By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Matt Barkley QB USC
With another sub-par year from Gabbert and an anemic offensive effort even with MJD and an improved wide receiving corps, the Jaguars will jump at the chance to add an NFL ready signal-caller capable of helping immediately. And help is what they’ll need. Barkley is a relatively low-risk prospect due to his intelligent, experience and character. I do think there will be some debate over whether Tyler Wilson or even Logan Thomas should be selected instead, but with a lively new owner the coaching staff may feel pressure to win now and energize a dormant fan base. The best way to win now is to have a ready and capable signal-caller, which Barkley is.
2. Minnesota Vikings- Tyler Wilson QB ARKANSAS
Christian Ponder could very well have a decent year, but he will never be much better than decent. He has Adrian Peterson to hand it off to and has the intelligence to advance his knowledge of the game and improve his skills. Unfortunately his potential is limited and he lacks the arm strength to be a dynamic passer. The Vikes lack the overall talent to compete in a monster division facing the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, and Jay Cutler (who now has legit and familiar targets). I wouldn’t be surprised if Minnesota is picking first, but either way they won’t be patient enough to give Ponder the proper time to mature into his (limited) potential when a live-armed high ceiling type QB like Wilson is available.
3. Miami Dolphins- Robert Woods WR USC
Miami may be more entertaining on “Hard Knocks” than they are on the field. The offense simply lacks talent and Jake Long is the only real elite player on that side of the ball. Tannehill is talented, but not ready for NFL action and may be thrown out on the field anyway. With Chad Johnson having fulfilled his contractual obligation and primary purpose to appear on “Hard Knocks” the Dolphins decided his recent legal trouble wasn’t worth it. The offense lacks stars and the defense isn’t good enough to compensate. Adding Woods gives the Fish a big-play threat to team with their young QB.
4. Cleveland Browns- Keenan Allen WR CAL
I love Allen as a prospect and think he has all the skills, even some that Woods lacks (like the height that makes Allen a red zone target), to be a dynamic threat in the passing game. Cleveland will have to desperately look for offensive help to salvage their pick of an older Weeden and with Richardson already in place WR would be the spot. Holmgren isn’t usually thrilled to risk it with a WR this high, but the situation and Allen’s skill level will sway him. That is if he’s still there. With the Browns being sold to a new owner, most expect Holmgren to be gone at the end of the year, if not sooner.
5. St. Louis Rams- Star Lotulelei DT UTAH
Sam Bradford will take a step forward, but the rest of the team will lag behind. If Keenan Allen is available here they may take him. If not, the big, athletic DT from Utah will give them a dynamic defensive line, which already includes their 2012 first-rounder Michael Brockers and a newly signed Chris Long. Jeff Fisher will be happy to begin to build a quality defense to support his young QB.
6. Indianapolis Colts- Sam Montgomery DE/OLB LSU
After using most of their early picks on offense last year, Indy will try to add some young talented players to build their defense. Expect Dwight Freeney to say “so long” after the season opening up a spot at the 3-4 OLB that Freeney may or may not be thrilled with playing. With Montgomery’s athleticism he has the abilities to convert to a rush end OLB. His only real flaw at this point is the lack of bulk on his frame, but as a standup edge rusher his size will be masked by his speed and energy.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Johnathan Hankins DT OSU
With a very talented crop of defensive lineman in this year’s draft, teams with early picks will have their choice of several potential difference makers in the front four. The Bucs will be happy to add another DT will a nice blend of brute strength and athleticism. Hankins lined up all over the field for the Buckeyes, but will give Tampa Bay a force inside next to slightly underachieving but talented former first-rounder Gerald McCoy.
8. Oakland Raiders- Logan Thomas QB VT
The Raiders pick here will be dependent on Carson Palmer’s play. If he struggles then look for them to add the best available QB at this pick or even trade up for guy they’re in love with. Personally I think Palmer will play much better than he did after essentially being thrown from the couch to the field in a matter of days. I could definitely see the Black and Silver trying to stick it out one more year with a guy they gave up a lot for. On the other hand this is a draft class with what I feel to be loaded with very good QBs. Logan Thomas has the arm strength, height and big body teams love as well as the ability to take off and meet defenders head-on. Tyler Bray is also a good option.
9. New York Jets- Jarvis Jones OLB GEORGIA
This would be a great pick here for the Jets. They drafted DE Quinton Coples last time around and still have a need for an OLB pass rushing threat. That’s exactly what Jones brings and would be a guy Rex Ryan could count on for consistent pressure off the edge. Don’t count out the possibility of the Sanchez-Tebow combination to be a total disaster, and if that’s the case a franchise type QB could be in play forNew York.
10. Arizona Cardinals – Tyler Bray QB TENNESSEE
The Cardinals have a pair of talented wide receivers with Fitzgerald and his newly drafted buddy Michael Floyd, but John Skelton and Kevin Kolb won’t take advantage. This pick, if it actually happens this way, will have a ton of relevance as several teams (or at least the unfortunate Chiefs stuck one pick too late) will be eyeing a QB and realizing Bray might be the last franchise type guy out there. The Cards will be happy to disappoint them by selecting a rocket-armed 6’6 gunslinger, given he finally plays well for a full season with the Vols. If they’re the ones coming up a pick or two short, the tall ball-hawking David Amerson would be a great addition to team with athletic and speedy Patrick Peterson to form a dynamic CB pair.
11. Kansas City Chiefs- DJ Fluker RT ALABAMA
If the Chiefs do end up at this pick with the previous picks having been played out correctly, they’ll be in a really tough position. The two positions of need, QB and WR, don’t have enough value available at this pick. If they rate Landry Jones high enough they could stretch for him here or similarly stretch for Marquess Wilson or Justin Hunter at WR. They could also use a RT and DJ Fluker produced at an elite college program that paved the way for two highly productive running backs Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram. Look for a trade, if not, Fluker may be the guy.
12. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)- Luke Joeckel LT TEXAS A&M
The two Ram picks could be switched around and they could windup taking Montgomery or Mingo here. Assuming they take Montgomery earlier they’ll look elsewhere at #12. If Roger Saffold doesn’t bounce back with a solid year, LT will be a glaring need. I like Luke Joeckel’s athleticism and footwork as a pass protector for a young highly paid QB, but Chris Faulk and Ricky Wagner are also solid options. If they want more versatility Barrett Jones can play almost anywhere on the line including LT. Also consider a potential replacement for Stephen Jackson as Marcus Lattimore should be available.
13. Seattle Seahawks- William Gholston DE MSU
The Seahawks need major help up front on the defensive side of the ball. Pete Carroll surprised everyone taking situational pass-rusher Bruce Irvin to generate more pressure on the QB in this year’s draft. Somewhat overlooked was his character concerns. Carroll may be looking to gamble again on an enormous talent, literally. The 6’7 monster has the talent to make an impact in the NFL, but had numerous on-field incidents including punching a player during a game against rival Michigan. There is no denying his talent and Carroll may opt to take a bit of a risk. Other options are hometown Marquess Wilson from thePacific Northwest or Justin Hunter, both wide receivers.
14. Carolina Panthers- Chris Faulk LT/RT LSU
The Panthers have an exciting young quarterback in Cam Newton, a solid backfield with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and a young O-line that needs Jeff Otah to produce at RT. If he doesn’t look for the Panthers to solidify a strong young offense and convert Chris Faulk from LT to RT, as he has the body and bulk to make that switch with relative ease and provide injury security at LT.
15. Tennessee Titans- Barrett Jones T/G/C ALABAMA
With CJ2K back from a contract dispute and now signed long-term, the Titans can improve their running attack by upgrading their O-line. Barret Jones is versatile and can play C where the Titans could use some improvement. He would also give them depth at almost every other slot on the line and help clear a path for Chris Johnson to burst through.
16. New Orleans Saints- Jackson Jeffcoat DE TEXAS
The Saints will have a tough time replacing Sean Payton, but a lot of people are overlooking the loss of critical defenders for various lengths, most notably Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith. That is one of the reasons why I feel the Saints will miss the playoffs. I think the Falcons will finally step up and win the division, and I love the prospect of Julio Jones busting out in year two. The balance of power in the NFL has shifted to the NFC and I don’t see the Saints finishing with the second best record among potential wild card teams like Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Dallas and NY Giants. New Orleans can pass the ball, but everyone knows you also need to rush the passer. Jackson Jeffcoat is rangy, fast and athletic. He will add speed and energy to an average at best defensive line.