I know, I know I’ve already had two shots at this. However, I’ve just about finalized my own draft board today (I don’t take much stock into Pro Days because I feel things should be on an even playing field) and I’ve got draft fever.
Without further excuses for my love of the draft, here is my updated mock…
1. Carolina Panthers–DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
GM Marty Hurney is a guy that is not short on confidence. He may be the only Clausen backer left, but I doubt he goes QB with this pick despite the possibility of his job being on the line. With the same logic, I don’t think he’s ready to say that DE Everette Brown (traded 2010 1st rounder to select him 43rd overall in 2009) is a bust either (which I’d agree with). Addressing the defensive tackle position will improve this team the most and the Panthers select the beast from Auburn to shore it up.
2. Denver Broncos–CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
Even though my childhood hero John Elway (I’ll admit it, I didn’t become a die-hard Bills fan until the 2000’s) is calling the shots now, I have a feeling he’ll let GM Brian Xanders have a big say on draft day and Xanders likes him some cornerbacks. I realize they just signed Champ Bailey to a 4-year extension, but they shipped off Alfonso Smith, Perrish Cox is caught up in a legal battle regarding some pretty dicey charges, and Syd’Quan Thompson is a wild-card. I feel Thompson can become a starter in this league, but that’s not a chance I would take with Peterson on the board. This is a defense that needs help on all three levels, so why not get the best corner tandem in the NFL? It would also allow for Eddie Royal to concentrate on improving as a receiver, assuming they allow the nation’s most dynamic returner to handle those duties in Denver as well.
3. Buffalo Bills–DE/DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
It’s well documented why I feel the Bills are so passionate about Texas A&M OLB Von Miller. However, I’ve recently had a change of heart. Buddy Nix is usually a straight-shooter and doesn’t really play mind games. The team does probably like Miller a lot, but in an interview Nix said “We do have a good bunch of young guys. We feel good about outside linebacker and we need some good inside backers. Some bigger, stronger guys to help stop the run.” If he does feel comfortable with outside linebacker, I believe they will continue their youth movement in the trenches. Dareus has versatility along the front and shows up in big games (not just the National Championship, but the Capital One Bowl this past season). I wouldn’t disregard Peterson if he’s available either, though. Nix witnessed the Chargers being successful by taking an impact corner out of Texas in the top 5 back in 2002, Quentin Jammer.
4. Cincinnati Bengals–QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
Quickly becoming the league’s most dysfunctional organization, the Bengals are unpredictable with this pick. There are some rumors for Prince Amukamara with this pick (and allowing Jonathan Joseph to walk), but Joseph would be willing to play in Cincinnati while their starting QB is not. I’m torn as to which one they would opt for, either Newton or Gabbert. In the end, I feel they go for the player whom the pundits gush about.
5. Arizona Cardinals–OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
Disappointed, Rod Graves begins executing his Plan B of trying to get a QB in round 2. With their pass rushers aging, the Cards try to add some young blood to their LB corps. I’m one of the few doubters, but as far as most the league’s concerned, Arizona picks up one of the “sure-fire” impact guys in the draft. [On a side note, the over/under on how many times my favorite analyst Mike Mayock says “unbelievable” after the pick is made is 6.]
6. Cleveland Browns–DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson
As bad as I’ve been wanting to give young Colt McCoy an actual receiving threat in A.J. Green, in the end, the Browns need to add some 4-3 talent into the mix. Bowers reportedly has been dropping due to medical concerns, but the Browns use the 6th choice to try and give themselves a young building block. The offensive-minded Mike Holmgren saw the impact of a dominant pass rusher in Reggie White and can’t pass up the freak of an athlete that some scouts compare to Julius Peppers.
7. San Francisco 49ers–CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
The 49ers are maintaining a 3-4 scheme, which means they are still in the market for that pass rushing outside backer. With Von Miller off the board, the Niners fill a huge need at CB by taking the Nebraska product. The 49ers have some of the league’s worst depth at corner and this move will pave the way for the eventual release of ridiculously overpaid Nate Clements down the road.
8. Tennessee Titans–QB Jake Locker, Washington
The first “ooo’s” and “ahh’s” on this Thursday night. The team’s two biggest needs are QB and DT. GM Mike Reinfeldt is always tempted by defensive lineman and debates Robert Quinn here, but in the end he goes for his future QB. He has a little time to develop assuming Kerry Collins comes back to the squad. Locker has the potential to become one of the league’s best if he can improve his footwork that leads to his inconsistent accuracy. With that offensive line, CJ2K, and Kenny Britt, they are a good QB away from being a dangerous football team.
9. Dallas Cowboys–DE Cam Jordan, California
With both the top corners off the board, the Cowboys think about trying to address their offensive line woes. The Doug Free experiment went horribly at times last season and Marc Columbo just isn’t getting the job done (when he’s actually healthy enough to get on the field). Anthony Castonzo is considered for that reason, but instead they add to their defensive line rotation and go for the physical and quick Cal product. Jerry Jones loves media magnets and when he can get a talented one on top of it, he usually goes for it.
10. Washington Redskins–OT Tryon Smith, USC
The ‘Skins could use a QB and Cam Newton’s name has been thrown around a lot recently. They are also in desperate need for some help defensively and Quinn is heavily considered with this choice to team with Orakpo at OLB. Anthony Armstrong doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators like A.J. Green would, but it all starts in the trenches and the ‘Skins are horrible in this department. They drafted the athletic Trent Williams 4th overall last year and they add a very athletic (albeit raw) bookend tackle in 2011.
11. Houston Texas–WR A.J. Green, Georgia
Finally, one of the most talented players in the draft gets selected. They would’ve liked to add Amukamara to their terrible secondary, but they aren’t going to reach for a corner. There is a lot of talk about the team needing a “Wade Phillips pass rusher,” which puts Quinn and Missouri DE/OLB Aldon Smith up for debate here. However, one of the most explosive offenses in the league just got borderline unstoppable. With Matt Schaub, an underrated offensive line, the best wideout in the game in Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Arian Foster, and now A.J. Green, this team becomes an absolute nightmare to scheme against. Houston fans, get ready for some 56-49 games!
12. Minnesota Vikings–QB Cam Newton, Auburn
As far as the Vikings are concerned, this is a relatively easy pick. They like hoarding defensive line talent, making them consider Quinn here. However, they just extended Brian Robison and feel they can get by pairing him with Jared Allen. From what I’ve heard, the team has very little faith in Joe Webb as a future starting QB (for good reason). They’ve also scheduled a private workout with Cam. If the Vikes feel they can build around him, they’re not passing on a guy they think has franchise potential.
13. Detroit Lions–OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
This is a tough one for the Lions. They could go for DE, OLB, CB, or even Julio Jones to end some of the double and triple coverages that Calvin Johnson sees on a weekly basis. However, it’s time they protect their investment in Matthew Stafford and generate something resembling a running game. It doesn’t help an injury-prone QB when your offensive line is as porous as Detroit’s is. They can pair the two Boston College Eagles at tackle, shifting incumbent LT Jeff Backus to guard. A sleeper pick here is RB Mark Ingram. They need a back to split carries with Jahvid Best (now that they’ve cut ties with Kevin Smith) and that would be a great 1-2 punch for years to come.
14. St. Louis Rams–WR Julio Jones, Alabama
They consider Robert Quinn to pair up with Chris Long, but the Rams want to add a wideout badly to help out their young QB. Julio Jones lasts despite his awesome combine.
15. Miami Dolphins–RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
With Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams likely not returning, the Fins are desperate for a RB. If Newton lasts, I wouldn’t be surprised if they take him here. However, this is too good of a fit to pass up. The Heisman trophy winner can start and be a three-down player as a rookie.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars–DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
The Jaguars continue their effort to improve the defensive front and they do it again in shocking fashion. Despite the fact that no one predicted Robert Quinn would keep slipping, they have their heart set on Kerrigan being their high energy guy that can add a spark. They also think about the U’s Brandon Harris here, but they decide they need to generate a pass rush if they’re going to compete in the same division as the Colts and Texans. Robert Quinn quickly becomes the green room story of the draft.
17. New England Patriots (via OAK)–DE/OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
The Patriots debate nabbing J.J. Watt here, but instead they go for the guy no one could have imagined falling to this pick. New England probably expected their best shot at a pass rusher would be Justin Houston, and they are more than willing to take a chance on Quinn.
18. San Diego Chargers–DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
The Chargers can do anything with this pick to add to the most talented roster in football. They opt for the defensive end that had a good shorts season and started soaring up draft boards.
19. New York Giants–RB Mikel LeShoure, Illinois
The G-men’s most pressing need is probably linebacker, but Bruce Carter and Akeem Ayers aren’t really worth this pick. However, assuming they get a deal done with Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs is making way too much to justify his locker room headaches and lack of production. They cut him loose and add a workhorse-type back.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers–OG Mike Pouncey, Florida
I’ve been pretty consistent in my mocks assuming that the Bucs go for the brother of Steelers All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey can start early on at guard opposite Davin Joseph. He can also fill in at center if necessary.
21. Kansas City Chiefs–OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri
They franchise tagged their best pass rusher in Tamba Hali, but they could use someone bringing the heat opposite him. Mike Vrabel is essentially a non-factor rushing the passer at this point in his career. Aldon is raw, but has the physical tools that I’m sure a coach will want to work with.
22. Indianapolis Colts–OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
At this point, the Colts are pretty much resigned to taking the best tackle available when the 22nd pick rolls around. That offensive line is so terrible they need to give Peyton more time in the pocket. They also need a mauler that can open up some running lanes and Carimi most certainly fits the bill for the latter.
23. Philadelphia Eagles–CB Brandon Harris, Miami
The Eagles were hoping to add Carimi with this pick, but with him off the board they try to fill in their #2 corner position with Harris. They need someone else who can cover besides Asante Samuel and they don’t reach for an offensive lineman for the sake of it with this pick.
24. New Orleans Saints–DE/OLB Justin Houston, Georgia
The Saints need to add a pass rusher to comply with Gregg Williams’ aggressive defense. Will Smith is getting older and needs some help. Houston has the burst to reinvigorate that defense a bit.
25. Seattle Seahawks–QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
The Seahawks take the day’s biggest gamble by nabbing the strong-armed Mallett. He’s got off the charts character issues, but the Seahawks are undervaluing Matt Hasselbeck in contract negotiations and he will likely walk. Whitehurst showed flashes, but the team didn’t show much faith in him last season. They take a chance on finding their future signal caller.
26. Baltimore Ravens–DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
The Ravens would like to add a corner, so Aaron Williams would be an option here. However, GM Ozzie Newsome likes scooping up draft-day fallers and Clayborn fits the bill. He’s a highly-touted player that gets lost in a numbers game at his position.
27. Atlanta Falcons–TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
I still feel that GM Thomas Dimitroff nabs his succession plan at the tight end position. Tony Gonzalez will probably retire after the season (if there is one), and the tight end is integral in their offense.
28. New England Patriots–RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
The Patriots hardly ever add running backs this early, which makes me feel they will trade out of this pick. However, if they stay, they could add the productive, but injury-prone Hokie to their stable of backs.
29. Chicago Bears–OT Nate Solder, Colorado
Questions about his technique are causing his stock to plummet, but the Bears desperately need to add a tackle with athleticism. They were so poor in pass protection, Mike Martz was forced to tailor an offense completely unlike anything he had ever run before. While they were successful, I doubt Martz will want to run that much ever again. They add a guy they hope line coach Mike Tice can work with.
30. New York Jets–NT Phil Taylor, Baylor
The Jets have talked about bringing back recently cut NT Kris Jenkins at a reduced rate, but he could probably get a better deal in the open market despite his injury history. As a result, the Jets get his replacement at the end of the 1st round.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers–OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
Not necessarily thought of as a first rounder, but the Steelers need an influx of talent at the offensive tackle position. Sherrod can open up some running lanes and can replace short-term band aid Flozell Adams.
32. Green Bay Packers–DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
With Cullen Jenkins likely departing via free agency, the team would like to add a replacement to the rotation. They are so deep at seemingly every position, but they opt for the former Buckeye.