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Mocking It Up: Consensus Develops Among Top Six Picks

Posted Apr 24, 2012

In our annual survey of what the various online mock drafts are predicting for the Buccaneers’ first-round selectin, we see a strong agreement among the experts as to who the first half-dozen selections will be


A year ago, a survey of the NFL mock draft landscape found little consensus as to who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would select in the first round.

 

There is, however, a big difference between picking 20th and picking fifth.

 

As we do every year in the days before the draft, Buccaneers.com has surveyed the mock drafts of the most prominent online analysts, and this spring it is a chorus of common voices.  In fact, not only is there almost universal agreement on which player will put on a Tampa Bay hat Thursday night inside New York’s Radio City Music Hall, there’s little disagreement over any of the first six presumed selections.

 

To cut right to the chase: NFL analysts across the land now fully expect the Buccaneers to land on Lousiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne with the fifth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.  The task of predicting the top 10 has been made quite a bit easier this year by the fact that Indianapolis and Washington have obviously settled on quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin II, respectively, with the first two selections.  While many analysts clearly still like the idea of Alabama running back Trent Richardson pairing up with the Bucs, most now expect him to come off the board one pick earlier, to Cleveland at #4.

 

Of course, none of this reflects the actual thinking that is taking place inside the draft rooms in Cleveland or Tampa Bay.  It’s quite possible that the common perception of who the Browns and Buccaneers covet is off base; Tampa Bay General Manager Mark Dominik said late last week, in fact, that his team’s options at #5 are still plentiful.

 

But this is a study of what the Buccaneers (and Browns, and Vikings, who pick at #3) are expected to do by external sources, not an attempt to suss out the teams’ actual intentions, and to that end there is almost universal agreement.  Of the 20 mock drafts selected for this year’s survey, 19 believe Claiborne is soon to be a Buccaneer.

 

All 20 mock drafters still believe that the Vikings will make USC tackle Matt Kalil the first player off the board after the Luck and Griffin coronations, and that leaves both Richardson and Claiborne in the mix at number four.  Since 19 of the 20 experts agree that the Browns covet Richardson, it is easy for them to slot Claiborne in next.

 

Only CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco dissents, ever so slightly.  He predicts the Browns will go with Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon at #4, leaving the Bucs the options of Claiborne or Richardson.  It’s Prisco’s opinion that the Bucs would then tab Richardson, leaving Claiborne to go sixth overall to the St. Louis Rams.  Of the 19 drafters who gave Richardson to the Browns and Claiborne to the Bucs, 15 expect the Rams to nab Blackmon.

 

What a difference a year makes.  Last year, despite the fact that almost every analyst believed (correctly, as it would turn out) that Tampa Bay was honing in on the defensive end position in the first round, there still was little agreement on which player it would be.  That’s not surprising.  There are so many variables before the 20th pick in a mock draft comes around that it would be more surprising if there was a strong consensus.  Anyway, 19 of the 20 analysts in that survey matched the Bucs with a pass-rusher, and the most common choice was Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers.  Coincidentally, the Buccaneers did draft Bowers, but not until the second round after taking Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn at #20 overall.  Only NFL.com’s Brian Baldinger correctly predicted the Clayborn selection, among the 20 mock drafts included in the survey.

 

Below are the 20 analysts in this year’s study, listed with the picks they have predicted for both the Buccaneers and their NFC South foes, the Carolina Panthers, who pick ninth overall.  Neither the Atlanta Falcons nor New Orleans Saints own a first-round pick heading into Thursday. The numbers in parentheses by each team represent where the teams are scheduled to pick in the first round. The players are identified by last name; their full names, positions and colleges are listed at the bottom of the page.

 

Analyst

Site*

TB (5)

CAR (9)

Mel Kiper

ESPN.com

Claiborne

Poe

Todd McShay

ESPN.com

Claiborne

Cox

Bucky Brooks

NFL.com

Claiborne

Coples

Chad Reuter

NFL.com

Claiborne

Cox

Charles Davis

NFL.com

Claiborne

Cox

Steve Wyche

NFL.com

Claiborne

Poe

Charley Casserly

NFL.com

Claiborne

Cox

Albert Breer

NFL.com

Claiborne

Coples

Don Banks

SI.com

Claiborne

Gilmore

Peter King

SI.com

Claiborne

Cox

Evan Silva

ProFootballTalk.com

Claiborne

Gilmore

Wes Bunting

Yahoo.com

Claiborne

Poe

Dane Brugler

CBSSports.com

Claiborne

Kuechly

Rob Rang

CBSSports.com

Claiborne

Blackmon

Pat Kirwan

CBSSports.com

Claiborne

Gilmore

Pete Prisco

CBSSports.com

Richardson

Floyd

Clark Judge

CBSSports.com

Claiborne

Kuechly

Correspondents

ProFootballWeekly.com

Claiborne

Brockers

Staff

Sportingnews.com

Claiborne

Kuechly

Barry Wilner

Associated Press

Claiborne

Ingram

 

* Some of the listed sites, such as Yahoo.com, partnered with analysts whose mock drafts also appear on other sites.  All mock drafts surveyed were the most recent ones posted online by each expert by the morning of Tuesday, April 24.  Further updates could follow.

 

Again, any pick other than Morris Claiborne for the Buccaneers will come as a surprise to the assembled experts, and would probably throw just about every mock draft into disarray.  Two years ago, there was a similar shared belief that the Buccaneers would take Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in the first round of the 2010 draft, but that was even easier to predict.  The Bucs were picking third that year, and it was widely believed that St. Louis would start the round with Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.  McCoy and Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh were, for the most part, considered the best remaining prospects, and since the Bucs had an obvious need at the position, it wasn’t hard to make that connection.  Suh went second to Detroit and the Bucs did indeed prove the mock drafters right by grabbing McCoy.

 

There is some consensus as what the Carolina Panthers will do at #9, in that nine of the 20 analysts give them a defensive tackle and another three have predicted a defensive end selection.  There seems to be far less agreement, however, on the order that the top DTs should be drafted, so the Panther predictions range from Memphis’ Dontari Poe to LSU’s Michael Brockers to Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox.  Poe is one of the more interesting subjects in the mock draft survey; he goes as high as the Panthers’ ninth-overall pick in some of the efforts but can also be seen in the lower third of th eround in others, as far down as #29 in that of CBSSports.com’s Pat Kirwan.

 

Many analysts have identified Luck, Griffin, Kalil, Claiborne, Richardson and Blackmon as the top tier of talent in this year’s draft pool, so it’s not surprising that there is so much agreement on what the first half-dozen picks will be.  Interestingly, though, there are a few places farther down the first round where picks converge on the same idea, too.

 

For instance, there is a very strong shared belief that the Denver Broncos will target a defensive tackle with the 25th overall selection.  Obviously, this is considered an area of serious need for the Broncos, and since this year’s draft class is considered deep at the position, there is usually still at least one well-regarded DT left when #25 rolls around.  Of the 20 mock drafts in this survey, 17 matched the Broncos with one of three defensive tackles: Brockers, Jerel Worthy and Devon Still.

 

Similarly, there is obvious temptation to match the Dallas  Cowboys with Alabama safety Mark Barron at #14 overall.  That’s the pick on 14 of the 20 mocks.  Barron should probably hope that happens; in three of the six mocks in which he didn’t go to the Cowboys, he had to wait until the 23rd pick or later to see his name.

 

If the Buccaneers do prove the mock drafters right and take Claiborne, it would mark the highest pick the team has ever spent on a cornerback.  That honor so far belongs to Aqib Talib, the 20th overall pick in the 2008 draft.  The same would not be true if the Bucs went with Richardson at #5.  Tampa Bay spent the same pick on running back in 2005, on Auburn’s Cadillac Williams, and have gone even higher than that, taking Ricky Bell and Bo Jackson first overall in 1977 and 1986, respectively.

 

After the nearly unanimous top-six picks in the assembled mock drafts, the wheel starts to wobble just a bit to finish the top 10.  The most common choices to finish out the top 10 are South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram to Jacksonville, Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill to Miami, Cox to Carolina and Iowa T Riley Reiff to Buffalo.

 

The player who appears to be the biggest wild card in the middle third of the round is Stanford guard David DeCastro.  The 20 mock drafts predict landing spots with six different teams between picks #12 and #21: Arizona, Cincinnati (at two different spots), Dallas, Kansas City, San Diego and Seattle.

 

Every draft in the survey has Tannehill going among the first 11 picks.  However, only a few analysts think a fourth quarterback will be drafted in the opening round.  That potential fourth passer is Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, who is paired with Cleveland at #22 by two analysts and with New England at #27 by a third.

 

There is, of course, far less consensus with the final five or six picks of the first round in the 20 mock drafts.  Thus, it’s difficult to know how that portion of Thursday evening’s selections will impact the Buccaneers’ next pick, which is four into the second round and #36 overall.  First things first, though, it’s Round #1 on Thursday night; soon it will be clear how well the various NFL analysts have predicted what the Buccaneeres intend to do.

 

(Players listed, in alphabetical order: Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon, LSU DT Michael Brockers, LSU CB Morris Claiborne, North Carolina DE Quenton Coples, Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox, Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd, South Carolina CB Stephen Gilmore, South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram, Penn State LB Luke Kuechly, Memphis DT Dontari Poe, Alabama RB Trent Richardson.)

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