This is the time of the year you can see a different mock draft all over the web. I usually don't release mine until the day before the draft, but our very own Tom Ryle suggested that I put one together.
The NFL Combine results will begin to push some prospects up or down in mock drafts. Some of the workout warriors will begin to rise to the top, while the under-performers may begin to slip down the board. There is no common science to making a mock draft, but I do like to follow some rules. For starters, I don't allow trades in my mock drafts. Trades are just too complicated to predict. I tend to mix together need and the best available player on the board. You have to be fair when mocking for teams in the same division. Staying unbiased is just ethically and morally correct.
You can get a different mock draft just about anywhere on the internet. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and it makes the mock draft process very interesting. I will admit that this isn't a strength of mine, but it was nice branching out and trying something new.
Take the jump for my first mock draft of the year...
1. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The Colts made this decision months ago and will make Andrew Luck the next face of the franchise. Regardless of what happens with Peyton Manning, Jim Irsay and the organization has to draft one of the best QB talents since...well Peyton Manning. Luck is the real deal and has franchise NFL quarterback written all over him.
2. St. Louis Rams - Matt Kalil, OT, USC
I don't project trades into my mock drafts, they are just too hard to calculate into a mock. The Rams would love to move back and pick up extra picks when a QB-needy team like the Browns, Dolphins or Redskins come calling. I will say they take the franchise offensive tackle here if they cannot move down. Sam Bradford has been getting smacked around since he became the signal caller there, and former first round pick Jason Smith has been a monumental bust.
3. Minnesota Vikings - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
The Vikings have to be regretting drafting Christian Ponder 12th overall last year considering they have a realistic chance at Robert Griffin III. The Vikings have a lot of holes on the team. Offensive line, secondary and the defensive line could all use upgrades, but Blackmon is the #1 wide receiver they need. Percy Harvin is a great weapon in the DeSean Jackson mold, but he isn't a #1 possession wide receiver. Randy Moss worked out pretty well for them, so I am willing to say Blackmon will intrigue them.
4. Cleveland Browns - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Colt McCoy actually is a decent NFL quarterback, but the franchise hasn't committed to him long term. If RG3 is on the board when they pick, it will be a no-brainer pick for the Browns. Griffin has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback and the face of the franchise that the city of Cleveland desperately needs. He has an underrated arm, great speed and can extend plays by scrambling. He also appears to be the RKG, and you want those types of leadership qualities in a young quarterback.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Bucs are a mess after just starting to turn it around a few years ago. Bringing in former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano was an interesting decision, as he knows talent when he sees it. Claiborne fits a need and may possibly be the best available player on the board. He is a dynamic athlete that has amazing upside and potential.
6. Washington Redskins - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Redskins are the team most likely to move up for RG3 because I don't see them drafting Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannenhill this high. Head coach Mike Shanahan has an interesting philosophy on running backs, making this pick even more unlikely, but Richardson is the type of flashy pick owner Daniel Snyder would sign off on. Richardson is an amazing talent that would be interesting to watch in Shanahan's zone style blocking system.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
They would love to see Blackmon fall here, but it's not going to happen for the Jags in my mock. They could add an offensive lineman here to protect last year's first-round pick Blaine Gabbert. Cornerback is another need for them, so Dre Kirkpatrick would be a great fit for them as well. The Jags have been enamored with disruptive defensive lineman the past couple of years, so I am willing to bet Coples would be high on their list to upgrade their pass rush.
8. Miami Dolphins - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Ryan Tannenhill has been a popular player mocked to the Dolphins recently, but I see them going the free agent route at quarterback. The Dolphins have been building up their offensive line for years and need a right tackle. Reiff is an experienced offensive lineman that can step in and start for them right away. David DeCastro would also be a great fit for them here, but usually the elite offensive tackles trump the elite offensive guards in the draft.
9. Carolina Panthers - Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Sorry Cowboys fans, I just shattered your dreams with this pick. Head Coach Ron Rivera has been contemplating adding a defensive tackle to the Panthers defensive line. Poe had an amazing combine workout and made himself a lot of money by performing so well. Michael Brockers is also a possibility here, but I think the Panthers will be smitten with Poe's combination of size and athleticism. He would be a big force on their defensive line for a long time.
10. Buffalo Bills - Nick Perry, DE, USC
Newly appointed defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt is moving the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Head coach Chan Gailey has been persistent in adding another pass rusher, and Perry looks like the perfect fit for them. He wants to play in the 4-3 defense, the Bills want a pass rusher, so everyone wins here. Courtney Upshaw is a popular pick here, but I believe that Perry is the better pass rusher.
11. Kansas City Chiefs - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
DeCastro just looks like a Scott Pioli draft pick. He isn't a sexy pick, but he is one of the safest picks in the entire draft. At one time, the Chiefs had one of the best offensive lines in football. Their bread and butter was running the ball. With Jamaal Charles in their backfield, they could look to upgrade their line and get back to classic Chiefs football.
12. Seattle Seahawks - Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Many believe that Pete Carroll will reach for a quarterback here. I believe that Carroll will wait until the second round or even wait until next year for his prodigy at USC, Matt Barkley. Upshaw will intrigue Carroll because of his strength to anchor against the run and his ability to rush the passer. He might be a better fit in a 4-3 instead of the 3-4, so Seattle might be the perfect system for him to utilize his talents.
13. Arizona Cardinals - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Cardinals offensive line is a mess, and Martin falling to them should make their war room shout for joy. Jonathan Martin protected Andrew Luck throughout his career and he could instantly start at right tackle for the Cardinals. Martin isn't the same caliber of tackle Tyron Smith is, but he may have a similar career path. Moving him over to left tackle in a year or two only drives up Martin's draft stock. Arizona needs to start protecting whoever is playing quarterback for them.
14. Dallas Cowboys - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
As much as I want to mock my pet cat Melvin Ingram here, I decided against it. The Cowboys have expressed their interest in the free agent cornerbacks, but I am not so sure they land one of them. Janoris Jenkins is a possibility too, but his size and character concerns may push him down the Cowboys draft board. The Cowboys could go in so many different directions with the 14th overall pick, but let's reward them with a talented cornerback who has size, athleticism and ball skills.
15. Philadelphia Eagles - Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Eagles need help at the linebacker position and they were beaten up there in 2011. Their wide-nine defensive scheme relies on their linebackers to cover and fill in the gaps. They made a big mistake when they relied on rookie Casey Matthews to step up for them. Kuechly was a machine and one of the most productive linebackers in college football. Andy Reid doesn't draft linebackers high, but this time he may not be able to pass on the superior talent Kuechly is.
16. New York Jets - Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
As many of you know, Ingram is one of my favorite players in the 2012 NFL Draft. He is an amazing athlete that is highly versatile, and he would be a perfect fit for Rex Ryan. The Jets dirty little secret is that they lack a dominant pass rusher. Because he lacks one, Ryan dials up creative blitzes and relies on his secondary to help out the front seven. Ingram would be a highly productive player in this system, and he would be utilized all over the field. It's a scary thought that the Jets haven't had a dominant pass rusher under Ryan, but Ingram could make that all disappear.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (From Oakland) - Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The Bengals are a team that doesn't place character high on their list of priorities. For months I have thought that this is the place where Jenkins will land on draft day. It may be one of the worst places he could go due to the lack of a veteran leader that could guide him. In my opinion, talent wise, Jenkins is the second best cornerback in the draft. He is a ball hawk with lockdown capability that performed at a high level against some of the best wide receivers in the country. He is fast, smooth and quick. A player with his talent level won't last long in the first round.
18. San Diego Chargers - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Whatever happens with Vincent Jackson will ultimately decide what the Chargers do in the draft, but they could still use another weapon on offense. Floyd reminds me a lot of Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson, he is a large wide receiver with big play ability. Phillip Rivers would love to have another target in the passing game, and Floyd would be a perfect fit in that system. It wouldn't shock me to see the Chargers go linebacker, defensive line or offensive line here either.
19. Chicago Bears - Devon Still, DT, Penn State
For a team that was in the NFC Championship game not too long ago, the Bears have a lot of needs. Their offensive line needs work, and a tackle like Mike Adams or a guard like Cordy Glenn make sense here. They need another wide receiver to stretch the field and make plays for them, but they have a similar player like Kendall Wright in Johnny Knox. Still is a very talented defensive lineman that would be a great value this late in the draft. You can never have too many talented defensive lineman, and the Bears could get more stout up the middle.
20. Tennessee Titans - Michael Brockers, DE, LSU
After an unimpressive combine performance, Brockers finds himself falling in first round. The Titans value defensive lineman and it was once a strength for their team. They could lose some players in free agency and 2010 first-round pick Derrick Morgan may be a bust. They could chose to go a safer route this time, but Brockers is one of the most talented players in the draft. His is young, inexperienced and raw, but possesses a lot of talent. The Titans could land one of the biggest steals in the draft here.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Cedric Benson is going to be a free agent, so there is the possibility they could lose him. If he is resigned, they could look to pair him with a running back such as Lamar Miller. His athleticism and speed would be the perfect complement to Benson's physical running style.
22. Cleveland Browns (From Atlanta) - Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
It would be wise for the Browns to go out and get a weapon for their new franchise quarterback. Kendall Wright is a possibility here, but I decided to go with Alshon Jeffery because he offers them more of a #1 wide receiver skill set. Jeffery paired with 2011 second-round draft pick Greg Little, should finally give the Browns a legit wide receiver corps.
23. Detroit Lions - Zach Brown, LB, UNC
Cornerback, offensive line and linebacker are all needs for the Lions this year. They could go in any direction, but Brown may be the best player on their board if he is available when they go on the clock. His speed would be perfect in the 4-3 defense, and the Lions have been searching for a premier linebacker for some time now.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Don'ta Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Steelers could go in a variety of directions here. Hightower fits the best available player strategy, but they do have a need at inside linebacker. I believe that he would be a perfect fit for the Steelers system, he just fits the physical mold they look for on defense.
25. Denver Broncos - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
This is purely a best available player pick for the Broncos. They would probably love to get Tim Tebow a weapon here, preferably a tight end or wide receiver, but Cox is too good of a value to pass up. Their defense does have a need at defensive tackle, so Cox fills a hole there.
26. Houston Texans - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Wide receiver Andre Johnson is one of the best in the game, but they lack an option on the other side of him. Wright disappointed at the combine, running a slow 40 yard dash. His game tape is far too good to ignore, and he would be a nice complement to Johnson.
27. New England Patriots (From New Orleans) - Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
Bill Belichick is the ultimate mock draft nightmare. You never know what this guy is going to do, so I decided to give him Glenn due to the fact that he may be a highly rated player on Belichick's draft board. The Patriots could look to upgrade their guard position, and Glenn is one of the best guards in the draft.
28. Green Bay Packers - Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall
The Packers have nobody on the other side of Clay Matthews, and Curry would be a good fit for their 3-4 defense. It would allow you to play Curry more on the strong side, allowing Matthews to move around and rush the passer more.
29. Baltimore Ravens - Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome may decide to take a chance on Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict here, but Barron would be a great value for him. Ed Reed isn't getting any younger, and he doesn't have a safety next to him like the caliber of player Barron is.
30. San Francisco 49ers - Mohammed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Wide receiver is a definite need for the 49ers this offseason. Sanu didn't impress as much as I thought he would at the combine, but his game tape is rather impressive. He is a versatile wide receiver that would give the 49ers a much needed upgrade at the position.
31. New England Patriots - Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebarska
Dennard has seen his draft stock take a huge hit since the Senior Bowl. Bill Belichick loves smart and physical football players, so Dennard makes sense for the Patriots here. They have had trouble at the cornerback position recently, so adding another talented corner provides depth for them at the position.
32. New York Giants - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
The Super Bowl champions have one of the best general managers in the game. Jerry Reese doesn't draft for need, usually taking the best available player no matter what the need is. Kareem McKenzie is starting to become a liability for them, so drafting his replacement might be a good idea. Tight end is another need for the Giants, but if Reese isn't blown away by one of the tight end prospects he won't draft one this high.