With the NFL Draft (or as I see it, Christmas day) later this week, it’s time to start projecting. I’ve finished my positional rankings for the draft. To view those, click the position to see the rankings: DB, DL, LB, OL, WR/TE QB/RB . Now, as for the mock draft — and with all due respect to my colleagues here at TSB — this is how it’ll go down.
IND team needs: QB, DT, CB, WR, TE, LB
As big of a no-doubter as there is in this draft. I could wax poetic about how much the Colts need a guy like Luck, or you could just read my QB breakdown here . We’ve got 31 more picks to go.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
WAS team needs: QB, LB, OT, S, CB, OG
If Luck is the biggest no-brainer, Griffin is 1-A. The Redskins mortgaged the future, sending three 1st round picks to the Rams, to pick this guy. He’s a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan’s system. Even though Shanahan is often a wild card, I don’t expect him to get cute here.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
MIN team needs: OT, WR, CB, S, DT, LB
The first team to start throwing out smoke signals, the Vikings are trying to convince teams they are not a lock to pick Kalil. The smart money is on GM Rick Spielman trying to build up a little trade chatter. With needs at corner and receiver, the team could move back in the top-10 and still possibly get a Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon. Claiborne will get a look considering the Vikings have to play Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford six times a year. But with no certainty that both guys will still be there later in the top-10 and Minnesota needs to invest in the protection of Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder. If they stay, Kalil is likely the guy.
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
CLE team needs: RB, WR, QB, ROT, DE, OG
Cleveland can have its pick of players who will fit a need: Trent Richardson, Ryan Tannehill, Blackmon or Claiborne. Mike Holmgren is something of a QB snob and I don’t see him falling in love with a raw prospect like Tannehill. The Browns desperately need an upgrade at wideout, so Blackmon would make a lot of sense. But I think the team is leaning towards Richardson. Cleveland looked like a team on the rise when Peyton HIllis was at his best two years ago. Richardson instantly becomes the best offensive threat for the team.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
TB team needs: RB, CB, OLB, SS, TE, OG
I think if Richardson were to slip to Tampa, he’d be the pick here. But as it is, Claiborne fits a need and can step in right away. Ronde Barber is past his prime, and has started to work at safety in spring camp. Aqib Talib is being shopped by the team after (multiple) off-the-field issues. The team signed Eric Wright as a free agent, but with both Barber and Talib’s future in the air, the team still needs a talent like Claiborne.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
STL team needs: WR, OT, CB, RB, LB, S
The Rams will gladly take whoever falls to them out of Kalil, Richardson, Claiborne or Blackmon — a big reason they traded back into the draft. In this scenario Blackmon is the guy, finally giving Sam Bradford a weapon. There’s still buzz that St. Louis is still open to a trade which makes sense with so many needs. But if they stay, Blackmon is their guy.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
JAX team needs: DE, C, OT, CB, WR, RB
The Jags would be all over Blackmon if were to somehow fall to them, giving Blaine Gabbert a much needed weapon. Jacksonville is also a prime candidate to trade down. But word out of Jacksonville is that the team’s brass has been impressed with Ingram. The team has been searching for a rush end for quite a while. The team signed Aaron Kampman in free agency, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. The team reached for Derrick Harvey in 2008, who has eight career sacks. Ingram is the most versatile DE in the draft, and will form a nice duo with Jeremy Mincey.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
MIA team needs: QB, WR, OT, S, DE, CB
A new regime often means a change under center, and in Tannehill, coach Joe Philbin could have his own guy to mold. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Tannehill played under new OC Mike Sherman at A&M. Tannehill is far from a finished product, but the Dolphins can let Matt Moore or David Garrard warm the seat for another year. The bigger question for Miami is if they’ll need to trade up to get Tannehill; possibly as high as number three.
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
CAR team needs: CB, DT, WR, OT, OLB, OG
I personally think Memphis’ Dontari Poe has a higher ceiling, but Cox might make more sense in Carolina’s 4-3 scheme. He has been moving up a number of draft boards in recent weeks, and word is that he impressed coach Ron Rivera during their meeting. The Panthers will likely pick a DT one way or another, and it sounds like Cox is their guy.
10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
BUF team needs: OT, WR, OLB, CB, OG, TE
There’s still an outside chance that the Bills could reach for Michael Floyd, a player they’re said to be enamored with. But the team would be smart to make Reiff the pick. The Bills’ offensive line was a complete disaster last year, with injury and ineffectiveness a big culprit for the team’s second-half collapse. Buffalo is actually fairly solid on the inside with Andy Levitre, Eric Wood and Kraig Urbik, but needs a big-time upgrade at tackle. Reiff is an ideal guy for a franchise who has not selected a tackle in the 1st round since 2002.
11. Kanas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
KC team needs: NT, LB, OG, S, OLB, RB
Despite playing a 3-4, the Chiefs do not have a true nose tackle on its roster. Poe would certainly fit the bill. GM Scott Pioli is thought to prefer players with a proven track record, so LB Luke Kuechly remains a strong possibility here, but Poe’s upside at a premier position is tough to overlook.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
SEA team needs: LB, DE, OG, OT, WR, CB
The Seahawks will have their choice between Kuechly and DE Quinton Coples, but I think Kuechly will win out. Besides being ridiculously productive at BC, he might fit the biggest need on the team. The Seahawks have a void after the loss of David Hawthorne, and Kuechly looks like a sure bet to be a prolific player in the NFL.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
AZ team needs: OT, WR, OLB, QB, DE, OG, CB
I wanted to put OG David DeCastro is this spot, but based on the word coming out of Arizona; it seems the team is sold on Floyd. The team has not had a complement to Larry Fitzgerald since losing Anquan Boldin and Floyd has a similar skill set. The team needs to figure out what they have in QB Kevin Kolb, and the first step is to give him more weapons.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
DAL team needs: S, DL, CB, WR, OG, OLB
The Cowboys filled one need in the secondary by grabbing Brandon Carr in free agency. But to fix the mess in the back four, the team will need to continue to upgrade. Barron is the best safety out there and reports out of Dallas say Jerry Jones was extremely impressed with Barron. DeCastro or corners Dre Kirkpatrick and Stephon Gilmore are also options for the Cowboys.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
PHI team needs: LT, S, OLB, DE, DT, TE
With the two top defensive tackles off the board, the Eagles take one of the top talents left in Coples. Coples actually had his best season as a Tarheel playing defensive tackle. Coples might be the best pure pass rusher among the defensive lineman, and we know that Andy Reid loves the big fellas. The Eagles have picked four DL in the 1st round since 2003.
16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
NYJ team needs: OLB, WR, OT, DE, S, RB
For me, this pick comes down to Chandler Jones or Upshaw. The Jets swung and missed at a player with upside in 2007, picking Vernon Golston. Jones might end up being a better player, but he’s still incredibly raw while Upshaw is ready to contribute to the Jets right away. With Aaron Maybin already back in the fold, Rex Ryan would be smart to pick a well-rounded player like Upshaw.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
CIN team needs: OG, S, CB, SS, WR, RB
DeCastro is a good value for the Bengals at this pick. DeCastro will provide an immediate upgrade to the interior of the line and will help to shore up the running game. There might be sexier names left on the board, but DeCastro will only help the career of Andy Dalton. The team will also look at a corner, but I think they’ll get a quality guy there at #21. DeCastro will likely be off the board by then.
18. San Diego Chargers: Chandler Jones, OLB, Syracuse
SD team needs: G, C, OLB, S, DT, OT
Only one player had more than four sacks last season, and the team needs to upgrade this position. The team signed Jarrett Johnson in the offseason, but he’s more of a run stuffer than pass rusher. As I said, Jones is raw, but he’s got the physical tools that defensive coordinators salivate over.
19. Chicago Bears: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
CHI team needs: LT, CB, DE, LB, TE, DT, OG
The Bears could go in a number of directions with this pick including offensive tackle or defensive end. But Chicago plays in a division with the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. Gilmore could be a top-15 pick, and has created a lot of buzz for himself over the last month. If Chicago passes on Gilmore, expect Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus to be the pick.
20. Tennessee Titans: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
TEN team needs: CB, LB, S, OT, DE, WR
Cornerback is the team’s top need after losing Cortland Finnegan in free agency. The team is said to be big fans of Gilmore, but I actually think Kirkpatrick is a better fit for the Titans zone-heavy coverage scheme. The Titans could also go another route, picking a guard like Cordy Glenn or linebacker like Dont’a Hightower.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
CIN team needs: OG, S, CB, SS, WR, RB
The Bengals gamble backfires in this scenario, with Gilmore and Kirkpatrick off the board. The team could take a look at Janoris Jenkins, but the prevailing thought is that his off-the-field issues make him a lock to miss the first round. Cincinnati could look to trade out of this pick, but if they keep it, Wright makes sense. He’d be a good complement to A.J. Green and give the team security at the position for years to come.
22. Cleveland Browns: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
CLE team needs: RB, WR, QB, ROT, DE, OG
The Browns picked up their running back of the future earlier, now they pick a guy who can open up holes for him. The Browns recently hosted a private workout for Glenn, who can play either right tackle or guard. The team could also look at a wide receiver here, but with Wright off the board, Glenn makes more sense.
23. Detroit Lions: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
DET team needs: OT, CB, LB, DE, RB, OC
Detroit is another team looking for an upgrade on the line, and Martin is certainly an attractive prospect at this point. The team has a lot of money invested in their passing game, and they need to keep Matthew Stafford upright. Martin can learn under Jeff Backus and could potentially take over for him at left tackle sooner than later. Defensive end and cornerback will also be considered for this pick.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
PIT team needs: OT, OG, LB, CB, NT, RB
The team would have liked a shot at Glenn or Martin, but they might find a better fit in Hightower. He will excel in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme. He was an incredibly productive player during his time at Alabama and has the athleticism to play all over the field for Pittsburgh.
25. Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
DEN team needs: DT, CB, OG, C, WR, RB
The Broncos have a glaring need at tackle and have the opportunity to get a player with top-15 talent. Brockers created havoc in the middle for the Tigers last season, and should be able to play right away in Denver.
26. Houston Texans: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
HOU team needs: WR, OT, ILB, OG, CB, OLB
The Texans’ receiving corps was exposed when Andre Johnson went down with injury last season. There are plenty of complimentary pieces on the roster, but Houston is missing a difference-maker opposite of Johnson. Hill could fill that profile. Although he did not see the ball much in the Yellowjackets’ run-heavy offense, he has the physical tools to be a homerun threat.
27. New England Patriots: Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State
NE team needs: DE, S, DT, OLB, CB, OG
With the Patriots, it’s a good bet the team will trade at least one of its first round picks. The word from Boston is that the team is high on McClellin, a guy rising up a number of draft boards. He played as a defensive end at Boise State, but scouts say he can make the conversion to OLB. With a high football IQ, he’s the type of player Bill Belichick likes to have around.
28. Green Bay Packers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
GB team needs: OLB, S, RB, DE, C, CB
GM Ted Thompson is notorious for drafting the best player available, but even TT can see the need for a pass rusher. Mercilus very well could be off the board at this point, but in this scenario, he makes a lot of sense for Green Bay. Mercilus is physically imposing and can play both outside backer and defensive end. The team will also take a look at DE’s Andre Branch, Nick Perry and linebacker Lavonte David.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
BAL team needs: OG, OLB, OT, DE, RB, MLB
Konz makes a lot of sense, fills a need, and is good for the team long term. Konz can fill-in for recently departed Ben Grubbs at guard this season. He also couldn’t ask for a better mentor than veteran center Matt Birk. There is a sharp drop in talent after Konz, so the Ravens would be smart to be proactive.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin
SF team needs: OG, DE, CB, WR, OLB, TE
Make it back-to-back Badgers. The NFL is extremely high on Wisconsin offensive lineman and word is that the 49ers have locked in on their guy at #30. I think this pick comes down to Zeitler, Coby Fleener or a rush end. Fleener would be a luxury pick with Vernon Davis already in the fold, so my gut says Zeitler. He has the nasty disposition that will resonate with Jim Harbaugh.
31. New England Patriots: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
NE team needs: DE, S, DT, OLB, CB, OG
As noted earlier, I do not believe the Patriots will hold on to both 1st round picks. But if they do, New England would be smart to address its secondary. Smith made up for a subpar senior season by having a great Combine and Senior Bowl. Don’t count out CB Janoris Jenkins. Belichick likes to think he’s smarter than everyone else and Jenkins is a top talent.
32. New York Giants: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
NYG team needs: OT, RB, LB, DT, DE, TE
As I stated my draft prospects breakdown, Adams has the natural tools to be a high 1st round pick but questions about his work ethic and character drop him down the draft board. The risk/reward prospect doesn’t look as much of a risk at #32.
Stephen Kelley is a contributor at The Sports Bank where he covers Fantasy Sports and Pro Drafts. You can follow him on Twitter @stephen_tsb.Follow paulmbanks