1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
In a twist of fate that had them luck into the 1st pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts now have the opportunity to draft game-changing quarterback Andrew Luck. their aging star quarterback Peyton Manning was injured for an extended period last year, ruining the team’s season, but the Colts won the lottery in the same year that one of the biggest quarterback prospects in the NFL history would come out. Andrew Luck has all the tools you need in your starting quarterback. the Stanford quarterback turned his team into a National Championship contender, and it seems as though it will not take too long for him to put the Colts back on top of the AFC South. Fellow quarterback Robert Griffin III, RG3, is a solid prospect, but there is no way the Colts pass up on this opportunity.
2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
In order to move up to the no. 2 spot, the Washington Redskins had to trade three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the St. Louis Rams to move up from no. 6. Washington seems to have finally found its franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin III, dubbed RG3. Prior to his breakout year last season, which resulted in a Heisman Trophy, some experts doubted his skills to even be able to play quarterback in the NFL. But he put all those doubters to rest, and is now poised to be a star in the league. He is a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan’s offense, as the Redskins’ coach loves quarterbacks who can scramble out of the pocket and throw on the run. a lot of people have raved about his speed, but another part of his game that should be given equal attention is his ability to throw the ball. He has the ability to lead this team to the playoffs as soon as this season.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Minnesota Vikings may have a number of holes they need to fill, but none is more pressing than their need for a starting left tackle to protect Christian Ponder. Matt Kalil is a sure thing at left tackle. He is 6’6 and 360 lbs. and is a physical specimen who should only get better once he gets into an NFL training program. He does have some holes in his game, as he needs to improve his run blocking, but that will come with experience. the Vikings absolutely have to pick Kalil because he is the player they absolutely need at this position. He also has the potential to become the best left tackle in the league.
4. Cleveland Browns: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
This is definitely a pick that has a lot of mock drafts in confusion. some of these mock drafts have the Cleveland Browns taking Alabama running back Trent Richardson. the player that they should be interested in is a playmaker at wide receiver. Justin Blackmon is that guy for them. although it is always a risk to take a wideout this early, Blackmon is a special kind of player who can make an immediate impact right off the bat. Blackmon would give Colt McCoy a go-to guy when he is in trouble and a legitimate deep threat to keep opposing defenses from camping in the box to stop the run. it will also give the Browns the opportunity to erase their big mistake when they were unable to pick Julio Jones last year.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
If Richardson is still available when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still picking, then they will definitely jump at an opportunity to pick him. While Richardson seems ideal in Tampa, the Buccaneers have bigger holes to fill. Pass defense should be the no. 1 priority when the team is in an NFC South division that features Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. Tampa Bay did add Eric Wright and re-signed Ronde Barber, but Barber is getting old and Aqib Talib is headed to prison. Morris Claiborne is the player that makes the most sense for the Buccaneers at no. 5. He is an elite cover corner with excellent ball skills who will make opposing quarterbacks pay if they throw in his direction.
6. St. Louis Rams: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The St. Louis Rams need to find an elite receiver for Sam Bradford, but with Blackmon unfortunately no longer available at no. 6, they should look for their next biggest need, left tackle. the Rams’ current starting left tackle is better suited playing guard or right tackle since he is not your prototypical starter. Iowa’s Riley Reiff is the player ready to step in and start right away. He may not be the best player left on the board, but he is a safe pick that fills a huge need. Protecting Bradford should be the Rams’ no. 1 priority with this pick.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Jacksonville Jaguars have no other option but to take a shot on Michael Floyd from Notre Dame, as the Jaguars featured the worst receiving corps of any team in the NFL last year. although the Jags may take him a few picks too early, Floyd is actually a pretty solid prospect whom they desperately need. At 6’3 and 220 lbs., Floyd has the speed and size needed to play in the NFL. Had Floyd played with a better quarterback in college, some experts would be more inclined to project him a little higher than they currently do. In his final year for Notre Dame, he had 100 catches for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns. the Jaguars could end up trading the pick to move down and pick Floyd later in the first round.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Ryan Tannehill might very well be headed to the Miami Dolphins, as they are still without a starting quarterback. Mike Sherman, who is now the offensive coordinator for Miami, was the head coach at Texas A&M last year, and Tannehill might just be perfect for the Dolphins as he will already have training in the offense Sherman will install. With all the holes Miami has on both sides of the ball, I believe that it will be far too risky to pick Tannehill at this draft slot. it would be better for them to take the best player available and address the quarterback situation elsewhere.
The Southeastern Conference has become the college football equivalent of the new York Yankees.
With its string of six consecutive national championships, consistent dominance of the front half of the BCS rankings and legions of passionate (and in some cases, crazy) fans, the SEC is now the organization seemingly everyone loves to hate.
But no matter one’s feelings, this year’s NFL Draft seems prone to make the case once again.
The SEC is the most talented conference in college football.
Tonight’s NFL Draft will give football fans across the country a chance to analyze, glorify and argue over the best college football players in the land.
This year, there is sure to be a lot of talk about the SEC.
Sure, the first two draft picks are all but guaranteed not to be from the SEC. Stanford’s Andrew Luck figures to be taken by the Indianapolis Colts as the first overall pick, and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III is predicted to be taken by the Washington Redskins immediately after.
But after that, the SEC will likely begin to steal the show.
Many mock drafts have up to four SEC players being taken in the top 10 picks.
Alabama running back Trent Richardson — who many believe is the top-rated player in the entire draft — will be easily taken in the top five. With his dominant college career and breathtaking physical skills, Richardson is already drawing comparisons to Adrian Peterson.
LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore also stand a strong chance of being drafted in the first 10 picks.
But it doesn’t stop there.
South Carolina linebacker Melvin Ingram hovers around the No 12 to 15 range in most mock drafts. Alabama safety Mark Barron stands to be taken just behind him.
All in all — when including other standouts such as LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, Alabama safety Dre Kirkpatrick, Georgia tackle Cordy Glenn, and Alabama linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw — the SEC could have 11 players drafted in the first round. That would match its record for a single round, which occurred in the second round in 2000 and the first round in 2007.
Such a high number of SEC players in the first round will support what so many already know: the SEC is a superiorly talented conference.
That is not to say it is the sole producer of elite NFL talent. There will be 253 total picks in the draft, and a majority of them will not come from the SEC.
But with so many players standing to be taken in the first round — and another five or so looking to be drafted in the second — it makes it hard to deny that SEC teams know how to recruit and cultivate serious talent.
Further, the draft will evidence yet again how difficult it can be to play in the SEC.Georgia’s players and fans know this well.
LSU’s Claiborne helped shut down quarterback Aaron Murray and the rest of the Bulldog offense in the SEC Championship game, while South Carolina’s Gilmore and Ingram gave the Bulldogs fits back in September.
And try asking LSU how much it enjoyed going up against Alabama’s Richardson, Upshaw, Barron, Kirkpatrick and company twice in the 2011 season.
To be fair, there is a lot more to the college football universe than the SEC. And one day, this stunning streak of national championships and rankings dominance will come to an end — or at least take a step back.
But until then, the 2012 NFL Draft is a reminder that in today’s college football, the SEC is littered with not only great passion and revelry, but players that truly elevate the game.
Wide receiver Rueben Randle had a challenge in front of him. To establish himself as a potential pro receiving threat, he would have to do so while playing in LSU’s run-heavy offense.
John McCusker / The Times-PicayuneSaid Rueben Randle: âA lot of coaches figured I should have gotten a lot more balls, but itâs the system that Iâm in â and they understand that.â
The Tigers threw an SEC-low 279 passes in 2011, but Randle took advantage of his few opportunities, capping his junior season with more receiving yards (917) and an equal amount of touchdowns (eight) than the rest of LSU’s wide receivers combined.
Randle, 6 feet 3, 210 pounds, had four of his five career 100-yard receiving games last season, the most since Michael Clayton had the same amount in 2003. Randle also finished third in the SEC in receiving yards and fifth in receptions (50).
“A lot of coaches figured I should have gotten a lot more balls, but it’s the system that I’m in — and they understand that,” Randle said.
After catching just 44 passes his first two seasons, Randle’s big-play ability in his junior year vaulted him up draft boards and led to him forgoing his senior season.
“I think that was due to our running game being so good, getting those safeties biting up in the box, leaving one-on-ones on the perimeters for the receivers,” Randle said. “So we had to take advantage of that.”
Randle is one of three Tigers, along with defensive end Michael Brockers and defensive back Morris Claiborne, invited to the NFL draft today in New York City. He’s expected to be selected after his two teammates, as a late first-round or early second-round choice.
“It’s exciting,” Randle said. “This is an opportunity you’ve been waiting for all your life. it will change your life around. It’ll be a great opportunity for me, and all my brothers also going through this process.”
Randle said it’s especially fun to be able to go through the experience with teammates he has been playing alongside for the past two or three years.
But unlike Brockers and Claiborne, Randle’s chances of going in the first round are unclear. he said he has talked to almost every team in need of a receiver, and he hopes one of those teams toward the end of the first round gives him a shot.
“As a kid, you always want to be a first-round draft pick,” Randle said. “If that happens for me, it’ll be a dream come true.”
Despite Randle’s averaging 17.3 yards per catch last season, some teams worried about his speed. he ran 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine,
Randle quelled some of the negativity by running a 4.42 and a 4.43 at LSU’s pro day.
“They see that I can play fast on film, and I think they like that,” Randle said. “Me coming out and running fast (at the pro day) kind of proved that.”
NFL scout Chris Landry said most teams understand Randle’s limited role in LSU’s offense and realize his numbers would have been better in a different situation. he said teams like Randle’s long, lean, athletic build and ability to track the ball and adjust to it in the air, but he lacks the explosion of some other receivers.
Landry projects Randle as a second-round pick but said teams in need of a receiver at the end of the first round could take a chance on him.
“He has a chance to be a very productive player at the next level, and I think he’ll be a really good value as a no. 2 receiver with some vertical ability in the passing game,” Landry said.
Other draft experts aren’t as high on the Tigers’ leading receiver.
“He didn’t wow me over,” ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper said. “You look at the burst out of his break, his explosiveness, that wow factor … he didn’t have it. some of that obviously had to do with the quarterback play and the passing offense at LSU.”
Randle has been getting advice from past LSU receivers who went through the same process. Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell was one of a handful of former Tigers to return for LSU’s pro day.
“He told me to go out there and be confident,” Randle said. “Perform well, and let the coaches know what you can do.”
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 8:35 p.m. last Modified: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 8:49 p.m.
A decade ago, Dre Kirkpatrick played pick-up football in backyards and dead-end streets with his friends in Gadsden, all the while pretending he was NFL superstar Deion Sanders.
The prospect of actually reaching the NFL in those days was more than a long shot, but the imagination still ran wild, hopeful that one day it would be replaced with reality.
“When I used to watch highlights of Deion back in my childhood days and when I was outside playing pick-up ball with my friends, it was always a dream to play in the NFL,” Kirkpatrick said.
Reality is about to kick in.
The NFL draft begins tonight in New York, where Kirkpatrick and other hopefuls will be on hand at Radio City Music Hall.
The former Gadsden City High School star and University of Alabama standout cornerback is expected to be chosen in the first round.
Kirkpatrick came out of Gadsden City as one of the top football prospects in the nation, but the chances of ever playing in the NFL still were slim. According to the NFL Players Association website, only 0.2 percent of high school senior football players will reach the NFL.
While those closest to Kirkpatrick during his prep days won’t call his rise an expected one, it was apparent early on the rangy defensive back was a rare talent.
Scott Rickles, who coached Kirkpatrick for two years — one as the head coach at Emma Sansom and one as an assistant at Gadsden City — recalled Kirkpatrick being thrust into action as a freshman during Emma Sansom’s season-opening game against rival Litchfield.
“I was a little bit concerned about whether Dre could handle it as a freshman having never started a game in high school, much less going against a super athletic team like Litchfield was at the time,” Rickles said. “he locked a kid down from Litchfield that was a junior or senior and I don’t think the kid caught a ball all night. Not only that, but what really impressed me that night was his ability to come up and make tackles.”
Rickles frequently compared Kirkpatrick to then-Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers, who went on to win the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top collegiate cornerback before being a top-10 NFL Draft pick.
“Dre had that 6-1, 6-2 frame and the long range and the hunger to come up and make tackles,” Rickles said. “That’s what separated Dre, was his ability to cover the pass and the combination of being a tackler. … Dre had all the skills you could ever want. he just had to develop them.”
Joe Billingsley, Kirkpatrick’s head coach for his three years at Gadsden City, saw that the young defensive back’s talents compared favorably to Eric Davis, who Billingsley played with at Jacksonville State. Davis was a second-round selection of the San Francisco 49ers in 1990.
“I knew Dre had a special talent,” Billingsley said. “whether he actually got to the NFL or not, God has a lot to do with that. But as far as potential and talent, you knew it was unlimited and you just hoped it would reach the point that it’s at now.”
In three seasons at Alabama, Kirkpatrick helped the Crimson Tide to a pair of national titles while living up to the individual promise he showed at a young age. That development under Nick Saban, widely renowned for his ability as a secondary coach, enabled Kirkpatrick to turn pro after his junior year.
In a telephone interview Tuesday from New York, Kirkpatrick said it was hard to believe just three years ago he still was walking the halls at Gadsden City.
“It’s happened so fast to the point where it really hasn’t hit me yet that I’m about to be an NFL player,” Kirkpatrick said. “the day of the draft, I feel like that’s when the butterflies are going to settle in and the nerves are going to pick up. everything is happening so fast it really hasn’t hit me yet.”
Ali Smith, Kirkpatrick’s defensive coordinator at Gadsden City and mentor, made the trip to New York at Kirkpatrick’s insistence to be among friends and family at the draft. Smith said he feels like a representative of all the coaches from Gadsden who have impacted Kirkpatrick.
“Every coach that has been around Dre has had an impact on his life,” Smith said. “he knows that. he was even talking about his peewee coach on the way to the airport the other day.”
Where Kirkpatrick could end up is anybody’s guess. A number of mock drafts have had him in the middle of the first round to the Cincinnati Bengals, while others have him going to the Tennessee Titans. For his part, Kirkpatrick is trying not to get wrapped up in the guessing game.
“That’s something that I really haven’t been paying attention to,” Kirkpatrick said. “you hear so much that you don’t know what to believe. It changes every week, every day, so that’s something I’m not really concerning myself with now.”
Smith said he’s tried to remind Kirkpatrick that even though being drafted is a great achievement, there is plenty of work left to be done.
“A lady at the cleaners told me yesterday, ‘you tell that boy this whole city is watching what he does,’” Smith said. “I told him that this morning. It makes us all proud. … It makes you want to stick your chest out for a couple of days, but the reality is that this is only the beginning. He’s got to stay steadfast and stay hungry. It’s an exciting time, but it’s also a time to really press forward to be successful.”
Kirkpatrick thinks he’s ready for the challenge.
“I’m very prepared,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep doing the things I’ve been doing — keep working my body, keep getting bigger, keep eating right, keep getting faster, keep getting stronger and your body will keep developing. I feel like I’m mature enough for it. I’ve just got to be ready when my name is called.”
Billingsley said he’ll watch the draft with a measure of pride, pointing out he could have two former players picked. Along with Kirkpatrick, former Titan and Alabama linebacker Jerrell Harris could be a late-round pick as the draft continues through the weekend. Harris also could sign a free-agent contract if he is not selected. Billingsley also said Kirkpatrick and Harris have set examples for those following in their footsteps.
“It’s a message to these young men that live in Gadsden and everywhere,” Billingsley said. “Coming through our football program helped these guys, and being able to go to school here at Gadsden City, the academic side plays a lot into it.
“It is achievable. That’s the message they’re sending right now.”
In other words, it’s okay to dream big dreams.
“This is something that you always wish for as a child,” Kirkpatrick said. “Now that you’ve got the opportunity and it’s here, it’s like a dream. But this dream is going to come true.”
The Green Bay Packers are the third-oldest franchise in the National Football League, as they were founded in 1919. the franchise has won more league championships than any other NFL team, with 13 titles, four since the inception of the Super Bowl. the best draft picks by the Green Bay Packers are Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke and Bart Starr.
No. 3: Paul Hornung, RB, (1957 – 1962 & 1964 – 1966)
Paul Horung was selected first overall in the 1957 NFL Draft. he could play running back, safety and placekicker. the Hall of Famer was just an all-around athlete and was selected to the Pro Bowl on two occasions, along with being named league most Valuable Player in 1961. the short-yardage expert ended his career with 3,711 rushing yards, a 4.2 rush average, 1,480 receiving yards and 72 touchdowns.
No. 2: Ray Nitschke, LB, (1958 – 1972)
Ray Nitschke spent all of his 15 seasons in the NFL with the Packers at the linebacker position, having been drafted in the 1958 NFL Draft in the 3rd round. he anchored a defense that went on to win five NFL titles and the first two Super Bowls ever played. the MVP of the 1962 NFL Championship game was a three-time All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in 1964. the hard-hitting Hall of Famer recorded 25 interceptions during his career, but will be remembered most for his strong discipline throughout his career.
No. 1: Bart Starr, QB, (1956 – 1971)
Bart Starr led the Packers to multiple league championships after been drafted in the 17th round of the 1956 NFL Draft. the Hall of Famer won the MVP award in 1966 and was also named a Pro Bowler on four occasions. he led the franchise in Super Bowl I and II and was named MVP of both Super Bowls. Starr also led the Packers to five NFL championships prior to the Super Bowl, in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967. he finished his career with 152 touchdowns, 24,718 passing yards and passer rating of 80.5.
Any player who can lead a franchise to a combined seven titles is worthy of being held in high esteem. That is even more appropriate if the player was chosen late in the draft, rather than being a sure-thing top pick. as such, Bart Starr is the best player drafted by the Green Bay Packers.
It’s a near-certainty that there will be some movement in the NFL Draft’s first round somewhere, especially since there are a number of teams in the top 15 that would love to trade down and stockpile picks.
So I’m going to play general manager here for a few minutes to see if I can snowball a few ideas that make some sense for both teams …
Tampa Bay trades: no. 5, no. 174Philadelphia trades: no. 15, no. 46, no. 153
Credit where credit is due: Dan Graziano planted the idea of a big Philly move up the board during ESPN’s blogger mock when he traded up for Jacksonville’s no. 7 pick to take Fletcher Cox. the Mississippi State DT would be on the board here, as would, if Cleveland takes Trent Richardson, CB Morris Claiborne and LB Luke Kuechly, giving Philadelphia its choice of three impact defensive players.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, could add a second-round pick in this scenario and general manager Mark Domenik has already expressed his desire to slide down. the Bucs could still add someone like Dre Kirkpatrick at 15.
Jacksonville trades: no. 7, no. 176Arizona trades: no. 13, no. 80, no. 151
The Jaguars are a little bit in no man’s land, sitting just below the cutoff of the truly elite players in this draft. They’d love to move from the no. 7 spot, but it’s going to require something that drives up the interest in that pick.
Something like St. Louis taking Fletcher Cox no. 6 and leaving Justin Blackmon on the board.
The Cardinals badly need another go-to wide receiver to pair with Larry Fitzgerald and, rather than wait and hope Michael Floyd’s there at 13, they could jump up and take advantage of that scenario. Jacksonville, meanwhile, would get better value on a pick at 13, add a third-rounder and jump from the sixth round (176) to the fifth (151).
Miami trades: no. 8Dallas trades: no. 14, no. 45
The Cowboys have made no secret of the fact that they like safety Mark Barron — no surprise given their need at that position. Waiting on him at no. 14 is a roll of the dice, both because a team in the top 13 might call Barron’s name and because another team could leapfrog the Cowboys and steal him.
This trade would solve Dallas’ problem there. It would also, potentially, bring Stephon Gilmore into play, and the Cowboys could use help at CB too. the Dolphins could still possibly take Ryan Tannehill at no. 14 and get another impact player with the Cowboys’ second-rounder.
Miami trades: no. 8, no. 42, no. 72, no. 73, no. 1 pick in 2013 and ’14New Orleans trades: Drew Brees
Just kidding. I wanted to make sure you were still paying attention.
Seattle trades: no. 12, no. 106New England trades: no. 27, no. 48, no. 62
That possibility I just threw out of a team jumping over the Cowboys to take Barron? Here it is in action.
Thanks to having a pair of first-round picks and a pair of second-round picks, the Patriots — who we know are not averse to moving around on draft day — can get aggressive in round 1. instead of dropping back and accumulating picks (which New England could still do with the no. 31 selection), bill Belichick and company can make a run at Barron and break the Cowboys’ hearts.
Seattle would be fine sitting at no. 12 and taking the best fit — guys like Michael Floyd, Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples are possibilities — but the Seahawks would jump at the chance to stay in the first round and add two more second-rounders.
Arizona trades: no. 13San Diego trades: no. 18, no. 49
Another possible Barron swipe — the Chargers reportedly have discussed moving in front of Dallas to get a shot at the Alabama safety. But even if Barron’s off the board, this deal could make sense for the Chargers, because they could target a couple of weak spots: offensive tackle and outside linebacker.
Iowa OT Riley Reiff very easily could still be around at 13, and the Chargers might get their pick of Coples, Chandler Jones, Courtney Upshaw and other pass-rushers at this spot before a likely mid-round run on them.
For Arizona, the risk of sliding down would be worth it to add a second-round pick. Plus, Floyd may still be hanging around at the 18th pick.
Detroit trades: no. 23St. Louis trades: no. 33, no. 39
The problem with the Rams trading up is that they need all the warm bodies they can get to help rebuild the roster.
That said, there might be two scenarios that entice this type of offer:
1. the Rams, as pitched earlier, pass on Justin Blackmon at no. 6 and grab Fletcher Cox. that would leave the Rams still in need of a wide receiver, and both Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill and Baylor’s Kendall Wright figure to be there at 23.
2. the Rams take Blackmon but still want to find a dynamic defensive tackle. the best possibility left on the board by the 23rd pick might be Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy. rather than stand by and hope he makes it to round 2, St. Louis could take matters into its own hands.
Detroit would take this deal in a heartbeat, dropping down from an uncertain spot at 23 to bump its second-round haul from one to three picks, plus stay in the mix for an impact player or two.
Houston trades: no. 26, no. 121Chicago trades: no. 50, no. 79, no. 150
The Bears need a pass-rusher, help on the offensive line and another receiver threat (even with Brandon Marshall’s arrival). they can solve one of those problems at no. 19, but the opportunities to improve elsewhere may be too enticing later in the first round for the Bears not to move up and get another pick.
Houston might want more than what Chicago’s offering here, and the Texans could find a player they need at 26 too (those wide receivers, for example). But picking up an extra second- and third-round pick might convince them to pull the trigger.
New England trades: no. 27, no. 126Miami trades: no. 42, no. 72, no. 103
We know that the Patriots are always more than willing to trade down.
So, also consider Miami passing on Tannehill at no. 8 and taking, oh, Melvin Ingram, Luke Kuechly or Michael Floyd. Then what happens to Tannehill? unless one of the Buffalo-Kansas City-Seattle run at 10-11-12 pulls the trigger, the Texas A&M QB could be in for a Brady Quinn-style drop.
It’s hard to believe the Dolphins would let him slip through their fingers twice, and a trade back into the first round could give them a second chance at him.
Making this move would leave the Patriots with one first-round pick (No. 31), three second-round picks (Nos. 48, 62, 72) and bump them up 23 places in round 4.
Washington Redskins (2nd pick in 1st round)
WASHINGTON — the Washington Redskins have spent 27 years trying to find a replacement for Joe Theismann.
Not since Theismann’s career ended with a broken leg in 1985 have the Redskins had a quarterback they could reliably count on as a reliable winner for the better part of a decade. Twenty-one players have started at the position in the last 19 seasons.
Robert Griffin III has the talent to be the solution. the Redskins are expected to take the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor with the No. 2 overall pick in this week’s NFL draft.
Griffin’s mother says it’s been exciting waiting for the draft, but it will be good to finally have it official that her son is going to Washington.
Dallas Cowboys (14th pick)
IRVING, Texas — the Dallas Cowboys addressed some pressing needs during a flurry of free-agent signings
They added two veteran offensive linemen who are expected to be starters, got a proven backup for quarterback Tony Romo, a starting cornerback, a safety, a linebacker and a fullback in just a couple of days.
now they need to get really defensive in the draft, starting with their No. 14 overall pick Thursday night.
"it would look like there is going to be potentially top defensive players there," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "we have to take into consideration that we’ve done pretty well in free agency relative to our offensive line. … So you’re not off base to say likely it will be a defensive player."
While the Cowboys defence improved in co-ordinator’s Rob Ryan’s first season, despite the lack of a traditional off-season to install his scheme and work with his new players, there were five games where leads were blown in the fourth quarter. their aging inside linebackers became less of a factor and the secondary at times was just horrendous.
need another indication of what the Cowboys are thinking about for their first pick?
the only on-campus pro day that coach Jason Garrett attended was at Alabama.
sure, as Garrett claims, the timing worked and it was convenient for him to stop in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on his return to Texas from the NFL owners meeting in Florida last month. But there also happen to be several Crimson Tide defensive players considered first-round possibilities. They include safety Mark Barron, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and linebacker Courtney Upshaw, all of whom could fill needs for Dallas.
With all that the Cowboys did in free agency, there is more flexibility when it comes time to make picks throughout the draft.
"one of the objectives of free agency was to address some of the needs on our football team with players that we liked so we can on draft day pick who we feel is the best player," Garrett said.
the Cowboys signed free agent offensive linemen Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings to starter-worthy multiyear contracts this off-season.
"we targeted players, we evaluated players and we felt good about the guys we were pursing," Garrett said. "we wanted to create competition within our football team. we felt like we did that, with guys that we really liked, the right kind of guys that have talent and upside, guys we think help our team now and going forward."
Cornerback Brandon Carr was the team’s top off-season target, and the Cowboys quickly signed him to a $50 million, five-year deal that includes $26.5 million guaranteed. They also got quarterback Kyle Orton, safety Brodney Pool, linebacker Dan Connor and fullback Lawrence Vickers.
"In general, and because of how well we did in free agency, we’ll able to draft, or trade. we could easily have a situation in our best interest," Jones said. "that free agency helps us in normally, purely looking at how we best improve the personnel on this team with the draft."
While the Cowboys have indicated that they have no intention of trading up in the draft, there is always the chance of other deals — either involving the No. 14 pick or any of their other seven picks, including two in the fourth round that opens the final day of the draft Saturday.
it was unusual draft for Dallas last April, in what was an unusual year with the NFL lockout.
the Cowboys used only two of their eight picks on defenders in 2011. They drafted three offensive linemen, including Tyron Smith ninth overall as the first offensive lineman Jones has selected in the first round since buying the team in 1989. And for only the second time under Jones ownership, the Cowboys didn’t make any trades during the draft.
Dallas finished 8-8 last season, losing four of their last five games. the finale was a loss at the new York Giants that decided the NFC East champion and the final playoff team. the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl, and the Cowboys spent another post-season at home.
the biggest free agent the Cowboys lost was receiver Laurent Robinson, who signed a five-year, $32.5 million contract with Jacksonville. They let veteran linebackers Keith Brooking and Bradie James go, as well as longtime starting cornerback Terence Newman and guard Kyle Kosier.
Robinson caught 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns after being a late addition in Dallas, where he was the third receiver behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. the Cowboys obviously wanted to keep Robinson — at the right price.
"it doesn’t not fit the profile we have to look at," Jones said. "Not only this year, but next year."
Philadelphia Eagles (16th pick)
PHILADELPHIA — the calendar says Howie Roseman will preside over his third NFL draft as general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s the first one he can really put his stamp on.
Roseman replaced Tom Heckert in January 2010, just a few months before the draft — when most of the scouting and grading of players already was complete. last year, the lockout changed much of the landscape, and free agency came after the draft.
"you want to put your own spin on it and you want to bring in some of your own people and the people that share your philosophy," Roseman said. "And I think that takes time."
With three of the top 51 picks in this draft, and nine picks overall, one thing is clear.
the time is now.
new York Giants (32nd pick)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jerry Reese and the new York Giants are used to waiting in the first round of the NFL Draft.
It’s the price of success, and the Giants and their general manager are willing to deal with it, especially with two Super Bowl titles in hand over the past five seasons.
the only difference this time might be when the Giants make their pick. the draft doesn’t kick off until 8 p.m. on Thursday, so the Giants might have to wait until the wee hours to make the 32nd and final choice of the opening round.
But it’ll be worth sticking around for. After all, the champions have obvious needs at receiver, tight end and running back.
Minnesota Vikings (3rd pick)
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — the Minnesota Vikings will listen to trade offers. They’ll consider every option. That’s what any NFL team does during the draft.
But when the Vikings are on the clock for the third overall pick on Thursday night, there will be a clear-cut, 6-foot-7, 306-pound choice staring this rebuilding franchise right in the face.
His name is Matt Kalil, widely considered the best available offensive lineman this year and expected to be selected by the Vikings. They need to better protect quarterback Christian Ponder, and what better way to do that then to take an elite left tackle with the potential to block Ponder’s blind side for the next decade?
"I just think he’s a plug-and-play left tackle who can start immediately and can start at a high level and become a perennial Pro Bowl-type player," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said.
Long arms. big hands. Tall frame. Mobile body. Strong bloodline. Hard worker. Nasty streak. Those are the prevailing descriptions of Kalil, who left USC after his junior season. he needs to get stronger to develop a better finishing technique when he’s run blocking and hold his ground more consistently against bull-rushing defensive ends.
But with quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III spoken for with the first two picks, Kalil is considered to be in the next tier with Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Alabama running back Trent Richardson. And this is not a group of consolation prizes, either. They’re all carrying that blue chip label.
Blackmon and Claiborne would also fill significant holes on the roster. or the Vikings could add to their stash of 10 picks, try to pick up a couple of other starters in the middle rounds and move down in a trade with another team trying to pick third. General manager Rick Spielman said Tuesday the market was "heating up" for making a deal.
"it would take a team blowing me away, because you don’t have many opportunities to get an elite left tackle and a guy that can protect your investment," McShay said earlier this month on a conference call with media members.
"whether you believe Ponder’s going to be a great quarterback or not at all, bottom line: you drafted him high last year, and I know the organization is confident in him. So you’ve got to do everything you can to put him in the best situation to succeed, and I think right now unless you get multiple picks that can come in and be successful and productive players around that quarterback position, just go ahead and take the tackle."
the bust rate at this position is clearly lower than quarterbacks, wide receivers or defensive ends. Jake Long, Joe Thomas and D’Brickashaw Ferguson are some of the stars who’ve emerged after being taken in the top five over the past several years. Kalil has family on his side, too. His father, Frank, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1982 and played in the USFL. His brother, Ryan, is the centre for the Carolina Panthers and has been to three straight Pro Bowls.
"Confidence is definitely a big part of your game," Kalil said at the NFL scouting combine in February. "And I think they want to hear that you do think you’re the best tackle, and I think I am."
the Vikings haven’t selected in the top three since 1968, when they drafted offensive tackle Ron Yary first overall. Yary, another USC product, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. the Vikings haven’t even been in the top five since 1985, when they got defensive end Chris Doleman, a soon-to-be Hall of Famer. They haven’t picked in the top 10 since 2005, when they made the ill-fated selection of wide receiver Troy Williamson with the pick obtained in the Randy Moss trade.
This is the first draft that Spielman has full authority over for the Vikings, who promoted him from vice-president of player personnel a few months ago. In the past, the head coach had equal input.
"I’m very excited about it, because I know that this is my responsibility. my name is on this. But I also think my name has been on all the other drafts in the past," Spielman said. "And I have the utmost confidence in the work that’s been done. And I have the utmost confidence in the people that get us prepared for this draft."
the NFL’s annual period of pre-draft misinformation, speculation and subterfuge won’t end until Thursday night, so trying to get honest answers out of executives and coaches around the league this time of year is a fruitless exercise with the quest for competitive advantages at a seasonal peak. Spielman, at least, acknowledged the Vikings will decide between Blackmon, Claiborne and Kalil — that’s merely alphabetical order — if they stay in the third slot.
"I can tell you those three picks on the board have exactly the same grade, and I’ll just leave it at that," Spielman said.
the Vikings have to favour someone, right?
"Everybody has a favourite, including me," Spielman said.
Chicago Bears (19th pick)
CHICAGO — from the moment the Chicago Bears hired him as general manager in January, Phil Emery has been a busy man.
His next task? the draft that starts Thursday night.
the Bears hold the 19th pick, and it seems there are a number of ways they could go in the first round and beyond. There are issues on both lines, a need for a young linebacker and holes at receiver even with Brandon Marshall in the mix.
the only certainty so far is this. the Bears will have a different look next season.
"what we’ve done in free agency really allows us the chance to go one way or the other," Emery said. "It’s given us flexibility in terms of we can draft into perceived strength so that we make sure we get the player who’s going to help us win a championship the quickest way possible, or we can go and fill in what we perceive as a need. So it has given us great flexibility."
Emery said the Bears have about seven players in mind for the 19th pick, and it’s a good bet at least a few of them are defensive ends, considering Chicago tied three other teams for 19th last season with 33 sacks. Julius Peppers would love to see another end to take some of the double-teams away from him, and options could include Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, North Carolina’s Quinton Coples and Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus.
the Bears finished 8-8 last season following a late collapse. Coming off a run to the NFC championship game, they were sailing along at 7-3 until Jay Cutler broke his right thumb trying to make a tackle following a late interception against San Diego in the 10th game. the offence suffered another huge blow when Matt Forte sprained the MCL in his right knee against Kansas City on Dec. 4, and the late slump ultimately cost general manager Jerry Angelo his job.
now, the Bears appear to be in a better spot.
"you want to have your roster as strong as it can be before the draft," coach Lovie Smith said. "we feel like we’ve done that."
Emery made a huge splash when he acquired Pro Bowl receiver Marshall from Miami, addressing Chicago’s biggest need, but that isn’t the only hole he addressed. he filled a big one at backup quarterback, signing Jason Campbell from Oakland, and beefed up the backfield by signing former Raiders running back Michael Bush to a four-year, $14 million deal to team with the unhappy Forte.
Emery also added special teams star Eric Weems, with Johnny Knox’s status uncertain because of a back injury, along with guard Chilo Rachal and linebacker Geno Hayes. the Bears also took care of some of their own, most notably giving linebacker Lance Briggs an extension through 2014, even though he had two years left on a six-year, $36 million deal, but Forte’s situation remains unresolved. he hasn’t signed his $7.74 million franchise tender.
even so, the Bears believe they have narrowed the gap with Green Bay.
"we got better," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "On paper we’re a better football team than we were last year at the end of the season, so I’m excited about that. Phil Emery knows what he’s doing, obviously."
Emery did not mention any specific prospects during his news conference this week, but he did say wide receiver, defensive end and defensive tackle are strong positions in this draft and added there are several offensive tackles who will likely be interior lineman as pros.
"that mid-level is probably the toughest level because there’s so many things that can happen in front of you," Emery said. "the further you get away from those top 10 picks the more you have a feel for the players that will be available from say 25 to 35, that are going to fall in that range and you can get it down to maybe three. In that middle range, so much can happen, trades."
Bears fans are eager to see what Emery can do. Emery was an area scout for the Bears from 1998-2004 and was the Kansas City Chiefs’ director of college scouting when the Bears came calling.
the team will have a new look on the sideline, too.
gone is offensive co-ordinator Mike Martz, who had an expiring contract, and quarterbacks coach Shane Day. Offensive line coach Mike Tice is the new co-ordinator following a promotion.
Emery was given one mandate from president Ted Phillips: Close the talent gap with Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.
During Angelo’s 11-year run, the Bears won four division championships, reached the Super Bowl and got back to the NFC championship game last season. But he was undone on several fronts — especially when backup Caleb Hanie struggled after Cutler was hurt.
Detroit Lions (23rd pick)
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — the Detroit Lions used to openly talk about potential draft picks.
Detroit didn’t hide how much it thought of Ndamukong Suh before taking him with the No. 2 pick two years ago and publicly gushed about Matthew Stafford being a franchise quarterback prior to selecting him first overall in 2009.
the Lions have the No. 23 slot in the draft Thursday night — their lowest first-round pick since 1992 when they drafted Robert Porcher 26th overall — and hope at least one of seven players they want is still available.
"you can stand here and say how much you like Suh," Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew said. "I think when you start talking about getting down in the 20s and you have a limited number of prospects, who you really have a great feel for that fit your organization in a great way, you don’t want to pump anybody up or knock anybody down."
Mayhew has refused to say anything about possible picks — such as Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick or South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore — to avoid feeling as if he gave another team a reason to take somebody he wants.
"I think at 23 especially, it’s really important to be cognizant of being careful about who you’re talking about and how you’re talking about them," Mayhew said.
the Lions are in unfamiliar territory, drafting toward the end of the first round, after winning enough games to earn their first playoff appearance since the 1999 season. They have one glaring void, at cornerback, after losing Eric Wright in free agency. every other starter from a team that went 10-6 and lost in an NFC wild-card game is back, but Mayhew insisted the team will take the top player on its draft board in the first round unless he’s a quarterback.
"It’s about not reaching for a particular position," Mayhew said. "if we have a need or something that we perceive as a need, we’re not going past five or six good players to get to a guy that plays that particular position. We’re going to take the best players and then if we have to fill in gaps later, we’ll do that during the rest of the off-season."
if Detroit doesn’t take a cornerback in the first round, though, there’s a good chance it will as soon as the second round Friday or later in the draft on Saturday.
"we think there are a lot good corners out there," Mayhew said. "we think the depth at a lot of positions is going to be there in those mid to late rounds."
the Lions might look to bolster their depth at running back with Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure coming off injury-stunted seasons, on the offensive line behind aging veterans, at defensive end and perhaps safety.
Detroit drafted defensive tackle Nick Fairley in the first round last year, then took receiver Titus Young and Leshoure in the second, and all three were backups as expected.
There’s a good likelihood, unless the Lions are lucky enough to have a cornerback at the top of their board when they draft 23, they will select a player Thursday night that will be another reserve. Mayhew is OK with that after being an assistant to former general manager Matt Millen during the previous decade when draft picks were asked to attempt to make an instant impact for a franchise full of holes.
"we can take guys that don’t have to play right away," Mayhew said. "having been here through some tough seasons, we’ve been in situations where we wanted guys to come in who were third- and fourth-round picks and start for us.
"Fortunately, we’re not in that situation now."
the Lions might be in a position to select players with a history of problems off the field soon and will not necessarily shy away from they soon after Fairley and Leshoure had marijuana-related traffic stops. Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz stand by what the organization does to do homework on every potential pick.
"you take everything into account, whether it’s something that happened off the field, whether it’s something that happened on the field," Schwartz said. "all that stuff goes beyond the film. the film obviously is the most important thing, but some of those things round out the picture and it’s all those things that are addressed."
Green Bay Packers (28th pick)
MILWAUKEE — After taking offensive players with five of his first six picks in last year’s NFL draft, it certainly looks like the time for Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson to target some defensive help.
Thompson insists he won’t deviate from his emphasis on drafting the best player available — a philosophy that helped him turn the talent-deprived roster he inherited in 2005 into a Super Bowl winner.
the Packers need help at several positions, including outside linebacker, safety and defensive end. They hold the 28th overall pick on Thursday night.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5th pick)
TAMPA, Fla. — Three years into a rebuilding project that’s produced inconsistent results, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers insist they’re headed in the right direction.
Despite going 3-13, 10-6 and 4-12 the past three seasons under former coach Raheem Morris, the Bucs feel replacement Greg Schiano inherited a solid young team that’s already improved through free agency and has a chance to get even better with the fifth pick in this week’s NFL draft.
Alabama’s Trent Richardson fits the description of the every-down running back that could make a difference, and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne has skills that could impact a defence that ranked among the league’s worst a year ago.
Just don’t expect Schiano or general manager Mark Dominik to say much about either prospect or how they might fit into Tampa Bay’s plans.
Carolina Panthers (9th pick)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — the Panthers will look to fix their defence through the NFL draft.
one year after quarterback Cam Newton dramatically improved Carolina’s struggling offence, general manager Marty Hurney is looking for a few difference makers who can help upgrade the league’s 28th-ranked defence.
Hurney says the team will take the "best player available" with the ninth overall pick, but concedes upgrading the defence this week is vitally important considering it allowed 377.6 yards and 26.8 points per game in 2011.
the Panthers did little to upgrade the defence in free agency.
They have seven picks in all, but none in the third round.
Coach Ron Rivera says if opposing teams look at the Panthers "they’re going to say, ‘Well, we can exploit their defence."’
the Panthers are out to change that.
new Orleans Saints (No first round pick)
METAIRIE, La. — the new Orleans Saints have mined the later rounds of past drafts for some of their most talented starters — star wide receiver Marques Colston and All-Pro offensive guard Jahri Evans, to name a couple.
if general manager Mickey Loomis and his scouting team were going to conjure up similar late-round magic, this would be the year to do it.
Barring a trade, the Saints aren’t slated to make their first pick until late in the third round, at 89th overall.
new Orleans has no 2012 first-round choice because that was traded last year to new England so the Saints could draft running back Mark Ingram.
the Saints lost their second pick this week in connection with the bounty scandal that also led to head coach Sean Payton’s season-long suspension.
Atlanta Falcons (No first round pick)
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — the Atlanta Falcons made quite a splash in last year’s NFL draft.
This year, they’ll likely spend a lot of time sitting around.
the Falcons are one of three teams that did not have a pick in Thursday night’s first round. Considering what they gave up to get receiver Julio Jones in 2011, there’s little chance of the team moving up to make another high-profile selection. Atlanta dealt away its first- and fourth-round picks this year to land Jones, which means its top pick will come in the second round, at No. 55 overall.
For now, the Falcons have just six picks in the seven-round, three-day draft. it might be even less if they work out a deal for Philadelphia cornerback Asante Samuel, who’s on the trading block.
St. Louis Rams (6th pick)
ST. LOUIS — the St. Louis Rams and new coach Jeff Fisher have three of the top 39 picks in the NFL draft that begins Thursday night.
the Rams pulled off a blockbuster deal with the Redskins, who were so desperate to get quarterback Robert Griffin III that they gave up the No. 6 pick along with their second-rounder, in addition to first-rounders in 2013 and 2014.
More picks means more chances for the Rams to add talent after going 2-14 last season. Options include receiver Justin Blackmon, offensive lineman Matt Kalil, cornerback Morris Claiborne or running back Trent Richardson as a future replacement for Steven Jackson. They could trade down for still more picks.
Seattle Seahawks (12th pick)
RENTON, Wash. — While the Seattle Seahawks hold the No. 12 pick in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, one thing general manager John Schneider has shown in his first two seasons as Seattle’s draft guru is his ability to find players in the later rounds.
whether it was safety Kam Chancellor, cornerback Richard Sherman or linebacker K.J. Wright, some of Seattle’s biggest successes the past two drafts have come in the later rounds.
That’s why it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Seahawks try to trade out of the 12th spot to acquire picks later in the draft. But if Seattle stays at No. 12, the areas of need would appear to be adding depth at linebacker and finding another defensive end with pass-rushing skills.
Arizona Cardinals (13th pick)
TEMPE, Ariz. — the Arizona Cardinals could be thinking big in this year’s draft.
That’s big as in some mountainous offensive lineman to fill the team’s biggest need.
the Cardinals need someone to play right tackle, or at least right guard, and conventional wisdom has them going in that direction with the 13th overall pick on Thursday night.
Yet it’s no foregone conclusion, with the team still searching for a reliable No. 2 receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald. that could tempt Arizona to go for Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd.
"He’s a good young player," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "we got the chance to sit down and meet him and talk with him. That’s probably one of the most rejuvenating parts of this whole process is to talk to them about their challenges, what they’ve gone through, how they’ve progressed in their careers, and we really enjoyed our time with him."
Floyd’s stock has risen steadily since the college season ended, with strong showings at the NFL combine and in his pro day workout.
at 6-foot-2, Floyd says he wants to model his play after Fitzgerald. the two, both from the Minneapolis area, are friends and reportedly plan to work out together this off-season. a question Floyd has had to deal with is about off-field issues.
a year ago, he was suspended from the Notre Dame team after a drunken-driving arrest on campus but was reinstated after he met the conditions set by the university and by coach Brian Kelly for his return. Floyd says he has learned from the situation and has taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
as always, much depends on what happens before the Cardinals get their pick.
Reilly Reif, a 6-foot-6, 313-pound tackle from Iowa, could still be on the board, although there is a considerable school of thought that he will be taken by the Buffalo Bills at No. 10. Guard-tackle Cordy Glenn of Georgia, 6-5 and 345 pounds, also is a possible choice, with Buffalo again a possibility. if the team decides to go with a guard, though, Stanford’s David DeCastro, 6-5, 316, has drawn raves. For that reason, he could be gone by No. 13, too.
Any other offensive lineman might be a reach at No. 13. the Cardinals have studiously avoided such moves in Whisenhunt’s years with the team.
"what we don’t want to do is draft a lineman just to draft a lineman because that’s what you think you have to do," Whisenhunt said. "You’ve got to trust your process and you’ve got to pick the best player available that fits your team."
Complicating matters is the absence of a second-round pick. that was sent to Philadelphia as part of the trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Arizona would consider a trade to move down in the draft, and perhaps get a second-round selection, but it seems a good share of the teams ahead of the Cardinals are willing to do so as well.
‘We would certainly like to be able to have multiple picks beyond the ordinary seven rounds, and this year we’re minus a second," general manager Rod Graves said, "but we’ll see what happens. we may end up getting back into a second, but if not then we’ll work with what we have and try to optimize it the best we can."
the Cardinals addressed some of the line issues in free agency, re-signing left tackle Levi Brown and signing free agent and former San Francisco 49er Adam Snyder. Snyder can play both guard and tackle but the Cardinals probably would rather slide him in at guard.
"obviously, getting Levi and Adam was big for us," Whisenhunt said. "we made no bones about the fact that we wanted to address our line. To think that you were going to be able to get three or four guys in free agency, that’s just not going to happen. however it came out, we felt like we made two strong additions in getting Levi back and getting Adam."
Unless there’s some kind of trade, Arizona’s second pick won’t come until the third round, the 80th selection overall.
But the Cardinals have been known to find success in the later rounds.
last year’s draft, considered to be a highly successful one for the team, had cornerback-punt returner Patrick Peterson as the no-brainer top of the list at No. 5 overall. But the Cardinals love their second-round pick, running back Ryan Williams, despite losing him to injury for the entire season. Fourth-round pick Sam Acho became the team’s starting outside linebacker and led the team in sacks with seven. the third-round pick, tight end Rob Housler, and sixth-round pick, nose tackle David Carter, became significant contributors.
"the teams that have been the most successful have had a history of strong drafts," Graves said, "back to back drafts, and a record of having historical success in drafting. That’s certainly what we’re working for."
San Francisco 49ers (30th pick)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh have a man in mind for the 30th pick, if he’s still around at that spot for San Francisco.
And, if the 49ers don’t jump on a chance to move up to land someone they believe could help right away as the reigning NFC West champions look to make another Super Bowl push in 2012.
They might just trade down, too.
Baalke has been right on in running the past two drafts, selecting several players who contributed immediately — from offensive linemen Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati to linebacker Aldon Smith.
While it has always been the general manager’s approach to snag the best possible player available, this draft is slightly different for the 49ers: San Francisco is set just about everywhere on the roster.
There’s been continued transition in the Tampa Bay secondary lately, and there are likely more changes to come.
For now, the Bucs have a need at cornerback and safety. The cornerback position was beefed up with the arrival of Lions free agent Eric Wright. He’ll either start at right cornerback or compete there with Ronde Barber, who, by the way, is probably in his final season.
further complicating matters is the status of Aqib Talib. he faces a trial this summer for a felony charge in Texas that could result in prison time, not to mention an NFL suspension. Even if Talib walks and is not disciplined by the league, he’s in the final year of his rookie contract and it’s practically inconceivable that the Bucs would re-sign him.
Depth is a concern in the cornerback ranks, too. When the Bucs last season went to nickel and dime packages with three or four cornerbacks, quarterbacks successfully picked on backups E.J. Biggers or Myron Lewis. The slow growth of Lewis, in particular, has been an issue. he was a third-round choice in 2010.
The release of Tanard Jackson leaves an already-thin safety corps even thinner. Cody Grimm is the only returning player in the unit with extensive experience, and he’s finished the past two seasons on injured reserve. Larry Asante and Ahmad Black are considered key reserves, though neither has much experience.
What they’re looking for
In coach Greg Schiano’s style of defense, cornerbacks, in particular, need to be able to play an aggressive brand of football. they will be asked to challenge receivers at the line of scrimmage, and be physical tacklers against the run.
The safeties are probably going to need to be willing to play near the line of scrimmage and punish receivers who do catch the ball in the open field.
Fitting the bill
LSU’s Morris Claiborne is the preeminent cornerback in the draft, and he would fit into any type of scheme the Bucs would play. beyond him, South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore is a nice-sized, physical cornerback who would fit Schiano’s style. but Gilmore is probably only going to be an option for the Bucs in a trade-down scenario because he’ll probably be picked in the middle of the first round.
The Bucs need to address the safety position, and the Bucs could have their eye on LSU’s Brandon Taylor. he could be drafted in the second round, but if he slips to the third, the Bucs have a high enough pick to grab him. Taylor is considered a player whose strength is playing in the box in run support. he is a violent hitter coached in college by current Bucs secondary coach Ron Cooper.
The top 10
1. Morris Claiborne, 5-11, 188, LSU (CB) The class of this group of defensive backs, Claiborne has elite coverage skills. He’s the most likely pick for the Bucs at No. 5. 2. Stephon Gilmore, 6-0, 190, South Carolina (CB) His size is a great attribute, and he has demonstrated he can use it effectively. His ability to be physical with receivers at the line will serve him well. 3. Mark Barron, 6-1, 213, Alabama (S) The top safety in this class, Barron will be a first-round pick who is immediately ready to play. has good speed and coverage ability. 4. Harrison Smith, 6-2, 213, Notre Dame (S) A four-year starter at a major program. Considered extremely athletic and unafraid to make contact, which he does with force. 5. Dre Kirkpatrick, 6-1, 186, Alabama (CB) an elite athlete with atypical length for his position. A three-year starter who should contribute right away. 6. Janoris Jenkins, 5-10, 193, North Alabama (CB) has elite coverage skills proven in the SEC, while at Florida. His character concerns are proving a major factor in his fall. 7. Alfonzo Dennard, 5-10, 204, Nebraska (CB) uses smarts and good technique to win battles with receivers. is a very tested prospect who will be able to play at least in nickel situations as a rookie. 8. Brandon Taylor, 5-11, 209, LSU (S) Played in one of the nation’s top secondaries at LSU. will be tested in coverage as a pro, but his ability against the run is proven. 9. Jayron Hosley, 5-10, 178, Virginia Tech (CB) could be a good fit for a team heavy on zone coverages. is a bit undersized, but plays with aggressiveness and finds the ball. 10. George Iloka, 6-4, 225, Boise State Possesses truly elite size that gives him opportunities on the ball. has shown good hands, which makes him appealing to the pros.
The Bucs have to come away from this draft feeling like they’ve addressed the secondary in a substantial way. look for Claiborne to, most likely, be the team’s top pick, and keep an eye out for a safety anywhere from the second to fourth round.
Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer ROUND 1 ROUNDS 2-3 ROUNDS 4-7 8 p.m. Thursday, ESPN, NFL Network. Bucs pick: No. 5 overall 7 p.m. Friday, ESPN, NFL Network Bucs: Round 2, 4/36th overall; Round 3, 5/68 Noon Saturday, ESPN, NFL Network Bucs: Round 5, 5/140; Round 6, 4/174; Round 7, 5/212 2012NFL DRAFT
The new England Patriots were established in 1959, as an original member of the American Football League. the Pats joined the NFL in 1970 after the merger. Today, the new England Patriots are one of the most successful teams in the NFL. the best draft picks by the new England Patriots are Andre Tippett, John Hannah and Tom Brady.
No. 3: Andre Tippett, LB, (1982 – 1993)
Andre Tippett was drafted in the second round of the 1982 draft with pick no. 41. Tippett went on to lead the franchise in sacks with 100 and fumble recoveries with 19. He achieved 18.5 sacks in 1984, a franchise record that still stands today, and followed up with 16.5 the next season. He ranks seventh on the all-time sacks list and third in terms of linebackers. the Hall of Famer of 2008 carried with him a defensive presence and playmaking ability that is yet to be matched by any other defensive player for the franchise. Andre Tippett is easily the best pass rusher the Patriots have had.
No. 2: John Hannah, OL, (1973 – 1985)
John Hannah is regarded as one of the best lineman to ever play the game in the NFL. He played with the Patriots for 13 seasons after being drafted fourth overall in the 1973 NFL Draft. He was an immediate starter for the team and from then you could witness his very strong commitment to the game of football. Hannah led the 1978 offensive line that paved the way for an NFL record of 3,165 rushing yards in a season. a player who missed only a handful of games in his career, he carried the team to an AFC title and its first ever Super Bowl. the Hall of Famer made nine Pro Bowl appearances and was known for quickness, speed and power, making him the ultimate offensive lineman to ever play the game. He was the first Patriots player inducted into the Hall of Fame, in 1991, and it will be extremely difficult for anyone to come close to the playing level of a John Hannah.
No. 1: Tom Brady, QB, (2000 – Present)
In the 2000 NFL draft, Tom Brady was selected 199th overall, in the sixth round, by the new England Patriots. after seeing who the player is today, one must wonder why he fell so low in the draft. Brady, who is on the road toward becoming one of the best quarterbacks of all time, has three Super Bowl championships to his credit and is the face of the Patriots’ dynasty of the 2000s. Tom Brady transformed averaged players around him into incredible players. In his 12 seasons with the franchise, 10 as a starter, he has carried the team to five Super Bowls and three Super Bowl wins. He holds the record for most touchdown passes in an NFL season and has the best winning percentage of any QB in the Super Bowl era. the player who has been invited to eight Pro Bowls is the single reason for the Patriots winning any of their Super Bowls.
Tom Brady has the luxury of still being an active player in the NFL, and is easily the greatest player ever for the franchise and the best player to be drafted by the new England Patriots.
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There’s an old saying that there are “lies, damn lies, and statistics.” During each year’s annual buildup to the NFL’s selection special, the words NFL Draft could be added to the list.
The Miami Dolphins appear set on a few players they can pick with the number eight overall pick. Now, it’s all a guessing game as to who the pick will be.
According to profootballtalk.com, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is “pushing” for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be the first round pick of the team. the report could be true given that Ross has been pushing for a franchise quarterback since he’s been here.
But, CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald reported the Ross story is not true and that Ross has not told anyone who the team should draft. Then again, SI.com’s Peter King reported Monday morning that a highly placed Dolphins source said the original profootballtalk.com was “right on.”
King also reported that Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who coached Tannehill while at Texas A&M, “isn’t standing on the table for him.” If the last part of King’s report is accurate, the Fins may not be inclined to take Tannehill if his former head coach isn’t gung ho for him.
It’s wise for the Dolphins not to send clear signals as to whether they intend to draft Tannehill, because it keeps the trade market open for a team to move ahead of the Fins and take Tannehill, if the Fins aren’t sold on taking him at eight.
But the very trade market the Dolphins, Jaguars, and Rams hope to generate may be obsolete based on part of the collective bargaining agreement.
Both profootballtalk and SI.com reported that each first round pick this year will be signed to a four-year contract with a team option for the fifth year. Teams have to tell players by May of the fourth season if they plan to exercise the option.
Here’s where it gets tricky. for picks 1-10 of the first round, the fifth year salary will be the average of the top 10 salaries at the position that season. for the other picks in the first round, the fifth year salary will be the average of the third through 25th salaries at that position that year, according to SI.com.
The difference between salaries can be several million dollars and with a hard salary cap in the NFL, every dollar counts.
So while the original theory was the new CBA would make it more beneficial to jump up to take a player may not be entirely true. it ends up making the Kansas City Chiefs, who hold the 11th overall pick, as being in the driver’s seat for the first round.
As for the Dolphins, they could be trying to sandbag on Tannehill and also make it sound like they love Tannehill to keep teams guessing as to who they really like. Given the release of another defensive lineman Monday, the Fins may choose to target a rush defensive end/linebacker in the first round.
All of it leads to Thursday night’s NFL Draft and proves once again why the NFL is the big dog of professional sports among fans.