With the NFL Draft about a week away, teams and draft gurus alike are finalizing their big boards. The gurus out there have also begun to come up with their final versions of mock drafts before the big weekend. One such prominent draft guru at ESPN, Mel Kiper, Jr., released a three-round mock draft for all NFL teams on Wednesday. We're not sure if it's his "final answer", but with a week left, it's hard to imagine that it would drastically change.
In order to view Kiper's mock draft, you'll have to have an ESPN In$ider account. Apparently, Kiper has taken his mock to the level of including potential trades for picks. For those of you who don't, ESPN AFC North blogger, Jamison Hensley has taken the liberty of breaking down Kiper's picks for the four teams in the division. Let's take a look:
Round one, Pick 32: Kevin Minter, Linebacker, LSU
Round two, Pick 62: Terron Armstead, Offensive Tackle, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Round three, Pick 94: Phillip Thomas, Safety, Fresno State
Cincy Jungle Analysis: Kiper checks off almost every glaring need that the Ravens currently possess. With the losses of Bryant McKinnie at tackle, Ed Reed at safety, as well as linebackers Ray Lewis, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, the addition of a linebacker early makes complete sense. Minter is viewed as a solid prospect and with the 3-4 defense they run, he would likely team next to Rolando McClain in the middle.
Armstead is one of the interesting tackles in the draft, along with Menelik Watson. He's a small-school guy with the overused word of "upside" applied to him. Still, the Ravens have had some good luck with offensive linemen like this in the past and he could start right away. The Thomas pick would be decent value and he would bring some swagger and hard-hitting to the back of the defense. He's nowhere near the ballhawk or athlete that Reed is/was, but he could help ease the transition from losing the future Hall of Famer.
Round one, Pick 11 (from pick 6 in trade with Chargers): Chance Warmack, Offensive Guard, Alabama
Round two, Pick 68: E.J. Manuel, Quarterback, Florida State
Round three, Pick 76 (from trade with San Diego): Darius Slay, Cornerback, Mississippi State
Cincy Jungle Analysis: With two potential players that they target, the Browns could significantly improve their chances of being a real pest in the division. If Kiper's scenario were to play out, Warmack would join center Alex Mack, as well as tackles Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz to form a good offensive line. Given the woes that new offensive coordinator Norv Turner had with his offensive line last year in San Diego, this could very well be the pick.However, some believe that if the Browns stay at No.6, they could grab cornerback Dee Milliner. If they were to have a tandem of Milliner and Joe Haden, that could be a nightmare for opposing offenses. Slay wouldn't be a bad pick either, but would be a little more of a project.
Switching gears to the Manuel pick, this could very well happen. I'm not sure that he lasts all the way to No.68, but you have to remember that Brandon Weeden was the previous regime's pick and they could be wanting to go in another direction. If the Browns ever figure out their quarterback position, they will be dangerous.
Round one, Pick 17: Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
Round two, Pick 48: Cornelius Washington, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
Round three, Pick 79: Ryan Swope, Wide Receiver, Texas A & M
Cincy Jungle Analysis: Eifert seems to be a solid pick for the Steelers in the first, particularly with the age and injury situation with Heath Miller. If they grab Eifert, the Steelers would have a formidable weapon against the stout Bengals defense and would likely become a big problem for the rest of the division.
Washington provides relief the to linebacker corps that has been hit hard with age and salary cap casualties. With James Harrison gone, the Steelers need a presence on the outside. They've done an outstanding job at consistently loading up their linebacker corps and Washington could provide another long-term solution. He is overshadowed by his counterpart in Alec Ogletree, but still could be a solid pro.
The Swope pick is interesting as well. Some believe that the speedster out of Texas A & M is more suited to the slot and not the outside. Conceivably, that is a need position for the Steelers, as they were able to retain Emmanuel Sanders after being given an offer sheet by the Patriots. Still, Pittsburgh lost a big-play threat on the outside in Mike Wallace and there might be better fits than Swope if that is who they are looking to replace.
Round one, Pick 21: Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
Round two, Pick 37: Montee Ball, Running Back, Wisconsin
Round two, Pick 53: Khaseem Greene, Linebacker, Rutgers
Round three, Pick 84: Denard Robinson, Wide Receiver, Michigan
Cincy Jungle Analysis: It's hard to navigate through these picks. First of all, the four positions listed are definitely needs for the Bengals, as it currently stands. Vaccaro at No.21 would be good value and it would be surprising if he was available at that spot. If he's available, it would be hard to imagine a scenario where the Bengals would pass on him, even with their history of not drafting the position very high.
Greene at No.53 would be good value and should be a plug-and-play rangy linebacker for the Cincinnati defense on day one. I understand Kiper's thinking with the Montee Ball pick, but I don't think that the value is at No.37 I think he is a better pick at No.84 than with the first pick in the second. I do like Ball better than most for the Bengals, though. He's a tough runner that was extremely productive in college--including a little ability to catch and pass protect. He is built for the AFC North and if he's behind a good line like Cincinnati's, he could be successful. To be honest, we could see something play out where the Steelers grab him somewhere in round two or three.
The Robinson pick is one that I don't understand. Using a third round selection on a player that hasn't played the position before? I'll pass. Yes, I know that there have been a number of successful quarterback-to-wide-receiver transformations in the NFL--heck, the Steelers had two in Antwan Randle-El and Hines Ward. I suppose that I can see that Kiper was trying to give the Bengals a kick returner/wildcat/speed threat, but I think that they would be better-served going after a more polished wide receiver with return ability in Robert Woods. If they would rather take a flyer on another "risky" guy to fill this need, maybe they could look at Tyrann Mathieu instead. I'd be very surprised if Robinson went as early as the third round.