The Boston Globe’s national football reporter offers his projection for how the first round of the NFL draft will play out on Thursday night:
1. Colts: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
Needs: QB, WR, NT, TE, CB
Outlook: This one’s easy, general manager Ryan Grigson announced Tuesday that Luck will indeed be the pick. The Colts are looking to strike lightning twice: the team made Peyton Manning the first overall pick in 1998 after a dismal season, went 3-13 and then 13-3. But the Colts need a lot of help, so how well they bat on the rest of the picks will be just as important.
2. Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Needs: QB, OT, G/C, CB, LB
Outlook: Coach Mike Shanahan hasn’t lit the nation’s capital on fire by 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 defend.
3. Vikings: LT Matt Kalil, USC
Needs: DB, WR, LT, MLB, NT
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’s been increasing chatter Claiborne could be the pick. The Vikings’ secondary is atrocious, but you have to score points in this league to have a chance. Kalil will protect QB Christian Ponder.
4. Browns: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
Needs: WR, RB, RT, QB, OLB
Outlook: Receiver is the biggest need, but the Browns need so much help and the draft is so deep at the position that can wait. With Peyton Hillis gone, and Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnoya the only RBs on the roster, Richardson can provide the running threat needed in the Browns’ old-school West Coast offense.
5. Buccaneers: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
Needs: LB, RB, S, CB, TE
Outlook: Thought long and hard about making Boston College LB Luke Kuechly the pick here, and it made a lot of sense because the Bucs are terrible against the run. But there’s a reason an ILB hasn’t been picked this high since A.J. Hawk was 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: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Needs: WR, DT, OLB, OG, RB
Outlook: The Rams probably wouldn’t mind trading down again (they were at two before dealing to 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 QB Sam Bradford.
7. Jaguars: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Needs: WR, DE, CB, TE
Outlook: Jacksonville is hideous at receiver even after signing Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans, so a reach for Michael Floyd can’t be discounted. But the decision will come between a pass rusher, and a cornerback where the Jaguars are thin. Going with the highest rated player.
8. Dolphins: DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Needs: QB, WR, DE, DT, OT.
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 here. 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 in the draft. They need help with the pass rush and are thin on the line. Cox can help them today.
9. Panthers: DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
Needs: DE, DT, CB, WR, LB
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: LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
Needs: LT, CB, WR, LB
Outlook: Extremely tempting to take WR Michael Floyd since the Bills have Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones and then no one. Rumors float that the Bills love safety Mark Barron. But in Kuechly, defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt will see a more athletic Zach Thomas to run his scheme. And Kuechly can really cover, which will help against the Patriots’ tight ends.
11. Chiefs: SS Mark Barron, Alabama
Needs: NT, S, WR
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 the draft. LaRon Landry, who was signed in free agency is a healthy risk. Jets can’t risk being short at safety against the Patriots.
12. Seahawks: DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse
Needs: DE, LB, WR
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 DE. Could it be Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilius or Nick Perry? Jones has the most upside.
13. Cardinals: OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
Needs: OT, WR, NT, OLB
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 at RT and perhaps move to LT down the line.
14. Cowboys: NT Dontari Poe, Memphis
Needs: WR, TE, C, S, DE
Outlook: The Cowboys have an excellent nose tackle in Jay Ratliff, but he’s started to trail off because he’s 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: DT Michael Brockers, LSU
Needs: OLB, S, DT, RB, OT
Outlook: The Eagles keep saying that they’ll take the best player available, and the should considering there aren’t any huge weaknesses on the team. They would think very hard about WR Michael Floyd if he’s available here to give them a bigger threat. 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: OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
Needs: OLB, S, OT, WR, RB
Outlook: If the Jets trade up for Mark Barron, then the Chiefs would select guard 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: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
Needs: CB, WR, S, OG, LB, DE
Outlook: Jerome Simpson signed with the Vikings, leaving the Bengals without a legitimate compliment to A.J. Green at receiver. Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick is a consideration here but Floyd seems to be a goof fit in Cincinnati’s West Coast offense and can keep the chains moving underneath.
18. Chargers: OLB Shea McClellin, Boise State
Needs: LB, SS, OL, CB, RB
Outlook: San Diego has toyed with the idea of moving up and taking Alabama SS Mark Barron – he would slide right in next to Eric Weddle. However, a more pressing need is pass ruh. Shaun Phillips, Antwan Barnes and Travis LaBoy only accounted for 45 percent of team’s pressures – and that’s not good enough in that defense.
19. Bears: OG David DeCastro, Stanford
Needs: DE, DT, OT, G, WR
Outlook: The Bears addressed WR 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 for QB Jay Cutler that they can draft.
20. Titans: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
Needs: DE, DT, LB, CB, WR
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 CB Cortland Finnegan in free agency, the need at cornerback is greatest even though WR has to also be considered.
21. Bengals: DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
Needs: CB, S, OG, LB, DE
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 LB Keith Rivers was taken in 2008. Mercilus needs some work, but he’s got tools.
22. Browns: QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
Needs: WR, RT, QB, OLB
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 than this. 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: G/T Cordy Glenn, Georgia
Needs: CB, S, OL, DE, RB
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: LB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
Needs: OT, OG, NT, ILB, RB, CB
Outlook: 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 OTs Mike Adams and OG Kevin Zeitler are needed. However, Hightower fits everything general manager Kevin Colbert looks for.
25. Broncos: RB Doug Martin, Boise State
Needs: DT, RB, CB, LB
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: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
Needs: OL, OLB, WR
Outlook: OG 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 compliment to Andre Johnson. Kevin Walter will be 31.
27. Patriots: CB/S Trumaine Johnson, Montana
Needs: DE/OLB, DT, CB/S, LB, OT, WR
Outlook: New England will try to deal one of its picks in the first round – maybe both – because value is not good here. Bill Belichick has never taken an OLB or WR 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: C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
Needs: OLB, DE, S, CB, QB, RB, OL
Outlook: The Packers couldn’t stop anyone last season and have needs all over the defense, especially with S Nick Collins (neck) being released. General manager Ted Thompson stays true to his board after looking to trade down. Konz would be able to takeover for Jeff Saturday, who is 37.
29. Ravens: OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
Needs: OG, WR, C, OLB, S, OT, KR
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 needs some help inside. The Patriots tore them up there, and the Ravens have to beat the Patriots.
30. 49ers: G Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State
Needs: G, WR, RB, S, CB, OLB
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 RG. Silatolu is a little bit of a project, but he has the tools and a nasty disposition that could enable him to be a special player.
31. Patriots: TE Coby Fleener, Stanford (trade with Colts)
Needs: DE/OLB, DT, LB, OT, WR
Outlook: The Patriots won’t be taking another TE. 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 clear top TE, which has become a position of desire, or QB Brandon Weeden. Fleener and Andrew Luck were college teammates. If the Patriots stay, OLB Vinny Curry, WR Stephen Hill, DTs Devon Still, Jerel Worthy and Kendell Reyes would be considered. Curry would be the favorite.
32. Giants: OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
Needs: TE, S, T, RB, WR
Outlook: New York 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 OT and protect QB Eli Manning. Martin will give the Giants more options with Kareem McKenzie not returning.