Diesel contributor Mike Schaedler is the man and takes time to share his obsession and break down the 2012 NFL Draft. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are tools. Dr. Schaedler is the only source you need for draft coverage. Tune in Thursday, April 26 for all the action and see how Mike does.
By Mike Schaedler
I love the NFL draft. I’ve written mock drafts for Mr. (and now, Mrs.?) Diesel in the past, and I think I’ve probably discussed why I feel that way. I think it’s fascinating the way that teams (multi-million dollar businesses, really) spend so much time, effort and money on the analysis of potential rookies, only to find that the success of these prospects is generally highly unpredictable. Things like “safe picks” and “sure things” can turn out to be anything but, and a team can either become contenders for a decade or be set back by a number of years based on the performance of a high draft pick. The chances that a first round quarterback is successful? About 50/50, based on recent history. Remember that blue-chip pass rusher your team drafted 4 years ago? Well, it turns out he sucks, so now you probably need to revisit that position this year, which has effectively set your defense back. So how do you decide which players around whom to build your team’s future? It’s not really a science; it’s more of an art.
Every team approaches the draft differently, and a good mock draft is simply an educated guess as to how the draft is likely to play out. In the end, they are all pointless. People complain about mock drafts a lot. They’re not meant to be accurate or prophetic. They should just be informative and fun for football fans to discuss. So here goes:
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. The Colts have already informed him that he will be the #1 pick, and it seems that they can’t go wrong with him based upon the skills he already has and his potential. However, it may take time for him to produce because the Colts seemingly have no good offensive players left. For all the hype, I don’t think he’ll be as good as last year’s No. 1 pick, Cam Newton. He should be excellent, though.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. RG3 is a very exciting prospect who will probably range anywhere from solid to unstoppable at the next level. He may be a similar player to Cam Newton but it’s not likely that he’ll be quite as good because Newton is simply bigger, stronger and more durable. These two are revolutionizing the QB position; we’re looking at the future when watching them. (This will be the last pick other than Carolina’s in which I discuss Cam Newton.)
3. Minnesota (Los Angeles) Vikings (Some other mascot): Matt Kalil, LT, USC. The Vikings have talked about trading this pick or taking CB Morris Claiborne or WR Justin Blackmon. This should be simple. One of the easiest picks you can make near the top of any draft is one who projects to be a superstar franchise left tackle. It gets even easier when you need to protect your young first round QB who already has offensive weapons around him. WR can be addressed later in the draft. If they don’t take Kalil, they should be stripped of future draft picks as punishment for ineptitude. Don’t over think this, Minnesota (L.A.).
4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. The Browns have talked about trading this pick to accumulate more picks. They’re desperate for offensive weapons though, and the smartest thing to do would be to use a premium pick on a premium offensive talent who is the BPA here. The RB position is losing value in today’s NFL, but Richardson is the exception to the rule. I think he’ll be just as good as other blue-chip running backs like Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster. He has no weaknesses in his game, and excels at almost everything a RB needs to do.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. They’ll take Trent Richardson if he is available here. CB is a premium position in the league these days with all the great passing teams; Claiborne should be a great cover corner and improve their secondary immediately.
6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. A perfect fit here, as he will be the BPA for most teams and projects as a solid receiver in a west coast offense with Sam Bradford, a good QB for a west coast offense. It’s too bad Brian Schottenheimer is their offensive coordinator, whose system is lame and whose game plans are over-thought and completely ineffective.
7. New York Jets (Projected trade with Jacksonville Jaguars): Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina. Surprise! The Jets trade this year’s #16, one fifth and one seventh round pick and QB Tim Tebow to the Jags for the #7 overall pick. Using Jacksonville’s desire to obtain Tebow as leverage, the Jets get the prospect that they covet in Ingram and make the most hilarious trade in draft day history, effectively waving a giant middle finger at all the media who criticized and over-analyzed the Tebow trade. This would be an absolutely brilliant move, first maneuvering past the Jags for Tebow in the first place and then using him to steal their top-10 draft pick. You heard it here first. Ingram is incredibly versatile and athletic and will be a pass-rushing demon for Rex Ryan.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. More and more teams are reaching for potential franchise quarterbacks these days, and Miami is as desperate for one as anybody. Tannehill should really go much later (early second round or so), but QBs are being drafted higher than they should be these days because they are more important than ever to a team’s success. Plus, Miami’s new head coach Joe Philbin coached Tannehill at Texas A&M and the two are familiar with each other. Very difficult to predict whether this will be a good pick.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (Projected trade with Carolina Panthers): Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State. Andy Reid loves to take defensive lineman in the first round, and Cox would fit the “wide nine” defensive front that Philly likes to use to pressure the opposing QB. They trade the #15 overall pick along with a 3rd and 5th round pick, and get a 4th round pick back as well.
10. Buffalo Bills: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. The Bills pick the WR that many feel has more upside than and a superior skill set to Justin Blackmon. That remains to be seen, but Floyd does seem to be bigger, stronger, and faster without pads on, whatever that means. He should provide a great compliment to WR Steve Johnson and improve the Bills offense immediately. Solid pick if he falls to the Bills.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College. The best at his position in the draft, Kuechly looks to be the Trent Richardson of inside linebackers; no weaknesses, supremely athletic and highly productive. His instincts and play recognition are second to none. He is a tackling machine and will start from day 1. This pick will take KC’s defense to the next level. I believe that Kuechly will win Defensive Rookie of the Year. (Note: 10-15 years ago, Kuechly would be in the mix for #1 overall pick. The NFL has changed a lot, and, much like RB, the ILB position has been devalued while pass-rushing positions like 4-3 DE, DT and 3-4 OLB have become the priority among the front seven. The CB position has also seen a drastic rise in value. Anything to hinder the opponents passing game.)
12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. Seattle is upset that Kuechly is taken immediately before their pick, but are happy to have Coples fall to them. Coples is a boom-or-bust prospect with supreme athleticism. He seems to check out of games mentally at times, which should raise some red flags. Pete Carroll will have to coach him up, but he should be a productive pass rusher.
13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford. The boring BPA pick, but who cares. DeCastro is projected to be an elite player – elite – for 10-12 years. Cardinal fans should be happy with this pick; they fill a need with a fantastic, NFL-ready player with a lot of potential who is also the BPA. This is what an ideal first round pick is all about.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama. Good fit for the Cowboys. They need help in the secondary, and Barron does everything a safety is asked to do well. He does not have elite speed or coverage skills, but is good enough in these areas and is excellent near the line of scrimmage and in run support. He has good instincts and is a great tackler as well. I just wouldn’t ask him to turn and run with the NFL’s most athletic wide receivers one-on-one.
15. Carolina Panthers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis. Poe is 6’3”, 346 lbs, ran a 4.98 forty yard dash and bench-pressed 225 lbs 44 times. Sound impressive? It does. Unfortunately, his game tape seems like the opposite of those statistics. Namely, underwhelming. Someone will fall in love with his athleticism and potential though, and think that they can coach him into a superstar. And they might actually do it. He’ll probably go in the top 20, with Carolina as a potential destination. They took a chance on an athletic freak last year, and it worked out pretty well.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina. Jacksonville is enamored with this CB, who some feel is the #2 CB in the draft (he is in this scenario). The Jags benefit drastically from their trade with the Jets, getting one of their most coveted prospects despite a lower draft position along with a few extra picks and the QB that actually fills their stadium (Tebow).
17. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. Solid choice here as the Bengals are still feeling the void left in their secondary when CB Jonathan Joseph left. Kirkpatrick is likely to be pretty high on several teams’ draft boards.
18. San Diego Chargers: Nick Perry, DE, USC. The Chargers could use a pass-rusher. Perry has all of the physical tools necessary to be a solid OLB in a 3-4, but it’s a tough position to master with a lot of responsibilities and necessary skills. The Chargers hope that he can put it all together and become dominant.
19. Chicago Bears: Whitney Merciless, DE, Illinois. Merciless, in addition to having a great name, has great potential as a 4-3 DE for the Bears. He led the nation in sacks last year. He looks to be more of a project player than other DE/OLBs in this draft, but he may have more upside than any of them and there are no concerns about his attitude/effort on and off the field. If he pans out, he’ll be terrorizing QBs opposite DE Julius Peppers. That would suck for the Packers and Lions (the Vikings will be in LA, so, no worries).
20. Tennessee Titans: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU. Solid value at #20, Brockers was a star defensive player on an elite team in college football’s toughest conference. Should be at least a productive starter on a 4-3 defense. They were probably interested in CBs Dre Kirkpatrick and Stephon Gilmore, but these guys are no longer available.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. Cincinnati adds talent to both sides of the ball in the first round of this draft. Wright has the potential to be an explosive playmaker in the NFL and is great at locating the ball in the air on deep passes. Having WR A.J. Green playing opposite him will only help him, as he will have a great chance to exploit single coverage while defenses focus on Green.
22. Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. The overdrafting of QBs continues as the Browns are not convinced that Colt McCoy is their QB of the future. Weeden has the skills and intelligence to be a franchise QB. The problem? He’s 28 years old already. This probably matters more to fans and less to GMs who will get fired if the team isn’t good after 3-4 years, though. If Cleveland believes he can make them significantly better quickly (and save jobs), they’ll pick him early.
23. Detroit Lions: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa. Detroit gets some O-line help at #23 due to Reiff unexpectedly slipping out of the top 20. Those in the media have projected Reiff as a top 10-15 pick, but word is that NFL scouts have him graded lower than that. Detroit still sees a solid value at 23 and knows that their priority here should be protecting Matt Stafford. They can get a WR to play opposite Megatron in rounds 2-3.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Courtney Upshaw, OLB Alabama. A versatile, relentless linebacker who has fallen farther than expected. Pittsburgh has other needs, particularly on the O-line. They tend to draft based on value, though, and they see this as the BPA at 24. Upshaw should fit in with their violent, aggressive defense beautifully. He is not an elite pass rusher but can get about 6-8 sacks a year and is good in coverage and great at setting the edge and defending the run. He plays his best ball in the biggest games and is capable of learning and playing several roles in a complicated defensive scheme.
25. Denver Broncos: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State. Denver needs help at this position and will add a good player to a solid defensive front. A few months ago Worthy was predicted as a top 10-15 player but his stock seems to have fallen for whatever reason. Denver won’t mind taking advantage of that.
26. Houston Texans: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford. Immediately replaces Eric Winston at RT. If Martin adjusts to the pro game quickly enough, Houston’s offense won’t miss a beat. RT will be easier to learn than LT, and perhaps he can move to LT at some point in the future.
27. New England Patriots: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse. New England’s defense wasn’t pretty last year, and they lost both of their best pass rushers this offseason. Jones is aggressive, versatile, fast and strong and actually has room to bulk up a bit. Can provide a sorely needed pass rushing presence for the Pats.
28. Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin, DE, Boise St. Clay Matthews and the Pack had trouble putting pressure on the opposing QB last year because opponents focused so much of their attention on Matthews. McClellin will help take some of the heat off Matthews and could help revitalize the Green Bay’s once-feared defense.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin. If Konz can play guard, he can replace Ben Grubbs, who left in free agency. If he needs to stay at center, he can eventually replace Matt Birk. Either way, a solid value at 29.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Janoris Jenkins, CB, Northern Alabama. Jenkins has the talent to be a top 10-15 pick but has slipped due to “character concerns”. He is arguably the best cover corner in the draft due to his speed and change of direction ability, and has made it clear that he wants to move on from his troubled past. SF may get the steal of the draft here if he pans out. They have the coach and the locker room to handle him. If this pick becomes a homerun, they will likely have the best defense (and perhaps the best team) in the league. Peyton Manning should have gone to SF, BTW.
31. New England Patriots: Harrison Smith, FS, Notre Dame. This is the draft that I think New England finally uses two first round picks. They realize that Tom Brady has only a few good years left and that it’s time to use premium picks and add some blue-chip players to make a few more runs at the Super Bowl. They add talent to the weakest area of their team (their secondary) with Smith, who can cover and defend the run well. Their defense should be the focus of their first two picks.
32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford. Athletic, pass catching tight ends are the wave of the future in the NFL, and everybody is already looking for the next Gronkowski (who the Giants were probably relieved to see playing at about 50% in the Super Bowl). Fleener is the best TE in the draft and a pretty safe bet here, arguably the BPA at 32. Conveniently enough, the G-men have a need for a good TE. But, really, they’ll probably just take a defensive end that will go on to have a 16-sack season.