Eagles and Rams interested in No. 4 pick?

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “multiple teams have called the Browns about their No. 4 pick.”

At least three or four teams in the top 20 have expressed interest in trading up, and the Browns are expected to have some enticing options on draft day.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who has the No. 6 pick, has already identified the Browns as a potential trade partner, and the Eagles at No. 15 are believed to be interested in trading up, sources said. At least two other teams are in the mix.

And it’s not just Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill that teams are after. There’s been considerable interest in USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon.

When Fisher said Friday morning on “Mike & Mike” that the Browns were potential trade partners for the Rams, I assumed that St. Louis could be targeting Cleveland’s second pick in the first round (No. 22 overall). The reason for my thinking is because the buzz in St. Louis is that the Rams want to trade down – not up.

But if this report from the Plain Dealer is accurate and the Rams do want to move up, I’m willing to bet that they’re targeting one of two players: Matt Kalil or Trent Richardson. I know a lot of mock drafts have the Rams selecting Justin Blackmon, which would certainly make sense given St. Louis’ need for a No. 1 receiver. But I just have a feeling that Blackmon isn’t on the top of the Rams’ draft board and believe it or not, I think there’s a strong possibility that he goes No. 3 to Minnesota.

The more interesting trade scenario involves Cleveland and Philadelphia, with the Eagles potentially moving up for Ryan Tannehill. As I’ve stated in other articles, I don’t view Tannehill as a top 10 pick and it seems like a stretch that the Eagles would part with a No. 1 pick in order to move up to No. 4. Because they’re not moving into the top 5 for anything less than their No. 1 in 2013.

As for Cleveland, it would be a dream scenario for the Browns to trade down and still land an impact player at the top of their draft board. If they swap places with the Rams, they might be able to still land Richardson at No. 6, all while acquiring more draft selections in the process. (Provided that St. Louis doesn’t take him at No. 4, of course.)

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Vikings not sold on Matt Kalil at No. 3?

Colts? Andrew Luck.

Redskins? Robert Griffin III.

Vikings? Matt K…

Well, maybe not.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on SportsCenter today that he doesn’t believe USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil is a lock to be the Vikings’ selection at No. 3 in this month’s NFL draft, “by any stretch.”

This is noteworthy because a) Schefter is one of the most plugged in reporters in the NFL, if not the most plugged in reporter, and b) Kalil has seemingly been a slam-dunk to the Vikings at No. 3 for the past month. Schefter appeared on NFL Live later in the day and said Minnesota was eyeing three players with the No. 3 pick: Kalil, Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne.

It has been reported that the Vikings would like to trade down, acquire more picks and still land an impact player later in the first round. But just like I’ve stated with the Browns (who also may want to trade down), which team is going to trade up and for whom would they trade up for? Trent Richardson is a hell of a prospect but running backs are becoming less and less valuable in a pass-heavy league. Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile is the next best quarterback prospect after Luck and Griffin but I don’t think he’s worthy of a top 5 pick.

I don’t see a team willing to move up for Blackmon, Claiborne or Kalil either. Thus, short of the Colts and/or Redskins shocking everyone by not taking Luck and/or Griffin, I firmly believe teams like the Vikings and Browns will be hard pressed to move out of their spots.

If the Vikings do pass on Kalil for Blackmon (we’ll use Blackmon for the sake of this example), then it’ll be interesting to see what St. Louis does at No. 6. Kalil could essentially fall into their laps and given the issues the Rams had up front last year, they’d almost have to pull the trigger on the best left tackle in the draft.

Browns seemingly hold the draft fate of the Bucs and Rams in their hands

If the top 3 of the 2012 NFL Draft goes the way many expect, then the Browns hold the fate of the two teams selecting directly behind them.

It’s safe to assume that the Colts will draft Andrew Luck with the top overall pick and that the Redskins will select Robert Griffin III at No. 2. And while GM Rick Spielman has tried to drum up interest in cornerback Morris Claiborne, chances are the Vikings will take offensive tackle Matt Kalil at No. 3.

But once the Browns are on the clock at No. 4, everything gets a little less predictable.

Cleveland could stand pat and take running back Trent Richardson (whom I selected for the Browns in my first mock draft), receiver Justin Blackmon, or Claiborne. If Minnesota somehow passes on Kalil, he becomes an option for the Browns at No. 4, even though they’re already set at left tackle with Joe Thomas. (Cleveland still needs a right tackle and it may be difficult for the Browns to pass on the opportunity to pair an intriguing talent like Kalil with a five-time Pro Bowler in Thomas.)

The Browns could also trade the pick, which might ultimately be in their best interest. If they can pull off a trade with Miami at No. 8 and still land Richardson, then Cleveland wins. That’s the Browns’ best-case scenario right there.

But the key is whether or not some team will want to trade up and if they do, whom would they target? Many believe that Richardson is an Adrian Peterson-type prospect, but running backs have become increasingly less valuable in a pass-heavy league. And while the Dolphins and maybe even the Chiefs could trade up for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, is he a top 5 prospect? Better yet, is he the type of franchise signal caller that teams would want to part with a first-round pick for? If the Dolphins stay pat at No. 8, they could feasibly get Tannehill there and not have to part with any picks in order to move up.

Thus, we’re back to the Browns and their options at No. 4. If they take Richardson, then the Rams would be ecstatic because that means Blackmon would likely fall to them at No. 6. If the Browns take Claiborne, it’s a realistic possibility that the Bucs will take Richardson at No. 5 because whom else would they take? They need defensive line help but Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram both have question marks, and they’d be reaching for a DT like Fletcher Cox or Michael Brockers. If Cleveland selects Blackmon, then you’ll probably see St. Louis attempt to trade down or if Richardson is there, the Rams may tab him as Steven Jackson’s replacement.

Either way, it all starts with the Browns at No. 4. They’re the first piece of the domino.

2012 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

For some reason while compiling my annual mock drafts I always imagine all 32 general managers getting together after the draft, sharing a few adult beverages and just laughing at how off us bloggers are when it comes to these picks. I’d laugh too if I weren’t crying inside.

Enjoy!

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Bill Polian has hinted in recent weeks that the Colts haven’t settled on Luck but there’s very little chance that Indy will take Robert Griffin III. What impresses me most about Luck is his pocket presence. A signal caller that can stand in the pocket and give his receiver time to complete his route is invaluable to a NFL team and Luck has excellent pocket awareness.

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
The Washington media is already discussing whether or not Griffin will start Week 1 for the Redskins. He was a slam-dunk for the No. 2 pick as soon as the Skins gave up 17 first round picks to move up. Griffin is a plus-athlete who can make every throw at the next level, including the deep post, which separates a good quarterback prospect from a great one.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
GM Rick Spielman has tried to drum up interest in cornerback Morris Claiborne because the Vikings seemingly prefer to trade down. But unless some team is in love with Trent Richardson or Ryan Tannehill, the Vikings will likely stay put. They could surprise and take Claiborne but at the end of the day, they need a long-term answer at left tackle and Kalil is the best OT prospect in the draft.

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
In a perfect world the Browns would trade this pick to Miami, acquire more draft selections and still land Richardson at No. 8. But my gut says the Dolphins won’t trade up and the Browns will be “stuck” at No. 4. Cleveland needs impact players on offense and despite my penchant for drafting running backs in the middle round, Richardson fit’s the mold of an Adrian Peterson-type prospect. The Browns could do much worse than drafting Richardson at No. 4 if they can’t trade down.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Aqib Talib is a jaywalking ticket away from serving a lengthy suspension and Rone Barber is near retirement. While the Bucs did sign Eric Wright in free agency, 26-year-old corner has been inconsistent during his career. I don’t see Claiborne slipping out of the top 5 and thus, if he gets past the Vikings at No. 3 I think the Bucs will scoop him up here.

6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
There’s no shortage of possibilities for the Rams here, although I don’t believe they’ll move back up after trading down from the No. 2 pick. They could move down, they could take Blackmon, or they could wind up with someone like Trent Richardson or Morris Claiborne depending on what happens three through five. But this is a team in desperate need of an impact player at the receiver position. And while some have suggested that Michael Floyd is a better prospect than Blackmon, I think that’s just pre-draft fodder. Sam Bradford desperately needs a No. 1 and Blackmon fits the bill.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
I’ll be honest, I’m not enamored with this pick but I do think the Jaguars will either choose a defensive end or receiver at this pick. Seven seems too high for Floyd, but after his strong performance at his Pro Day, there’s been speculation that he could be selected in the top 10. That said, Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples are definite possibilities at this pick.

8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
I think the Dolphins will land Tannehill and they won’t have to move up to get him. I firmly believe the Browns won’t select him at No. 4 and teams like the Chiefs won’t want to part with a first round pick in order to move up. Thus, the Dolphins can stay pat and take their franchise signal caller at No. 8. Now, whether Tannehill will pan out is a topic for another time.

9. Carolina Panthers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The Panthers desperately need a defensive tackle but No. 9 is too high for Dontari Poe, who impressed at the scouting combine but who got lost in the mix when you watched Memphis games. If either Coples or Melvin Ingram fall to this slot, and I believe one of them ultimately will, then the Panthers could do worse than to add a pass rusher opposite Charles Johnson.

10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Tackle was a need for the Bills before Demetress Bell signed with the Eagles. Stanford’s Jonathan Martin and Georgia’s Cordy Glenn are also options here but Reiff is rumored to be their top choice.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Inside linebacker and defensive tackle are definite needs for the Chiefs, who may even surprise and trade up for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But if I were a GM, DeCastro is a much better player than Luke Kuechly (the top inside linebacker) and Dontari Poe (who is arguably the best DT, although I think Michael Brockers is a better prospect). DeCastro played in a pro style system at Stanford and could start right away. Guards aren’t typically top 15 picks but DeCastro is a as close to a guarantee as you can get in my eyes.

12. Seattle Seahawks: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Ingram may not fall this far but if he does, he would seemingly make a lot of sense for a team that needs help at both pass rusher and linebacker. Quinton Coples is another possibility at this spot if he were to fall and not Ingram.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
I actually had the Cardinals scooping up DeCastro at this spot but then I couldn’t see the Chiefs passing on him at No. 11. Offensive tackle is a huge need for the Cardinals and if Reiff falls, he’d be an option here as well. Defensive tackle, receiver, and linebacker are all possibilities, too.

14. Dallas Cowboys: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Many scouts view Poe as nothing more than a workout warrior who will be overdrafted because of his impressive combine performance. But the Cowboys appear to be smitten with him and if he gets past the Panthers at No. 9, Dallas will have an opportunity to see whether or not Poe can really play.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
I was a little surprised that the Eagles didn’t pursue middle linebacker Curtis Lofton in free agency, but maybe they figured they could address their need at MLB without having to spend over $6 million a year on a veteran. Kuechly could go earlier than this but I doubt it. Teams just don’t put a premium on inside linebackers anymore, but he’s certainly a great fit for Philadelphia.

16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
This is the point in the draft where multiple names start to look good slotted next to the team’s name. The Jets need to groom somebody to eventually take over for OLB Bryan Thomas, but Michael Floyd, David DeCastro, Cordy Glenn, Mark Barron and Michael Brockers would all make sense as well.

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Leon Hall is coming off an ACL injury and while the team did sign Jason Allen this offseason, the Bengals could still stand to upgrade their secondary. Apparently Kirkpatrick didn’t interview well at the combine but that won’t scare away a team like the Bengals from drafting him.

18. San Diego Chargers: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Barron is the top safety in the draft and I could see him being swiped by Dallas at No. 14. But if falls, he would be a great value pick for a San Diego team that, as usual, doesn’t have a ton of glaring needs heading into the draft.

19. Chicago Bears – Nick Perry, DE, USC
The Bears could use upgrades at linebacker and safety but I ultimately believe they’ll go defensive line with this pick. Some have Perry slated as an outside linebacker but at 6-foot-3 and 271 pounds, he certainly has the size to play with his hand in the dirt. He led the Pac 12 in sacks last year and could be a solid fit in the Bears’ “Tampa 2.”

20. Tennessee Titans – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Titans should have a couple of defensive tackles to choose from, including Jerel Worthy of Michigan State and Michael Brockers of LSU. In fact, Dontari Poe of Memphis may also fall to them if Dallas passes on him at No. 14. Either way, I see the Titans addressing the defensive line with this selection.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
When I looked down and still saw that Glenn was available on my mock board, I was shocked. Glenn may not fall this far but if he does, he would be a great value pick for a Cincinnati team that could take David DeCastro at No. 17 if he were to fall. Glenn is the second best guard in the draft and the Bengals would do very well to address their needs at cornerback and guard in the first round.

22. Cleveland Browns: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Adams has great size and long arms, which is key for offensive tackle prospects. But he doesn’t look like a left tackle to me. That’s fine for Cleveland, which has Joe Thomas already locked in at left tackle. After landing Richardson with the No. 4 pick, the Browns can target a player like Adams to help pave the way for their new back.

23. Detroit Lions: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Janoris Jenkins is arguably a better overall prospect than Gilmore but after the Lions were just burned by Nick Fairely (their first round pick in 2011), they may choose to stay away from a prospect with character concerns. Either way, cornerback is a top need for Detroit and either Jenkins or Gilmore would make sense here.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Steelers could zero in on their offensive line and therefore move up for somebody like Mike Adams, David DeCastro, Cordy Glenn or Jonathan Martin. But with all the top offensive linemen off the board, Hightower would be a nice parting gift. He has experience playing in the 3-4 and could help fill the void left by the release of James Farrior.

25.Denver Broncos: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Some believe Devon Still as the better defensive tackle prospect but I really like Brockers’ potential. He hasn’t developed into a pass rusher yet but man can he stuff the run.

26. Houston Texans: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
The Texans could use an upgrade opposite Andre Johnson to take help pressure off AJ in the passing game. Wright isn’t very big but with Johnson on the other side commanding double teams, his size (or lack thereof) wouldn’t matter. Wright is a solid first-round prospect.

27. New England Patriots: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Mercilus only produced one year at Illinois, so the question becomes: Will he turn out to be Jason Pierre-Paul or Jamaal Anderson? I trust Bill Belichick will know what to do with a raw but talented Mercilus.

28. Green Bay Packers: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
Lose Scott Wells in free agency? No problem – just replace him with the top center in the draft. Things always seem to work out for the mastermind Ted Thompson.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Bruce Irvin, OLB, West Virginia
With Knoz going one pick before the Ravens at No. 28, I could see Baltimore trading this pick instead of reaching for a safety like Harrison Smith. But they also need help at outside linebacker and/or defensive end, which is why I went with Irvin here. That said, I’m not enamored with the pick and if someone like Courtney Upshaw were to fall this far, I think he would be a solid selection as well.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
This was a tough selection because the only position that the Niners absolutely need to fill is at guard. And with so many solid guards available in the middle rounds, I’m willing to bet San Fran will wait to address that need. Hill is a second round talent in my eyes, but he won’t be there when the Niners pick in Round 2.

31. New England Patriots: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins has character concerns that could cause him to fall out of the first round but a player that has some off-field question marks won’t intimate Belichick. Jenkins has loads of talent and as long as he buys into the “Patriots way,” he could be a steal this late in the first round.

32. New York Giants: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Fleener could be long gone by this pick but if he’s still available, what a coup he’d be for a Giants team that needs tight end help. He has to develop into a better blocker but he could essentially be the seam-buster that Mario Manningham has been for the Giants the last two years. Fleener would be an excellent fit in New York.

Iowa State stuns Oklahoma State

The Oklahoma State Cowboys had a clear shot at playing for the National Championship, but tonight they lost to the Iowa State Cyclones in overtime, 37-31.

The game was played in the aftermath of a tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna. This tragedy came shortly after Oklahoma State commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the deaths of 10 men affiliated with its men’s basketball team.

In this somber setting, Oklahoma State took a lead but then blew it in the fourth quarter. The Cyclones stormed back and tied the game, but OSU had a chance to win it late in the fourth quarter with a field goal. On television it looked liked the field goal might be good as the ball sailed above the upright but it was called no good.

In overtime, Iowa state stormed out with a quick touchdown, but then Oklahoma State matched them. The the Cowboys got the ball again, but this time Brandon Weeden hit star receiver Justin Blackmon in what seemed like a perfect spot with a pass, but it bounced off of Blackmon’s hands and was intercepted by Iowa State. The Cyclones then quickly took advantage, scored a touchdown, and ended OSU’s great run.

Again, Oklahoma State showed serious holes on defense. I don’t know what’s happened to the Big 12 over the past 10 years, but the league looks like a flag football league at times. You don’t see tough, physical defense, so maybe Oklahoma State wasn’t the team to take on mighty LSU. Brandon Weeden threw three interceptions and didn’t play very well thus hurting his chances for the Heisman Trophy.

The result is BCS chaos. For those of us who think the current system is a joke, the upcoming discussions about which one-loss team “deserves” to play LSU if LSU wins out will be annoying as hell. At the same time, this scenario provides further ammunition for all of us who want the system to change.

We’ll have to listen to countless debates over whether Alabama deserves to pay in the title game, pitting two SEC teams in the final game. While this will get the most discussion, it’s also not likely if Oregon wins out just because most people would hate to see an all-SEC title game.

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