Baltimore Post-Examiner Mock Draft – Version 2.0

The poking and prodding are over. They’ll be no more pictures of muscle-bound men with their shirts off getting measured and weighed, as they did at the combine. The combine is the worst part of the draft process.

The “prospects” run 40-yard dashes.

They jump as high as they can to measure vertical leaps.

They jump as far as they can.

They use cones to gauge their agility.

No one hits, let alone wears a full uniform. If football was played with players wearing tight-fitting T-shirts and baggy shorts and touching – forget tackling – was prohibited, the NFL Combine would be a great way to judge potential.

Really, what’s the difference between the NFL Combine and say, kindergarten gym class?

You run. You jump. You zig and you zag.

Now, the good part of the NFL Draft finally begins: the mock drafts.

I did a Google search on 2012 NFL Mock Drafts and it took all of two-tenths of a second for the Internet God to let me know I had about, oh, about 956,000 matches.

If there are that many choices, how can any one be better than what I’m about to give you?

I’ve watched the NFL. I’ve covered the NFL. I went to a school with a big-time football program. I attended school with Hines Ward – when he played quarterback.

I’ve even been to an NFL training camp.

Does it matter I was there as a spectator?

So before Commissioner Roger Goodell opens his mouth on April 26, here is the only mock draft you need to read.

1.      Indianapolis Colts

Who they’ll take: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford

Why: Because they forgot to clone Peyton Manning when they said “later, dog.” Really, this one is so easy. You’ll have a guy with a horseshoe on his helmet and the word “LUCK” on the back of his jersey. If that’s not a good omen, what is? Could you imagine what would happen in Indianapolis if the Colts don’t pick Luck or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III? Fans might be so upset they wouldn’t mind if say, an ownership team from Los Angeles invaded the team’s complex with a fleet of Mayfair moving trucks and shipped the team to Los Angeles. After all, all’s fair in love and football.

2.      Washington Redskins

Who they’ll take: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor

Why: Because you don’t trade first- and second-round selections this year, plus first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 to draft an offensive tackle or defensive back. Coach Mike Shanahan is banking his job security that RG3 will make the Redskins No. 1. Will Griffin be a good quarterback? Yes. A great one? Don’t think so. If he’s the next Michael Vick, that’s great, but Vick has been to just one conference championship game. If he’s the next Akili Smith, Shanahan likely has seen his last days as an NFL coach. Who’s to say RG3 – playing behind a sub-par offensive line – even survives the season? The biggest knock on Vick is that he gets hurt because he’s basically a quarterback and running back in one body. At least in Philadelphia, Vick is surrounded by talent. Who exactly will Griffin have in Washington? Just saying.

3.      Minnesota Vikings

Who they’ll take: LT Ryan Khalil, Southern Cal

Why: Because they want to keep quarterback Christian Ponder alive. The Vikings didn’t waste – I mean use – a first-round pick on Ponder last year so he would end up on IR by Week 4 of his second season. Did you see the Vikings’ offensive line last year? They stunk up the joint so badly all the putrid fumes penetrated the roof of the Metrodome, causing it to collapse. That’s the real story, and I’m sticking to it. If the Vikings pick anyone else here – and don’t be surprised if the Vikings take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne– the only way Ponder makes it through the season without any broken bones is divine intervention. Hell, I don’t think Tim Tebow’s sanctified butt could survive playing behind an offensive line that offensive. But maybe Tebow could since we all know Tebow is really God.

4.      Cleveland Browns

Who they’ll take: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

Why: Because not even Mike Holmgren is dumb enough to screw this up. But he could. If Goodell says any other name here other than “Trent Richardson” the team should just replace the American Flag at Cleveland Stadium with a white one. Richardson shined in college football’s toughest league, the SEC. If he would have been in the Pac-12, Big 12 or Big Ten, he would have run for like 1,000 more yards and won the Heisman Trophy. Richardson isn’t the second coming of Jim Brown, but he’s not the next Peyton Hillis, who did the impossible: Fooling enough fans to end up on the cover of Madden ’12.

5.     Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Who they’ll take: Morris Claiborne, LSU

Why: Because they need a top-flight cornerback more than wide receiver Justin Blackmon. New Orleans has Marques Colston. Atlanta has Roddy White. Carolina has Steve Smith. The Buccaneers need a cornerback to cover those guys and why not take the best one available? Ronde Barber isn’t getting any younger. Cornerback Aqib Talib can’t be trusted to cover a big-time receiver, let alone stay out of handcuffs. The more you look at it, aren’t the Bucs only one defensive player away from winning the NFC South? The Saints are in disarray. The Falcons simply can’t be trusted to win big games, which is why I’m changing Matt Ryan’s nickname from “Matty Ice” to “Matty Can’t Win A Playoff Game.” Carolina will win the Super Bowl this year if Smith and Cam Newton’s fantasy points count on the scoreboard.

6.      St. Louis Rams

Who they’ll take: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

Why: Because you don’t sign a QB like Sam Bradford to a six-year, $78 million deal as a rookie and give him WRs like Brandon Gibson, Brandon Lloyd and Danario Alexander, who for the sake of brevity, I’ll just call the “Three Stooges.”

7.      Jacksonville Jaguars

Who they’ll take: DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State

Why: Because no remaining offensive player deserves to go this high, though the Jaguars really need to get QB Blaine Gabbert some help. But don’t feel bad for the Jaguars here, people. They had the chance to take hometown hero Tim Tebow here and they picked a quarterback who hadn’t won a big game since like what, middle school? I refuse to write anything else about the league’s most relevant franchise. Sorry.

8.        Miami Dolphins

Who they’ll take: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

Why: Because there’s nothing like turning over a new leaf under a new coach by making absolute worst pick in the first round. Tannehill has played like three games at quarterback after starting his college career as a receiver. I don’t care that Mike Sherman – Tannehill’s college coach – is Miami’s offensive coordinator. Tannehill will be the biggest bust since Kyle Boller because he won’t have the luxury of playing Charmin-soft Big 12 defenses in the NFL.

9.      Carolina Panthers

Who they’ll take: DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

 Who they’ll take: Why: Because when you can get an elite best pass rusher in the draft, you take him. Yes, I know injuries decimated the Panthers’ linebacking unit last year and this group needs an overhaul. But that doesn’t mean you take Luke Kuechly, who averaged like 134 tackles a game last year. All I’ve heard is he’s a “tackling machine.” That’s great, but I’d rather have a guy who can make a stop at the line of scrimmage – or even better, behind it – than an overrated linebacker who makes stops five yards down field. Remember people, Kuechly made all these tackles in the ACC, so should they really count?

10.   Buffalo Bills

Who they’ll take: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa

Why: Because they don’t want to get Ryan Fitzpatrick killed. I call this the Sandra Bullock pick. Remember what she said in “The Blind Side.”  First you pay the mortgage (Fitzpatrick) and then you pay the insurance (Reiff). If Buffalo goes with anybody else and Fitzpatrick ends up on IR, it’s just another reason why this franchise hasn’t made the playoffs this century.

11.    Kansas City Chiefs

Who they’ll take: G David DeCastro, Stanford

Why: Because after the top 10 picks, the talent among projected first-round selections narrows, so why not take the best guard available? RB Jamaal Charles and QB Matt Cassel will be happy because DeCastro is a tremendous blocker and considering the Broncos won the division at 8-8 last year, how far are the Chiefs away from winning the AFC West? Maybe one player.

12.   Seattle Seahawks

Who they’ll take: LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

Why: Because he’s the “best player available.” But that doesn’t mean he’s good. If I’m the Seahawks, I trade down and acquire picks. But that won’t happen because the other options here aren’t guys that make general managers salivate.

13.   Arizona Cardinals

Who they’ll take: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

Why: Because they need to get WR Larry Fitzgerald help. Funny, the Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs since WR Anquan Boldin left town for Baltimore. It’s because defenses can shift toward Fitzgerald. But if Floyd’s on the field, Fitzgerald will have more room to run. It the Cardinals don’t get Fitzgerald help, they might as well start planning his going away party right now.

14.   Dallas Cowboys

Who they’ll take:  S Mark Barron, Alabama

Why: Because fishermen have better tackling equipment than the Cowboys have in their secondary. I’ve heard that Jason Garrett has talked to Nick Saban, Barron’s college coach, and everyone knows that Saban is never wrong, ever. Conspiracy theory: Do you think Saban wants Garrett to take Barron so he’ll be a Cowboy when Saban takes Garrett’s job next year? Really, aren’t the Cowboys the only team that Saban has left to conquer?

15.      Philadelphia Eagles

Who they’ll take: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

Why: Because Asante Samuel, who the team dealt to the Falcons, doesn’t have a twin.

16.    New York Jets

Who they’ll take: LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

Why: Because the Jets can’t afford to have Vernon Gholston Part II. If Upshaw doesn’t work here, the Jets can just convert Tim Tebow to linebacker since they think he can do anything, including walk on water and negotiate peace in the Middle East.

17.     Cincinnati Bengals

Who they’ll take: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina

Why: Did you see the Bengals’ defense last year? It’s the reason why they still haven’t won a playoff game since the War of 1812.

18.     San Diego Chargers

Who they’ll take: DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

Why: Because the Chargers have figured out it’s probably a good idea to have players who can sack the quarterback, which only one Charger did more than four times last year. Mercilus’ best trait is that he loves killing the quarterback. He could be the next Shawne Merriman, minus the failed drug test.

19.     Chicago Bears

Who they’ll take: DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

Why: Because Chicago needs someone to play opposite Julius Peppers. Unfortunately, Coples isn’t that guy, but Chicago will take him. I know the title of “Mr. Irrelevant” goes to the final player selected, but if the NFL wanted to hand one out to a first-round pick and give it to Coples, I wouldn’t argue. You’re about to see a guy get paid millions for doing very little. How is UNC’s last great pass rusher, Marvin Austin, doing with the Giants?

20.   Tennessee Titans

Who they’ll take: DT Michael Brockers, LSU

Why: Because your sacks leader must have more than seven if you’re going to compete in the NFL. Beside, it’s Tennessee – how much do you care about a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since Steve McNair was alive?

21.    Cincinnati Bengals

Who they’ll take: OG Cody Glenn, Georgia

Why:  Because after drafting Georgia Bulldog A.J. Green last year, they’ll realize you can never have too many Bulldogs on your team.

Question of the day: What four schools have had the most players drafted from 2001-2010?

Answer: Ohio State, 67; Southern Cal, 63, Miami: 62; Georgia, 58.

Name the only school of those four that didn’t win a national title during that span: Georgia.

What does it mean? How in the world can a team have that many pro players on it and not play in one BCS title game? Where is Herschel Walker when you need him?

22.    Cleveland Browns

Who they’ll take: OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford

Why:  So when quarterback Colt McCoy’s daddy complains about how the Browns aren’t looking out for his boy’s best interest, the Browns can say: “Look, we drafted one of the best tackles. It’s not our fault your boy gets hit so hard he ends up in Nicaragua. Maybe you should tell him to go through his progressions faster. You’re lucky the Redskins moved up to No. 2 because we would have taken a quarterback with our first pick of the draft and Colt’s butt would be out of here faster than LeBron James.”

23.     Detroit Lions

Who they’ll take: OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin

Why: Because  if the Lions are going to have a running game, they need an offense line that can do something they didn’t do very well last year: block.

24.     Pittsburgh Steelers

Who they’ll take: DT Dontari Poe, Memphis

Why: Because he’s the next Haloti Ngata, maybe even better. The kid’s a beast. He’s 6-foot-4, weighs 346 pounds, runs 40 yards in 4.98 seconds and can benched 225 pounds 44 times, more than any player at the combine this year. He might be the steal of the draft.

25.      Denver Broncos

Who they’ll take: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

Why: Because with all the love Robert Griffin III is getting, John Elway and John Fix figure since Wright played with RG3, he’ll be great, too. Word to the wise: Trade down. There are plenty of above average receivers in the draft.

26.     Houston Texans

Who they’ll take: WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech

Why: Because he’ll give the Texans two of the league’s biggest receivers. The Texans are set at quarterback (Matt Schaub), running back (Arian Foster), tight end (Owen Daniels) and at No. 1 receiver (Andre Johnson). If they get Hill, they’ll likely maintain their grip on the AFC South for quite some time.

27.     New England Patriots

Who they’ll take: LB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama

Why: Because it makes the most sense. And if it’s one thing the Patriots always do well. It’s draft. I remember they picked some quarterback out of Michigan in the sixth round. His name was like, Tom something. I think it turned out well for them. Oh, his last name is Brady. He has three Super Bowl rings and a super hot wife. Yes, I’m, jealous.

28.     Green Bay Packers

Who they’ll pick: LB Shea McClellin, Boise State

Why: Because the Packers need help at linebacker and he’s the logical fit. Sometimes, you just have to take the player you need, not who you want. I’ll be the first to admit I’m the least confident about this pick than any of my previous 27. If McClellin goes early in the second round, I won’t be surprised.

29.      Baltimore Ravens

Who they’ll pick: C Peter Konz, Wisconsin

Why: Because the next Ray Lewis is no where to be found. I really wanted to tell you they’d take Vontaze Burfict from Arizona State here, but his stock has fallen like Eastern Airlines did in the 1990s. Konz is the logical choice because I think I read somewhere the center Matt Birk is entering his 37th year in the league and remains on the decline. When was the last time the Ravens dominated the line of scrimmage, like really, really dominated it? That shows you why they’re paying running back Ray Rice in the same ballpark as a gross domestic product of El Salvador.

30.     San Francisco 49ers

Who they’ll pick: TE Coby Fleener, Stanford

Why: Three reasons:

  1. If Fleener had not been as awesome as he was at Stanford under coach Jim Harbaugh, there’s not way Harbaugh would have signed a five-year, $25 million deal to coach the Niners. Harbaugh owes him;
  2. If you pair Fleener with tight end Veron Davis, you’ll have a pair that’s better than what New England has in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez;
  3. Fleener is great at catching four-yard passes, which is the extend of quarterback Alex Smith’s range.

31.     New England Patriots

Who they’ll pick: DE Devon Still, Penn State

Why: Because Bill Bellichick is known for being a nice guy. Not.  When Still gets picked in the first round, it will mark the first time since Joe Paterno died, somebody with ties to Penn State not named Jerry Sandusky will make the front page of the newspaper.

32.   New York Giants

Who they’ll pick: OT Mike Adams, Ohio State

Why: Because they have no other choice, really. Kareen McKenzie is no longer on the team and with no capable reserves, the Giants must take a tackle. The quickest way to kill the post-Super Bowl buzz is by Eli Manning getting hit so many times we mistake him for a tackling dummy.