Free agency has impacted draft's first round
By Bucky Brooks | NFL.com
Published: March 16, 2012
1. ANDREW LUCK QB STANFORD
While he doesn't have a star-studded supporting cast to ensure his success at this point, there is no doubt that this team will eventually revolve around his unique talents in the near future.
2. ROBERT GRIFFIN III QB BAYLOR
Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen paid a hefty sum to get in position to nab the other franchise quarterback in the draft. RG3 gives the Redskins a mercurial talent to build their offense around, and their lavish free-agent spending on offensive playmakers should help their young star get off to a fast start in Year 1.
3. MATT KALIL OT USC
Ignore the speculation of the Vikings moving out of this selection because it is too hard to find franchise-caliber offensive tackles with Kalil's skills. He is an all-star waiting to happen and the Vikings' offensive rebirth will coincide with his emergence as one of the NFL's top performers on the edge.
4. TRENT RICHARDSON RB ALABAMA
If the Browns want to help Colt McCoy thrive, they must surround him with better weapons at the skill positions, particularly at running back. Richardson is not only the top runner in the draft, but he is a difference maker at the position capable of single-handedly carrying the offense to greater heights with his remarkable skills.
5. MORRIS CLAIBORNE CB LSU
The signing of Eric Wright in free agency won't prevent the Bucs from adding the premier cover corner in the draft. The high-powered offenses of the NFC South increases the need to have at least three quality corners on the field at all times.
6. JUSTIN BLACKMON WR OKLAHOMA ST.
The Rams are in desperate need of a No. 1 receiver to help Sam Bradford resurrect their anemic passing game. Blackmon is a touchdown machine (40 career TDs at Oklahoma State) with the skills to produce big plays whenever the touches the ball in the open field. For a team that has only scored 65 passing touchdowns over the past five years, Blackmon's penchant for putting the ball in the paint makes him a no-brainer at this selection.
7. RILEY REIFF OT IOWA
If the Jaguars are serious about developing Blaine Gabbert into a franchise quarterback, they must make sure he is protected in the pocket. Reiff is an upgrade over Guy Whimper at right tackle.
8. MELVIN INGRAM DE SOUTH CAROLINA
The Dolphins have obvious offensive needs at wide receiver and offensive tackle, but the opportunity to nab one of the draft's top pass rushers will invigorate their defense. Ingram provides the unit with an energetic rusher with outstanding athleticism and burst, making his potential pairing with Cameron Wake a problematic combination for opponents.
9. DONTARI POE DT MEMPHIS
The Panthers could easily opt for Quinton Coples at this pick to upgrade their pass rush, but Ron Rivera desperately needs a presence on the interior to fortify the front seven. Poe's size and strength makes him immovable at the point, but it is his rare movement skills that will conjure up memories of Kris Jenkins in the minds of Panthers fans.
10. JONATHAN MARTIN OT STANFORD
The signing of Mario Williams eliminates the need to address the defensive end at this spot, so Buddy Nix could take the opportunity to fill the void at left tackle. Martin might not rank this high on all draft boards, but his size, athleticism and potential could make him a tough prospect to bypass at this point.
11. LUKE KUECHLY ILB BOSTON COLLEGE
The Chiefs' defense is on the cusp of being regarded as an elite unit, but the addition of Kuechly could push it over the top. He is an ultra-productive linebacker with better than anticipated athleticism. With Derrick Johnson already entrenched as the designated playmaker, Kuechly could clean up as the run and chase player within the tackle-to-tackle box.
12. DAVID DECASTRO G STANFORD
The team's decision to release Robert Gallery creates an obvious need at offensive guard. DeCastro is the best prospect at the position, and he brings a toughness that will help ignite the Seahawks' running game behind Marshawn Lynch.
13. DRE KIRKPATRICK CB ALABAMA
This might come as a surprise pick to some, but the loss of Richard Marshall in free agency combined with injuries to Greg Toler and Crezdon Butler makes finding a starting cornerback a priority in the draft. Kirkpatrick possesses the size, length and toughness to thrive in the Cardinals' attack-style defense.
14. QUINTON COPLES DE NORTH CAROLINA
Jerry Jones would be ecstatic if the board shook out this way with one of the top defensive ends falling out of the top 10. Coples is an ideal five-technique with the size and athleticism to wreak havoc on the interior. Although questions about his motor need to be addressed, Coples could be a star in Rob Ryan's 3-4.
15. FLETCHER COX DT MISSISSIPPI ST.
The Eagles' struggles against the run have been pinned on the young linebackers, but the inability to control the interior triangle was due to their inconsistency at defensive tackle. Cox is a high-motor playmaker with outstanding athleticism to give the Eagles' defense a jolt
16. WHITNEY MERCILUS DE ILLINOIS
The Jets' D has not been as dominant in recent years due to the lack of a consistent pass rush. Whitney led the nation with 16 sacks, and gives the unit an explosive edge rusher to build around.
17. JANORIS JENKINS CB NORTH ALABAMA
There are some who believe Jenkins is the best cornerback in this year's class. His ball skills and awareness routinely produced big plays, which is a major reason Marvin Lewis will take a chance on him in the first round despite his character concerns.
18. CORDY GLENN T GEORGIA
As much as the Chargers need to add a legitimate pass rusher, the opportunity to fortify the offensive line on the interior would make the decision to grab Glenn a no-brainer. He has experience playing at multiple spots and his overall versatility makes him the perfect fit for the Chargers.
19. ANDRE BRANCH DE CLEMSON
The Bears are looking for a young, athletic rusher to place opposite Julius Peppers. Branch fits the bill with his speed and explosiveness off the edge. Although he remains a work in progress, his potential to create disruption makes him a strong consideration at this point.
20. JEREL WORTHY DT MICHIGAN ST.
The potential loss of Jason Jones will make finding an interior playmaker a priority in the draft. Worthy is a disruptive penetrator with exceptional quickness, and his ability to explode through creases in the middle will enhance their pass rush.
21. LAMAR MILLER RB MIAMI
The Bengals are seemingly content to let Cedric Benson depart via free agency, which means Marvin Lewis will be on the look out for a feature back in the draft. Miller is a home run threat in the mold of CJ2K and his ability to contribute in the passing game will complement the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green connection.
22. MICHAEL FLOYD WR NOTRE DAME
The Browns need a legitimate No. 1 receiver to anchor the passing game. Floyd is the athletic, big-bodied playmaker ideally suited to do the dirty work over the middle of the field. Floyd's size and remarkable ball skills will increase Colt McCoy's strike zone and help the Browns find consistency in the passing game.
23. STEPHON GILMORE CB SOUTH CAROLINA
The Lions' pass defense was awful despite the presence of a dominant front four. The secondary surrendered too many big plays and lacked the ability to match up in man coverage consistency. Gilmore is a big, physical corner capable of playing man or zone, and his size allows him to match up with big, physical receivers that rule the division.
24. MIKE ADAMS OT OHIO ST.
The Steelers need to beef up the protection around Ben Roethlisberger to keep their offense operating at an efficient level. Adams possesses outstanding physical tools, but his motor doesn't run high consistently. If Mike Tomlin can find a way to keep Adams motivated, this move could pay huge dividends down the road.
25. RYAN TANNEHILL QB TEXAS A&M
If the Broncos fail to secure Peyton Manning, Tannehill becomes a viable option at the bottom of the first round. He is athletic enough to fit into the restructured offensive scheme built around Tim Tebow's skill set, yet is a more polished passer capable of winning with his arm. Tannehill, of course, could move up the board depending on his March 29 pro day.
26. STEPHEN HILL WR GEORGIA TECH
The Texans need to find a vertical threat opposite Andre Johnson to keep opponents from ganging up on the Pro Bowler. Hill is not a polished product at this point, but his combination of speed and athleticism makes him a dangerous threat.
27. MICHAEL BROCKERS DT LSU
Brockers' disappointing performance at the combine raised concerns about his conditioning, but he still remains an intriguing prospect for teams looking for a disruptive five-technique. Although his limited playing history makes him a bit of a "boom or bust" prospect, he could emerge as a dominant player in the right developmental program.
28. CHANDLER JONES DE SYRACUSE
The Packers missed Cullen Jenkins' presence at the five-technique a season ago. Jones is a versatile defender capable of playing multiple positions along the front, and his pass rush skills will help Clay Matthews get more isolated matchups on the edge.
29. DONT'A HIGHTOWER ILB ALABAMA
It is time for the Ravens to find a viable replacement for Ray Lewis. Hightower is a natural leader with a multi-faceted skill set that brings an added dimension to the Ravens' 3-4.
30. KENDALL WRIGHT WR BAYLOR
The 49ers' lack of explosiveness at receiver was exposed in the NFC Championship Game. Wright is an electrifying playmaker with the speed to produce big plays in the passing game.
31. MARK BARRON SS ALABAMA
The Patriots' struggles against the pass can be attributed to the suspect play of their safeties. Barron is a versatile safety with exceptional ball skills, instincts and awareness ideally suited to play in Bill Belichick's multi-faceted scheme.
32. COBY FLEENER TE STANFORD
Eli Manning was outstanding a season ago despite lacking a proven threat at tight end. Fleener is the most complete tight end in the draft, and his speed will discourage teams from employing two-deep schemes to slow down Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks on the perimeter.
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