And just like that, the 2011 NFL season is officially in the books. Poof!
All is now quiet on the football front (except for the Giselle nonsense, of course. She's absolutely the modern-day version of David St. Hubbins' girlfriend in This is Spinal Tap), and it will remain that way for approximately one more week before the 2012 NFL Combine is underway. Enjoy the silence while you can, because this pre-draft season is going to be insane. Fun 2012 draft-related topics could include:
- The likelihood that Robert Griffin III's pro day will be so good, it will inspire animals to talk.
- The possibility that Iowa's Riley Reiff leapfrogs USC's Matt Kalil in a Mario-Williams-over Reggie-Bush-style manner and becomes the first tackle selected this year.
- The likelihood that Trent Richardson will slide a bit on draft night, creating mass pandemonium amongst teams looking to move up and nab the world-class Alabama running back.
- The simply dumbfounded look on Jon Gruden's face after some team says "screw it" and takes Brandon Weeden at the end of the first round.
- The possibility that a run on pass-rushers is greenlighted after North Carolina's Quinton Coples or South Carolina's Melvin Ingram is selected.
- The chance that Oliver Luck decides he doesn't want his son playing for anyone whose last name is "Irsay."
Yep, it's going to be a great offseason. And speaking of the Luck-to-Indy talk, let's get started with mock draft numero seis.1) Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
If tyrannical, parental micromanaging is the reason why Peyton and Eli Manning are both total gentlemen at the quarterback position, Andrew Luck's dad needs to start taking sports parent lessons from Archie pronto.
2) St. Louis Rams - Riley Reiff, OT Iowa
That's right. Riley Reiff ... over Matt Kalil ... at the No.2 spot. Kalil's the more impressive physical specimen of the two prospects, but Reiff is the total package at left tackle--equally sound as a run blocker and pass protector, and equipped with the best footwork of any tackle in this draft. Reiff's an absolute technician on the blindside.
This pick isn't so much a statement against Kalil's abilities, but rather the belief that the Rams' experience with Jason Smith will steer them toward a more well-rounded product at offensive tackle.
3) Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, OT USC
Another team with severe protection issues on the left side, the Vikings can't afford to let quarterback Christian Ponder be constantly beaten to a pulp by pass-rushers next season. Matt Kalil was simply dominant as a pass protector at USC last season, and he has the light feet and Herculean frame to hold his own against the fearsome pass-rushers who currently inhabit the NFC North division.
Robert Griffin III will certainly be in play at this spot, but don't be surprised if the Browns look to recreate Cincinnati's 2011 draft strategy and use their first pick on an elite-caliber wideout. Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is that wideout, and though he should run well enough during pre-draft workouts, his ball skills, size and rare physicality at the receiver position are what make him such a special prospect.
The Buccaneers could consider trading out of this spot if RG3 is still on the board; however, the case can be made that no 2012 prospect is a better fit than LSU corner Morris Claiborne in Tampa Bay. Claiborne is an elite cover corner who can stay in the pocket of any assignment he sees, and his presence in the secondary could also buy the Bucs' pass-rush some much-needed time next season.
6) Washington Redskins - Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor
Mike Shanahan likes mobile, big-armed quarterbacks, and because the Washington coach is coming off of back-to-back disappointing seasons, look for the Redskins to go all-in on the RG3 sweepstakes this April--regardless of whether it's at this spot or in a trade-up situation.
Griffin will likely need a bit of time to acclimate to an NFL offense, but his keen intellect, elite athleticism and explosive play-making ability make him a quarterback prospect who is absolutely worth the wait.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars - Quinton Coples, DE North Carolina
The Jaguars would love to see Justin Blackmon fall to this spot, since quarterback Blaine Gabbert is in the unenviable position of having to develop as a signal caller without the presence of any real receiving weapons. With the draft's best receiver off the board, however, Jacksonville should turn its attention to the premier boom-or-bust defender in this draft: North Carolina's Quinton Coples. Coples was a force to be reckoned with throughout Senior Bowl week, and he'd provide the Jaguars with a big-time upgrade at the defensive end position. Coples is a run-stuffing presence who has the size and versatility to occasionally kick over to the interior, and his ability as a pass-rusher is better than advertised.
8) Miami Dolphins - Melvin Ingram, DE South Carolina
The fact that the Dolphins' defense in 2011 notched 41 sacks without much of a weak-side pass-rush is unbelievable, and now that the team is committed to the 4-3 hybrid scheme for next season, Miami absolutely needs to find a versatile, powerhouse pass-rusher to pair with Cameron Wake. South Carolina's Melvin Ingram is arguably the best pass-rusher of any defensive end in this draft class, and his tweener build (6'1 7/8", 276), strength and excellent athleticism should allow him to occasionally kick over to outside linebacker without missing a beat.
Ingram could still improve his anticipation of the snap, but his vast array of pass-rush moves and relentless pursuit make him an ideal fit in Miami. An Ingram-Wake bookend would give the Dolphins arguably the fastest defensive end pairing in the league, too.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, a part of the 1985 Chicago Bears, knows the value of great play along the interior defensive line, and that could steer him in the direction of Michael Brockers, the latest defensive tackle out of an LSU program that practically rolls out dominant defensive linemen on a conveyor belt. Brockers isn't necessarily a bona-fide pass-rusher on the interior, but he dominates the point of attack, has the ability to anchor against double teams and can eliminate the run with ease.
Upshaw, an outside linebacker in Alabama's 3-4 scheme, might seem like an odd choice for a Bills team that swears up and down that it is committed to the 4-3 defense in 2012. However, Upshaw has the size and strength to hold up at end, and would pair with defensive tackles Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams to form a bullish, stout defensive line. An extremely versatile, do-everything prospect.
Like Buffalo, the Chiefs have regard for just one draft board: their own. And if Kansas City was willing to use a top 3 pick on Tyson Jackson in 2009, there's no reason to think they'll have a problem with using a top 15 pick on a position vital to the 3-4 scheme: nose tackle. Memphis' Dontari Poe is a classic two-gap clogger who boasts impressive athleticism for the position, and the fact that he's far and away the best 3-4 anchor in this draft should greatly boost his stock.
12) Seattle Seahawks - Trent Richardson, RB Alabama
Seattle needs plenty of help on the defensive line, but there's no way the Seahawks will pass on Trent Richardson if he falls to this spot. A backfield of Richardson and Marshawn Lynch, running behind Seattle's young, burgeoning offensive line, is as good as it gets for an NFL rushing attack.
13) Arizona Cardinals - Jonathan Martin, OT Stanford
Word on the street is that Levi Brown won't be back with Arizona next season, so the Cardinals should use his pending exit as a cue to spend this pick on a franchise-caliber tackle. Stanford's Jonathan Martin is the best road grader of any tackle in this class, and while his pass protection will need refinement at the next level, Martin's massive frame and good overall technique should be enough to keep Arizona's running game formidable and, more importantly, keep Kevin Kolb healthy.
Dallas' talent-rich front seven on defense last season was often nullified by their horrendous secondary, and it's not going to get any better unless the Cowboys commit an early pick to the cornerback position. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick has had some issues this offseason, but he's an ultra-physical corner prospect with outstanding size (6'2", 185) and speed. And though Kirkpatrick is no sleuth in coverage, he's a first-class defender against the run, and has the length to be a disruptor in the passing game.
The Achilles' Heel of Philadelphia's defense in 2011 was their pathetic linebacker corps, so look for the Eagles to get back on track with Boston College's Luke Kuechly. A prospect with near-flawless instincts and tackling ability. Kuechly doesn't possess a Herculean frame or great speed for the position, but his ability to read and diagnose plays borders on genius level. He's also versatile enough to be considered a solid fit at the mike and will positions.
Gang Green's pass-rush was horrific last season, but Tony Sparano's arrival in New Jersey likely means two things: fist pumps and plenty of tinkering with the Jets' offensive line. Get ready to party like it's 1979, Jets fans. Of course, DeBrickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold are two major constants in NYJ's trenches, and a big-time guard prospect like David DeCastro would provide much-needed relief to the Jets' ground game, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Fireman Ed, etc.
Janoris Jenkins' performance at the Senior Bowl two weeks ago confirmed that he is absolutely the same caliber of cornerback that he was during his playing days in Gainesville. Jenkins is a pure technician at corner, boasting good speed, great instincts and the hip flexibility to turn and run with receivers at the next level. For a Bengals team that has proven it is willing to deal with potential character issues, Jenkins seems like a worthy gamble at this spot.
18) San Diego Chargers - Nick Perry, DE/OLB USC
A big reason for the Chargers' nose dive last season was their inability to get anywhere near opposing quarterbacks. And with USC's Nick Perry declaring early, San Diego might not have to travel far to find its next great pass-rusher. Perry is a tweener prospect with the horsepower to make a difference as an edge-rusher, and he is better than advertised as a run defender.
19) Chicago Bears - Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame
This pick comes down to one very simple question for the Bears: are they comfortable with Jay Cutler's protection on the blindside? If not, Ohio State's Mike Adams makes a ridiculous amount of sense at this spot. If, however, Chicago plans to to address its still-horrid offensive line in the second/third rounds, this pick turns into a best-available-receiving-weapon scenario for a Bears team that is way undersized in the receiver corps. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd is a bullish, sure-handed wideout with adequate speed and a mega-physical approach that can quickly wear down defensive backs. In fact, give Cutler a red-zone threat like Floyd and I can almost guarantee No.6 will be in the discussion for MVP next season.
And ... so begins the run on wideouts in this draft. Baylor's Kendall Wright is the most explosive receiver in the 2012 draft class, and his outstanding mitts and precision route-running would take a ton of heat off of Kenny Britt in Nashville. Jake Locker showed flashes of franchise-caliber play last season; it's time to outfit this offense with the weapons to make sure Locker continues to improve.
21) Cincinnati Bengals - Cordy Glenn, OT/G Georgia
With the corner position addressed, the Bengals can turn their attention toward adding a massive, versatile offensive lineman like Georgia's Cordy Glenn, who is a surefire guard at the next level, and may be able to play tackle, as well. An outstanding athlete for someone so huge (6'5", 345), Glenn will be a strong presence on a Cincy team looking to bolster every facet of its running game.
22) Cleveland Browns - Ryan Tannehill, QB Texas A&M
By using their early pick on Justin Blackmon, the Browns can complete the offensive overhaul by selecting a quarterback at this spot. The issue with Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill isn't arm strength or upside--he has plenty of both. Rather, it's about whether or not he'll be able to get through his progressions, solidify his footwork and demonstrate command of an NFL offense. A broken foot will delay the eventual skyrocketing or floundering of his draft stock, but there's little reason to doubt Tannehill's capacity as a franchise quarterback.
23) Detroit Lions - Mike Adams, OT Ohio State
If Adams slips past Chicago at No.19, it's a very good bet that he'll land in the Motor City with this selection. Adams is a giant (6'7", 330) tackle who will protect Detroit's No.1 investment (quarterback Matthew Stafford) and restore order to a Lions pocket that was victimized by pass-rushers far too often in 2011 (albeit not nearly as often as in prior years).
Pittsburgh's secondary has slowly declined over the last few years, thanks to Troy Polamalu's numerous injuries and the lack of any effective cornerback play across from Ike Taylor. Alabama's Mark Barron is a do-everything safety who would have the Steelers' last level of defense back on track in a hurry. Barron is fast enough to make a difference in coverage and strong enough to cheat up and smack the run. He's an insane value at this spot.
Denver's Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are premier pass-rush threats who can almost guarantee an uncomfortable level of heat on opposing quarterbacks each week, but the Broncos need to reinforce its run defense with a premier stuffer on the interior line. Jerel Worthy could be a signature 3-technique in the NFL with his above-average pass-rush skill, and he also has the ability to eat up blocks and collapse running lanes. A very versatile defensive tackle with good upside and physical tools.
The Texans know they have to find a big-time receiver to ease Andre Johnson's workload, but if no wideouts catch Houston's eye at this spot, look for them to take a page out of New England's playbook and add a seam-threat tight end like Clemson's Dwayne Allen. Allen has good speed, great mitts and plenty of big-play ability, and he greatly improved as a blocker last season. An Antonio Gates-type at a position that is quickly becoming a glamor spot in the NFL.
Upgrades are needed all over the Pats' defense, so look for them to start up front early and then address their godawful secondary. This pick could be spent on a multi-scheme-friendly defensive tackle like Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox--a premier run-stuffer who can also abuse the backfield and put heat on the quarterback. Cox fits in well as a 5-tech in the 3-4, but might be best suited on the interior in a 4-3 scheme.
A big part of Green Bay's Super Bowl season was due to the quarterback pressure created by Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji and even Charles Woodson, but the Packers' ability to rush the passer took a big hit in 2011, which means Green Bay might be on the lookout for a fearsome edge-rusher in this draft. Illinois' Whitney Mercilus' lankiness and jaw-dropping speed as a pass-rusher will earn him several comparisons to the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul, and his presence might even help take some heat off of Green Bay's horrific secondary.
The Ravens have tapped into the U's draft pipeline several times since arriving in Baltimore 16 years ago, and with Ricky Williams' retirement and Ray Rice's increased workload, now might be a good time to continue the Miami connection with speedster back Lamar Miller. Miller boasts good size for such a fast running back, and he displayed the ability to play well while hurt last season. A backfield with Rice and Miller would be dangerous right off the bat. Somewhere, Joe Flacco is smiling through the Fu Manchu.
Jonathan Goodwin was great at for the 49ers last season, but he's ... well, old, and San Francisco can stick with its "youthful offensive line" approach and lock up the draft's premier center: Peter Konz of Wisconsin. Konz was the leader on a Badgers offensive line loaded with NFL-caliber talent, and he'd immediately bolster the interior of a 49ers offensive line that was struggled with consistency in 2011.
31) New England Patriots - Harrison Smith, S Notre Dame
Typical pick for the Pats--An instinctual defender with adequate measurables and a fantastic feel for his position. Notre Dame's Harrison Smith has gained plenty of draft-stock steam over the last month, and his size, good speed and deep skill set should tie together a Patriots secondary that looked like it was playing underwater for most of last season.
Pretty much a "Hey, we just won the Super Bowl; let's use this pick on a guy we wouldn't normally touch with a 10-foot pole" selection. The Giants are flat-out loaded on the defensive line, but their linebacker corps needs a generous dose of youth, intensity, speed and fear-inducing hits. Enter Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict--an absolute flyer at the linebacker position with elite range and a bad attitude. If anyone is ready to take on the Burfict project, it's Tom Coughlin, and it's scary to imagine what defensive coordinator Perry Fewell can draw up with Burfict patrolling the middle.