|Please, feel free to mock our mock draft.|
If you missed the first ten picks, you can find them here:
#21 Cincinnati Bengals – CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
Prince: As I discussed in my previous selection for the Bengals, I am taking a CB for a team that really needs to fill the hole left after the departure of Johnathan Joseph. They went out and signed Terrence Newman this offseason, but I’m sure you know, Landrum, that he is not going to solve their problem. I really like that Kirkpatrick is 6’2” which should really help him match up with the taller WR’s in the league. He also has plenty of experience in bump and run coverage, and is big enough to knock a receiver off his route at the line. Kirkpatrick does have an off-field issue involving marijuana, which could make him fall a little in the draft, but I would still take him over Stephon Gilmore, who is the next highest rated CB.
Jon: Hey, you know who would have done a great job of replacing Johnathan Joseph? Johnathan Joseph! Because it’s always smart to let your young, franchise CB flee in free agency even though you have $30mil in cap room just lying around. Look, I figured this was going to be the pick, and I’m sure Cincinnati is probably heading in this direction on draft day. I just don’t think Kirkpatrick can play in the NFL, period. His calling card is being physical, which unfortunately has been outlawed. So where does that leave him? Just look at the knocks on him! Not great top end speed, doesn’t change directions well, isn’t strong in man coverage…this is a first round pick? I just don’t get it. Then again, I don’t know that I have a strong alternative for you, either. Stephen Hill would be interesting.
Prince: You know I like Stephen Hill. I considered him, but that forced me to choose between a CB who has below-average speed, and a WR who may have trouble catching the ball and has questionable route running skills. I know the rules have changed, but I still like CB’s who get up on the line and knock WR’s. CB’s with his height are not easily found, and I think the Bengals should take a chance on him.
#22 Cleveland Browns – OL Cordy Glenn, Georgia
Jon: I nearly pulled the trigger on Coby Fleener here, but I can’t pass up a golden opportunity to get a potentially dominant lineman. Even if Glenn ends up at guard, he’ll fill a huge hole for the Browns, and should definitely prove worthy of the #22 pick. But, if he can trim down a bit and perfect his footwork, I see no reason why he can’t up at right tackle. Given their protection issues last season, this would be huge for Cleveland.
Prince: Yeah, the Browns had issues on the whole right side of their line last year, so Glenn would be a great fit for them at either guard or tackle. I almost thought you might go with your Madden strategy that you brought up a few picks ago and take another WR for them. Do you think there is any chance Holmgren would take both Blackmon and Stephen Hill in the 1st round?
Jon: No, less than a 0% chance that happens. Also, I don’t think Hill is even remotely on their radar. Think about it; the Browns run a West Coast system that depends on precise route running and strong after the catch running. Stephen Hill is an insanely raw talent that pretty much goes deep. On every play. Just not a great fit for Shurmur’s system. Also, Colt McCoy is the QB, and he can’t throw the ball more than eight yards downfield. So there’s that.
#23 Detroit Lions – CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Prince: Cordy Glenn would have been my pick if you didn’t take him, but since the Lions lost Eric Wright in free agency, they have to get a CB in the draft too. They have no CB’s signed past next year, so they really need to plan on grabbing one in the first few rounds. Now that the Bears have Brandon Marshall, it’s even more important for them to have as many good CB’s as possible, because the Bears and Packers should be throwing a lot. Gilmore is another big CB, at 6’1”, and showed that he still has good speed at the combine. Last year, he was first-team All-SEC, so he has plenty of talent and plays an increasingly important position in today’s NFL.
Jon: I thought about filling in the pick for you, since it was pretty obvious you were going with Gilmore. I get why, and I get that Gilmore has some obvious physical talents, but the fact that scouts kill him on his awareness and “football sense” despite three years as a starter in the SEC troubles me. Seriously, this guy didn’t learn anything? He just got by because he’s big and fast? If that’s the case, then plan on Gilmore being out of the league in three years. But, as you said, this is a major need position for them, and Gilmore clearly has first round talent. By the way, did I mention that I hate this draft?
Prince: Yeah, there really wasn’t any other direction I could go with this pick. I don’t know that Gilmore was exactly the next best player, because it’s really hard to know now that everyone seems to be bad, but the Lions really need him. Gilmore will end up being a 1st round pick, and may not even be here for the Lions in the real draft, so I had to take him.
#24 Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Don’t’a Hightower, Alabama
Jon: Well, it appears as if I’m the one turning into Mel Kiper here, since me taking Hightower now means I’ve agreed with him on four of my last six picks. I feel like we’ve either mailed this mock draft in, or we’ve lost all ability to think independently. Or maybe this draft just sucks and we can’t figure out which crappy player to take for which crappy team. Anyways, I’ve been kicking around Hightower ever since the Kuechly pick, and I really do think he’s going to end up being the best ILB in this draft. He’s just a superior physical specimen. I may be going out on a limb with this, but I think there is some definite Ray Lewis potential here. Of course, there’s also some serious “oh crap, I blew my knee out AGAIN” potential here too. Probably why he’s down in the 20’s! Still, Pittsburgh absolutely must replace James Farrior, and Hightower is a perfect fit for their scheme. Maybe the best player-scheme fit in the entire draft.
Prince: True, Hightower to the Steelers would be a great fit. Teams concerned about a knee surgery in 2009 may not view it as a big deal though when other guys in the draft are labeled as “may not be good at football.” Plus, the Steelers can turn any LB into an All-Pro. I do think you need to clarify your Ray Lewis comment though. Are you saying that Hightower is going to be really good, or should I be afraid of getting stabbed?
Jon: I don’t know about the stabbing thing. As far as I know, Hightower hasn’t murdered anyone yet, but you know how things get mysteriously covered up when you’re a big time college athlete. I guess as long as he didn’t get paid for stabbing anyone, Alabama will be able to keep their championship. As for the football part of the comparison, I am saying that Hightower’s upside is pretty crazy. It’s not just his incredible size and athleticism either; it’s the ferocious way he plays the game. I love those types of players, the type that wants to rip your head off on every single play. Plus, scouts are always raving about his instincts and discipline. So yeah, I think there’s a chance we look back at this draft and wonder why in the heck we let a Hall of Fame player drop to the 20’s.
#25 Denver Broncos – DT Devon Still, Penn State
Prince: Last year, believing they needed a DT, I took Marcell Dareus for the Broncos. Now, they may have an even bigger need at the position after losing Brodrick Bunkley in free agency. There are only two DT’s left that I would consider here, and I went with Still over Jerel Worthy. Still had a really bad start to his career by suffering injuries in both 2007 and 2008, but showed he had really recovered in 2010 after posting 3.5 tackles for loss against Mike Pouncey in their bowl game vs. Florida. In 2011, Still was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, so I’m not too worried about his past injuries. Physically, Still can be dominant, and Denver really needs a DT who commands a double team, giving both Dumervil and Miller an easier path to the opposing QB.
Jon: It isn’t only the injuries people are concerned about, Prince. Still has had some off the field incidents as well. They seem to be mostly circumstantial, but it’s still a red flag. Also, he has the dreaded “questionable motor” label that you and I typically avoid like the plague. That having been said, this is a guy that was, at one point during the season, considered a potential top ten pick. In some ways, I feel like this is similar to my Janoris Jenkins pick (which, as I seem to recall, you chastised me for). You’re kinda swinging for the fences with this one; taking on a higher amount of risk but potentially getting a huge reward. I love it. Every bit of it. Denver needs more than a typical rotation guy for their defense to get better. They need a stud on the interior of their line, and Still could be that guy. Nice work, Prince.
By the way, go look at the Intangibles section of Still’s ESPN Draft Profile page. It lists all his off the field incidents, and then concludes the section with “Has a daughter.” Well then, that seems about the same as having a teammate pull a knife on you…
Prince: It’s amazing how you can love my pick and still try to make me look bad. Sure, Still has risk, but I don’t see it as much more than anyone else who is left. Denver has to get a DT here, and like you said, he could have been a top pick. It seems like this could be great value for the Broncos if he is their guy on draft day.
#26 Houston Texans – WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
Jon: The obvious pick here is Ricky Williams’ holistic healer, or maybe some sort of shaman to bestow his voodoo magic on this unlucky group of guys. Sadly, both opted to return to school for their senior seasons. Thankfully, Stephen Hill was available! I won’t lie, I really wanted to be the one who ended up taking him, and I really think this is a good fit. Andre Johnson’s clock is ticking and the Texans are clearly not the same team when he isn’t on the field. While Hill is nowhere near a finished product, he can immediately provide big play ability while undertaking an apprenticeship from one of the game’s best. At the worst, he can likely do for the Texans offense what Torrey Smith did for the Ravens offense, which should open up more running lanes and underneath passes to Arian Foster and Owen Daniels. And after a few years, you never know what Hill could turn into.
Prince: I love this, because Stephen Hill wouldn’t have to come in and be their #1 WR. Pairing him with Andre Johnson would be really tough to defend this season, and Hill would be able to learn from Johnson for the next few years. After a ridiculous combine, almost everyone fell in love with this guy, which can be scary because we don’t want to base everything off those drills. But, Hill really does seem like he could put up tons of yards as a pro. He will have to prove the ability to run different routes and show that he won’t drop a bunch of passes, but if he can do that, he will dominate CB’s.
Jon: What? No arguments? Man, I figured I was going to get some sort of jealous, angry response from you because I took Hill before you had a chance to. Look, you’re right about this combine thing, and it honestly scares me. I never watched this guy play a single snap at Georgia Tech, and even if I had watched an entire game, I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to see Hill do anything other than block for one of their 80 rushing attempts. But he did make big plays happen when he had the chance, and he does have a ton of talent. Is it a risk? Yes. But since Houston is pretty well loaded across the board, it’s a risk they can afford to take.
#27 New England Patriots – DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
Prince: I listed Mercilus as DE/OLB because he could be both, which should be great when the Patriots want to switch between defenses throughout the game. Mercilus led the country in sacks last year with 16, and also forced 9 fumbles, so he is a force on defense. Teams always need a pass rusher, and New England really needs someone coming around the edge. I think the biggest knock on him right now is that some people are wondering if he could be a one year wonder. Mercilus didn’t start his first two seasons at Illinois, making last season his first full year, but he put up tremendous stats. Knowing that everyone has questions about them at this point, I think Mercilus is easily worth the risk this late in the 1st round.
Jon: You’ve got this pick all wrong, Prince. Clearly, you don’t understand the “Patriot Way.” You say that New England needs someone to rush the passer from the edge. That is correct. You say that Mercilus’ versatility would be a good fit for the Pats defense. That is also correct. And you mention that Mercilus is the best pass rusher available at this stage of the draft, which is probably a true statement. And then you totally screw it up by actually taking Mercilus! C’mon, you know that New England never actually takes the pass rusher! Instead, you should have chosen to trade this pick for a couple second rounders, or even another future first and a fourth. At the very least, you could have spent this pick on yet another offensive lineman.
Prince: If this would have been a “what do you think the team will do” mock draft, then I would have easily traded this pick, and #31 for a future 1st from a crappy team. Since you won’t allow me to trade picks, I had to take someone, and I think Mercilus would have to be that guy.
#28 Green Bay Packers – DE/OLB Chandler Jones, Syracuse
Jon: To tell the truth, I’m not in love with the pick I just made. Jones has no experience as a rush LB in the 3-4, so the transition might not go as smoothly as some expect. However, the Packers are in dire need of some pass rush help, and the value of Jones at #28 is just too good to pass up. After all, he’s going about ten spots higher in most mock drafts. As a physical talent, you can certainly understand why he’d be intriguing. He’s big, strong, and exceptionally athletic, which should, in theory, make him an ideal candidate to convert in the Packers 3-4 scheme. If it works out and Jones reaches his vast potential, this could be one of the better picks of the draft. If not, then expect him to be on the Colts’ training camp roster in a couple years.
Prince: I’ve seen Jones go as high as #18 and as low as #50 in mock drafts, but I think #28 is about where he will actually go. I’m not sure why there is such a big discrepancy in those picks, but he did miss five games last year due to a knee injury. The Packers really need a pass rusher on the other side of Clay Matthews, and Jones could be that guy. He is very physical, which the Packers love, so I expect them to target Jones on draft day. The only thing that worries me is that Jones only had 10 sacks in his 3 seasons (33 games) at Syracuse. There aren’t many guys left who are like him athletically though, so I think it’s a good idea to take a chance on him.
Jon: Granted, it’s a bit of an upside pick, but that’s usually what you’re left with at this stage of the first round. Jones could become a stud, but as you point out, there isn’t a whole lot of tangible evidence as of yet. I will point out, however, that Jones did accumulate 39 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 1 interception last season in only 7 games. Obviously the fact that he missed five games gives us an incomplete picture, but he was extremely productive when he was able to stay on the field.
#29 Baltimore Ravens – DE/LB Andre Branch, Clemson
Prince: It looks like there are going to be a lot of these hybrid guys available in the second half of the first round, so I think it will be interesting to see which order they are drafted in. Branch is another player who is pretty raw, but should have no problem playing either DE or LB. Also, I have to think that Baltimore would have no problem figuring out how to use him effectively. Branch has great speed, and should be able to get around tackles who aren’t as athletic. He had a good season last year, earning all-ACC honors and registering 10.5 sacks as a DE. He did sign with Clemson as an OLB though, and has some experience at the position, so it shouldn’t be tough for him to make the transition.
Jon: It seems like most people have Baltimore going either offensive line or safety, which doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. Why would they “play it safe” on a non-premium position that they don’t really need when they could take a shot on a potential impact guy? Like you said, Branch is super-raw, but the upside of an athletic pass rusher clearly outweighs the eventual value of a “center of the future.” That having been said, I would have gone in a different direction here. I would have gone with Coby Fleener. No matter what rhetoric comes out of Joe Flacco’s mouth, he’s always going to be “Checkdown Joe,” and Baltimore’s best chance at maximizing their offensive potential is to get a stud like Fleener. The potential impact on Flacco’s career and the team’s Super Bowl chances are huge. I mean, just look at what New England did with their two TE’s! That’s not, in any way, saying that Flacco will suddenly turn into Brady, but you have to think that years of ignoring his skill set and gunning for downfield threats have stunted his growth. To me, this is maybe the best and most obvious fit of the entire draft, and it would be a travesty if they passed on it.
Prince: I don’t see Flacco being amazing, no matter who they get on offense. Because of that, I think their defense has to be as good as possible. I saw Fleener on the show Sport Science and he is an athletic freak, so I think he should be a good pro; I just don’t trust Flacco. Baltimore lost Jarrett Johnson in free agency, so I figured I would get someone to replace him.
Also, I agree with you that Baltimore shouldn’t go after a center in the first round. They have bigger needs than getting someone to replace Birk, (even though Birk is still going to play this season) and I don’t think any team should be taking a center this high in this draft.
#30 San Francisco 49ers – TE Coby Fleener, Stanford
Jon: If you would like to save yourself some time, go ahead and skim over my Baltimore Ravens comment, because I’m going with the exact same reasoning. No matter who they get to play WR, this team is never going to be a great downfield throwing team with Alex Smith at QB. However, he can be both efficient and effective under the right circumstances. Fleener would be an ideal target for Smith, giving San Francisco added punch in their regular two TE sets. Perhaps even more important is Fleener’s prowess on third down and in the red zone. San Francisco’s troubles in those areas were well documented last season, and getting a reliable threat would be huge. Finally, it must be noted that Jim Harbaugh was Fleener’s coach at Stanford, so there is a familiarity factor there.
Look, the ideal scenario probably has the 49ers taking a WR, but there’s just nothing left here. Even if Stephen Hill were on the board, I think San Francisco would be better served getting a guy like Fleener, who actually fits what they’re trying to do. The ‘Niners are one of the few teams who have both the opportunity to play Fleener, given their two TE sets, and the creativity to properly use him, both as a TE and a WR. Shy of landing Justin Blackmon, this might be their only chance of improving the passing game.
Prince: After your Fleener comments on the last pick, I figured you would take him here. He is obviously good, and if Harbaugh wants him then I could see this being the pick. San Francisco definitely has an advantage over the other teams given their knowledge of Fleener. It seems like he should be a sure thing, so I would have to give him the edge over a WR like Kendall Wright, who has been falling down draft boards since the end of the season. Fleener should fit in well with their offense, and there should still be plenty of receptions available for both him and Vernon Davis.
Jon: The only WR I seriously considered was A.J. Jenkins, but he comes with a lot of risk involved. Of course, Fleener isn’t a sure thing, just like everybody else, but he carries far less risk than most. Plus, he has the type of game breaking ability that could separate him from typical TE’s. Remember, TE can be a premium position. The passing game is the single most important aspect of football, and having a Jason Witten-type player at that position is such a huge advantage. It’s like having a catcher that can hit 30 HR’s. So I don’t think I’m “settling” at all with this pick. On the contrary, I think I might be getting a huge steal. And if having one stud TE is a huge advantage, imagine what it’s like to have two! (It’s called the Patriots…and that worked out pretty well.)
#31 New England Patriots – S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame
Prince: I’m going to start by saying that I’m not really happy about this pick. It’s probably too high for him, and it’s purely based on need. The Patriots pass defense was horrible last year and ended up being ranked #31. They got really lucky in the playoffs, being able to beat two teams that aren’t great passing teams, but they can’t hope for that every year. Safeties, in today’s NFL, are asked to do almost everything. They have to be able to cover WR’s and TE’s, help stop the run game, and even blitz on certain plays, so I think the Patriots really need to address this need. Smith has experience playing both LB and S, and is a great tackler (90 in 2011). He was a captain at Notre Dame in 2010 and 2011, and should be able to bring leadership to a secondary that looked lost and disorganized last year.
Jon: But Prince, why would the Patriots need real safeties when they have all kinds of backup WR’s available? Maybe they can even work in their two second round RB’s from last year! You know, because they aren’t actually going to let them play RB. OK, OK, maybe I’m being a little harsh on the Pats, but it is weird that they refuse to actually address any problems with their annual haul of draft picks. You picked for them both times and netted them a pass rusher and a pretty solid safety. In my mind, they were both great picks, but what are the odds this actually happens on draft day? Or is it more likely they trade out of both and stock up on offensive line or some other unnecessary position? Based on recent history, the latter certainly seems more likely…which just confounds me. Look, there isn’t much thought that needs to be put into this. The Patriots defense was horrible, and you’re right; they aren’t likely to make it to another Super Bowl until they fix it. Two first round picks, with solid prospects at positions of need (and good value) likely available at both, is a good place to start. Don’t over think things here! Get a pass rusher, get some help in the secondary! Simple as that.
Prince: It seems like a lot of people are saying there is no way the Patriots keep both these picks, which I think is just crazy. Unless they are using them to move up in the draft and get a great player, then I don’t understand trading down every time. I guess they could say that Harrison Smith might be available 10 picks later, but they have to get secondary help, and I don’t think they can risk trading down and missing out.
#32 New York Giants – LB Lavonte David, Nebraska
Jon: Prince, I have been eyeing this pick for a little while now, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen on draft day. That’s because Lavonte David is really, really good, and is being undervalued because of his size. OK, I’ll give you that he doesn’t look like a “prototypical” LB, but who cares? The guy makes plays! Tons of them! Besides, it’s about time we rethought our definition of “prototypical.” Big, physical LB’s sound great in theory, but they really don’t jive with the modern NFL game, where success in the passing games (both offense and defense) is the key to victory. To that end, David has a leg up on the other LB’s in this class, as he is great in both coverage and at rushing the passer. With the Giants in need of help at LB, David seems like the perfect fit. His coverage skills would be even more valuable since the Giants have little need for blitzing, and the extra attention assigned to the front four would help keep bigger blockers off David, allowing him to use his speed to chase down ball carriers. (Please, please, PLEASE DON’T TAKE HIM!!!)
Prince: This could be a really good fit. After having so many injuries the year before, and still winning the Super Bowl, they are in great position to take the best player available. The Giants have no problem getting pressure on the QB, so they can allow David to run around and make plays, which he has proven he’s good at. Maybe David wouldn’t be the best draft decision for other teams, but this seems like an easy pick for them if Fleener has already been drafted.
Jon: You know, ever since my controversial Janoris Jenkins pick, you’ve agreed with me on every single selection. Honestly, it’s a bit creepy. Maybe you should sit the next couple plays out, if you know what I mean.
It would be interesting to see what they would do if Fleener were still around. They definitely have a need at TE, and a void left behind by Mario Manningham’s departure. Wow, I honestly don’t know which guy I’d pick. Guess it’s good that I took Fleener two picks earlier! (By the way, if I had it to do all over again, I’d probably take Fleener and David earlier in this draft.)