1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. The safest top pick in a long time, Luck is an instant starter with the pedigree, athleticism, and intelligence to become a coveted franchise quarterback in little time. No question Luck is the #1 pick.
2. Washington Redskins (from STL): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. They didn’t give up all those picks for just anyone. RG3 is the man and they are already active in building around him. Griffin had more touchdowns than incompletions in Baylor’s first four games last year.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, T, USC. The Vikings need help in a lot of areas, and offensive tackle is paramount amongst those needs. Contrary to popular opinion I do not believe that Kalil is a given here; the Vikings desperately need CB and WR help as well and could take Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon. They could also trade back and still wind up with one of those guys, and GM Rick Speilman has indicated he will listen to offers.
4. Cleveland Browns: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. This pick holds the key for so much of the rest of the top 10. Cleveland has myriad needs and ample talent from which to select to fill those needs here. While Trent Richardson, Claiborne, Ryan Tannehill, Melvin Ingram, or even David Decastro all make sense here, the Browns opt to upgrade their anemic cast at wide receiver…just not with the player that most suspect. After Floyd’s outstanding pro day and given his superior size and speed over Justin Blackmon, the Browns throw the curveball here and take Floyd.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. I know the Bucs have strong interest in Richardson, but there are two reasons why I would now carve this pick in granite if the dynamic Bama back is still on the board. First is that they signed Eric Wright and brought back Ronde Barber at corner, which makes that a less pressing need which can be addressed later in this very deep corner class. Second was how incumbent RB LeGarrette Blount reacted to the concept of Richardson threatening his gig, whining to the media about being disrespected. That immature crap might have flown with Raheem Morris, but new Head Coach Greg Schiano will not tolerate me-first knuckleheads. Richardson is an easy choice with Kalil gone.
6. St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State. Curveball #2 to the inside part of the plate. The Rams certainly need help at wide receiver, offensive tackle, and cornerback, but once again the depth of talent at those positions affords new coach Jeff Fisher the chance to take a swing at the defensive lineman with the highest upside of any in this draft. Cox instantly upgrades the pass rush and makes the Rams a much tougher opponent defensively. I like that he can play as a heavy end or inside as a gap-attacking tackle, and I think Fisher will too.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. The Jaguars just signed Aaron Ross and already have solid Rashean Mathis at corner, but Claiborne is too talented and too great a value here to go with any other options. If the board plays out like this they will certainly get calls here, and they could fall back a handful of slots and still get players like Melvin Ingram, Justin Blackmon, or Quentin Coples, all of whom are also in play at this spot.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. People who argue against this pick have no grasp of just how big of a mess the Dolphins are right now. Season ticket sales are down 50% in the last 8 years and fan interest has arguably never been lower. Everyone in Miami wants GM Jeff Ireland fired and attention-starved owner Stephen Ross hung from the rafters of Sun Life Stadium. Fans still clamor for Dan Marino’s successor, conveniently forgetting all of Marino’s playoff inadequacies. The Dolphins have to take a quarterback, and Tannehill is clearly the best available. They will move up to get him if they feel it’s necessary.
9. Carolina Panthers: Melvin Ingram, DE/LB, South Carolina. Ingram is probably best suited to play OLB in a 3-4 defense, but the Panthers need pass rushing oomph opposite Charles Johnson. Ingram has enough athletic ability to play linebacker and add needed bulk to that position. Don’t forget Coach Rivera often deployed a hybrid defense in his San Diego days, and Ingram affords him that creativity here.
10. Buffalo Bills: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. This is probably lower than you will see Blackmon anywhere else, but every year some player unexpectedly drops. This mock presumes that the highest player to fall is Blackmon, who does have enough warts to justify him falling. I strongly suspect the Bills wouldn’t care and would love to pair him with newly re-signed Stevie Johnson to provide Ryan Fitzpatrick more firepower.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: David Decastro, G, Stanford. The Chiefs have a lot of options here. They could help their defensive line with players like Coples, Brockers, or Poe. They could add another corner in Stephon Gilmore or Dre Kirkpatrick. But in this mock GM Scott Pioli sagely addresses his offensive line with the best available talent. Decastro is as sure of a thing as the uncomfortable lack of laughter at any Adam Sandler movie.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. I originally had Michael Brockers penciled in here, but the Jason Jones signing tells me Seattle is more apt to add help at end, not tackle. Don’t be surprised if Coples free-falls well beyond this point, but in this version he is spared the ignominy by Pete Carroll, whose relentless and spirited open competition for every role could be exactly the fire someone needs to light under Coples’ oft-complacent behind.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Cordy Glenn, LT, Georgia. Even after bringing back Levi Brown and swiping Adam Snyder from the rival 49ers, the Cardinals still need help up front. Glenn can play any spot but center, and he fits the Ken Whisenhunt “Steelers West” lineman profile of being long and pugnacious, if maybe not the most technically skilled.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis. Poe has tantalizing athletic ability that has yet to really translate to the football field. Owner/GM Jerry Jones pays Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan a great deal of money to mold players like that into Pro Bowl performers. Poe and Jay Ratliff together up front present intriguing versatility that can only help Demarcus Ware and the still-substandard secondary, which will be addressed in the subsequent rounds.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Mark Barron, S, Alabama. Although adding Demeco Ryans mitigates some of the drastic need at linebacker, I still strongly believe the Eagles are not done overhauling that position. But here they opt to address the safety spot, where Jaiquawn Jarrett and Kurt Coleman were largely overwhelmed a year ago. Barron could pair with Nate Allen to form a very effective, interchangeable tandem.
16. New York Jets: Riley Reiff, T, Iowa. The right side of the Jets OL is a smoldering grease fire, and even though players like Kendall Wright, Luke Kuechly, or Nick Perry would also make perfect sense here (to them, not necessarily to me) the chance at getting a physical presence like Reiff to balance the finesse of D’Brick at LT and help The Sanchize. English majors note: the above is a great example of a run-on sentence.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from OAK): Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina. Ignore the Terence Newman signing, because at this point he’s nothing more than a dime back. The Bengals still need an upgrade over the wildly inconsistent Jason Allen, the undependable Adam Jones, and the rapidly aging Nate Clements to play opposite Leon Hall. To that end, Hall is likely to begin the year on PUP in recovering from a torn Achilles. Gilmore has the length and swagger to fit nicely in the secondary, even if he has consistency issues of his own.