This time of the year, there are more Mock Drafts on the internet than you probably care to read. Everybody with a blog even remotely to do with football enjoys putting together some kind of mock draft for the NFL. Instead of your run of the mill mock, I got together with Breaking Tackles contributor Brady Ford to present to you a different kind of mock draft. Brady and I put together this mock to let you know what each team SHOULD do with their respective first round picks. This isn’t how we think the NFL Draft will go, but rather how we think it should go.
Brady made every odd pick, and I took the evens.
- Indianapolis Colts — Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
When you’re forced to choose between two great quarterback prospects, you’re forced to nitpick. Luck is coming from a pro-style offense where he had far less talented wide receivers than RG3’s Kendall Wright. Griffin III also missed most of his sophomore season to a torn ACL. While these factors don’t keep RG3 from being a sensational prospect, in my eyes, they do place him slightly behind Andrew Luck in this draft.
- Washington Redskins — Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Brady’s assessment above about Luck and RG3 is spot-on. Personally, I believe Griffin III has a higher ceiling than Andrew Luck, but Luck is undoubtedly the safer selection for the Colts. Still, the Redskins didn’t pay the big bounty to St. Louis to move up and take Matt Kalil or Justin Blackmon. Griffin III, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, has all the tools to be an elite QB in the NFL.
- Minnesota Vikings — Matt Kalil, OT, USC
After cutting Bryant McKnnie due to his weight gain, the Vikings were left without the elite left tackle that every team craves. As a result, they gave up 49 sacks in 2011, tied for 5th worst in the league. Matt Kalil is a perfect fit here. Kalil is strong enough to be a punishing run blocker, while quick enough to shut down the league’s most explosive pass rushers. He’s the franchise tackle everyone wants, and Minnesota will be lucky to get him.
- Cleveland Browns — Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
I know some people will disagree with this pick because they don’t believe a running back should be taken this high. I would agree to a point, but I think that Richardson is an elite level running back prospect, and the best to come through the draft since Adrian Peterson. Richardson is built like a mack truck with the ability to run a 4.4 forty. He rarely goes down on first contact, and has unreal lower body strength which gives him the ability to move piles when he is wrapped up. With both elite QB’s off the board, I think Cleveland has to take Richardson.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
This is a difficult pick for Tampa Bay, as they already have Eric Wright, Aqib Talib, and Ronde Barber under contract at corner. The reason they still take Claiborne over Justin Blackmon is problems with those latter two players. This June, Talib will be on trial for a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Even in the best case scenario where he is found innocent, Talib will still likely face a lengthy suspension from Roger Goodell. Barber will turn 37 before the draft, making this season his last hurrah in all likelihood. As teams rely more and more on the pass, having a great corner (or two) becomes increasingly more important. Claiborne should be the pick.
- St. Louis Rams — Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
I don’t think Blackmon is as good of a prospect as A.J. Green or Julio Jones last season, but he is the top wide receiver prospect in this draft. The Rams desperately need to bring in receiving help for Sam Bradford. They traded for Brandon Lloyd during last season, but he signed with the Patriots recently. With Lloyd gone, their top two returning receivers are Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander. Blackmon would give Bradford a good young receiver to grow up with.
- Jacksonville Jaguars — Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
In 2011, Jeremy Mincey led the Jaguars in sacks with 8. No other player had even 4. It’s fair to say Jacksonville has a pass-rushing problem. Quinton Coples might just be the solution. Standing 6’6” and weighing in at 284 lbs, Coples is everything you’re looking for physically in a defensive end. He’s quick enough and skilled enough as a pass rusher to rack up sacks, while strong enough to hold up against the run. He might be a top 5 pick if not for his relative lack of production compared to these attributes, leading to questions about his effort level. Coples has enough potential to overcome this and be a great value with the 7th pick.
- Miami Dolphins — Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
A lot of mocks have Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill being selected here by the Dolphins after Miami missed out on getting Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn this offseason. But, this is who each team SHOULD select and in my opinion Tannehill is not talented enough to be worthy of being a Top-10 pick. I think Miami should move forward with Matt Moore for the time being and solidify their offensive line. They have a need at right tackle, and Riley Reiff would be a good pick here.
- Carolina Panthers — Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The Panthers could use some help on the interior of their defensive line. Dontari Poe is an enormous defensive tackle (6’3.5”, 346 lbs.) who, considering his size, is a freakish athlete. Poe ran a remarkable sub-5.0 40 at the combine, a time which would be impressive even if he were 40 pounds lighter. Even if Poe doesn’t post huge sack numbers, he should be valuable with his ability to draw double teams, allowing Charles Johnson an easier path to the quarterback.
- Buffalo Bills — Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Bills looked primed to use this pick on a pass rusher, but they signed both Mario Williams and Mark Anderson through free-agency to solidify their pass rushing issues. Instead, the Bills should look for a receiver to compliment Stevie Johnson and give Ryan Fitzpatrick another weapon. If Riley Reiff was still on the board, then he should be the pick, but if not it should be Floyd. Floyd is possibly the most NFL ready wide receiver in this draft class.
- Kansas City Chiefs — Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Last year, the San Francisco 49ers had the most dominant rushing defense in the league thanks to two elite inside linebackers, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. While Kuechly and Derrick Johnson are unlikely to match Willis and Bowman, they’d have the potential to be one of the most fearsome pairings in the league, and could greatly improve Kansas City’s defense, especially against the run.
- Seattle Seahawks — Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
The Seahawks were tied for 19th in the league a year ago with 33.0 sacks, and only Chris Clemons had more than 4. Seattle could use this pick to upgrade their pass rush, and Melvin Ingram is the best available here. A monster senior season for the Gamecocks shot Ingram up draft boards, and he could conceivably go off the board ahead of North Carolina’s Quinton Coples depending on the situation.
- Arizona Cardinals — David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
It is rare to see a guard picked in the first half of the first half round, but it is also rare to see a guard prospect of David DeCastro’s caliber. DeCastro not only has the potential to be a perennial All-Pro down the road, but he has the talent and experience, 40 starts in a pro-style offense, to be one of the better guards in the league immediately. Arizona’s offensive line needs help. They gave up the second most sacks in the league in 2011. DeCastro is sorely needed.
- Dallas Cowboys — Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys have to address their problems in the secondary early in the NFL Draft this year. They used their first round pick last season on Tyron Smith an offensive tackle out of USC. That worked out fine, but they have to take a defensive back this year. They finished 23rd in the league a year ago in pass defense. I think with this pick they should choose between two Alabama defensive backs, Dre Kirkpatrick or Mark Barron.
- Philadelphia Eagles — Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The only glaring weaknesses for the Eagles at this point seem to be at left tackle, due to the injury to Jason Peters, and at outside linebacker. This is a bit too early for any of the outside linebackers, and I think the Eagles would be best off just relying on King Dunlap and/or a free agent for 2012 until Jason Peters comes back in 2013. Michael Vick is surely very talented. But he is also injury-prone and about to turn 32. Due to these factors, it is important that they have a back-up who’s capable of winning games as well as being the potential franchise QB of the future. While Tannehill does not have the polish of Luck or Griffin, he’s not far off in terms of talent. The Eagles coaching staff could help him reach his full potential.
- New York Jets — Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The Jets need pass rushing help, and Courtney Upshaw would be a great fit in the Jets 3-4 defense. Upshaw is used to playing outside linebacker in Alabama’s 3-4 defense. He spent three years playing the Jack Linebacker spot in Nick Saban’s defense. Upshaw also has experience putting his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end. Upshaw’s versatility makes him valuable.
- Cincinnati Bengals — Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia
Bobbie Williams, the longtime Bengals starter at right guard, is 35 and at or near the end of his career. A replacement needs to be found, and Cordy Glenn would be a good one. Despite weighing in at just under 350 lbs, Glenn posted the 6th best 40 yard dash time amongst all offensive lineman, making him one of the more intriguing athletes of the draft. Glenn has the size to play guard, but may have the athleticism to play right tackle if needed.
- San Diego Chargers — Jonathan Martin (OT/Stanford)
This would be a steal for the Chargers at #18. Martin could easily go 5-6 picks ahead of here, and if he is still on the board I think San Diego has to take him. The Chargers need a right tackle, and while Martin played left tackle at Stanford, I think he could easily make the transition over to the right side.
- Chicago Bears — Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
While strong safety is not Chicago’s most glaring need, it is a need, and Mark Barron is the best player available at a needed position. After struggling mightily against the pass in 2011 and losing Brandon Meriweather in free agency, the secondary needs to be addressed. Barron should be an upgrade over Craig Steltz. Over his final 3 seasons, Barron made over 200 tackles and intercepted 12 passes.
- Tennessee Titans — Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
If it wasn’t for character concerns that led to his dismissal at Florida, Jenkins would be selected a lot higher than this. He has a ton of potential, and we could easily look back at him being the top cornerback out of this draft class five years from now. The Titans lost Cortland Finnegan in free agency to the Rams, so they need to grab a corner early in the draft.
- Cincinnati Bengals — Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Bengals never fully replaced Jonathan Joseph after losing him to the Texans in 2011. That need persists to this draft, where they should be happy to get Stephon Gilmore with their second pick. Physically, Gilmore is exactly what you want in a corner. He’s over 6’0” tall and he ran a blazing 4.40 40 at the Combine, second fastest among cornerbacks. He’s also experienced, starting all 40 games at South Carolina.
- Cleveland Browns — Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
If the Browns are planning on moving forward with Colt McCoy at QB for the time being, they need to surround him with as much help as they possibly can. After drafting Trent Richardson with the 4th overall pick, I think the Browns should look at a wide receiver at #22, and they should be thrilled if Kendall Wright is still on the board at this point. How much success can you expect your QB to have when your leading receivers are Greg Little and Josh Cribbs?
- Detroit Lions — Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
The Lions’ current left tackle, Jeff Backus, is 34 years old and there’s a good chance he only has a year or two left. With no glaring needs that can be solved here, Detroit would be best off addressing this need so they don’t have to desperately try to fill it in the future with rookies and free agent stopgaps. Adams hasn’t always played up to his potential, but with his size and athleticism, he could be one of the league’s premier offensive tackles in a few years time.
- Pittsburgh Steelers — Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The Steelers cut longtime linebacker James Farrior this offseason, so they would be smart to look at drafting a long-term solution at inside linebacker in the first round of this draft. Hightower was the leader of the top-ranked Alabama defense a year ago, and really put to rest any questions about his knee injury in 2009 being a long-term issue.
- Denver Broncos — Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Broncos would be getting a potential steal here. The Broncos desperately need defensive tackle help after losing Broderick Bunkley in free agency and Ryan McBean for the first 6 games of the season due to a suspension. Brockers has great size for the position at 6’5”, 322lbs. If he’s able to command double teams as he did in college, he’ll improve an already dangerous Broncos pass-rush, while improving their run defense.
- Houston Texans — Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Stephen Hill was extremely impressive at the combine and that vaulted him into the first round. Measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Hill ran a blazing 4.36 in the 40-yard-dash. He didn’t get to show his immense talent that often playing in Paul Johnson’s option offense at Georgia Tech, but it was on full display in Indianapolis. It’s time the Texans get a legitimate #2 receiver to go alongside Andre Johnson.
- New England Patriots — Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Patriots ran both the 4-3 and 3-4 last year, which makes Fletcher Cox valuable because he can fit in either scheme. He’s strong enough to play inside in the 4-3 alongside Vince Wilfork, while quick and explosive enough to play the 5 technique in the 3-4. To get a player of Cox’s talent and versatility would be a dream come true for that Patriots at 27.
- Green Bay Packers — Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
I seriously doubt Mercilus lasts this long, but if he does I think the Packers would have to grab him here. The Packers don’t need much, but they could stand to bolster their pass rush, and Mercilus seems like a good fit for their defensive system. Mercilus was a relative unknown entering last season, but he busted onto the scene with a monster season for the Illini, where he led the nation in sacks.
- Baltimore Ravens — Kendall Reyes, DL, UConn
There are a lot of ways Baltimore could go with this pick, but I think they ought to play it somewhat safe with Kendall Reyes. Though unspectacular, Reyes is a very good player who should be able to replace Cory Redding on the Ravens defensive line. The Ravens shouldn’t miss a beat with the exchange as Reyes and Redding are almost exactly the same size. They are separated by one pound and 1/8 of an inch. Fascinating, I know.
- San Francisco 49ers — Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
A strong pro day vaulted Coby Fleener to the top tight end in this draft class. Jim Harbaugh likes to utilize multiple tight ends in his offense and adding Fleener to go along with Vernon Davis would give the 49ers a dynamic duo similar to the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. San Fran needs to surround Alex Smith with as many weapons as it possibly can.
- New England Patriots — Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
Nick Perry is another talented and versatile front 7 player who really fits with the Patriots. Perry is an excellent pass-rusher who is capable of playing as a defensive end in the 4-3, as well as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the 3-4. With the Patriots, Perry should have ample opportunity to do both, as they try to improve their pass rush.
- New York Giants — David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
With no offensive tackle left on the board worthy of this pick, I think the defending Super Bowl Champions should look at replacing Brandon Jacobs in the backfield. They released him this offseason, and nobody is sure if Ahmad Bradshaw can hold up carrying the entire load himself. Wilson rushed for 1700 yards last season in Blacksburg with a 5.9 yards per carry average. He’s the 2nd best running back prospect in this draft outside of Trent Richardson.