1 QB Andrew Luck Stanford Jr. 6-4 235
As head-turning as Baylor's Robert Griffin III has been at the combine and on his pro day, I haven't heard anything from the Colts to make me believe they're wavering on their intent to take Luck. With Peyton Manning a Bronco, and Indy's purge of veterans complete, all that remains is the formality of handing in the card on draft night, and making official the very fitting marriage between The Horseshoe and a QB named Luck.
2 QB Robert Griffin III Baylor Jr. 6-2 220
At least I don't have to project a trade for Griffin at No. 2 for the third consecutive mock, because the Redskins beat the Browns to the punch and got the blockbuster deal done two weeks ago. Sure, Washington gave up a ton, but if Griffin is one of the league's next superstar quarterbacks as many believe (me included), it'll be worth the price paid. I still say it's Cleveland that will be sorry in the long run.
3 OT Matt Kalil USC Jr. 6-7 295
For now I'm not buying the notion the Vikings are moving away from Kalil and toward either LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne or Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon. Not that they're unworthy picks at No. 3, but Kalil is also worthy, and the value/need of the Vikings' left tackle position is at least as high, if not higher, than it is at cornerback or receiver. After watching the Rams hit the jackpot at No. 2, sounds to me like Minnesota wants to see if anyone is interested in giving up a boatload to trade up to No. 3 for one of the draft's elite talents or possibly No. 3 quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
4 WR Justin Blackmon Oklahoma State Jr. 6-1 215
The Browns have a lot of different options sitting in the spot where this draft starts to get interesting, but I don't sense they're in love with any of them. They seem to think it's too high to take Tannehill, and are going to hew back to Colt McCoy as the answer at quarterback. Claiborne would make sense here, but how do you go defense with your first-round pick when you've got a crying need for an offensive playmaker who can help out McCoy's game? Alabama running back Trent Richardson seems to be the popular choice here, and he could be their guy. But I'm going with Blackmon on the logic that there have been more top-10 impact receivers of late than running backs. Because of that, Richardson could fall into the teens.
5 CB Morris Claiborne LSU Jr. 6-0 185
Even with Ronde Barber back for another year and Eric Wright signed in free agency, the Bucs should be thrilled to find Claiborne sitting there as a starting fixture at cornerback. The Vincent Jackson acquisition probably removes the need for Blackmon, and Richardson to me is going to be a top-10 bubble pick come late April. One of the few givens in this draft is that Claiborne is the top-rated defender available, and that likely won't change even with Thursday's news that he will undergo wrist surgery this week.
6 DT Dontari Poe Memphis Sr. 6-5 350
The Rams' fervent hope is that Blackmon falls to them, but in this scenario their luck will have run out for the first time this draft season. St. Louis will rebound by selecting the fast-rising Poe, whose freakish blend of size, speed and athleticism was one of the big stories coming out of the combine. New Rams head coach Jeff Fisher will have found himself a younger and more athletic version of Albert Haynesworth to put in the middle of his defense.
7 DE Melvin Ingram South Carolina Sr. 6-2 276
The Jaguars are very open to the idea of trading down with a team that might want to leap-frog No. 8 Miami in order to draft Ryan Tannehill, but the list of potential suitors has dwindled as the game of quarterback musical chairs has wound down in the first 10 days of free agency. Iowa offensive tackle Reilly Rieff is an option, as is Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd. But Ingram seems like the kind of consistent and powerful defender that Jaguars GM Gene Smith looks for, and the team's pass rush needs significant help.
8 QB Ryan Tannehill Texas A&M Sr. 6-4 222
The Dolphins have had a reverse Midas Touch of late, scaring away almost all of the big fish they pursue. But unless Miami is prepared to play the season with either Matt Moore or David Garrard at quarterback, Tannehill looks like a solid roll of the dice. His relationship with new Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman from their Texas A&M days should mean he's a known quantity, but then, we thought that about Matt Flynn and Joe Philbin, too. The good news for the Dolphins if they take Tannehill? He really can't say no to them.
9 DE Michael Brockers LSU Soph. 6-6 306
The Panthers' need on the defensive line dovetails nicely with the strength of this year's first round. Carolina could take a chance on homestate product Quinton Coples, the pass-rushing North Carolina defensive end, but the surer bet would be Brockers, who has the size to help stuff the run and the athleticism to penetrate and become a disruptive play-maker.
10 OT Riley Reiff Iowa Jr. 6-6 300
It's amazing how much good $140 million or so can do at the defensive end position. But with Mario Williams and Mark Anderson newly signed, the Bills can look to fill other needs at No. 10. Offensive left tackle is a glaring deficiency, and either Reiff or Stanford's Jonathan Martin should be there for the taking. Reiff is not this high on the draft board of some teams, and could fall in the first round. If the Bills want to continue to focus on defense, Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw would add some edge rush ability.
11 LB Luke Kuechly Boston College Jr. 6-3 237
With Eric Winston signed during free agency, the Chiefs' top priority of finding a new starter at right offensive tackle has been addressed. That shifts the first-round spotlight on either inside linebacker, or the nose tackle slot. With Dontari Poe and Michael Brockers already selected, we're putting the Chiefs and Kuechly together, with the knowledge that K.C. general manager Scott Pioli was never known to over-value inside linebackers in the draft.
12 OG David DeCastro Stanford Sr. 6-5 310
The Seahawks are out of the quarterback market in the draft, having signed free agent veteran Matt Flynn on Sunday night. With Robert Gallery released and Steve Hutchinson signing in Tennessee, DeCastro has emerged as an obvious candidate for the No. 12 slot. He's the kind of tough, physical player that Seattle line coach Tom Cable prefers, and as the top-rated guard prospect, he's a nice melding of value and draft slot.
13 RB Trent Richardson Alabama Jr. 5-11 224
(Projected trade with Cardinals). Even with this week's signing of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, I can't rule out Cincinnati as a likely destination for Richardson, the draft's top rusher. The Bengals want to go to a three-headed backfield under OC Jay Gruden, and if Richardson gets out of the top 10 as I expect, Cincinnati (at No. 17 and 21) is one of the best-positioned teams to make a move for him. The Bengals' cornerback need could still get attention at No. 21.
14 DE Quinton Coples North Carolina Sr. 6-6 285
Even with the Brandon Carr signing in free agency, the Cowboys could opt for another cornerback like Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick, South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore or North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins. But as a potential top-10 pick in the eyes of many draft analysts, Coples is simply too high to pass on. His inconsistency aside, Coples has pass rush skills, and you can't find those in the middle of the first round.
15 DT Fletcher Cox Mississippi State Jr. 6-4 295
The DeMeco Ryans trade means the Eagles have their 2012 starting middle linebacker already on their roster. That frees up Philly to look at several positions in the first round, defensive tackle, offensive tackle and safety among them. Cox is the draft's third-rated DT, and while the position isn't an urgent need, you know how Andy Reid loves his big guys up front.
16 WR Michael Floyd Notre Dame Sr. 6-3 224
The Jets and Alabama safety Mark Barron are a pairing you hear a lot, and even with New York's signing of free agent safety LaRon Landry, you can't discount Barron. But we know how the Jets love to make a splash with their skill-player acquisitions, and Floyd is rated just slightly behind Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon in the estimation of many scouts.
17 OT Cordy Glenn Georgia Sr. 6-6 346
(Projected trade with Bengals; from Oakland). As a reminder, we're projecting the Bengals and Cardinals trade places at No. 17 and 13, with the Cardinals picking up an extra draft pick or so (a second?) in exchange for letting Cincy go up and get Trent Richardson. At 17, the Cardinals could still fill their need for an offensive tackle with Glenn or Stanford's Jonathan Martin, or turn their attention to defense and take Alabama 3-4 rush linebacker Courtney Upshaw. But the 6-6, 346-pound Glenn is climbing as the draft approaches, and his blend of size and speed is intriguing, even if Arizona did re-sign veteran tackle Levi Brown.
18 DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw Alabama Sr. 6-2 265
The Chargers could go a lot of different ways, but in this scenario they would see a highly ranked player who fills a position of great need fall to them, prompting general manager A.J. Smith to wear that cat-ate-the-canary look of his. Illinois DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus and Clemson OLB Andre Branch are options if Upshaw's lack of ideal athleticism is worrisome to the Chargers, or if they think he projects more as a 4-3 base end in the NFL.
19 DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus Illinois Jr. 6-4 254
With the Brandon Marshall trade getting Jay Cutler the requisite No. 1 receiver, the Bears can take whomever catches their fancy. A cornerback like Stephon Gilmore makes sense, or maybe another offensive tackle for new coordinator Mike Tice to plug into the lineup (Jonathan Martin or Mike Adams?). But Chicago could also use some pass rush help for Julius Peppers, and Whitney, the one-year wonder who starred for the homestate Illini last season, might be hard to resist.
20 CB Stephon Gilmore South Carolina Jr. 6-1 193
The Titans are hopeful the free agent signing of ex-Raiders outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, who will play a 4-3 end slot in Tennessee, addresses some of their pass rush deficiences. While another pass rusher like USC defensive end Nick Perry is a possibility, as is Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, Gilmore is a big and aggressive cornerback who excels in press coverage and would help offset the loss of Cortland Finnegan via free agency.
21 CB Dre Kirkpatrick Alabama Jr. 6-3 192
I don't know how Bengals fans could be anything but ecstatic with the team's first-round haul for the second year in a row if it nabs both Trent Richardson and Kirkpatrick, thereby addressing major needs on both sides of the ball. Many analysts have Kirkpatrick as the draft's second-highest rated cornerback overall, but I think South Carolina's Gilmore runs him down and passes him up by late April.
22 OT Jonathan Martin Stanford Sr. 6-6 304
(From Atlanta). With Blackmon our pick for the Browns at No. 4, the team could use its No. 22 selection to get Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, or roll the dice at cornerback on the gifted but baggage-strewn Janoris Jenkins. But either Martin or Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams figures to be the safer pick, and would give Cleveland a replacement for recently released right tackle Tony Pashos.
23 CB Janoris Jenkins North Alabama Sr. 5-10 191
My gut tells me Jim Schwartz believes he now has enough capital in the bank and enough of a handle on his locker room to take a chance on Jenkins, who comes with as many red flags as anyone in consideration for a first-round selection. It's worth remembering Schwartz once coached Pacman Jones in Tennessee, and believed in him before things spiraled out of control in Nashville. The Lions' need at cornerback is obvious after the loss of Eric Wright in free agency.
24 OT Mike Adams Ohio State Sr. 6-8 320
After the offensive line issues the Steelers have suffered through the past two seasons, Adams would seem a godsend at No. 24. He's too inconsistent for some teams, but the Steelers like his build and the way he stood out against better competition. If Pittsburgh goes defensive tackle, Michigan State's Jerel Worthy and Penn State's Devon Still are available.
25 TE Coby Fleener Stanford Sr. 6-6 244
The Broncos landed themselves a starting quarterback in free agency, and I bet it would make him happy to get a young, play-making weapon like Fleener in the first round. Fleener further impressed NFL scouts with a stellar pro day showing this week, and he has emerged as the draft's clear-cut top tight end prospect.