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Draft King Analysis
April 22, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

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If you missed it live, I have the audio from my interview on the Josh Pacheco show on ESPN 1420 AM Honolulu from earlier this week online here. You never know how a radio interview will go, and I've worked in radio in one capacity or another going back to my freshman year at the University of Evansville on 91.5 WUEV in 1995 and been involved with my fair share of interviews on both sides, but I was especially happy with how that one turned out. I clipped the beginning because my recording of the webstream inadvertently had audio from an internet advertisement bleed over the first part of it. I wish I was making that part up. Anyway, the information and analysis isn't dated, so give it a listen if you get a chance.

Also, I was included in this Q&A by Baltimore Sports and Life that was published yesterday. I concur with the comments of Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com that were in there as well, particularly about how weak the overall tight end draft class is this year.

With less than a week remaining until the start of the 2012 NFL Draft, it's not surprising that there are rumors flying like crazy, with new projections and whispers and speculations hitting news feeds and PFT and Twitter on a seemingly constant basis. Some thoughts on the very latest:

-There has been late speculation that the Rams will target a defensive tackle at #6 overall, with Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox mentioned in particular. I don't buy that at all. St. Louis desperately needs a top-tier wide receiver, and they will look very smart by trading from #2 to #6 and still potentially being in position to take their top choice from the entire group of wide receivers in this year's draft. Moreover, the Rams signed UFA DL Kendall Langford to a deal that included $12 million in guaranteed money. Langford played DE in Miami's 3-4 defense last year, but his best value likely will be in the 4-3 defensive tackle role he's expected to have in St. Louis.

-Jacksonville at #7 overall is an enigma. They took a huge risk by signing former Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson to a contract that included $15 million guaranteed, and it's possible they could hedge their bet there by going with Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd. More likely is that the Jaguars will look to defense, with South Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram the top candidate for that spot. Jacksonville coughed up $20 million guaranteed to keep defensive end Jeremy Mincey, but with pass rushing being more important than ever, I figure defensive end is the most likely scenario for them.

I've heard cornerback thrown out there as a surprise possibility, but I don't think so, not with the team retaining Rashean Mathis and William Middleton with one-year contracts each and signing Aaron Ross in free agency away from the Giants, the team he won a pair of Super Bowls with during his first five NFL seasons.

-Projections of Iowa OT Riley Reiff to Buffalo at #10 have become so prevalent that a backlash of sorts has come out against it, with wide receiver being mentioned as a spot of interest. I'm not convinced, not with Buffalo shelling out $19.5 million guaranteed to keep WR Stevie Johnson in town. I realize that they lost WR Roscoe Perrish in free agency to San Diego, but he only had literally one reception for the Bills last season, and Buffalo has decent depth at receiver already.

Janoris Jenkins hits Mark Ingram
Janoris Jenkins nearly jarred the ball loose with this hit on Mark Ingram in 2008. (US PRESSWIRE)

But it's possible that the Bills aren't interested in Reiff at that spot, and cornerback is a distinct possibility as well for the Bills. In almost all likelihood, LSU CB Morris Claiborne will be off the board by this point. The best cover corner in my book in this draft is North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins -- just look at what he did against the likes of A.J. Green, Alshon Jeffery, Julio Jones, etc. while at Florida. But his off-the-field problems are serious enough to likely cost him a shot at sliding not only out of the top ten but probably out of the first round altogether, which is astounding when you think about it.

Elite cover corners are more valuable than ever before, with the NFL tightening down on rules involving hitting defenseless receivers. The days of a strong safety or linebacker crushing a wide receiver going over the middle are over, a change that was far overdue. The suicide of former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling this past Thursday was another sordid reminder of the long-term effects that brain injuries have on NFL players. I have a column in the hopper that I'm working on that covers this topic in-depth, and I'll warn you now, it will likely stir up some strong emotions -- and the worst is yet to come, I believe.

I bring the topic up now because, with elite man-to-man cover corners being more valuable than ever before as teams desperately try to stop the pass without incurring a penalty, it's amazing to think that Jenkins won't be selected with a high draft pick. But even with the post-2011 CBA considerably limiting the guaranteed money that top first round picks can receive, it doesn't do you any good if your elite man-to-man cover cornerback finds himself suspended and/or sitting in a jail cell. For Jenkins' sake, I hope he puts his troubled past behind him and has a great career with whichever team takes a chance on him. He has the talent.

Luckily for Buffalo, there are other strong CB prospects out there, including South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore and Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick. Gilmore is a late riser on several draft boards, and while Kirkpatrick is perceived by some as being better suited playing zone as opposed to man-to-man, he was so good at Alabama that most teams avoided throwing in his direction, and that was despite Alabama having an incredible volume of top-tier talent on defense during Kirkpatrick's stint in Tuscaloosa.

-I have several friends who are Dallas Cowboys fans, and they have been Gary Coxe-ing me like crazy wanting insight about what they will do. Team owner Jerry Jones has indicated a desire to trade down from #14, and he has a track record of blurting out his team's draft plans with impunity. The signing of offensive guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau would seem to rule out Stanford OG David DeCastro at #14.

Alabama safety Mark Barron could be tempting there, as he is an elite talent who was a three-time SEC first-team selection and a two-time All-American. He lead the SEC in interceptions as a sophomore safety in 2009, which is incredible when you think about it. Teams learned the hard way not to throw the ball in his direction, and with Kirkpatrick also being avoided by opposing quarterbacks, there's a reason that most teams had so much trouble passing against the Crimson Tide.

If for some reason the Cowboys aren't interested in Barron at #14, I strongly suspect there will be several teams willing to trade up to get him.

-Who will bite first and stretch to take Stanford TE Coby Fleener? As of this writing I have him going to Denver at #25 overall, though the Broncos already signed former Texans tight end Joel Dreessen, which might make offensive line more of a priority. Cornerback is a need as well, and I've heard whispers that the Broncos are trying to work a deal with the Eagles to acquire CB Asante Samuel. If that happens, going CB here obviously would become much less likely, and the Broncos may very well go offensive line to provide as much protection as possible for QB Peyton Manning. Georgia OG/OT Cordy Glenn is a distinct possibility if he is still on the board at #25.

-When I update my 2012 NFL Mock Draft on here, I most likely will drop Ohio State OT Mike Adams out of the top 32. He reportedly failed his piss test at the Indy combine for marijuana, though his use of an innocuous plant that grows naturally out of the ground is considerably less concerning to me than the fact that he managed fewer reps on the 225 pound bench press at the combine (19) than Boom Harron (22), who played running back at Ohio State. And I know that players with long arms are at a disadvantage on the bench press, but at what point do you look at Adams and say he doesn't belong in the first round? For me that time is now, though all it takes is one team drafting late in the first round to like him for him to end up going there.

-Speaking of comparing player statistics, it can be a bitch to hunt them down, particularly when you want to make some head-to-head comparisons. But I've discovered that draft-hub.com has a helpful section that allows you to quickly find known measurables for the top draft prospects in the upcoming draft. Give it a look when you have the chance.

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