Mock Draft, ver 1.0

Look, I firmly believe that over-analyzing mock drafts in mid-February, to steal a line from Van Wilder, is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. There are so many things that are going to happen between now and late April that this will probably be rendered completely useless even before the month is over.

But given the fact that we’re now entering the joyless abyss – the end of the NFL season, with no future NFL season(s) in sight – this will hopefully give us something to discuss, chew up, and dissect, until there’s something else noteworthy to talk about.

1. Carolina Panthers – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

Fairley was the best player on the field for the biggest game in college football (Auburn vs. Oregon). Isn’t that what you want from a franchise guy? He reminds you a lot of Albert Haynesworth: a force capable of single-handedly disrupting the opposing offense. The problem is, like Haynesworth, he has a propensity to take plays off every so often.

2. Denver Broncos – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

Now that John Fox is the head coach, it looks like Denver will probably go back to the 4-3 defense. Fox took Peppers with his very first pick as the head coach of the Panthers, and I could see him doing the same thing in Denver with Bowers.

3. Buffalo Bills – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Here’s my thought: Gabbert has all the tools you need, but he just needs a lot of “seasoning” before he’s fully ready to go. But the Bills already have Ryan Fitzpatrick as a perfectly viable starter, so the Bills won’t need to start him right away. Regardless, that franchise needs someone to reinvigorate the fan base with, and provide some stability at the position.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – AJ Green, WR, Georgia

Green could be the best offensive player in this entire draft. T.O and Chad Ochocinco are probably going to be leaving Cincinnati after this year because they’re not getting any younger and they’re becoming even bigger headaches, so somebody has to fill those shoes.

5. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Patterson, CB, LSU

New defensive coordinator Ray Horton was a defensive backs coach for the Steelers, so I can see the Cardinals looking in that direction as they take someone to help fix a pass defense in the bottom 10 of the league last year. Everyone has the Cardinals taking a QB here, but I think they’ll address that via free agency or trade, because the last thing Larry Fitzgerald wants is to wait around for a young QB to develop while he’s already in his prime.

6. Cleveland Browns – Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

Miller absolutely tore it up at the Senior Bowl, which has catapulted his draft stock into the top 10. Cleveland is going back to the 4-3 defense, and Miller has the type of athleticism and talent to play linebacker on first and second downs, then put his hand in the dirt on third down and go after the quarterback.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina

The 49ers are moving to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Quinn would be an awesome play maker at outside linebacker in this scheme, opposite of Manny Lawson. Plus, having guys like Lawson, Quinn, and Justin Smith would give that defense a ton of flexibility in giving different looks to the opposing offense.

8. Tennessee Titans – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

In a division where they have to deal with the aerial attacks of the Colts and Texans, the Titans could use a guy like Amukamara. Given the fact that they finished in the bottom four against the pass last season, and that Amukamara is one of the most clean-nosed, hard-working guys in this draft (aka, the opposite of PacMan Jones), this pick makes a lot of sense for them.

9. Dallas Cowboys – Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama

Dallas’ biggest need is a “five-technique” defensive end, which Dareus is more than capable of playing at a high level. He’s got great size, does everything right on the field, and is a high-character guy to boot.

10. Washington Redskins – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

The Redskins have a ton of needs all over their team, and Quarterback ranks up there as high as any of them. Newton has all the physical tools and some of the intangibles to be a great quarterback, but he needs a lot of “seasoning” before he’s really ready to lead a team. The question is: will the folks in Washington be patient enough for him to develop?

11. Houston Texans – Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Purdue

Calling the Texans pass defense “abysmal” would probably be a compliment. They were a lot closer to “historically bad.” So while cornerback would make a lot of sense here, I think it’s too much of a reach to take one here. You can help solve an awful pass-defense by improving the pass rush. Kerrigan is a high-motor guy that would work well in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense.

12. Minnesota Vikings – JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

The Vikings defense took a big step back last year. Jared Allen came into camp fat and out-of-shape, and it showed last year. They just didn’t have the same pass rush as they did in 2009. Watt already has the size and strength to be the perfect compliment to Allen at defensive end, a position where the Vikings aren’t getting any younger.

13. Detroit Lions – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Most people would argue that cornerback is the biggest need for the Lions. Smith is one of those guys that’s been shooting up draft boards over the last few weeks. He’s a 6’2 cornerback that’s fast and fluid enough to run with the majority of receivers he covers, even despite his size.

14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

Sweet jesus, this would be a great pick for the Rams. If you look up the “It” factor for NFL quarterbacks in the dictionary, whatever “it” is, Sam Bradford has “it.” Now he’s got Josh McDaniels calling plays for him. Give him a receiver like Julio Jones, who is big, strong, and ridiculously productive, and you could be looking at the next high-octane offense in the NFL.

15. Miami Dolphins – Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

If nose tackle Paul Soliai leaves via free agency – and the early word is that he’ll garner a lot of interest from other teams – the Dolphins will have a big hole right in the middle of their 3-4 defense. Taylor is another guy whose name is shooting up draft boards. He has prototype size for a nose tackle (6’3, 337) and is just one of those guys who is impossible to move – exactly what you want from a nose tackle.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri

It’s safe to declare the entire 2008 draft a colossal bust for the Jaguars. They spent their first two picks looking for a pass rusher, and still came away with nothing. Smith is versatile enough to play linebacker and defensive end, and rush the quarterback from either position.

17. New England Patriots – Cameron Jordan, DE, California

I think it’s safe to say that the Patriots offense didn’t do to bad for itself in 2010. Their defensive line, however, isn’t exactly getting any younger. Jordan just smacks of being a “Belichick”-type player: polished coming out of college, great football IQ, and versatile enough to play different positions in different schemes. He can step in and play the five-technique defensive end from day 1.

18. San Diego Chargers – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

I think the Chargers could use a right tackle opposite of Marcus McNeil. This entire team is basically run by Phillip Rivers now, so it’d make sense to do everything humanly possible to help keep him upright.

19. New York Giants – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

Even with a defensive line already loaded with young talent, the Giants need a big upgrade at defensive tackle. They’re old and increasingly ineffective. It just makes sense that they’d look to upgrade there.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

The Buccaneers are approaching this draft with the hopes of finding a defensive end to pair with last year’s first round pick, Gerald McCoy. Clayborn has great size and is one of those players who doesn’t really excel at one thing but does pretty much everything above-average (at worst). He was projected to be a top 10 pick last year but decided to stay in school, which ultimately cost him since this year’s draft is much deeper at the position he plays.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Even with all the rushing yards they piled up last year, the Chiefs offensive line badly needs an upgrade. Solder is one of those guys who looks the part, but could be one of those “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane”-types. But he’s definitely an upgrade from what the Chiefs are currently trotting out, and has a chance to develop on an up-and-coming team.

22. Indianapolis Colts – Tyron Smith, OT, USC

The Colts have essentially been trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents, when it comes to their offensive line. They’re taking every able-
bodied player they can find and slapping them on the offensive line, regardless of fit. I’m going to guess that keeping Peyton Manning upright would be a good thing, and given the fact that there’s a talented (though somewhat unpolished) prospect available, they have to take him.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida

If you’re ever in doubt as to whom the Eagles will select, just guess an offensive lineman and you’ve already given yourself 50/50 odds (if not better). Pouncey can start from Day 1 at guard, and then like his brother in Pittsburgh, can take over as the Center of the future for the Eagles.

24. New Orleans Saints – Cameron Hayward, DE, Ohio State

The Saints just didn’t get after the quarterback in 2010 the way they did in 2009, when they won the Super Bowl. Their pass rush took a big step back, which caused their turnover rate to drop as well. How cool would it be for the Saints to draft Cameron Hayward, the son of the legendary long-time Saint Craig “the Ironhead” Hayward?

25. Seattle Seahawks – Justin Houston, LB, Georgia

Everyone likes the idea of Seattle drafting local boy Jake Locker as their quarterback of the future, but I honestly think he falls to at least the second round of the draft, if not the third round. Houston is another player who is versatile enough to play strongside linebacker on first and second down, then put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer on third down.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

The Ravens secondary has slowly been declining over the last few years. They just haven’t had the same talent nor production as they have in years past. They have a bunch of question marks at both corner positions heading into the offseason, so drafting a talented guy like Harris would be a great addition. Harris also went to the University of Miami, so you know that guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed would be happy to take him under their wing.

27. Atlanta Falcons – Muhammed Wilkerson, DE, Temple

The Falcons proved that while they’re not quite ready to hang with the big boys in the NFL, they’re pretty damn close. I think the offense is fine, they just need a little more talent on defense. Wilkerson is a guy who can hold his own on running downs, then slide inside at defensive tackle in passing situations.

28. New England Patriots – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

There are whispers that Belichick loves this kid, and he and Saban are tight, so I could very well see this pick happening. Imagining a battering ram running back like Ingram on an already stacked offense like New England’s is just plain scary.

29. Chicago Bears – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Before Mike Martz started going to double tight end formations and running the football more often, Jay Cutler spent the early part of the 2010 season getting his brains beat in. Castonzo is a good fit for the Martz offense: he’s a better pass blocker than run blocker, he’s hard working, and he’s really smart.

30. New York Jets – Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

Another guy to throw into the Jets defensive end rotation, which is getting up there in age. Paea is phenomenal at the point of attack and is as strong as an ox (like most prospects from the Polynesian Islands).

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

The Steelers had four different players starting on their offensive line in the Super Bowl who weren’t their opening day starters, a trend that seems to happen every year for them. Sherrod is someone they can groom into a starting position. He has the physical tools to be an effective starter and is better in the run game, but still has room to develop.

32. Green Bay Packers – Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland

It seems a bit silly for a team that’s already stacked on offense to add another receiver. But Donald Driver could retire after finally winning the Super Bowl, and I could see James Jones leaving Green Bay for a heftier contract. The Packers are most effective with Greg Jennings on the outside and Jordy Nelson as the slot (third) receiver, so Smith would be a nice fit for them. He can work the underneath stuff, and excels at YAC (Yards after Catch).


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