Here’s my mock draft for this year. I have Seattle selecting Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower at No.12, although I think it will be more likely that they trade down a few spots and to get him.
In my mock South Carolina defensive end/linebacker Melvin Ingram goes to Jacksonville at No. 7 and Kansas City grabs Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 11, so Hightower is the next best linebacker prospect available at an obviously need position for the Seahawks.
Other potential candidates include Alabama safety Mark Barron, who goes to Dallas at No. 14, LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, selected by Philadelphia at No. 15 and David DeCastro, selected by San Diego at No. 18.
I think Hightower makes sense because of his run stuffing ability on first and second downs, and the fact that he can serve as a pass rusher on third down, with K.J. Wright moving to middle linebacker in passing situations. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has said he likes the way Wright patrols the middle of the field with his long wing span in coverage.
Hightower has been a team captain the past two years, so he has good leadership skills. He’s played in a pro-style defense under Nick Saban with multiple looks, so Seattle’s defensive playbook should not overwhelm him. And he’s a good blitzer from his linebacker position.
1. INDIANAPOLIS: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
HT: 6-4 WT: 234
Comment: The most complete QB prospect to enter the draft since John Elway.
2. WASHINGTON (from St. Louis): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
HT: 6-2 WT: 223
Comment: A gifted athlete and thrower, Griffin will ignite Mike Shanahans’s offense.
3. MINNESOTA: Matt Kalil, OT, US
HT: 6-7 WT: 306
Comment: Vikings would like to trade down, but get a cornerstone LT in Kalil.
4. CLEVELAND: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
HT: 5-9 WT: 228
Comment: Mike Holmgren finally finds his Shaun Alexander for the Browns.
5. TAMPA BAY: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
HT: 5-11 WT: 188
Comment: Bucs can wave goodbye to talented but troublesome corner Aqib Talib.
6. ST LOUIS (from Washington): Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
HT: 6-4 WT: 298
Comment: WR Justin Blackman is tempting, but Rams need an anchor up front on defense.
7. JACKSONVILLE: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
HT: 6-2 WT: 264
Comment: Jags need a pass rusher, and the versatile Ingram also can play linebacker.
8. MIAMI: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas &M
HT: 6-4 WT: 221
Comment: Dolphins finally get their quarterback of the future.
9. CAROLINA: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
HT: 6-6 WT: 284
Comment: Plays inconsistent at times on tape, but Coples is the most physically gifted pass rusher in the draft.
10. BUFFALO: Justin Blackman, WR, Oklahoma State
HT: 6-1 WT: 207
Comment: The most talented receiver in the draft, the Bills add a playmaker on offense.
11. KANSAS CITY: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
HT: 6-3 WT: 242
Comment: The Dick Butkus award winner is athletic and a tackling machine.
12. SEATTLE: Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
HT: 6-2 WT: 265
Comment: Hawks might move down to get Hightower, but he fills an obvious need and will be the team’s quarterback on defense for the next 10 years.
13. ARIZONA: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
HT: 6-6 WT: 313
Comment: Reiff has been groomed in a pro-style offense at Iowa and can step in and play right away.
14. Dallas: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
HT: 6-1 WT: 213
Comment: Barron’s a ball hawk who can over cover a lot of ground in the passing game.
15. PHILADELPHIA: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
HT: 6-6 WT: 322
Comment: Brockers offers versatility, with an ability to play both defensive tackle positions.
16. N.Y. JETS: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
HT: 6-2 WT: 272
Comment: Upshaw gives Rex Ryan the edge rusher he’s been looking for.
17. CINCINNATI (from Oakland): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
HT: 6-3 WT: 220
Comment: Bengals bring in another playmaker for young QB Andy Dalton.
18. SAN DIEGO: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
HT: 6-5 WT: 316
Comment: Chargers beef up the offensive line with the best interior blocker in the draft.
19. CHIGAGO: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
HT: 6-4 WT: 261
Comment: Bears can’t pass up one of the most productive pass rushers available.
20. TENNESSEE: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
HT: 6-1 WT: 190
Comment: Gilmore helps replace the void left by Cortland Finnegan leaving for St. Louis.
21. CINCINNATI: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
HT: 6-3 WT: 192
Comment: Kirkpatrick strengthens a pass defense that finished with just 10 picks last year.
22. CLEVELAND (from Atlanta): Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
HT: 6-4 WT: 215
Comment: The most physically talented receiver in the draft, the Browns give Colt McCoy another playmaker.
23. DETROIT: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
HT: 6-7 WT: 314
Comment: Lions add some beef and youth up front offensively with Adams.
24. PITTSBURGH: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
HT: 6-5 WT: 294
Comment: Poe serves as the heir apparent to longtime nose tackle Casey Hampton.
25. DENVER: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
HT: 6-3 WT: 310
Comment: Fills in for the departed Brodrick Bunkley, who left for the Saints in free agency.
26. HOUSTON: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
HT: 5-10 WT: 196
Comment: The Texans pick up a slot receiver with the ability to make people miss in Wright.
27. NEW ENGLAND: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
HT: 6-5 WT: 265
Long arms and an explosive first step make Jones a good fit for the Patriots, who are in need of pass rush help.
28. GREEN BAY: Nick Perry, DE, USC
HT: 6-3 WT: 271
Comment: An explosive athlete, Perry will pair with fellow USC linebacker Clay Matthews III to give the Packers two dangerous pass rushers on the edge.
29. BALTIMORE: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
HT: 6-4 WT: 208
Comment: Ravens needs a replacement for the departed Lee Evans, who joined Jacksonville in free agency.
30. SAN FRANCISCO: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
HT: 6-6 WT: 247
Comment: Fleener is reunited with former college head coach Jim Harbaugh.
31. NEW ENGLAND: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
HT: 6-6 WT: 345
Comment: Patriots are getting long in the tooth along the offensive line.
32. N.Y. GIANTS: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
HT: 5-9 WT: 223
Comment: Giants get a replacement for Brandon Jacobs, who left for San Francisco in free agency.