'The NFL Beat': Mock Draft
2) Washington Redskins (GM Alex Dunlap, Austin Chronicle)
Baylor's Pro Day was an exhibition worthy of all the praise it received, and was enough to put a big smile on the regularly brooding mug of Redskins HC Mike Shanahan. Owner Dan Snyder appeared smug, short, and happy to be rich as usual.
3) Minnesota Vikings (GM Byron Lambert, Rosterwatch)
Morris Claiborne, CB LSU
The selection of Mr. Wonderlic here came as a shock to Mike and I, as USC left tackle Matt Kalil is the consensus favorite to land in Minnesota with this position being their most glaring need. But, Byron is not convinced he is a Joe Thomas or a Jake Long and felt that in a division where you face QBs Matt Stafford, Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers twice a year each, you can't have your DB group led by old man Antoine Winfield for much longer.
4) Cleveland Browns (Loyko)
Trent Richardson, RB Alabama
Kalil falling threw a wrench in his original plans, but Loyko finally decided to stick with his guns. The Browns are in dire need of playmakers on offense and Trent Richardson is the only offensive player now left on your board who has the ability to change your franchise the minute he gets to town.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Chronicle)
Matt Kalil, LT USC
The insanity stops here. New Head Coach Greg Schiano would have loved Trent Richardson to fall to this spot, but this isn't a terrible consolation prize. Bucs QB Josh Freeman needs time to let routes develop and utilize his big arm. The Bucs have invested in T Donald Penn, and recently stud guard Carl Nicks, but you have the opportunity to now shore up a developing O-line with the addition of a budding fixture for years to come.
6) St. Louis Rams (Byron)
Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma State
Byron makes it the Oklahoma connection between cross-state rivals, QB Sam Bradford (formerly of Oklahoma) and Blackmon (OSU). With the loss of Spider-man Brandon Lloyd, Byron did not feel that addressing the defensive line (as Head Coach Jeff Fisher has been acting like he is interested in) was suitable at this point given the team's abject need for productive offensive scoring weapons.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars (Loyko)
Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame
Loyko took his whole time on the clock struggling with this pick, as many do in mock drafts. The Jags' biggest needs are at pass rush and receiver, both of which are usually available here. He has little faith in Laurent Robinson to answer the bell and we all know that the organization desperately wants to give expensive second-year QB Blaine Gabbert a chance to succeed. Michael Floyd is the best WR in this draft as far as potential to transition into a dominating No. 1 at the X right off.
8 ) Miami Dolphins (Chronicle)
Ryan Tannehill, QB Texas A&M
Tannehill Mania ends at pick 8, where he is selected by the Dolphins. I was at Texas A&M Pro Day (filming every pass Tannehill threw) and it was hard not to notice the contingent of Miami Dolphins brass in the building from GM to head coach to scouts. Tannehill's former college head coach, Mike Sherman, is now offensive coordinator in Miami, and Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland told me he enjoyed the workout in College Station as well as the dinner visit and subsequent white-board talk the night before.
9) Carolina Panthers (Byron)
Quinton Coples, DE North Carolina
Easy pick for Byron. While he admitted it was a high-risk, high-reward type of situation, he could not let the best DE in the draft slip past his home-state team. He has too much potential impact and you could never forgive yourself for passing on a player that could end up being even three-fourths of what Julius Peppers was.
10) Buffalo Bills (Loyko)
Riley Reiff, LT Iowa
The Bills can't be happy that Floyd and Blackmon are off the board, but having lost LT Demetrius Bell to free agency, and having strongly addressed their defensive line presence via Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the focus here shifts to offensive line.
11) Kansas City Chiefs (Chronicle)
Fletcher Cox, DT Mississippi State
Such an important part of a team's pass rush is upfield penetration and havoc caused by interior defensive linemen. Cox was a four-time SEC defensive player of the week in 2011, due largely to his ability to push single blockers and double-teams alike into the heart of the pocket. The Chiefs have Tamba Hali who came on last year as well as Justin Houston bringing outside heat, but DT Allen Bailey will not cut it as the Chiefs only defensive lineman with disruptive ability in the pass game. This is a division where you now must face Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, and Carson Palmer twice each.
12) Seattle Seahawks (Byron)
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Alabama
With a solid run game sufficiently established in 2011 and an aging Marcus Trufant in the secondary, Byron passed on a few less likely suspects in this position to acquire the man who has only allowed one TD on his watch since eighth grade.
13) Arizona Cardinals (Loyko)
David Decastro, G Stanford
The Cards need offensive line help desperately and are also in the market for a middle linebacker. Loyko did not like the prospect of reaching at this point for Stanford LT Jonathan Martin, and while it is early to draft an interior offensive lineman, Decastro is special, and could be the next Bruce Matthews.
14) Dallas Cowboys (Chronicle)
Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB South Carolina
What a steal here, and what a fit. Ingram is a player whose picture should appear next to the word "motor" in the scouting dictionary. He is nonstop and is able to play every position along the defensive line both upright and in a three-point stance with devastatingly effective fashion. He is at worst a situational pass rusher, which is coincidentally the type of first-round pick that has recently done wonders for teams like the 49ers (Aldon Smith) and the Giants ( Jason Pierre-Paul). Best case scenario, he could be the perfect edge compliment to DeMarcus Ware.
15) Philadelphia Eagles (Byron)
Luke Kuechly, LB Boston College
You look up during a Boston College game and Kuechly seems to make tackles when he isn't even on the field. He has a nose for the ball like few we have seen in the last five years with the brains and leadership ability to match. The Eagles have already addressed the linebacker position, their squad's most gaping hole, through free agency with the addition of former Texan stud DeMeco Ryans, but adding Kuechly to the mix could send your LB corps from one of the league's worst to elite in one offseason.
16) New York Jets (Loyko)
Mark Barron, S Alabama
Loyko regrettably had to send off one of his favorite players to one of his most hated teams. Barron has seen his stock fall recently due to various offseason injuries, but we have on good knowledge that the Jets have not forgotten about his abilities, and sources have indicated they do not believe he will fall this far. We believe Rex Ryan will offer Barron a nice, long foot-rub should he not be snatched up by the Cowboys at pick 14.
17) Cincinnati Bengals (Chronicle)
Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB Alabama
One of my favorite players in many drafts, I feel like Upshaw is too disruptive to be passed here. He is an absolute menace, and while analysts worry about where he best projects as a pro, (standing up in 3-4 or playing end in a 4-3) I believe Marvin Lewis does not share those concerns. As Bengals head coach, he has a history of making good, creative use of big, large-school linebackers and putting them in position to use their bodies in space.
18) San Diego Chargers (Byron)
Nick Perry, DE/OLB USC
Byron goes with another regional connection, this time SoCal. Larry English never did anything for the Chargers, and they're long past the days of Shawne Merriman. In the AFC West, you have to get after the quarterback and Nick Perry represents that opportunity as well as capability to grow.
19) Chicago Bears (Loyko)
Kendall Wright, WR Baylor
The Bears' biggest needs are at offensive line as well as one more receiver, preferably a versatile Z to utilize in conjunction with newly acquired Brandon Marshall, who was lethal in Denver with current Bears QB Jay Cutler previously. Loyko took his full time with this one, toiling about O-line prospects such as Jonathan Martin or Stay-Puft Marshmallow Adams. Finally, he decided on Wright, though. He's a dynamic threat in the slot and can threaten vertically, perfect compliment for high-point monsters like Marshall. Loyko admitted that if a better rusher were on the board, he would have to think hard about that. (Saying he definitely would have selected Perry or Upshaw if available.)
20) Tennessee Titans (Chronicle)
Dontari Poe, DT Memphis
A lot of questions have begun to pop up about Poe's lack of substantial college production at a small school since he blew the doors off the combine last month. The Titans are getting better along their defensive line, and despite popular belief, Poe does not need to be a nose is the NFL. In fact, his tape indicates to me he is better as a 3-tech. It is not a position of huge need, but Poe is an elite physical specimen. Very powerful, 300-pound people with sub 5 second 40 times should be drafted here. You play Ben Tate and Arian Foster twice a year, not to mention Maurice Jones-Drew.
21) Cincinnati Bengals (Byron)
Janoris Jenkins, CB Northern Alabama
Byron slipped on his jail stripes to pick for the tiger stripes and made a pick Loyko and I both loved. Much has been made of Janoris Jenkins' off the field transgressions involving the sticky-icky-icky and his (very relevant somehow) numerous offspring. We at Rosterwatch take the stance that real NFL teams do: If we're talking about relatively "minor" crimes, the only categories which should throw up red flags are genuine mental illness, violent crimes, spousal abuse, and/or serious signs of addiction. Jenkins did what a lot of NFL players do, but got caught. I asked every WR I interviewed at both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine who the best DB they faced in college was. More than half of the responses were the same: "Jenkins."
22) Cleveland Browns (Loyko)
Stephon Gilmore, CB South Carolina
Figure the Browns would love to see Kendall Wright fall here, but with him unavailable, Loyko turns to the defensive side of the ball, taking his best available player to match up with Joe Haden in one of the league's best developing secondaries.
23) Detroit Lions (Chronicle)
Cordy Glenn, G/OT Georgia
I love Glenn, and had the pleasure of watching a week of his practices at the Senior Bowl. The Lions have had offensive-line troubles for years, and Glenn represents the kind of player who can come in and maybe line up next to a veteran like Jeff Backus at guard for a few years, then be able to slide out to tackle given development. He has the length, hand strength, and footwork to be a serviceable tackle right off. In fact, Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram, and Courtney Upshaw all told us that Glenn was the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers (Byron)
Jonathan Martin, LT Stanford
Big Ben doesn't want to get his head smashed in anymore. The offensive line has been abysmal in Pittsburgh, and it's not completely due to injury. Martin did it for Andrew Luck, and could develop into a great player at a premium position. Mike Tomlin is the "Shaft of the NFL," the defense will be fine with developing high upside prospects later in the draft.
25) Denver Broncos (Loyko)
Devon Still, DT Penn State
You might think Loyko would pick LSU DT Michael Brockers here since he opted not to look at WRs or to try get younger at cornerback. But Brockers isn't a great fit in the 4-3 as a versatile bookend. Devon Still is a more natural DT who can penetrate from that spot and work in multiple schemes.
26) Houston Texans (Chronicle)
Stephen Hill, WR Georgia Tech
Well, I feel like I have certainly represented well for our Texas teams in this mock draft. Wow, what a fit I see here aside Andre Johnson. Hill is a sub 4.4 blazer who just happens to be like 10 feet tall. He hasn't seen as many receptions as most prospects due to the unusual offense Georgia Tech runs, but the same was said of Broncos beast WR Demaryius Thomas. He also averaged about 30 yards per catch. I see the beginnings of a Marvin Harrison to Reggie Wayne succession plan developing here.
27) New England Patriots (Byron)
Michael Brockers, DT LSU
The rich get richer. Brockers fell a little bit in this draft, and Bill Belichick catches himself a lunker Gulf Coast striped bass. He might not be Richard Seymour right off, but it sure does feel like he could fit right into that sort of role.
28) Green Bay Packers (Loyko)
Whitney Mercilus, OLB/DE Illinois
They could use pass rush help as well as patchwork along the defensive line. Mercillus brings a stronger, bigger presence opposite Clay Matthews.
29) Baltimore Ravens (Chronicle)
Dont'a Hightower, LB Alabama
A very talented inside linebacker to develop underneath an aging, yet effective group that possesses all the assets (both tangible and intangible) to develop elite talent within their philosophy and culture. The linebacker tradition in Baltimore continues.
30) San Francisco 49ers (Byron)
Jerel Worthy, DT Michigan State
San Francisco has sick young offensive and defensive lines, and wide receivers were set up well through free agency. Byron would generally look DB here, but any player would have been a substantial reach. You saw the New York Giants last year. It pays to build on an elite burgeoning group along the defensive line. When you have as few team needs as the 49ers, Byron felt this is a luxury they can afford. Mike Mayock is exceptionally high on Worthy, and I see this as another case of the rich getting richer.
31) New England Patriots (Loyko)
Shea McLellin, DE/OLB Boise State
Loyko was happy to be able to pick his guy, a versatile pass rusher from Boise. With their first of two picks in the first round, the Patriots got their "Seymour." now they get their new Mike Vrabel.
32) New York Giants (Chronicle)
Peter Konz, G/C Wisconsin
Konz can play either center or guard, and addresses one of two dire needs for the Giants, interior offensive line and secondary. Konz is six-foot-five, has really strong hands and long arms, and is explosive enough to be a spark in the trenches right off. He also knows how to read coverages and can confidently take charge of calling offensive line shifts.
[Alex Dunlap is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, the host of RosterWatch on 104.9FM ESPN Radio Austin, founder of Rosterwatch.com, and a featured expert contributor to the FantasyPros.com network.]