Fortunately for Justin Blackmon, he already knows that he looks good in orange. (Photo by Reese Strickland/Getty Images)
Every NFL draft junkie's favorite hookup, SB Nation's Mocking the Draft, has rolled out their annual "nationwide" mock. There managers for all 32 team sites, including our own Ryan Van Bibber, put on their GM caps, attempting to fill the holes and answer the riddles of their franchise.
With just over a week separating us from the greatest off season sporting spectacle known to man, we have just enough time to contemplate and dissect the wisdom of SB Nation's finest. This should be fun. There is no telling what may unfold once the clock starts ticking, but that doesn't mean we can't continue speculating until the very last second. After the jump, stuff hits the fan...
With the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Brad Wells of Stampede Blue and the Indianapolis Colts select Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford.
Brad Well' rationale:
Peyton Manning is in Denver, and the Indianapolis Colts can now FINALLY close a chapter on one era and begin writing a new one. Make no mistake, Luck is being drafted to replace Manning, not to simply succeed him. Luck’s success will be critical in helping the Colts franchise establish a true connection with the Indianapolis community. Some in the community feel that Manning was bigger the Colts, and without him the franchise simply no longer exists. It is Luck's job change that mindset. If Luck doesn’t thrive and win over fans, the Colts will become an afterthought in the Hoosier State, just as the Reggie Miller-less Indiana Pacers have become.
There's no tiptoeing around it; Andrew Luck is the pick and has been for months. I would have liked to see RG3 go first for creativity's sake, but that may have preceded an uproar of disgruntled "Stampeders," notably the hundreds who have already purchased #12 jerseys.
The Indianapolis Colts are starting from scratch and could not be any luckier with their timing. They managed to lose just enough games with just weak enough of a schedule to lock down the first overall pick and the most highly regarded QB prospect since . . . Peyton Manning. I'm hesitant to agree with Wells that Andrew Luck will not only "succeed" Manning, but will also "replace" the future Hall of Famer. That's an unfair standard to place on any prospect, especially one who plays to hardest, most important position in professional sports. Comparisons between to two will be made week after week until Luck brings another Lombardi Trophy back to the Hoosier State. (See: Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre) Also, Manning had Ryan Leaf to outperform and be judged against. How patient will Colt fans be if Robert Griffin III pays more immediate dividends?
With the second pick, Kevin Ewoldt of Hogs Haven and the Washington Redskins select Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor.
Kevin Ewoldt's rationale:
Well, Washington finally has a franchise QB. Redskins fans have had to endure TWENTY different starting quarterbacks since the glory years including such names as Jeff George, John Beck, Heath Shuler, Jeff Hostetler, Tony Banks, Patrick Ramsey...I think my point is clear. No one wins without a Quarterback. I'm tired of the "Trent Dilfer" logic since the game has evolved since then. The Redskins made a bold move to trade away two extra first round picks and a 2nd this year, but frankly it was a trade they had to make. Griffin's high character background (military parents), work ethic (graduated college early and already working on Masters), and athletic accomplishments make him a much less risk of a "bust" where previous QBs failed in these departments. I think of Ryan Leaf over-sleeping a meeting with the Colts. With a defense that has a knack for forcing turnovers, a QB that can protect the ball and make smart decisions will certainly add wins. At the very least, fans have something to be excited about. Sorry, Cleveland.
Pros: The Redskins have made some good signings this offseason to put the pieces in place for RGIII to be successful right away. The Redskins signed Wide Receivers Josh Morgan, Donte Stallworth, and Pierre Garcon and a solid backup QB in Rex Grossman. RGIII has measurables galore, his athleticism is unquestionable. The kid is smart, finishing college early and pursuing a graduate degree even though he is about to be paid millions to play a game. His pocket presence is outstanding, as he prefers to stay there, only using his speed and agility as a last resort.
Cons: Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan is on the hot seat, and as such he may push RGIII too hard too early. The Redskin's offensive line is not the greatest, and is geared more toward the Shanahan zone run-blocking scheme, which may hinder RGIII's passing game. RGIII has just a 55.8% completion percentage outside of the pocket, and with the state of the o-line, he will have to move often. Although he stands strong in the pocket, this can be a weakness as much as a strength. RGIII's base is smaller than ideal, which could put him at risk for lower leg injuries.
Overall the snagging of RGIII by the Redskins is a great pick. The Washington Redskins traded away a bounty of picks for the chance to draft Robert Griffin III, the quarterback out of Baylor. This pick by the skins may end up being remembered more for what the Redskins gave up to the St. Louis Rams, than RGIII's performance on the field. Of course, the Redskins hope that assumption is wrong, and RGIII can lead the Skins to their first Super Bowl since SB XXVI.
With the third pick, Christopher Gates from Daily Norseman and the Minnesota Vikings select Matt Kalil, offensive tackle, Southern California.
Christopher Gates' rationale:
With the highest pick the team has had in a quarter-century, the Vikings find themselves in a position to take the best non-quarterback prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft, whoever they deem that prospect to be. It just so happens that the three biggest areas of need for the Vikings - cornerback, wide receiver, and offensive tackle - intersect with three blue-chip prospects in Morris Claiborne, Justin Blackmon, and Matt Kalil. With the team being in a prime position here, they might be able to trade back and accumulate some more picks for their rebuilding process, but if they do stay here, Kalil is the smartest play, in my opinion.
The Vikings have some youth in their secondary and at wide receiver that they could potentially develop, but the one thing that we know for sure is that the Minnesota Vikings absolutely, positively can not go into the 2012 NFL season with Charlie Johnson as their starting left tackle. The Vikings have placed their future on the shoulders of Christian Ponder (and/or Joe Webb for the "true believers" out there), and they're never really going to know what they have in either of those quarterbacks if they have to scrape themselves off of the turf at the rate they did in 2011. Kalil would immediately be the starter at left tackle, moving Johnson to one of the guard spots and improving two spots on an offensive line that was woefully deficient in 2011. Kalil showed in his time at USC that he was head and shoulders above every other offensive tackle prospect in the nation, and some of the experts have him graded the same (or higher) as current Cleveland Browns' offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who has developed into one of the NFL's elite left tackles. Not only would this serve to protect Ponder, it would also help to open holes in the running game for Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, particularly if the former is slow in coming back from the torn ACL that he suffered on Christmas Eve against the Washington Redskins.
While Blackmon or Claiborne would be a fine pick for the Vikings as well, the ripple effect of improvement that Kalil would have on the Minnesota offense makes him too good to pass up with the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Like Gates said, the Vikings could go in several different directions with this pick. Aside from 2009 first round pick Percy Harvin, Minnesota is shy of big-play threats on the outside, where Blackmon could easily step into play. LSU corner back Morris Claiborne would likely make more sense for a team devoid of quality talent in the defensive backfield - defense end Jason Allen may even be advocating for him - but, barring a trade down, this selection ultimately comes down to one player.
The Minnesota Vikings have placed their long-term future on the shoulders of Christian Ponder and it is their sole responsibility to ensure his survival. Much like Rams QB Sam Bradford, Ponder spent too much time last season either lying on his back or limping towards the sideline as the punt team took the field. Matt Kalil is the best pass protecting O-lineman to come out in several years and would fortify their blindside for the next decade. He won't fill the stands or sell jerseys, but he's the best option for the third overall pick and upgrades the Vikings more than any one player in this draft.
With the fourth pick, Chris Pokorny from Dawgs by Nature and the Cleveland Browns select Justin Blackmon, wide receiver, Oklahoma State.
Chris Pokorny's rationale:
Losing out on Robert Griffin III (in the attempted trade with St. Louis) couldn’t have been easy to stomach for team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert. That doesn’t mean the draft is a loss for the Browns, though. They have two first-round picks at No. 4 and No. 22 overall, and if the chips fall Cleveland’s way, they’ll still be able to improve upon an offense that was downright unbearable last season.
I’m not making excuses for quarterback Colt McCoy, but the only way he is going to have a chance at getting better this coming season is if he has better talent around him. That’s where Justin Blackmon comes in. The Browns are thin enough at receiver where Blackmon would start immediately, probably alongside last year’s second-round pick, Greg Little. In the long-term, hopefully fans can look back at last year’s trade with Atlanta that allowed the Falcons to select Julio Jones and say, "Cleveland was better off because they still got a defensive player in 2011 and got a solid receiver in 2012."
The other positions to consider here are quarterback and running back. The Browns’ front office wanted to trade the farm for Griffin, not another quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) at such a high pick. Running back Trent Richardson is an option too after the departure of Peyton Hillis, but Cleveland needs receivers more than they need a running back.
The more I read into this month's draft, the more I begin to realize that Cleveland wants out of their fourth spot. The Browns really aren't so poorly off as their 4-12 record implies. If we were to give them a pass for being the littlest sibling in the AFC North, their 2011 record really stands at 4-6, a botched field goal away from .500. While there may only be a couple of "blue chip" all-stars, such as LT Joe Thomas, on their roster, they have a decent nucleus of able starters and role players at their disposal.
If the Browns see fit to stick with McCoy, and receive no offers from other QB-hungry teams, they really have only two options, both improving their lackluster offense. While I agree that Cleveland needs a big play receiving threat in a very bad way, I can't help but think it would be in their best interest to take the highest rated skill player available, Alabama's Trent Richardson. How can the Browns compete with the likes of Baltimore and Pittsburgh relying on Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson to drag the chains? The drop off from Blackmon to the rest of the class's wide outs is far less than the disparity between Richardson and Doug Martin or David Wilson. However, with the 22nd pick in the first round and an early pick in the second round, Cleveland has options to go with in either direction.
That's it for today. What's your take? Check back tomorrow for picks five through eight.