Broncos signing Peyton Manning with other moves of note being Mario Williams signing with Buffalo, Cortland Finnegan signing with Seattle, Vincent Jackson signing with Tampa Bay, Brandon Carr signing with Dallas and Matt Flynn signing with Seattle. How do these signings affect the 2012 NFL Draft? Let us ponder with my 11th mock draft of the season.
For even better mocks, check out the exponentially growing mock draft database at WalterFootball.com. 380 mocks and counting.
1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This is rather obvious, considering how Peyton Manning is no longer a member of this franchise. Colts owner Jim Irsay has indicated that if the Colts were in position to draft Luck that they would not hesitate to select him and it's extremely difficult to pass up someone quite like Luck. Luck is going to go number one, no questions asked. Luck did not throw at the combine but didn't have to, but he did flash his athleticism running pretty much the same 40-yard dash as Cam Newton a year ago.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) - Robert Griffin, III, QB Baylor
I know I've been saying that it will be the Browns that will be trading up for Griffin but apparently they are not willing to trade the 22nd pick which is idiotic but it is what it is. The Skins have shown willingness to sell the house and farm for Griffin. Griffin has all the tools, quality arm strength, tremendous accuracy, intelligence, leadership, incredible athleticism (which he flashed at the Combine), that will have teams drooling to be able to select him. And fortunately for the Skins, that will be them.
3. Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings' offensive line was absolutely pitiful last season, most notably with left tackle Charlie Johnson, who sucks. The Vikings need to protect Christian Ponder if they want him to develop and they would be jumping for joy if Kalil is available here. Kalil is an absolute stud, he has all the tools that you want out of your franchise left tackle. There's a reason on why people are saying it is not a stretch that he is the best left tackle prospect since Joe Thomas, like Scott Wright suggested.
4. Cleveland Browns - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Yes I am crazy but that is irrelevant here with this selection. The Browns badly needed to find a quarterback this offseason but missed out on trading up for Robert Griffin III and got spurned by Matt Flynn in free agency so they are really out of options here. Is Tannehill worth this selection? Absolutely not but as we have seen before, quarterbacks get overdrafted because of the huge need for them; we saw it last year and we will see it again. Now everybody knows that Tannehill is talented, he has a great arm and athleticism, but he is still raw as a quarterback after coming to A&M as a wideout. He can be a really good QB but needs to be coached well.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
For most of my mocks now, I've head the Buccaneers drafting Morris Claiborne but after they wasted a ton of money on Eric Wright, they probably won't go after a corner. And after spending a ton of money on Vincent Jackson, there's no need to select Justin Blackmon. So in that case, I think they will select Richardson, the best back in the draft in years. Yes the Bucs already have LaGarrette Blount but he's one-dimensional and took a step back last year. New coach Greg Schiano wants to have a physical, run-focused offense so teaming Richardson, who has all the tools you want out of your running back, with Blount would make for a feared back tandem.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The Rams would be very happy if they were still able to get Blackmon down here at six. Sam Bradford has not really had anyone to throw to before they acquired Brandon Lloyd via trade last season but he is a free agent and he could very well sign with the Patriots to be with his boy Josh McDaniels. Blackmon has good size, tremendous hands and the speed and athlecism to be a dangerous deep threat in the passing game. He was awesome in the Fiesta Bowl despite a leg infection. Blackmon came in shorter than expected at the Combine but he plays bigger than his height indicates.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Blaine Gabbert was an unmitigated disaster in his rookie season in 2011 with Football Outsiders saying he had the fifth worst season by a quarterback ever. But the Jaguars need to give him another chance because quite frankly, who the hell was he throwing to? Jacksonville desperately needs to find him some threats at wideout and thus Floyd makes a ton of sense. Floyd had a strong combine, running faster than expected, and while he has some off the field issues (which GM Gene Smith always takes note of), three alcohol arrests at Notre Dame, but he is an awesome athlete who can catch any pass and is really good in the red zone.
8. Miami Dolphins - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Dolphins are moving to a 4-3 and regardless of what defense they ran, they needed to find another pass rushing threat opposite Cameron Wake. Coples makes sense because he is the ideal 4-3 defensive endthanks to his size and athleticism and can also rush the passer very well from the tackle spot and he's been excellent in Chapel Hill over the past two seasons. He had a very good Combine, looking tremendous in the on-field drills. Coples and Wake will make for a badass pass rush combo, which could make this defense elite.
9. Carolina Panthers - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Panthers have a big need at tackle, hence why I have had them taking a defensive tackle for multiple mocks now but they have just as a big need at cornerback because they got shelled in the passing game last year. Add in the fact that Claiborne is the best prospect on the board and wham-o. Claiborne may not be Patrick Peterson but he does have all the tools, size, ball skills, speed, athleticism, playmaking ability as well as tremendous return ability.
10. Buffalo Bills - Riley Rieff, OT, Iowa
I've had a defensive end mocked to Buffalo for every one of my mocks, or at least most, but after spending $100 million on Mario Williams, the need for a pass rusher is not there any more. The biggest need now is at offensive tackle, particularly as Demetrius Bell, who was great last year at left tackle, is a free agent and not guaranteed to return. Rieff is a very good pass blocker who has the frame to add more weight and strength to his body. It is easier to improve as a run blocker than as a pass blocker and he already is a solid enough run blocker. His versatility is also a plus. There are questions about the length of his arms, however.
11. Kansas City Chiefs - Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
The Chiefs have filled most of their needs in free agency by signing right tackle Eric Winston and taking a flier on Peyton Hillis, who I'm not a fan of but that's irrelevant for now, but they still have a need at nose tackle as Kelly Gregg turns 36 this year. Poe was the winner of the Combine. A guy who weighs about 350 pounds should not be running around a 4.8 and 4.9 in the 40-yard dash, faster than what Ndamukong Suh ran a couple of years ago. He also was brilliant in the drills and showed great strength. And he is not just a workout warrior because he was strong in Memphis, he was a first round pick (albeit lower first round) before the Combine. There's a reason why folks are comparing him to Haloti Ngata and say he is a freak on the level of Jason Pierre-Paul (obviously different positions).
12. Seattle Seahawks - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Seahawks have themselves a pretty good defense but they could use some reinforcements in the pass rush. Seattle has nothing opposite Chris Clemons plus Clemons is a free agent in a year. Ingram has great speed and agility which should allow him to rush the passer off the edge very well. He really took off at the end of the Gamecocks' season with a combined 3.5 sacks against Clemson and in the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska. And he absolutely killed it at the Combine.
13. Arizona Cardinals - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Cardinals offensive line has been just pitiful yet again and it's not helping whoever is their quarterback, whether it be Kevin Kolb, who's getting the big bucks, and John Skelton. Levi Brown just does not cut it. Martin needs to work on his pass protection which makes him an iffy left tackle right now but his tremendous run blocking skills make him an ideal tackle on the right side initially. If he works on his pass blocking he can be a stud on the left side but the right side may be a better fit, at least initially.
14. Dallas Cowboys - Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU
I have had Dallas taking a cornerback for pretty much every mock but after their brilliant signing of Brandon Carr, their corner need is gone and thus they can focus on finding an upgrade at the 3-4 end over either Kenyon Coleman or Marcus Spears or find a nose and move Jay Ratliff outside. Brockers can play both defensive tackle and defensive end and he has great size, as he showed at the Combine which I already mentioned, and solid mobility along the defensive front.
15. Philadelphia Eagles - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Andy Reid has not been a fan of drafting linebackers early but it has shown as the linebacking unit has been the sore spot on the Eagles' defense over the last few years, particularly last year. They have holes at all three linebacking spots so they would be crazy not to take Kuechly right here. He is not the greatest athlete in the world, but he is very instinctive and intelligent. He works his ass off on every play and knows how to find the football. He has been the most consistent linebacker in all of college football and would make for a very solid pro. Plus, he had a great combine and he ran much faster than predicted. I'd be surprised if he fell past Philadelphia.
16. New York Jets - Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
It's a shame almost that a brilliant defensive mind like Rex Ryan has lacked elite pass rushers that would push his defense over the top. Aaron Maybin had a few good games but did close to nothing the last few weeks but the Jets are high on him and will look to pair another pass rusher with him. Upshaw's stock was hurt by his mediocre Combine as he looked very stiff in the linebacking drills and came in a little big so people may feel he will be better fit in a 4-3. But Upshaw has great tape to fall back on and he really was tremendous at 'Bama, particularly in the BCS Championship Game.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Bengals taking a guy with character concerns? Great match, eh? Kirkpatrick was recently arrested for marijuana possession and while the charge got dropped, it still raised eyebrows about the people Kirkpatrick hangs with. But he would fill a need in Cincinnati with Nate Clements, who was mediocre this year, getting older and entering a contract year so it fills a need. Kirkpatrick is a stud in run support and hits really hard. He has the ability to be a solid cover corner as well.
18. San Diego Chargers - Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
After the failure of Larry English, who has still failed to make much of an impact, the Chargers need to find another pass rushing threat to take some pressure off of Shaun Phillips, who struggled in 2011, and the surprising Antwan Barnes. And yes I have San Diego taking Perry ahead of Courtney Upshaw and that's due to each players' Combine. Upshaw looked really stiff and came in heavier than expected, leading to questions about how he will fit in a 3-4 while Perry looked tremendous at the Combine. Sounds like a fit.
19. Chicago Bears - David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Bears would absolutely love if DeCastro was still on the board, he's an absolute stud. The Bears need help throughout their offensive line and a real upgrade could be used in the interior, which got hurt by the decision to part ways with Olin Kreutz. DeCastro is a guy that can develop into one of the elite guards in football. He's got great size, can move very well, he's tough and physical and loves to pancake defenders. In fact, don't we all?
20. Tennessee Titans - Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Titans only a few years ago had an elite offensive line but their line interior was absolutely awful last year and did not give Chris Johnson much help. The Titans could go guard or center here and with the top guard off the board already, Konz makes sense to replace Eugene Amano, who has been pretty overmatched of late. Konz is the kind of guy every team wants for their line. He's a well-rounded interior lineman who is very physical, can pass and run block very and is athletic.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
The Bengals do have a pretty solid offensive line but they could use some upgrades in the interior and particularly at guard, where left guard Nate Livings is a free agent. Glenn played guard at Georgia then moved to left tackle his senior year. He has the blend of size, strength and athleticism that you want out of your guards if he can play tackle as well, the more the merrier. And Glenn's stock will only rise after a very strong performance in Indy.
22. Cleveland Browns - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Browns really need to add more weapons to their offense and particularly at wideout, where the team has a dearth of down the field threats. Pairing Wright with Tannehill could make for a quality duo in the downfield attack. Now I know folks are really down on Wright because he ran a really poor 4.6 40 and he was thought to be a demon in that. But Joe Haden ran a poor 40 a couple years back and it didn't hurt his stock because teams saw he played fast on tape. When you look at the tape, Wright plays fast and is a stud. This is why folks like myself say the 40 is overrated.
23. Detroit Lions - Alonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
For years the Lions have failed to address their mediocre secondary as they have continuously tried to piece together average cornerbacks but continuously gotten burned. This is when they finally bring in a quality talent at corner via the draft. Dennard has shut down one part of the field for the Huskers this season and has displayed very good cover skills, especially after playing opposite Prince Amukamara last season. He would be a good value here at 23.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The Steelers are going to have to think long and hard about a potential replacement for James Farrior, who is starting to show his age out there on the field, as well as injecting some youth and talent in their linebacking corps. Hightower was a tackling machine and a key force in the awesome Alabama defense and is a great fit for the Steelers because he plays in a downhill style and always hits hard, which the folks in Pittsburgh always appreciate.
25. Denver Broncos - Devon Still, DE/DT, Penn State
The Broncos are still looking for more production from their defensive line, even as Brodick Bunkley played very well. The importance of guys who can tie up the offensive line is high because the Broncos get most of their pass rush from defensive end Elvis Dumervil and outside linebacker Von Miller. Still can play both end and tackle and has shown solid pass rush ability from the tackle spot and can take up blockers thanks to his size.
26. Houston Texans - Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
For years, the Texans have struggled to develop a target opposite Andre Johnson and while the offense did not totally stagnate when Johnson was out for several weeks this season, the passing game really struggled to move the ball down the field (although you could attribute this to T.J. Yates's incompetence). But the team really needs a second weapon at wideout and thus selecting Sanu makes a lot of sense. Sanu was tremendous this season for the Scarlet Knights and he proved himself to be a talented playmaker who could create space and has good speed.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) - Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
This is an absolute steal for the Patriots here. New England was pitiful against the pass this season and while Andre Carter and Mark Anderson both put together ten sack seasons, another pass rusher would be welcome, especially considering both are free agents this offseason. Mercilus only falls to New England out of circumstance as he had a very good Combine, showing good measurables and performing well in the drills. Mercilus was a monster this season for the Fighting Illini, leading the nation in sacks with sixteen and forced fumbles with nine. This is a guy with excellent size, speed and strength with solid technique and some are comparing him to Jason Pierre-Paul.
28. Green Bay Packers - Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson
The Packers have been gashed on the defensive side of the field. Of course one can attest it to consistently playing with a big lead but nevertheless, the defense has not played great as compared to last year's unit. While the Packers have some solid players playing opposite Clay Matthews, they still do not have much of a pass rush threat to move the offense's attention away from Matthews. So they could use a guy like Branch, who was tremendous at the Combine, showing great speed as well as ideal arm length, which plays a key factor for any pass rusher off the edge.
29. Baltimore Ravens - Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina
Ray Lewis may be returning to the Charm City for one more run at another Super Bowl ring but obviously he is not going to be playing for the Ravens much longer and the team is really going to have to start trying to find a potential replacement. Enter Brown. Brown is probably a better fit as a 4-3 outside linebacker but I have no reason to see why he won't be able to play the MIKE position. He is a heck of an athlete, as proven by his 4.4 40-yard dash who can play the run and pass very well and he has shown tremendous pass rushing ability.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill comes from an offense that barely throws at all, the classic triple-option of Paul Johnson, and thus his stock was middling going into the Combine. Hill absolutely tore it up in Indianapolis and is a "workout-warrior" who helped his stock immensely by flashing great speed and athleticism. He also had the catch of the Combine with a fingertip, diving grab, the likes of which I used to be able to do before I took an arrow to the knee. There's a reason he's getting compared to Demaryius Thomas, a fellow Yellow Jacket. For the 49ers to take their offense to the next level, they need a legit deep threat to combine with Michael Crabtree and Hill would then make sense.
31. New England Patriots - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Patriots should use one of their first round selections to help fortify their defensive line and bringing in someone who is versatile to be able to play a 3-4 end position as well as defensive tackle in their base 4-3 defense. Cox then makes a lot of sense. He had a field day at the Combine, showing plus athleticism and perfoming well in the on-field drills as well. Cox would be a good value pick here for Bill Belichick and co.
32. New York Giants - David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
The Giants were at the statistical floor of the league in rushing this season, mostly because Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs were rarely healthy at the same time and the team has nothing much more at back. The rushing game picked up in their playoff run but Jacobs is not likely back due to his hefty salary. So the Giants would be wise to bring in a back, one that is talented like Wilson, who passed Lamar Miller as the second best running back in the draft after an excellent Combine where he showed excellent speed and athleticism, good work in the drills and interviewed very well, something very important for Tom Coughlin.
For even better mocks, check out the exponentially growing mock draft database at WalterFootball.com. 380 mocks and counting.