This year’s NFL scouting combine begins Wednesday, unofficially marking the start of draft speculation season. Before the prospects are poked and prodded, though, Matt Vensel has taken his first crack at predicting the first round of April’s NFL draft. (This mock draft does not account for potential trades.)
And remember, these are called “mock” drafts for a reason. Try not to take them too seriously.
NOTE: The Miami Dolphins will learn whether they have the eighth or ninth pick in the first-round on Friday, when a 7 a.m. coin flip with the Carolina Panthers takes place.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. A once-in-a-generation passer replaces another (Peyton Manning).
2. St. Louis Rams: Matt Kalil, OT, USC. The Rams, who have a few needs, will likely trade this pick to a QB-needy team.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. The NFC North has gone pass-happy. Their secondary needs help.
4. Cleveland Browns: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. They have the best package of picks to move up and draft RG3.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. He has the skills to be one of the top backs in the league.
6. Washington Redskins: Justin Blackmon, WR, Okla. St. They want a QB, but will settle for this playmaking wideout.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Coples, DE, N. Carolina. It feels like defensive end is a perennial need for the Jaguars.
*8. Carolina Panthers: Janoris Jenkins, CB, N. Alabama. This former Florida corner comes with character concerns.
*9. Miami Dolphins: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa. This is under the assumption Miami signs a quarterback in free agency.
10. Buffalo Bills: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU. This is a great value pick for the Bills, who are switching to a 4-3 D.
*11. Kansas City Chiefs: : Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis. The Chiefs really need that big nose tackle to plug up the middle.
*12. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. The Seahawks need to find a long-term solution at quarterback.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama. Arizona could use another dangerous edge rusher.
14. Dallas Cowboys: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. The Cowboys battered secondary was often their downfall last season.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College. A perfect fit for the Eagles, who need to boost their struggling run defense.
16. New York Jets: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford. The Jets could use an upgrade on the right side of their offensive line.
17. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford. The Bengals really need another cornerback more, but the value isn’t there.
18. San Diego Chargers: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. The Chargers will likely have to replace Vincent Jackson.
19. Chicago Bears: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio St. He would be an upgrade at either offensive tackle spot.
20. Tennessee Titans: Melvin Ingram, DE, S. Carolina. Tennessee’s pass rush was inconsistent in the 2011 season.
21.Cincinnati Bengals: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami. This offense will be pretty dangerous after adding a speedy back.
22. Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. They keep Griffin and Wright — college teammates — together.
23. Detroit Lions: Cordy Glenn, OT/G, Georgia. Detroit would be wise to reinforce its offensive line in the draft.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi St. He’s another infusion of youth on an aging defensive line.
25. Denver Broncos: Mark Barron, S, Alabama. Barron would be a good, young replacement for Brian Dawkins.
26. Houston Texans: Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma. If they can’t afford to keep Mario Williams, he would be a fit.
27. New England Patriots: Nick Perry, DE, USC. He’s athletic enough to be an outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense, too.
28. Green Bay Packers: Devon Still, DT, Penn St. He could fill a need for the Packers by playing five-technique end.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin. It’s not the sexiest pick, but beefing up the O-line is a stated goal.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Alshon Jeffery, WR, S. Carolina. This tall, physical deep receiver would look nice in purple, too.
31. New England Patriots: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers. The Patriots offense doesn’t scare anyone on the outside.
32. New York Giants: Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida St. The Giants have a bunch of 30-somethings on their O-line.
* Note that a coin flip will decide whether the Panthers or Dolphins get the 8th overall draft pick and another coin flip will determine whether the Chiefs or Seahawks get the 11th pick.