BY MICHEL GONZALEZ – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
The NFL season is over for some teams. In some cases, the season was over almost before it began. At this point, the next thing they have to look forward to is the college all star games, the Combine and the draft.
Based on certain needs, we’ve come up with a mock of the top 10 picks in next April’s draft. Underclassmen have until January 15th to declare, although some have already made their intentions public. For the sake of argument, let’s say that most of the major names will make themselves available for the draft. Let the debate begin…
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford.
If the 2011 season has taught us anything, it’s that the Colts are completely lost without Peyton Manning. Indy never prepared, adequately or otherwise, for Manning’s injury and the results are pretty obvious. If Peyton returns for the 2012 season, Luck won’t be rushed into action and will have time to learn from the most cerebral quarterback in the game.
2. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC*.
The Vikings have way too many needs to list. Wide receiver ranks pretty high on the list, but without a blindside protector, QB Christian Ponder will have trouble staying upright. At 6-7 and 295 pounds, Kalil, whose brother Ryan is the starting center in Carolina, is bigger and more athletic than Sam Baker — a first round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2008 — and more technically sound than Tyron Smith — selected in the first round by Dallas last April. If Kalil decides to return for his senior year, then expect the Vikings to go for Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon.
3. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State*
With Justin Blackmon off the board, the Rams address one of their biggest needs by getting the best receiver in the draft. At 6-1 and 215 pounds, Blackmon had 113 catches for 1,336 yards for an offense that’s faster than 4G. He’s a beast who would be a huge target for Sam Bradford and a major headache for cornerbacks.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU*.
Funny, but I’ve heard some people who have USC QB Matt Barkley at this spot, which is totally ridiculous. Last year, the Jaguars moved to the 10th spot overall to pick Blaine Gabbert and giving up this quickly on a top 10 pick is idiotic. Jacksonville would be better off shoring up its secondary and LSU’s Claiborne is the best corner available.
5. Washington Redskins: Matt Barkley, QB, USC*.
Rex Grossman and John Beck. ‘Nuff said. The Redskins desperately need a signal caller and since they have no shot at Andrew Luck, their best bet is Barkley. He’s an accurate passer with a 69% completion percentage and over 3,500 passing yards this season.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State*.
While this pick may seem like a reach, the Eagles have had issues they failed to address at the position. Burfict is fast, aggressive with a nasty streak à la Ndamakong Suh and much like Suh, he needs to control his temper. Other than that, he’s the kind of spark Philly sorely needs. A second wideout might be necessary if DeSean Jackson leaves after the season.
7. Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina.
The Panthers have had problems at DE ever since Julius Peppers bolted via free agency. Coples has played DE and DT in college and he brings explosiveness off the edge. He had 59 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and a team-leading 10 sacks, earning First Team All-ACC honors. He also has an excellent bull rush and uses his long arms to keep offensive linemen away from his body so he is able to dictate the action.
8. Miami Dolphins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor.
An unknown commodity when the season began, RGIII ended up as the first Baylor player to ever win the Heisman trophy. The redshirt junior is accurate, makes good decisions -only 6 INT’s- and can make every NFL throw, while bringing an escapability factor to the table. Some people compare him to Cam Newton. The only knock is his frame. He may be 210 pounds but looks frail and thin, leading many to wonder if he can take an NFL pounding.
9. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama*.
Peyton Hillis is very likely to leave via free agency and the Browns are in no hurry to give him a new contract. The other RB, Montarrio Hardesty, has spent too much time on the injury list so this is a need that must be addressed. At 5-10 and 224, he can pound the ball and he has a burst when he turns the corner.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama*.
This is a sore spot, as Ronde Barber is 36 and on his last legs and Aqib Talib may very well be out the door after the season, due to lack of production and pending problems with the courts. At 6-3, Kirkpatrick can counter taller wide receivers and could turn into the shutdown corner Talib never was. He can also learn from Barber in his last go around.
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