There are never any certainties heading into the NFL Draft, but with it being less than three weeks away, it is safe to say that the first two picks have all but signed their rookie contracts.
The Vikings become the linchpin as they may shop their No. 3 pick to a team interested in jumping ahead of the Browns to select coveted running back Trent Richardson or potential franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Conversely, they could just as easily keep the pick to select the best offensive tackle in the entire class.
Either way, while the draft will officially kick off with picks from the Colts and Redskins, it won’t truly begin until the Vikings are on the clock.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford While RG3 garners some consideration here, the Colts can’t afford to pass up the surest thing at QB since John Elway.
2. Washington Redskins (from STL): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Sure, this former sprinter can make plays outside the pocket, but he throws it better than any other “athletic” quarterback to come out in the draft — including Mike Vick and Cam Newton.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
With Trent Richardson’s appeal and the rising stock of Ryan Tannehill, the Vikings are in a prime position to trade back and stockpile picks. If they stay put, Kalil’s the choice.
Justin Blackmon is a consideration here, but the Browns can get a Day 1 starter at wide receiver in the second round. Richardson is just that much better than any other running back in this draft.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Ronde Barber isn’t getting any younger and Aqib Talib can’t stay out of trouble so Claiborne is an easy pick.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Wash): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Blackmon will give Sam Bradford the elite receiving target he has yet to have in the NFL.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Jacksonville will be tempted to take a pass-rushing threat, but the NFL is an offensive league and the Jaguars need to provide Blaine Gabbert with an elite wide receiver.
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Tannehill’s college coach, Mike Sherman, is now the offensive coordinator for the Dolphins, but Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram will be awfully attractive to place opposite Cameron Wake. Which new coordinator will pound the table hardest?
9. Carolina Panthers: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Brockers isn’t the most polished defensive tackle available, but he arguably has the most potential when he matures into his 6-foot-6 frame.
10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Bills lost Demetress Bell in free agency so they will need to address that void in the draft, and I give the edge to Reiff over Jonathan Martin.
11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
With the addition of Peyton Hillis and the return of Jamaal Charles, this team will be committed to the running game and DeCastro is the best run blocker in the entire draft.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
With the free agency loss of David Hawthorne, the Seahawks will sprint to the podium to turn this card in.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Levi Brown improved towards the end of the season, but keeping whoever plays quarterback upright must be a priority.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys will also take a hard look at safety Mark Barron here, but Kirkpatrick gives Dallas the versatility to play both cornerback and safety.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
The Eagles struggled along all positions of the offensive line last season, and Cordy Glenn is an instant upgrade at both tackle and guard.
16. New York Jets: Melvin Ingram, LB/DE, South Carolina
The Jets will be salivating to see Ingram drop all the way to 16. Rex Ryan can be very creative with how they use Ingram’s versatility at outside linebacker, defensive end and even defensive tackle in sub packages.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from OAK): Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Bengals re-signed Reggie Nelson, but Barron provides an upgrade over Chris Crocker. With another pick four spots later, the Bengals can then address the need at cornerback.
18. San Diego Chargers: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Jared Gaither made an impression in San Diego after a failed trial in Kansas City, but the Chargers could still use an upgrade at offensive tackle. The signing of Jarret Johnson gives them the flexibility to address the offensive line in the first round, but they could just as easily take an outside linebacker or defensive end.
19. Chicago Bears: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
Coples has drawn comparisons to fellow Tar Heel Julius Peppers, and now he will get to line up opposite of him on the Bears’ defensive line.
20. Tennessee Titans: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
The Titans lost Jason Babin and Jason Jones in back-to-back offseasons and that makes room for Mercilus to be a longterm fixture at defensive end in Tennessee.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Marvin Lewis is completing a culture change in Cincinnati and that makes Gilmore more attractive than Janoris Jenkins. Leon Hall suffered a potential season-ending Achilles injury, which makes the cornerback position a priority.
Pittsburgh could address a number of positions here, but Hightower will fill the void left by James Farrior when he released for cap reasons. Other considerations include offensive line, nose tackle and cornerback.
25. Denver Broncos: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Broncos’ biggest position of need is at defensive tackle and they will be lucky to find Cox slipping to them at 25. He is my highest-rated defensive tackle, even above Brockers, who I have going at No. 9 to Carolina.
26. Houston Texans: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The Texans need a dominant defensive tackle to anchor Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense and Poe has the size and strength to be dominant nose tackle. Poe needs to compete on every snap, something that was absent from his college tape.
27. New England Patriots (from NO): Nick Perry, DE, USC
Perry will give Bill Belichick the presence he thought he was getting in Adalius Thomas in 2007. Belichick uses both the 4-3 and the 3-4, and Perry has the versatility to play in either scheme.
28. Green Bay Packers: Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama
Green Bay could address the offensive line here, but the signing of veteran Jeff Saturday buys them time and Upshaw will pair with Clay Matthews to be a dominating pass-rushing duo.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Upshaw was so close they could taste it, but they will be happy with Konz, who can play center when Matt Birk retires and fill in at guard in the meantime.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
With the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, the 49ers really don’t have a ton of holes to fill in the draft, but they could upgrade the offensive line with a Big Ten mauler like Zeitler.
31. New England Patriots: Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida
The Patriots could still add another defensive lineman with this pick, but the cornerback market isn’t very deep and they will need to scoop up Robinson while they can.
32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
The Giants signed Martellus Bennett this offseason, but he isn’t the dynamic up-the-seam threat that Fleener will be for Eli Manning. Running back could also be a possibility here, but Ahmad Bradshaw is proof that you can find value much later in the draft.
33. St. Louis Rams: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
34. Indianapolis Colts: Amini Silatolu, G, Midwestern State
35. Minnesota Vikings: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
37. Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
38. Jacksonville Jaguars: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
39. St. Louis Rams (from WASH): Bobby Massie, OT, Mississippi
40. Carolina Panthers: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
41. Buffalo Bills: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
42. Miami Dolphins: Kelechi Osemele, OL, Iowa State
43. Seattle Seahawks: Kendall Reyes, DT, Michigan State
44. Kansas City Chiefs: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
45. Dallas Cowboys: Philip Blake, C, Baylor
46. Philadelphia Eagles: LaVonte David, LB, Nebraska
47. New York Jets: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
48. New England Patriots (from OAK): Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
49. San Diego Chargers: Shea McClellin, LB, Boise State
50. Chicago Bears: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
51. Philadelphia Eagles (from AZ): Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame