2012 NFL Draft - 1st Round Analysis

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 27, 2012


Breaking down and analyzing every first round draft pick.



2012 NFL Draft

First Round


2012 NFL Draft Team Analysis - AFC
EAST Buffalo | Miami | New England | NY Jets
WEST Denver | Kansas CityOakland | San Diego
NORTH Baltimore | Cincinnati  Cleveland | Pittsburgh
SOUTH Houston | Indy | Jacksonville | Tennessee

2012 NFL Draft Team Analysis - NFC
EAST Dallas | NY Giants | Philadelphia | Washington
WEST Arizona | San Francisco | Seattle | St. Louis
NORTH Chicago | Detroit | Green Bay | Minnesota
SOUTH Atlanta | Carolina | New Orleans | Tampa Bay    

Round-By-Round Picks & Analysis Round 1 | Round 2
Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 | Round 6 | Round 7 

1 1 Indianapolis Colts

QB Andrew Luck, Stanford (Jr.) 6-4, 234
Overall Pick No. 1 CFN Overall Ranking: 1

CFN Analysis: Of course this is the right pick. Luck would’ve been the first overall pick in each of the last two drafts, and despite Indianapolis pretending to be interested in RGIII, this is the obvious, no-brainer, once-in-a-generation pick. Fortunately for the Colts, it’s a new generation after the Peyton Manning era. Unlike Cam Newton of last year, there’s no guesswork here. It’ll take a year or two for Luck to start looking like a franchise star – unlike Newton – but once the team starts to fill in around him. He’ll hold up well under the pressure of doing the impossible and filling Manning’s shoes and he’ll handle the rookie disappointments and struggles without a problem.

Anyone looking for a negative or a problem is nitpicking. No, he’s not the pro prospect that John Elway was coming out of Stanford, but he might be No. 2 on the list of all-time top sure-thing quarterbacks with just about every aspect of his game right out of central casting.

Everyone likes to hype up Robert Griffin’s tools, but at 234 pounds Luck proved to be every bit the athlete with a 36" vertical at the Combine, a solid 4.64 in the 40, and a quarterback-best 10-4 broad jump. However, it was his Pro Day that sealed the deal as the sure-thing, no-brainer No. 1 overall pick showing every throw in the book and answering any all mild concerns about his arm.

No, he doesn’t have a Brett Favre-like gun, but he can unleash it deep when needed and his arm is more than fine. However, he’s not really a power pitcher and he won’t be able to get away with the throws a quarterback with a true howitzer can make. Considering interceptions were a bit of a problem, he might struggle early on if he’s not precise and if his decision making isn’t crystal clear. The only other slightly negative aspect to note was his offensive line; he got ten days to work behind a front five with two first round talents in David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin. The offense was more geared toward the ground game than is might have seemed, but Luck had a lot to do with that thanks to a license to audible into any play he wanted. Again, the downsides are minor.

He’s a true once—in-a-decade quarterback to build an entire franchise around with the humility to not need the spotlight to himself – almost to the point of it being too modest - and the leadership to make everyone around him better. A let’s-go-to-work type of quarterback, he’s great at blowing off all the outside distractions with a Peyton Manning-like focus on the job at hand. The arm is more than fine, and it’s made better by a mind that sees the play two steps before it happens. Possibly the most ready-made pro quarterback ever – or at least since the last quarterback Indianapolis took with the No. 1 overall pick - there’s absolutely no bust potential and no downside whatsoever.
CFN Projection: No. 1 overall

2 2 Washington Redskins (from St. Louis)

QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor (Jr.) 6-2, 223
Overall Pick No. 2 CFN Overall Ranking: 4
CFN Analysis: And here starts the ride. RGIII has more question marks than it might appear, and he’s not the sure thing everyone is making him out to be, but he sure will be a fun player for the Redskins to work around. For a franchise that needs a new star and someone to be the main man, there couldn’t be a better spokesman. However, he has to make a major transition from the spread offense to what Washington is going to want to do, and now the pressure is on. Considering what the Redskins gave up, he has to win a Super Bowl or the pick doesn’t work.

Possibly the most athletic quarterback prospect in NFL history, he’s a world-class hurdler who started out his career as a dynamite playmaker who took off to make things happen. Over time he turned into a passer who just so happened to occasionally run, and the results were magical.

While he doesn’t have a cannon, he has an excellent deep arm with nearly perfect touch, uncanny accuracy, and the fearless stones to confidently push the ball down the field no matter what the situation. While he was one of the most efficient passers in college football history, he has to work on his short-to-midrange consistency and he has to be able to fit the ball through the eye of a needle. He spent his career connecting with the open man, and while his mobility will buy him time, he has to prove he can go from being a spread quarterback to a pro-style passer.

The basic tools are all there and he’s an interesting and unique physical prospect, but RGIII’s biggest asset is RGIII. An unquestioned leader, he has the type of magnetic personality and character that will make a team follow him blindly into the toughest battles. Smart, he doesn’t make mistakes and always seems to come up with the right read. Fiery, he has a passion for the game and the right attitude with no prima donna traits whatsoever.

For all his great abilities and with all his upside, he’s not the prospect that Andrew Luck is. He has to prove he can fit in a normal NFL offense and he might have a short shelf life if he plans on using his legs on a regular basis – he’s not built to take a beating like Cam Newton is. But he’s the type of quarterback a team will love to have as the franchise-maker, even if it takes him a little while to fit the mold.
CFN Projection: No. 2 overall

3 3 Cleveland Browns (from Minnesota)

RB Trent Richardson, Alabama (Jr.) 5-9, 228
Overall Pick No. 3 CFN Overall Ranking: 6

CFN Analysis: Cleveland wanted its guy and it moved up to get him. At the No. 3 pick he needs to become a feature workhorse back who becomes another LaDainian Tomlinson or Adrian Peterson. Can he last? Can he be a 25-carry, 16-game back? Unless the Browns have plans at some point to address the quarterback situation, he had better be the prepared to be the entire offense right away. On the plus side, though, the Browns didn’t give up all that much to move up one spot, giving Minnesota a 4th, 5th, and 7th.

It’s not a question of whether or not Richardson is a great talent; it’s a question of whether or not he’ll be worth a high draft pick in today’s day and age of interchangeable running backs.

Very quick, freakishly strong, and rocked up in perfect shape, he has all the tools. He might be a little shorter than some might like, and there’s no room to get any bigger, and he always seems to have a ding of some sort, but it’s all there to be a franchise back, and yes, if there’s any one back who might be worth a high pick, Richardson could be it.

He’s a natural, creative runner who can both flash to the outside and move and can crank out tough plays on the inside. While he’s not afraid of contact, that’s more of a problem at times because he takes a beating with knee problems a major concern for his shelf life. Anyone taking him high, though, will have to do its homework on exactly who he was great against with most of his stats coming against the mediocre. Of his 21 rushing scores last year, 14 came against teams that didn’t go bowling. However, he has all the skills to be an even better pro than a collegian with the talent to be used in a variety of ways including as a nice outlet receiver.

With the right attitude and character he’s not a diva and will do all the dirty work needed to get better, and he’ll love the idea of being a workhorse as long as he can hold up. Fine, so he’ll be overdrafted considering the position doesn’t matter like it did ten years ago, but that doesn't mean he won't produce.
CFN Projection: First Round

4 4 Minnesota Vikings (from Cleveland)

OT Matt Kalil, USC (Jr.) 6-7, 306
Overall Pick No. 4 CFN Overall Ranking: 3

CFN Analysis: Minnesota moved down one spot and got its man. Kalil is a left tackle who can sit on the line for the next ten years. Yes, of course you take the starting left tackle over the top corner or wide receiver, and Kalil is the rare athlete and talent who can be a fixture. If you believe Christian Ponder is the main man to carry the franchise forward, then you need to protect him. Kalil has almost no down side and should turn out to be one of the locks among the top five picks.

There’s a case to be made that a top-shelf left tackle is harder to find than a good quarterback, and while Kalil isn’t the overall prospect that Andrew Luck is, he’s a special prospect who is every bit as safe. When trying to put together an NFL offensive tackle, Kalil has tools and the talent to be in the Jake Long/Joe Thomas franchise-making mold.

If there were any question marks about his ability, they were all answered at the Combine with a nearly-perfect workout. He broke the 5.0 barrier in the 40; flew through the short drills; and coming up with an excellent 30 reps on the bench, even though he’s not quite built for the drill with his long arms. Not only does he have all the raw tools, but he also has the work ethic and the drive to continue to improve and continue to make himself into a star.

A fit for any system, he’s a good run blocker, great at getting to the second level, and a peerless pass protector; it’s all there. If there’s a downside, he’s not massive and he’ll always be more lean than thick. He’s not going to destroy his man as a power blocker, he might have a few problems against the bull rushers, and there’s nothing flashy about his style, but like all great tackles he goes long stretches without being noticed. Be shocked if he’s not a perennial Pro Bowl performer and the star of a line for at least the next decade.
CFN Projection: First Round

5 5 Jacksonville Jaguars (from Tampa Bay)

WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (Jr.) 6-1, 207
Overall Pick No. 5 CFN Overall Ranking: 15
CFN Analysis: Alright, Jacksonville; you gave Blaine Gabbert his target. The team desperately needed a No. 1 wide receiver, but Blackmon is no sure thing to be a superstar who can carry a receiving corps all by himself. He might turn out to be a stronger piece to the puzzle rather than a main man, but this was a must pick for a team that has to come up with playmakers. St. Louis has to be really, really ticked off by the Jaguars’ hustle.

One of the most productive receivers in college football history, he was keyed on by defense after defense, but it didn’t matter as he always found ways to get open and always fought his way to make plays. Extremely tough on the field, he’s looks physical and plays like it while also finding ways to keep working and keep moving to make sure he can be in a position to make something happen. But will he be able to muscle anyone in the NFL? No.

He’s not that big compared to the elite pro targets, and he’s a bit too short and not necessarily a blazer. He timed well on his pro day, but in today’s day and age of Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and receivers who are really, really big and really, really fast, Blackmon isn’t either one. Making matters worse, despite looking the part, he’s not actually that strong with an okay 14 reps on the bench at the Combine.

The problem is that he’s more of a good football player than an elite prospect, and he’s not going to be the type of receiver who can carry an entire pro passing game by himself. His numbers, while great, were inflated a bit by being in the Oklahoma State offense, and as Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, and until he plays a full season, Dez Bryant have proven, Big 12 receivers, while productive, get overdrafted. There’s little bust potential, but he’s a faster Anquan Boldin instead of a Megatron. In such a deep class of receivers, is he worthy of a top ten pick? No, but that doesn't mean he won't be terrific.
CFN Projection: First Round 

6 6 Dallas Cowboys (from St. Louis from Washington)

CB Morris Claiborne, LSU (Jr.) 5-11, 188
Overall Pick No. 6 CFN Overall Ranking: 9
CFN Analysis: Dallas saw Claiborne still on the table and moved up to grab the best corner in the draft. Considering the LSU star was on the table for Minnesota at the three, the six is good value for a need pick. The Cowboys love top defensive backs and they love playmakers, and while he’s not going to be another Deion Sanders, he could be the team’s best corner since Prime was taking away one side of the field. He’s going to erase one side of the field and there will be a ton of second-guessing in Tampa Bay if he turns out to be special.

It’s easy to focus on what he’s not. He’s not huge, he’s not Patrick Peterson, and he’s not lightning fast. He has good wheels, but he’s not a blazer who won’t be a sure-thing shutdown defender against the speedier receivers. The lack of leaping skills won’t make up for his okay height, and struggled in the short drills at the Combine. To add to the concerns, he’s also not good at the Wonderlic, scoring a miserable, hard-to-do-even-if-you-tried 4, and he’s not all that great against the run and isn’t all that physical against the bigger targets. However, he has a great frame, is smooth as silk, and he never had any problems against SEC receivers. Able to stand out even on a team full of defensive stars, he’s a playmaker with most of the tools to handle himself without a problem on an island – fine, his speed is good enough. Better on the football field than in workouts, he’ll be just fine in any system and in any secondary with great ball skills and an uncanny knack to make the big plays at the right times. Forget about the Wonderlic; he’s a good guy and won’t give anyone any issues. There aren’t any of the typical prima donna issues most elite corners have.
CFN Projection:
First Round

7 7Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Jacksonville)

S Mark Barron, Alabama (SS) 6-1, 213
Overall Pick No. 7 CFN Overall Ranking: 13
CFN Analysis: Everyone wanted Mark Barron. Dallas wanted him, but wasn’t going to pay the high price to take him. Name the team and it wanted the best safety in the draft. Not only is Barron the best safety, he’s the best safety prospect by a ten-mile wide margin. The Tampa Bay defense needed a defensive back, and while Morris Claiborne was there for the taking have the Bucs stayed put, Barron is a good value pick at a position that doesn’t value safeties all that high.

One of the few top-shelf safety prospects in the draft, he’s a premium prospect even if he isn’t quite considered one on most draft boards. With excellent size, he hits like a linebacker and is terrific in run support, however, he also covers like a linebacker from time to time and might only be able to work at strong safety. He has decent speed for the position, but he’s not going to fly all over the field and he’ll be at his best when he gets to play closer to the line. Forget about him when it comes to man coverage against the speedier receivers, but he’ll provide good help and will be in the right position at the right time to make a slew of big plays and interceptions. No, he’s not going to be another Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, but he’ll be ready right out of the box and should be a good leader and key part of a secondary for a long, long time.
CFN Projection: First Round

8 8 Miami Dolphins

QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M 6-4, 221
Overall Pick No. 8 CFN Overall Ranking: 28
CFN Analysis: Everyone wants to dog the pick and everyone wants to worry about what Tannehill isn’t. Yes, the No. 8 pick is a big reach, and yes, he needs at least a year or two of seasoning, but almost every rookie quarterback needs a year or two. He’s not going to be Andy Dalton out of the box, but there’s tremendous upside if Miami is patient enough expect him to start paying off in 2014. The Dolphins desperately need to finally solidify its quarterback situation, and instead of rolling the dice on the 2013 class, they’re going to be a year ahead of schedule in the development. At least that’s the hope.

Easily the biggest X factor in the draft, outside of way-too-small 9" hands he has all the tools and all the abilities of a prototype NFL starter. The arm is good enough to put the ball all over the field; there’s a nice touch on his deep passes; and he’s a great leader who had the respect of his teammates and coaches. Throw in the wide receiver athleticism – he started out his career as one of the team’s top targets while waiting his turn – and he has it all. However, his draft status is almost all built around projection. He can’t be the starter from Day One if someone wants to win right away, and he’s going to need at least two years of lump taking before there’s a payoff, if there’s a payoff.

Every year there’s a player who gets moved up the draft boards because he should be good, but it’s almost as if scouts are trying to make him a better prospect than he really is. Yes, he provided a spark in 2010 and saved the season, but he threw way too many interceptions last year and wasn’t ever accurate enough or consistent enough. The stats were great, but he was almost never clutch for a team that collapsed in fourth quarter after fourth quarter. He’s a huge risk who’ll set a franchise back years if he doesn’t pan out, but quarterbacks with his upside are hard to find.
CFN Projection: Top Ten Overall

9 9 Carolina Panthers

ILB Luke Kuechly, Boston College (Jr.) 6-3, 242
Overall Pick No. 9 CFN Overall Ranking: 5

CFN Analysis: Carolina has its quarterback for the defense for the next several years. A rock in the middle, he’s great pick. However, the Panthers needed to find a defensive tackle and passed over Dontari Poe and Fletcher Cox for a linebacker who can do just as much for the run defense, but now the Panthers have to address the D line and the corner situation next. There’s no arguing, though, with a player who’ll be one of the top five tacklers in the league right away.

A tackling machine, he has been among the best linebackers in college football over the past three years, but it wasn’t until last season until he finally started to get his just due and recognition. He doesn’t miss stops when he gets to a ball-carrier and he’s always, always, in the right position at the right time. His instincts are peerless and he’s the type of leader and worker that every coach wants to have. There were some concerns about his overall athleticism, but he answered those at the Combine showing enough quickness and speed – he was among the best linebackers in the short drills - to make everyone happy while doing it at a beefed up 242 pounds. Throw in the 27 reps on the bench, and he put it all together to be a top 15-caliber pick. The only downside is that this is it. He’s not going to get bigger, faster, or much stronger, and while some might think about putting him on the outside, he’s an inside linebacker. That should be just fine, though, as he’ll be a longtime defensive mainstay and anchor.
CFN Projection: First Round

10 10 Buffalo Bills

CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina 6-1, 190
Overall Pick No. 10 CFN Overall Ranking: 61
CFN Analysis: The Bills are loading up on defense. The line is emerging as one of the best in the AFC, and now it’s time to beef up a secondary that needed a corner. The tools are all there, and he was projected to go by many in the top 15, but with so many offensive tackles on the board the Bills could be questioned if they don’t help the offensive line soon. This isn’t a reach, but he had better be phenomenal to be worth the pick.

Fast, athletic, and big, he has all the tools and looks the part of a No. 1 cornerback. At 6-1 he has great size to go along with 4.4 speed, terrific quickness, and solid leaping ability. A workout warrior, he’s the type of corner that everyone sees move, jump, and run, and then falls in love. A good tackler, he’s more than willing to step up and make a stop when he needs to, and he’s not going to shy away from being physical. However, while he works out well, he doesn’t always play like it on the field and he lacks the finer points and techniques. He’ll tackle, but he also gets flattened and gets blocked a bit too easily. But the speed, size, and upside are all too great to not take a chance on somewhere in the top 50. If patient and with a little bit of tweaking, some team could be getting an elite talent.
CFN Projection:
Second Round

11 11 Kansas City Chiefs

DT Dontari Poe, Memphis (Jr.) 6-3, 346
Overall Pick No. 11 CFN Overall Ranking: 7
CFN Analysis: This is the chance at greatness. Call this a chance worth taking; if he busts, there’s no blaming the Chiefs for taking a shot at the stars. When a player this big, this strong, this athletic, and with this much upside is on the table at the No. 11, you have to go with him. Great defensive tackles are worth their weight in gold, and if Poe can bring it and if he can be consistent, the potential is there to be a ten-year anchor at a high level.

Forget about the quarterbacks; Poe is the biggest call in the draft. His skills, upside, and talent are so great that no team will be faulted for taking him too early, and several general managers are going to have to answer why they didn’t go with a potential franchise-making talent. Massive, he’s a true space-eater with the inside presence to swallow up everything against the run and become an anchor for everyone else to work around. Quick for his size, he’s stunningly athletic and could be used as a 3-4 end depending on the situation. With 44 reps on the bench at the Combine, strength isn’t an issue and he should collapse the pocket on a regular basis. However, he didn’t exactly sit on quarterbacks’ heads during his Conference USA career and wasn’t the superstar force he should’ve been in a mediocre league. Even so, this is a once-every-ten-years prospect tools-wise, but it might take a little bit of seasoning to unleash a superstar.
CFN Projection: First Round

12 12 Philadelphia Eagles

DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State (Jr.) 6-4, 298
Overall Pick No. 12 CFN Overall Ranking: 8
CFN Analysis: Few players shot up the draft board faster. Cox was one of the highest risers the more teams started to examine the back half of last year. Very athletic and very strong, he can fit a variety of roles for an Eagle defense that really, really needed help on the defensive front. Philly could’ve stayed put and gotten a strong defensive tackle, but it made the move to get its guy.

While other tackles might have a greater upside, and there are some phenomenal specimens others will take a chance on, Cox has the potential and the talent to be the steadiest all-around playmaker of any of the prospects. While he’s not massive, and he doesn’t have too much room to get any bigger, he’s a tremendous interior pass rusher with stunning quickness and the cut-on-a-dime ability of a speed end. Perfect for a 3-4 line, he’s going to be asked to get into the backfield and shine, but he might need a massive anchor on the nose. He’ll be okay against the run, and he might be a bit of a finesse defender from time to time, but there’s a high floor on his abilities and there’s almost zero bust potential.
CFN Projection: First Round

13 13 Arizona Cardinals

WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame 6-3, 220
Overall Pick No. 13 CFN Overall Ranking: 17
CFN Analysis: Is Larry Fitzgerald the general manager? He wanted more offensive weapons to take the heat off, and he got one in Floyd who’s in the perfect position. He’s a No. 1-caliber wide receiver who doesn’t have to be No. 1. All he has to do is handle single coverage and go get the ball when it’s thrown in his general direction. Arizona might have wanted Fletcher Cox, but this is hardly a bad consolation prize.

Tall, fast, and a great playmaker, he’s a true No. 1 target with all the tools to fit the prototype. While he can blow past corners, he’s also not afraid to get physical and he’s great at being able to fight for the ball and outmuscle defenders. The concern going into the Combine and the offseason was that he wasn’t going to time fast, and then he ran in the 4.4 range to quiet all doubters and raise up his stock. He might have timed fast, but he’s not lightning quick and he’s not a sharp cutter. Durability concerns are valid with a variety of issues to drop him down a bit, but the big red flag comes from the drunk driving issues that cast a cloud over his career. Even with the character questions he’s not considered a bad guy, and he appears to be well past the poor decisions with the make-up and the smarts to be able to handle the weight of being a main man for a passing attack. While there are risks, and he can’t be counted on to last a full 16 season without missing at least a little bit of time, he’ll be a good value late in the first round compared to where Justin Blackmon will be taken.
CFN Projection: First Round

14 14 St. Louis Rams (from Washington)

DT Michael Brockers, LSU (Soph.) 6-5, 302
Overall Pick No. 14 CFN Overall Ranking: 23
CFN Analysis: How badly did St. Louis get pantsed by not getting Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd? The Rams traded their way into the abyss and didn’t get a desperately needed wide receiver and didn’t target another huge need, offensive tackle. Brockers is a big-time prospect with tremendous upside, but he’s hardly a finished product and needs to grow into a pass rusher. This is a huge boom or bust pick that could be a disaster considering what the Rams needed to do in the first round.

There’s a lot of work to be done and there are downsides, but he has the quickness and the versatility to become a major factor in a variety of defenses. He was a dominant force in the SEC wars and turned into an anchor of one of the nation’s best run defenses, and while he could sit on the nose if needed, he’ll be terrific as a 5-technique and can be used in several ways. Very big, very athletic for his size, and with a perfect frame, he’s already big and still has room to add good weight without losing a thing. While he was awful at the Combine, he picked it up at his pro day and showed he could do everything an NFL defensive coordinator could want, but that’s part of the problem; can he be consistent? Does he have the maturity and the fire to step up and do the work needed to be special? There’s a limitless upside, but buyer beware with major bust potential if he doesn’t take on a pro attitude.
CFN Projection: First Round

15 15 Seattle Seahawks (from Philadelphia)

OLB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia 6-3, 245
Overall Pick No. 15 CFN Overall Ranking: 66
CFN Analysis: Uhhhhh, huh? Over Melvin Ingram? With the 15? Irvin is a nice prospect and he’s a good player, but he’s not worth a top 15 pick. Seattle probably could’ve traded down – way, WAY down – and now the second guessing will begin. The Seahawks needed a hybrid pass rusher, and they got him. But they paid an extremely steep price to do it.

Irvin is really more of a defensive end than a true outside linebacker, but he’ll be at his best as 4-3 rusher. Phenomenal at the Combine, he cranked out a blazing 4.44 even after adding ten pounds of good weight. Throw in his tremendous athleticism and he’s an elite pass rushing prospect with a great burst off the ball. Out of all the outside linebacker/end, tweener types, he’s among the most dangerous playmakers who’s always working to make things happen. Anyone thinking he can be a true end will be disappointed – he can’t get any bigger – and he might only be a specialist and not an all-around playmaker, but he could light up the stat sheet if turned loose. There’s little bust potential as long as he’s expected to get to the quarterback, and that’s it.
CFN Projection: Third Round

16 16 New York Jets

DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina 6-6 284
Overall Pick No. 16 CFN Overall Ranking: 10
CFN Analysis: If there’s one team that’s perfect for Coples to play for, the Jets might be the right fit. All he needs is to get his butt kicked and be coached up right, and he’ll get that with Rex Ryan and his staff. All he’ll be asked to do is attack, attack, attack, and the Jets will get that out of him. The upside is tremendous – he has top five overall talent – and this is a good spot to take the chance. A bust at 16 isn’t the end of the world; a bust at the five is a killer.

Very big, very strong, and versatile enough to be used as an end in a 4-3 or a 3-4, he can handle himself in just about any situation without a problem. With the prototype body and bulk, he can hold up well against the run and is enough of an athlete to get into the backfield. No, he’s not a speed rusher, but he’s great when he gears up and he’s able to put the clamps down when he’s on a quarterback. It’s all there, but how bad does he want it? He’s the type of player who could come up with phenomenal sack numbers by making one big play a game but not doing much else the rest of the time. There’s no questioning his talent and there’s no doubt he’s an elite prospect on pure tools, but he’s going to need a strong head coach who isn’t afraid to do some pant-kicking. If he wants it, he’ll be a perennial Pro Bowl performer who dominates a defensive front. If the intensity isn’t there, he’ll be decent, but maddening.
CFN Projection: First Round

17 17 Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland)

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (Jr.) 6-2, 186
Overall Pick No. 17 CFN Overall Ranking: 37
CFN Analysis: This is just so … so … Cincinnati. There’s a world of talent, but there are also plenty of big issues and concerns with his off-the-field attitude and demeanor. Can he handle the responsibility of what he’ll be asked to do? He HAS to be a key starter right away for a Bengal secondary that needs help right away, and if he can mature a bit and if he can take on the challenge, this will fill a big need.

Build like a safety but with corner skills, he’s quick for his size and has just enough speed to get by. No, he’s not a blazer and he’s not a 4.4 guy, but he’s an athlete who’s even bigger with good jumping ability. While he’s not the most consistent tackler, he’s an intimidating force when he gets the chance and he’s a willing hitter who won’t shy away from contact. While he’s a great talent and was a star recruit among star recruits, he was also surrounded by a ton of elite talents and he didn’t have do too much work on an island. That’s part of the reason for his paltry three career picks, but there’s a concern that he’s just not that much of a playmaker. With enough talent to be a good, solid, long-time starter, he has to keep his attitude in check and he has to prove he’s willing to work for it and make good decisions both on and off the field. Getting nailed for marijuana possession in January when the NFL spotlight was on wasn’t exactly the brightest of moves. Even with the concerns, there are enough positive to take a chance on him somewhere to the mid-to-late second round.
CFN Projection:
Second Round

18 18 San Diego Chargers

DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina (OLB) 6-2, 265
Overall Pick No. 18 CFN Overall Ranking: 11
CFN Analysis: Perfect. After misfiring on Larry English, the Chargers have been looking for a Merriman-like pass rusher to fill the void on the outside. A terrific value pick for a defender with top ten overall talent, he’s a disruptive force and a pass rusher who makes big things happen. With his bulk, size, and athleticism it’s all there to be a special playmaker who’ll go to the right team at a great time. This is a phenomenal value pick.

The guy makes things happen. He might not have the right body type, and he might be a bit of a tweener without a defined position, but whether he’s at outside linebacker, a 3-4 end, or as a 4-3 speed rusher, he’s going to get behind the line and he’s going to be disruptive. Smooth as silk, he cuts and flows like a much smaller player, but there’s nothing finesse about his game. He’ll take on bigger blockers and he’ll fight to make a play. The main concerns are about appearances. He’s a bit too short, a bit too squatter, and he looks more like a pumped up linebacker than a true end. There’s also the question about the résumé with just one really strong year to go on. There’s a spot for him in just about any defense, but it’s going to take some out-of-the-box thinking to figure out exactly what to do with him.
CFN Projection: First Round

19 19 Chicago Bears

DE Shea McClellin, Boise State 6-3, 260
Overall Pick No. 19 CFN Overall Ranking: 113

CFN Analysis: Ugh. He was one of the highest rising prospects over the last few days, he’s a pass rusher for a defensive front that’s getting old in a hurry at linebacker and needs more defensive end help to go along with Julius Peppers. The Bears needed defensive linemen and didn’t go for a tackle, and they need another receiver and didn’t go after Kendall Wright, and not the pressure is on new GM Phil Emery to have nailed this pick. There’s talent and potential, but it’s still a bit of a reach. .

Versatile with a good skill set to work as an outside linebacker as well as an end, he has the fire and the fight to produce anywhere he plays. After bulking up a bit he’s better built to be a 4-3 end with the ability to stay on the field for all three downs. He doesn’t miss a tackle and he’s great at chasing down ball-carriers. While he’ll battle and he should be stronger at the bigger weight, he has to become functionally stronger and better in the weight room to hold up for a full 16-game season. Not quite athletic enough to be a starting linebacker and with average end skills, he might be a bit overdrafted considering his worth will be as a backup in several spots. Even so, every coach will love his effort and will wish the rest of team could play with the same intensity.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

20 20 Tennessee Titans

WR Kendall Wright, Baylor 5-10, 196
Overall Pick No. 20 CFN Overall Ranking: 48
CFN Analysis: The offense needs playmakers to help out Jake Locker, and Wright showed enough during his pro day to work into the first round. However, is the Combine speed more indicative of his upside and talent? He looked great on the field in an offense that jacks up the stats, but while he might not be a No. 1 target he should be a nice piece of the puzzle. You don’t go for nice pieces of the puzzle at the 20.

Someone had to be on the other end of the Robert Griffin deep passes. Wright was a disaster at the Combine struggling to hit the 4.6 mark, and while he plays faster and was much, much better at his pro day, the Indy workout was still a big concern. A great athlete who’s as smooth as silk, he’s a finesse target who can hit the home run from anywhere on the field. Shifty, he cuts on a dime and can get into the open with one move. While he’s not a physical receiver, he can take a shot and doesn’t wilt. Was he that good or was he a part of a Baylor system that inflates numbers? It might have been a little bit of both, but the biggest problem is his lack of size and bulk among the top prospects. The frame isn’t there to add more weight and he’ll never block anyone, but that won’t be his job. There’s still room to improve and there’s even more upside to his game after a great college career, and with the want-to and the No. 1 receiver attitude he should be a dangerous pro.
CFN Projection: Second Round

21 21 New England Patriots (from Cincinnati)

DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse (Jr.) 6-5, 266
Overall Pick No. 21 CFN Overall Ranking: 114
CFN Analysis: The Patriots really, really need pass rushers, and while Jones might be a top all-around talent. There might concerns about his knee and he might be more of a project than a polished prospect coming out of the box, but he’ll be asked to get into the backfield right away for the Patriots at a spot where he can claim a starting job from Day One.

Athletic, he’s tall, lean, and moves like a basketball player with a smooth ability to move around the edge. This might be just the start with a frame that can easily handle another ten pounds of good weight and be just as effective. Eventually, getting bigger is a must – he has to camp out in an NFL weight room - considering he’s missing the raw speed to fly around the edge. While he brings the effort and he’ll work to get better, he’s not all that physical and he could use a bit more bulk to end up as a 3-4 end. Likely to be overdrafted, he’ll be a good player, but someone is going to be hoping for an elite pass rusher will probably be disappointed.
CFN Projection: Second Round

22 22 Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta)

QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State 6-4, 221
Overall Pick No. 22 CFN Overall Ranking: 54
CFN Analysis: He’ll be a sitting duck in the pocket and he has to start NOW for the pick to work, but Cleveland has its backfield and has upgraded its offense in a huge, huge way with Trent Richardson at the three and now with Weeden. The Browns needed big-time players to try to create more of an identity, and now they have one. No, there’s no quarterback controversy. Weeden needs to be the starter from the second the wheels touch down.

Way too old – turning 28 turning the season – way too immobile, and with no time whatsoever to season, there are plenty of reasons to stay away. But for a team that could use a ready-made passer to step in and make a good offense sharp right away, Weeden could be the readiest of all the quarterback prospects. A professional in his demeanor with years as a minor league baseball player on the résumé, nothing fazes him. The arm is terrific, the motion is quick, and he’s deadly accurate, but he’s not going to move and will end up taking some huge shots. More than anything else, though, this is it. He might be a perfect No. 2 quarterback who can save a season by stepping in and producing for five games, but he has the talent, the arm, and the intangibles to make a difference right away.
CFN Projection: Third Round

23 23 Detroit Lions

OT Riley Reiff, Iowa (Jr.) 6-6, 313
Overall Pick No. 23 CFN Overall Ranking: 14
CFN Analysis: Nice, NICE pick considering in late March he was considered by some to be a possibility at the three to Minnesota. He might need a little while to pan out at left tackle, but he’ll be a right tackle immediately and should be a fixture for a long time. The Lions need help in the secondary and the really, really need a running back, but there’s no arguing with getting a potential franchise tackle in the 20s.

Upside, upside, upside. With a nice frame and more bulk added, to go along with good athleticism and great feet, he has turned into the hot prospect who flew up draft boards all off-season. He still needs to get a bit bigger, stronger, and better, and he’ll do all the dirty work needed to become special. With tight end smoothness and good functional strength, he’s a pure left tackle who can start out on the right side before eventually being an anchor. However, he’s more of a top prospect than a proven performer with a big need to hone his technique and to become more of a mauler. He’s not a finesse blocker, but he doesn’t stand out as blocker who’ll destroy the man in front of him. With his size and pass blocking potential, he’s going to be in a Pro Bowl at some point, but it might take a year or three to get where he needs to be.
CFN Projection: First Round

24 24 Pittsburgh

OG David DeCastro, Stanford (Jr.) 6-5, 316
Overall Pick No. 24 CFN Overall Ranking: 2
CFN Analysis: This is why the Pittsburgh Steelers are the Pittsburgh Steelers. The offensive line fell off the map last year with Ben Roethlisberger getting whacked around, so what does Pittsburgh do? It gets the sure-thing guard to plug-and-play from Day One. DeCastro is the perfect fit for the perfect team for him, and when all is said and done, this could go down as the best value pick of the draft.

Possibly the safest offensive lineman in the draft, he’s a dominant force and a pounder of a run blocker who was one of the key parts to the Stanford offensive machine. No, he’s not a tackle, and yes, no one drafts guards high, but he’s worth the price and can’t be overdrafted if he falls outside of the top ten. Consider it a complete and total stunner if he’s not a ten-year starter at the highest of levels, and be floored if he’s not a perennial Pro Bowl performer. A dominant force, there are few weaknesses. Ready out of the box, his technique and feet are nearly flawless and he knows how to both pass protect and run block equally well. Athletic, smart, and with the right attitude, it’s all there to be dominant for a long, long time. Fine, so he’ll play a relatively light 315 pounds, and he’s a bit more of a finesse blocker than a throw-you-in-the-fifth-row type of blow-up hitter, but this is a special prospect who’ll make some quarterback very, very happy.
CFN Projection: First Round 

25 25 New England Patriots (from Denver)

ILB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama (Jr.) 6-2, 265
Overall Pick No. 25 CFN Overall Ranking: 25
CFN Analysis: He’s the type of player who seems to do very, very big things for New England. He doesn’t really fit anything the Patriots do on defense, that finding ways to use talent has never been a problem for Bill Belichick. Considering the defense needed a defensive end and an outside linebacker coming into the draft, it’s coming out of the first round with both grabbing Chandler Jones and now Hightower. This should be an instant upgrade for a defense that needed just a slight tweaking.

Big, strong, and nasty, he’s built to be a rock against the run and to stuff things up on the inside. Tough as nails, he eats up everything that comes his way with an intimidating style that should make him a force. Smart on the field, he always knows where to be at the right time and he always seems to be in the right position to make the key play at the right time. A part of some phenomenal defenses, he got a lot of help surrounded by a slew of top-shelf talents, but he was the leader on the lot. Athleticism will be a problem – which wasn’t helped with a torn ACL a few years ago - and he has to watch his weight. Not really a lineman, and not built for the outside in a 3-4, he’ll need things funneled his way more often than not. However, he’ll be a perfect run stopper on the inside of any defense and could grow into a statistical star.
CFN Projection: First Round

26 26 Houston Texans

DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois (Jr.) 6-3, 254
Overall Pick No. 26 CFN Overall Ranking: 19
CFN Analysis: The Texans might have lost Mario Williams, and now Mercilus could be a terror working on the other side of J.J. Watt. The defense has its bookend pass rushers, and while he might need to do more against the run, and while he might be nothing more than a pure pass rusher right away, there’s outstanding potential. Houston has other needs, but there’s no complaining considering the sudden concerns on the defensive front.

A tremendous pure pass rusher, he was dominant throughout last year even when teams tried to figure him out and key on him. Even when the Illini went into the tank as a team, he kept fighting and kept pushing. A great closer, when he has a ball-carrier or a quarterback locked in, it’s over, and he’s rarely a half step late. There’s no fear about effort; he brings the push every snap and is a good leader. However, he might be a specialist. He’s not going to hold up against the power running teams and he’s only built for the outside in 4-3. The other major problem is his history with just one phenomenal year. There were always hints he could become special, but it didn’t all kick in until 2011. He might not be ready out of the box for anything other than getting into the backfield, but he might Jason Pierre-Paul-like, needing to spend a year or so figuring it out before blowing up.
CFN Projection: Second Round

27 27 Denver Broncos (from New Orleans from New England)

OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin 6-4, 314
Overall Pick No. 27 CFN Overall Ranking: 40
CFN Analysis: It’s a slightly strange pick. Cincinnati needs guards, but it also needs wide receiver help and could use a defensive end. Even so, Zeitler is a solid prospect who has low bust potential. The value might not be great, but he’ll be a mainstay on a line that needs an upgrade to help protect Andy Dalton. Infrastructure is never boring.

He’s a Badger run blocker – there’s almost zero bust potential. He might be a bit tall and he might be built like a tackle, but he pushes and mauls everything in his path. As reliable and as consistent as any blocker in the draft, he’s nearly flawless when it comes to his assignments and he has the work ethic and fire to get better. Cranking up the calories is going to be a must, and it might be hard to stay high above the 300-pound mark, but his strength isn’t going to be a problem. While he won’t be the sexiest pick, he’ll stick inside someone’s line for the next ten years, and like most great interior linemen, he won’t be noticed. No, he’s not David DeCastro in terms of talent and upside, and he might not be for every offense, but in the right fit, he’ll be a mainstay.
CFN Projection: Second Round

28 28 Green Bay Packers

DE Nick Perry, USC (Jr.) 6-3, 271
Overall Pick No. 28 CFN Overall Ranking: 22
CFN Analysis: Perfect. The Packers needed more defensive help and really needed more pass rushing help for Clay Matthews. There are concerns and he has to prove he can bring it game-in and game-out, but there’s a world of upside with the potential to dominate with so much attention paid to Matthews on the other side. It was a little bit of a surprise that the Packers didn’t go for more of a hybrid outside linebacker, but there’s no arguing with the idea of improving the line.

A typical superstar USC recruit, he’s right out of central casting with the rocked up look and strength to match. Throw in his tremendous speed – clocking in under a 4.6 at the Combine – and all the tools are there. At the very least if he doesn’t turn out to be an all-around playmaker, he’ll have a good career as a pass rushing specialist with the ability to turn the corner on a dime. Can he put it all together and be a consistent pro? He was a good college player and turned in a disruptive 2011, but he might be a one-trick pony. That trick, though, could be really, really good if a team isn’t too concerned about stopping the run.
CFN Projection: Second Round

29 29 Minnesota Vikings

S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame (SS/FS) 6-2, 213
Overall Pick No. 29 CFN Overall Ranking: 33
CFN Analysis: In a disastrous draft for safeties, Smith is a value pick. No, he might not be the 29th best player in the draft, but considering the Vikings need help just about everywhere, especially in the secondary, getting one of the few good safeties is fine. However, considering Alshon Jeffery was still on the board, and receiver is a must at some point, there will be some major second-guessing if Smith isn’t great.

While he’s not going to see a Pro Bowl and he’s not going to be a star, he’s a versatile talent who came up with a very productive, slightly underappreciated career and will be a good fit in any system. Fast enough to get by, he’s more quick than speedy and always seems to be around the ball when needed. If he has any success early on, he’ll make the secondary his; he’ll be the leader and the quarterback who’ll know everything that needs to be done. A team might try him out as a free safety, but he’ll be at his best closer to the line and when he gets to come up with pops against the run. There might not be a huge upside, but there’s a high floor, too. He’ll be a safe pick who’ll be an immediate starter.
CFN Projection: Second Round

30 30 San Francisco 49ers

WR A.J. Jenkins, Illinois 6-0, 190
Overall Pick No. 30 CFN Overall Ranking: 109
CFN Analysis: How’s that Michael Crabtree pick working out? The former sure-thing star prospect has been okay, not great, and the Niners need more firepower. There were inklings that Jenkins was rising up draft boards in a hurry, and now Alex Smith has another option to stretch the field and add more pop to an attack that couldn’t match the production of its great defense. However, considering guard is a must, the Niners have to be ticked Minnesota moved up to grab Kevin Zeitler.

After falling off the radar a bit, like the rest of the Illini, he showed this offseason that he’s worth a longer look after tearing off a blazing sub-4.4 40 and proving to be an elite athlete. He has the tools, the elite speed, and the smarts to be ready to handle being a No. 2 or 3 receiver in a good passing game. With nice hands to go along with the rest of his tools, he has the talent, but the production was inconsistent with two really, really good weeks; that was about it. The problem will be his size with no ability to get physical whatsoever, and he’ll never block anyone, but that won’t be his job.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

31 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

RB Doug Martin, Boise State 5-9, 219
Overall Pick No. 31 CFN Overall Ranking: 29
CFN Analysis: Let the debate and analysis begin. Instead of making a big move to get Trent Richardson and missing out on the running back the team needs early on, Tampa Bay got one of the top running backs late for a much, much cheaper price. However, does Martin compliment LeGarrette Blount? The offense could use more speed to go with Blount’s thump, while Martin is more of a do-it-all back.

Martin never got the credit he deserved for being one of the superstars in an Boise State offense that featured Kellen Moore and the passing game. Tough as nails, he’s unstoppable around the goal line and he’s extremely physical for his size, and he has the quickness to zip in and out of the hole when needed. Fast, he has breakaways speed hovering around the 4.5 mark, but his biggest strength is the ability to deliver the big hit needed to get the hard yard. Rocked up, he came up with 28 reps on the bench at the Combine while showing off his quicks in the short drills; he can do it all. But how long can he last? His style can be almost Marion Barber-like at times and he might have a very, very short shelf life. Can he hang on to the ball? Ball security is a huge question mark if he’s going to be a workhorse. Overall, though, he’ll be a great value to where Trent Richardson will be drafted and will be an instant factor in any attack.
CFN Projection: Second Round

32 32 New York Giants

RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech (Jr.) 5-10, 206
Overall Pick No. 32 CFN Overall Ranking: 38
CFN Analysis: The Giants struggled running the ball last year, and now they have a weapon. Wilson isn’t built to be a workhorse, but he’s a flash of lightning who could fit in perfectly for what the offense needs him to do. He’ll be used 10-to-15 times early on in a rotation and should be very, very productive when he gets his chances. Considering offensive line and defensive line are both areas that could use some boosting, this was a luxury pick. However, it’s a luxury pick that should work.

Really fast and tremendously athletic, the 41.5" vertical was the best among the backs at the Combine and his 11-foot broad jump was the best at the position by far. Explosive, extremely quick, and great at bouncing off tacklers, he’s always making people miss and he’s always able to make things happen in the open field. But is he a better athlete and a collegian than a pro prospect? He needs to have better instincts, has fumbling problems, and he’s not a power runner in any way – he could stand to be a bit better when it comes to the finer points of being a running back. Fortunately, he’ll do all the things he needs to with a great work ethic and tremendous character – the Virginia Tech coaching staff loves him and he’ll be a favorite in the locker room. A returner and a dangerous 15-touch-a-game back, he’ll be productive whenever he touches the ball.
CFN Projection: Second Round