Profetta’s 2012 NFL Mock Draft

Posted by Brad On October – 9 – 2011
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Miami is in disarray and Luck would be a God-send

Micheal Profetta


1. Miami Dolphins- Andrew Luck QB Stanford   With Chad Henne out for the season with a shoulder separation, it now appears that the Dolphins are stuck with a lame duck coach and Matt Moore at quarterback. Sound familiar? That formula was Carolina’s ticket to Cam Newton last year, and it will be Miami’s ticket to Luck. Luck was last seen calling his own plays, taking a surgical laser to UCLA’s defense and making a surprisingly effortless one-handed catch while negotiating the sideline. At this point, he’s just showing off.

2. Indianapolis Colts- Matt Barkley QB USC   The Colts’ current QB situation is so dire that they should seriously consider taking Jeff George up on his comeback proposal.

The losses to Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay could have been wins with merely sereviceable performances by Kerry Collins/Curtis Painter, but both QBs have been atrocious. Recently re-signed journeyman Dan Orlovsky is not the answer. I just don’t see any way this team gets more than three wins, even in the weak AFC South. The recent losses of defensive captain Gary Brackett and starting safety Melvin Bullitt to season-ending injuries doesn’t help matters. The Colts are just having one of those “Murphy’s Law” kind of seasons.

There will be great debate as to whether the Colts should select Manning’s heir or a franchise LT like Matt Kalil or Jonathan Martin near the top of the 2012 NFL Draft. Sentimentality aside, I’m of the opinion that pinning your hopes on a QB (no matter how legendary) who will be 36 in March and has neck/back issues problems worthy of stem cell solutions just isn’t good business. The Colts can avoid the $28 million bonus Manning is due in 2012 simply by releasing him before late February. The uncerimonious release of Manning obviously wouldn’t be popular around Indy, but rarely does a NFL Draft crop boast three potential franchise QBs (four, if Robert Griffin III keeps it up). The Colts should take advantage of the rare opportunity to transition from one franchise QB to another.

After laying an egg against Arizona State, Barkley bounced back with a record-breaking performance (32-39, 468 yards, 4 TDs) in the Trojans’ win over Arizona. He holds off RG3 and Landry Jones in my QB rankings for another week. Barkley will never be confused with Manning, but he’s at least on par with rookies Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert, and could allow the Colts to remain competetive in the post-Manning AFC South.

3. Minnesota Vikings- Matt Kalil OT USC   The Vikings are finding out the hard way that Charlie Johnson is a guard disguised as a left tackle. Their brief interest in the morbidly obese Max Starks only confirms their desperation to upgrade this position. It already looks like a lost season in Minny, so if a QB is going to take a beating, it might as well be a  washed-up stopgap like Donovan McNabb. Rookie Christian Ponder is the future under center. If his injury history at Florida State is any indication, the Vikes better find a top-shelf blindside protector…pronto. Kalil is a premier, low-risk LT prospect, a la Joe Thomas and Jake Long, with good size, great athleticism and even better fundamentals. His experience in a pro-style system and NFL bloodlines are gravy. Plug ‘n’ play.

4. Seattle Seahawks- Robert Griffin III QB Baylor   In last week’s gut-wrenching loss to Kansas State, Griffin completed 23 of 31 passes for 346 yards and 5 TDs/1 INT against a very good Wildcats defense…and it was his worst performance of the season. That should give you an idea of the level he’s playing at right now. RG3′s vastly improved accuracy and pocket awarness, in concert with his great athleticism and arm strength, make him a Heisman contender and a strong candidate to enter the 2012 NFL Draft. (Keep in mind that he’s already earned a degree.) Griffin has plenty of great tape and should make a mockery of the Combine, so we may see a Newtonesque rise up draft boards during the predraft process. Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell prefers a mobile QB, so Griffin could get the nod over the (relatively) mechanical Landry Jones if the Seahawks are given the choice of the two come next April.

The Vick/Newton comparisons are inevitable (for obvious and unfortunate reasons), but pay them no mind. Griffin(6-2/225), an All-American on Baylor’s track team, is a top-notch athlete, but isn’t as explosive as Vick or as big as Newton. However, he’s more refined and has better accuracy than both at similar stages of their careers. Unlike Vick and Newton, Griffin’s intelligence and character will never come into question. If anything, comparisons to Aaron Rodgers would be more apt. Brad’s recent comparison of RG3 to Steve Young is even better. Very similar in size and skill set to Young, Griffin is working on his second degree (in law) with plans of becoming a lawyer after football…just like Young did while at BYU. Eerie.

5. St. Louis Rams- Trent Richardson RB Alabama   In Alabama’s romp over Florida, which featured too many future first-round draft picks to count, Richardson was the undisputed star of the show. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a RB who has a more balanced skill set or finishes off his runs better than Richardson. It’s time that folks stop associating him with a much lesser prospect like Mark ingram and start recognizing that he’s an Adrian Peterson/Darren McFadden-level prospect who won’t make it out of the top five to seven picks of the 2012 NFL Draft.

A durable, workhorse runner is a young quarterback’s best friend. Steven Jackson is terminally “questionable” on the injury report, so the addition of Richardson would be a boon to Sam Bradford’s development.

6. Denver Broncos- Landry Jones QB Oklahoma   HC John Fox is more than happy to grind out wins with a bullish rushing attack and stifling defense, so he may prefer to go forward with QB Kyle Orton playing the role of Jake Delhomme and using this pick on Quinton Coples or Vontaze Burfict, who could become his Julius Peppers or Jon Beason in Denver. However, it’s John Elway who gets the final say, and he could have other plans.

Elway has no interest in seeing Tim Tebow in any other role besides H-back, and impending free agent Kyle Orton is obviously not the same guy that he was in Josh McDaniels’ system, so I’m guessing that Elway would jump all over Landry Jones if he’s still on the board. Jones is the kind of tall, strong-armed pocket passer who could appeal to Elway. The “spread QB” stigma and the emergence of Robert Griffin III could prompt a mini-slide for Jones, but he has all of the tools to become a legitimate franchise QB in the NFL.

7. Kansas City Chiefs- Jonathan Martin OT Stanford   In last week’s mock, I said that folks were overreacting to the Chiefs’ early-season struggles. I expected them to beat Minnesota, and as they continue to regroup following the spirit-sapping injuries to Charles, Berry and Moeaki, I expect them to remain competetive, beat the teams they’re supposed to beat and maybe even eke out an upset or two. That should be good enough for five wins and keep them out of the running for one of the franchise QBs in this draft.

With the QBs off the board, GM Scott Pioli will do what he always does…neatly fill his team’s most obvious need. Equal parts dancing bear and mauling run-blocker, Martin is playing as well as any OT in the nation as the blindside protector of college football’s most precious commodity. He could step in immediately at LT, allowing good run-blocker/iffy pass-protector Branden Albert to move over to RT or guard.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars- Quinton Coples DE North Carolina   GM Gene Smith has done an underrated job of rebuilding the Jags by staying true to his value board and putting a premium on character in the last three drafts. However, assuming that he’s still the GM in 2012, he may want to consider drafting for need…specifically, pass rushers. Jacksonville has put up historically rotten sack totals over the last few seasons and 2011 isn’t looking any better. At DE, Matt Roth is a one-year rental and you can stick a fork in Aaron Kampman. Yeah, the Jags could really use a great WR, but the keys to success in the modern NFL are having a QB and having guys who can get to the QB. Smith secured his QB in Blaine Gabbert and now it’s time to draft a stud DE (or two).

Coples has been a disappointment this season, disappearing for stretches and posting two of his 2.5 sacks against an outclassed James Madison squad. If he doesn’t pick it up soon, Vontaze Burfict could pass him up as this draft’s top defensive prospect. Still, Coples flashes the athleticism and pass-rushing skills that brought 10 sacks and 15.5 TFL in 2010. He has the potential to emerge as a Justin Tuck-type force at the next level, capable of bringing the heat from LDE or from an inside spot.

9. Carolina Panthers- Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma State   Ron Rivera’s aggressive defensive scheme needs high-quality corners to hit on all cylinders (think Jammer, Cromartie and Cason in San Diego). Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn just aren’t cutting it, so Dre Kirkpatrick makes a lot of sense here. As great as the need at CB is, I think that Jerry Richardson and Marty Hurneys’ desire to ensure the NFL success of Cam Newton may ultimately trump that need. This means more weapons forNewton.

Newton has come storming out of the gates in his rookie year. The addition of a potential stud WR forNewtonto grow with would allow OC Rob Chudzinski to really put the pedal to the metal. Blackmon has refined his game while continuing to put up great numbers this season. I’d say that he’s currently ahead of Alshon Jeffery in the race to the top of the 2012 WR rankings.

D.J. Fluker could give Kevin Kolb the blindside protector he desperately needs

10. Arizona Cardinals- D.J. Fluker OT Alabama   OTs Levi Brown and Brandon Keith comprise one of the worst starting duos in the NFL. Both guys lack the agility and footwork to handle speed rushers. Brown, a strong run blocker, would benefit from a return to the right side. Keith simply shouldn’t be a NFL starter. There could be an overhaul at this position in 2012, when both will be free agents.

Fluker is a rSo. and has little chance of passing Kalil and Martin in the OT rankings, so including him in my mock is a bit of a stretch, but his performance and upside almost demand his inclusion. Fluker consistently uses his great size (6-6/335) to TNT holes for Trent Richardson over the right side, while flashing the athleticism and nimble feet that portend a successful move to the blindside in the NFL. Given Seantrel Henderson’s back issues, Fluker could be the #1 OT prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft if he decides to stick around Tuscaloosa for his Junior season, but if enters this draft, I don’t see him falling out of the top 10.  

11. Cleveland Browns- Alshon Jeffery WR South Carolina   Greg Little’s size and physicality makes him a good fit in Pat Shurmur’s offense and Mohamed Massaquoi is an emerging target with the ability to stretch a defense, but I don’t think that the Browns could pass on Jeffery if he’s available at #11. Justin Blackmon’s refinement and productivity makes him the #1 WR on the board right now, but Jeffery may still offer the highest ceiling among this year’s crop of receivers. His incredible size (6-4/233) and athleticism would play well in the WCO and Colt McCoy’s timing and accuracy could be a boon to Jeffery, who’s numbers have been muted as he’s been forced to contend with Stephen Garcia’s mortally wounded ducks for the last three seasons.

12. Cincinnati Bengals- Lamar Miller RB Miami (Fla.)   The young Bengals will take their lumps this season, but the addition of a premier RB prospect like Miller could make an already-talented offense downright terrifying in 2012 and beyond.

Impending free agent Cedric Benson turns 30 in December and is on the decline. He’s no longer worth the off-field headaches, especially if rSo. Miller is an option for Cincinnati in the 2012 NFL Draft. Miller’s ridiculous speed/power combination has him emerging alongside Trent Richardson as a potential top 15 pick. So much for that “devaluation of the RB” stuff.

13. Philadelphia Eagles- Vontaze Burfict ILB Arizona State   I’ve been slotting the Eagles in the bottom twelve of the first round for the last four weeks under the assumption that all of that talent on their roster would eventually gel and they would go on to win the NFC East. I’m beginning to think that I could grow old waiting for that to happen, so here they are at #13, hanging out with the Cincinnati Bengals. You are what your record says you are.

If the draft were to unfold as it has in my mock scenario, I’m 100,000% sure that Burfict doesn’t get past the Eagles. Philadelphia has (by far) the worst crew of linebackers in the league, so if they have the chance to grab (arguably) the best ILB prospect since Patrick Willis, they’ll have that card up to the podium quicker than a jackrabbit on a date.

It isn’t just a lazy cliche’ to say that Burfict can do it all. Beyond being a huge (6-3/252), fast and instinctive ‘backer who’s the last guy that you want to see zeroing in on you in the open field, he also shows very good pass-rushing and coverage skills. Maybe most importantly, Burfict is a great leader. This factor won’t be lost on the Eagles, who have looked directionless (to put it nicely) this season. He needs to clean up his tackling technique and prove to scouts that he can harness his emotions on the field. (He didn’t take Matt Barkley’s dangling bait before, or during, the Sun Devils’ win over USC, so he may have turned a corner in that regard. The jury is still out.) I liken Burfict to a souped-up Bryan Cox.

14. Dallas Cowboys- Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama    This secondary has some issues. Terence Newman turns 34 next season and is incredibly expensive for an old guy with eroding skills who has trouble staying on the field. Mike Jenkins has been dinged up and remains inconsistent. The Cowboys obviously envision nickel back Orlando Scandrick as a future starter, judging by the six-year, $28.2 million deal they gave him recently, but I have my doubts. The Cowboys’ top three corners are all 5-10 or shorter, so the rangy, 6-3 Kirkpatrick would be a welcome addition.

I’m seeing mocks that have Kirkpatrick slotted as high as #5 (where Patrick Peterson was drafted), but his production simply doesn’t warrant going that high. After watching him struggle against Florida, I’m more comfortable with him coming off the board in the 10 to 15 range. Kirkpatrick’s high ceiling should appeal to Jerry Jones, who almost always drafts “big upside” guys in the first round.

15. Chicago Bears- Michael Floyd WR Notre Dame   I’m hesitant to mock a WR to the Bears in the first round.Chicago hasn’t had a 1,000 yard receiver since Marty Booker in 2002 (1,189), yet they’ve annually ignored this glaring need on Draft Day during that nine-year span of futility. (Mark Bradley is the only WR the Bears have drafted in the first two rounds since 2001.) However, I have no choice but to ignore this historical trend in the face of a perfect need/value match like Michael Floyd.

Undrafted rookie free agent Dane Sanzenbacher has been Chicago’s most reliable target outside of Matt Forte through four games. ‘Nuff said. Floyd has the size (6-3/227) to come down with jump balls and his open-field shiftiness and ability to do some damage after the catch would play well in Mike Martz’s system.

16. New York Jets- Courtney Upshaw DE/OLB Alabama   The Jets are in serious danger of falling behind the Pats, the resurgent Bills and the soon to be Andrew Luck-led Dolphins in the AFC East’s future pecking order, so they better be proactive in addressing their needs this offseason. No need is more crucial than at 3-4 OLB. Ten-year vet Bryan Thomas, a solid run-stopper who doesn’t bring much heat off the edge, is out for the season with a torn Achille’s tendon and is due to hit the open market in 2012. I doubt he’ll return. ROLB Calvin Pace is okay, but okay isn’t good enough when you’re 30 years old and count $4.585 million against the salary cap. Offensive coordinators seem to be wising up to Rex Ryan’s blitz disguises, so the Jets can no longer afford to mask Thomas and Pace’s pass-rushing limitations with smoke and mirrors. Younger, more athletic alternatives are needed.

Upshaw made a huge statement in Alabama’s destruction of Florida, taking an interception to the house and consistently blowing by future first round pick Xavier Nixon on the way to the QB. He has established himself as the top 3-4 OLB prospect in this draft. The Jets put a lot on the plates of their OLBs, but Upshaw’s size (6-2/265), athleticism, versatility, smarts and experience in Saban’s pro-style 3-4 should have him well-prepared to meet any task Ryan might throw at him as a rookie.

17. Oakland Raiders- Zach Brown OLB North Carolina   Thanks to a 2010 Draft Day trade with the Patriots and the acquisitions of QBs Terrelle Pryor and Jason Campbell, the Raiders won’t have another pick until the fifth round, so they better make this one count.

At 6-3/265, reclamation project Quentin Groves is an uncomfortable fit as a WLB. He’s a natural DE/OLB and is in the last year of his contract, so whether he stays or goes, Oakland should be in the market for a new starter on the weak side this offseason. Brown is an absolute blur on the field, with the speed and athleticism to chase down any ball-carrier and blanket receivers. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him run somewhere in the neighborhood of a 4.39 forty at the Combine.

The addition of Te'o might give the 'Skins the best, young linebacking corps in the NFL

18. Washington Redskins- Manti Te’o ILB Notre Dame   Starting ILBs London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh have been excellent this season, but Fletcher will be 37 next May and McIntosh, who has expressed frustration with his contract situation (he’s playing under a one-year tender), may look to cash in on the open market following this season. (How does a reunion with Gregg Williams in New Orleans sound?)

At an athletic 6-2/255, Te’o has the ideal size and skill set for a 3-4 ILB. A great leader and a heat-seeking missile who always seems to be around the ball, he could be a great interior complement to young OLBs Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.

19. Tennessee Titans- Michael Brewster C Ohio State   The Titans’ interior run-blocking is awful, especially C Eugene Amano. Why Tennesse gave him a 5-year, $26.25 million deal last year, I’ll never know. LG Leroy Harris is an undersized penalty machine and 30-year old RG Jake Scott is another one of those ex-Colts O-linemen who were overrated in free agency thanks to Peyton Manning’s excellence. He’s in the final year of his contract.

Brewster is a great leader and a ferocious run-blocker whose versatility would offer the Titans some flexibility when addressing the interior O-line this offseason. He could start at either guard position, or allow Amano to return to RG, where he’s a much better fit. Brewster’s size, versatility and intensity are similar to Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, who (coincidentally) coaches the Titans’ O-line.

Wisconsin‘s Junior C Peter Konz is getting a lot of well-deserved love recently and some think that he may already be a better prospect than Brewster. This obviously threatens Brewster’s first-round status. Whether Konz is better than Brewster is open for debate, but it doesn’t really matter, because I’d be surprised if Konz declares for the 2012 NFL Draft.

Wisconsin kids rarley enter the draft early. Of the 47 Badgers who have been drafted in the last decade, only five were underclassmen. Of those five, three were overrated RBs whose starting jobs were being jeopardized by emerging backups and were looking to cash in before they got lost in the shuffle (John Clay, P.J. Hill and Brian Calhoun), while the other two were DE J.J. Watt, who lost a year after transfering from Central Michigan, and CB Jake Ikegwuono, whose legal issues forced the matter. That’s it. If sure-fire first-rounders like Joe Thomas and Gabe Carimi stuck around for their Senior seasons, I doubt a center with a checkered medical past (including a blood clot in his lung) will come out early. I’m guessing that Brewster’s #1 center ranking and spot in the mid-to-late first round will remain safe.

20. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta)- Morris Claiborne CB LSU   The Browns are building a nice defense with burgeoning shutdown corner Joe Haden as it’s cornerstone, but they desperately need to find Haden a new partner in crime. Ten-year vet Sheldon Brown is running on fumes.

So far this season, Claiborne has emphatically answered any questions I had, like whether his productive 2010 2nd Team SEC season was just a result of the ample opportunities that come with playing opposite a shutdown corner like Patrick Peterson. He’s thrived in his new role as the #1 CB, and along with So. ball magnet Tyrann Mathieu, has spearheaded a National Championship-caliber defense in Baton Rouge. He’s left guys like Chase Minnifield, Alfonzo Dennard and Jayron Hosley in the dust in his rise up my CB rankings and has moved just ahead of Stephon Gilmore this week. Dre Kirkpatrick may want to watch his back.

21. San Francisco 49ers- Stephon Gilmore CB South Carolina   The ‘Niners’ front seven is playing lights out right now, but there are some serious problems in the secondary. LCB Carlos Rogers has been solid, but the free safety tag team of Madieu Williams and Dashon Goldson has been awful and RCB has been a mess with Tarell Brown struggling to keep his head above water in place of the injured Shawntae Spencer.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likes tall, physical corners who are solid in run-support. Gilmore is excellent against the run and at a rangy 6-1, fits Fangio’s preferred mold. Drafting Gilmore could trigger a “two birds with one stone” scenario in San Francisco. Gilmore would immediately upgrade the RCB spot, while allowing the 6-1 Spencer (who’s approaching thirty) to move inside to free safety, where his coverage ability and aggressiveness in run support could be a good fit.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers- Riley Reiff OT Iowa   The Steelers traditionally ignore need and take the best value on the board on Draft Day, but the situation along the offensive line has become so crucial that they may not have that luxury in 2012.

Upgrades are needed at every position on the line but center. Left tackle, where Max Starks and Jonathan Scott take turns kindly escorting pass-rushers toward Big Ben, would be the best place to start. Reiff is a durable, underrated athlete with the versatility to play anywhere but center. Watching him on tape, he seems to be a “bulked up” 300 lbs. and there are some pronounced technical glitches (surprising for a Hawkeye lineman), but he’s a hard worker who should only improve and carve out a solid, Jeff Backus-type career on the blindside. At worst, he could man the RT spot, allowing Marcus Gilbert to move over to RG. Good value.

23. Buffalo Bills- Ronnell Lewis DE/OLB Oklahoma   The Week Four letdown at Cincinnati was almost to be expected following the Bills’ monumental win over the Patriots, so I’m still aboard the Bills’ bandwagon, but that anemic pass rush scares me. Buffalo’s reason for throwing that 5-year, $28.2 million contract at 32-year old LOLB Chris Kelsay remains the NFL’s greatest mystery, and let’s be real…Shawne Merriman hasn’t been the same guy since he “shrunk”. New blood is needed at OLB.

Ronnell Lewis is blowing up this season. An elite two-way prospect coming out of H.S., he has settled in at DE after switching from LB and is emerging as a dominant force for the Sooners. A snot bubble hitter with great athleticism, he consistently gets into the backfield while showing the fluidity to drop into coverage. A natural fit as a 3-4 OLB, Lewis should continue to add good weight (currently listed at 6-2/244) and tear the Combine a new one. Academic issues reportedly have Lewis leaning toward early entry into the 2012 NFL Draft. There’s always a premium on pass rushers, so his great upside could land him in the mid-to-late first round.

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Janoris Jenkins CB North Alabama   36-year old Ronde Barber just keeps rolling along at RCB (Week Three NFC Defensive Player of the Week), but he has to slow down at some point…I think. The Bucs are high on young corners E.J. Biggers and Myron Lewis, but it’s unsure if either will ever emerge as a starter.

Janoris Jenkins (as expected) has dominated D2 competition since enrolling at North Alabama, regularly shutting down his side of the field and adding a Gulf South Conference Special Teams Player of the Week award for good measure. Widely considered a top 15 prospect at this time last year, the speedy Jenkins is an effective cover corner and a big play waiting to happen on defense and in the return game. If he keeps his nose clean and continues to perform at a high level, he could really tempt a brave GM like Mark Dominik towards the bottom of the first round. In his two years on the job, Dominik has showed no hesitation in taking on controversial players (Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers, Mike Williams, LeGarrette Blount).

25. San Diego Chargers- Mohamed Sanu WR Rutgers   The Chargers have more obvious needs than at WR, but if the notoriously frugal San Diego front office plays hardball with Vincent Jackson and slaps the franchise tag on him yet again, I have a feeling things could get ugly. Besides, are Malcolm Floyd (30 years old) and impending free agent Patrick Crayton (32 years old) really that great?

G.M. A.J. Smith has a penchant for drafting late-rising prospects. Sanu’s excellent speed, athleticism and versatility makes him a prime candidate to fly up boards during the predraft process. The Bolts could use a fast, diversifying element in Norv Turner’s offense and there’s a lot of upside with Sanu, a former safety who’s still learning the nuances of the WR position. His wheels make him a serious threat on plays designed to get the rock in his hands in the backfield (nine career rushing TDs).

26. Houston Texans- David DeCastro G Stanford   Houston’s offensive line has been very good this season, but the injury-prone tag team of Mike Brisiel and Antoine Caldwell at RG could be upgraded. Decastro’s great work ethic and motor should appeal to the Texans, who are traditionally very conservative and avoid character risks on Draft Day. Country strong and nasty, DeCastro wins battles with great leverage and fundamentals. He’s experienced in a pro-style WCO, so he should have no trouble sliding right into the starting lineup at RG in Gary Kubiak’s WCO/zone-stretch attack.

The big TE is turning heads with his athleticism in 2011

27. New York Giants- Dwayne Allen TE Clemson   Two things: 1) It’s beginning to look like we all buried Tom Coughlin and the Giants too soon, and 2) there might be a tight end drafted in the first round of the ’12 Draft after all.

The #8-ranked Clemson Tigers are college football’s biggest early-season surprise, thanks in part to the emergence of Allen as a productive, matchup nightmare. The 6-4/255 Junior already has 4 TDs in five games after finding the end zone just once in 2010. An excellent blocker who offers a lethal blend of speed and power, Allen is the rare, do-it-all TE. He would be the perfect addition to Kevin Gilbride’s offense, which is all about striking a balance between power running and the deep passing game. ’09 third-rounder Travis Beckum hasn’t developed as the Giants hoped he would and Jake Ballard is a stopgap solution, so Allen would represent a huge upgrade at TE.

28. Detoit Lions- Brandon Jenkins DE Florida State   Jeff Backus is finished. Franchise LTs never make it to free agency, so unless GM Martin Mayhew locates a bargain on the open market (Michigan native Joe Staley?) or makes a bold Draft Day move up for Jonathan Martin, Riley Reiff or D.J. Fluker, Detroit will either reach for a guy like Ohio State’s Mike Adams or stick to their recent M.O. and go BPA here. In my scenario, the BPA is Brandon Jenkins, and I’d say that a pass-rushing DE is at least a moderate need inDetroit, given Kyle Vanden Bosch’s advancing age, Cliff Avril’s impending free agency and the presence of divisional nemesis Aaron Rodgers.

With just two sacks through five games, Jenkins has cooled off considerably after a monster, 2010 1st Team ACC campaign (63 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 21.5 TFL). He’s often been overshadowed by emerging DE Bjoern Werner (Justin Smith 2.0). For now, I’ll assume that Jenkins is simply off to a good old-fashioned slow start, and that he’ll right the ship before long. He remains in my first round for now, but if he continues to only flash glimpses of last season’s dominance, he might be best off returning for his Senior season.

29. New England Patriots- Melvin Ingram DE South Carolina   Okay, Mr. Ingram, you have our attention.

While we’ve all been watching and analyzing DE Devin Taylor, waiting for the upside-laden Junior find some consistency and blossom into a first-rounder (he hasn’t), it’s his less-heralded Senior teammate who has dominated. Coming off an incredible game vs.Auburn(11 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks), Ingram has now won SEC Player of the Week honors three times this season. Amazingly athletic with an uncanny nose for the ball, Ingram (6-2/276) can play 4-3 base end, three-tech, five-tech or 3-4 OLB. That’s the kind of versatility that Bill Belichick loves. Ingram could replace 34-year old, one-year rental LDE Shaun Ellis, who has made little impact, or even push 30-year old Albert Haynesworth, who has (predictably) talked a lot but done nothing on the field during his short time in New England.

30. New England Patriots (from New Orleans)- Dont’a Hightower ILB Alabama    MLB Brandon Spikes, who looked so promising not too long ago, has suddenly become a mess, on and off the field. He’s in danger of losing his job to Dane Fletcher (?!) and of following fellow malcontent Brandon Meriweather out of town.

Hightower is finally fully recovered from a devastating knee injury suffered in 2009…and it shows. He can line up at any of the LB spots and really lays the lumber at 6-4/260. Well-schooled in Nick Saban’s 3-4, Hightower is an intelligent leader who could emerge as an effective, versatile chess piece in Belichick’s scheme.

31. Baltimore Ravens- Dwight Jones WR North Carolina  The Ravens seem to have finally found their deep threat in rookie Torrey Smith, but the aging Anquan Boldin has never really found his niche in Baltimore and is very expensive for a glorified over-the-middle target. Joe Flacco could really use a #1 WR with some size who can offer a reliable option in the red zone and occasionally get deep.

Jones’ late-season, 2010 emergence has carried over to this season. He’s improved his consistency and route-running this year, to the tune of 33 catches, 514 YDs (15.6 AVG) and 6 TDs in five games. At 6-4/225 with very good speed, Jones has #1 WR potential. I have a feeling that he will make a Hakeem Nicks-like push into the first round and may ultimately be drafted even higher than this.

32. Green Bay Packers- Jared Crick DE Nebraska   Crick was exposed a bit against Wisconsin’s mauling O-line, but I still think that he’s a late-first rounder. At 6-6/285, he’s not the type of DT who you want trying to clog up running lanes or fighting off double teams (which he saw against Wisconsin). His best position would be at the five-tech, where he could set the edge vs. the run, use his 6-6 height and long arms to knock down a few passes and get his team about six sacks a season with his relentless motor and crafty array of pass-rush moves.

The Packers could use a guy like Crick to help replace Cullen Jenkin’s interior pass rushing ability and provide some insurance against Ryan Pickett’s advancing age and Mike Neal’s injury woes. Crick is a Senior team leader with good character, the kind of prospect GM Ted Thompson often goes for in the first round.

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