Friday, February 17, 2012

NFL Mock Draft with Swagstein (Part I)

Welcome to the second annual NFL mock draft featuring Swagstein and TheSportsBanter (TSB).  We got great feedback last year so we figured we would try it again.

A few things about this mock:
-We are predicting what we would do if we had each of these picks
-We are not projecting any trades
-We will be doing a more detailed mock at some point in April before the draft
-We will alternate picks and comment on each other’s selections

First Round

1. (TSB) Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford - This is the first time since 2003 (Carson Palmer) where there has been such little suspense over who the top pick will be. I think Luck will be a very good pro quarterback, but as I’ve mentioned about a dozen times, I am not buying the John Elway-type hype.  He still warrants the top pick, but I’m a little nervous that most of his college completions went to tight ends and running backs. That has to be a little bit of a red flag, no?  He also has huge shoes to fill in Indianapolis trying to replace the 6’ 5” rocket-armed quarterback. Tough spot for the kid but being the top pick means you have the weight of the city on your shoulders. Will Luck be able to handle it?
Commentary (Swagstein): Couldn’t have worded this better myself, I’m on the same page. He will go number one without much doubt as we countdown to March 8th to see if he’ll be mentored by Peyton Manning or not, otherwise he’s going to Indy. Personally I don’t see why he’s so supplanted as the number one pick (for two years in a row, as he would’ve gone 1 last year if he came out) when it seems like he’s already hit his ceiling. I don’t see major upside here compared to someone like Cam Newton, but should be a solid starter in the NFL, just don’t expect Peyton Manning 2.0 because he’s not it.
Fans in Indy hope this #1 pick is closer to Elway than David Carr

2. (Swagstein) St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St. - I don’t think I’ve ever seen a WR this gifted in a long time. That sentence seems to be written by someone every year, but I’d apply it to Blackmon. The guy has been unstoppable at the college level, looking straight up overpowering at times and very impressive after the catch. He looks as NFL ready as you can be, and that’s precisely what Sam Bradford needs. Bradford undoubtedly regressed in his sophomore campaign and a lot of that had to do with the limited number of weapons he has to distribute the ball to. With Brandon Lloyd more than likely leaving in free agency, Blackmon will add a reliable target to an offense that is in desperate for a weapon in the passing game.
Commentary (TSB): Love the idea of getting your young quarterback a solid WR to rely on. Seems like it almost makes too much sense. As guys like AJ Green and Julio Jones come in and dominate from day 1, maybe we can debunk this stupid myth that it takes three years for wide receivers to make an impact. Bottom line: if you are a stud, you can be a stud from the minute you step on the field in the NFL. Blackmon has been compared to Dez Bryant (size, college, skills) without the attitude. Sign me up for 8-10 years of that.

3. (TSB) Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC - The Vikings went all-in on Christian Ponder last year picking him 12th overall. I’ve gone on record as saying I am not a believer, but with solid protection and some more weapons at his disposal maybe he can prove me wrong. With Blackmon off the board in this scenario, there are no wide receivers worthy of a top-3 selection so we will upgrade the line for CP. Regardless of whom they choose here, Minnesota’s season hinges on one thing: the health of Adrian Peterson. If AP is shelved for half of 2012, they can start planning for another top-3 selection next year.
Commentary (Swagstein): Reasoning is perfect here, their season is and always has been dependant on AP – however, healthy or not I don’t see it making much of a difference for this team. I expect them in the top 10 of the draft again next year and although Vikings fans don’t want to hear that, they’ll be really excited for 2013. Take Kalil here, let him and Ponder get a full year of experience, add a weapon in next year’s draft and this team can flip to a contender very fast. Remember Ponder didn’t have a full offseason in 2011 due to the lockout, so I expect him to only get better this season…. Again, it won’t mean much for Minnesota in the short term. Plan for 2013.

4. (Swag) Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor - I know everyone is pretty much sugar coating this, but it’s extremely obvious the Colt McCoy project has crashed and burned. He never was an NFL caliber quarterback, but he got a shot due to his success in college, but his size and arm strength just can’t get it done in the NFL. RG3 doesn’t have that problem, he may lack ideal height but very much like Michael Vick he can make up for it in a lot of other areas. The ability to stretch the field with his arm strength and pull the ball down and run with it present matchup nightmares for defenses. I think this is a lot like Cam Newton’s situation last year, amazing athlete but questions about his actual QB skills. Cam Newton’s 2011 season puts a lot of anxiety to rest and I don’t see the Browns passing up on RG3’s tremendous upside. I can actually see a Browns WR leading the team in receiving yards in 2012.
Commentary (TSB): I missed that memo that Colt McCoy’s head got reattached after James Harrison decapitated him. Even with McCoy put back together, the talent disparity between RGIII and Colt is laughable. Last year the Browns revamped their D. It’s time to revamp the O in 2012. Crazy prediction: Cleveland will win the AFC North this season. Pittsburgh is aging quickly, Baltimore will be suffering a Cundiff hangover, and Cincy has too many holes. Love this pick.


Is RGIII the next Michael Vick (minus the stint in jail)?

5. (TSB) Tampa Bay Bucs: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama - New coach Greg Schiano turned around Rutgers thanks to an elite running back (Ray Rice). I’m thinking he tries the same thing with this sinking ship in Tampa Bay. In a very Mark Sanchez-like way, QB Josh Freeman regressed badly last year after a promising sophomore season in 2010. Get him a weapon in the backfield and maybe we chalk 2011 up to being the exception as opposed to the rule. Two interesting facts about the 21-year old Richardson: he’s an elite-power lifter (Alabama strength coaches put a cap on how much he could bench), and he fathered two children while he was in high school.  Tough, strong, skilled, motivated dudes are exactly the kind you want to build around.
Commentary (Swag): Great summary right here. Love the pick, at the very least it alleviates Legarrette Blount from shouldering all the carries, he has a big body but can only take so many hits. Richardson would be a great compliment (Think an in his prime Brandon Jacobs and a more athletic and talented and non-prosthetic ankle’d Ahmad Bradshaw). I’ve never been on the Josh Freeman bandwagon, actually thought his 2010 season was a fluke, but if Mike Williams can stay healthy and the running game staying a big part of the offense, he has a chance to get better this season. The Bucs put together a solid draft for their defensive front last year (Remember Da’quan Bowers? He was their second DL selection), time to start building up weapons on the offense. Richardson should be an absolute stud in the NFL.

6. (Swag) Washington Redskins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa - The Redskins have glaring holes all over the offensive side of the football, but at this spot in the draft (and with no ability in our mock to trade up), they have to take what they can get. Reiff is someone that can make an immediate impact assuming the Redskins can grab a QB in free agency. The teams current right tackle Jammal Brown may not be back according to Mike Shanahan, who has been quoted as saying his future depends on his health… And Brown has been unable to stay healthy. With his contract offering no more guaranteed money, odds are he’s gone. With Trent Williams anchoring the left side of the line, Reiff can use his run blocking skills on the right to solidify a line that was anything but that for the past couple seasons. I think the Redskins are in desperate need of a playmaker and WR, but at this point in the draft there’s nothing available. In reality I see them either trading up or trading back unless RG3 falls in their lap.
Commentary (TSB): Full disclosure: I know very little about scouting offensive linemen. However, I watched Iowa play about three times on ESPN2 this year (which was three times too many)and again in their bowl game, and I don’t remember this dude sticking out. It could have been the fact that Big 10 football is painful to watch, but I’m not crazy about this pick. I agree the Skins need a playmaker (and a quarterback), but they could also use a cornerback. They have to face the Giants (Nicks-Cruz), Eagles (Desean-Maclin), and Cowboys (Dez-Austin) six times each season. I would have gone with LSU CB Morris Claiborne here.

7. (TSB) Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame  - The Jags are another team that butchered the 2011 draft when they took QB Blaine “Pretty Boy” Gabbert instead of an actual difference maker. Jacksonville has exactly one offensive player that would start on more than half the teams in the NFL: MJD. After that, they got nothing. Floyd is probably a reach here so I would like to see them trade down even if it meant losing Floyd and grabbing someone like Baylor WR Kendall Wright or South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffrey. But, if they are going to give Gabbert a chance to be fairly evaluated, they need to get him someone to throw the ball to. Floyd is a great athlete who has a chance to be a legit #1 receiver for this franchise.
Commentary (Swag): Very hard to argue with this selection. The Jaguars ranked 6th in total defense last year, that will usually produce a decent record with a mediocre offense…. Problem is that Jacksonville didn’t have a mediocre offense, they had an absolutely terrible offense. They ranked dead last in yards per game. A closer look shows a 12th ranked rushing offense… A rushing offense in the top half of the NFL yet a total offense that’s dead last? What was their passing offense 48th in the league? Might as well have been with Blaine Gabbert at the controls. Well they were in fact dead last in the NFL in passing offense, even behind Tim Tebow and the Broncos, averaging a shade over 136 per game. With Gabbert behind center I don’t see a WR, even as one as gifted as Floyd, making a difference. Unfortunately for Jaguar fans, this is your quarterback, and nothing in the draft is going to help with that. Better hope a full offseason can bring out whatever it is the front office saw in him that made them pick him 10th overall in 2011.

8. (Swag) Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina - This is a fun pick because Carolina shored up a lot of problems on offense by hitting a home run with their #1 overall pick last year in Cam Newton. The running game opened up for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart half way through the season as teams had to respect the pass as well as Newton’s legs. When you look to the other side of the ball you notice the Panthers at the bottom of the league in nearly every defensive category. Ask the NY Giants what gets you the most bang for your buck when needing to cover up a myriad of problems on defense – pressure. Coples is a beast at 6’6” and has the athleticism and length to play the edge in Carolina’s 4-3. Him opposite Charles Johnson (and his ridiculous contract) should make a nice DE combination. He’s rated as the #1 DE in the draft, and if he makes it to Carolina at #8 they should sprint up to Roger Goodell with the pick. Hometown product, should fit right in.
Commentary (TSB): Hard to argue with the pick. Coples has some off the field issues and has a reputation for taking plays off, but hopefully at the NFL level and being surrounded by the right people, he will get his act together.

9.    (TSB) Miami Dolphins: David DeCastro, G, Stanford - Quarterback might be the biggest need here, but taking a guy like Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill would be a reach since he was playing wide receiver two years ago. This team wants to win now which is why they will likely acquire their next starting quarterback via free agency, either Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning. If it is Peyton under center, Miami better protect him as one hit could end his career. Guard isn’t a sexy position to spend a top-10 pick on, but if you are going to be spending beaucoup dollars on a QB, you better invest in a line.
Commentary (Swag): Understand the logic here, but I can’t see a guard going in the top 10, just can’t see it. It’s a position that can be filled by a FA or an average player, especially if the team is trying to win NOW. No time for a rookie to get acclimated in a couple months to make any kind of significant impact, especially if he has to learn NFL terminology on top of Peyton Manning’s line of scrimmage language. Miami used their first rounder on a C/G in Mike Pouncey, I’ll say they go value here and get themselves a 3-4 OLB in Courteny Upshaw out of Alabama.

10. (Swag) Buffalo Bills: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College - 191 tackles. One hundred and ninety one tackles. Guy can flat out tackle. Was awarded the Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2011. Seems like the only thing he didn’t win was the Heisman. He was three tackles shy of breaking the FBS record for tackles in a single season, 13 tackles shy of breaking the FBS record for career tackles. Safe to say he broke the Boston College and ACC tackle record. That’s an impressive resume worthy of a top 10 pick, and the Bills are in need of a LB like this after seeing their own tackling machine Paul Posluszny escape in free agency after the 2010 season. Kuechly could stand to put a little more weight on his 6’3” frame to handle the middle in the NFL, but outside of that he has everything it takes to be the captain of a defense that ranked near the very bottom at stopping the run.
Commentary (TSB): That is impressive production out of a linebacker, and this defense was abysmal in just about every category so adding a guy like Kuechly will definitely help. They could also use a defensive end since they finished with the third-fewest sacks in the NFL last season, but I’m good with this pick.

11. (TSB) Kansas City Chiefs: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU - The Chiefs might lose CB Brandon Carr via free agency, and I think Claiborne would be a nice value pick here at #11. Kansas City’s pass defense was solid to begin with last season but adding MC and getting Eric Berry back might vault them to being the best in the league.   I was tempted to go with a defensive lineman here, but this franchise has spent too many high picks on that area (Glenn Dorsey, Tamba Hali, Tyson Jackson) that I don’t think they can stomach another one.
Commentary (Swag): Because the defense was solid even without Eric Berry, and to play devil’s advocate, I’ll look at the offensive side of the ball and say they’re in dire need of a vertical threat. Dwayne Bowe (if he returns) isn’t much of a vertical threat as it is, leaving an inconsistent (on and off the field) Jonathon Baldwin and a possession receiver in Steve Breaston. Wouldn’t be shocked if they looked to draft Kendall Wright out of Baylor to stretch defenses over the top. This will soften up the defense and should benefit a returning Jamaal Charles. If Claiborne is available at #11, that’s a steal.

12. (Swag) Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina - I think the Seahawks are desperate for a QB, but this is a hopeless spot in the draft for that. What I do see is a spot to get a pass rusher, which are shockingly scarce in this draft class. Chris Clemons has piled up 22 sacks the past two seasons, but where’s the help? Seattle had to use a 320-pound defensive tackle at DE last season in Red Bryant, along with two other DT’s on the field it created an impenetrable front – one of the best run defenses in the league… But that came at the expense of a pass rush. Ingram can help on the opposite side of Clemons and mix in and out with Raheem Brock, giving them a nice rotation of talent on the ends to keep them fresh on passing downs. In reality I’d imagine Seattle trying to move out of this spot and possibly drop back in the draft for a QB and a couple more picks. Wouldn’t be shocked if they looked for help at WR, possibly Ingram’s teammate Alshon Jeffery or Baylor’s Kendall Wright. I think Ingram presents much better value at this spot, though.
Commentary: Like you mentioned, this is a pretty strange spot in this draft. I won’t nitpick here because I think Ingram would help. He just doesn’t excite me although he is a pretty top-notch athlete as witnessed by this play:

Part II will be published on Tuesday or Wednesday.

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