There's no such thing as a can't-miss prospect, but Andrew Luck has everything you're looking for in a quarterback. In terms of physical tools, he has a prototypical frame, strong arm and above-average pocket mobility.
In terms of his football intelligence, he has a strong understanding of how to run an offense and he makes sound decisions on the field. Finally, there's no question about his ability to step into an NFL huddle and take charge of it.
This appears to be a perfect fit of a quarterback's skill set with the Colts' new offensive philosophy. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will run a Pittsburgh-style scheme with a lot of bunch formations and movement and some no-huddle. Luck will have a lot of freedom to audible at the line of scrimmage. They want to be a much more run-oriented offense which could set up good play action, which is Luck's strength. This is a perfect offense for him, it's just a shame he won't have a better supporting cast in the beginning.
The two things that set RG3 and Luck apart are concerns about RG3's durability and how long it will take for him to transition to more of a pro-style offense. While there are concerns about the pro-style offense, he's done it enough in college that you know he'll be successful in the NFL.
If Luck is 1, then RG3 is 1A. In fact, he has an even stronger arm and he moves just as well. If he stays healthy, he'll be the quarterback Washington so desperately needed and well worth the picks they gave up to get him.
He is a perfect guy to run Mike Shanahan's offense, which is a strong zone-blocking run game and a passing game that wants the QB to roll out, throw a lot of bootlegs and motion some off play action and that leads to a lot of half-field reads and scrambles, which fits RG3 perfectly. They will also use a lot of motions and shifts and multi-receiver packages to give him a lot of options in the passing game. He will always be a threat to tuck the ball and run. They worked hard to give him a supporting cast in free agency.
There's a good reason Richardson is only the seventh RB to come off the boards in the first five picks in the past 10 years. He's a complete football player. He's a power back who can grind out yards between the tackles, and he's quick enough to get outside to where he can make defenders miss. His ability to contribute on third down makes him that much more attractive considering the direction NFL offenses are heading.
This was a major need for the Browns. And what separates Richardson from a lot of backs is that he's a three-down player. This offense had no explosiveness or big plays from the running game a year ago and they were at the bottom of the league and yards after contact were an afterthought. That all changes with Richardson. Not only will he be effective between the tackles, but he is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield and he is a good pass-blocker and very effective in blitz pickup. With new offensive coordinator Brad Childress, it will be a West Coast-style offense. They will emphasize the run game to keep pressure off their quarterback position and, as mentioned, Richardson doesn't need to come off the field.
Kalil's ability to sink his hips and generate power as a run-blocker led to concerns about him dropping even further. However, he's clearly the best offensive tackle prospect in this class. His greatest strength is his ability to hold up in pass protection. He's quick, athletic and long. While he might not be a mauler, his assignment rarely makes the play when he's run-blocking.
This offensive line gave up 49 sacks in 2011 and a lot of the big hits that QB Christian Ponder absorbed were over the left side. Kalil has excellent range and he will match up on the best edge rushers in the league. He will give Ponder time to throw the ball. This will also be a run-first offense, and he should be good in the run game and on the second level.
Blackmon has room for improvement in terms of his route-running, but has the natural ability to make those improvements. He's a playmaker who can come down with 50-50 balls downfield and can catch it underneath and turn it into a big play.
He should quickly turn into a No. 1 receiver.
This was the worst pass offense in the NFL a year ago. Of course, part of the problem was QB Blaine Gabbert, however, it has been the worst receiving corps in the NFL for the past few years. The Jaguars did sign free agent Laurent Robinson from Dallas and Mike Thomas has a chance to be OK, but now they have a difference-maker and a guy who can stretch the field. All of a sudden, this pathetic passing game now has a three-wide receiver set and a nickel package that can actually threaten some defenses. This has been a short, conservative passing game in the past because they had no choice. Now, they can air it out with Blackmon or they can let him take those short to intermediate passes where he can run after the catch.
Claiborne is the best corner on the board. He's quick, he's fluid and he's fast enough to match up in man-to-man coverage. He's also an effective tackler who can help out in run support and limit production after the catch. But what sets him apart is his ability to play the ball. He's a former wide receiver who just naturally understands how to track and attack the football.
The secondary was a tremendous weakness to their team a year ago. They tried to address the secondary with free agent Brandon Carr from Kansas City, but that was certainly not enough. They just haven't been a group that can line up successfully in man-to-man schemes, especially versus multi-receiver sets. Under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, they love to blitz a lot to create pressure, and that puts these corners on an island in those man coverages. Now, the Cowboys have two turn-and-run cover corners they can depend on.
The No. 1 thing that jumps out when you watch Barron's film is his instincts. He's always in position to make the play, whether he's defending the run or in coverage. He's not just a fundamentally sound player, either. He shows above-average range in coverage and he can deliver the big hit in run support.
The secondary was a tremendous area of weakness a year ago and they just gave up a lot -- they were 31st in the NFL in average gain per pass play -- and plenty of those came between the hashes. Their safeties are nondescript both versus the run and the pass. While this has been a Cover 2 zone-type secondary in the past, we will see more man-to-man looks under new coach Greg Schiano. We actually could see Barron team with Ronde Barber inside in some packages. He is a playmaker in every area. He will give this defense a lot of the big plays they've been missing the past couple of years in both man and zone.
Tannehill is one of the most talked-about prospects in this draft. On one hand, there are concerns about his lack of experience and his inability to win games late last year. On the other hand, he has all the physical tools and mental toughness teams look for in a starting quarterback.
It's also important to point out that he's more accurate than the numbers suggest, because his receivers dropped so many balls last year that it skewed his completion percentage and hindered his ability to win games.
This is certainly a pick that seems to make a lot of sense because the Dolphins know everything about this guy with Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman as his former head coach at Texas A&M. Tannehill has a tremendous skill set, but there's a lot of room to develop. Under new head coach Joel Philbin, the Dolphins' offense is a version of a West Coast offense with a large variety of formations and personnel packages, much like he ran at Green Bay as offensive coordinator. This is a sophisticated offense that puts a premium on decision-making and reads, and Tannehill just needs time to recognize matchups, see blitzes and learn how to audible at the line of scrimmage. These are all things he can do, that he will likely sit for a good portion of his rookie season and will learn behind Matt Moore or David Garrard. This is not a QB to start from day one.
Kuechly is one of the best overall football players in this draft. He locates and gets to the ball quickly as a run defender. Though he doesn't have elite fluidity, he shows great range, instincts and hands in coverage.
He's just a very sound tackler who doesn't let ball carriers get away.
This is a combination of a team filling a need but doing it with a great football player. This is a defense that was in the bottom third of the NFL in key categories a year ago. Its best two linebackers -- OLB Thomas Davis and MLB Jon Beason -- are coming off significant injuries. If Beason is healthy, Kuechly could play outside linebacker; if not he can play inside. It not only gives three excellent players at the position if healthy, but it also gives them tremendous insurance. They will be more aggressive in their 4-3 defense this season and they will blitz more and also play some man schemes with their linebackers, all things that Kuechly can do. He is a guy who doesn't have to come off the field in some packages.
The biggest concern with Gilmore is his instincts. But he has all the physical tools you're looking for in a cover corner. He has the size to match up with bigger receivers and the quickness to stay with smaller ones.
He's also willing to mix it up in run support, though he could be a little more consistent as a tackler.
In past years, this Buffalo secondary has really played well, and in 2011, it was very inconsistent. Part of it was because of injuries and the Bills gave up big chunks of passing yards. Their ability to match up versus spread offenses became a real problem. They are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. Their tremendous upgrades in their defensive front four will give them a much-improved pass rush and Gilmore has a chance to line up maybe against the opposition's No. 1 receiver.
Poe is the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect. Few prospects have his kind of upside. At 346 pounds, he has above-average lateral ability and range. However, he doesn't make nearly as many plays on film, especially when you consider the level of competition he faced on a weekly basis. If the light comes on for him, he'll be a steal at this pick. But he can easily turn into a bust.
The key to this 3-4 defense is being very physical on the interior and that means a big, dominating nose tackle. They have lived with undersized Kelly Gregg in the past and young Jerrell Powe is unproven and Poe now, potentially, gives them the penetrating, inside run-stuffer they have been looking for. They will tinker with some 43-and-under looks and they will use some pre-snap movement for Poe to get him in some one-on-one penetrating situations. Obviously, the huge question here is which player is hethe guy we saw him at the combine or the guy who can be inconsistent on film?
Cox is a disruptive interior run defender who has the initial quickness to disrupt plays in the backfield. He also has the violent hands and closing speed to get after the quarterback. He's versatile enough to line up at defensive tackle or defensive end.
Even though it initially looks like the Eagles are in pretty good shape on the inside of their defensive line, in this Wide Nine defensive scheme, where they really play their linebackers on the edge, it gives the interior of this defense a lot of space to cover. He should be an excellent inside penetrator and a lot of one-gap schemes and the Eagles love to use a deep rotation on the defensive line and come at offenses in waves. Andy Reid will never pass on a good interior player. With Cox upfront and newly acquired DeMeco Ryans at MLB coming from Houston as a free agent, the interior of this defense has dramatically been upgraded.
Floyd isn't an explosive receiver who's going to separate underneath, but he doesn't have to because he's big and strong enough to make plays against tight coverage. The reason he's a good value at this point in the draft is his ability to make plays down the field. He gets off the line better than most receivers his size, he's fast and he excels in jump-ball situations.
After superstar Larry Fitzgerald, there is not a lot to like about this passing game and receiving corps. With Floyd penciled in as a legitimate No. 2 receiver, the Cardinals can move Early Doucet to the slot position, where he is much more suited, and that gives them a legitimate three-wide receiver package and gives them two, big physical receivers in Floyd and Fitzgerald that can go up and get it in the red zone and on third down. This is a pick Fitzgerald will love because it will take away some of the double-teams he's been seeing, and in one move it will make the Cardinals' QBs look better because they will be able to get away with more jump balls.
Brockers is a big and athletic interior run-stuffer who shows above-average range for a 322-pound defensive tackle. He still has a long way to go in terms of rushing the passer, but he has the active hands and athletic ability to get there.
This is a run defense that a year ago was near the bottom of the league. The coaches really gutted the interior of this defensive line. They did add Kendall Langford from Miami as a veteran free agent, and he's a good run defender. Brockers can start at the other defensive tackle position and give them not only an improved run defense, but he also has some inside penetration skills that they so desperately needed. Inside pressure will help their edge rushers, and a big goal of this defense was to get bigger and more physical.
Irvin is the biggest reach in this draft so far. He has to get stronger against the run if he lines up at defensive end and learn how to play in space in terms of coverage if he lines up at outside linebacker. On the other hand, he's arguably the most explosive pass-rusher in this class. He can run around offensive tackles and get to the quarterback in a flash if he gets the seam.
This defense registered only 33 sacks in 2011 and 11 of those came from Chris Clemons at one defensive end position. They like to pressure with their front four without blitzes. While they have two good starters in Clemons and Red Bryant, Pete Carroll loves to play creative personnel fronts. He actually has an elephant package with an extra linebacker on the field as a pass-rusher, and this pick gives them a lot of creativity.
Coples is a versatile defensive lineman who can line up at defensive tackler in a four-man front or at defensive end in a three-man front. At times he's a stout run defender who can also make plays in the backfield, and he flashes the ability to turn into an effective pass-rusher at the next level. The reason he dropped as far as he has are concerns about his work ethic and his commitment to the game. Is he one of those guys who's not going to give you his all all the time?
This is a little bit of a curious pick because even though they really need improvement in their defensive front, in this 3-4 defense the feeling was that an OLB who could rush the QB was a bigger priority. Coples is a tall and rangy guy who will likely fit at defensive end in the Jets' 3-4 front, and when they switch to a 4-3 or even some 46 looks, he could be inside or outside because of his versatility as one-gap penetrator. With his skill set he can definitely improve the depth in this defensive line. But expecting a lot of production as an edge pass-rusher is probably expecting too much. He and Muhammad Wilkerson could form an excellent duo.
Kirkpatrick is a tall and athletic corner with the toughness and speed to develop into an effective press corner. He's also one of the better corners in the draft at defending the run. However, there's one major drawbackHe's not a playmaker, and he hasn't shown enough in terms of ball skills to make you think he will be one day.
The Bengals have tried this whole offseason to upgrade their secondary that was pretty good a year ago, but there are a lot of questions with age and durability. Their depth is suspect and they just don't match up well in man-to-man coverage. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer likes to gamble a lot and bring a variety of blitzes, and he is not afraid to put his corners on an island in man-to-man coverage. Kirkpatrick gives them a chance to probably contribute immediately in their subpackages as a third corner, eventually moving into a starting spot to replace Leon Hall and Nate Clements.
Ingram is a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker prospect who's at his best rushing the passer. But he's also athletic and smooth enough to hold up underneath coverage. While his short arms are a concern, his hands are active and violent. So there's a lot to like about his ability to overcome his weaknesses.
He will likely be plugged in as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense. They have looked for a long time for a guy to complement Shaun Phillips, although his production dropped off in 2011 and we don't know where Phillips' game is right now. Free agent Jarret Johnson from Baltimore was an excellent edge pickup and surprising Antwan Barnes had 11 sacks a year ago. On the surface, it looks like this position is in pretty good shape, but the Chargers can never have too many pass-rushers and in 2012, they want to be a more aggressive blitzing defense with those front guys constantly on the move. This gives them a lot of flexibility with Ingram.
McClellin has been one of the hottest names leading up to the draft because of his ability to rush the passer. He gets off the ball well, he can bend back inside and he closes well.
He needs to work on his ability to get off blocks, but he's tough, strong and does a nice job of setting the edge when he's lined up at defensive end.
The Bears want most of their pass-rush production in their 4-3 defense to come from the front four and the only real edge rusher they have is Julius Peppers, who had 10.5 sacks in 2011. The other start Israel Idonije is a better run-defender than pass-rusher, McClellin fits in perfectly as a guy who can give them some pass rush in the nickel situations and give them three-man rotation at defensive end.
Doesn't have great size and he doesn't have great ball skills, but he's a big play waiting to happen. He's fast enough to stretch the field and he's competitive in 50/50 ball situations. One of the things he needs to improve is catching the ball in stride, but he's elusive and explosive after the catch.
This position has a chance to really improve if the Titans hit on Wright. Kenny Britt is an explosive playmaker, but he's coming off an knee injury that kept him out of the lineup in 2011, and Nate Washington is coming off a career year, but can he repeat it? If both guys play up to form in 2012, Wright could be the perfect slot receiver inside to take advantage of his quickness, and that would give the Titans a really good three-wide receiver package. Although, this offense was very vanilla in 2011, with a more complete passing game, they could really open things up. You could see Wright really flourish with yards after the catch inside.
When you look at Jones' combine workout, nothing really stands out in terms of numbers. But when you throw in the film, you see a player who has above-average upside as a pass-rusher. He anticipates the snap well, does a good job of bending inside, and he closes better than his timed speed would suggest. Plus, he still has room to grow into his frame and get even bigger.
Obviously, defense was a huge need for the Patriots in this draft. In one way, to improve a porous pass defense is to get better in the pass rush up front. Bill Belichick can juggle his 3-4 and 4-3 schemes depending on his personnel. Jones fits perfectly as a right defensive end in a 4-3 look, but he could also play OLB as an edge rusher opposite Rob Ninkovich in their 3-4 look. The Pats appreciate versatility more than any other team in the NFL, and Jones gives them flexibility in interchanging their fronts.
Weeden is accurate and can get the ball out of his hands quickly, plus he has a very strong arm. However, there are concerns about his ability to make sound decisions under pressure. He has to improve his ability to beat the blitz. His age (28) is a concern, but it's not a significant red flag. If he starts early in his career, they can still get six or seven years of quality football out of him.
He certainly looks like the QB of the future and that future needs to be now for a 28-year-old. He can make every throw necessary to eventually fit in this West Coast offense and he can make all the required reads. He's coming from a college system in which he ran a lot of spread formations with quick passes and easy reads. And in this West Coast look, his passes will have to become more disciplined and his reads more focused. His ability to handle the blitz must improve dramatically, but having Trent Richardson in the fold could make his job easier. As fast as you want him to get into the lineup, it is likely he will learn in the first half of the season to improve that decision-making behind Colt McCoy. If he makes the right progress, he could be their starter in the last two months of the season.
While he doesn't have the big feet you look for in a franchise left tackle, he's a plug-and-play right tackle. He's got the balance and enough length to hold up on the right side. More importantly, he's a mauler who can move defenders off the ball as a run-blocker.
He will probably learn for a year behind aging LOT Jeff Backus, who was coming off a biceps injury and this will likely be it for Backus. They like young Jason Fox as a swing tackle, but he could easily end up on the right side to improve that position. If Reiff can step in and protect Matthew Stafford's blind side, it will be an nice upgrade to an offensive line that is not great and still has work to do.
If you draft a guard this early, you expect him to make an immediate impact, and DeCastro's more than capable of doing it. He's a smart football player who can drive defenders off the ball as a run-blocker and rarely loses one-on-one.
Offensive line was the biggest need for this team and DeCastro plays like he was born to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. He can line up next to their only stable lineman, Maurkice Pouncey, and that should really improve their interior run game and also pass protect for Big Ben inside. There's still work to be done on the edge of this offensive line, but this is a major upgrade.
Hightower's got great size at 265 pounds, combined with above-average range and versatility as a pass-rusher. One of his better assets is defending the run on the interior, where he's a hammer taking on blocks and does a great job of tackling with leverage and strength. Great pick.
He looks like the perfect Patriots player, again, because of his versatility. He can line up at ILB and their 3-4 defense with Brandon Spikes or he could play outside opposite Rob Ninkovich and give them flexibility with Jerod Mayo. He can certainly rush the QB, and this gives the Pats four outstanding linebackers and increases their flexibility in terms of which packages they want to play. Not surprisingly, this is another Alabama pick, which is clear evidence of how much Bill Belichick trusts Nick Saban and his players.
Mercilus possesses a quick first step and is one of the natural finesse pass-rushers in this class. At this point, he needs to get stronger against the run, as well as when converting speed to power with his pass-rushing moves.
He makes an already productive defensive front even better. Even though the Texans lost their best defensive player in Mario Williams in free agency, they got unexpected production from OLBs Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. In this 3-4 defense that loves to attack and blitz from all directions with a lot of slants and one-gap penetrating schemes, Mercilus fits nicely as a rotation edge rusher in the 3-4 and possibly a guy who can play DE in 3-4 subpackages.
Zeitler's a very smart and physical football player who excels in the run game. He shows good awareness to identify targets when climbing to the second level and does a good job moving his feet to sustain as a run-blocker.
Where he needs to show the most improvement is in pass protection, where he can do a better job of staying patient in his sets and shuffling his feet.
The Bengals lost both starting offensive guards from a year ago in free agency, Nate Livings and Mike McGlynn, and veteran Bobbie Williams is not likely back. That leaves UFA signee Travelle Wharton, Clint Boling and Jacob Bell as their candidates. But in this West Coast offense, they want to be very physical in their inside run game, and Zeitler gives them flexibility at OG and OC and gives them good depth inside.
Perry flashes above-average athleticism and a quick first step as an edge rusher. He also shows the ability to hold up in space, as well as good range underneath zone coverage. His best attribute though, is as a pass-rusher, where he flashes quick hands and above-average closing bursts.
The Packers have spent a lot of time looking for a complementary edge rusher to Clay Matthews, and isn't it ironic that the guy they picked came from the same school -- USC. This defense had only 29 sacks a year ago and too many of them came from the back seven on blitzes. They need Perry to step in immediately as a starter, and the depth is not nearly what they expected it to be. They really need to hit it on Perry to take the pressure off the secondary.
This defense gave up a lot of big pass plays a year ago, and many of them were inside the hashes. Right now, their two starters are very inconsistent and their depth is shaky at best. They will continue to play a lot of Cover 2 schemes without much blitzing, and they require good range and tackling skills by their safeties. Harrison fits that bill nicely. He won't be asked to play a lot of man-to-man schemes.
Jenkins is a smooth route-runner with good size and the top-end speed to stretch the field vertically. In addition, he shows soft hands and good body control.
However, for him to take the next step to be an upper-echelon wide receiver, he must get stronger in traffic.
At first glance, this position looks like it has good depth, but there are some question marks even though the foursome of Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn and newly acquired Randy Moss and Mario Manningham gives them a lot of different options. Look for Ginn to move mostly to being a return guy and Jenkins could step in as a No. 4 receiver in subpackages and could certainly be insurance for Moss if he doesn't produce as expected. Coach Jim Harbaugh loves to give a defense a lot of exotic looks and multiple formations, and he will use more three- and four-wide receiver sets than you think and now he has the personnel to do it.
At 5-9, 215 pounds, Martin is built low to the ground, which provides him with great balance and lateral agility. He also brings great versatility in the passing game, both as a blocker and a receiver.
He runs good routes and has soft hands.
Under new head coach Greg Schiano, this will be a much more run-oriented offense with improved physicality, and right now, starting RB LeGarrette Blount is a one-dimensional, two-down runner with limited production in the passing game. Martin gives them a guy who can play all three downs and contribute as a receiver, and it looks like they have an excellent one-two punch in the upgraded run game. The nice thing about MartinHe can stay on the field on third down.
An explosive back with excellent top-end speed and runs with great determination. However, Wilson needs to improve in terms of vision, patience and ball security.
In addition, Wilson is not a natural receiver and lacks versatility, considering his size.
This has a little bit of the feel of a reach pick at a position of need, which isn't really the Giants' way of doing things. Without Brandon Jacobs and with question marks around Ahmad Bradshaw's health and ability to carry the load, the need is for a guy with a complete skill set. While Wilson has good all-around skills, he doesn't dazzle you with power as a runner and he doesn't dazzle you in the passing game. He looks more like a complementary back in an offense that would really like to get back to pounding the ball and controlling the clock.