Tuesday, April 17, 2012

NFL: Mock Draft 2.0 (Part I)

Welcome to Mock Draft 2.0 presented by The Sports Banter - Swagstein combo. In this version, we will identify the players we would take if we were making the decisions for each of these teams. Occasionally, we will mention who the team might actually take but that’s not as much fun.  We will assume no trades, although it’s within our rights to suggest them.

Round One

1. Indianapolis (TheSportsBanter): Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford - At this point, the Colts have no decisions left to make. They have already released Peyton, they need a franchise quarterback, and Robert Griffin III refused to work out for them. Luck is the guy, and if the team were smart, they would sign him a couple days before the draft, which is legal under league rules, to create a buzz around Indy and hopefully sell some merchandise. They could be the focus of the NFL for a few days instead of just the 15 official minutes which they’ll be on the clock.

Swagstein commentary: Really not a lot else to say…. I agree, sign him already and end the suspense. If the Lions could sign Stafford before the draft without a rookie scale, I’m pretty sure the Colts can get this done.

2. Washington (Swag): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor - It’s a win/win for Washington, they’re going to get one of the top two QB’s in this class and there’s no pressure for them to make the decision – that burden belongs to Indianapolis. Of course these two will be compared for the rest of their lives, let’s just hope it ends better than the Peyton Manning/Ryan Leaf episode.

TSB commentary: This draft should just start with the third pick because everyone knows what’s happening with 1 and 2. Hopefully a decade from now, RG III isn’t staring 50 years in prison directly in the face a la Leaf.

3. Minnesota (TSB): Matt Kalil, OT, USC - Finally, this thing gets interesting. The Vikings spent last year’s top pick on QB Christian Ponder and used their next pick getting him a weapon at tight end, Kyle Rudolph. Minnesota can go in three directions here: trade down, take an offensive lineman, or take a wide receiver. If they could, I think they would trade down, but in this mock, that’s not a possibility. So, I’m going with the best offensive lineman on the board. Kalil will protect Minnesota’s top two assets: Ponder and RB Adrian Peterson (who should be back a few weeks into the season). I think he’s more of a sure thing than Justin Blackmon, a guy I’m very high on. I also gave Kalil the nod because in my estimation, it is easier to find impact wide receivers later in the draft. As a point of reference, of the seven offensive tackles in this year’s Pro Bowl, five were first round picks as opposed to just four of 10 wide receivers. I admit the sample size is small, but I think it’s still worth noting.

Swagstein commentary: I think that is worth noting because it’s a great point, and seems to hold water when you look around the league. You don’t find a lot of undrafted offensive lineman breaking out to become franchise record breakers like Victor Cruz. Offensive lines are built in the draft, usually not sexy picks, but when your RB is dominating the league you tend to appreciate them more.

4. Cleveland (Swag): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama - This pick is a little more difficult than it may seem. Trent Richardson is an immense talent, but the Cleveland Browns are lacking serious weapons. They have no WR’s that make plays, but also don’t have a QB capable of making them. I would say the war room is going to get a little heated on this one, you would love to have Richardson as a weapon in the backfield, but how long can your franchise go without a QB? Ryan Tannehill’s stock is sky rocketing, mainly because of team need instead of pure talent. I think he’s going to be more of a project considering he hasn’t been a QB all that long, but the tools are there. I think his upside dwarfs Colt McCoy’s who has virtually none, so I could see the Browns stopping to think here. Eventually they go with Richardson who fills a hole in their backfield while they wait another year for some sort of hope at QB as they kick themselves for whiffing on a deal with the Rams to take RGIII with the second pick. It has to be horrible being a Browns fan.

Trent Richardson, class act and soon to be face of a franchise

TSB commentary: Let me say upfront, I’m no Colt McCoy fan. However, he has never had a weapon at wide receiver at his disposal. In order to get a true read on how good (or terrible) McCoy is, I think the Browns need to give him an actual target, namely Justin Blackmon. Richardson is my favorite player in the draft so I can’t be too hard on the pick, but I think Blackmon is the better fit. One thing we can both agree on is that being a fan of any Cleveland franchise is a terrible fate.

5. Tampa Bay (TSB): Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU - I’m tempted to take Blackmon here to give Josh Freeman another weapon outside with Vincent Jackson, but this team has bigger needs elsewhere. Richardson would be a great fit if he falls this far, but the pick is Claiborne. Thankfully, you don’t need a high IQ to play in this league because my boy scored a 4 on Wonderlic, making him exactly twice as dumb as Vince Young. Quite an accomplishment. Claiborne is a shutdown corner and in a division with Roddy White, Julio Jones, Steve Smith, and all the targets at Drew Brees’ disposal, stopping the pass has to be the top goal for every defense. He is Ronde Barber’s heir apparent assuming Ronde actually retires one day.

Swagstein commentary: Solid pick for all above reasons stated.

6. St. Louis (Swag): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State - Not sure Sam Bradford could be any happier here, well maybe the entire St. Louis Rams organization. They trade back to number 6, get an extra first round pick for the next two years, not to mention additional picks and still get the guy they wanted at number 2. It’s a dream scenario for the Rams and if it plays out this way they will have orchestrated one of the greatest trade backs I’ve ever seen. It will be nice to see Bradford in his third year with a young talented WR like this at his disposal.

TSB commentary: Great point. Pretty amazing if this scenario came to fruition. They still get the guy they wanted, they pay him less than they would have, and they get an extra second rounder this year and first rounders in 2013 and 2014. This might be the best deal in sports since Bartolo Colon was traded for a combination of Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, AND Grady Sizemore.

7.Jacksonville (TSB): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame - Is this a reach? Probably, but this team needs playmakers. Laurent Robinson cannot be the number one receiver on a team contending for the Super Bowl. It just isn’t happening. Like the Browns with Colt McCoy, the Jaguars need to give Blaine Gabbert some talent in order to see what kind of player he is. Last year was an atrocity, but adding Floyd to the mix might get Sunshine back on track.

Swagstein commentary: Hard to disagree with this for a team that finished dead last or close to last in almost all passing categories last season. If this is looked at as a reach…. Do they trade back? Plausible Floyd is available in the mid teens, so wouldn’t be shocking to see them move. But I also think the Jaguars could use help along the defensive front, so wouldn’t be shocked to see them go there with their pick of the litter at pick number 7.

8. Miami (Swag): Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M - Like I said earlier, maybe not the big time talent you see when you get a QB in the top 10 (Unless we flash back to Blaine Gabbert), but Miami has no QB’s on their roster signed past this year. Take Tannehill, work with him for a full season, DO NOT PLAY HIM, and get him ready for 2013. I don’t think the Dolphins are one or two pieces away from a championship right now, let’s be serious, they can’t even contend for their own division…. That said, let him hold a clipboard, develop him, use patience, and for once have a QB you can use for the foreseeable future. He has a high ceiling due to the fact he’s so new to the position, but the raw skills are there. He could be a very solid NFL starter if the Dolphins can be patient and devote themselves to developing their new QB.

TSB commentary: If the move is to take Tannehill and groom him for the future, I’m ok with that. If the move is to draft him and start him from Day 1, Miami is in trouble. Tannehill has only played QB for two years and was pretty terrible against good defensive competition. Athleticism and arm strength can get you very far during individual workouts which is why he’s shooting up draft boards, but I need to see more production on the field before I give him the keys to the franchise.

9. Carolina (TSB): Michael Brockers, DT, LSU - The defensive side of the ball has to be the focus for the Panthers, but I’m not completely sold on Brockers, especially this high. I think he’ll be the best defensive lineman in the class, and he has some versatility (he can play the DT position or line up at DE). Like Tannehill, this is a pick based more on upside than on-field production.  

Swagstein commentary: I like Melvin Ingram here, just personal preference. But I agree defensive line is the way to go, and according to our draft it looks like they’ll have their choice of anyone they want. Good spot to be for Carolina.

10. Buffalo (Swag): Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College - Bills haven’t taken an offensive lineman since 2002, so what makes you think they do it now? Kuechly is an absolute machine and would be a fan favorite in Buffalo as the center of a vastly improved defense. This defense was near the bottom of the league against the run last season, they added Mario Williams to the line and with Kuechly in the middle this defense becomes very formidable. My pick a couple months ago for the Bills was Kuechly and it hasn’t changed. Staying here. If Michael Floyd was on the board I’d do a double take, but love this pick.

TSB commentary: The history of drafting linebackers in the top 10 is terrible, but it is very hard to argue with one of the most productive linebackers to ever play college football. He’s a tackling machine who looks like a model citizen off the field. If this is the route the Bills D is vastly improved. It’s not like the Bills had success in 2002 when they drafted Mike Williams, who ate himself out of the league.

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