Claiborne may be first defensive player drafted

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South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore (5) isn’t far behind LSU’s Morris Claiborne as the draft’s top defensive back prospect.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

1. Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

When comparing Luck to Griffin Robert Griffin III, it’s easy to overlook Luck’s athleticism. But the Stanford product ran the fourth-best 40 yard dash among quarterbacks, turned in the fourth-best vertical leap and had the furthest broad jump. He’s much, much more athletic than Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. Luck’s arm and touch could eventually put him in that upper-echelon of NFL quarterbacks, though: He ranked seventh in the NCAA with a 71.3 completion percentage, sixth with 8.7 yards per attempt and tied for fifth with a touchdown percentage of 9.2 — meaning for every 100 passes he attempted, roughly 10 of them were for touchdowns. But will he have anybody besides Reggie Wayne to throw to in Indy?

2. Washington Redskins (from the Rams), Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Bear with me here, but I like the Heisman Winner from Baylor better than I do Luck. In those aforementioned passing metrics, RG3 ranks better than Luck — third in completion percentage, first in yards per attempt, a tie with Luck in touchdown percentage and also a interception percentage that ranked among the best in the country (1.4, good for 12th). Luck, on the other hand, threw an interception 2.1 percent of the time he put the ball in the air — 46th in the country.

It really is arguable that Griffin III is a better passing prospect than Luck. It’s unarguable that he’s a better athlete (best 40 time of any QB, best vertical leap), one who put up whopping rushing numbers in college with 2,943 total yards and 10 games of triple-digit yardage in essentially three seasons.

One last stat: His passer-efficiency rating in 2011 was the second best ever.

3. Minnesota Vikings, Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State

USC tackle Matt Kalil has been penciled in at this spot since the Combine, but it won’t be too surprising if the Vikings elect to go with this year’s best cornerback. In a division where you’re facing Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler (not to mention, Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall) twice a year, you need to be able to stop the pass.

Offensive tackles aren’t full-proof options, either. Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Trent Williams are recent examples of top-10 tackles whose teams (St. Louis, Jacksonville and Washington, respectively) rank among the worst in the league (32nd, 27th, 26th, also respectively). Take Claiborne and give yourself a secondary to build on.

4. Cleveland Browns, Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Montario Hardesty, Greg Little, Ben Watson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Chris Ogbonnaya ... I don’t care who your quarterback is, or who you’ve got on the offensive line; you’re not winning many games with that core of skill players. That’s why the Browns have to get the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. Cleveland traded down last year (and drafted a defensive tackle, Phil Taylor, at 21) in order to stockpile picks. Those picks need to be used to help give a quarterback — for now it’s Colt McCoy — a prayer at winning games in the AFC North. Richardson steps in and starts from day one.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

With Claiborne and Richardson off the board, the Bucs have to reach a bit here to get a cornerback, but it’s a major position of need. Ronde Barber has very little left in the tank and the troubled Aqib Talib is being shopped.