Mel Kiper Jr.’s new mock draft is out today, and we’ve received special permission to share AFC South picks.
Here’s a look with some thoughts.
1) Indianapolis, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Kiper: “While the public relations drama continues between Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning, there's little drama surrounding whom the Colts will take with the No. 1 pick. I doubt Luck throws next week at the NFL combine, but his status among evaluators really isn't in question. Arm talent, strength, size, smarts, leadership, intangibles -- it's all there. The only question is whether he'll be serving an apprenticeship under Manning, but my guess right now would be that he won't have to.”
Kuharsky: He gets measured and tested next week in the city where he will wind up playing.
7) Jacksonville, Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Kiper: “If the Jags don't add help at wide receiver in free agency, they could look for help here, but they're also desperate for pass rush help. They sacked opposing quarterbacks fewer than two times a game in 2011, and Coples would fit in the scheme as the top 4-3 defensive end in the draft. He has ideal physical traits, with great length at 6-foot-6, and the size to hold up in the run game, complementing his pass-rush skills. Jacksonville is another team that simply needs to upgrade the talent level, so it shouldn't reach on offense at the cost of adding superior talent.”
Kuharsky: Is Coples going to wind up being the mock pick to the Jaguars in the first round as often as Ryan Kerrigan was last year?
20) Tennessee, Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Kiper: “They've devoted some draft attention to it in recent years, but the Titans' pass rush still needs help. Only Tampa Bay had more of a struggle getting to opposing passers last year. People talk about the quarterback situation in Tennessee, but I think it was the lack of a pass rush that kept the Titans (barely) out of the playoffs last year. Mercilus is, quite simply, a pass-rusher. I like his athleticism and uncanny ability to beat blockers. He needs a good combine to cement his status, but he could move even higher, and might be a good value here. The Titans need someone who can breathe on an opposing quarterback.”
Kuharsky: If he’s “quite simply, a pass-rusher” and he shows well at the combine and in a pro day workout, will he move up out of Tennessee’s range?
26) Houston, Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Kiper: “Houston did an exceptional job in last year's draft, locking up players who would fit in Wade Phillips' system. And even the injury Mario Williams suffered didn't derail them. Worthy, when he's on his game, can be really dynamic. He has a really good burst for his size, allowing him to penetrate and be really disruptive against both the run and the pass. He'll tie up blockers because he can be really hard to neutralize one on one. He just needs to be consistent, but if Houston can rotate him in, it'll get good production early.”
Kuharsky: I like the defensive tackle idea. If Worthy is what Kiper thinks he will be, imagine the benefit to J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith, Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing and, perhaps, Mario Williams.