Well, we’ve now ventured into April and we’re only 25 days away from Draft Day! On that exciting note, I figured I would quickly write up my last mock before Carolina decides on the pick and ruins some of the fun of it.
1. Carolina Panthers – – QB Cam Newton, Auburn
I kept putting it off and putting it off, but I’ve finally bought into the idea of the team actually being willing to use the top choice on the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner. GM Marty Hurney incredibly wasted three picks on QBs last year (2nd on Clausen, traded his 2nd in ’11 for a 3rd in ’10 on Armanti Edwards, and a 6th on Tony Pike), but all signs point to him spending his 1st overall pick this year on the polarizing QB. Though I still think Nick Fairley should be the pick, I feel like I’m hearing this too much to ignore it. To hedge his bet, Hurney may take Locker or Mallett in round 2 as well.
2. Denver Broncos – – DE/DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
With a switch to the 4-3, the team needs a young building block up front to make some plays inside with Dumervil and Ayers on the edge. Dareus is a guy with good intangibles and a relatively “safe pick” for the new chief decision maker in John Elway.
3. Buffalo Bills – – CB Patrick Peterson, Louisiana State
I believe that Dareus is on top of the Bills draft board, but, with him most likely not available, the Bills opt for the LSU playmaker in Peterson. Fairley should be considered here as well, but I don’t believe that Buddy is comfortable enough with taking him 3rd. Corner is an underrated team need and Peterson makes a lot of sense with this pick. Incidentally, this pick makes my day!
4. Cincinnati Bengals – – DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
The rumors that his draft stock is plummeting appears may be unwarranted from what I’ve heard. The Bengals could use a defensive force inside and opt for who they hope can be the next Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson (minus the messy ending).
5. Arizona Cardinals – – OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
With Blaine Gabbert on the board, he would make a lot of sense here. However, HC Ken Whisenhunt’s comments of there not being a Sam Bradford or Matt Ryan-type guy makes me feel they’ll end up going defense with this pick. The team seems to think he can have an instant impact, which will be important for a coach on the hot seat like Ken is.
6. Cleveland Browns – – WR A.J. Green, Georgia
The team is really thin at DE given their switch back to the 3-4, but GM Tom Heckert is a proponent of the “best player available” draft strategy. Despite his recently glowing praise of 2009 2nd round pick Brian Robiskie, Green would be by far the BAP at this pick. They need a legit #1 like Green to pair with their young signal caller in Colt McCoy. If they don’t go Green, I originally had them slated to take Da’Quan Bowers here.
7. San Francisco 49ers – – CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
The new regime needs to address the corner position badly and I also doubt that new coach Jim Harbaugh is ready to hitch his career to Blaine Gabbert. Amukamara can allow for the eventual release of overpriced corner Nate Clements.
8. Tennessee Titans – – QB Jake Locker, Washington
I’m sticking to my guns on this one. The Titans really need an answer at QB, even if it’ll take some time to develop him. The Titans have shown interest in him, attending his Pro Day, scheduling an official visit in April, and having VP of player personnel Ruston Webster going through a private workout with him last Thursday.
9. Dallas Cowboys – – OT Tyron Smith, Southern California
The Cowboys definitely need help at the tackle position, with Doug Free having an up-and-down season at left and Marc Columbo allowing age and injuries catch up with him. Smith is a guy that just keeps getting more and more hyped, a quality Jerry Jones loves in his draft picks (especially if it is a need position).
10. Washington Redskins – – DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson
Bowers drops a little bit, but he’s big enough to play 3-4 end and athletic enough to occasionally bounce out to OLB. He can help create a pass rush with rush backer Brian Orakpo. Gabbert keeps dropping, but I don’t think that the Shanahan/Allen tandem will find him as that much of an improvement on Rex Grossman (who surprised a bit at the end of last season).
11. Houston Texans – – DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
The Texans have a powerful offense, but need to beef up their new scheme under Wade Phillips. Missouri DE/OLB Aldon Smith makes sense here (pretty risky), but the Texans go for the quickly rising Watt to team with Mario Williams and Antonio Smith at the end positions.
12. Minnesota Vikings – – QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
The Vikings need a QB badly and they jump on the plummeting Gabbert out of desperation. They are tempted by Robert Quinn, but need to identify that franchise signal caller. If they buy into Blaine, they aren’t going to let him sneak by.
13. Detroit Lions – – DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina
The team really needs to get that offensive tackle they’ve been longing for to protect Matthew Stafford, but Jim Swartz watched his old boss Jeff Fisher be successful by stockpiling defensive line talent when it becomes available. They grab Quinn and have the foundation for a potentially dominating defensive line in the future.
14. St. Louis Rams – – WR Julio Jones, Alabama
I could see Illinois DT Corey Liuget here, but there’s no way the Rams pass up Jones if he’s still available. There’s a chance that he gets over-drafted, but I feel he’ll fall to 14 and the Rams pick up a young #1 to pair with their young QB.
15. Miami Dolphins – – RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
The Dolphins probably try to move down from this spot, but if they can’t find a suitor they take the best tailback in the class. Ingram’s a complete back that can start as a rookie, but don’t sleep on an OT with this pick either. They could use a young RT to pair with Jake Long.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – – DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
The Jags need someone to generate a pass rush from the edge and they go for the “high motor” Boilermaker. He’s really not worth this pick, but he’s another guy whose stock keeps rising. He seems like a guy that Jacksonville would target.
17. New England Patriots – – DE/OLB Justin Houston, Georgia
A bit early for him, but the Pats are still trying to identify a consistent threat at OLB. Houston is still developing his ability to drop into coverage, but he has the ability to take the corner and collapse the pocket. I thought about Cal’s Cameron Jordan here, but Bill Belichick prefers heavier, space-eaters on his defensive front.
18. San Diego Chargers – – DE Cameron Jordan, California
The Chargers, on the other hand, are not going to pass on Jordan. As I continue saying, the team has so much talent they can do anything here. Jordan can make plays in the backfield and has the potential to be a force at 3-4 end.
19. New York Giants – – RB Mikel LeShoure, Illinois
I still feel that LeShoure is a legitimate target for the Giants here. I have no clue why they still have the headache known as Brandon Jacobs on the roster, especially given his salary. He is just way too vocal for a contributor. LeShoure and Ahmad Bradshaw can form a very good 1-2 punch in the G-Men’s backfield for years to come.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – – C/OG Mike Pouncey, Florida
I’ve been pretty consistent with this one, so I’ll spare you the explanation for the 1,000th time.
21. Kansas City Chiefs – – OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
The Chiefs have virtually no threat of a pass rush outside of Tamba Hali, which makes Aldon Smith a possibility. GM Scott Pioli is a guy that believes in team building in the purest sense. Castonzo is the kind of guy you want in the locker room, and also fills a substantial need for the young Chiefs.
22. Indianapolis Colts – – OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
Best tackle available for a team that will take whatever it can get in that department
23. Philadelphia Eagles – – CB Brandon Harris, Miami
Eagles need a corner opposite Asante Samuel. There are mixed thoughts on Harris, but I think he can be a solid starter on the outside.
24. New Orleans Smith – – DE Aldon Smith, Missouri
Saints need someone who can rush the passer along with Will Smith. Aldon is raw, but he has the potential that personnel guys love
25. Seattle Seahawks – – DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
The Hawks could consider Ryan Mallett or the offensive line, but they decide to bolster the interior of their defense
26. Baltimore Ravens – – OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
The Ravens have met with Sherrod a few times and have a need at right tackle. GM Ozzie Newsome would prefer it if Brandon Harris dropped, but Texas CB Aaron Williams is too high here. The sleeper pick here Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson.
27. Atlanta Falcons – – TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
Gonzo doesn’t have much left in him and may not play again if there’s a lockout this season. TE too important in that offense
28. New England – – NT Marvin Austin, North Carolina
Austin fits the build and love for the game for Belichick’s liking. I’m not that high on him, but many believe he can be a cog on the line for years. There is talk that SD could move up to this pick, but I think they would also be targeting Austin with this pick (or possibly Jonathan Baldwin).
29. Chicago Bears – – OT Nate Solder, Colorado
Not very physical and lacks technique, but he has the raw tools that line coach Mike Tice will like to work with
30. New York Jets – – NT Phil Taylor, Baylor
Jets released incumbent Kris Jenkins and are looking for that space eater up front. May look for Jonathan Baldwin here if Braylon Edwards leaves via free agency. They are similar receivers, right down to personality
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – – OG Danny Watkins, Baylor
Wow, back-to-back Baylor picks in the 1st? Never thought I’d say that, but it’s no secret the Steelers need offensive line help. Watkins is a blue-collar kind of player that Pittsburgh covets. They may reach for Aaron Williams here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if last year’s 5th rounder Crezdon Butler earns a starting spot this year
32. Green Bay Packers – – DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
Looks like Jolly won’t ever play football again due to his recent drug charge and Cullen Jenkins will probably cost too much to retain. They like last year’s 2nd, Purdue’s Mike Neal, but I don’t think they pass on Heyward if he’s available.