#9 – Carolina Panthers: DT Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State)
Team Needs (DT, WR, CB, OLB, OT, DE) / Draft Strategy: The Carolina defense struggled mightily in 2011 allowing 27 PPG. Bolstering the interior of the D-line and adding a CB to play opposite Chris Gamble should be priorities on draft day.
Carolina spent a pair of 3rd round picks in 2011 on DTs Sione Fua and Terrell McClain but an upgrade is needed.
Key Offseason Adds: RB Mike Tolbert
Key Offseason Losses: ILB Dan Connor (Dallas), LG Travelle Wharton (Cincinnati), OT/G Geoff Schwartz (Minnesota),
Pick Analysis: Carolina’s run defense was pushed around all season and upgrading the interior of the D-line should be a priority. Ultimately we feel they take the best interior prospect in the draft. Cox is in the discussion to be the first DT off the board as Mike Mayock’s Updated rankings now have him as the #1 DT (ahead of Dontari Poe and Michael Brockers). He was one of the stars of the combine running a 4.79 forty and benching 30 reps (225 lbs). The 6-4, 298 pounder has been labeled by most as the best pass rushing DT in this draft class. His versatility (played DE and DT) has his draft stock on the rise. The junior was the only player from Mississippi State to be named to All-SEC first team after he collected 56 tackles and five sacks. Philadelphia (at #15) is rumored to be considering a trade up for Cox.
Other Possible Picks: WR Michael Floyd, CB Stephon Gilmore
#10 – Buffalo Bills: OT Reilly Reiff (Iowa)
Team Needs (OT, WR, QB, CB, TE, OLB) / Draft Strategy: The Bills broke the bank with the free agent signings of DE Mario Williams (Houston) and DE Mark Anderson (New England). LT Demetrius Bell played well when healthy last year (allowed just 1 sack) in six starts. He’s a free agent and Buffalo might not be able to retain him following the defensive spending spree which would leave a major hole in the O-line.
UPDATE: Buffalo could throw the first curve ball as rumors are heating up that they are looking to land LT Matt Kalil in a trade up to #3 with Minnesota (Vikings could look to land home town WR Michael Floyd at #10 – stay tuned.)
Key Offseason Adds: DE Mario Williams, DE Mark Anderson, WR Steve Johnson (resigned)
Key Offseason Losses: OT Demetress Bell (Eagles)
Pick Analysis: Upgrading the defense takes a backseat after the free agent signings of Mario Williams (Houston) and Mark Anderson (New England) – should be well suited for the 4-3 defense of Dave Wannstedt. OT Demetrius Bell is a free agent and may not be back in Buffalo.
At 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, Reiff is a technician with a skill set to be a solid T at the next level (some consider him best suited to play Guard – shorter arms than expected). He started at LT in all 12 games this past season and started 33 consecutive games in total. Reiff is a well rounded athlete that played TE and DE in high school (was actually recruited to Iowa as a TE).
Other Possible Picks: WR Michael Floyd, CB Stephon Gilmore
#11 – Kansas City Chiefs: ILB Luke Kuechly (Boston College)
Team Needs (NT, LG, ILB, S, 3-4 DE, 3-4 OLB) / Draft Strategy: OG Casey Wiegmann will turn 39 in July and is mulling retirement. The addition of free agent RT Eric Winstrom was a major step in the right direction – RT Barry Richardson and Ryan Lilja should not be starting.
KC could consider going after Ryan Tannehill if he slips outside the top 10 as we are less than enthused with Matt Cassel.
DT Kelly Gregg turns 36 this year so the Chiefs should add youth to the interior of the D-line via the draft. In Romeo Crennel’s defenses, it is preferable to have both ILBs on the field for all three downs – however MLB Jovan Belcher is a liabilty in pass coverage and is usually removed on 3rd downs.
Key Offseason Adds: OT Eric Winston, RB Peyton Hillis , CB Stanford Routt, TE Kevin Boss
Key Offseason Losses: CB Brandon Carr (Dallas), FB Le’Ron McClain (San Diego), QB Kyle Orton (Dallas)
Pick Analysis: The 6-foot-3, 237-pounder from BC has elite instincts and a versatile skill set that could allow him to ILB and possibly even some OLB. In 2011, Kuechly totaled 191 tackles with 12 tackles for a loss. In 2010, the All-American led the nation in tackles (183 – included 110 solo tackles) with 10.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. He’s been labeled as the best coverage LB in this class but his smallish size and limited abilities as a pass rusher could cause his draft stock to fall outside the top 10 picks. Current Chiefs GM Scott Pioli (formerly with the Patriots) took Jarod Mayo at #10 overall (in 2008) and Kuechly has the makings of a similar tackling machine. This is a best player available pick and the future QB of the Kansas City defense.
Other Possible Picks: DT Dontari Poe, DT Michael Brockers, QB Ryan Tannehill
#12 – Seattle Seahawks: DE Quinton Coples (North Carolina)
Team Needs (DE, LB, TE, WR, G/ROT, RB) / Draft Strategy: The Seahawks struggled to generate a pass rush (just 33 sacks in 2011). Chris Clemons was the only D-line who able to pressure the quarterback last year (31-year-old will be a free agent after this season). Raheem Brock’s production is on the decline and adding a player to pressure the QB needs to take priority in the early rounds. Adding a WR is also needed as Sidney Rice can’t stay healthy and Golden Tate is a 3rd WR at best.
Key Offseason Adds: QB Matt Flynn, RB Marshawn Lynch (resigned)
Key Offseason Losses: TE John Carlson (Minnesota), OG Robert Gallery (New England),
Pick Analysis: Upgrading a pass rush that generated just 33 sacks is a high priority. Coples was dominant at the Senior Bowl , has ideal size (6’5, 280) combined with elite pass rushing skills and versatility (could play DT or DE) with have him in high demand on draft day.
Other Possible Picks: WR Michael Floyd, LB Luke Kuechly
#13 – Arizona Cardinals: OG David DeCastro (Stanford)
Team Needs (ROT, WR, 3-4 DE, QB, 3-4 OLB, DB) / Draft Strategy: Arizona allowed the second most sacks (54) in the league so bolstering the O-line is a must if they expect to keep Kevin Kolb on the field.
Adding a WR opposite Larry Fitzgerald could help to jump start a mediocre passing attack as Early Doucet was resigned but has yet to emerge as a legit weapon causing Fitz to face weekly double teams.
Key Offseason Adds: OT Levi Brown (resigned)
Key Offseason Losses: none
Pick Analysis: The 6-foot-5, 310-pound 3 year starter is a powerful run blocker and is labeled as the best OG in this class. DeCastro teamed with Jonathan Martin to anchor a Stanford’s offensive line that excelled in pass protection (allowed just nine sacks) in 2011 and paved the way for Stanford’s ground game to average 208 YPG. Kevin Kolb has battled concussions and his only hope of developing as a potential franchise QB will be if the Cards dramatically improve their protection. RB Beanie Wells would get a boost in value as well with the addition of one of the best interior O-lineman in the draft.
Other Possible Picks: WR Michael Floyd, DE Quinton Coples
#14- Dallas Cowboys: CB Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina)
Team Needs (3-4 DL, G, CB, RB, 3-4 OLB, TE) / Draft Strategy: Jerry Jones has hinted that the Cowboys will be going heavy on Defense – take that for what its worth. CB Terence Newman was a liability and was released. Dallas signed CB Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50.1 million contract. The pass defense (244 YPG) is in need of multiple upgrades so another addition to the secondary is warranted early in the draft especially in a division with QBs Mike Vick and Eli Manning. The O-line also has shown cracks and will need to be addressed (allowed 39 sacks in 2011). C Phil Costa has been a disaster and an upgrade from OG Bill Nagy is needed. Free agent signing OG Nate Livings is a borderline starter at best.
Key Offseason Adds: ILB Dan Connor (Carolina) , CB Brandon Carr (Kansas City), QB Kyle Orton (Kansas City) , S Brodney Pool (NY Jets), OG Nate Livings (Cincinnati)
Key Offseason Losses: WR Laurent Robinson (Jacksonville), TE Martellus Bennett
Pick Analysis: Dallas’ 23rd ranked pass defense was an Achilles heel down the stretch. Despite signing free agent CB Brandon Carr - further upgrades are needed. CB Michael Jenkins is a free agent at the end of the season and its highly unlikely that Dallas will be able to meet his contract demands. Gilmore (6 foot, 190) is a physical CB with above average speed (4.40 forty time). He is a fast riser on draft boards and currently sits as the #2 CB (behind Morris Claiborne) on Mike Mayock’s board.
Other Possible Picks: OT Jonathan Martin, OG David DeCatsro, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, S Mark Barron
#15 – Philadelphia Eagles: DT Michael Brockers (LSU)
Team Needs (WLB, SLB, SS, OT (depth), DL, QB ) / Draft Strategy: The loss of All-Pro LT Jason Peters to a season ending ACL injury could alter the Eagles draft plans (although he doesn’t protect left handed Vick’s blind side). The signing of Demetress Bell (Buffalo) should serve as a stopgap option for 2012. DT Cullen Jenkins was solid (40 tackles and 5.5 sacks) but will be 32 at the end of the season. Mike Patterson (seizures) is a major question mark. The mediocre Eagles run defense could use a DT that can also pressure the QB.
Key Offseason Adds: traded for ILB DeMeco Ryans (Houston) for 4th-round pick; swap of 3rd-rounders. OT Demetress Bell (Buffalo)
Key Offseason Losses: LT Jason Peters (ACL injury)
Pick Analysis: The Eagles addressed the LB position with the trade for Demeco Ryans (Houston). Strengthening the interior of the D-line is a must as the run defense was average at best in 2011 (17th in the NFL). In 2011, Brockers recorded 54 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss and two sacks and was named to the Second Team All-SEC squad. Opinions vary on Brockers as some have him going in the first half of round 1 but his inexperience (redshirt sophomore) and questions regarding his motor make him a boom or best pick – ultimately we think the Eagles roll the dice.
Other Possible Picks: S Mark Barron, CB Dre Fitzpatrick, OT Jonathan Martin, OT Mike Adams, DT Fletcher Cox
#16 - New York Jets: WR Michael Floyd (Notre Dame)
Team Needs (OLB, WR, ROT, 3-4 DE, TE, ILB) / Draft Strategy: WR Santonio Holmes is not a big fan of Mark Sanchez but he’ll remain the go-to WR for at least one more season. WR Plaxico Burress won’t return and the Jets are in dire need of a playmaker in the passing game. RT Wayne Hunter should not be starting - surrendered 11 sacks and was whistled for 11 penalties. Adding a pass rushing LB is also needed as Aaron Maybin may have been the best Jet LB in 2011.
Key Offseason Adds: SS LaRon Landry (Washington), QB Tim Tebow (trade with Denver for 4th and 6th round picks), NT Sione Pouha (resigned)
Key Offseason Losses: S Brodney Pool (Dallas)
Pick Analysis: The Jets 21st ranked pass offense needs an upgrade. WR Santonio Holmes is the only legit starting WR on the roster as free agent Plaxico Burress will not be brought back. Floyd (220 pound senior) has the size to succeed at the next level but some question his ability to separate from defenders. This season, Floyd has 95 receptions for 1,106 yards and eight touchdowns. He has the skill set to be a solid WR1 at the next level provided he develops some maturity (multiple off field issues at Notre Dame). Floyd’s red zone prowess and physicality / ability to shed DBs will appeal to a Jets offense looking to impose their will on opposing defenses.
Other Possible Picks: DE Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB Courtney Upshaw, OT Mike Adams, OT Cordy Glenn