NEW YORK– By Bob Cowper
#11: Kansas City Chiefs, Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis)
Overall, the Chiefs had a very mediocre 2011 season. At times they looked like they could be the worst team in the league (see their four game losing streak in November) and then flashed signs of life (when they went 2-1 to finish the year, beating playoff teams Green Bay and Denver). There are many areas where they could improve, but I think their best bet is to upgrade in the trenches. If OT Riley Reiff is still available, expect that to be the pick. With Reiff off the board, the Chiefs will address the interior of their defensive line and take DT Dontari Poe. Poe is a prototypical nose tackle who weighed in at a HUGE 346 pounds at the NFL Combine (for comparison, the next DT on the list was Hebron Fangupo at 323). The Chiefs recorded just 29 sacks in 2011 (27th in the league); Poe will help occupy interior offensive lineman to allow the Chiefs DE’s and OLB’s more time to get to the quarterback.
#12: Seattle Seahawks, Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College)
Rumors swirling around ESPN and other media outlets have the Seahawks taking Tannehill if he falls this far. I just don’t see it; they signed Matt Flynn from the Packers and need to begin building around him. Seattle lost leading tackler in LB David Hawthorne and need to replace his production. They did sign veteran Barrett Rudd, but are best off adding Boston College MLB Luke Kuechly. Kuechly can start from day one and will be a mainstay in the middle. Kuechly had 192 tackles in 12 games in 2011 (yes, you read that correctly) and also added three picks.
The Cardinals are in desperate need of help on the offensive line. The Swiss cheese line allowed 54 sacks (second worst) and caused the team to be in the bottom third in most rushing categories. With Kalil and Reiff off the board, Mike Adams is my third rated OT. That being said, being selected at 13 is probably a reach for Adams, so the Cardinals should be listening to offers from other teams. Adams did fail a drug test at the NFL Combine, so many teams will lower him down their boards. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s an issue and expect the Cardinals to take the best available OT, even if that means reaching on Adams. Don’t be surprised if the Cardinals try to move up a few spots to nab Reiff.
#14: Dallas Cowboys, Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
The Cowboys need help in the secondary, but will likely miss out on CB Morris Claiborne, who should go in the top 10. The Cowboys mostly need help at CB, however I do not believe that either Stephon Gilmore or Dre Kirkpatrick warrant a pick at 14. If the Cowboys can slide back a few spots maybe they can pick up an extra draft pick and fill their biggest need. Barron totaled 233 career tackles and 12 INT’s in his career at Alabama. His best statistical year was in the 2009-2010 season as a sophomore with 74 tackles and seven picks. Barron was the top safety on two BCS Championship teams; the Cowboys could do a lot worse trying to upgrade their secondary.
#15: Philadelphia Eagles, Michael Brockers (DL, LSU)
With Barron off the board, the Eagles may be looking at drafting either best available or going with a “project pick” at 15. My guess is they will stray from many of the predictions out there and go with Michael Brockers. Brockers is a DT from LSU who could end up playing DE in the right system. Brockers is raw and has more potential than talent right now, but I think he is worth a pick by a team that is already solid at just about every position. I heard a comparison of Brockers raw potential to Jason Pierre-Paul when he was drafted; if anybody in the Eagles front office heard that comparison, they will no doubt take Brockers because JPP terrorized the Eagles in 2011 (13 tackles, three sacks).
#16: New York Jets, Cordy Glenn (OL, Georgia)
At Georgia, Cordy Glenn split time between OG and OT and his versatility will get him picked ahead of the best pure OG, David DeCastro. Glenn could challenge incumbent Wayne Hunter in training camp for the starting job. If Hunter is able to beat out the rookie, Glenn would provide quality depth for an offensive line that allowed a sack on 6.8 percent of drop backs (The NFL average last season was 5.9).
#17: Cincinnati Bengals, Melvin Ingram (DE, South Carolina)
In free agency, the Bengals lost two of their top five sack men from 2011: Jeff Fanene (six sacks) and Frostee Rucker (four sacks). They will need to replace this production, since they did not sign any big time free agents at the position. Ingram totaled 48 tackles, 10 sacks and 3 INTs in a breakout senior season with the Gamecocks. He will contribute from either the 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB positions, depending on the team that ultimately drafts him. Ingram also added a 68 yard TD rush on a fake punt that was the perfect showcase for his athleticism.
#18: San Diego Chargers, David DeCastro (G, Stanford)
DeCastro is likely the best player available on the board, aside from WR Michael Floyd. The Chargers have plenty of talent at WR, so they should look to solidify an OL that was hit by injuries in 2011. Former starter Kris Dielman has retired after his scary mid-game seizure, so DeCastro could potentially compete for the starting job in training camp.
#19: Chicago Bears, Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Some mock drafts have Floyd going as high as 10th to the Bills, but I think he will ultimately fall to the Bears at 19. In the off-season, the Bears did make a splash by trading for Brandon Marshall, but the low cost to get him (two third round picks) means there is no reason not to take Floyd as well and turn a previous weakness into a strength in 2012. Drafting an OT or solidifying the secondary may be an option, but I say the Bears should go for the home run pick. Lining up in three-WR sets with Floyd and Marshall on the outside and speedster Johnny Knox in the slot will make defensive coordinators fearful in 2012. Floyd’s stats are solid (100 receptions, 1147 yards, nine TD’s in 2011) and he has good size (6’3, 220 pounds) but to get a feel for his impact on the game you have to watch his tape.
#20, Tennessee Titans, Peter Konz (C, Wisconsin)
The Titans’ C Eugene Amano and OG Leroy Harris are probably reserves on most teams, so drafting a bona fide center in Konz would be a good move to help solidify the offensive line. Wisconsin manufactures offensive lineman and Konz is no exception; he was the biggest C at the NFL Combine (6’5 and 315 pounds) and runs an estimated 5.3 second 40-yard dash. Drafting Konz would allow the Titans to move Amano back to his role as a reserve at OG behind starters Leroy Harris and Jake Scott.