I love the NFL Draft. It’s like Christmas Day for every team — specially if your team has been notoriously awful, like my Saints have been for most of my life. I learned to loved this annual event because it engendered the long-sought, but seldom enforced possibility of change and hope. And that is why so many other football fans will be watching it come April. So here’s an early preview of the way things will go. BTW, I’m only putting in the top 10 picks for right now.
1. IND: Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
The story that will dominate the NFL’s postseason has already claimed President Bill Polian and his son and will likely cost Jim Caldwell his job too. For the Colts, it boils down to this: do they think they can add talent for another run with Peyton Manning or are they better served by starting with another potential franchise player in Luck? Luck is going #1 overall — whether to Indy or someone else.
2. STL: Matt Kalil, OT Southern Cal
It can be argued that Kalil will be as highly sought after as Luck. A 6’6′, 300-lb offensive tackle stud in the vein of Jake Long and Joe Thomas can be as valuable to an offense as a QB or RB. And for the Rams, who need to protect Sam Bradford after he’s had season-derailing injuries, having Kalil fall in their laps may be the biggest blessing they get. Claiborne and Blackmon are also in play.
3. MIN: Morris Claiborne, CB Louisiana State
It’s unlikely the Vikings will look to rid themselves of Christian Ponder after 1 rookie season. And if they had any luck, they’d have Kalil fall in their laps — as their o-line has been an issue for two seasons now. Since he’s not, the next continuing punchline in the Vikings has been their passing defense (as in they have none). Claiborne has been the best CB for LSU and could start from day 1. Don’t underestimate a move for a skills player (Blackmon or Richardson) since both Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson have had injuries.
4. TB: Quinton Coples, DE North Carolina
With Raheem Morris gone, it’s open season as to where the Bucs will go here. I doubt they get rid of Josh Freeman since he was about the only good thing they had this year. Most of their offense was OK, but where they need help is on defense –most notably pass defense. But since Claiborne is gone, then they take the next best defensive prospect in Coples, who had a poor senior season, but could turn to be a great pass rusher.
5. CLE: Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma State
The Browns need to add talent on offense. Normally that starts at QB, but with Matt Barkley back at Southern Cal, it’s unlikely they will take RG3. Instead, watch the Browns try to pull the two-fer that the Bengals managed last year: a talented WR in Round 1 and a potential QB starter (Kellen Moore or Ryan Tannehill) in Round 2. Blackmon has been a Top 5 prospect virtually all season long and he’d add punch to what has been an anemic Browns passing attack.
6. WAS: Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor
Mike Shanahan loves athletic QBs that have big arms and can move around. That’s RG3’s game. The Heisman-winner is likely the most talented QB Shanahan has had since John Elway led him to two Super Bowl rings. And let’s not act like the Skins have anything better at QB — John Beck vs Rex Grossman is the Pinto vs Yugo of NFL QB debates.
7. JAC: Alshon Jeffry, WR South Carolina
With Jack Del Rio finally gone, there’s endless possibilities for the Jags in this Draft. They could look to throw Blaine Gabbert out over the side and take another QB. They could also look to shore up their lines. In case they give Gabbert a full year they have to give him a #1 WR threat since Mike Thomas is more of a #2. Jeffry comes from the Old Ball Coach’s system in Carolina and has the tools to help Gabbert.
8. MIA: Vontaze Burfict, ILB Arizona State
The Dolphins need a QB badly, but unless they fall in love with Jones (or trade up for Luck/Griffin), they could opt to wait till Round 2 for their guy. So what do they do? Take Richardson to pair him with Reggie Bush or they could look to revamp their defense, which lost Jason Taylor to retirement. Burfict is flashy, nasty and mean and could be the first piece in a new Dolphins’ defense.
9. CAR: Trent Richardson, RB Alabama
This is not a needs pick, but the Panthers have proven time and again that they will take the best player available to them and worry about things later. Richardson is Top 5 talent and, arguably, better than former teammate Mark Ingram. Pairing him with Cam Newton would make the Panthers even harder to stop. Other options include Michael Floyd, Dre Kirkpatrick or Jonathan Martin. But, like I said, talent over need.
10.BUF: Riley Reiff, OT Iowa
The Bills are in the Ryan Fitzpatrick business now and they gotta find ways to make him better. One way: improve the offensive line. Reiff is the latest in the Hawkeyes assembly line of offensive linemen. A strong, capable protector that could ensure Fitzpatrick stays healthy. Another option would be a WR since Steve Johnson is in the last year of his contract or a pass rusher to help improve their defense.