1. Denver Broncos: QB Andrew Luck*, Stanford:
While the Broncos had a decent draft, they completely ignored their DT position, and I think that will prevent this defense from being too effective. Combine that with the Broncos essentially starting a rookie quarterback, relying on an undistinguished backfield, and just hoping that Brandon Lloyd can repeat his performance from last season, I think there is a pretty fair shot of Denver ending up with the top pick.
If they do it will be a dream come true for the Broncos as John Elway can bring in a fellow Stanford alum to revitalize the organization like he did nearly 30 years ago. Luck is perhaps the best quarterback to come out since Eli Manning in 2004, and seems poised to have an immediate impact. This would be a no-brainer decision for the Broncos brass and they’d look to potentially move Tebow for the best package they can get.
2. Carolina Panthers: WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina:
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The Panthers are likely headed for another bad losing season, and their pick of Cam Newton will prevent them from drafting a quarterback here. That leaves the Panthers with either drafting a WR or a DE. While I would go for the defensive end here, far too often teams look to add a weapon for a young quarterback over more pressing needs.
Jeffery has franchise receiver potential and would give the Panthers the elite threat they are looking for. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Newton is the quarterback who will get the most out of him. Jeffery should immediately come in and be the big target this team is lacking so I think even with mediocre QB play, he will have an impact.
3. Tennessee Titans: DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina:
I think the Titans are in store for some major growing pains with Jake Locker, and even if they do find a veteran to start I think their offense is going to sputter. I think Tennessee will look to add a playmaker on offense, but Coples is a bigger need and a better value here. With Jason Babin likely to leave via free agency, Tennessee could use another pass rusher as they look to rebuild this team. Coples is the best defensive prospect in this draft and he should be an instant impact starter for the Titans.
4. Washington Redskins: QB Landry Jones*, Oklahoma:
Washington passed on a signal caller this year, and while it was the right move it will force them to address the position in 2012. While the Redskins had a good draft and look a lot better for the future, this next season is likely to be a struggle.
Most people would prefer Matt Barkley to Landry Jones, but I think that is a serious mistake. Both young gunslingers have basically started two full seasons (though Jones came in more as a replacement), and thus far Jones has far outplayed Barkley. Now I’m not just talking about passing yards since the Sooners have a more wide open offense, I’m talking about completion %, interception ratio, and down right play. In basically every category Jones has come out on top. Another good test is how Jones faired against his best competition, which for the most part he was elite against the best teams he faced. Barkley on the other hand wasn’t nearly as impressive. He had a couple really good games against good teams, but he had some downright awful games as well. After Luck, Landry Jones is the best quarterback in this class, and a great fit here for the Skins.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Dre Kirkpatrick*, Alabama:
I don’t know if the Bengals can afford to keep both Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall, so if they lose one look for the Bengals to address that need early in the 2012 draft.
Kirkpatrick has all the makings of a shutdown corner and with another big year he should lock down his status as a top 10 pick. I like this move if it is to replace Joseph, but if they keep him look for them to target an offensive lineman or a defensive end.
6. Arizona Cardinals: OT Matt Kalil*, USC:
I know there are those who would call on the Cards to take a quarterback here, but Matt Barkley is the top one on the board. I see that as a no deal for the Cards brass as the last time they went QB in the first round from USC it didn’t workout too well. Instead I think they will take his blindside protector in Kalil and finally fix the gaping hole at LT.
7. Buffalo Bills: OT Jonathan Martin*, Stanford:
I know there will be calls to go quarterback here, but Buffalo has a greater need at LT. Ryan Fitzpatrick might not be a top 10 or 15 quarterback, but he also isn’t awful. The Bills’ revolving door at LT on the other hand is down right awful and needs to be fixed. Martin was Luck’s blindside protector and he looks capable of starting day one (something that can’t be said for Matt Barkley).
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Justin Blackmon*, Oklahoma State:
The Jags could address a number of holes on defense (which would be smarter), but I’m banking that they want to give Blaine Gabbert as many weapons as possible. Blackmon is an excellent receiver prospect and would have been a surefire first rounder this past season. He will give Jacksonville the big play receiver they have lacked since Jimmy Smith.
9. Seattle Seahawks: QB Matt Barkley*, USC:
Barkley was recruited by Pete Carroll and played his freshman season under him, making him very likely the quarterback of the future for Seattle. Personally I think this is high for Barkley unless he really has an incredible year, but there is no way he gets past Pete Carroll.
10. Minnesota Vikings: ILB Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State:
The Vikings could use a young stud middle linebacker, and Burfict is flying up draft boards. He appears to be an absolute stud middle backer, and has major impact potential.
11. San Francisco 49ers: CB Stephon Gilmore*, South Carolina:
Gilmore is an exceptional cover corner prospect and one that I think can start from day one. I think he gives the 49ers an elite playmaker in the secondary and is well worth this pick.
12. Cleveland Browns: DE Donte-Page Moss*, North Carolina:
The Browns added one DE in Jabaal Sheard, but they need to add another pass rusher to bring pressure from the other side. Many see Moss as a rush linebacker, but he plays the run well and I think he can hold up as a 4-3 end.
13. Miami Dolphins: ILB Luke Kuechly*, Boston College:
Kuechly is an absolute star in the making and should be a top 15 pick if he comes out. He racked up over 180 tackles this past season, and displays excellent instincts in diagnosing plays. He takes good angles and is very talented in coverage as well. The Dolphins can look to play him next to Dansby inside and turn their good defense into something great.
14. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Mike Adams, Ohio State:
Adams is one of the OSU players who will miss the first part of the season, but I still could see him going high in the first round. He has excellent potential and should be a blindside protector for years to come. This will allow the Chiefs to move Branden Albert over to RT where I think he is better suited anyways.
15. Detroit Lions: CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia:
The Lions didn’t address their CB position at all in this draft and I see that holding their defense back this season. Look for them to remedy that mistake in 2012, by making CB their top priority. Minnifield has the potential to be an elite corner, and possibly be even better than recent high 2nd round picks Chris Cook and RasI Dowling, whom he played with. Minnifield’s father was a very good NFL cornerback, which should give the Lions quite a bit of faith in their projection for the younger Minnifield.
16. Dallas Cowboys: S Ray Ray Armstrong*, Miami:
Armstrong is the next in a long line of elite Miami safeties and could fill Dallas’ need at FS or SS. Armstrong is a big time tackler, but also flashes elite ball skills that lead some to say he is the next Sean Taylor. I don’t think his stock is that high, but he is an elite player.