The biggest NFL Draft news of the week came out of the Combine and concerned the player who had taken a back seat to Andrew Luck hype since pretty much the day after the Heisman Trophy was presented: Robert Griffin III. Following that better-than-expected showing at the Combine -- which essentially confirmed RGIII was a beast -- two things happened: 1.) RGIII’s stock rose dramatically and 2.) the St. Louis Rams watched the value of their pick skyrocket.
Now to be fair, we all sort of suspected that the Rams would trade away that pick of theirs even before the Combine began. But what Griffin's newfound hype does is it guarantees that a team will offer St. Louis the earth and the moon in order to put itself in position for the second best quarterback’s services, and it guarantees that there will be no unexpected (and always feared) dip for this year’s Heisman winner.
Right now, the team that is purportedly willing to trade away everything from picks to players to national monuments for that No. 2 selection is the Washington Redskins – but that might not be enough. The Cleveland Browns, all things considered, can put together the more lucrative package for that very desired pick. Plus, more teams than would care to admit it are looking for a quarterback of the future, and aside from a lone Hall of Famer with a busted neck, there isn’t going to be that much available in the way of a legitimate starter on the open market. Anyone could still jump into these sweepstakes.
Below is our take on how the first five picks of the draft will shake out. At the moment, whether it ultimately winds up being the Browns or Redskins who get the No. 2 pick is a crapshoot, so we’re going with Browns just because it seems like they can put together a better deal. We’ll see if that actually ends up holding true on draft night, though.
1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. RGIII might be the flavor of the week, but Luck still holds the title of flavor of the year. He’s a traditional quarterback who has been prepared for this moment since he was a little boy. Will he ultimately go down as better than his counterpart from Baylor when all is said and done? Check back with us in 15 years.
2. Cleveland Browns (via trade) – Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. This makes sense for all parties involved. The Browns wind up with their franchise quarterback, a role they appear to have finally realized that Colt McCoy was never fit to fill. The Rams, who do have a franchise quarterback that they need to build around, wind up with two great picks – including a higher first round pick than they would have gotten from Washington. Win-win.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC. The Vikings seem more or less secure with their current quarterback situation, even if nobody else is. In keeping with that, they’ll obviously take the best player available at this point, and it just so happens that the best player available also fills a massive need. This team is totally unaffected by anything that happens with the No. 2 pick.
4. St. Louis Rams (via trade) – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. As soon as the Rams made it clear that Sam Bradford was their guy and that they would be moving their No. 2 pick, they also simultaneously made a decision to improve the team in a way that would directly benefit their young passer. Blackmon is the best receiver available by a mile, and Bradford desperately needs a credible target to throw to. Some have Morris Claiborne going off the board at this point – but that’s not going to happen. Again, there is no way that St. Louis bolsters the defense here. The only way this pick doesn’t end up being Blackmon is if the Vikings somehow pass up on Kalil (they won’t).
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. The Bucs desperately need to give their secondary a shot in the arm, and Claiborne is the best available corner in the draft. Ronde Barber is older than the NFL itself. Aqib Talib is Aqib Talib. There is no way that this position doesn’t get addressed in the first round, particularly with a player of Claiborne’s quality still on the board. Aside from Kalil to Minny, this is the biggest lock of the first round.