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First-round mock draft

By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / April 26, 2012
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1. Colts
Needs: QB, WR, NT, TE, CB
Projected pick: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
Outlook: This one is easy. General manager Ryan Grigson announced Tuesday that Luck will indeed be the pick. The Colts are looking for lightning to strike twice: After a dismal season in 1997 (3-13), they made Peyton Manning the first overall pick in 1998. They went 3-13 again, and then 13-3. But the Colts need a lot of help, so how well they do on the rest of the picks will be just as important.

2. Redskins
Needs: QB, T, G/C, CB, LB
Projected pick: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Outlook: Coach Mike Shanahan hasn’t lit the nation’s capital on fire, going 11-21 in his first two seasons. But that was with Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman at quarterback. Now Shanahan has the perfect athlete to run his boot-action offense. On paper, it should be tough to defense.

3. Vikings
Needs: DB, WR, LT, MLB, NT
Projected pick: LT Matt Kalil, Southern Cal
Outlook: General manager Rick Spielman has said the pick is down to Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, and there has been increasing chatter that Claiborne will be the pick. The secondary is atrocious, but you have to score points in this league to have a chance. Kalil will protect QB Christian Ponder.

4. Browns
Needs: WR, RB, RT, QB, OLB
Projected pick: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
Outlook: Receiver is their biggest need, but the Browns need so much help and the draft is so deep at the position that it can wait. With Peyton Hillis gone, and Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, and Chris Ogbonnaya the only RBs on the roster, Richardson can provide the running threat needed in Cleveland’s old-school West Coast offense.

5. Buccaneers
Needs: LB, RB, S, CB, TE
Projected pick: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
Outlook: Thought long and hard about making Boston College’s Luke Kuechly the pick here, and it makes a lot of sense because the Bucs are terrible against the run. But there is a reason an inside linebacker hasn’t been picked this high since A.J. Hawk by the Packers in 2006: They don’t make enough game-changing plays. And Claiborne is better than incumbents Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib.

6. Rams
Needs: WR, DT, OLB, G, RB
Projected pick: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Outlook: The Rams probably wouldn’t mind trading down again (they were at 2 before dealing with the Redskins) because they have so many holes. DT Fletcher Cox is tempting, but the Rams had just 12 touchdown passes last year. You can’t win like that in this league. Get somebody who can catch the ball from Sam Bradford.

7. Jaguars
Needs: WR, DE, CB, TE
Projected pick: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Outlook: Jacksonville is hideous at receiver even after signing Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans, so a reach for Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd can’t be discounted. But the decision will come down to a pass rusher or a cornerback. Going with the highest-rated player.

8. Dolphins
Needs: QB, WR, DE, DT, T.
Projected pick: DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Outlook: Here we go again. The Dolphins have had a glaring need at quarterback since Dan Marino retired. Ryan Tannehill would be the popular pick, but the Dolphins are really gnashing their teeth over him. At the end of the day, I can’t see Jeff Ireland, who was mentored by Bill Parcells, taking an unpolished QB this high. They need help with the pass rush and are thin on the line. Cox can help them right away.

9. Panthers
Needs: DE, DT, CB, WR, LB
Projected pick: DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
Outlook: The Panthers finished 28th in total defense last season, so they could use help across the entire unit. Luke Kuechly would be an intriguing pick, with Jon Beason and Thomas Davis coming off major surgeries. However, in this division, the Panthers need to get after the QB. Coples has some issues, but he’ll be versatile up front.

10. Bills
Needs: LT, CB, WR, LB
Projected pick: LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
Outlook: Extremely tempting to take WR Michael Floyd, since the Bills have Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones and then no one. Rumors are floating that the Bills love safety Alabama S Mark Barron. But in Kuechly, defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt will have a more athletic Zach Thomas to run his scheme. And Kuechly can really cover, which will help against the Patriots’ tight ends.

11. Chiefs
Needs: NT, S, WR
Projected pick: S Mark Barron, Alabama
Outlook: Not sure if the Chiefs actually make this pick. They could be trading with any number of teams, including the Cowboys, Jets, and Patriots, for by far the best safety in this draft. This smells like a Rex Ryan move up. LaRon Landry, who was signed by the Jets in free agency, is a healthy risk. And New York can’t risk being short at safety against the Patriots.

12. Seahawks
Needs: DE, LB, WR
Projected pick: DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse
Outlook: There could be a trade run in this range with a lot of pass rushers on the board, and Seattle general manager John Schneider would love to deal out of this pick. Not buying the Tannehill talk to the Seahawks. They have a huge need for a defensive end. Could it be Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilus, or Nick Perry? Jones has the most upside.

13. Cardinals
Needs: T, WR, NT, OLB
Projected pick: T Riley Reiff, Iowa
Outlook: There are a lot of players available that could help the Cardinals, including WR Michael Floyd, NT Dontari Poe, and OLB Melvin Ingram. All would make sense. But tackle is too glaring a need not to address now. Reiff can replace Jeremy Bridges on the right side and perhaps move to left tackle down the line.

14. Cowboys
Needs: WR, TE, C, S, DE
Projected pick: NT Dontari Poe, Memphis
Outlook: The Cowboys have an excellent nose tackle in Jay Ratliff, but he has started to trail off because he is undersized for the position. Poe would give the Cowboys a much larger presence in the middle and allow defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to move Ratliff around to make him more effective.

15. Eagles
Needs: OLB, S, DT, RB, T
Projected pick: DT Michael Brockers, LSU
Outlook: The Eagles keep saying they’ll take the best player available, and they should, considering there aren’t any huge weaknesses on the team. They would think very hard about WR Michael Floyd if he’s available. But the lines need reinforcements. Brockers, who could go higher, rivals Fletcher Cox for best 4-3 DT, and the Eagles need one.

16. Jets
Needs: OLB, S, T, WR, RB
Projected pick: OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
Outlook: If the Jets trade up for Mark Barron, then the Chiefs would select G David DeCastro here to finally give Matt Cassel some time. If the Jets stay put, they will look hard at WR Michael Floyd. But at the end of the day, the Jets need to beat Tom Brady to win the division, and you don’t do that with receivers.

17. Bengals
Needs: CB, WR, S, G, LB, DE
Projected pick: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
Outlook: Jerome Simpson signed with the Vikings, leaving the Bengals without a legitimate complement to A.J. Green at receiver. Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick is a consideration here but Floyd seems to be a good fit in Cincinnati’s West Coast offense and can keep the chains moving underneath.

18. Chargers
Needs: LB, SS, OL, CB, RB
Projected pick: OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State
Outlook: San Diego has toyed with the idea of moving up and taking Alabama SS Mark Barron; he would slide in right next to Eric Weddle. However, a more pressing need is pass rush. Shaun Phillips, Antwan Barnes, and Travis LaBoy accounted for only 45 percent of the team’s pressures — and that’s not good enough in that defense.

19. Bears
Needs: DE, DT, T, G, WR
Projected pick: G David DeCastro, Stanford
Outlook: The Bears addressed receiver by trading for Brandon Marshall, and there are still a lot of holes that could be filled here. Pass rush is one of those areas, but have you watched a Bears game? They need all the protection they can get for Jay Cutler.

20. Titans
Needs: DE, DT, LB, CB, WR
Projected pick: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
Outlook: General manager Ruston Webster would like to grab a pass rusher, but there isn’t one available here with a proven track record of production. After losing Cortland Finnegan in free agency, the need at cornerback is greatest, although receiver also must be considered.

21. Bengals
Needs: CB, S, G, LB, DE
Projected pick: DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
Outlook: The Bengals grabbed a much-needed receiver four picks earlier, so it’s time to give coach Marvin Lewis some talent on defense in the first round — something the team hasn’t done since taking LB Keith Rivers in 2008. Mercilus needs some work, but he has tools.

22. Browns
Needs: WR, RT, QB, OLB
Projected pick: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
Outlook: It would seem unlikely that Tannehill falls this far — the Dolphins, Seahawks, Cardinals, and Eagles would all have to pass on him — but he’s too green to go earlier. If he’s here, the Browns could be thrilled — or they could take WR Kendall Wright and trade up for QB Brandon Weeden later.

23. Lions
Needs: CB, S, OL, DE, RB
Projected pick: G/T Cordy Glenn, Georgia
Outlook: The Lions really need secondary help, but there isn’t much of solid value here. A pass rusher could be a consideration. In the end, LT Jeff Backus is 34 and the rest of the line is either old or inconsistent. Glenn provides flexibility.

24. Steelers
Needs: T, G, NT, ILB, RB, CB
Projected pick: LB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
Outlook: The Steelers have gotten really old and thin after bidding adieu to Hines Ward, James Farrior, and Aaron Smith. There continues to be no depth on the offensive line, so Ohio State’s Mike Adams and Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler are needed. However, Hightower fits everything general manager Kevin Colbert looks for.

25. Broncos
Needs: DT, RB, CB, LB
Projected pick: RB Doug Martin, Boise State
Outlook: Another team with secondary needs that won’t find good value here. Despite how well the Broncos rushed the ball with Tim Tebow last season, running back is still a weak point, with Willis McGahee being 30 and Knowshon Moreno returning from ACL surgery.

26. Texans
Needs: OL, OLB, WR
Projected pick: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
Outlook: Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler would be a perfect pick here, and the Texans need to replace OLB Mario Williams. But if local boy Wright lasts this long — and he very well may not — the Texans have to jump on him to be a complement to Andre Johnson. Kevin Walter will be 31.

27. Patriots
Needs: DE/OLB, DT, CB/S, LB, T, WR
Projected pick: CB/S Trumaine Johnson, Montana
Outlook: New England will try to deal one of its picks in the first round — maybe both — because the value is not high here. Bill Belichick has never taken an outside linebacker or wide receiver in the first round. The team’s biggest weakness was big plays defensively. They need more talented players in the secondary, and Johnson, despite some character concerns, fits the bill. Could be available later if Patriots trade back.

28. Packers
Needs: OLB, DE, S, CB, QB, RB, OL
Projected pick: C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
Outlook: The Packers couldn’t stop anyone last season and have needs all over the defense, especially with safety Nick Collins (neck) being released. General manager Ted Thompson stays true to his board after looking to trade down. Konz would be able to take over for Jeff Saturday, who is 37.

29. Ravens
Needs: G, WR, C, OLB, S, T, KR
Projected pick: G Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
Outlook: Baltimore could also look at tackle because Bryant McKinnie is at the end of the line, so Ohio State’s Mike Adams could be the pick. However, with Ben Grubbs signing with New Orleans, the Ravens need help inside. The Patriots tore them up there, and the Ravens have to beat the Patriots.

30. 49ers
Needs: G, WR, RB, S, CB, OLB
Projected pick: G Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State
Outlook: San Francisco has a fairly complete roster and could look for an impact player at any position. If there was one big hole, it would be at right guard. Silatolu is a little bit of a project, but he has the tools and a nasty disposition that could make him a special player.

31. Patriots
Needs: DE/OLB, DT, LB, OT, WR
Projected pick: TE Coby Fleener, Stanford, by Colts after trade
Outlook: The Patriots won’t be taking another tight end. But with the Giants really needing one at the next pick, some team (Colts or Panthers?) will want to jump them to grab the draft’s top tight end, which has become a position of desire, or QB Brandon Weeden. Fleener and Andrew Luck were college teammates. If the Patriots stay here, OLB Vinny Curry, WR Stephen Hill, and DTs Devon Still, Jerel Worthy, and Kendell Reyes would be considered. Curry would be the favorite.

32. Giants
Needs: TE, S, T, RB, WR
Projected pick: OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
Outlook: The Giants would be stunned to see someone jump in front of them for Fleener, but general manager Jerry Reese is one of the best and never panics. He knows the team has to get better at tackle and protect Eli Manning. Martin will give them more options with Kareem McKenzie not returning.

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