USA TODAY US Edition
After top two slots, all bets off
The brackets of March have given way to the mocks of April, and USA TODAY Sports and its partners have teamed up to release their second mock draft in advance of the 2012 NFL draft, which runs April 26 to 28.
Conventional wisdom is that the Indianapolis Colts will select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall choice, and the Washington Redskins will take Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor.
USA TODAY Sports’ panel, which includes Jarrett Bell, Jim Corbett and Nate Davis, concurs, as do Rob Rang of Nfldraftscout.com and Wes Bunting of National Football Post. As for the remainder of the top 10?
3. Minnesota Vikings: Our panel unanimously slotted Southern California tackle Matt Kalil here as the new bodyguard for quarterback Christian Ponder. But this could be an attractive slot for any team considering a leap up the board to get Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
4. Cleveland Browns: This spot could cause quite a domino effect. Four of our panelists foresee the Browns grabbing Tannehill. Bell gives Alabama tailback Trent Richardson to Cleveland, which also could strongly consider Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne or maybe even a trade.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bell and Bunting put Claiborne with the Bucs while the rest of our panel thinks Richardson is the man for new coach Greg Schiano, who covets a physical, grind-it-out offense.
6. St. Louis Rams: Blackmon is the popular choice, providing third-year quarterback Sam Bradford with the consistent downfield threat he has lacked. However, Rang also throws out the possibility of Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: We agree they’ll upgrade the defense, though the pick is up for debate. Davis (South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram), Bell and Bunting (North Carolina’s Quinton Coples) think the Jags should focus on their pass rush. Corbett and Rang say take the best defender available — Claiborne.
8. Miami Dolphins: Can they get Tannehill here, reuniting him with college coach Mike Sherman? Bell thinks so. Corbett likes Ingram, and Davis (Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd) and Rang (Blackmon) think they’ll try to fill the wideout void left by the Brandon Marshall trade. Bunting goes outside the box, predicting the Browns will move up their slot at 22 to get Richardson.
9. Carolina Panthers: Corbett likes Floyd to be the wingman for Steve Smith. Bell (Ingram), Rang and Bunting (Memphis’ massive Dontari Poe) think general manager Marty Hurney will upgrade his defensive line, and Claiborne slips no further on Davis’ chart.
10. Buffalo Bills: Bunting thinks ascending Floyd comes here to give quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick another weapon. Everyone else likes Iowa tackle Riley Reiff.