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Greg Cosell, NFL Films, first mock draft
Cosell Talks: The Mock Draft
by Greg Cosell
Here it is – my first mock draft. A moment I will savor forever. Here’s how I am doing it: I will choose players based on my film study and my sense of team needs. I have no idea what different teams draft boards look like, nor will I try to speculate what a team might be thinking. The main objective of my mock is to further discuss the top players by putting them in a draft format. One other caveat: I am disregarding documented off-field problems, character issues, anything that is not a function of on-field play. I understand that teams significantly factor that into the equation, but I am solely basing my player evaluations on what’s on the tape. That’s what I do. I watch tape.
1. Indianapolis (I know they are taking Andrew Luck but that’s not important for this exercise): My highest rated quarterback is Robert Griffin III. Projecting college quarterbacks to the NFL demands an understanding of the attributes needed to play on Sunday. I presented those earlier this week. My conclusion: Griffin is a superior arm talent and better natural passer than Luck. This debate will rage for a long time, but that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
2. Washington: There are similarities between the offense Mike and Kyle Shanahan run, and the Houston Texans offense of Gary Kubiak. Andrew Luck fits very well into that scheme. He’s a bigger, more physical and more talented Matt Schaub, with the same kind of short to intermediate passing efficiency and more athleticism to get outside the pocket on designed rollouts. Luck would be outstanding in that offense.
3. Minnesota: The Vikings play in the same division with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler. You cannot compete in the NFC North without quality corner play. For the Vikings in 2012, a corner is more important than a left tackle. Minnesota takes the best corner prospect in this draft: South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore has a chance to be a Charles Woodson type player down the road: athletic, physical and competitive, playing outside in the base defense and in the slot in the sub-packages.
4. Cleveland: The Browns select my highest rated player, RB Trent Richardson. Richardson is a special runner, the best to enter the NFL since Adrian Peterson. Cleveland will not compete in the AFC North trying to outscore Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cincinnati. They will not sustain offense throwing the ball. They must shorten the game, limit the number of snaps their defense is on the field, and try to win 17-14. You need a foundation back to do that.
5. Tampa Bay: Remember what I said about Minnesota. It applies to the Bucs as well. In the NFC South, they must defend Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. If they expect to be competitive, they must cover on the perimeter. They select the best pure man-to-man cover corner in the draft, Janoris Jenkins. If you watched him at Florida in 2010 matched against AJ Green, Julio Jones and Alshon Jeffery, you know what I mean.
6. St. Louis: In a division that features 2 ground and pound offenses, San Francisco and Seattle, the Rams go defense and select the best overall defensive linemen in the draft, Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State. Cox fits the Jeff Fisher profile: he can play both defensive tackle and defensive end, and he has the natural athleticism and body flexibility to develop into a quality pass rusher.
7. Jacksonville: The Jaguars select the third corner in the top 7 picks, Morris Claiborne. Claiborne played both press and off coverage at LSU, and he also played in the slot. Claiborne was more of a mirror or shadow press man corner, much like Champ Bailey has been in his career. Claiborne was a smooth efficient mover, but he was not as physical as Gilmore, and I don’t believe he provides the same slot versatility as a blitzer and run support defender.
8. Miami: What I’m about to say certainly applied to Cleveland as well, but I could not pass on such a special player as Richardson at #4. If you have a top 15 NFL quarterback (give or take) you can compete for division titles and by extension, championships. If you don’t, it’s very difficult. Think about the top 15 in the NFL right now, and you’ll realize it’s a fair statement. That logic leads me to Ryan Tannehill for the Dolphins. In fact, over time, I believe he has a chance to be significantly better than Top 15.
9. Carolina: The Panthers have a quarterback with a chance to be special. They have 2 excellent running backs, both still young. They just re-signed Steve Smith, following his best season in a number of years. They have an excellent offensive line. How about adding Michael Floyd to the equation? The idea: Make one side of the ball outstanding, and then gradually build the defense. That was Bill Polian’s approach with the Colts when they drafted Peyton Manning back in 1998.
10. Buffalo: The Bills select the second receiver in the top 10, Justin Blackmon. Blackmon fits very well in Chan Gailey’s multiple formation passing game. Gailey runs a fast-break offense with Ryan Fitzpatrick getting the ball out quickly like a quarterback version of a point guard. Many will argue left tackle, and Matt Kalil is still available in my mock, but in Buffalo’s offense, I believe a receiver like Blackmon, with his size, alignment versatility and excellent run-after-catch ability, is a more necessary component than a left tackle.
11. Kansas City: The Chiefs under Romeo Crennel are quietly building an excellent defense. Focus on linebacker: It’s a very good group that features Tamba Hali and Justin Houston on the outside, and Derrick Johnson inside. You add Luke Kuechly to the mix, and you may well have the best 3-4 linebacking unit in the NFL. I’m tired of hearing about Kuechly’s average athleticism. I watched game after game after game and he played fast with urgent reaction speed. He played with his eyes better than any linebacker I can remember evaluating. His so-called inability to play physically? Watch the NFL as extensively as I do, and you’ll know that very few linebackers take on blocks. That’s a time-worn cliché that really has little practical application.
12. Seattle: The most intriguing front-7 player comes off the board to the Seahawks. Melvin Ingram is remarkably athletic for his body type (6’1½”, 264 pounds at the Combine). He aligned all over the South Carolina defense: DE, DT, LB. He was the movable chess piece looking for matchups to exploit. At times he moved like a running back with his lateral agility and nimble feet. Don’t overreact when I say this, but his spin move was reminiscent of Dwight Freeney. He had that kind of explosive quickness.
13. Arizona: This is where Matt Kalil comes off the board in my mock. I know the Cards re-signed Levi Brown, but trust me, I watched every game on tape last season, and Brown is not a quality starting NFL left tackle. They can move him to the right side, and start Kalil at left tackle from day one. Kalil is a much better pass protector at this point; the tape clearly shows he needs work as a run blocker, but in the final analysis, he’s the best left tackle in this draft. In addition, with either Kevin Kolb or John Skelton taking the snaps, two quarterbacks who struggle with pocket movement, it is imperative that pass protection be a priority.
14. Dallas: The pick here is Alabama safety Mark Barron. Barron is easily the best safety in this draft class. His tape showed a complete and multi-dimensional skill set, perhaps the most impressive attribute being his man-to-man coverage ability versus tight ends. He also played man-to-man against the inside slot receiver in 3×1 sets. The larger point is that Barron can play man coverage, and that has become increasingly important for safeties in today’s NFL. Overall Barron offers tremendous scheme and position versatility. Safety has still not reached premium status in terms of NFL draft value, but I would argue that Barron is one of the 5 to 7 best players in this draft.
15. Philadelphia: I look at the Eagles defense, and see the need for an inside pass rusher in their sub-package personnel groups. Remember, in the final 4 games of 2011, the coaching staff expanded the alignment and personnel concepts, often utilizing Jason Babin and Trent Cole in 2 point stances as moveable linebackers. With that said, the pick is Chandler Jones from Syracuse. Jones has an intriguing combination of size, length and athletic movement. I think of Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and I could easily envision Washburn looking at Jones, and seeing a better version of Jason Jones, whom Washburn coached in Tennessee for 3 years.
16. Jets: There’s no question the Jets need to rush the quarterback to implement one critical element of Rex Ryan’s team profile: a dominant turnover-fueled defense. The pick here is Courtney Upshaw from Alabama. Upshaw transitions best as a 3-4 OLB. When I studied him, he reminded me in some ways of Steelers LB Lamar Woodley: similar size, similar body type. In addition, Upshaw showed the natural strength to be an effective power rusher. There were also snaps in which he bent the edge and closed with speed. Upshaw also has the versatility to put his hand on the ground and rush from a 3 point stance.
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