NFL Mock Draft post-Scouting Combine (with videos!)
The Combine does provide plenty of insights into what teams are looking for and how players respond to professional preparation, however. It also brings out truths about player's often-lied about sizes (Kellen Moore is 6'0", for all those wondering).
With about seven weeks until the draft, a lot can still change between now and then, but this projection is probably stronger than our January Mock Draft. There have also been a few logistical developments since January. Miami won the coin toss against Carolina for the No. 8 draft pick and Kansas City won the coin toss against Seattle for the No. 11 draft pick.
Onto the picks....
1. Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This pick remains the same as the January Mock. It really doesn't matter what the Colts do with Peyton Manning. Luck and Robert Griffin III are easily thought of as the two best prospects in the draft, and it would be the blunder of the century to pass on Luck because of an aging Manning. Griffin created a lot of buzz at the Combine, but Luck remains the consensus best prospect in the draft. Griffin dazzled with a sub-4.40 40-yard dash time, but Luck's ~4.6 40 at 6'4" 234 lbs. is equally, if not more impressive. Oh, and when Luck does run the ball he is a bowling ball:
2. Cleveland Browns (projected trade with the St. Louis Rams), Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
I said in the January Mock Draft that I wouldn't project trades, but that was before St. Louis reportedly decided they would be trading the No. 2 pick. The Browns have two first-round picks this season, and St. Louis needs a lot of help at a lot of positions, so a Cleveland-St. Louis trade makes sense. The ability to draft the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Griffin makes the second pick incredibly valuable for St. Louis. After all, Griffin, did run the fastest 40 of any quarterback since Michael Vick.
3. Minnesota Vikings, Matt Kalil, OT, USC
This pick remains the same as the January Mock. Kalil looked head and shoulders about all the other offensive tackles at the Combine, so if anything he helped his draft stock. The Vikings could look at Justin Blackmon here, but Kalil should be an all-pro left tackle for years to come, and with a young quarterback in Christian Ponder, having a tackle protecting his blindside and keeping him upright is vital.
4. St. Louis Rams (projected trade with the Cleveland Browns), Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
New Rams coach Jeff Fisher would be thrilled to get a downfield threat for his young quarterback Sam Bradford. The Rams' receiving corps were bruised and battered last season, so getting a man child like Blackmon, who should be durable and ready to play from day one will be a coup for St. Louis.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
This pick remains the same as the January Mock. With Aqib Talib going on trial in April and facing jail time and/or an NFL suspension and Ronde Barber getting old and considering retirement, the Bucs will likely need help in the secondary. Claiborne is the top corner in the draft, slotting in slightly above SEC-rival Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama. Claiborne isn't as tall as Kirkpatrick, but he is more physical. He also ran faster than Kirkpatrick at the Combine.
6. Washington Redskins, Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
I originally had Alshon Jeffrey going here to the Redskins, but Jeffrey has been slip-sliding all over the draft board of late thanks to perceived weight fluctuations and the fact that he didn't run at the Combine. Floyd, on the other hand, has solidified himself as the second-best receiver in the draft. He's got the size (6'3" 220 lbs.) and speed (4.47 40) to make an immediate impact for the Redskins. The Redskins will be trying very hard to trade up to No. 2 to draft Griffin, as they desperately need a quarterback of the future. If they fail in that endeavor I wouldn't be shocked if they trade down and try and draft Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill or Floyd later, as both would likely be available a few picks down the road.
7. Jacksonville Jagurs, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
This pick remains the same as the January Mock. Jacksonville needs a pass rush, and Coples is the best pass rusher in the draft. He is huge (6'6" 284 lbs., 33 1/4" arms) and can bullrush offensive linemen, but is also fast enough to create pressure off the edge.
8. Miami Dolphins, Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
This pick also remains the same as the January Mock. Kirkpatrick would arguably be the best player left on the board at No. 8 and also fills the Dolphins' need for a ballhawk in the secondary. Miami picked off just 13 passes last season, and by drafting Kirkpatrick the Dolphins would hope that number would rise in 2012.
9. Carolina Panthers, Devon Still, DT, Penn State
This pick also remains the same as the last January Mock--but only barely. Carolina desperately needs help on the interior defensive line, and Still is probably the top run stuffer in the draft, but he is being pushed by LSU's Michael Brockers and Memphis' Dontari Poe for that distinction. It would be a surprise to see the Panthers go anywhere but defense with this pick, so expect one of those three players to get picked at No. 9.
10. Buffalo Bills, Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
While some see Ingram as a 3-4 outside linebacker, the Bills are switching back to a 4-3 defense this year, and Ingram should work out just fine rushing the passer from a three-point stance as a defensive end. There have been questions about Ingram's stock since he declared for the draft, but he had a strong showing at the Combine which moves him into the top half of the first round.
Go to page 2 for picks 11-21
11. Kansas City Chiefs, Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
A lot of people speculate that the Chiefs will target an offensive tackle with this pick, but the Chiefs haven't had stability at nose tackle in more than a decade. Kelly Gregg was serviceable last season, but he may retire before the 2012 season. Regardless, he isn't long for the league at this point, so the Chiefs need a successor. Poe was a bit under the radar coming out of Memphis, and people weren't sure what to expect from him at the Combine. Then he went and put on arguably the most impressive performance of anyone. The 6'4" 346 lb. Poe (think automobile-sized) bench pressed 225 lbs. 44 times and ran an unofficial 4.87 40-yard dash. That is absurd. If he had a motor he might not cover that distance in that time.
12. Seattle Seahawks, Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
The Seahawks pass rush was non existant last season, so Upshaw, who was the Defensive MVP of Alabama's BCS National Championship victory, should help them there. Upshaw could be used much in the way the Seahawks had envisioned utilizing Aaron Curry, their No. 4 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft who flamed out in Seattle.
13. Arizona Cardinals, Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
This pick remains the same as the January Mock. The Cardinals would like to target a wide receiver here but no receiver after Blackmon and Floyd warrants getting picked at No. 13, especially with the Combine struggles of Kendall Wright and the question marks surrounding Jeffrey. Brockers is good value here. He may not put up huge numbers, but has the versatility to play a five-technique or three-technique tackle.
14. Dallas Cowboys, Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Dallas needs all kinds of help on the offensive line, and snagging Reiff, who could be a top-10 pick, at No. 14 is great value. Last season the Cowboys also went tackle in the first round, grabbing Tyron Smith out of USC No. 9 overall. Smith and Reiff could provide nice anchors for the future of the Cowboys' o-line--though it is unclear who would play right tackle and who would play left tackle.
15. Philadelphia Eagles, Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
This pick remains the same as the January Mock, because it makes perfect sense. The Eagles' linebacker play was subpar in 2011, especially against the run. Kuechly is nothing short of a tackling machine who should sure up that problem. He answered any doubters by running his 40 in the 4.5 range at the Combine. The Eagles could target a pair of Stanford offensive linemen here too, Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro.
16. New York Jets, David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
If DeCastro falls to 16, the Jets may well jump all over him. They've had issues at guard for a few seasons and DeCastro is arguably one of the best guard prospects in years, so he could be drafted in the top-half of the first round despite his position. The Jets could also target Alabama safety Mark Barron here, though Barron's double hernia surgery that held him out of the Combine and could prevent him from participating in Alabama's pro day could potentially damage his stock.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland), Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
This pick remains the same as the January Mock. This draft pick came to Cincy in the Carson Palmer trade, and with the emergence of Andy Dalton last season if the Bengals snag Richardson here you have to think they made out like gangbusters in the trade. Richardson needs very little introduction. He is the best running back in the draft, by far, and will play immediately for Cincinnati.
18. San Diego Chargers, Nick Perry, DE, USC
This pick also remains the same as the January Mock. Perry only helped his cause at the Combine by measuring in at an impressive 6'3" 271 lbs. with 33" arms and 4.64 speed. The question with Perry isn't his measurables, however, it is whether he can put it together on the field. San Diego needs some pass rushing clout, and hopefully for them, Perry can provide it.
19. Chicago Bears, Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
This pick also remains the same as the January Mock. The former Florida Gator Jenkins has created some space between the rest of the corners and established himself as the third best at the position in the draft, and he may be knocking on Claiborne's and Kirkpatrick's doors for Nos. 1 and 2. Jenkins is fast (4.46 40) and has very long arms (32"). He would have been higher on the board if his past marijuana issues weren't hanging over his head. However, the Bears play in a division littered with high-powered offenses, so getting a shutdown corner at No. 19 is incredibly useful.
20. Tennessee Titans, Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
While most of Tennessee's o-line issues last season were on the interior line, Martin is by far the best offensive line prospect left on the board here, and the Titans might just jump at the prospect of snagging him. Martin has the versatility to play either tackle position, or perhaps even slide inside if necessary.
21. Cincinnati Bengals, Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
This pick is a bit of a reach here, but the Bengals have a pretty serious need at cornerback. Don't be surprised if they try to move up with one of their two first round picks and draft Claiborne, Kirkpatrick or Jenkins. Hosley needs to add bulk to stay healthy in the NFL, but has great ball skills and could play immediately as a nickel corner before transitioning outside.
Go to page 3 for picks 22-32
22. St. Louis Rams (projected trade with the Cleveland Browns, pick from Atlanta), Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
If St. Louis trades the No. 2 pick to Cleveland and gets Blackmon and a hulking defensive tackle, as well as other picks and future picks I think they would come away happy. The Rams need help in the middle of the defensive line and could target Worthy, Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox or Nebraska's Jared Crick with this pick.
23. Detroit Lions, Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Barron's absence from the Combine and likely Alabama's pro day (see above for more details) might turn some teams off to him--but someone will take a chance on the draft's top safety. Who better than Detroit, who had a one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL last season? The Lions surrendered 946 pass yards in their last two games last season and play in a division with the Green Bay Packers, who love to spread the field and throw the ball. Perhaps Barron can help slow down the Pack.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers, Cordy Glenn, G/T, Georgia
Ben Roethlisberger got hit way too much last season, and the Steelers need him healthy. Don't be shocked if the Steelers target the best offensive lineman left on the board, and with Kalil, DeCastro, Reiff and Martin gone that is either Glenn, Iowa State's Kelechi Osemeli or Ohio State's Mike Adams.
25. Denver Broncos, Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
This pick remains the same as the January Mock. The best security blanket for a young quarterback is a good pass-catching tight end, and Fleener is just that. Fleener didn't run at the Combine because of a bum ankle, but is expected to run at Stanford's pro day in three weeks. Right now he and Dwayne Allen from Clemson are neck-and-neck for the distinction of top tight end in the draft. If Fleener performs well on pro day, he could separate himself.
26. Houston Texans, Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
The Texans desperately need a wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson, and no receiver in the draft is trending up as quickly as Hill. Hill played in Georgia Tech's triple-option, run-first offense, so his numbers weren't that impressive in college, but his performance at the Combine sure was. He measured in at 6'4" 215 lbs. with 33 3/8" arms...and then he went and ran an official 4.36 40 (fastest among receivers) and looked great in drills. If the Texans want a different receiver they could opt for Jeffrey, Wright, Mohamed Sanu of Rutgers or Rueben Randle of LSU.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans), Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
Patriots draft picks are incredibly difficult to predict, but I might as well guess Brown, since he is one of the most talented players left on the board. He ran a 4.50 official 40 at the Combine and has the ability to rush the passer off the edge in New England's 3-4 or play on the inside and rack up tackles against the run.
28. Green Bay Packers, Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississippi State
Green Bay has to go defense in the draft, given its prolific offense last season, but issues against the pass. The Packers have a solid linebacking core, but generated almost no pass rush from their down linemen last season. Cox has the versatility to play a few spots on the d-line, and could help the Packers get after the passer.
29. Baltimore Ravens, Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Hightower is simply a tackling machine, and while defense is the Ravens' strength, they are an aging defense, so an infusion of young talent could be good for them. Hightower could slot in as the eventual successor to future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis.
30. San Francisco 49ers, Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina
Jeffrey really could go anywhere from the top 10 to the third round and it wouldn't really shock me. The 49ers need a receiver who can stretch the field and open up the seams for Vernon Davis. Jeffrey is a strong receiver who can go up and get a deep ball, and in a way, he reminds of Boldin circa 2003. Sanu or Randle could be other options here as well.
31. New England Patriots, Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
The Patriots' pass defense was not good last season. Yes, it was injury-riddled, but anytime you have to play a wide receiver (Julian Edelman) in the secondary it isn't a good thing. Dennard and South Carolina's Stephen Gilmore are the best corners left on the board here. Gilmore is a little faster than Dennard, but Dennard is slightly more physical, and I think that is the direction the Patriots will go with the pick.
32. New York Giants, Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Allen could compliment tight end Jake Ballard, who tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, and his status for 2012 is unclear. Allen is an athletic tight end and should give Eli Manning another target to throw to, especially if Ballard isn't fully healthy and Super Bowl-hero Mario Manningham departs via free agency.
Other top prospects: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M; Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin; Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State; Jared Crick, DT/DE, Nebraska; Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall; Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers; Rueben Randle, WR, LSU; Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State; Orson Charles, TE, Georgia; Kendall Wright, WR/KR, Baylor; Andre Branch, DE, Clemson; Kelechi Osmeli, G/T, Iowa State; Stephen Gilmore, CB, South Carolina; Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois; Lamar Miller, RB, Miami.