AFC South: Michael Floyd
Four weeks came and went. So did Week 5. The same can be said for Weeks 6 and 7.
It’s gotten to the point now where you wonder if he’ll be back to help the defense this season.
“I want to be back out there helping my teammates,” Toler said. “Some dudes can play with their bodies being off a little. I can’t. The training staff told me they want me to be 100 percent before I go back out there.”
“I’d say I’m about 90-95 percent,” he said. “I need a great full week of practice of not having to be limited at all. They want to know that if a guy gets by me, I can turn it on and catch him. I respect that. This is one of those situations where I have to be completely healed first.”
The time it has taken Toler to try to overcome his groin injury, which happened in the third quarter of the Oct. 20 game against Denver, is somewhat alarming.
He said there is a backstory behind it. Toler, who also had injury problems during his four seasons with Arizona, said he made the mistake of trying to play through injuries when he was younger.
He doesn’t want to make the same mistake again.
Toler suffered a setback with his groin while working out about three weeks ago. He practiced on a limited basis last week but knew the odds of playing against the Cincinnati Bengals were slim, because he faced the risk of aggravating his groin with the game was played outdoors in the cold.
“I’m ready and confident that I’ll be back out there with the guys,” Toler said. “They want me to be at my best. I don’t want to hurt the team. The cold doesn’t play in your favor, because it doesn’t allow your body warm up the way you want to."
Toler's absensce isn't the only reason behind the recent demise, but the secondary has struggled since he was injured. Receivers like Houston’s Andre Johnson (229 yards), St. Louis' Tavon Austin (138 yards) and Arizona’s Michael Floyd (104 yards) have had big games against the Colts.
“When you’ve got a player of his caliber that can play, that’s why we signed him, and for him not to be in the lineup does hurt a little bit, don’t get me wrong,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky recently said. “If something happens to other players that are Pro Bowl type players, you’re going to have a letdown. But we pick it up and next guy in line, we go out there and we roll.”
Start fast: This has been an area of concern for the Colts most of the season. It’s really been a problem the past three games. They’ve been outscored 66-9 in the first half of their past three games. Yes, the Colts won two of those games, but relying on a strong second half isn’t the right way to go about things, especially since that approach won’t work in the playoffs. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton scripts the first 15-20 plays. The Cardinals have outscored their opponents 49-37 in the first half of their current three-game winning streak. The Colts don’t have the offensive weapons outside of quarterback Andrew Luck and receiver T.Y. Hilton to come back against a team like the Cardinals, who have two dangerous receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
Pressure Palmer: Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 419 yards against Jacksonville on Nov. 17. He threw for that many yards because the Jaguars allowed him to sit back in the pocket and pick them apart. Put pressure on Palmer and it’s a different game. Memo to Colts linebacker Robert Mathis, the league leader in sacks: The Cardinals have an atrocious offensive line. Palmer has been sacked 27 times and he’s thrown 15 interceptions. The Colts will be without starting linebacker Erik Walden (suspended) and cornerback Greg Toler (groin) on defense.
Play with urgency: Win Sunday and the Colts will be able to wrap up their first AFC South title since 2010 with a victory over the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 1. The Colts will likely still win the division if they stumble against the Cardinals, but the sooner they win it, the better their odds will be to get one of the top two seeds -- likely the second seed -- and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Chris Rainey: The David Reed experiment at returning kicks has to stop at some point, right? Reed has been more of a disaster than an impact player in that area this season. Reed is 12th in the league in kickoff returns at 23.8 yards, but what’s not accounted for is how many times he’s attempted to return kicks 7 or 8 yards deep in the end zone. So why not give Rainey, who the Colts signed last week, a shot? He possibly can’t do any worse. Pagano said late last week that no decision had been on if Rainey will be active for the game. But Rainey did have a good first week of practice. “He’s very explosive for a guy being out for the amount of time that he’s been out,” Pagano said. He’s really been amazing, to be honest with you. He’s a great athlete. He’s got tremendous quickness, speed, acceleration, burst, football instincts. Catches everything -- punts and kickoffs, catching balls out of the backfield, running the card team, the look team for us. Didn’t miss a beat. It looked like he’d been playing for somebody for the last whatever, so he looked good.”
The bad news is that Indianapolis' secondary has a tendency to give up big plays.
Houston’s Andre Johnson had nine catches for 229 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts on Nov. 3. St. Louis’ Tavon Austin had two catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns the following week.
“Run it and throw it down the field as far as you can and complete a lot of them,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said about Arizona’s offense. “[Arians has] been doing it a long time. He’s a great playcaller. We all know that. You see a lot of similarities in there and he’s utilizing their talent very well.”
The struggling secondary may be without one of its starting cornerbacks for the fourth straight game. Greg Toler hasn’t practiced this week because of a groin injury. He wants to play Sunday because he spent his first four seasons with the Cardinals, but he tweaked his groin while working out Monday. Safety LaRon Landry also hasn’t practiced this week because of a toe injury, although he said he believes he'll play Sunday.
Vontae Davis and Cassius Vaughn, who started in place of Toler in his absence, will be matched up on Fitzgerald and Floyd, who have combined for 1,211 yards and nine touchdowns this season. The Cardinals became the first team since 1971 to have touchdown receptions of at least 80 and 90 yards in a season when Floyd scored on a 91-yard pass against Jacksonville.
“He’s a future Hall of Famer and he’s still playing at a high level and making plays, 45 catches and six touchdowns,” Pagano said about Fitzgerald. “Floyd and the rest of the guys, they got a bunch of skill guys, they got a bunch of playmakers. Carson’s doing a good job of spreading the wealth and getting the ball out to them.”
The Colts have to take advantage of Arizona’s weak offensive line and put pressure on Palmer. He’s thrown for 2,573 yards this season, but he’s also been picked off 15 times and sacked 27 times.
Colts linebacker Robert Mathis leads in the league with 13.5 sacks. Only three quarterbacks – Miami's Ryan Tannehill, Denver’s Peyton Manning and Houston’s Case Keenum – have thrown for more than 300 yards against Indianapolis this season.
“A heck of a quarterback who can throw the ball downfield,” Colts defensive lineman Cory Redding said. “Again, back end we got to challenge. And they’re up for it. Our guys, we don’t back down from a fight. We stand up, and even when everybody points us down and says we’re not going to do anything, that’s when we rise up the best and we go out there and showcase it. I believe my guys on the back end, our defensive unit, our DBs are going to step up and rise to the occasion. Everybody on the defense is going to rise up and play the ball game.”
Anger management: Punter Bryan Anger kept the Jaguars in the game in the second half while the offense was sputtering by pinning the Cardinals deep in their own territory. Arizona started four consecutive drives at its 9, 10, 2 and 10 in the third and fourth quarters following Anger punts. In all but one case the Cardinals ended up gaining fewer than 7 yards. The only exception came on Michael Floyd's 91-yard catch-and-run that was helped by three missed tackles. Anger averaged 47.8 yards on eight punts and put six inside the 20.
Ground struggles: Running back Maurice Jones-Drew continues to struggle. He ran for 41 yards on 21 carries in last week's game against Tennessee and had 23 yards on 14 carries against Arizona. Part of the issue is the offensive line, which is starting its Nos. 3 and 4 offensive tackles and hasn't had starting left guard Will Rackley since the San Francisco game on Oct. 27. However, the line hasn't played well when it was completely healthy, either. Jones-Drew, who missed the final 10 games last season with a Lisfranc injury and has battled ankle and knee issues this season, looks a half-step slow and doesn't seem to have the burst he did throughout his career. The Cardinals did come into the game with the NFL's No. 3 rush defense, but the Jaguars need a better showing than 23 yards. "They loaded the box and wanted to make sure that we couldn't run the ball," Jones-Drew said. "Sometimes you have to keep fighting that uphill battle and hopefully things will break."
Pressure: The Jaguars didn't have much luck getting to Carson Palmer with a four-man rush, so they went with some different pressure packages that included linebackers or defensive backs rushing. Bradley had challenged the front four to get more pressure because the defense has been vulnerable when blitzing because the secondary hadn't been able to hold the coverage until the pressure got to the quarterback. That's what happened again Sunday. The Cardinals' two biggest pass plays -- the 91-yard touchdown and a 37-yard pass to Floyd -- came when the Jaguars sent extra rushers and the Cardinals picked it up.
That’s where things stand for the Indianapolis Colts. They should win the division for the first time since 2010 unless they completely collapse down the stretch. And even then, they still may win it when you think about the rest of the teams in the division.
I predicted that the Colts would go 10-6 when the season started. They’re currently 7-3 with half of their remaining games on the road.
There’s a chance the Colts could match their win total from a year ago -- 11 -- because only three of their remaining games are against teams with a winning record. The three games are all on the road. The Colts still have issues with slow starts; they've been outscored 66-9 in the first half of their past three games. They’ll be fine if they can get that fixed. If not, there could be a lot of suspense in the remaining games.
Nov. 24: at Arizona
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 419 yards in their victory over Jacksonville on Sunday. The Colts are 18th in the league in pass defense at 239 yards a game. That’s not a good thing when the Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald at receiver. Fellow receiver Michael Floyd had six catches for 193 yards against the Jaguars. Colts cornerback Greg Toler should be back in the lineup to face his former team after missing the past three games with a groin injury.
Dec. 1: Tennessee
The Titans -- more specifically tight end Delanie Walker -- seem to be more worried about getting even with Colts linebacker Erik Walden than getting the victory. Walker told the Tennessee media after last week’s game that he’ll see Walden in “two weeks and I’m going to whoop his butt again” after the Colts linebacker head-butted him in the game last week.
Dec. 8: at Cincinnati
This has been a toss-up game with me all season. It’s still a toss-up. The Bengals have victories over Green Bay (with Aaron Rodgers playing), New England and they beat the New York Jets by 40 points. It’s been well documented this season that the Colts have a tendency to step up to the challenge against teams with a winning record.
Dec. 15: Houston
From Super Bowl contender to benching quarterback Matt Schaub to now counting down the days until the season ends. The Texans are on an eight-game losing streak. The good news -- for Texans fans at least -- is that they play Jacksonville twice over the next three weeks.
Dec. 22: at Kansas City
The Colts have to hope that quarterback Andrew Luck has found a rhythm with his receivers and they’re still running the ball well heading into this game because the Chiefs have a top-10 defense.
Dec. 29: Jacksonville
The only suspense for the Jaguars will be whether or not they need to lose the game to lock up the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.
Do you think the Colts will match, surpass or finish below last season’s win total?
Everyone just needed to do their job. Stay in their assigned gap. Quit freelancing. Just do what you’re supposed to do on each play.
Turns out he was correct.
It also is pretty much the only positive thing you can say about the defense on Sunday.
Carson Palmer threw for 419 yards and two touchdowns, including a 91-yarder to Michael Floyd in which three players missed a tackle, and the Cardinals controlled the ball for nearly 36 minutes. But the defensive front -- which was without middle linebacker and leading tackler Paul Posluszny (concussion) -- showed up.
"Just like I’ve been saying the whole year, every time we’ve had runs get out on us, we have a guy out of a gap," Marks said. "Our thing was after the bye we had to hold everybody accountable. We’ve been doing it ever since we came off the bye week. We’ve got guys in the right gaps, and everybody is where they’re supposed to be.
"Everybody’s been accountable, and when you do that you tend to stop the run."
Rashard Mendenhall gained 14 yards on 13 carries. One of which was a 5-yard touchdown run, which means he managed just nine yards on his other 12 carries. Andre Ellington, a speedy breakaway threat, managed just 3 yards on eight carries. The Jaguars entered the game giving up an average of 153.0 yards per game rushing.
"We were aware of the run game, and we did not want that to get going," head coach Gus Bradley said. "We did a good job attacking the run and controlling Ellington."
The defense certainly felt the loss of Posluszny, who is by far the team’s best defensive player. He has two interceptions, eight pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Posluszny didn’t practice all week, and was finally ruled out on Saturday morning. Russell Allen, who normally starts at outside linebacker, filled in and made seven tackles, but failed to deliver a big play.
Actually, he made one but it didn’t count. He stepped in front of Palmer’s pass to Larry Fitzgerald inside the Jacksonville 20-yard line in the third quarter, but officials announced that the Cardinals had called timeout before the snap.
"I think you grow to appreciate Poz and what he’s all about, but for Russell to step in and manage the defense like he did ... then he had the interception that would have helped out," Bradley said. "He did a nice job managing the defense. If he got more reps [during the week] we would see even better."
The Jaguars were certainly better against the run than in stopping Palmer, Fitzgerald, Floyd, and whichever tight end happened to be in the game at the time. Floyd caught six passes for 193 yards, including a 91-yard catch-and-run in which Allen, safety Josh Evans, and cornerback Will Blackmon missed tackles.
Fitzgerald caught a modest six passes for 61 yards and one touchdown, but tight ends Jim Dray, Jake Ballard and Rob Housler combined to catch nine passes for 117 yards -- continuing the trend of tight ends taking advantage of the Jaguars’ rookie safeties (Evans and Johnathan Cyprien).
Things could have been even worse had cornerback Alan Ball not broken up four passes in the first half.
The Tennessee Titans had similar trouble on the ground (83 yards) and success through the air (288 yards, two TDs) last week. The biggest difference is the Jaguars forced the Titans into four turnovers. They didn’t get any against the Cardinals.
"We feel good about how we played against the run, and we felt like it was something we were going to be able to do going in, but unfortunately we gave up too many big plays in the passing game," Allen said. "Any time we can give our offense a short field it’s important, giving them an opportunity to put points on the board. Getting some breaks ... would have helped a lot."
Guy No. 1:
“If guys like David DeCastro, a third offensive tackle and Ryan Tannehill go before 20, that will help push someone the Titans like a lot to 20.”
“They could like Michael Floyd, they could like Kendall Wright. But I don’t think a receiver is going to outweigh a defensive player.”
“Dre Kirkpatrick could be there for them. He’s a playmaker. He’s been coached hard. He can help them."
“There may be a lot of options for them at defensive end and defensive tackle, and I wouldn’t dismiss linebacker, either.”
Guy No. 2:
“Last year their big thing was ‘stop the run, stop the run, we don’t like these little defensive linemen.’ Every time I hear something now it’s, ‘We’ve got to rush the passer, put heat on the passer.’
“They’d take Kirkpatrick if he’s there. I don’t think he will be there. Then I don’t think there is a corner that’s attractive at 20.”
“It’s too soon for a guard or center, but if DeCastro fell, I could see them taking him.”
“I’m talking myself into Dontari Poe for them. Jerry Gray has had Pat Williams and Sam Adams. Poe will give some push and chase some sacks to Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan. Last year they liked Nick Fairley. Poe has a similar profile to Albert Haynesworth but better football character. He hustles, he tries hard. He’s only played five seasons of football.”
That’s when James Walker, our AFC East representative, put out the word: “I’m willing to make a trade back with Buffalo at No. 10.”
Before anyone could respond, AFC South representative Paul Kuharsky announced he’d swung a deal with Dan Graziano of the NFC East. The Jaguars had traded the seventh overall choice and a sixth-rounder to Philadelphia for the 15th, 88th and 153rd selections.
The Eagles took defensive tackle Fletcher Cox at No. 7.
“By the way,” I wrote in an email to the group, “Seattle would love to trade back from 12.”
Then came the word from Walker, sent only to me, the NFC West rep: “Don’t make your pick at No. 12 yet. I have an offer from New England coming. Working out the point chart. First, I have to figure out Buffalo’s pick at No. 10.”
A few seconds passed before the AFC West’s Bill Williamson, unaware Walker had already made contact regarding the 12th pick, reached out to me in another email.
“If Melvin Ingram is on the board at 12,” Williamson wrote, “I might have San Diego come up from 18.”
This was intriguing. Seattle’s actual leadership had swung a deal with San Diego for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst a couple of years ago, so trade talks for the 12th pick seemed realistic. But the Seahawks also have a working relationship with the Patriots, having traded Deion Branch to them not all that long ago.
“Sounds good,” I replied to Bill. “James might also make an offer here.”
The potential deal with Williamson and San Diego was fleeting. Walker executed a trade with himself, allowing the New York Jets to move into Buffalo’s spot at No. 10. The Jets took Ingram, the player Williamson had wanted for San Diego.
The fun was only beginning.
Our eight divisional bloggers made four trades involving the seventh, 10th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 27th, 31st and 32nd overall choices, plus later considerations.
Five of our first-round selections in this mock failed to appear in our previous one. Jerel Worthy, Kevin Zeitler, Chandler Jones, Shea McClellin and Coby Fleener pushed out Rueben Randle, Andre Branch, Peter Konz, Kendall Wright and Mike Adams.
Courtney Upshaw, Dontari Poe and Stephen Hill made double-digit drops from then to now. Michael Brockers, Cordy Glenn, Stephon Gilmore and Cox climbed at least eight spots since last time.
We drafted seven defensive ends/outside linebackers, six offensive linemen, five defensive backs, four defensive tackles, three receivers, three quarterbacks, two inside linebackers, one tight end and one running back.
Mostly, we had some fun with the process. Thanks for coming along.
ESPN.com's NFL bloggers went through one final mock draft leading up to Thursday's start of the NFL draft. Here is how #ESPNbloggermock played out.
Analysis: We're going to hit at least one of the AFC South's four picks here, so we thank the Colts for that. Luck draws raves from all corners and gives Indianapolis another quarterback who could set high standards for more than a dozen years, like the guy he's replacing did. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: A no-brainer for Washington, which traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder to move into this spot to take the young man they believe will be their next franchise quarterback. Skins fans have already been wearing Griffin's name and face on T-shirts for weeks. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: I burned up the email lines trying to drum up interest for this pick, much as I imagine Vikings general manager Rick Spielman will do in the coming days and heading into Thursday night. But my colleagues were too smart for that, and I was more than happy to scoop up Kalil and presumably put quarterback Christian Ponder's mind at ease. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: Not buying into the Browns' interest in wide receiver Justin Blackmon or quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Richardson is clearly the best offensive player in the draft outside of Luck and RG3. The Browns' struggling offense needs an identity, and Richardson can instantly give it a tough one. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: Once Richardson went off the board, this became an easy call. The Bucs need to add a top-notch cornerback because Ronde Barber is nearing the end of his career and Aqib Talib could face prison time or a suspension. Even if Talib is able to play this season, he's headed into the last year of his contract. The Bucs addressed the position they needed to most. They can get a running back early in the second or third round. (Pat Yasinskas)
Analysis: Blackmon has long been a popular projection for the Rams. I'm not convinced he'll be the choice or even the first receiver drafted, but there was also a fear of overthinking the situation. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: The Eagles fell in love with Cox and were convinced he wouldn't get past Carolina at No. 9. So after the Rams picked Blackmon, Philadelphia offered Jacksonville the No. 15 pick and the No. 88 pick (third round) for the Jaguars' overall No. 7. Jacksonville countered by asking for a fifth-round pick (No. 153) and offering a sixth (No. 176), and the Eagles said yes. They get the guy they wanted and still have their two second-rounders. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: There was speculation that Tannehill wouldn't make it to No. 8. The Dolphins do the right thing by not trading the farm to move up to No. 3. Miami gets its quarterback of the future to reunite with Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. (James Walker)
Analysis: Defensive tackle is a consideration, but Cox is the only sure-fire player at that spot. With him gone, the Panthers go with another low-risk player. Kuechly was exceptionally productive in college and is NFL-ready. He can contribute right away and that's something the Panthers want from this pick. (Pat Yasinskas)
Analysis: Buffalo didn't like its spot at No. 10, and the Jets are hot on Ingram. So the two division rivals worked out a trade. The Jets get the dominant pass-rusher Rex Ryan covets, while the Bills get additional picks in the third, fifth and sixth rounds (Nos. 77, 154, 187). (James Walker)
Analysis: The Chiefs take a sure thing and an instant starter who strengthens a good offense. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: The Patriots pull off a blockbuster trade with Seattle by giving up their two first-round picks (No. 27 and No. 31) for No. 12 overall and a fourth-rounder (No. 106). The Patriots, who were 31st against the pass, get the best safety in the draft. (James Walker)
Analysis: Floyd is arguably the most promising wide receiver in the draft. He would fit well in the Cardinals' offense while providing better value than the offensive tackles available at this point. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: They wanted Barron, and after the Pats made the bold move to trade up and take him at 12, the Cowboys looked into trading down. But they found no takers, so they took the highest defensive player on their board -- a versatile defensive lineman who deepens them at a key position and allows them to be flexible both with roster decisions and on-field alignments. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: I didn't get a great haul in the trade. But the Jaguars could consider Gilmore at No. 7 and get him at 15 while picking up a third-rounder and swapping a sixth-rounder for a fifth-rounder. Corner is not the biggest need after the acquisition of Aaron Ross, but no defensive end or receiver screams to be taken at No. 7 or 15. Trade details: Eagles sent 15, 88, 153 to Jaguars for 7, 176. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: Buffalo is happy it moved down six spots and still landed its target in Reiff. Left tackle was a rotating door in Buffalo last season, and Reiff has the ability to be a Day 1 starter to protect Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side. Trade details: Jets sent 16, 77, 154 and 187 to Bills for 10. (James Walker)
Analysis: Things didn't go as planned in the first half of the draft for the Bengals, who watched guard David DeCastro, safety Mark Barron and cornerback Stephon Gilmore all get taken in the top 15. Defensive end isn't a major need for the Bengals, but it would be hard to resist taking a talent like Coples. Even though Coples has boom-or-bust potential, this is a pick based on best player available. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Chargers go for the best value on the board and take an impact defensive player. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: The Bears were forced to play their starting defensive ends, Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, on more than 80 percent of their plays last season. Depth, and a possible replacement for Idonije, was sorely needed. Mercilus seemed a better fit than Syracuse's Chandler Jones or Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: Perry provides a combination of size and speed that should round out the Titans' top four defensive ends and solidifies the position for the foreseeable future. If he can get to the quarterback with some regularity as a rookie, Tennessee can make a nice jump on defense. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: The decision here came down to Glenn, wide receiver Kendall Wright or cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. You could argue wide receiver is the bigger need, but Glenn is the better prospect. After failing to get DeCastro at No. 17, the Bengals turn to Glenn to make an immediate impact at right or left guard. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: This was a tough call because the Browns need speed at wide receiver, and Wright and Hill are sitting there. But that's the reason the pick is Martin. There are so many more wide receiver prospects available than offensive tackles, so the Browns have a better chance of seeing a wide receiver fall to them early in the second round. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Lions' secondary was their weakest link in 2011, and starter Eric Wright signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during free agency. General manager Martin Mayhew isn't a need-based drafter, but the position is a high priority. I had hoped for Kirkpatrick's former teammate Mark Barron here, but he was long gone, and I didn't have the guts to take North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: Could the Steelers have envisioned a better draft unfolding than this? Pittsburgh would've been happy with Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw or even Amini Silatolu. Instead, Poe falls into their laps. He becomes the heir apparent to Casey Hampton. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Broncos would have pounced on Poe, but Worthy is a highly valued player who fills a huge hole. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: The offensive line was a team strength a year ago, but gone are the right guard (Mike Brisiel) and the right tackle (Eric Winston). Houston loves Wisconsin players, and Zeitler will be ready to be plugged right in. We also thought hard about Bobby Massie and Rueben Randle. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: Trading back was the plan all along. Jones has the length Seattle covets in its players on defense (think Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Kam Chancellor, etc.). Jones also fills an obvious need for a pass-rushing defensive end. Trade details: Patriots sent 27 and 31 to Seattle for 12 and 106. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: There were a number of possibilities here, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers loves to develop wrinkles off his 3-4 base, and McClellin is said to be versatile. It's possible the Packers could trade down and still get him at the top of the second round. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: The Ravens are always looking for pass-rushers, and Upshaw gives them another tone-setter on defense. He replaces Jarret Johnson in Baltimore's base defense and plays opposite Terrell Suggs as an edge rusher in passing situations. Upshaw has drawn comparisons to LaMarr Woodley, so you know he's an AFC North type of player. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The 49ers face a long list of top quarterbacks this season. They lack glaring needs and should be able to find guard help later in the draft. Coby Fleener was a consideration, but the 49ers like their existing tight ends and could extend Delanie Walker's contract. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: The Seahawks need another tight end after losing John Carlson to the Vikings in free agency. Adding Jones at No. 27 gave them flexibility in this spot. Seattle entered draft week with 19 players from the Pac-12. Fleener would give them 20. Trade details: Patriots sent 27 and 31 to Seattle for 12 and 106. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: The Bills aren't done with a busy day of trading. Buffalo gets back in the first round by swapping a second-rounder and two fourth-rounders with the Giants. Hill is a big-play receiver to pair with Bills starter Steve Johnson. Hill averaged an astounding 29.3 yards per catch last season. Trade details: Giants trade 32 to Buffalo for 41, 105 and 124. (James Walker)
The NFL's transformation into a pass-happy league has sent teams scrambling for ways to keep up defensively.
Perhaps that explains why defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebacker types dominated ESPN.com's first NFL Blog Network mock draft for 2012.
AFC West blogger Bill Williamson snapped up three of them for the division he covers. Six other defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebackers found homes elsewhere in the first round.
Offensive linemen (seven), defensive backs (five) and wide receivers (five) accounted for most of the remaining first-round selections.
In keeping with the pass-oriented theme, Alabama's Trent Richardson was the lone running back selected, landing in Cleveland with the fourth overall choice.
And, of course, we kicked off the mock with a couple of quarterbacks.
Analysis: They look at Luck and see a young guy who reminds them of the quarterback the franchise selected first overall in 1998. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: Not much mystery here. The Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick to get to this spot, from which they believe they're taking their next franchise quarterback. The only way they don't take Griffin here is if the Colts take him, in which case the Redskins will happily take Luck. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: The Vikings would love to trade down a few spots, presumably with a team that wants to draft Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But barring a deal, Kalil is the best player remaining on the board and the Vikings just so happen to need a long-term starter at left tackle. We're not buying (yet) any of general manager Rick Spielman's posturing about LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: Not buying the speculation that the Browns will take Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill here. The Browns tipped their hand when coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert skipped Tannehill's pro day to watch Richardson, the draft's only elite running back who can be the centerpiece of Cleveland's offense. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Bucs could be considering Richardson and he's a possibility if he stays on the board. But Claiborne is the top cornerback in this draft. The Bucs need a long-term replacement for veteran Ronde Barber and could need a short-term replacement for Aqib Talib, who could face prison time or a league suspension. (Pat Yasinskas)
Analysis: The Rams are eager to find weapons for quarterback Sam Bradford. They had a tough time addressing that area during free agency despite an aggressive approach that led to deals with Cortland Finnegan, Scott Wells and others. The last time the Rams drafted a WR sixth overall, they landed Torry Holt. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: If he catches on quickly and can have an impact as a pass-rusher, Ingram can be the final piece for a very good defense. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: Tannehill shot up the draft boards fast and may be a tad overrated at No. 8. But Miami needs a quarterback of the future in the worst way, and this is the best of what's left. Both Matt Moore and David Garrard have one year left on their contracts, leaving it open for Tannehill to take over in 2013. (James Walker)
Analysis: There's a common assumption the Panthers are locked in on getting a defensive tackle. That could end up happening. But they're open to all options and Kuechly might be the best player available. This team needs help anywhere it can add it on defense. (Pat Yasinskas)
Analysis: Going receiver here is the sexy pick. But getting an offensive tackle to protect QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side is the smart pick. Reiff received great coaching at Iowa, which has become Offensive Tackle U. He closes Buffalo's revolving door at left tackle for the foreseeable future. (James Walker)
Analysis: The Chiefs would be thrilled to see Poe on the board at 11. He is the best player available who fits their biggest need. Poe has a chance to be a dynamic player on a defense full of young talent. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: The Seahawks ranked fifth in takeaways, seventh in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed last season, but their pass rush was lacking. Coples would give them a badly needed pass-rusher opposite Chris Clemons, who had 11 of the team's 33 sacks during the 2011 season. Linebacker is another need position. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: The Cardinals could also use an offensive tackle and possibly another receiver. Michael Floyd was a consideration here. But in Upshaw, the team would be targeting a potential No. 1 pass-rusher, providing welcome support for promising youngsters Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield. The Cardinals have no second-round pick, and pass-rush help is at a premium. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: They were hoping Upshaw would fall to them, as he'd upgrade the pass rush instantly and could make Anthony Spencer expendable before long. But with Upshaw gone one pick before, the Cowboys stick with the national champs and take a safety to upgrade their biggest 2011 weakness: the secondary. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: Michael Brockers was tempting, but the pick here is Cox because he provides a pass rush from the interior of the defensive line right away and could be more NFL-ready than Brockers at this point. The Eagles are a win-now team that relies on its defensive line to pressure the passer, and Cox fits nicely into their interior line rotation. (Dan Graziano)
Analysis: The Jets would like to go defense here under head coach Rex Ryan. But with Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw and safety Mark Barron both off the board, drafting Floyd is a good fallback option. Floyd has a chance to start from Day 1 opposite Santonio Holmes and gives quarterback Mark Sanchez a much-needed weapon. (James Walker)
Analysis: The Bengals need a starting right guard, and DeCastro is the best guard in the draft. Smart and fundamentally sound, DeCastro is one of the safest picks this year and would extend the Bengals' recent good fortune in the draft. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: Mercilus is the best pass-rusher on the board at No. 18 and the Chargers would be happy to take him. He could be a slight over-draft, but he has big league potential. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: Coach Lovie Smith expressed confidence last week in left tackle J'Marcus Webb, but rarely will you hear a coach say otherwise until he has an upgraded replacement. Webb was penalized 15 times last season and gave up 12 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Martin would provide an upgrade at a key position. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: They can go many different directions, but Kamerion Wimbley doesn't solve their pass-rush issues by himself, and Perry can help. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: Cincinnati has done a great job in bolstering the depth at cornerback in free agency, signing Jason Allen and Adam Jones. But the Bengals, who eventually need to replace veteran Nate Clements, can't pass on the second-best cornerback falling into their laps. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Browns need speed and a deep threat. Look no further than Hill, who averaged 29.3 yards per catch last season (albeit 28 receptions) and ran faster than Baylor's Kendall Wright at the NFL combine. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: ESPN.com colleagues chose Gilmore in my absence based on an obvious need the Lions have at cornerback. Starter Eric Wright departed via free agency, and the Lions' pass defense collapsed in the second half of 2011. General manager Martin Mayhew doesn't draft for need, but Gilmore would address a big one. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: Inside linebacker is a big need for the Steelers after they released James Farrior. Hightower excelled in Alabama's 3-4 defense and was the unquestioned leader on the nation's top defense. Seems like a perfect fit. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: The Broncos would gladly snag Brockers. Defensive tackle is, by far, their most pressing need, and the versatile Brockers is a good value at No. 25. (Bill Williamson)
Analysis: Randle's size will make him a nice target for Matt Schaub and the Texans, and he brings a lot of upside to an offense that's already quite good. (Paul Kuharsky)
Analysis: The Patriots need athleticism on defense and the ability to rush the passer from the outside. Branch can help replace the combined 20 sacks New England lost this offseason with the departures of DEs Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. (James Walker)
Analysis: In my absence, ESPN.com colleagues chose Konz, the draft's top center, knowing that veteran Jeff Saturday is likely a one-year bridge from departed starter Scott Wells. General manager Ted Thompson will almost certainly draft a center, but he might wait until a later round knowing he has 2012 insurance in Saturday. (Kevin Seifert)
Analysis: The Ravens have a history of top prospects falling to them in the first round. Their luck would continue with Glenn, an athletic and versatile blocker who would start immediately at left guard. (Jamison Hensley)
Analysis: Receiver was the team's obvious top need heading into free agency. Adding Randy Moss and Mario Manningham bought some flexibility, but Moss represents a short-term investment. The 49ers could use another young receiver to grow with Alex Smith and, eventually, Colin Kaepernick. (Mike Sando)
Analysis: The Patriots were surprised such a top-end talent is available at No. 31. Sure, Jenkins comes with some character concerns. But New England's strong locker-room leadership will make sure it gets the best out of Jenkins, who has the physical ability to develop into a legit No. 1 corner. (James Walker)
Analysis: This was a tough call, because Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones just looks so much like a Giants pick. He's a super-athletic, high-upside pass-rusher from Tom Coughlin's alma mater. I mean, if Adams weren't on the board, this would have been a slam dunk. And the Giants still could go this way, or with Nebraska LB Lavonte David or Stanford TE Coby Fleener. But there's nothing wrong with Adams' upside potential, either. He becomes the Giants' starting right tackle right away, and if Will Beatty doesn't pan out, Adams has the ability to someday play on the left side. (Dan Graziano)
If you were there at the right time, you still got quality stuff like this:
Kyle (Ottawa, Ontario)
What do you do if your Jacksonville? Sign Vincent Jackson and draft Melvin Ingram or sign Mario Williams and draft Kendall Wright/Michael Floyd?
I LOVE Vincent Jackson. But if you can get Mario Williams, I think you have to go that direction. Very good question. You have the lead.
2ToneBlueBlood (murfreesboro tn)
I've seen you mention a few times that you think the Titans should pursue [Robert] Mathis or [Dwight] Freeney. Chances you think it will actually happen?
Freeney is under contract. If he's released they'd have to look. And they have to look at Mathis. They know they need a guy with special rush skills and that there are few of them. But if someone is giving them crazy money, it probably won't be Tennessee.
Colts go 3-4 what do you do with [Drake] Nevis, good potential but doesn't fit in 3-4 probably doesn't have much trade value?
Which is why it's a gradual shift, not a one-year overhaul.
Your thoughts on Gene Smith saying the Jags won't be as active in free agency this year as we were last year. Kind of upset me. I understand building through the draft but free agency is a very nice tool you can use.
Don't like it. Hope it's not a set up for a reveal that [new Jaguars owner Shahid] Khan won't spend all that money. Two big guys and a draft, that'd be fine.
You can revoke a franchise tag up until July 15.
Not if he signs it.
For all that and much, much more, move directly past go and click right here.
We shouldn’t forget that their second-round pick, 34th overall, isn’t far off where they’ve drafted a lot in the first round in recent years.
They should get a top-flight player leading off the second round, and Kevin Weidl of Scouts Inc. has written an interesting piece highlighting some of the possibilities.
Weidl knows some of these guys will go in the first round, but as he matches needs with prospects, he sees as possibilities: defensive tackle Dontari Poe of Memphis; defensive ends Nick Perry of USC and Andre Branch of Clemson; receivers Kendall Wright of Baylor, Michael Floyd of Notre Dame or Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina; Guard/tackle Cordy Glenn of Georgia.
Colts fans, I’d love if you read the piece and consider those names, the others he mentions and chime in with your thoughts below.