With the draft less than a week away, here is my first and likely only attempt at mocking the first 36 selections:
This one’s been pretty set for a while now. Andrew Luck is Indy’s attempt to make a quick return to glory in the post-Peyton era.
The pick – Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
Just about as much of a lock as Andrew Luck to Indy; Shanahan gets his athletic passer.
The pick – Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
There are reports/guesses that the Vikings pass on Matt Kalil here, but given their situation up front, they’d be fools to pass on the year’s lone elite blind side blocker.
The pick – Matt Kalil (T, USC)
A few months ago I mentioned that my gut said Claiborne would be their guy. Sure they have Joe Haden, but that doesn’t preclude you from drafting another lockdown corner, especially in this pass happy league and when you own 3 of the first 37 picks. The Browns need a threat at receiver, but I don’t believe Justin Blackmon is worthy of the #4 pick. Is the gap between him, Floyd, Wright, Randle, and Hill that wide? All of those guys except Floyd have a good chance of being available when they pick again at #22. Ok, so if you cross WR off the list, this comes down to the top two talents or the draft’s third best QB. For me, if you don’t have a franchise QB, you should always be looking for one. That doesn’t mean that you have to reach for a guy who’s more potential than production with the 4th pick in the draft though. I don’t think they’re into Tannehill. Claiborne or Richardson? Richardson or Claiborne? It’s a debate Bucs fans have had for months, and I truly believe it will be
debate as well. You could argue that
either one is the best available player at this point, and you wouldn’t be
wrong. Again, my gut says they’re going
to value pairing an elite corner opposite Haden than they will a RB.
The pick – Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
With Claiborne off the board, this selection is pretty automatic. If the Browns do indeed take
Richardson, I believe this
pick is just as easily spent on Claiborne.
is exactly what the Bucs need in the backfield, and given their offseason
attention to receiver and the offensive line, adding the (potentially) best
back since Adrian Peterson is quite the cherry on top of this offseason upgrade. Greg Schiano wants to control the game on the
ground, and of the talent on the Bucs roster and the talent available in this
year’s draft, Richardson
gives him the best chance to do that.
The pick – Trent Richardson (RB,
I’m not in love with this pick; not feeling terribly confident about it. If the draft plays out this way and they don’t move up for Claiborne or Richardson, I’m guessing Justin Blackmon would be their top choice. I believe in Sam Bradford, and they definitely need to upgrade his receivers if he’s going to have a chance of reaching his potential.
The pick – Justin Blackmon (WR,
) Oklahoma State
I think this year’s first “what the *#@!” pick will again come from the Jags. Michael Floyd and Quinton Coples are often mocked here, but Gene Smith doesn’t fool around with off field stuff. Stephon Gilmore’s stock is soaring and is being mentioned as an option here, but I’m going even further off the radar. I think this guy will go a lot higher than most project him to, but no one has him as a top 10 pick. The Jags pull off a huge shocker.
The pick – Chandler Jones (DE,
They may be able to hold tight and still get their guy. That’s assuming
City or Seattle
doesn’t pull off a trade to leapfrog them.
The pick – Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
Defensive line looks to be the way they’ll go with this one, and I’m guessing they take the stud interior guy over the local end with a questionable motor.
The pick – Fletcher Cox (DT,
) Mississippi State
Riley Reiff gets slotted here in most mocks, but I really don’t think they’ll take him. The offense made strides last year, but it needs a better #1 receiving option. If Floyd isn’t the pick, I think they’ll take Luke Kuechly.
The pick – Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
The Chiefs haven’t exactly drafted by the book in recent years, and I expect that to continue here. This guy is regarded as the best at his position, but it’s a position that usually doesn’t see its first player picked until quite a bit later in the first round.
The pick – David DeCastro (G, Stanford)
I fully expect this pick to be a front seven defensive player. They signed Barrett Ruud but don’t have any long term linebacker prospects aside from KJ Wright. Would the failure that was Aaron Curry make them gun shy of spending another early pick on a LB? There are plenty of pass rushers to choose from at this point, but I think they’ll take they guy who looks like the surest thing on the board.
The pick – Luke Kuechly (LB,
) Boston College
They have interest in Floyd, but he’s off the board here. In this scenario I think it’s an offensive lineman or pass rusher. They’re sticking with Kevin Kolb at QB, and he recently revealed how he struggled with concussion symptoms weeks into the offseason. They need to upgrade his protection if they want to get anything at all from their seemingly failed investment. This is as high as I see this guy going, and if
passes on him, he might stay on the board another 10 picks.
The pick – Riley Reiff (T,
Dontari Poe is being connected to the Cowboys quite a lot, but that just doesn’t seem to be the kind of move Jerry Jones would make. Poe is far from a sure thing in my opinion. They added Brandon Carr at corner, but they’re still searching for a Roy Williams-like presence on the back end of the defense. Reading through all the smoke, I think this is their guy.
The pick – Mark Barron (S,
Even though they traded for DeMeco Ryans, I’d make Kuechly their pick if he was still available. Since he’s not, I’m thinking either defensive line or cornerback. Asante Samuel is as good as gone, and DRC is a free agent after the season. Gilmore makes a ton of sense here, but I think they go in a different direction.
The pick – Quinton Coples (DE,
Getting a pass rusher tops their list of needs, and the guy they reportedly want is still on the board. I know he routinely gets mocked higher than this, but a ‘slide’ to 16 shouldn’t shock anyone.
The pick – Melvin Ingram (DE/OLB,
If he falls this far, I don’t see him lasting any longer. I mentioned this guy as my #1 choice for the Bucs at #36 if they don’t get Claiborne, but he’s the highest riser in this draft class, deserved or not.
The pick – Stephon Gilmore (CB,
The Chargers are still looking for a pass rusher, and I think they stay local in their pursuit.
The pick – Nick Perry (DE/OLB, USC)
I think the Bears are focusing on a defensive lineman here and end up taking the top rated remaining tackle.
The pick – Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
There’s a lot of talk of them taking a corner here with the loss of Cortland Finnegan, but I think they take a pass rusher, even with the addition of Kamerion Wimbley.
The pick – Whitney Mercilus (DE,
With their second pick of the first round, the Bengals address the interior of the offensive line.
The pick – Cordy Glenn (G, Georgia)
After taking Claiborne with the #4 pick, I expect the Browns to take the top RB or WR on their board. The only other option I see here would be Brandon Weeden, but I’m not convinced they can’t get him at #37. I think this guy is going to go a lot higher than most expect.
The pick – Rueben Randle (WR, LSU)
The need is great at corner, and they’re getting solid value here.
The pick – Dre Kirkpatrick (CB,
If I’m a Steeler fan, I’ve got to love this pick. James Farrior’s exit creates a hole at ILB, and this guy is an ideal fit.
The pick – Dont’a Hightower (LB,
I’ve got this one being either a DT or RB, and while there’s been more urgency buzz around DT, I think we see another slight surprise here.
The pick – Doug Martin (RB,
) Boise State
To me the Texans are the next team on the verge of big things. Whoever they take here could help determine if/when they get to the next level. I’m looking WR or best available defensive player. That offense could really take off if they had a serious threat opposite Andre Johnson, and this guy has that potential.
The pick – Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
New England Patriots
The Patriots own two of the next five picks, and I’m looking for them to focus on OL, DL, OLB, and secondary. Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere, but his blockers up front are beginning to.
The pick – Peter Konz (C,
They reportedly have a lot of love for this guy, and I think he’d make a great addition opposite Clay Matthews.
The pick – Shea McClellin (LB,
) Boise State
Ben Grubbs’ departure leaves a hole at LG that can’t be filled suitably by any player on their roster. This guy is a bit of an unknown but may very well be a day one selection.
The pick – Amini Silatolu (G,
) Midwestern State
If the draft plays out this way I’d expect the Niners to try and deal down. Coby Fleener might be an option, even with Vernon Davis, but if they stay put, I think they go in a different direction. An offensive or defensive lineman might seem to be the bigger need, but even with the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, the receiver position is certainly not “fixed”.
The pick – Stephen Hill (WR, Georgia Tech)
New England Patriots
After going DL with their first pick, the Patriots address the secondary. This guy might be a bit of a surprise to go day one, but Bill Belichick has pulled off bigger shockers.
The pick – Harrison Smith (S, Notre Dame)
They continue stockpiling defensive linemen and address interior depth with this selection.
The pick – Devon Still (DT,
) Penn State
Notable players not drafted in R1 –
Dontari Poe, Courtney Upshaw, Janoris Jenkins, Coby Fleener, Jerel Worthy, Jonathan Martin, Alshon Jeffery, and Mike Adams.
If they stay here and make the first pick of day two, I think they’ll look into the remaining talent at DT. This guy could easily go day one.
The pick – Jerel Worthy (DT,
) Michigan State
If you’re going to build your franchise around Andrew Luck, why not provide him with his favorite collegiate target?
The pick – Coby Fleener (TE, Stanford)
I’ve got the Vikings choosing between two big question marks here. Janoris Jenkins’ slide continues.
The pick – Alshon Jeffery (WR,
If the Bucs get Richardson at #4, that leaves CB and LB as the two positions needing the most urgent attention, and given how I see the draft playing out, the best value at CB is in R1 and R3. Gilmore and Kirkpatrick will go in R1, and I can’t see the Bucs drafting Jenkins should he be there at #36. Anyone else would be a big reach. I’ve said that a R2 LB would be a reach as well, but given the sad state of affairs at the position, I think
Tampa will target a LB or
two and take one of them here if they can’t deal down. That’s one reason I think it would be an even
bigger get to nab Richardson
at #4 – two large need areas knocked out with the first two picks. Regardless of Claiborne or Richardson in R1,
I think they’ll target a LB here.
Seeing as how they’re apparently committed to Mason Foster as their MLB, I’d expect their focus to be on someone who can excel at WLB. My three top early targets are Lavonte David (
Nebraska), Mychal Kendricks ( Cal), and Sean Spence ( Miami), and only David really belongs in
early R2 discussions.
The pick – Lavonte David (LB,
Hard worker, solid tackler, and capable in coverage; should be able to step in at WLB from day 1.
I see pick #36 as a great chance for the Bucs to recoup that lost R4 pick. If it plays out similarly to what I’ve projected, there will be a few front seven defenders, offensive linemen, and running backs that teams might be eager to move up for. The Bucs could drop down a handful of picks and still get either David or Kendricks.
After drafting Richardson and David, I’d expect the Bucs to zero in on a corner in R3.
Alfonzo Dennard, Jamell Fleming, Brandon Boykin, and Trumaine Johnson are possibilities in that range, but Dennard’s recent (and horrifically stupid) arrest will likely cost him at least a round.
The pick – Jamell Fleming (CB,
Well rounded corner who doesn’t wilt in the box; lacks elite athleticism but has the skills and toughness to be a solid NFL starter.
If the Bucs get Claiborne instead of
Richardson in R1, I’d love to see this pick
spent on RB Isaiah Pead if he’s still available.
If the Bucs can acquire a RB, LB, and CB with their first three picks, I’d like to see them finish it out by taking the best available talent with an eye towards the secondary, tight end, defensive line, and offensive tackle.
I realize the Bucs are without a 4th round pick due to their trading up in last year’s draft to acquire Luke Stocker, but by chance they make a move to acquire a selection in the round, here are my targets:
Omar Bolden (CB,
Ryan Broyles (WR,
Brandon Taylor (S, LSU)
TY Hilton (WR, FIU)
Ronnie Hillman (RB,
) San Diego State
Brandon Mosley (T,
Keenan Robinson (LB,
The pick – Brandon Taylor (S, LSU)
An underrated prospect,
Taylor was the enforcer at the back end of
the Tigers very skilled secondary.
Evan Rodriguez (FB/TE,
Asa Jackson (CB, Cal-Poly)
Josh Norman (CB, Coastal
Ryan Steed (CB, Furman)
James Hanna (TE,
Aaron Henry (FS,
Ryan Lindley (QB,
Tom Compton (T,
Travis Lewis (LB,
The pick – Ryan Steed (CB, Furman)
Small school, athletic corner with a good bit of potential for a projected late pick.
Rounds 6 & 7
Mike Harris (CB, FSU)
Audie Cole (LB, NC State)
Micah Pellerin (CB, Hampton)
Scott Solomon (DE, Rice)
Neiko Thorpe (S,
George Bryan (TE, NC State)
Jamie Blatnick (DE,
) Oklahoma State
Chase Ford (TE,
Frank Alexander (DE,
Akiem Hicks (DT,
The picks –
Audie Cole (LB, NC State)
Scott Solomon (DE, Rice)
Cole is a productive, position-versatile linebacker who strikes me as the type of talent Schiano would like as depth, and Solomon is a high motor end with some tackle flexibility.
In addition to the R6/R7 targets mentioned above, here are a few names I’d like the Bucs to consider as undrafted free agents should they go unselected:
Joe Martinek (FB,
Aaron Corp (QB,
Corey White (S, Samford)
Quinton Richardson (S, Washington)
After adding the draft’s best back to go with previously acquired Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks, the Bucs turn their focus towards upgrading a beleaguered defense.
R1 – Trent Richardson (RB,
R2 – Lavonte David (LB,
R3 – Jamell Fleming (CB,
*R4 – Brandon Taylor (S, LSU)
R5 – Ryan Steed (CB, Furman)
R6 – Audie Cole (LB, NC State)
R7 – Scott Solomon (DE, Rice)