Here's my first mock of the draft season. Let me know what you think.
1) Carolina- Cam Newton: I don’t agree with this pick. I would be trying like the dickens to get out of this spot. Most likely not going to be any movement at this spot so Carolina has to decide what type of value they can get by taking other positions. Unfortunately for them, QB’s, DE’s, and OT’s are usually top picks, and there isn’t a sure fire #1 DE or OT so they’re stuck taking Newton.
2) Denver- Marcel Dareus: Need meets best player available. Dareus can play the 1 or the 3 technique in Denver’s new 4-3 scheme. He could even shade outside to play a 5 technique if they want to change things up. With nothing in the middle in Denver, this is a great match.
3) Buffalo- Von Miller: Buffalo really needs to draft a new GM, but at this point they go with a guy to generate pass rush, something they haven’t had in the last few years. Aaron Maybin is a bust and they need to move on from there. The addition of Dave Wannstadt as DC is an interesting one because he’s been a 4-3 guy, but will maintain the current 3-4 defense already in place. Von Miller will be the edge rusher this team lacks. Don’t rule out Blaine Gabbert here, but Miller is the pick.
4) Cincinnati- AJ Green: If both TO and Ochocinco are gone then they need a guy to replace them. They’ve got young receivers, but Green would automatically be the #1 in that lineup. The only problem with this selection is who will be throwing to him. Mike Brown is basically daring Carson Palmer to retire. If he does they will definitely need to address QB, but not at this spot. AJ Green is said by some to be the best player in this draft. He has even been getting favorable comparisons to Calvin Johnson. This may be some hyperbole, but he’s got the potential to live up to it. Not a burner, but adjusts very well to poorly thrown balls and can go up and get the jump ball.
5) Arizona- Patrick Peterson: Missing out on a guy like Von Miller hurts, but getting the best player on the board in Peterson is a great consolation prize. He has freakish athleticism and can play corner and may project to be an even better safety. He does tend to rely on just his talent at this point, but good NFL coaching can turn him into a great NFL player. The Cards have bigger needs than CB, but they’ll be happy with this pick.
6) Cleveland- Robert Quinn: Cleveland has nothing at DE. Quinn is probably the best DE in this draft and to grab him here is great news for Cleveland. Quinn has been rocketing up draft boards after workouts and the combine because no one has seen him in a year after sitting out all of 2010 with eligibility issues. Has a benign brain tumor that requires MRI’s every 6 months, but it hasn’t affected him in the slightest. Cleveland is moving back to a 4-3 and will need to be able to get pressure on the QB with their front 4 and Quinn can fill that role.
7) San Francisco- Blaine Gabbert: New regimes mean new Quarterbacks. I didn’t mock Gabbert to Arizona, who also needs a QB, because Whisenhunt doesn’t want to start fresh with a new QB, especially after starting 2 rookies last season. Harbaugh once upon a time recruited Gabbert to play at Stanford. He obviously thought he had what it took to be “his guy”. The relationship between Head Coach and QB is an important one, especially with the head coach being a former QB himself. San Fran has invested heavily in the O-Line in the draft, have some playmakers in Crabtree, Gore, and Davis. Now they just need a QB. Rumor has it they are going to offer Alex Smith a 1 year deal after this lockout mess is over. Probably just a fill in the gap type of guy. One position they should also consider is DL, but ultimately, the depth of that position in this draft allow them to roll the dice on Gabbert here.
Tennessee- Nick Fairley: Pretty obvious choice here, Tennessee takes the best player available. The D-Line in Tennessee has taken a hit in the last few years and it’s time to restock. They’ve got a lot of holes on this team, but getting the best player at his position, which is a position of need, makes it pretty easy. Fairley can be disruptive at the line and rush the passer. Somewhat of a Gerald McCoy clone. His one year of production has some teams scratching their heads, but it was a hell of a year. Instant upgrade over Tony Brown. Will team up again with Sen’Derrick Marks, former teammates at Auburn.
9) Dallas- JJ Watt: Up until all this knee concern started popping up about Bowers he was my second ranked DE. Now he’s falling, and actually, this works out even better for Dallas. Watt is a stud. He reminds me of Kyle Vanden Bosch in terms of motor, but with the ability to play the 5 technique. Dallas needs an infusion of youth and excitement on that D-Line and while Watt isn’t a sexy pick, he’ll make a difference. Jerry Jones doesn’t take O-Lineman in the first round, and that trend will continue.
10) Washington- Julio Jones: Some mock drafts have Jake Locker going in this spot. I don’t understand that since just a month ago he was being mocked in the second round. Even with Sexy Rexy throwing the ball, Julio Jones would make this offense look a lot better. Santana Moss is getting older and losing a step which for a speed guy is awful (see Steve Smith, Car). Jones reminds me of T.O. but without the attitude.
11) Houston- Aldon Smith: The switch to the 3-4 defense is going to mean they will be drafting guys to play in Wade Phillips system. Houston drafted a CB last year in Kareem Jackson and probably won’t pull the trigger on Amukamara. The outside lb/rush end is the most important position in the 3-4. While Smith is raw, he can be an absolute stud. He’s shown freakish athletic talent and has the potential to be a DeMarcus Ware type of player.
12) Minnesota- Tyron Smith: Probably the hardest pick for me to mock here. Minnesota is slowly declining as Detroit gets better in the division and GB and Chicago maintaining. They’ve got holes all over the place and need could go a number of routes here. When it comes right down to it, the best player on their team is Adrian Peterson and they need to shore up the O-Line, which has struggled the last two years. Adding a top flight blocker can take AD into rarified air. They could go DE or CB here also, but that defense can put together one more solid year before they really need to do some re-tooling.
13) Detroit- Prince Amukamara: This is another example of need meeting best player available. The Lions have greatly improved their defense since Martin Mayhew has taken over for Moron of the Millennium, but there are still major needs. One area of need, especially with FA not taking place is CB, where Alphonso Smith is the top under contract CB on the roster. He is nothing more than a low level 2nd CB or Nickelback. Amukamara has the potential to be a #1 CB in the league. I don’t necessarily project him to be a Revis-esque guy at this level, but you will be able to slot him in at LCB for 10 years. Has speed and good reaction time. Does get a little high in his backpedal which leads to being susceptible to comeback routes, but this can be coached up.
14) St. Louis- Corey Liuget: St. Louis would love to get an offensive playmaker here but the only two that are worth a top 15 pick are gone already, so they turn to defense. Steve Spagnuolo built the New York Giants into a Super Bowl defense by having a dominating defensive line. Having Chris Long already in place, they try to add to the middle of the line with Liuget. Liuget does everything well but doesn’t do anything spectacularly. Still, he’s the best DT available. Another DE could be an option.
15) Miami- Mike Pouncey: Miami has a lot of needs on offense and the interior O-Line is definitely a big problem. They also need help at RB if both Williams and Brown are allowed to hit the road making RB their top priority. They may want to draft a QB, but at this point they would be reaching. Pouncey will be able to play either guard spot or center, making him a valuable commodity. I think he’ll be a better guard in this league then center. He definitely has benefited from his brothers stellar play last year. Hopefully when he gets drafted he won’t mouth kiss Maurkice again… gross.
16) Jacksonville- Ryan Kerrigan: A match made in Mock Draft Heaven. Ryan Kerrigan is a hard worker and has a non-stop motor. He doesn’t have superior athleticism but he seems to be a more talented Aaron Kampmann, who he’ll start opposite from and eventually replace. He is also a captain and four year starter, something that won’t be missed by Gene Smith.
17) New England- Cameron Jordan: While the offense in New England has thrived no matter who has been plugged in, the defense has not. They have done a good job of adding talent to the back 7, but they don’t have anyone who scares you. Cam Jordan won’t necessarily scare anyone, but he will be an upgrade at DE. With 5 more picks in the next three rounds they can address other areas of need later and at better value. Jordan won’t put up huge sack numbers, but in New England’s 3-4 he won’t need to in order to be effective.
18) San Diego- Gabe Carimi: I struggled to make this pick because AJ Smith hasn’t realized that Jeromy Clary isn’t the answer at RT. If he does go OL with this pick, it would be to shore up the RT spot where Carimi projects best. Strong mauler who shows surprisingly nimble feet in his pass pro. 10 year starter material. The other option is Muhammad Wilkerson to play the 5 technique.
19) New York Giants- Anthony Costanzo: The value here is too good to pass up. William Beatty hasn’t impressed in his short career and Costanzo would fit well in their offense. Another BC tackle with a good head on his shoulders and a little bit of a mean streak, he can help keep the running game clicking, even as the backs may be declining. Not quite the ceiling of Tyron Smith but you know what you’re going to be getting from him and the Giants will be very happy with that.
20) Tampa Bay- Da’Quan Bowers: The slide ends here where a team is finally willing to pull the trigger on a guy with injury concerns. I really think he should go higher than this, even as high as 12 to Minnesota, but there could also be this precipitous slide also. The knee injury is scaring teams off because his explosion might be hurt and a DE needs that first step to get pressure on the QB. Tampa needs help at DE and Bowers is a steal at 20. A healthy Bowers would be a top 10 pick.
21) Kansas City- Justin Houston: KC was the surprise team in 2010 and they continue to add to their young nucleus. Houston was 2nd in the SEC in sacks behind Bowers this year and showed pro potential at getting to the QB. Teaming him with Derrick Johnson will make the defense better.
22) Indianapolis- Nate Solder: Keeping Peyton Manning healthy should be the main priority of the Colts this year. Without him this team is nothing. Nate Solder isn’t Tony Boselli like he was once being touted, but he does have a high ceiling. Still raw and learning the position, as he came to Colorado as a TE, but shows the potential to be the dancing bear out on the corner keeping Manning upright. Struggles a bit using his hands and doesn’t yet have his “man strength”, but his potential is too much to pass up.
23) Philadelphia- Jimmy Smith: The Eagles secondary got torched down the stretch this year and needs to be improved. If it weren’t for character concerns Smith would be a top 15 pick, but he is too good to drop any further. Could end up being the best CB in this draft when it’s all said and done. Probably as good as or better than Amukamara and if Peterson switches to safety, he’s in position to claim that spot. Philly took a risk on Mike Vick, which paid dividends. A veteran locker room will help too. Don’t be surprised if Derek Sherrod is taken here either.
24) New Orleans- Muhammad Wilkerson: They may need to move up to take him, but he will be a great fit either at DE or DT. Will Smith and Sedrick Ellis are good, and an additional pass rusher will help this D immensely. LB is more of a concern, but there’s no one who fits their system worthy of this pick. Wilkerson is a small school player who has turned heads and is versatile.
25) Seattle- Jake Locker: The only reason I make this prediction is because Locker is local. Rumor has it that Seattle wants to trade out of this spot, but I’m not predicting those now. Locker may be the most ready to start of this year’s QB’s, but that isn’t saying much considering the crop. Matt Hasselbeck may not be back and Charlie Whitehurst is not a starting QB.
26) Baltimore- Brandon Harris: Ozzie Newsome has an uncanny way of being able to get the best player available at a position of maximum value. This again is the case with Harris. The CB position is very thin at the moment, with 3 of their top 5 CB’s from 2010 being free agents. They need upgrades back there and Harris will help. He’s very smooth in his backpedal and has fluid hips. Working in a backfield with Ed Reed will help him too.
27) Atlanta- Adrian Clayborn: Atlanta needs to be able to generate some pressure off the edge. They could go a few ways here but Clayborn would be a great fit. He had a disappointing senior year and was once considered a top 10 talent. He still can generate a pass rush and stop the run. Has Erb’s Palsy which affects his range of motion on his right side, but he has played through it. This pick could be Brooks Reed also.
28) New England- Brooks Reed: Rumor is they want to move out of this slot. If they don’t, they add to the pass rush again. Reed played DE in college but will be a rush end/outside olb in this defense. OL or RB could be taken here, but I think they want to make more of an effort on the defensive side of the ball then O in this first round.
29) Chicago- Marvin Austin: Chicago has needs on the Offensive Line but I don’t think they will go there. Mike Tice is pretty happy with his OT’s, for whatever reason, and may not want to address it right away. Austin is in the same position as Robert Quinn, a 1st round talent but didn’t get to play because of illegal dealings with an agent. Does play similar to a young Tommie Harris. He might be able to start from day one and be effective.
30) New York Jets- Phil Taylor: Nose Tackle is important in this defense and Kris Jenkins is done. Taylor had a great combine and could have been drafted higher, but concerns about his foot bones fusing might cause him to drop. New York is happy to have him fall in their lap. 334- pounder who can stuff the middle and demand double teams. Had to transfer after having earlier character issues, but adding him to this locker room with Rex Ryan could be very helpful.
31) Pittsburgh- Derek Sherrod: Pittsburgh needs to improve their offensive line. They also need to help their defensive backfield, but the depth at that position is better than at OL. Sherrod is as good as Solder is now, but is more pro ready at this point. Good footwork and slide step and is a pretty decent run blocker as well. Kind of blue collar guy that Pittsburgh loves.
32) Green Bay- Akeem Ayers: Pretty decent value at this pick of the draft. He has shown an ability to be versatile which will help his cause. Didn’t put up huge sack numbers in college, but will be a great compliment to Clay Matthews. Green Bay could try to shore up their OL with this pick, but having a guy like Ayers on the board is too much for them to pass up.