NFL mock draft: Memphis' massive, highly athletic Dontari Poe moves into top 10
With the Scouting Combine in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to adjust our mock to reflect players who helped or hurt themselves in Indianapolis. It is important to never drastically change a player's grade based on how he works out in shorts and a T-shirt, but the player workouts can help break some ties and help figure out which system a player may be best suited for.
An excellent example is Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who was viewed as only a nose tackle before working out at the Combine. But after he showed shocking initial quickness and all-around athleticism for a huge man (6-3˝, 346 pounds), we’re confident he can also play defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme. As a result, we moved him into the top 10 for the first time (Carolina at No. 9).
On the other hand, LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers did not show the explosiveness and smooth athleticism throughout his workout, which raises concerns about his ability to be an effective gap-shooting defensive tackle. We feel Brockers (6-5, 322) is better suited to a role as a two-gap defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme or a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme. Based on his Combine performance, Brockers dropped a couple of spots in the mock (to Kansas City at No. 11).
For now, Sporting News' first-round pick projections, barring expected trades (*—underclassman):
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck*, QB, Stanford. With the new regime in place, it is clear they want to get their quarterback of the future, and we are very confident Andrew Luck will be the guy.
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil*, OT, USC. The Rams mostly likely will trade this pick to the highest bidder for Robert Griffin III. But if something happens that causes the Rams to stay put, they will take Kalil to shore up their offensive line and protect Sam Bradford's blind side.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Blackmon*, WR, Oklahoma State. The Vikings would prefer to take Kalil because they badly need an upgrade at offensive tackle. But with Kalil gone, they grab Blackmon—who can be Christian Ponder’s go-to receiver—rather than reach for an offensive tackle.
4. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III*, QB, Baylor. If no one can work out a trade to go up and get Griffin—an unlikely scenario—the Browns would jump all over him with the No. 4 pick.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne*, CB, LSU. New coach Greg Schiano believes in a physical, playmaking scheme, so the Bucs jump at chance to grab the best cornerback in the draft and upgrade a defense that allowed the most points in the league.
6. Washington Redskins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. Coach Mike Shanahan has always built his team around big, athletic quarterbacks with strong arms, and Tannehill fits that mold perfectly.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. If young quarterback Blaine Gabbert is going to develop, he needs weapons and Floyd has what it takes to be an impact receiver early in his career.
8. Miami Dolphins: David DeCastro*, G, Stanford. The Dolphins’ offensive line has struggled with consistency in recent seasons, and DeCastro could start at guard immediately. He showed at the Combine that he also might be able to handle playing right tackle, which would shore up a big problem for Miami.
9. Carolina Panthers: Dontari Poe*, DT, Memphis. Poe has been talked about primarily as a nose tackle, but after displaying elite athleticism at the Combine, the Panthers grab him to play tackle in their 4-3 scheme.
10. Buffalo Bills: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina. With the Bills switching back to a 4-3 defense, they need to find players who can play end and Ingram has the pass-rush skills to be a good one.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Michael Brockers*, NT, LSU. Brockers is an extremely strong, powerful tackle who can dominate with his strength at the point of attack. He has what it takes to be a good starting nose tackle.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Devon Still, DT, Penn State. With defensive linemen Raheem Brock and Red Bryant scheduled to be free agents, the Seahawks grab Still, who has the talent to start as a rookie and could fill Bryant's role if they lose him.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin*, OT, Stanford. Arizona's offensive line has not protected the quarterback well in recent seasons, and Martin has the feet and elite athleticism to protect the blind side.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama. Jerry Jones has long shown a willingness to gamble on players with character concerns. With their dire need for a cornerback, the Cowboys take a shot with Jenkins, who was dismissed by Florida after three arrests in two years.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Cordy Glenn, G/OT, Georgia. The Eagles’ offensive line was not dominant in 2011, and Glenn has the physical talent to start at guard or right tackle as a rookie.
16. New York Jets: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. The Jets’ edge pass rush needs to improve, and Coples could help them because he is an explosive pass rusher with the versatility to be productive from a down end spot or as an outside linebacker in the team’s 3-4 scheme.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (From Oakland): Trent Richardson*, RB, Alabama. The Bengals, who aren’t expected to re-sign Cedric Benson, get lucky when the top back in the draft slides to them.
18. San Diego Chargers: Peter Konz*, C, Wisconsin. Nick Hardwick could leave as a free agent and four-time Pro Bowl guard Kris Dielman is expected to retire, so the Chargers grab Konz to play one of those spots.
19. Chicago Bears: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. Despite his poor 40 time (4.61) at the Scouting Combine, Wright is considered the most explosive receiver in the draft and would stretch the field for the Bears' offense.
20. Tennessee Titans: Dre Kirkpatrick*, CB, Alabama. Cortland Finnegan is a free agent, and the Titans have shown a willingness to gamble on players like Kirkpatrick who have immense talent but off-field concerns.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia. Nate Clements will be in his 13th season in 2012, and Leon Hall is coming off a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury. The Bengals grab Boykin, whose explosive athleticism, ball skills and return ability give him the tools to make an immediate impact as a nickel cornerback and kickoff returner.
22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford. A young quarterback's best friend is a tight end who can be his short area safety valve. Fleener can provide that as well as big plays down the field for the Browns’ quarterback—whoever it is.
23. Detroit Lions: Nick Perry*, DE, USC. Kyle Vanden Bosch is 33 and Cliff Avril is a free agent—though the Lions likely will re-sign him or give him the franchise tag—so they grab Perry, a solid pass rusher.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama. Upshaw is not a premier, explosive athlete, but he is an outstanding power rusher and run defender who reminds us a lot of LaMarr Woodley. He would give the Steelers a good young outside linebacker to eventually replace James Harrison, who turns 34 in May.
25. Denver Broncos: Luke Kuechly*, MLB, Boston College. Current Broncos middle linebacker Joe Mays is not an elite player, and Kuechly would bring strength, athleticism and rare playmaking ability to the middle of the Broncos’ defense.
26. Houston Texans: Rueben Randle*, WR, LSU. Every year we say the Texans need to find a receiver to play opposite Andre Johnson, but usually there is not an elite one available when they draft. Randle is a strong, well-built receiver with the excellent acceleration to make big plays after the catch.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans): Whitney Mercilus*, OLB, Illinois. Mercilus' combination of outstanding strength, long arms, toughness against the run and great intangibles make him a perfect fit to play outside linebacker in the Patriots’ scheme.
28. Green Bay Packers: Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson. The Packers' offense is amazing, but their defense struggled in 2011 and Thompson is a strong, powerful defensive lineman who would fit as an end in the Packers' 3-4 scheme.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State. Bryant McKinnie is not the long-term answer at left tackle and Michael Oher struggled when he played on the left side in 2010. So the Ravens choose Adams, who is not an elite prospect but a good one with excellent height (6-7), long arms and competitiveness.
30. San Francisco 49ers: DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State. The 49ers need a receiver to open up their offense, and Posey has good height (6-1 5/8) and the ability to run sharp routes and make tough catches. He would upgrade the 49ers’ offense immediately.
31. New England Patriots: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia. The Patriots continue to upgrade their defense by grabbing Minnifield, whose athleticism, long arms and ball skills give him the tools to be successful in their system.
32. New York Giants: Dwayne Allen*, TE, Clemson. After losing Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum to ACL injuries in the Super Bowl, the Giants currently have no depth at tight end. Allen is the type of receiving tight end the Giants have lacked since they traded Jeremy Shockey.