1. Indianapolis Colts – QB Andrew Luck, Stanford- No surprise here. Luck was crowned the top overall pick of the 2012 draft the moment he announced he was coming back to Stanford for one more year. Many draft experts rate Luck as the best QB to come out since John Elway and I think that is overrating him. I do not follow the logic that Luck is a can’t miss prospect. He is going to a team where he is replacing a legend, possibly the best QB in NFL history. The team, particularity the offensive weapons that Peyton Manning had, have been jettisoned. The Colts fans are used to winning and Luck will be thrown to the wolves from day one. He has an uphill battle in front of him and it will be a daunting task to turn that franchise around.
2. Washington Redskins – QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor – No surprise here either. Mike Shanahan and the Redskins mortgaged their future in order to get the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. In exchange for the St. Louis Rams’ 2nd overall pick, the Redskins gave up their first round pick in 2013 & 2014. They also gave up their 2nd round pick this year and swapped their 6th overall pick this year. Out the gate, I believe that RG3 has the best chance to succeed. He will have TE Fred Davis, who had a Pro Bowl caliber season in 2011 and was given the franchise tag this offseason. The Redskins also went out and signed WRs Pierre Garcon from the Colts and Josh Morgan from the 49ers. He should also have a solid ground game with Roy Helu and the zone blocking scheme the Redskins deploy.
3. Cleveland Browns – RB Trent Richardson, Alabama – The Browns swapped picks with the Vikings moving up from the 4th slot to the 3rd slot in order to draft Richardson. I think this was a big overreach. There was a chance that Richardson would have still been there at that 4 spot unless the Bucs were hell bent on getting him. You don’t draft a RB this high unless his name is Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson, or Adrian Peterson. RBs have an average shelf life of 3 years and let’s be honest RBs are a dime a dozen. Arian Foster, LeGarrette Blunt, and Fred Jackson were all undrafted RBs. Richardson doesn’t have a lot of wiggle in his run, he is stiff, which opens him up to injuries. For this reason I think that Doug Martin out of Boise St. was the better first round value. Martin can run between the tackles, has the same size and speed as Richardson, he is great in pass pro, and catching the ball out of the backfield. To put it simply he is an every down back. The Browns would have been better served to draft Oklahoma St. WR Justin Blackmon with this pick and pick up Martin with their second first round pick. This would have given them two quality weapons to pair with Colt McCoy. By the way, Blackmon went 5th to the Jags and Martin went 31st to the Bucs, both would have been available for the Browns at 4 and 22.
4. Minnesota Vikings – OT Matt Kalil, USC – The Vikings made out great in the trade with the Browns. They moved back one spot and still got the player that they wanted. Additionally, they picked up the Browns’ 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks. Kalil is a very talented, athletic tackle and should be the starting LT from day one. This gives Christian Ponder the blindside protection that he needs. The Vikings gave up 49 sacks in 2010, tied for 5th in the league. So Kalil is a much needed addition to their offensive front. I fully expect Kalil to develop into a Pro Bowl calendar and have a career as a dominate tackle in the NFL. He is only scratching the surface on how good he can be. He has excellent hands and footwork. A great pick here by the Vikings.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St. – The Jags traded up from the 7th spot to the 5th spot, swapping picks with the Bucs in order to draft Blackmon. Blackmon is only the second WR to win the Fred Biletnikoff Award twice (Michael Crabtree). He certainly is a good receiver but he often drops passes that he should easily catch. He also did not face a lot of press coverage while at Oklahoma State so there are questions about his ability to be successful against it in the NFL. While I think he is a great receiver, I believe that Michael Floyd out of Notre Dame is a better receiver. Floyd has better hands, has a bigger frame to be physical with, and runs in the 4.4 range to get downfield. The only knock on Floyd was some off the field character issues. Blackmon also is going to a team where there is a huge question mark at QB with Blaine Gabbert.
6. Dallas Cowboys – CB Morris Claiborne, LSU – The Cowboys traded up to get the player they wanted. When they initially announced the trade, I thought it was to get Alabama safety Mark Barron. So the fact that they did it to pick Claiborne was a surprise to me. They went out and signed Chiefs’ CB Brandon Carr to replace former starter Terrance Newman and their other CB Mike Jenkins is in the final year of his contract. Jenkins has been somewhat of a disappointment after being drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft. The arrival of Claiborne might signal the end of Jenkins’ tenure with the Cowboys and at least for this year a demotion to nickel corner. Claiborne is a compete CB, he has great ball skills and is not afraid of contact in run support. Rob Ryan’s defense is reliant on having CBs that can hold up in man coverage, Claiborne paired with Carr now give Dallas the ability to use their exotic blitz schemes.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – S Mark Barron, Alabama – It was expected Morris Claiborne would end up as a Buc and Mark Barron would be a Cowboy, so it is kind of funny that the opposite happened. The Bucs got a quality safety in Barron. He played in a complicated scheme in Bama and was an enforcer against the run. He doesn’t quite have the range of an Ed Reed but not many do. Will need to match up against some high powered passing attacks playing in the NFC South with Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina. He has the tools to get the job done and should have a very successful pro career.
8. Miami Dolphins – QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M – Miami finally got their first round QB, the only problem is that it was a HUGE reach. While Tannehill has a huge upside, he is not worthy of a top 10 pick. He is closer to a 3rd or 4th round pick at this point in his career. He is a very athletic guy, starting at WR for two years prior to moving to QB. However, he only had 19 starts at the QB position and is still very raw. Hopefully the Dolphins have a plan to bring him along slowly. Throwing him in early will be a disservice to him and the franchise. He needs at least 2 years to develop and to really learn how to play the position. Mike Sherman, his offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, is now the new offensive coordinator for the Dolphins. This should bring him familiarity with what the play caller is looking for and an understanding of the offense right out the gate.
9. Carolina Panthers – LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College – Kuechly was a tackling machine at Boston College racking up 532 tackles in 3 years and 191 tackles in 2011 (102 solo). In 2011 he also won the Lombardi Award, the Lott IMPACT Trophy, and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy before declaring for the NFL Draft. He has great instincts and pass coverage ability. He should be a great addition to the Panthers defense when paired with Jon Beason who is returning from an Achilles injury. I don’t know if he is on the level of a Ray Lewis when he came out, but he is rated as one of the best LBs to come out in a while. The Panthers need the defensive help as they lost many games in 2011 as the result of poor defensive play. They also need some help in the secondary and there was some talk that South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore would go here.
10. Buffalo Bills – CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina – The Bills should be much improved in 2012 on the defensive side of the ball. They signed Mario Williams away from the Texans and Mark Anderson away from the Patriots to improve their front 7. If Shawn Merriman can stay healthy and regain form, their defense gets even scarier. To help in the secondary they drafted South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore, a very solid player. He didn’t play a lot of man press in college, instead played a lot of off man and zone. Will need to be solid in man at the NFL level, especially in a division where he will see the Patriots twice per year. He is a very smart player, has 4.4 speed and great overall athleticism. Has great height at 6′ 1″ to match up against taller receivers in the league and is great in run support, not afraid to mix it up. This is a solid pick for the Bills but I believe that Janoris Jenkins, who excels in man coverage, might have been a better corner to go after. Jenkins has a number of red flags from his time at Florida that caused his stock to drop. So taking that into account you can understand taking Gilmore here.