1. Carolina Panthers – Nick Fairley – Auburn DT – The Panthers will take a good hard look at Gabbert, you can bet on that. But Gabbert still has a lot of work to do to get his stock up. With Fairley, it’s just the opposite. At this point, I can’t imagine Fairley doing much at the combine other than doing his best Eddie Haskell impression in team interviews. He’s the consensus #1 prospect and his stock can only go down from here.
V 1.0 pick: Nick Fairley
2. Denver Broncos – Blaine Gabbert – Missouri QB – My top 2 remain unchanged. Neither of the top 2 prospects have done anything new up for evaluation since the offseason evaluation period began. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Broncos quarterback situation unfolds. Orton is the obvious 2011 starter. Elway didn’t give Tebow a vote of confidence. Brady Quinn has proven he’s anything but a capable NFL starter. I think it’s clear this organization needs their franchise QB and Gabbert will be the guy.
V 1.0 pick: Blaine Gabbert
3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller – Texas A&M OLB - Von Miller is everything Aaron Maybin was supposed to be – an explosive force off the edge. Miller not only has the burst but he can tackle in open space and cover too. He blew up the Senior Bowl, which is incredible given that he came into Senior Bowl week with the most hype of any prospect there and actually helped his stock. There was no question he was the best player on the field in that game. And who was on the sidelines witnessing the practices all week and the game? Bills head coach, Chan Gailey. The Bills take the best rush OLB prospect in the draft, satisfy a need, and take a huge step forward as an organization.
V 1.0 pick: D’Quan Bowers
4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green – Georgia WR- You could make a case for Green being the best player in the draft. And before you huff and puff over T.O. and Chad already being there, remember the Lions took Calvin Johnson without a great need at receiver (and a bad rep for taking 1st round wideouts) – do you think they regret that one? T.O. has an injury situation and serious career doubts there now, and even if the Bengals don’t trade Chad Johnson, which I think they will, they will still need a future #1 receiver. Chad is#2 now anyways and Green will need time to grow, so it could help to have Chad taking safety attention away for now while Green learns the complexities of playing wide receiver in the NFL. The Bengals get a future stud here, a player who could be in the discussion with the Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson types down the line.
V 1.0 pick: Robert Quinn
5. Arizona Cardinals – D’Quan Bowers – Clemson DE - I’ve said it all along, this is way, way too early for a QB. I think the Cardinals will try to trade back to load up with more picks. Maybe a team will be so worried about all the QB needy teams from 6-15, that they trade up here because they HAVE to have their QB at 5, like the Jets with Sanchez. The tackles Anthony Costanzo, Nate Solder and Gabe Carimi didn’t really help their stock all that much at the Senior Bowl, so I think it’s too soon to satisfy that desperate need here. The Cardinals need pass rush. Bowers can be the franchise rusher this team needs, whether it’s at end or rush linebacker.
V 1.0 pick: Gabe Carimi
6. Cleveland Browns – Robert Quinn – North Carolina DE - The word around the campfire is that the Browns plan to work in more 4-3 base stuff into their defense next year. I think with an aging defensive line, they’ll have plenty of choices here for a foundation for that 4 man front. Quinn is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end and could be the building piece for at 4-3 transition. He’s got a motor coaches love in players and comes from that Butch Davis pro-style coaching at UNC.
v 1.0 pick: A.J. Green
7. San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Peterson – LSU CB - This still looks like a pretty good lock to be Peterson. It fits a need and Peterson is a top-notch talent in this draft class. The Niners defense could approach NFL-elite levels with a pick like this. Like the all the other top 15 teams in this draft, the Niners will have their pickings of all those 2nd round project QB’s like Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, and Ricky Stanzi, who could provide much better value than reaching on a QB here.
V 1.0 pick: Patrick Peterson
8. Tennessee Titans – Marcell Dareus – Alabama DT – Do the Titans force a QB pick here to start their new regime? Don’t think so. The Titans just got done paying for making that mistake in 2006 with Vince Young. Dareus is a good fit for the 4-3 personnel the Titans already have in place. Dareus will be able to break into the league slowly behind Jason Jones and Tony Brown. He’s what the Titans like in their interior lineman – pass rushers first who want to burst up-field off the snap. All the sudden this team has quite the young stable of d-lineman going forward.
v 1.0 pick: Marcel Dareus
9. Dallas Cowboys – Prince Amukamara – Nebraska CB - Prince seems to be a victim of the fact that he’s done nothing up for evaluation since the evaluation period began. Once the Combine rolls around and he has his pro day he’ll pick up some more momentum as far as his draft stock. Prince would give the Cowboys a long-term replacement for Terrence Newman while putting pressure on Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick, who both struggled mightily for the Cowboys in 2010. Beyond fitting a need, Prince would be a talent upgrade to an aging defense.
v 1.0 pick: Cameron Heyward
10. Washington Redskins – Julio Jones – Alabama WR - Count the Redskins in with the Niners as a team who will be looking QB in the second round. It’s just much better value and there’s still so many more talented prospects left on the board than the QB’s available. With that thinking in mind, I have them taking the best receiving prospect left. Julio is the legit #1 receiving talent the Redskins have desperately needed. Desperate need meets value here for the Redskins.
v 1.0 pick: Julio Jones
11. Houston Texans – Justin Houston – Georgia DE/OLB - Unfortunately for Texans fans, Von Miller’s studness has been unearthed and it seems like the bigger the microscope on the guy, the more his stock rises. I don’t see him getting past the Cardinals at #5. I think at this point there’s a pool of highly talented players to choose from and not necessarily an obvious slam-dunk talent. The Texans will have their choice of rush linebackers and the best 3 available are Justin Houston, Akeem Ayers, and Ryan Kerrigan. I’m beginning to question Ayers’ ability to translate to the 3-4 rush linebacker position, only because he played so much 4-3 WILL linebacker in college. He covered way more than I had thought when I looked at him closer. He would be the pick here for the Texans if they were still in their 4-3, but with the 3-4 switch, they have to land a safe rush OLB who can mash heads with a 6’7″ 300lb offensive tackle for 60 snaps a game, like he’ll be seeing weekly in the NFL. Can Ayers do that with his slender frame? Justin Houston has that elite 10-sack a year potential with nasty burst and legit strength and size.
v 1.0 pick: Von Miller
12. Minnesota Vikings – Cameron Jordan – California DE -I previously went with Mallet here, but that was a reach then and the Senior Bowl gave guys like Cameron Jordan the spotlight to leapfrog all the inactive prospects. Everyone has Jordan going to 3-4 teams, but at the Senior Bowl Cam Jordan dominated as a 3-tech too. He’s a disruptive interior force, simply put. With Pat Williams becoming a free agent, the value of Cam Jordan meets a need too. He’ll have the best 3-tech in football next to him taking away attention too, in Kevin Williams. The Vikings 4-man wall won’t miss a beat with the addition of Jordan.
v 1.0 pick: Ryan Mallet
13. Detroit Lions – Akeem Ayers – UCLA OLB - The Lions need to get to work on their defense, because the offense has proven it can light up the scoreboard when the right QB is playing. Despite a stout developing 4-man front already in place, the Lions need 2 starting caliber corners and 2 outside linebackers to help DeAndre Levy in the middle. Also a safety next to Louis Delmas wouldn’t hurt either. Ayers gives them the big-time outside linebacker of their dreams. He’ll slot in as the SAM at first, covering tight ends and breaking up runs to the strong side. Eventually he can become an every down player. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this guy get 4-5 sacks and 3-4 picks a year even as a 4-3 outside backer when he hits his prime. He’s all over the field and can do a lot of things.
v 1.0 pick: Prince Amukamara
14. St. Louis Rams – Jonathan Baldwin – Pittsburgh WR - I like Donnie Avery and think he can be a big-play receiver for this team if he recovers well from his injury, but they need a #1 horse wideout that can be the 3rd down go-to possession receiver for Bradford. Baldwin is a freak, he’s huge and can run. How fast he runs will dictate his draft stock. If he runs halfway decently, he’ll be a top 20 pick. The Rams all the sudden have interesting triplets with Bradford and Jackson in place already.
v 1.0 pick: Justin Blackmon
15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram – Alabama RB - Who would’ve thought the most overlooked and least talked about legit first-round prospect would be the former Heisman Trophy Winner? The Dolphins need to get back to being what they are, a ground and pound team. They have the defense to give their offense the football back, but the offense doesn’t keep it long enough and doesn’t put up enough points. In reality, the QB position needs the CPR, but the Dolphins need to stay ahead of the curve and add a bell-cow back to their stable.
v 1.0 pick: Mark Ingram
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Cam Newton – Auburn QB – I previously had Ryan Kerrigan here and that would make a lot of sense. However, the Jags have spent a ton of money on their defensive line over the past few years with a mixed bag of results. It might make more sense to allocate their financial resources elsewhere. The Jags could develop Newton for years behind Garrard, whom the Jags don’t seem to be all that in love with regardless of how well he does. Considering Garrard’s shakey health recently and the poor quarterback depth on this roster, its possible Newton could be on the field sooner than later.
v 1.0 pick: Ryan Kerrigan
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland Raiders) – Ryan Kerrigan – Purdue DE - The Patriots must upgrade their pass rush. They have lacked an elite every-down horse that can constantly pressure the QB. Kerrigan played with his hand down at Purdue and piled up over 30 career college sacks. The guy has a knack for pass rushing and could play with his hand down or standing up, in my opinion. He looked a little stiff at times during Senior Bowl week standing up, but he has pass rushing instincts that translate standing up or with the hand in the ground. Other players, like Lamarr Woodley, have made the transition from hand-down to standing up in the NFL. It’s also entirely possible the Patriots could transition to more of a 4-3, as Belichick has used it in the past.
v 1.0 pick: Akeem Ayers
18. San Diego Chargers – Anthony Costanzo – Boston College OT - I’ll admit, this is a long way to go without a single offensive tackle coming off the board, but it may shape up that way. The Big 3 tackles (Costanzo, Gabe Carimi, and Nate Solder) seemed to all underperform at the Senior Bowl, given their hype. But once the teams start doing their homework on Costanzo, they’ll see the 50+ college starts and the quality tape over that span and become enamored. He also has Matt Ryan in his corner, giving NFL people a big stamp of approval on the future franchise tackle.
v 1.0 pick: Nate Solder
19. New York Giants – Gabe Carimi – Wisconsin OT - Carimi has been tagged the second coming of Jon Runyan, because he’s a mauling run blocker. He’s got the size (6’7″ 310) and versatility to play tackle or guard, but his NFL home will likely be right tackle. There’s some who believe he could be a left tackle in the league. It’s likely he’ll spend his initial years on the right side and eventually end up on the left once he gets a taste of what NFL pass rush is. The Giants could choose to develop Carimi as a swing tackle behind Beatty and Diehl, or start Carimi on the right side right away and kick Diehl inside to guard.
v 1.0 pick: Janoris Jenkins
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Aldon Smith – Missouri DE - Offensively, the Bucs have a very solid foundation in place for years. On defense, they have many more holes. The line needs edge speed and Aldon Smith can deliver on that front. He’s got the athleticism NFL scouts dream of, and when he wasn’t hurt last year, he was anchoring one of the better defenses in college football. When the Combine arrives and scouts see Smith compared to the other prospects, his athleticism and physique will stand out and it’s likely his stock will jump to top 10 status.
v 1.0 pick: Justin Houston
21. Kansas City Chiefs – Cameron Heyward – Ohio St. DE - Tyson Jackson is the most frustrating player for Chiefs’ ownership, front office, and fans alike. He has not been a factor and has not even been on the field a lot of the time. It’s a bizarre situation and Heyward could be the guy to save the day and make everyone forget about Ty-Jax, the 3rd overall pick in 2009. Heyward could be everything Ty-Jax isn’t which is a disruptive force and an edge-setter. And if it means anything to Ty-Jax, it’ll light a fire under him and possibly finally coax that NFL potential out.
v 1.0 pick: Jonathan Baldwin
22. Indianapolis Colts – Nate Solder – Colorado OT - The first thing you hear about Nate Solder is his feet. He’s a dancing bear because he moves extremely well for a 6’8″ 310 pounder. His technique isn’t great though and he struggled with his stance for stretches in the Senior Bowl game. The Combine will drive his stock right back up though because he’s an airport player (looks the part getting off the plane) and will wow the NFL with his size and movement. The Colts have to add talent to this line, otherwise, Peyton Manning’s career will come to a crashing halt with all the hits he’s been taking in recent years.
v 1.0 pick: Tyron Smith
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Tyron Smith – USC OT – Philly fans might find it outrageous to spend a 1st rounder on an offensive player when there’s more holes on the defense. Especially when they have bookend tackles with big contracts in Jason Peters and Winston Justice. I don’t think Justice will be back, however. He was whooped badly last year and benched in their playoff game. When a player’s play doesn’t match their salary, they either take a pay cut or get cut and I expect one of those to happen to Justice. I certainly don’t expect him to be the assumed starting right tackle entering 2011. Tyron Smith could immediately help Michael Vick, whose play fell apart last year when the Eagles line failed to protect him late in the year.
v 1.0 pick: Stephen Paea
24. New Orleans Saints – Rahim Moore – UCLA Safety - Anyone who watched the Saints-Seahawks playoff game should know why I plugged Moore in here. Their safety play in that game was dreadful. Yes, starting safety Malcolm Jenkins didn’t play in that game and his replacement was torched, but their coverage issues were a season-long problem and their tackling was poor. Moore can play the deep middle and tackle in space. In today’s NFL, quality coverage from your safety has premium value. In a division with Brees and Freeman, it might not be a bad idea for the Saints to add another 1st rounder to their secondary.
v 1.0 pick: Ryan Williams
25. Seattle Seahawks – Ryan Mallet – Auburn QB – On Mock v 1.0, I had Mallet ahead of Newton. I have them swapped now because the evaluation process should benefit Newton more than Mallet. Newton has his mobility to show off from here and should throw better in shorts. Mallet will fall victim to scrutiny when he goes through throwing-on-the-run drills. Mallet has a history of poor footwork, especially when the pocket breaks down. He is anything but graceful and scouts won’t like his awkward pocket movement. It’s likely his stock will take a bit of a hit at the combine, but he can save himself with a great Pro Day where he’ll have his receivers and the workout is scripted. The Seahawks get a project QB while Hasselbeck and Whitehurst keep the spot warm.
v 1.0 pick: Cam Newton
26. Baltimore Ravens – Brandon Harris – Miami CB - This is where Harris will start getting serious consideration. He’s got above-average speed and good size for the position. The Ravens get by with corners who you won’t mistake for game-changers and could really use the upgrade in talent at that position unit. This was the easiest pick to make on this whole mock.
v 1.0 pick: Brandon Harris
27. Atlanta Falcons – J.J. Watt – Wisconsin DE - The Falcons defense was exposed by Aaron Rodgers big-time in the playoffs. While there’s no shame in one of the best QBs in the league toasting your defense, they must upgrade this side of the ball with a difference-maker. Watt is a motor-type of player and that is just what the doctor ordered for the Falcons. They need a dog on that line that can be an early down force. The Falcons have the consistent John Abraham, and Kroy Biermann is a decent 3rd down defensive end, but they need someone who can take the pressure off of those two. Lord knows, Jamaal Anderson isn’t doing it.
v 1.0 pick: Allen Bailey
28. New England Patriots – Muhammad Wilkerson – Temple DT – Wilkerson is a hot name amongst draftniks right now, as he was an underclassman who surprisingly put his name in the draft-eligibility hat. He’s huge and was used as a 5-technique in 3-4 formations, so he’ll automatically be coveted merely based on those things. Finding college lineman with 3-4 experience is difficult. Finding dominant college lineman with 3-4 experience is even more difficult. Wilkerson’s stock is rising and could go even higher as the evaluation process goes on.
v 1.0 pick: J.J. Watt
29. Chicago Bears – Corey Liuget – Illinois DT – Tackle is a desperate need here and they could reach on someone like a Derrick Sherrod, but it’s much more likely they’ll take the best talent available. Liuget could be the Tommie Harris Replacement Plan, as the Bears haven’t gotten what they need from the once-great defensive tackle. Liuget could slot right into the bears cover 2 scheme as a disruptive 3-technique.
v 1.0 pick: Anthony Costanzo
30. New York Jets – Titus Young – Boise St. WR - Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes are both due pay-days and the thinking is they’ll only pay one. If that’s the case, then they’ll have an immediate need at wide receiver. Sanchez needs all the help he can get and Young could bring an explosive vertical element to the Jets passing game. Too often Edwards is inconsistent with his route running and hands. Young could give Sanchez a fresh start and a chance to lay down a foundation of chemistry with a young quality receiver, something Sanchez has not had in his career yet.
v 1.0 pick: Rahim Moore
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Adrian Clayborn – Iowa DE - Clayborn’s draft stock is all over the place right now. Some have him in the top 15 and some barely have him in the top 40. Either way, the Steelers will do what they always do and sit back and take the best talent that falls to them. The Steelers have a history of picking late like this, and they know as well as any team how to pick the big-time talents out, even after the whole league has already picked. Getting Clayborn here would be no different.
v 1.0 pick: Adrian Clayborn
32. Green Bay Packers – Stephen Paea – Oregon St. DT - Like the Steelers, the Packers always seem to draft the down-on-his-luck 1st rounder who the league has overlooked and somehow fallen far beyond where their stock was originally projected. Last year it was Bulaga and the year before Clay Matthews. This year, enter Stephen Paea. All you hear about with Paea is his strength and he would seem to fit with the Packers because they like their lineman in the 290-300 pound range and to be able to play from the 5-technique to the 0-technique. The Packers also run many 2-4-5 looks, and with only 2 down-linemen, sheer strength becomes of more importance. Paea is a good fit for the Packers, who need to add depth to their defensive line.
v 1.0 pick: Cameron Jordan
- Ben Layman