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NFL teams will focus on needs, not athletes

By JIM WALKER

Tribune Sports Editor

 

Will it be needs or best athlete?

That’s the question for NFL teams as they approach the first round of the draft Thursday.

Ironton assistant football coach Bart Burcham is handicapping the NFL draft yet again and looks to add to his impressive record in the past for matching players not only in the first round but also to their projected team.

Burcham said he is predicting who teams will select even if he disagrees with the selection. In most cases, he expects teams to try and fill a need first instead of looking at the best athlete on the board.

Here are his first round predictions:

1. Indianapolis: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. He’s the most for-sure pick. It might take a couple of years because they’re starting over.

2. Washington: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. He can be good, but I don’t like (coach Mike) Shanahan. He can make things happen.

3. Minnesota: Matt Kalil, OT, USC. Defense is getting old, but one cornerback doesn’t help them. They have to score and protect their quarterback.

4. Cleveland: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. If it was me, I’d pick Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon, but they’ll go with Richardson.

5. Tampa Bay: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. This gives them two good corners and they got two defensive linemen last year. The offense still needs work.

6. St. Louis: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. They need a receiver for Sam Bradford. He was getting tagged last year.

7. Jacksonville: Melvin Ingram, DE-OLB, South Carolina. Their defense might be worse than their offense.

8. Miami: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. I wouldn’t, but they will. They need a quarterback and their offensive coordinator was his college coach. He’s a converted wide receiver. It’ll be two years before he can play.

9. Carolina: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State. Their offense can score. They have to get their defense better. He’s strong against the run.

10. Buffalo: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa. The defense is good but they need offensive line or wide receiver. They need a second receiver and they may take Malcolm Floyd.

11. Kansas City: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College. He could go higher to Tampa Bay or St. Louis. He might be the best inside linebacker in the draft.

12. Seattle: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. They need a pass rusher.

13. Arizona: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. They need someone opposite Fitzgerald. He’s faster than you think.

14. Dallas: Mark Barron, S, Alabama. Their secondary is so bad. He’s the best safety in the draft and one of the most solid players in the draft.

15. Philadelphia: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis. He has good size and ran a good 40 at the combine, but he just didn’t produce.

16. New York Jets: Chandler Jones, DE-OLB, Syracuse. He has good size and speed and a good pass rusher.

17. Cincinnati: David DeCastro, G, Stanford. He’s a beast. He can pull. This is a good pick.

18. San Diego: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia. He can play guard or right tackle.

19. Chicago: Steven Gilmore, CB, South Carolina. Their secondary was bad last year and they’re in the division with Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford.

20. Tennessee: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. They lost their best corner. This is a good fit.

21. Cincinnati: Steven Hill, WR, Georgia Tech. They wanted one of the two corners already taken. Hill beat A.J. Green by three steps when they ran against each other in workouts.

22. Cleveland: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. He’s another speed guy who caught a bunch of touchdowns. He can fly.

23. Detroit: Johnson Martin, OT, Stanford. They need offensive line help bad. This guy is a monster.

24. Pittsburgh: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama. He’s a throwback to James Farrier. They need someone inside. He can run and big. It’s a major need area.

25. Denver: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU. Their defense was good but they need to upgrade their defensive line.

26. Houston: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford. They lost their tight end in free agency.

27. New England: Courtney Upshaw, DE-OLB, Alabama. He’s one of those guys Belichick likes who can rush the passer or drop back in coverage.

28. Green Bay: Nick Perry, DE, USC. Their pass rush was bad last year.

29. Baltimore: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin. They could take Harrison Smith from Notre Dame at safety, but their center is getting old.

30. San Francisco: Keith Zeitler, G, Wisconsin. They’ve got wide receivers, but they still have Alex Smith. They’re one guy from having the best offensive line in the NFL.

31 New England: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame. It’s going to be a deep back if they take something else with their first pick

32. New York Giants: Bobby Massie, OT, Mississippi. Their offensive line was shaky and they have some guys getting older. They may go with Fleener if Houston doesn’t take him.