Monday, December 12, 2011

Inching closer to the 2012 Draft

With 3 weeks to go in the 2011 season, the draft order picture is starting to shape up! Let's check in and see how the top 10 picks might play out based on current finishing projections.

1. Indianapolis - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Still a sure thing.

2. St Louis - Ryan Kalil, OT, USC
The Rams continue to slide and struggle with all aspects of their offense. It's clear they can't create an effective run block or protect Sam Bradford. Kalil is the top tackle in the draft and a complete package. Jason Smith's time on the team is probably coming to and end. This is a perfect blend of value and need.

3. Minnesota - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St
This will come down to how Blackmon grades out compared to Claiborne. It's hard to imagine the Vikings using the 3rd pick on a corner, and Blackmon seems like a sure thing from both a physical and mental perspective. I think the Vikings look to upgrade their offense and pair another playmaker with Percy Harvin.

4. Carolina - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
I still have Carolina picking an impact defensive playmaker here. They could use help in both run and pass defense, but top-5 picks are usually reserved for defensive linemen. Coples is the only such player grading out well enough. This pick may change a lot once the scouting cranks into full gear.

5. Cleveland - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
By all accounts, Richardson is a special talent. By all statistics, the Browns have no viable running back. They've had a 100-yard runner once this year, and haven't had a 50-yard rusher in half their games. Colt McCoy may not be in Cleveland's long-term plans, but he's passable. Cleveland could opt to pick up their favorite of the remaining 3 top passing prospects, but I think they're more likely to lock up a dynamic playmaker and make a move for a quarterback later in the 1st round with the pick they received from Atlanta in the Julio Jones trade.

6. Tampa Bay - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Buccaneers can't stop anyone on the ground or through the air. They've invested their 1st and 2nd round picks the last 2 years on their defensive line, so it's time to build elsewhere. Claiborne will the turn the page from the Aqib Talib chapter.

7. Jacksonville - Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina
The Jaguars have the worst passing offense in the league, averaging a disheartening 140 yards per game through the air. I don't see them bailing on Blaine Gabbert yet, though his rookie year hasn't had the upside of any of his peers; Newton, Dalton, Locker, and Ponder have all shown a lot more (the last 2 without much better support). Jeffrey is probably a reach here, so trading back should be high on the Jags' list of options, especially considering all the quarterback-needy teams clamoring for the next-best choice after Andrew Luck.

8. Washington - Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Redskins jump with joy to find an upgrade with the 8th pick. Grossman has upside and downside, and John Beck clearly didn't work out as Mike Shanahan had expected. It's time for the Redskins to move on, and this pick is perfect for them.

9. Philadelphia - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Eagles still have trouble along their line, and Martin is a great find with the 9th pick. He may not be as complete as Kalil, but he's an upgrade. This is a safe pick for them.

10. Miami - Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Just 5 games ago the Dolphins were in contention for Andrew Luck. Their recent run has been fueled by a defense that's suddenly shutting teams down. Matt Moore has provided decent but unspectacular play. Tony Sparano is gone and new leadership won't (and probably shouldn't) be loyal. They will be happy to find a highly-rated prospect available here.

I'm expecting at least one trade into the top-10 by a team looking for a quarterback, and another swap between top-10 teams. This will be a great draft to watch!