AFC South: Quinton Coples
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The NFL reviews a slew of plays from each weekend, and Adam Schefter reports they will review the hits by Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples on the play where Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker injured his right hip.
My colleague who covers the Jets, Rich Cimini, spoke to Wilkerson after the game, and Wilkerson said an official told him his hit was legal.
There was no flag. But the league office deciding a game official didn’t call something right hardly qualifies as a rarity anymore.
But as I review the play, it seems clear that Locker was hurt because he wound up in an awkward position and something freak happened, not because Wilkerson did something nefarious.
I've rewatched the play multiple times on NFL Rewind this morning.
As Locker let go and followed through, his body opened to the left sideline, and that’s where Wilkerson was coming from. He hit him with his helmet in the right shoulder.
Locker kind of bounced off it, and spun around where he faced the left sideline and then wound up with his back to the line of scrimmage. His right foot was planted, perhaps with the foot pointed a bit to his left, and his left leg was bent and up in the air.
That’s when Couples put his right shoulder into Locker’s left shoulder -- the most unnecessary piece of the play and the one that should, in my opinion, earn a fine.
That hit prompted Locker’s lower right leg to fold awkwardly, with his foot still planted wide of his body, and his knee going to the ground under him. He went to both knees, still facing backward, then his body opened up and as he started to roll over from his stomach onto his left side, he grabbed at the hip before he got to his back.
The medical staff was on the field very quickly, teammates circled around Locker worried, some praying, some looking up to see the replay and try to understand what happened. Ryan Fitzpatrick immediately began tossing a ball on the sideline.
There is no predicting league discipline.
In my eyes, Coples' hit was the most unnecessary part of the play and came well after the ball was released. He should be in line for a fine.
I don’t know that Wilkerson really did anything wrong.
Guy No. 1
“They are a wild card. A hard team to predict, and No. 7 isn’t a great spot.”
“Not Quinton Coples.”
“I don’t know if Melvin Ingram really is a fit. Gene Smith wants a defined position. Maybe they can find a defined position for Ingram. But part of the appeal is the versatility, you can move him around to different spots.”
“Justin Blackmon if he fell, without a doubt, they’d take him in a second. Otherwise I’d say Stephon Gilmore of Fletcher Cox.”
Guy No. 2
“They have a strange profile. They don’t see the board and value the way others do. They always try to trade out. They don’t care if they are regarded as taking a guy too high. They’d rather you think it’s too high than miss him and be kicking themselves.”
“If Blackmon falls to them, he helps the quarterback. He’s pretty damn good. If he’s not there, they can find a receiver later. There are a bunch of guys that can help them. The way to help Blaine Gabbert the most isn’t necessarily with weapons. It’s with the run game and a good defense that turns him into a game manager, maybe like Mark Sanchez.”
“Ingram is pretty good, but it depends on how you use him. He’s less than 6-2. He’s not a fit for everybody. He’s a little better for a 3-4 than a 4-3.”
“Don’t be surprised if it’s Stephon Gilmore. He is squeaky clean. Kirkpatrick is more flamboyant, with more swagger. Gilmore’s a lot like Rashean Mathis, he’s the same size, he moves the same way. He’s fast, he’s productive, he tackles, he intercepts. What don’t you like about him?"
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)
I think he's mostly on target for two AFC South teams. I think he's a bit off target on a third, and misses the mark by a great degree on the fourth.
1) Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Scenario 1: (Andrew) Luck is a once-in-a-generation prospect, and adding him is the best option for a team that is starting over in the post-Peyton Manning era.
Scenario 2: The Colts could pull one of the all-time draft surprises and take Baylor QB Robert Griffin III instead, but that doesn't seem likely after Griffin declined to work out for the team.
Kuharsky’s thoughts: Don’t understand why Jim Irsay is being coy? Why not? What’s to be gained by saying it’s Luck? The contract part is simple with the new CBA.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars
Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Scenario 1: If (Justin) Blackmon should fall this far the Jaguars have to pull the trigger. They've gone far too long without a true No. 1 target in the passing game, and it's hard to fully evaluate second-year QB Blaine Gabbert without proper weapons around him.
Scenario 2: Jacksonville would certainly like to take advantage of a team looking to get ahead of the Miami Dolphins to draft (Ryan) Tannehill. Moving back and adding picks would help a team that has plenty of needs.
Scenario 3: If stuck here, the Jags go with the best available defensive end. General manager Gene Smith likes safer, more proven prospects, so Ingram fits better than North Carolina's Quinton Coples. Ingram is versatile, explosive and shows a knack for making big plays, while Coples has impressive tools but faces questions about his motor and work ethic.
Scenario 4: If he falls in ahead of Ingram on their board, the Jaguars could take (Riley) Reiff and shore up their offensive line.
Kuharsky’s thoughts: I am in line with scenarios one, two and three and if I am a Jaguars backer I’d be happy with any of the three. Shoring up the offensive line? I don’t love the depth, but if Eben Britton is healthy, they should have enough.
20) Tennessee Titans
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Scenario 1: Cornerback is the team's top need and the Titans would take (Stephen) Gilmore if he were available.
Scenario 2: Kirkpatrick is a good fit in Tennessee's zone-heavy scheme with his size, toughness and instincts.
Scenario 3: Alabama ILB Dont'a Hightower is a possibility. The Titans have a need at the position, and while they like 2011 draft pick Colin McCarthy there is no other inside linebacker worth taking here.
Scenario 4: Take the highest-rated available tackle offensive tackle on their board, whether that's (Jonathan) Martin or (Mike) Adams.
Kuharsky’s thoughts: I completely disagree that corner is the team’s top need. Losing Cortland Finnegan doesn’t automatically create a need as they have people to step up. They’d take one if they think he’s the best player because other areas have dried up. They Titans don’t like Colin McCarthy, they love him, just like they love their tackles, Michael Roos and David Stewart. I see a defensive lineman or maybe a value if Mark Barron or David DeCastro somehow lasts.
26) Houston Texans
Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Scenario 1: The Texans would like nothing more than to see (Kendall) Wright fall to them and add a dynamic playmaker opposite Andre Johnson.
Scenario 2: Hightower would also be an attractive option if he were available as a replacement for the departed DeMeco Ryans.
Scenario 3: Hill offers a big, fast option who is raw but could form a dangerous tandem with Johnson.
Scenario 4: Take the best available offensive tackle, in this case Adams, to fill the void left by the release of Eric Winston.
Kuharsky’s thoughts: I don’t know how they stack Wright, Hill and Reuben Randle but another weapon is certainly a need. The inside spot vacated by Ryans is a part time spot that doesn’t require a first-round pick. I’d take a receiver first, but if there is a run, tight end Coby Fleener would be attractive. Offensive tackle wouldn’t be objectionable.
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)
Here’s the second of four team by team reviews.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars
McShay: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
“North Carolina DE Quinton Coples is more naturally talented, but he's inconsistent. Ingram has explosive quickness and power and he brings it on every down, and you know what you're getting with him. That fits the philosophy of the organization under general manager Gene Smith, who in the past has taken high-character, high-motor players like DT Tyson Alualu over more highly-rated prospects.”
Kiper: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
“Coples wasn't quite as dominant as I thought he'd be during the 2011 season, but the draft process has reinforced what a lot of front office folks believed, which is that he's clearly the top 4-3 defensive end in the draft. The Jags need pass-catchers, but if Blackmon isn't available, Coples fits. Jacksonville sacked opposing quarterbacks fewer than two times a game in 2011, and Coples is a great fit for the scheme. He has 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 its talent level, so the Jaguars shouldn't reach based on need.”
Kuharsky: If the Jaguars have the sort of questions about Coples that many analysts do, I can’t imagine they’d go near him. McShay’s thinking here makes a lot of sense.
Factoring in new overall rankings from Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. (who goes 25 players deep), here are the options the teams of the AFC South could be facing when the first round of the draft rolls around at the end of April.
1) Indianapolis Colts
McShay: “(Stanford QB Andrew) Luck's combine workout showed he is more athletic than most thought, and combined with his once-in-a-generation skill set he appears to be a lock as the No. 1 overall pick to the Colts.”
Kiper: “He didn't throw, but no complaints here. That's what his pro day is for. I expected him to surprise in testing, and I think he showed he's more than a thrower. Status quo remains. The total package: arm strength, size, smarts, demeanor. Ready to play.”
7) Jacksonville Jaguars
Available on McShay board: Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon, UNC DE Quinton Coples, Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd, Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick.
Available on Kiper board: Coples, South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram, Floyd, Kirkpatrick.
Kuharsky thinks: Blackmon’s got to be tempting there, though first-round receiver history has to be scary. Coples’ effort questions will hurt him with the Jags. I could see Ingram or Kirkpatrick.
20) Tennessee Titans
Available on McShay board: Kirkpatrick, Georgia G Cordy Glenn, Baylor WR Kendall Wright, Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy, Clemson DE Branch, Wisconsin C Peter Konz.
Available on Kiper board: Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, UConn DT Kendall Reyes, Branch, Konz.
Kuharsky thinks: The interior offensive line options are attractive to me, but I don’t think the Titans will stray from their usual approach there, meaning they won't spend a first-rounder.
26) Houston Texans
Available on McShay board: (Not in his top 32) LSU WR Reuben Randle, Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill, UNC OLB Zach Brown, Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard.
Kiper only goes 25 deep.
Kuharsky thinks: The guys between 26-32 for McShay don’t really seem to fit the Texans. Read that as a bad thing in this exercise, or in anticipation of a well-stocked roster, get excited for a best-player available scenario.
1. There are a lot of intriguing receivers, but some insiders don’t expect even Justin Blackmon to be a quick, high-impact guy like A.J. Green and Julio Jones were last year. It’s the beginning of hole-punching season and scouts and analysts will pick people apart. But while there are a lot of talented receivers coming out, if you are a team that needs immediate impact, one strong opinion says you’d be wise to shop in a pretty good free-agent market.
What it means to the division: The Jaguars have to land at least one big-time guy in free agency. I nominate Vincent Jackson. The Colts need to hold onto Reggie Wayne or Pierre Garcon.
2. The top guys seem like sure things: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and USC left tackle Matt Kalil could go 1-2-3 if someone trades into St. Louis’ No. 2 pick. I’ve not heard anyone raising any real issues with any of the three or with LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. The quarterbacks are expected to be franchise guys, the tackle can protect a franchise guy and the corner can take away the franchise guy’s top target.
What it means to the division: There is no suspense at all about what the Colts are going to do and Luck’s combine visit to Lucas Oil Stadium was the first of many. Claiborne could be irresistible if he is there at No. 7 for the Jags.
3. Position values can be overrated. Historically, guards and safeties are not regarded as early first-round values. But this draft may feature singular guys at each spot, and it makes little sense to pass on Stanford guard David DeCastro or Alabama safety Mark Barron if you have a hole at the position. They are both drawing raves.
What it means for the division: Both probably disappear after the Colts and Jaguars have picked first and seventh but before the Titans pick 20th.
4. Quinton Coples is going to be a scary pick. The North Carolina defensive end gets some people talking about Julius Peppers. But his effort in his final year with the Tar Heels was questionable at best. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said it looked like Coples “had a union deal” the way he went through the motions. The team that takes him won’t have a guarantee joining its roster, it'll have a guy a defensive line coach will need to figure out.
What it means for the division: The Jaguars could go into the draft still needing a rush end, but the knocks on Coples don’t make him seem like a match with GM Gene Smith at all.
5. There is a flurry of new information teams will be gathering for a couple more days. But when scouts and personnel executives get back to their offices Wednesday, the film will once again be the prevalent measure they put to work as they stack their boards. Forty times, bench press numbers, Wonderlic scores and interview notes will all factor into grades. But the most significant information gained in Indianapolis is typically the hands-on medical information training staffs gather. Details of issues there may also be the biggest secrets.
What it means for the division: Nothing different than for anyone else. We don’t know what we don’t know, and the intrigue is a big part of why this whole process is so insanely popular.
6. News nuggets from coaches and GMs are more and more difficult to pry loose at this stage of the year. We learned Jaguars defensive tackle Tyson Alualu had knee surgery, the Colts have made a contract offer to Pierre Garcon he didn’t accept, the Texans still see Matt Leinart and T.J. Yates competing for the No. 2 quarterback job and the Titans might overpay for a veteran edge rusher. Beyond that? Not much. A lot of generalities as secrecy ruled the day.
What it means for the division: Run through the AFC South coaches and GMs. Who’s the most dynamic, chatty guy of the bunch? I think it’ll be Colts coach Chuck Pagano in time. Five of the eight guys are in their first or second season in the job. Everyone is pretty reserved at this point, even the veterans of the group, Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak of the Texans.
7. We need to go find the specifics of a different rule every year. Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and Pagano both said they had not seen Peyton Manning throw. They didn’t say they aren’t allowed to see Manning throw. As it turns out, though, NFL rules don’t allow for executives beyond medical staff to watch even a rehabilitating player work at this point. While I don’t believe there is a decision still to be made, it’s interesting that the Colts' new duo at the top will only be able to hear reports from medical people and not see for themselves by the March 8th bonus deadline for Manning.
What it means for the division: Every team in the division will have a question at quarterback heading into camp: Is Matt Schaub’s foot healed? Can Matt Hasselbeck hold off Jake Locker? Does Blaine Gabbert get better? And how effective can Luck be from the start?
Hello Mr. Luck: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was here briefly during Super Bowl week for a Gatorade promotion. But his podium session Friday will be viewed as the first of many times he will dissect his play at LOS, which everyone expects will become his home stadium when the Colts draft him first overall at the end of April.
Barron’s health: Mark Barron is recovering from double hernia surgery. Does the lack of field work here and at the Crimson Tide’s pro day affect his draft stock? And can that be a positive thing for the safety-needy Titans, who pick 20th and would have to consider him if he lasted that long? After Barron, the position doesn't offer a great deal in the draft.
Houston’s needs: The Texans are the least likely team in the division to add a significant outsider in free agency, because they have salary-cap issues. Their draft needs could be shaped by what happens with their own pending free agents. If Mario Williams leaves, they’ll need another outside linebacker for their 3-4. If Chris Myers gets away, center becomes an issue. But more than anyone in the division, the Texans should set up to be able to draft the best players they see. Being unpressured by a giant need is always somewhat of a relief.
Learning philosophies: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano have been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get their house in order and lay the groundwork for their plans. We should start to learn more about their philosophy and intentions in the coming days. How far can they take a hybrid 3-4 in the first year? What will an offense under a new staff look like? And what kind of players here can make those schemes go?
The influence of Khan: Jacksonville general manager Gene Smith is now preparing for his first draft with a new boss. Shahid Khan has said he’s all in, so the Jaguars could do some significant spending in free agency before the draft arrives. If Smith was lacking in any resources before, such things should not be an issue now.
Webster’s influence: A year ago, Ruston Webster had a big influence over the Titans' draft, and it produced a very good looking class. Now Webster has been promoted to general manager. So this draft won’t only have his fingerprints on it, it’ll have his signature on it. He’s a highly respected personnel man who appears to be a steady, methodical guy who can find productive people who fit what Mike Munchak and his staff want to do.
Phillips’ opinions: In his first year as the Texans' defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips had a big influence on the Texans' draft. End J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Brooks Reed were giant contributors in their rookie seasons. The Texans showed great defensive depth, but can still stock up help at every level of the defense. Can Phillips help general manager Rick Smith and the front office tab a few more top-flight contributors?
Thin spots: Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. says he sees safety as the thinnest overall position and offensive line as less than stellar. That’s bad for Tennessee and Indianapolis as both teams need help at both spots. That’s good for Houston and Jacksonville, which did good work filling safety spots in 2011 and won’t have a lot of offensive line work, though the Jaguars' pass protection needs to improve.
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.
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
McShay: “The status of Colts legend Peyton Manning is still up in the air after multiple neck surgeries, and Manning will be 36 years old next season. Meanwhile, Luck is a once-in-a-generation prospect with the physical tools and mental makeup to start from Day 1. Given the financial considerations involved, the smart decision is to draft Luck and part ways with Manning.”
Kuharsky: Barring some bizarre career-threatening injury to Luck, I can’t see how this does not happen.
Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
McShay: “The Jaguars are desperate for help at receiver, but Blackmon is off the board and Coples presents great value at this point. He's the most talented defensive prospect in the 2012 class and showcased a versatile skill set and the potential to be a dominant player throughout Senior Bowl week.”
Kuharsky: You might think it would be hard for the Jaguars to go defense as needy as they are on offense. But they need an edge rusher, and they could well sign two receivers in free agency long before they go on the clock.
Nick Perry*, DE, USC
McShay: The Titans have three defensive ends set to become free agents and need a dynamic pass-rusher to complement Derrick Morgan. While Perry is raw, he has good initial burst and natural pass-rush skills. Cornerback, safety and offensive line are also need areas, but Perry makes the most sense in this situation.”
Kuharsky: He’d certainly help fill a need, but we’ll need to see what they do in free agency. It would be nice to get immediate impact, and the “raw” label always suggests there might be a long wait.
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
McShay: “The Texans would rather get a wideout here to complement Andre Johnson, but Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery would be reaches at this point. A difference-maker at tight end would help, though, and Fleener is a reliable target with toughness, a competitive nature and underrated speed/athleticism. He could draw some attention to the middle away from Johnson, and with a deep wideout class Houston could find a quality receiver in the next couple of rounds.”
Kuharsky: The Texans could be in position to draft the best available guy. But they’ve invested a lot of picks in tight ends, and a healthy Owen Daniels is a premier guy. Beyond receiver, they could use outside linebacker depth and perhaps a corner.
1) Colts -- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
McShay: “Luck is a once-in-a-generation quarterback prospect, and Colts legend Peyton Manning will be 36 next season and is coming off multiple neck surgeries. Given the financial implications, it looks like the smart decision is to draft Luck and part ways with Manning.”
Kuharsky: I don’t see any way around keeping and using the first pick in the draft on Luck. At season’s end, let the dominoes begin to fall.
5) Jaguars -- Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
McShay: “The Jaguars have a pressing need at defensive end, and while Coples is not a speed rusher, his blend of size, power and quickness allows him to be a productive pass-rusher (17.5 sacks the last two seasons) and disruptive against the run.”
Kuharsky: It will be tough to see them go defense, but this is a definite possibility. Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon is on the board in this scenario, and while McShay doesn’t see him as a true Top 10 pick, if the Jaguars like him and haven’t hit a home run at receiver in free agency, he might be too tough to pass up.
14) Titans -- Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
McShay: “Three of the Titans' top nine tacklers are from the 2011 draft -- LBs Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy and DT Jurrell Casey -- but Tennessee is still looking for reinforcements on that side of the ball. Given Branch's quickness, motor and strength, he is a perfect fit at right DE opposite former first-round pick Derrick Morgan. Tennessee also has a huge need at wide receiver, and this would be a good time to draft a young playmaker if Blackmon were to fall.”
Kuharsky: It’s a shame the Titans need defensive line help. If Morgan was panning out and Jason Jones was effective after a move from tackle, they could turn elsewhere. But end is a definite need.
26) Texans -- Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State
McShay: “Sanders isn't a massive mauler, but he is a perfect fit for the Texans because of his versatility -- he played both tackle spots at FSU and could move inside to guard if necessary -- and his experience in a zone-blocking scheme with the Seminoles.”
Kuharsky: He might be a great pick for depth on the line. But the team’s solid on the front line with Duane Brown and Eric Winston and could do more to help themselves immediately at another spot if they see talent at defensive tackle or receiver.
The Jacksonville Jaguars would draft fourth.
Their needs, in my eyes, regardless of who’s their coach, will be a big-play receiver, a pass-rushing defensive end and a cornerback (as Rashean Mathis is not under contract and will be coming off a torn ACL.)
They could have a shot at the top player at each of those spots.
A quick, early look at the possibilities.
Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon
Ranked seventh by Scouts Inc, fourth by Mel Kiper, ninth by Todd McShay.
Kiper says: He should surpass last year's 111 catches, which is remarkable. A better prospect than recent OSU star Dez Bryant. Versatile and explosive and really works to get open. Great ball skills; breaks tackles. Exceptional work ethic.
McShay says: Blackmon continues to show off his ball skills, hands and body control. He's ultra-productive and also has strong character.
LSU CB Morris Claiborne
Ranked fourth by Scouts Inc, fifth by Kiper, third by McShay.
Kiper says: “Just keeps showing up week after week. Big rise so far in 2011; now the top corner here. Exceptional pure cover corner with impeccable instincts at the position. Has solid ball skills for the position. Not a total burner but plenty quick.”
McShay says: “Size, speed, fluid hips and impressive ball skills make Claiborne the top draft-eligible cover corner in the nation. He is overshadowed some by playmaking teammate Tyrann Mathieu, but Claiborne is clearly a top-10 talent.”
North Carolina DE Quinton Coples
Ranked sixth by Scouts Inc, ninth by Kiper, fifth by McShay.
Kiper says: “Production is down, but skill set is hard to look past. The size and talent are there, but he'll need to add to his arsenal with increased blocking attention. Great size and length to hold the edge as a 4-3 defensive end.”
McShay says: “Coples has enormous upside and impressive physical tools, but he needs to play with more urgency over the remainder of the season to maximize his stock.”