1. Carolina Panthers – Von Miller – Texas A&M OLB - At this point, Von Miller has established himself as the best prospect in the draft. He’s the cleanest prospect on and off the field. He has special explosiveness that we haven’t seen since Freeney or Ware came out. Yes, the QB position for this team is dreadful, but there are veteran QB’s on the trade market who could satisfy that need. And let’s not kid ourselves, Carolina could be picking top 10 next year when the QB class is much more talented and deeper. I just can’t see the Panthers passing on a Lawrence Taylor-like talent like Miller.
2. Denver Broncos – Marcel Dareus – Alabama DT – Given the Broncos cut most of their interior defensive line and the fact that they’re switching to John Fox’s 4-3 tells me they’re very much in the DT market. They should probably end up with 2 impact DTs from this draft when it’s all over. Dareus can 1 gap or 2 gap, and in Fox’s pro 4-3 scheme, you must be able to 2-gap as well. Dareus would be the perfect fit and could easily see 35-40 snaps a game from day 1.
3. Buffalo Bills – Patrick Peterson – LSU CB - The top 3 is firmly established it seems. This isn’t ideal for Buffalo, but they do get clearly the best player left on the board. I think they’re more satisfied with Ryan Fitzpatrick then they let on in the media. The remaining defensive picks all have a level of risk that Peterson doesn’t have.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – AJ Green – Georgia WR – This is where the draft begins. After an established top 3, it’s going to be Green vs. Jones vs. Gabbert here. Green is an elite WR prospect who will be in the discussion with the top wideouts in the league by his 3rd year, in my opinion. He can be an early impact too, and the Bengals wouldn’t have to worry about replacing TO’s production. I don’t see Chad Ochocinco as an elite vertical threat anymore, so this also fits a huge need.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Blaine Gabbert – Missouri QB - I’ve been a big fan of Gabbert’s and still very much am. All of the top 4 teams will give him a good hard look, for sure. The Cardinals will be ecstatic if this scenario plays out. Gabbert could really breathe life into an organization that has no hope or direction at the moment. This could be a great situation for Gabbert to develop in, and Larry Fitzgerald will be his best friend from day 1. It’s also possible he could be the week 1 starter, because the Cardinals really don’t have a single quality QB on their roster right now.
6. Cleveland Browns – Julio Jones – Alabama WR – The Browns will be sitting at 6 praying for one of the top two receivers to fall here. The Bengals are the only obvious threat to take the first receiver. However, it’ll be interesting to see if Denver and Buffalo ignore these two stud receivers’ skill sets and go for the safe defensive picks. I’m sold that those teams will go defense, but Jones and Green will be awfully tempting.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Cam Newton – Auburn QB – I’ve been warming up to the Niners as a QB team at this spot more and more. Firstly, they’ve got a nice offense for Cam to fit right into. They’ve got Crabtree, Davis, Gore and some young studs on the o-line who should only get better. They’ve got a quality defense that wouldn’t put a ton of stress on the offense to score big every game. I also love Jim Harbaugh as a leader of men, something Cam Newton has been heavily questioned for not being at Auburn. It’ll be sink or swim for Cam, and I think Harbaugh can find a way to harness his talent and make it work in his power west coast scheme.
8. Tennessee Titans – Corey Liuget - Illinois DT - Shocker? A little bit, but it shouldn’t be. Liuget had a fantastic pro day with high-up decision makers from several NFL teams in attendance. Liuget’s stock has only gone up since the season ended, and for good reason. On tape, he’s a load to block. He seems to always be better than whoever is in front of him. I don’t think the Titans have Fairley even on their board. They’ve seen that movie before with Albert Haynesworth, and they’re not about to take another lineman with serious motivation questions.
9. Dallas Cowboys – Nick Fairley – Auburn DT - The Cowboys, however, don’t shy away from risky players, like with Dez Bryant last year. That move seems to have paid off big, and I think that has to soften up the Cowboys front office a bit when it comes to the guys with baggage. Fairley has been ripped for taking off too many plays, and he seems to only dominate when he wants to. The upside with Fairley is way too much to pass on here, and I think the Cowboys pull the trigger. He’s got the frame to fit in perfectly as a 5-tech (long arms, solid base), and of course on money downs he’ll slide inside and do what he did best at Auburn.
10. Washington Redskins – Robert Quinn - North Carolina DE – The Skins desperately need QB, that’s no secret. But the defense was decidedly worse than the offense last year, so why not address one of your biggest needs on that side of the ball? Last year’s 3rd down pass rusher, Andre Carter, has been cut and Brian Orakpo is the only one left on the roster. That isn’t enough pass rush to be taken seriously in the NFC East. Though I have serious questions about Quinn’s ability to play on 1st and 2nd down, he could still serve a vital purpose as a 3rd down rusher with his hand in the ground opposite Orakpo.
11. Houston Texans – Aldon Smith – Missouri DE - It’s no secret, I’m a big fan of Aldon Smith. In 23 games of collegiate football, he had 46 plays behind the line of schrimmage. He doesn’t get washed in the run game, pursues the football hard, and has off-the-chart intangibles. He single-handedly won games for the Tigers with big plays in big moments. There are concerns that his fractured fibula during the 2010 season is still bothering him. He came back from it too early and played after 3 weeks, which is stunning for people with that injury. I think because of his instincts and intangibles, he’s capable of being a 3-down stand-up rush OLB at the next level.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Prince Amukamara - Nebraska CB - This team has needed a better talent opposite Antoine Winfield for quite some time, and this is a perfect scenario to add just that. Prince played almost exclusively man to man coverage in college and often was left on an island with receivers, which bodes extremely well for a smooth transition to the NFL. He could handle nickel duty early, but I think eventually he could replace Asher Allen, and long term would be the #1 CB.
13. Detroit Lions – Tyron Smith – USC OT – Detroit would love this scenario if it played out. Smith’s stock has been hot lately, so much that he’s even had top 5 whispers. I can’t see that given he never played left tackle in college, and that’s the position he’s projected to play at the next level. Also, teams haven’t had great success with tackles in the top 10 in the past few drafts, so top 10 teams will really hesitate with a prospect who will certainly be a developmental project. Still, he has the tools and could be Stafford’s blindside protector for years.
14. St. Louis Rams – Jimmy Smith – Colorado CB - At this point, most seem to think Smith is even more talented than Prince Amukamara. But apparently, he’s not a model citizen and it seems to be killing his stock. It’s a shame because he is probably the #2 CB in this draft. I’ve heard a lot of Steve Spagnuolo interviews, and this guy gets it and I think he’s an excellent handler of players. This to me is an ideal situation for a player like Jimmy. The Rams need a legit #1 (or #2) CB, and would be wise to draft the best talent available because they’re on the brink of owning the NFC West.
15. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Mallet – Arkansas QB – How can Miami NOT make this pick? Their franchise has been held back by bad QB-play since Dan Marino left. The same Dan Marino, who back in 1983 slid deep into the 1st round because of unwarranted/unproven “drug” allegations. He was labeled the big man on campus who had too much fun partying and drinking. All very similar criticisms of Ryan Mallet. And if you put Ryan Mallet in shorts now on a field with the 1983 Dan Marino, you wouldn’t see too much difference in how these two throw the football.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jake Locker - Washington QB – The Jags are one of the teams who have been doing a ton of homework on Locker. They’re clearly investing a lot of their scouting resources on this kid. This team has seemingly never been satisfied with David Garrard, and he couldn’t even finish the season last year. He’s paid way too much for the actual production he gives. The Jags need a serious young QB prospect for the future and to push Garrard. They shouldn’t wait for their next pick to get one because the legit prospects will be long gone.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland Raiders) – Ryan Kerrigan – Purdue DE – Kerrigan has had a bizarre draft experience. His stock has been more up and down than any prospect in this draft. Right now his stock is on the way up, and more 3-4 teams are considering him a rush OLB. The college production is there to justify him at this spot and so is his motor. Those are two things that are tough to ignore with him. I think he qualifies as a Belichick type of player.
18. San Diego Chargers – JJ Watt – Wisconsin DE - Just recently there was buzz that the Chargers are falling in love with Akeem Ayers, but in this scenario when a player like Watt falls to you, you have to make the pick. Watt’s only criticism is that he’s not a special talent, but the consensus is that he’ll be a solid pro. He’s got a good motor and great size. He’d fit in well as a 5-tech next to last year’s break out star for the Chargers, nose tackle Antonio Garay.
19. New York Giants – Mark Ingram – Alabama RB - The Giants had a bizarre year last year, winning 10 games but missing the playoffs. They missed out because of slews of unexplainable and careless turnovers. Mark Ingram only lost 2 fumbles on 632 career carries. See where I’m going with this? Brandon Jacobs will be cut because his salary will be way too high in 2010, so this team will really need that 2nd back to compliment Bradshaw.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Da’Quan Bowers – Clemson DE - Let me make this clear: Bowers is only here because of his scary medical situation. He’s had trouble getting healthy all draft season and looked out of shape at his pro day. To pile on that, he still has the 1-year wonder label. I, for one, am a huge fan of his. I think he’s ideal as a 4-3 defensive end, and will be a force if he can get his health right. He’s a pocket collapser and pushes lineman into run plays. It’s a joy to watch on tape, and the Bucs aren’t afraid to take risks in the draft. This could pay off huge dividends if he fell this far.
21. Kansas City Chiefs – Phil Taylor – Baylor NT - Taylor had scouts giddy at his pro day and his stock has only gone up since he shined at the Senior Bowl. Still some things about his tape haunt people, like he seemed to take plays off and Baylor’s defense was bad. Also, he was kicked off the team at Penn State and transferred to Baylor. Still, this team needs a legit nose tackle and they need to get bigger on their front. Taylor’s movement at his size is rare and it’s driven his stock way up into discussion here in the 20′s. Also, he’s the best nose tackle prospect in the draft which will force a team to reach on him.
22. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Castanzo – Boston College OT - The Colts didn’t protect Manning very well last year, even though he was only sacked 16 times. He took beatings in every game and it showed in his demeanor. He can’t continue to take poundings like that and expect to continue to play at a high level. Bill Polian himself has harped on their offensive line problems. Ryan Diem is getting older and Charlie Johnson isn’t anything more than an ok left tackle. The Colts could use a youth upgrade at really any spot on their offensive line outside of center. Castanzo could be a plug and play guy from day 1 on the right side (Diem to guard), and could eventually be Manning’s left tackle until he retires.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Gabe Carimi – Wisconsin OT - Philly probably wouldn’t want to sign Jon Runyan at this point, (hey he can’t be any worse than Winston Justice), but they do have an opportunity here to add his young clone in Gabe Carimi. He’s a classic mauling-type right tackle, and could be a plug and play guy just like Castanzo. When Vick starting getting hit late in the season, the Eagles stopped winning consistently. This is an important addition for the Eagles, who seriously need offensive line continuity.
24. New Orleans Saints – Akeem Ayers – UCLA OLB - The Saints are way too average at outside linebacker, and Ayers would be an ideal run and hit linebacker in Gregg Williams’ attacking scheme. Ayers will be a much better pro the more he’s allowed to free lance and rush, and I think this is the kind of scheme he could thrive in. The Saints would be fortunate to see Ayers fall here, as teams above them are eying him.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Christian Ponder – Florida St. QB - There’s been plenty of whispers of Ponder going late in the 1st round, and my guess is it’s because Seattle is seriously kicking the tires on all of these QB’s. I don’t think when they traded for Charlie Whitehurst they thought he was their franchise guy going forward, as much as he was there to push Hasselbeck and be a solid backup. This move, however, would be to add a future franchise QB. Ponder’s biggest questions are off the field with his medicals, but he’s healthy right now. The shoulder injury is scary though, and if not for it, he might be in top 15 discussion.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Cameron Jordan – Cal DE - How can Cameron Jordan fall this far? I think he’s going to get lost in the shuffle because he’s had some knocks that I find very concerning. His biggest selling point is his versatility on the line, and he hasn’t been a super talent in any one spot. The most sacks he had in any one season was 6, and he played a lot, that wasn’t in spot duty. Has he made enough plays to warrant a top 15 pick? Or has his Senior Bowl, Combine and pro day made him look like a player he might not be at the pro level? I think he’ll be a solid pro, but I’m not sure he’ll be a great one.
27. Atlanta Falcons – Cameron Heyward – Ohio State DE - The Falcons are a very tough team to gauge for this pick. One thing is for sure, they’re attracted to drafting seniors. Only 2 of Dimitroff’s picks in his tenure have been non-seniors. Now that’s not anything to bank on, I just think it’s worth noting. Heyward’s buzz has picked up considerably since dipping a bit, and he could replace Jamaal Anderson, whose been a zero as an NFL player. He could also kick inside with Babineaux on 3rd downs, making a heck of an interior pass rush duo. This feels like a good fit and he fits the Falcon criteria.
28. New England Patriots – Muhammad Wilkerson – Temple DT - I like Wilkerson, but I don’t understand the top 15 pick talk. He played at Temple, and really didn’t flash and dominate enough there to warrant top 15 discussion. He seems to be an ideal 5-technique and already played a bit of it at Temple. He does have a pretty good motor and seems to have a knack for finding the football. He could be a good 2-gapping 5-tech at the NFL level, and the Patriots need a youth infusion there with all the age and health concerns already on their defensive line.
29. Chicago Bears – Marvin Austin – North Carolia DT - Austin would be a great fit here, and replacing Tommie Harris should be a huge priority for the Bears. Derrick Sherrod will get serious consideration, but they did get make-shift production from their offensive line after a fantastic coaching job by offensive line coach Mike Tice. They HAVE to get interior push for their cover 2 to work, and Marvin Austin has one of the quickest twitches in this draft. It’s a great scheme fit and Austin hasn’t even played his best football yet.
30. New York Jets – Brooks Reed – Arizona DE - New to my mock series, Brooks has finally crashed the 1st round. This doesn’t surprise me after seeing him dominate at the Senior Bowl. He made a fool out of Nate Solder in a series of downs that I know NFL scouts will drool over. He’s shown flashes of Clay Matthews with his relentlessness and speed. The Jets need a speed edge rusher desperately, and this could be an ideal fit. Brooks looks like a natural rushing standing up. This is a home run for the Jets who could be getting the steal of the draft here.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Brandon Harris – Miami CB – The Steelers all the sudden have a serious need at CB, as Ike Taylor is likely to leave in free agency because the Steelers rarely give that 3rd contract extension. Also Bryant McFadden struggled mightily at times last year, and was exposed in the Super Bowl badly. Harris projects to be a solid pro, and given the quality of the players who would be around him on that defense, he could start sooner than later.
32. Green Bay Packers – Nate Solder – Colorado OT - I still like this fit, so nothing has changed here from my last mock. Solder is definitely a developmental tackle prospect, but that should be ok with the Packers who already won a Super Bowl with their current line, and could stand to wait for Nate to develop. He’s probably nothing more than a very solid right tackle, but some think he could develop on the left side. Either way, he’s big and athletic and has tools to work with. For a prospect whose had mid-1st round draft stock, this is a pretty good get for the Packers, who also had success capitalizing on a tackle who fell in the draft last year, Bryan Bulaga.
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