NFC South: Riley Reiff

Who's in New York for the draft?

April, 13, 2012
It’s looking like there’s a good chance the players the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers choose in the first round of this year’s NFL draft will be in New York that night.

The league has announced that an all-time high 26 players will be at Radio City Music Hall for the first round. I’m looking at the list and the three realistic candidates for the Bucs at No. 5 -- LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon -- are scheduled to be in New York.

The Panthers have the No. 9 overall pick in the draft. I’m looking at the list and seeing multiple players that have a chance to end up in Carolina, including Blackmon, LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn, Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still. I also think Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly and Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff are also possibilities for the Panthers, but they’re not scheduled to be in New York.

Aside from the players mentioned above, here’s the rest of the list of guys scheduled to be in New York for the draft:
  • Matt Kalil, offensive tackle, Southern California

Mocking with Mel Kiper

February, 20, 2012
We’re a little more than two months away from the NFL draft, but we’re about to enter a key time.

The scouting combine starts later this week and that’s when you’ll see the stock of various prospects rise or fall. As it stands right now, there seems to be a fairly clear consensus on the top 10 players, but that could change after players work out at the combine.

The NFC South has only two teams with first-round picks because Atlanta and New Orleans traded away their choices last year. But Tampa Bay and Carolina each are in the top 10 and should be able to come out of the draft with players that can make instant impacts.

Let’s take a look at the latest Insider mock draft Insider by Mel Kiper.

He has the Bucs taking Alabama running back Trent Richardson at No. 5. I’m not ruling this one out at all because the Bucs clearly have to improve their backfield. LeGarrette Blount is not an every-down back and it doesn’t seem real likely that Earnest Graham, who will be a free agent, will return. But conventional wisdom says you can get a good running back a little later in the draft.

The Bucs have plenty of needs and running back is high on that list. But cornerback could be even higher. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs pass on Richardson and take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. Cornerback could end up being the biggest need of all. We don’t know yet if veteran Ronde Barber wants to continue playing. Even if he does, we don’t know if the Bucs want him back. Aqib Talib is the other starting cornerback, but he’s got a trial on an assault charge coming up. Talib could end up with a prison sentence. He also could be subject to discipline from the league. It’s also possible new coach Greg Schiano might send a message to his team about off-field issues by parting ways with Talib.

We’ll know Friday if the Carolina Panthers will pick No. 8 or 9. A coin flip with the Miami Dolphins at the combine will determine that.

Either way, it’s not that difficult to project what Carolina might do. Kiper has the Panthers taking LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers and I think that’s entirely possible. Even with Ron Edwards expected back from injury and the presence of second-year players Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, the Panthers need to make sure they finally fix the middle of their defensive line. I could also see them going with a cornerback if Claiborne falls a bit. I also wouldn’t be all that surprised if the Panthers went with an offensive tackle, such as Iowa’s Riley Reiff or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin. Left tackle Jordan Gross is getting older and right tackle Jeff Otah has had chronic knee problems. It might be a long time before the Panthers pick in the top 10 again. It might be hard to pass on a can’t-miss left tackle. The Panthers could play the new guy at right tackle for a year or two and eventually move him to the left side.
It’s a little too early for Atlanta and New Orleans fans to start thinking about the draft. Besides, the Falcons and Saints don’t have first-round picks in 2012 at the moment due to the trades they made to draft Julio Jones and Mark Ingram, respectively.

But the Buccaneers and Panthers are at a point where fans can start thinking about April. That’s why Todd McShay’s initial mock draft Insider is out. It is Insider content, but I’ll share what he has the Bucs and Panthers doing.

Keep in mind, we don’t know exact draft order yet and we don’t know all the underclassmen who will be in the draft. But McShay went with the order as it currently stands and went with his best guess on the underclassmen.

At No. 6, McShay has the Buccaneers taking Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. It’s logical because Kirkpatrick is widely considered the second-best cornerback likely to be in this draft and McShay has LSU’s Morris Claiborne going to Minnesota at No. 3. McShay cites Ronde Barber’s age and a possible uncertain future for Aqib Talib as the reasons for this pick. But, even if Barber and Talib both remain with the Bucs, I think adding a cornerback makes sense. Barber’s not going to play forever and Talib can become a free agent after the 2012 season.

The Panthers currently are sitting at No. 9 and McShay has them taking Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon. McShay cites the Panthers wanting to surround quarterback Cam Newton with talent. I’m not ruling this one out by any means, but Steve Smith hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, Brandon LaFell has made some progress in his second season and David Gettis should be back from an injury.

I think there are more pressing needs on defense and I also wouldn’t rule out the guy McShay has going to Buffalo at No. 10. That’s Riley Reiff, a left tackle from Iowa. There’s no doubt the Panthers are building everything around Newton. So it would make some sense if they found an heir apparent for veteran Jordan Gross as the guy protecting Newton’s blind side. There's a rule of thumb that says you can only get elite left tackles in the top 10. If the Panthers even end up in the top 10 this year, they might want to consider a left tackle because they might not see the top 10 again for a while.