin. He is the hybrid linebacker/end they’ve needed for years and could offer a significant upgrade to their pass rush.
28. Green Bay Packers
Quinton Coples, DE- North Carolina
McClellin would be a better fit for the Packers, opposite Clay Matthews, but if he is off the board, the Packers will look to find pass-rushing help elsewhere. That could come in the form of Coples or Whitney Mercilus, as well as former USC product Nick Perry. If they don’t like their defensive options, they could begin to look at filling the gaping hole behind Aaron Rodgers at tailback.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Kevin Zeitler, OG- Wisconsin
The Ravens need to begin looking at replacements for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed before the sand runs out in their respective hourglasses, but the elite prospects should be long gone before Baltimore is on the clock. The defense is still a strength so it would behoove the Ravens to improve their offense. Guards aren’t sexy draft picks but Zeitler would help protect Joe Flacco while opening holes for Ray Rice which improves the offense dramatically.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Whitney Mercilus, DE- Illinois
The 49ers have built a nearly-complete team and already have one of the best defenses in the league. Short of addressing the guard position, or having a receiver like Hill or Wright fall to them here, the 49ers could just continue to build on their strength. Mercilus is a good value this late in the round and would provide a solid pass rusher opposite last year’s 1st rounder Aldon Smith.
31. New England Patriots
Harrison Smith, S- Notre Dame
The Patriots have the luxury of going just about anywhere they want with their second 1st round selection. More than likely they will be able to swindle some additional selections out of a team hoping to move back into the 1st round but if they stay here, Smith would give them a solid safety to help rebuild their struggling secondary.
32. New York Giants
Doug Martin, RB- Boise State
The Giants are coming off a Super Bowl win and don’t appear to have any glaring deficiencies on their roster. They could certainly use an improvement on their offensive line and could look to stop Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin’s free-fall. Doug Martin would make a lot of sense here, however, as the team released Brandon Jacobs and suffered through an injury-plagued campaign from Ahmad Bradshaw in 2011.
Click here for Round Two.