Don’t believe a single rumor you hear. That player who’s stock is “rising” in the days leading up to the Draft? That was something planted by his agent. Ignore it. That team that’s desperately trying to trade up or down in the Draft? Ignore that, too. The team planted that one, as well.
2. You’ve got to block out your entire weekend:
Planned on taking advantage of the nice weather and having a game of catch with your son? Wanted to go bar hopping with your old buddies from college? Thought this would be a good weekend to catch up on that book you’ve been meaning to read? Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Sit on that couch and devour the Draft. It only comes around once a year. Savor it.
3. It’s time for my Annual Seven-Round Mock Draft
For the sake of this mock draft, we’re playing it straight. No trades.
Print this sucker out and use it as your companion guide to watching all three days of draft goodness. The Vegas Over/Under on my correct picks (team, player, exact draft spot) is 12½. I think I’ll go 253 for 253.
From Andrew Luck to Dale Moss, here they are. Disagree? Let me know where I screwed up. Leave a comment!
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Indianapolis replaces one highly intelligent, football-obsessed quarterback with another. Luck’s the highest-rated quarterback prospect to leave the college ranks since Peyton Manning. The first year might not be easy — the current talent on the Colts roster is third rate — but Luck’s got a big, bright future ahead. | Watch highlights
2. Washington Redskins (via trade with St. Louis): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
An anonymous scout for an anonymous team called Griffin III “selfish” last week. OK. And I sometimes eat oatmeal in the morning. My point? Who cares? The Redskins are still taking RG3 second overall, as Griffin III fits into the Shanahan scheme perfectly and has all the moxie necessary to lead a struggling franchise back to the top. He’s already taken Baylor from the basement of the Big 12 to the Alamo Bowl. If he can do that, bringing the Redskins back to the playoffs is nothing. There’s more talent at the wideout position in Washington than there was a year ago. Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan are solid, veteran receivers he’ll click with. There are better days ahead, ‘Skins fans. | Watch highlights
3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Everywhere you look this week, mock drafts have Kalil sinking like a stone. Pay no attention to it. He’s hands-down the top offensive tackle in this draft. Not the flashiest of picks, but a wise one. The Vikings are in dire need of a lot of help at a lot of positions. They’ve got a terrible defensive backfield, an awful offensive line, and are thin all over their D’s front seven. If Christian Ponder’s ever going to succeed at QB, he needs someone protecting his blind side. Kalil’s the guy. | Watch highlights
Unless Minnesota trades its pick to a quarterback-hungry team, I can see Cleveland going with Richardson, Ryan Tannehill, Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon with this selection. Watching Richardson’s film, I can tell you with no hesitation that he’s the highest-rated running back I’ve had on my Draft board since Adrian Peterson left Oklahoma in 2007. But is a running back worth the No. 4 overall pick? When undrafted Arian Foster can lead the league in rushing in 2010? It’s a question they’re going back and forth on in Cleveland this week. I think the Browns can build an offense around Richardson. | Watch highlights
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Claiborne got a 4 on his Wonderlic. So what? He’s a top-five talent and could go as high as No. 3 to Minnesota if the Vikings opt to keep the pick. Greg Schiano made a lot of headlines this week for the intensity of the Bucs’ voluntary workouts. That’s good. Did you watch Tampa’s D last season? Horrendous. They need that kind of intensity. They also need a young defensive back they can rely on. Claiborne’s a star. He’ll start right away for Schiano in 2011 and be a fixture for the next decade in Tampa’s defensive backfield. | Watch highlights
6. St. Louis Rams: (via trade with Washington) Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Someone I trust recently said Blackmon will be “something between Hakeem Nicks and T.O.” The Rams would sign up for that for the next 6-10 years, no? Though the offensive line was awful in 2011, Sam Bradford needs a young wide receiver to grow old with if he’s ever going to reach his full potential. Blackmon’s the guy at sixth overall. | Watch highlights
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
The Draft gets very interesting at No. 7. Last year’s first big shocker was at No. 6, when Cleveland traded its first-round selection to Atlanta (Julio Jones) for a bevy of later and future selections. Could Jacksonville trade out and load up on picks? It’s possible. Or, they can stick at 7. If they do, look for Floyd to be the pick. Floyd’s been a rising prospect since the Combine. He owns just about every Notre Dame receiving record and is a legitimate No. 1 target. I’m not giving up on Blaine Gabbert after one bad year. If he can’t succeed with the seventh overall pick as his top receiver, then there’s a problem. | Watch highlights
8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
I spoke with Tannehill for this piece last week, and think he’s the real deal. I’ve watched his tape, I grilled him on tough questions and I told him he’s being considered an NFL bust before he’s even been drafted. He handled it all in stride. I think he’s a future star in this league. And I think partnering him with Miami’s quarterbacks coach Mike Sherman — his head coach in college at Texas A&M — gives him a head start. I love this pick for the Dolphins. But then again, what do I know? I thought Cam Newton would be a star right away, too. | Watch highlights
9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississippi State
At the end of the college football season, I penciled Cox in as a second-round selection. Less than four months later, I’m sold on Cox as a top-10 pick. His draft stock is on fire after a huge week at the Combine and a sound Pro Day workout. A 6-5, 300-pound run stuffer who can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3, he’s a young, versatile defensive lineman that could help Ron Rivera’s defense. Carolina needs to get better on D. I think Cox makes an immediate impact. | Watch highlights
10. Buffalo Bills: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
Our first big surprise of the Seven-Round mock. I’ve got Glenn, a 6-6, 340-pound big body, going 10-15 slots higher than some other mock drafts and ending up as Buffalo’s offensive tackle. I’m excited about the defense. They Bills paid big bucks to bring in Mario Williams, they get a healthy Kyle Williams back, and 2011 first-round pick Marcell Dareus was just hitting his stride. I’m worried about the offensive line. The Bills may be “reaching” at 10th overall on a guy that many mock drafts have going in the late first round, but I like Glenn a bit more than Riley Reiff, and think his versatility — he started 32 games at guard and 18 at left tackle at Georgia — makes him very attractive to Buffalo at 10. | Watch highlights
11. Kansas City Chiefs: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Defensive tackle is an area of need for Kansas City and the Chiefs are going to address the position at some point in the Draft. I’m not a huge Poe fan. I’ve watched his tape and have yet to be blown away by what I’ve seen. He was outplayed by smaller opponents at Memphis. That said, he’s a physical freak of nature and a Combine stud. If Scott Pioli and Co. think Romeo Crennel can get production out of him, there’s no reason he can’t be the next great 3-4 NT. From the get go, he’s an upgrade over Amon Gordon and Jerrell Powe — the top two NTs on the depth chart at the end of last season. | Watch highlights
12. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE/LB, South Carolina
I look at Melvin Ingram and see the next Aldon Smith. That’s a good thing. In Pete Carroll’s 4-3, Ingram can line up at either OLB or defensive end and rush the quarterback. He was the star of Senior Bowl week down in Mobile and has impressed scouts in workouts and interviews. He’s a smart kid who can get to the quarterback. Great fit for Seattle. | Watch highlights
13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
DeCastro’s my second-rated offensive lineman in the Draft, barely behind Kalil. Though Arizona has four of its five linemen locked up with contracts for at least the next four years, there’s room for improvement. The Cardinals signed guard Adam Snyder away from the 49ers with a $5 million bonus. I could see Ken Whisenhunt and Co. drafting DeCastro at guard, moving Snyder to right tackle, and filling out the offensive line that way. DeCastro’s a big, smart, mauling guard. Russ Grimm’s type of guy. | Watch highlights
14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Brandon Carr signing makes for a tremendous upgrade at cornerback in Dallas, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement across the defensive backfield. Barron started 38 games for Nick Saban at Alabama and was the quarterback of college football’s best defense. He’s a surefire starter from Day One. In today’s pass-heavy NFL, a great safety goes a long way. Barron’s a great safety. | Watch highlights
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Brockers, DT/DE, Philadelphia
Brockers is one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft class. Of the 32 teams in the league, roughly half of them have flown him in for private workouts. Teams want to see him in the flesh. After showing up at LSU three years ago as a 245-pound freshman, he’s become a 320-pound physical beast. Though his Combine workout far outshined his play on the field at LSU, he had his moments in his redshirt sophomore season in 2011. Brockers is a fascinating prospect who could end up being the best defensive player in the draft. Though defensive line isn’t their most pressing need, I can see Howie Roseman and Co. grabbing Brockers if he’s still on the board. | Watch highlights
16. New York Jets: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The die-hard Jets fans in Radio City might not love this selection, but Reiff would be a great pickup for Gang Green at 16. He’s a right tackle that can play right away and would serve as an immediate upgrade to Wayne Hunter at the position. A three-time state champion wrestler in high school, he’s got a little more athletic ability than most pundits are giving him credit for. I’d love this pick for the Jets, even if the local fan base wants something a little flashier.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland): Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The same thing happens every time I pop in South Carolina tape to watch Alshon Jeffery or Melvin Ingram. I come away most impressed with cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He’s fast, smart and reliable. I’ve seen Gilmore going as high as No. 7 to Jacksonville and as low as the middle of the second round. Cincinnati at 17th overall makes a lot of sense. | Watch highlights
18. San Diego Chargers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
San Diego’s an interesting team to watch in Thursday’s first round. They don’t have dire needs at any one position, but they can upgrade all over the field outside of the quarterback position. Coples has been projected everywhere from the top 10 to a second-round selection. A big-time “potential” guy, he’s another player who pops on some film, but disappears in others. A.J. Smith and Co. like to roll the dice. | Watch highlights
19. Chicago Bears: Nick Perry, DE, USC
The Bears have been aggressive this off-season, trading a pair of third rounders for Brandon Marshall, locking up Eric Weems with a long-term deal and signing Devin Thomas away from the Giants. At the very least, they’ll have a nice special teams unit. The defensive line played poorly last season. Aside from Julius Peppers and breakout talent Henry Melton, there wasn’t much production out of Chicago’s front four. Perry had a big freshman year, a so-so sophomore year and a monster junior season. In 2011, he had 9.5 sacks, with five coming in his last four games. He’d be a welcomed addition to the Chicago D-Line. | Watch highlights
20. Tennessee Titans: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Mercilus is an active body who can line up at DE and play right away. In 2011, he led the nation with 16.5 sacks, including a dominant three-sack effort against Indiana and a solid bowl game effort on national TV against UCLA. He’s a fearless pass rusher with big potential. A source of mine compared him to Dwight Freeney, and Mercilus is bigger than Freeney. High praise. Good fit for Tennessee at 20. | Watch highlights
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Kuechly won the Butkus, Nagurski, Lombardi and Lott Impact Trophy awards last season and has more career tackles (532) than any other player in the draft. There were questions about his speed heading into the Combine, but he put those questions to rest with a blazing 4.5 40-yard dash. He’s been compared to Sean Lee, without the durability and injury issues. An added bonus? Kuechly’s a local guy, born and raised in Cincinnati.
The Browns go with a running back with the fourth overall selection and get another offensive weapon in Wright with the 22nd. Wright’s stock took a bit of a hit when he showed up to the Combine a bit heavier and slower than expected. I still see him going in the first round, and if he’s still around when Cleveland’s on the clock at 22, don’t expect the Browns to take the full 15 minutes. Most often compared to DeSean Jackson for his big-play ability, I’ve been hot on Wright since I saw him toe the sideline for 30 yards on a touchdown run vs. Kansas State. He’s a lightning bolt who possesses good hands and great route-running ability. He’s not built like a Calvin Johnson or a Larry Fitzgerald, but he’d be a great addition to Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense. | Watch highlights
23. Detroit Lions: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Kirkpatrick is the rare tall cornerback who can keep up with the game’s fastest receivers. I’ve heard some scouts say they see him fitting in better at safety at the next level, but I think he could be an elite cornerback. With guys like Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, and A.J. Green catching passes, there’s nothing wrong with a big, 6-foot corner if he’s got the speed to keep up. I believe Kirkpatrick has that speed. Detroit needs a cornerback. Hell, they need two. Kirkpatrick’s a nice pickup at 23rd overall. | Watch highlights
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
I had Adams going in the top 10 a week ago, and that still might be the case. I love what I see of the guy on film. In this mock draft, Pittsburgh’s the spot. Gifted with the most “NFL-ready” body of any of the offensive tackles in this draft class, Adams is a 6-7, 323-pound mountain. He’s still a bit raw, but on film, seemed to handle J.J. Watt very well in 2010 and was always among the top offensive tackles in the Big Ten during his time at Ohio State. There’s off-the-field stuff, here. If he slips out of the first round, it’s more because of his red flags than his potential.
25. Denver Broncos: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Still had a tremendous 2011 campaign, finishing the season as one of the lone bright spots around Penn State football. The 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Still had 17.5 tackles for a loss a season ago and has a frame that’s been compared to Ndamukong Suh’s. Denver has a host of young talent at LB and DE, but the DT spot is still a hole in the defense. Still could slide in and make an impact immediately. | Highlights
26. Houston Texans: Courtney Upshaw, DE/LB, Alabama
The Texans took defensive players with their first four draft selections a season ago. Two of them — J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed — played crucial roles in Houston earning its first-ever playoff berth. Mario Williams is gone, but the Texans did just fine without him down the stretch last season. There are areas where the Texans can beef up, but they’d be best served taking the best player available. That man is Upshaw, the star of last year’s BCS National Championship and a top-20 guy. If he slips to 26, he’d be a wonderful steal. | Watch highlights
27. New England Patriots (via New Orleans): Shea McClellin, LB, Boise State
McClellin’s another guy I have rising rapidly up my draft board. He wasn’t the biggest high school recruit and he was never the most heralded NFL prospect at Boise State, but his senior season was a monstrous one. He had 12.5 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks and contributed on 50 tackles. He’s an active defender who could either play the OLB in a 3-4 or a DE in a 4-3. He’s most often compared to Mike Vrabel. Belichick and Co. would sign up for that, no? | Watch highlights
28. Green Bay Packers: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
With the news of Chad Clifton’s release, the offensive tackle spot becomes an area worth watching in Green Bay. As much as we’ve heard about the Packers needing to find a complementary pass rusher to Clay Matthews on the outside, I can’t see them passing on Martin if he slips all the way to 28th. A cerebral guy (Stanford-educated; his parents both went to Harvard), Martin’s got the NFL frame and good footwork. He needs to hit the weight room. Solid pickup this late in the first round. | Watch highlights
Hightower played both inside and outside linebacker at Alabama and was also used at DE in some sub-packages. Ray Lewis isn’t getting any younger and there still isn’t an eventual “replacement” in-house. Hightower may start out as an OLB, then move to MLB. Either way, he’s another great young addition to the D. Jimmy Smith, the pick from a year ago, showed flashes in his rookie season. Baltimore’s loading up for the eventual post-Lewis & Reed Era. Another reason to like Hightower to Baltimore? Ozzie Newsome’s a ‘Bama guy. | Watch highlights
30. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
Though some scouts like his college teammate Peter Konz a bit more, I see Zeitler going in the first round to San Francisco. A 6-4, 315-pound mauler, Zeitler could play either guard or center at the next level. Wisconsin averaged a silly 237 rushing yards per game in 2011; Zeitler was a major reason why. San Francisco loves to ground and pound. It returns 11 starters on defense. That’s scary. Beefing up the offensive line with a surefire longtime starter like Zeitler is frightening as well.
31. New England Patriots: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Yes, there are some off-the-field concerns. And sure, the Patriots have taken cornerbacks in just about every draft from the past decade. But, the more and more I watch Jenkins on film, the more I think he won’t get out of the first round. Probably the most physical cover corner in this draft, Jenkins handled Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Alshon Jeffery one-on-one two years ago at Florida. Whether it’s been Brandon Spikes or Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick has a history of drafting old Urban Meyer recruits. With two picks in the first round, he can roll the dice on Jenkins. | Watch highlights
32. New York Giants: Peter Konz, G/C, Wisconsin
Giants fans are well aware that Jerry Reese and Co. do not draft based on need. They take the best player on the board. In this case, Konz — the All-American center out of Wisconsin — is the guy. He’s 6-5, 315 pounds and can dominate at the line of scrimmage. Some scouts were alarmed by the fact he only benched 225 pounds 18 times, but he shows great footwork and strength on film. The Giants appear to be pretty set on their interior offensive line. That doesn’t matter. Konz, whether at guard or center, fits well in New York. | Watch highlights
33. St. Louis Rams: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State | Highlights
34. Indianapolis Colts: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford | Highlights