Tag Archive: 1st Round


First Round Draft Grades

1st– Carolina- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn:
Grade: C
Analysis: I don’t think Cam Newton is the best player in the draft and I think they made this pick because they felt like they had to. They could have gotten Marcel Dareus, a better player in my opinion, and filled a huge need at the same time. I don’t think Cam Newton will live up to his immense potential that has more to do with his physical ability than his accuracy and intangibles. I don’t think Cam will be a great quarterback in the NFL and that makes it hard to like this pick.

2nd– Denver- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M:
Grade: B-
Analysis: If Denver was running a 3-4 I would give this pick an A+. Miller is a perfect 3-4 OLB and he would have formed a great tandem at OLB with Elvis Dumervil if he came back healthy. However, they are moving to a 4-3 defense and Miller will still have to be a strong-side linebacker in that defense. I think he can play this position which speaks to his athleticism, but it isn’t going to maximize his potential as a pass rushing linebacker which really is too bad. So I give this pick a B- because they got a good player, but they are limiting his potential by moving to a 4-3.

3rd– Buffalo- Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama:
Grade: A+
Analysis: Dareus is one of the best players in the draft and the Bills got him at #3. The Bills like to use 3-4 and 4-3 looks and Dareus is versatile enough to play 3-4 DE like he did at Alabama or play 4-3 DT which he did at times in Alabama’s nickel packages. I think he is going to be a very good player for Buffalo and that is why I gave them a great grade.

4th– Cincinnati- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia:
Grade: A
Analysis: The Bengals had a huge need at WR with TO likely leaving and Chad Johnson getting older. Jordan Shipley has ability as a slot receiver but they needed a future #1 and A.J. Green is absolutely that guy. He is the best receiver I have scouted since Calvin Johnson without a doubt and he should be a very good receiver in the NFL. He is as well rounded as any player at any position in this draft and he was the #1 player on my draft board for that reason. This is a great pick for the Bengals and they must have really liked him because reportedly they turned down a lot of picks from Atlanta to get him.

5th– Arizona- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU:
Grade: A
Analysis: Patrick Peterson is one of the best players in the draft and the Cardinals stood pat and let him fall to them. They had a great shot at getting one of Dareus, Miller, Peterson or Gabbert and they had their choice and I think they made the right one. Peterson will provide them a potentially elite corner to pair with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a guy who had a bit of a down year last year. He fills a need and provides a lot of talent to a secondary that really needs a playmaker.

6th– Atlanta- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama:
Grade: B-
Analysis: The pick looks really good because Julio has a lot of talent and could form a very formidable duo with Roddy White in Atlanta, however the price that the Falcons paid to move up to #6 and get Julio Jones was extremely high. It also feels to me like the Falcons tried to move up to #4 to get A.J. Green and then “settled” for Julio at #6. I personally wouldn’t have made that move, but it is a gamble and I’m glad that the Falcons identified the guy they wanted and made an aggressive move to get him. I just wish they hadn’t given up so much to do it. Regardless, I like the player and I think that Roddy will be able to mentor him effectively and help him improve his concentration which is something Roddy struggled with early in his career. I hope Julio pans out because otherwise this could be a very problematic for the Falcons in the future.

7th– San Francisco- Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri:
Grade: B-
Analysis: I love the player, I am very high on Aldon Smith and I think I had him #6 on my big board, but I don’t think he is a very good fit in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker. He has impressive speed and burst off the edge but I don’t think he is a fluid enough athlete to drop into coverage and I thought he was best with his hand in the dirt. It will be interesting to see if he is still effective in the 3-4, but I thought he had the most upside as a defensive end in a 4-3 which is why I gave the pick a lower grade.

8th– Tennessee- Jake Locker, QB, Washington:
Grade: B-
Analysis: When I watched Jake Locker he didn’t strike me as a franchise QB, and I thought that while he has a lot of potential and great intangibles he won’t be a great QB in the NFL. If he can be brought along slowly for a year or two I think he could be a pretty good QB in the NFL and it’s hard to doubt a kid with his work ethic and leadership capability, but I don’t know how good he will be in the NFL. I like him, but I liked him more as a pick in the 20’s than I do #8. It will be interesting to see how he develops, but I don’t think I would have picked him here.

9th– Dallas- Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal:
Grade: B
Analysis: Smith is a solid pick here. Not the best value, but they needed a LT and Smith will fit that bill for them. I don’t think he will be able to start at LT right away for them because while he has a ton of potential he needs coaching up on his technique in my opinion. I think he might be able to play later on in his rookie year but I think he would be best starting as a back-up, developing and then playing when he is ready. Hopefully he isn’t forced in early.

10th– Jacksonville- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri:
Grade: B+
Analysis: Gabbert is a good pick here and I think he is going into a good situation for him. He needs a year or two to develop without being pressured into the starting position and with Garrard still playing pretty effective football at QB for the Jags Gabbert should be able to learn from him and get coached up. This is a good situation for him and I obviously like him a lot as a QB as he was my #1 ranked QB in the draft.

11th– Houston- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin:
Grade: A
Analysis: Watt is a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense that the Texans are switching to and he might be able to play significantly as a rookie. Watt really gives the Texans some talent at a position of need and he helps bolster a front seven that was in need of a talent upgrade. I am a big fan of Watt and I think this is going to end up being a great pick. Watt loves the game, has an incredible passion for it and I think he will work extremely hard to continue to improve.

12th– Minnesota- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State:
Grade: C
Analysis: This fills a position of need obviously but I think that it was a significant reach. I like Ponder, but his injury concerns and his down year this year would have given me pause if I was thinking about pulling the trigger here. Personally I would have drafted Nick Fairley at 12, improved my defensive line and then traded back into round one if Ponder was my guy. Just no value with this pick, and it felt like a desperation move because they couldn’t find a team to trade down with.

13th– Detroit- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn:
Grade: A
Analysis: I caught a little flak for saying that Fairley would slide to #12 in my final mock draft and not only did he last that long he made it to #13 which I was very surprised about. Fairley has a ton of potential and teaming him with Suh on their interior defensive line is borderline terrifying. Obviously he has work to do and he needs to keep working, but if he keeps improving and developing the Lions could have a terrifying pair of defensive tackles for the next 5-10 years. It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses because he has a ton of ability but there is some boom/bust potential with him. But at this point he is definitely worth the risk.

14th– St. Louis- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina:
Grade: B+
Analysis: The Rams needed some pass rush help here as Leonard Little is getting older and Quinn has the potential to be a very effective pass rusher. There is boom/bust potential with this pick as well because there isn’t much tape on Quinn since he was suspended during his junior season. It is interesting to note how his season long suspension was not deemed as significant as Dez Bryant’s suspension over seemingly less wrong-doing, but that is just my personal opinion. Quinn has a lot of potential so it will be interesting to see how he develops over the next three years.

15th– Miami- Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida:
Grade: D+
Analysis: This is a very bad pick in my opinion. He might end up being a pretty good guard in the NFL, but I don’t think he is worth this high of a selection at all. I personally think he is very overrated and a lot of that has to do with his brother Maurkice being a pro-bowler at center for the Steelers as a rookie. The mind-boggling thing is that I haven’t heard one person say that they think Mike is going to be a better NFL player than Maurkice, and yet he was drafted two picks higher than Maurkice was! That is absolutely mind-boggling to me. Pouncey has the potential to be a pretty good guard in the NFL, but I think he is overrated and I don’t think he will live up to such a high selection for a guard.

16th– Washington- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue:
Grade: C+
Analysis: I like Kerrigan a lot as a player but I thought his best fit was as a LE in a 4-3 defense, not as a 3-4 OLB. I never thought he looked like a fluid enough athlete to play that position, so I was pretty surprised when the Redskins, a new 3-4 team, drafted him to play 3-4 OLB. Very surprising. I love his motor and work ethic so I think he will get the most out of his ability, I just don’t think he is a good fit for this scheme.

17th– New England- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado:
Grade: C-
Analysis: I know it seems like I am giving a lot of bad grades, but some guys that I am not high on were going higher than I thought they should have. Solder is a guy that I would have picked in round 2 but I am not high on him. He has a lot of athletic ability and has good potential to play LT, but I think he is overrated as a LT prospect. The Patriots have a great drafting track record so it will be interesting to see if they prove to be right, but I definitely don’t like this pick.

18th– San Diego- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois:
Grade: B+
Analysis: I like Liuget as a prospect. He will be a pretty good fit at 3-4 DE for the Chargers and he should have a good impact against the run and should be able to penetrate upfield and disrupt plays in the backfield. I’m pretty high on Liuget so I liked this pick for the Chargers.

19th– New York Giants- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraksa:
Grade: A
Analysis: The Giants needed help at corner and I think they had to be surprised that Amukamara slid this far, so I think this is a very good value pick here. Amukamara has some technique work to do but going to a Giants team that has a thriving pass rush and some veteran experience at corner so hopefully he won’t be forced into playing time too early.

20th– Tampa Bay- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa:
Grade: B-
Analysis: I am not a big Clayborn fan and I am wary of him because of his down year this past season when he seemed to be throttling it down. I think he has the potential to prove me wrong, but he was a risk that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking without being able to evaluate his personality to see if he was as hard of a worker as everyone seemed to make him out to be. So I am not sold on him at 20, but he could very well prove me wrong.

21st– Cleveland: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor:
Grade: B-
Analysis: This is a pretty good pick and I would probably give it a B+ or A- if the Browns were still running a 3-4 but they are running a 4-3 and having Rubin and Taylor inside will mean they will be getting almost no interior pass rush from their starters. They will need to bolster their interior line depth with some more athletic pass rushers to ever get a pass rush. However, their run defense should be formidable and I like Phil Taylor as a prospect so they still get a pretty good grade.

22nd– Indianapolis- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College:
Grade: A
Analysis: I thought Castonzo was a top 20 lock so this is good value for him here, plus he was my #1 ranked offensive tackle when it was all said and done, over Tyron Smith. I think he will be a good LT for the Colts for a very long time and I think Castonzo is an underrated prospect when it comes to playing the LT position. The Colts are a savvy team when it comes to the draft and I think they made a very good pick here, I’m a big Castonzo fan.

23rd– Philadelphia- Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor:
Grade: B+
Analysis: Watkins is a player I like but he is older than the average draft pick at 26 years old which limits his upside but I think he will be able to contribute early in his career which makes up for it to a degree. He should be a big help at guard for the Eagles who generally target offensive and defensive linemen in the first round of the draft.

24th– New Orleans- Cameron Jordan, DE, California:
Grade: B+
Analysis: I don’t think Jordan is a great fit as a 4-3 DE but I think he will be pretty good there. I think he would have been better in a 3-4 system though. Regardless, he is a very fundamentally sound player and he should be able to contribute early on in his career as a Saint and I definitely like him a lot as a prospect, plus they got a good value for him here. If he was a better scheme fit, in my opinion, he would have gotten an A or A+ from me here.

25th– Seattle- James Carpenter, OT, Alabama:
Grade: B
Analysis: I think they could have gotten him a bit later but clearly they were high on him and I understand why. He isn’t a flashy guy but I think he is going to have a long, successful NFL career at right tackle in the NFL. I don’t think he will be a guard, I think he will be a very good right tackle. So while they didn’t get great value they did get a good player at 25.

26th– Kansas City- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh:
Grade: C+
Analysis: I wouldn’t have picked Baldwin this high and I have questions about his fundamentals (such as route running, short area quickness) and I also have questions about his character. He has a ton of potential because of his size and freakish athletic ability but I am just not sold on him living up to that immense potential. It will be interesting to see how he develops because if he learns how to run better routes he could very well live up to his potential because he has great athletic ability, attacks jump balls well and adjusts to the ball in the air as well as any receiver in this draft.

27th– Baltimore- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado:
Grade: B+
Analysis: I’m not a huge Jimmy Smith fan but he is a good fit for the Ravens scheme and he will be able to play a lot of man coverage on an island for them. He needs to work on some things, particularly his foot work, but he has a lot of potential as a man coverage corner even if I don’t think he has very good ball skills.

28th– New Orleans- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama:
Grade: A+
Analysis: Ingram is going to turn out to be one of the best players from this draft class but because he isn’t a flashy running back he fell this far, that and because of a lack of need for RB’s early and often in the first round. However, Ingram is going to prove to be a great addition to the Saints and trust me I hate saying that as a Falcons fan. If his knee holds up he will put up 1,000+ yards and 8+ TD’s consistently for the next eight years.

29th– Chicago- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin:
Grade: A+
Analysis: I think Carimi is EXACTLY what the Bears needed. They needed an offensive lineman who can run block effectively which he can and a guy who can pass block well which he can. He won’t be able to stick at LT in the NFL but he has the potential to be a pro-bowl right tackle and the Bears have to be doing back-flips because he lasted this long. This was a huge step in the right direction for the Bears offensive line.

30th– New York Jets- Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple:
Grade: B
Analysis: Wilkerson is a solid value and he has a lot of potential so I like the pick, I just don’t love it as much as some others. I think he will fit in well in their 3-4 scheme so I think this is a good pick as far as need but they also got a talented player.

31st– Pittsburgh- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State:
Grade: A+
Analysis: I love this pick, absolutely love it. I am a huge Heyward fan and I think he is going to be one of the biggest steals in this draft when it is all said and done. He won’t ever be a big sack guy in the NFL but he is going to be an impact player against the run and he should be an anchor on this Pittsburgh defensive line for the next ten years. This is one of the best picks of the draft in my opinion.

32nd– Green Bay- Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State:
Grade: A
Analysis: The Packers made a great pick to finish the first round with Sherrod. I wrote in my scouting report that I thought his best fit might be in a zone blocking scheme because of his good first step and his ability to wall off defenders in the run game. He struggles as a drive blocker so his max value would be in a zone blocking scheme because he wouldn’t be asked to drive block as often, and that is why I love this pick so much. Sherrod won’t be asked to drive block as much as he would in a man scheme which makes him more valuable, plus he should be able to play LT for the Packers allowing Bulaga to remain at RT where I think he is a better fit.

That’s all I have for the first round of the draft. I’ll try and get grades out for day two tomorrow or Sunday! Thanks for reading!

–Tom

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Reactions from Round 1:

There were obviously some surprising trades and picks in round one, so here are some of my reactions from the first round of the NFL Draft:

1- The Falcons trading up for Julio Jones- I am a huge Falcons fan and I can get behind this, but we gave up a LOT for Julio and he’s going to have a lot of pressure on him from the second he starts working out with the team. I don’t know how I feel about that, but hopefully Roddy will be able to take him under his wing and help him improve his concentration to help eliminate some of the simple drops that he has occasionally. Roddy and Julio could be a very lethal tandem and I have been hoping we would go after an elite WR to get a future #1 to eventually replace Roddy, and we finally did that. Drafting a talented player at a position with a very good player already really strengthens the position in the present and the future, so I like the pick but boy… we gave up a lot for him.

2- The Vikings selecting Christian Ponder #12 overall- I like Ponder but dang… that is 15+ picks higher than I thought he would go. I imagine they were trying to work a trade to slide down a bit and they couldn’t pull it off so they drafted the player they were trying to move down and get as a result of the trade down. It looks like a big reach right now, and I definitely would have picked Nick Fairley at that spot, but the Vikings were clearly very high on Ponder and they needed a QB. I disagree with the pick because I think you have to go BPA there, but QB is one of the only positions that does not play by the BPA rule. It’ll be interesting to see how Ponder turns out in comparison to Nick Fairley because they will be in the same division.

3- New England selecting Nate Solder #17 overall- I didn’t have a 1st round grade on Solder so it will be interesting to see how he does in the NFL. The Pats draft as well as anyone so I am interested to see how that plays out, because I was shocked that they picked him over Castonzo, a player that I’m high on. We’ll see how they both play, but I was shocked that New England picked Solder this high considering it’s 10+ picks higher than I would have picked him (I probably had him as a 2nd/3rd rounder but thought he might go 29 to Chicago) and because I thought he was a better athlete than offensive tackle.

4- Washington selecting Ryan Kerrigan #16 overall- I don’t think Kerrigan or Aldon Smith are good fits for the 3-4 OLB position, but Smith is a better fit than Kerrigan. It occurred to me that if the Redskins played a 4-3 they’d actually have a very promising defensive line with Orakpo at RE, Haynesworth at DT and Kerrigan at LE, but they are all at least somewhat out of position in the 3-4 which is the actual scheme they are running. We’ll see how that works out.

5- Cleveland selecting Phil Taylor #21 overall- They have Ahtyba Rubin who is a similar player, a guy who can occupy blockers and stuff the run, and I thought this pick would have been great if they were still running a 3-4, but they are moving to a 4-3. So now they have two potentially quality 3-4 NT prospects and they are running a 4-3. Neither Rubin nor Taylor will offer much at all as a pass rusher, so I can’t really envision Cleveland’s pass rush being potent unless they get incredible production from their DE’s this year. I imagine their run defense will be impressive however, at least up the middle.

6- Da’Quan Bowers sliding all the way through round 1- I thought Bowers would slide because of his knee injury but I didn’t expect him to slide all the way through round 1. It will be particularly interesting to see where he is picked today, because the team will have to be willing to roll the dice. I could see the Vikings considering him at their 2nd round pick if they are worried that Ray Edwards might leave.

7- My mock did a bit better than I expected. When Von Miller went #2 I thought my mock was going to unravel but I got six picks right and got a solid amount of players in the 1st round. I never could have guessed the Falcons would move up that high for Julio, nor did I expect Ponder to go as high as he did. I am glad Dalton didn’t go in round one though, I have thought he was overrated for a long while.

That’s about all I’ve got, I can’t wait for round two to start. I have to say the draft really got boring after about the top 15 or so picks. It got very slow and I found myself daydreaming waiting for the teams to make their picks. Let’s hope the 2nd and 3rd rounds are more interesting!

Thanks for reading! Enjoy the draft!

–Tom

New Mock Draft: 12.22.10

1st Round NFL Mock Draft:

1st– Carolina- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford- The Panthers have a lot of holes and a lot of work to do on turning their team around, but I don’t think they have seen anything out of Jimmy Clausen that would make them say “Yes, this guy is definitely our franchise quarterback.” If that is the case then there is no way they can pass on Luck here if they think he is a potential franchise QB. We’ve seen the turnaround that a good, young QB can help a team accomplish if they come to the right situation with the Falcons, Ravens, Jets and now the Rams and to a lesser degree the Browns. The Panthers have a lot of needs, but solidifying the QB play can improve the whole offense. Luck is a very good QB prospect, and unless the Panthers are seeing something in Clausen that I’m not then they should take Luck #1 overall.

2nd– Cincinnati- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia- Cincinnati has a few needs as well, which makes sense or they probably wouldn’t be picking in the top five selections. I think Carson Palmer needs to be replaced in the next two years, if not sooner, their offensive line could use upgrades, they could use another quality wide receiver to play opposite Ochocinco and eventually replace him, and they could use pass rush help at DE and some serious safety help. It goes without saying that Cincinnati can’t really afford to miss with this pick, and I think that is why A.J. Green has to be the selection. He is the consensus #1 WR in the NFL Draft if he decides to come out according to just about everyone, and he would give the Bengals a very impressive cast of receivers with Ochocinco, Green and Shipley in the slot.

3rd– Dallas (F/ DEN)- Patrick Peterson, CB/S, LSU- Is this trade down especially likely to happen? No. Do I think it will happen if this is how the draft plays out? Maybe, but it probably isn’t especially likely. But I have to do something to keep things interesting right? Now, Denver will probably be looking at a front seven pick here, and they could pick Marcell Dareus here, but to be honest that feels a little high for him in my opinion. So, will anyone actually trade up here? I’m not sure, but if anyone was going to do it I think it would be the Cowboys. The Cowboys have a lot of talent and hopefully they bring Jason Garrett back because they have looked better with him at the helm. However, safety is a huge need for the Cowboys and I think that if they fall in love with Patrick Peterson they will go and get him if they need to. Peterson is an absolute playmaker, and he could be one of the most dynamic safeties in the league if he adjusts well to the position. His combination of size, speed and ball skills is something you rarely see out of a safety even in the NFL, so if they think he can be a game-changer for them that can dramatically help their secondary I would expect the Cowboys to make the move and go get him.

4th– Arizona- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska- The Cardinals could arguably use a QB here, but I don’t think I would feel comfortable spending a top five pick on Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett. So if the Cardinals aren’t going with a quarterback until round 2 (most likely) then they have to look to fill another need. Cornerback could be that position. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a good corner, but they don’t have much opposite him. They might have bigger needs than #2 corner, but there aren’t many better players available here than Prince Amukamara, so Arizona could end up getting the best player they can here.

5th– Buffalo- Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina- Everyone thought the Bills were a lock to take a QB, but Fitzpatrick has played well enough to make them reconsider, so I don’t think they will go after a QB unless Andrew Luck somehow falls to them (which I don’t think is likely). Is Fitzpatrick the long term answer? Probably not, but if they aren’t sold on Locker or Mallett in the top five it makes sense to stick with Fitzpatrick and look to shore up other areas. Normally I think the Bills would grab a quality LT here, but since no such player is worth this high of a selection (when was the last time there wasn’t an offensive tackle worth this pick??)  I think the Bills could go after a pass rusher to help boost their pass rush. The Bills have used both 3-4 and 4-3 formations on defense this year, so I can’t say I know what formation they will stick with in the future. However, I think Quinn has the athleticism to potentially play in a 3-4 at OLB and I know he has the athletic ability to harass quarterbacks at RE in a 4-3. This is another big high risk/high reward pick for the Bills but it could pan out for them with a burst to their pass rush.

6th– Detroit- Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson- I think this would probably be a worst-case scenario for the Lions, but even if Peterson and Amukamara are gone the Lions will have options. One of the most appealing would have to be adding a pass rusher with as much potential as Bowers. Bowers might not fly off the edge like you might think he would considering his amazing 15+ sack season, but he has an intriguing combination of size, speed and strength and projects well to the LE position in the NFL. Adding another potential stud pass rusher to that defensive line could help their secondary out, and in a very deep cornerback class the Lions will have an opportunity to select a corner with their 2nd round pick.

7th– Denver (F/ Dallas)- Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama- Denver traded down to try to pick up some draft picks to fill some more needs and still gets their guy! This would probably have to be a best-case scenario for the Broncos as they could really use some help on the defensive line and Dareus is probably the best 3-4 DE prospect in this draft class.

8th– Cleveland- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State- Colt McCoy has shocked me with his play so far and he has impressed me thus far in his career. I did not think he was capable of this, but like I did with Sam Bradford I really underestimated his intangibles. And like I always say, I am man enough to admit when I’m wrong! I am going to re-watch the Bengals-Browns game and watch McCoy specifically, I will post my thoughts on him. However, I think it’s safe to say Cleveland has found a quarterback worth developing, so they need to work on getting him some weapons. That starts with a stud wide receiver, and outside of A.J. Green there isn’t a receiver I like more than Justin Blackmon. Blackmon has had an absolutely unreal season as he has had over 100 yards and at least one touchdown in EVERY SINGLE GAME this season. That kind of consistent performance is exactly what Cleveland needs out of a wide receiver, which is why I think they may pick him even over the bigger, potentially faster wide receiver in Julio Jones who has a potentially higher ceiling. Another reason they might not pick Jones? His lapses in concentration that lead to drops may remind them too much of Braylon Edwards.

9th– Houston- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn- Houston has such a dominant pass rusher in Mario Williams but they have had so much trouble finding help for him along the defensive line so that teams can’t just double him, take him away and then buy time for their quarterback to throw. Nick Fairley has been one of the most dominant defensive players in the country this year and the first time I watched him play he reminded me of Kevin Williams the way he was coming off the ball, splitting double teams and making plays in the backfield. Adding Fairley could give the Texans a pass rusher who can collapse the pocket and help force quarterbacks to scramble, which could mean more sacks for Mario Williams.

10th– Minnesota- Jake Locker, QB, Washington- I struggled a bit with this pick because I really think the Vikings need to think about trading down at this spot because they have so many holes on their team. They need a quarterback, a left tackle, a center, a right guard, a defensive tackle, potentially a left end if they let Ray Edwards walk (and I really think they should, especially if he wants a big pay day), a cornerback and of course safety help. That’s a pretty long list of needs, and the more picks they have in the first two or three rounds to help fill those holes the better off they will be now that they will probably have to start rebuilding. Remember, they don’t have a 3rd round pick this year because they traded it to the Patriots for Randy Moss. But if they can’t or don’t trade down and Patrick Peterson isn’t available you have to imagine they will pick a quarterback. I don’t know which they will ultimately prefer between Locker and Mallett here at #10, but I think that with a couple years of development Locker will be the better NFL QB of the two, so I mocked him to the Vikings here. Locker is not ready to start as a rookie like so many people thought he might be after his great season as a junior, but in reality he needs significant work before he will be ready to start. The Vikings have very little talent at quarterback with only Joe Webb likely to be back next season. First and foremost they need to bring in a veteran quarterback who will be able to keep some pressure off of Locker, or whoever they draft, so he isn’t rushed in too early. Donovan McNabb, if or when he is released from the Redskins, would be ideal.

11th– Washington- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama- The Redskins, regardless of who is playing quarterback, could really use some firepower at wide receiver. They need help at the skill positions, namely running back and wide receiver, and Julio Jones has a higher ceiling than just about any receiver in this draft class because of his great combination of size, strength, speed and his ability to make unbelievable catches. He has such great hands, but he will still drop more routine passes sometimes that will frustrate you as a scout and as a fan. If he can improve his concentration and become more consistent he could be one of the best receivers to come out of this draft class (if not the best).

12th– San Francisco- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas- It is pretty apparent that San Francisco needs help at quarterback after the Alex Smith experiment, at long last, has proven to be a complete failure. Troy Smith showed some ability, but it wasn’t consistent enough to make QB enough of an afterthought to pass on one here if there is a good one available. I am not a huge Mallett fan, and I personally think that his ceiling may be what Cutler is dealing with now. I don’t know how consistent Mallett’s footwork will ever be, and that contributes to his inconsistent accuracy and ball placement. When he gets in the zone, just like Cutler, Mallett can make any throw and put the ball wherever he wants it. But like with any QB, that ability comes and goes, and when they aren’t on their footwork causes erratic passes because they can get away with throwing off of their back foot, plus both of them have questionable decision-making. I was really high on Cutler when he came out of Vanderbilt, and I still like him as a QB, but I don’t think Mallett will ever be as effective as Cutler has been this season for the Bears. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but that is just my opinion. However, if the 49ers feel differently then he makes a lot of sense for them because they could use a strong armed QB who can make any throw to deliver the ball downfield to Crabtree and Vernon Davis as well as any other passing weapons they develop. I’m not sold on Mallett’s leadership capability either, but it would be nice if the 49ers could get a leader at QB who could lead the offense like Patrick Willis leads the defense.

13th– Seattle- Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State- Seattle needs help all over their defensive line, but outside of Red Bryant they don’t have a lot of talent at defensive tackle. There isn’t really a DE that I believe is worth this pick (I am not high on Adrian Clayborn after the way he played this year…) so if I was the Seahawks I would look at grabbing one of the quality DT’s still on the board. Paea might be the best one available, so he could very well be the pick. Paea is incredibly strong in the weight room but unlike some players his weight room strength seems to translate to the field, plus he is very quick off the ball and is very disruptive in the backfield. Playing next to Red Bryant (if he’s healthy next year, hopefully he will be) would mean a lot of one on one matchups for Paea which could mean some early impact from him. That would be huge for the Seahawks who really need a boost to their pass rush however they can get it.

14th– Tennessee- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA- Tennessee needs OLB help, and they probably have needed it for a while, so they should be looking at that need first and foremost. It looks like they need a QB of the future since Vince Young has not been playing in favor of Kerry Collins, but there is no QB worth this high of a selection in my opinion unless they wanted to take Cameron Newton. However, if I was the Titans he would remind me way too much of Young to take a risk on him here. Ayers is a much safer pick that is good versus the run, versus the pass and can even rush the passer.

15th– Miami- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama- You might think to yourself: Ingram? Really? The Dolphins have Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams! Well, both of them are getting a little older. Brown is getting close to that 30 year old mark where RB’s tend to start to decline, plus he has been dealing with injuries. It’s tough to pinpoint how much longer Ricky has left because of his time away from the game, but like Favre is beginning to find out you can’t play forever. Ingram is the best running back in the country and he should be able to contribute immediately to take some of the load off of Brown and Williams. Plus if one or both of them gets hurt Ingram would be comfortable carrying the load until they are healthy. Chad Henne has been inconsistent like I expected him to be in the NFL, so he hasn’t inspired a lot of confidence at Miami. I think it’s a little too early to pull the plug on him though.

16th– New England (F/ OAK)- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M- The Patriots could use some pass rush help at OLB and that is one thing Von Miller does as well as about anyone in the country. Miller started slow this season but he has picked it up since then and has put together a quality senior season after he exploded onto the scene his junior year. He projects very well to the 3-4 OLB position and I think he would fit into the Patriots defensive scheme very nicely.

17th– Tampa Bay- Rahim Moore, S, UCLA- This might seem like a strange pick, especially with Adrian Clayborn still on the board, but like I said I’m not that high on him. However, I do like Rahim Moore and the Bucs need serious help at safety. I think they could use an upgrade at corner, but safety might even be more pressing than that. They have been rotating anyone in at safety this year trying to find someone who can play well, but no one has stepped up it appears. Moore is the essence of a center fielder and he has good ball skills which makes him a very nice fit for the Bucs defensive scheme.

18th– Jacksonville- Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn- This might seem like a strange pick here, but I think it makes some sense. David Garrard is about to turn 33 in February so he might have another year or two left playing at a high level, so a developmental QB would be a nice thing to have. Enter Cameron Newton, the ultimate developmental QB. Garrard could be a good mentor for Newton because Newton will probably play with a similar style to Garrard in the NFL if he ever develops his fundamentals like Garrard has. But with Garrard still playing well he would keep the pressure off of Newton while he developed as a QB and more importantly if they worked him into the game on some Wildcat formations he could help sell tickets, which is one of the reasons this pick makes the most sense. The Jags didn’t get Tebow last year to get people to buy tickets but Newton should have a similar impact. He really needs some development and coaching, but the amount of attention he would bring to the Jaguars would be worth the development and patience they will have to have with him.

19th– Green Bay- Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida- The Packers could go a couple of different directions here.  The Packers could use a future LT (I think Bulaga should stick at RT), a RB, a DE (depending on Johnny Jolly), an OLB to play opposite of Clay Matthews and some help at corner. Al Harris is no longer with the Packers but Tramon Williams has stepped up into the starting role before and he has played well in his stead opposite Charles Woodson. The only problem is they don’t have much depth behind Woodson and Williams and Woodson himself is getting up in age and won’t be able to play as well as he had the past few years for a lot longer. That makes me think that corner should be addressed in one of the first two rounds, if not in the first round. Jenkins would do a couple things for the Packers as their draft pick. First, he would bring a physical presence because of the way he supports the run which is what the Packers like in their corners. Second, he would bring some impressive ball skills which the Packers LOVE in their defensive backs. Third, he would keep the streak alive of the Packers having at least one corner with dreads starting in their secondary alive for a long time. Yeah, I went there.

20th– San Diego- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State- This might seem surprising but I think it makes a lot of sense. Cameron Heyward is an absolute beast in the trenches and I think he is the #2 3-4 DE prospect in this draft class for that reason. The Chargers could really use a 3-4 DE, so Heyward makes perfect sense for them at #20. He would help solidify a defensive line that used to be a strength for them, and while they do need an OLB to replace Merriman because Larry English has disappointed at OLB (I thought he was more of a 4-3 DE to be honest) I think they might be able to get one of those in the second or third round if they like a prospect there. Heyward could potentially contribute right away and fill a big need, so I think he has to be the pick here.

21st– St. Louis- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa- I don’t know if this pick makes perfect sense because Clayborn projects better to LE which is where Chris Long plays currently, but he played RE at Iowa so maybe the Rams will get creative with him at RE to help their run defense and then move him inside on passing downs. Regardless, he’s a pretty good value here even if he has had a down season this year in my opinion. The Rams already have a pretty good defensive line but if Clayborn plays up to his potential then he could really turn this unit into a dominant force.

22nd– Kansas City- Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia- There are questions about how Houston will look at OLB in the NFL because he doesn’t drop that well into coverage, but at #22 he has to get serious consideration from the Chiefs because of his ability to rush the passer, even if he isn’t very natural at dropping back into coverage. The Chiefs have the start to a pretty good defense with a couple solid DE’s in Dorsey and Jackson, Derrick Johnson playing well in the middle and Eric Berry continuing to be impressive in the secondary. Grabbing a pass rusher seems like a logical next step, and there aren’t a lot of better pass rushers available than Houston at this point.

23rd– Indianapolis- Drake Nevis, DT, LSU- The Colts definitely need help up the middle of their defense and I am really high on Nevis. He is extremely disruptive up the middle for LSU, he gets off the ball quickly, splits double teams well, can bull rush his man to collapse the pocket and should really help solidify the Colts interior of the defensive line when he is ready to contribute.

24th– New York Giants- Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama- The Giants could use a stud ILB and even though I wonder how good Hightower is in coverage I think he could be a good fit for the Giants. The Giants more than anything preach getting after the passer and Hightower is a very good ILB prospect but on some passing downs he lines up at DE when Alabama has four down lineman to rush the passer. If he can do that in the NFL, which I imagine with some development he could, he could give the Giants a quality ILB who could drop down and rush the passer with his hand down if they wanted him to. That seems like something the Giants would probably be interested in.

25th– New Orleans- Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina- I thought Carter would go earlier than this because he would test well and look good in drills but because of his surgery that is all up in the air so the last 1st is probably where he will end up going if/when he recovers from his surgery. The Saints probably shouldn’t complain though, especially since they have had good luck with linebackers coming off of injury (Jonathan Vilma). Carter would give the Saints a very athletic OLB as well as a potential special teams ace because of how well he pressures punts.

26th– New York Jets- Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue- The Jets could use a DE here and an OLB because Jason Taylor is getting old, but there is no such 3-4 DE available that I think is worth this pick, and there isn’t a NT worth this pick either (Jerrell Powe is an option but I don’t think he is worth a late 1st). So OLB figures to be the pick and Kerrigan doesn’t project perfectly to the 3-4 in my opinion but some people think he would be fine at the position apparently. I will have to wait to see it before I believe it, but he definitely has the quickness off the ball to get after the passer from the OLB position in a 3-4. And more than anything that is what the Jets need from their OLB’s in that defense.

27th– Chicago- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State- Sherrod might not be the ideal LT that Bears fans want, but I think he is the best offensive lineman in this class and more than anything the Bears just need talented offensive linemen so they can start to rebuild one of the worst units in the NFL. Sherrod could play LT or RT so depending on whether or not Chris Williams can offer anything at either spot Sherrod could slide into either spot and provide some reliability as a run blocker and as a pass blocker. He might struggle with some of the elite speed rushers at LT, but Frank Omiyale struggles with any above-average pass rusher there already regardless of speed, so Sherrod would at worst be a step in the right direction.

28th– Baltimore- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami- The Ravens need help at CB very badly because what talent they have there will hit the free agent market this offseason with the exception of Dominique Foxworth who has been out with an injury this season. The Ravens, as much as any team in the NFL, seem to hit it big when they pull talent from Miami’s talent pool (Ray Lewis and Ed Reed being prime examples. I’m sure there are more) so if they like Harris’ game and see him available late in round one at a position of serious need then I think they could go back to that same well once again.

29th– Pittsburgh- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin- The Steelers really need an upgrade at RT and Carimi should fit in perfectly to the Steelers scheme that relies on push in the run game. Carimi could probably be a solid LT in the NFL, which gives him added value as a potential back-up at that position in my opinion, but I think he will at worst have a long, solid career at RT. If he can get coached up a bit he could very well have pro-bowl potential.

30th– Philadelphia- Aaron Williams, CB, Texas- The Eagles have a good corner in Asante Samuel but opposite him they have a lot of question marks. Ellis Hobbs was injured for the season again and his career may be over because of it, and no one has played well at all in replacing him. His replacement, Peterson, got absolutely owned this past weekend by the Giants. He gave up the first three of Manning’s passing touchdowns if I’m not mistaken. That’s a pretty bad game. So, the Eagles could use help opposite Samuels. Williams is a playmaker at corner which the Eagles obviously like and while he hasn’t quite had the season some expected him to have it’s safe to say no one on Texas did.  He still has a lot of ability and athletic potential, plus with the Eagles pass rush and ability to apply pressure he could be in position for a lot of turnovers.

31st– Atlanta- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin- The Falcons don’t have a lot of serious needs but one thing they do need to improve is their pass rush. John Abraham won’t be able to play at this level for much longer, and his back-up Lawrence Sidbury has contributed next to nothing this season, and hasn’t even been active for the majority of the games. That’s not exactly a vote of confidence, and as much as I’d like Sidbury to be the future stud pass rusher the Falcons need at RE it’s just not a sensible conclusion to come to at this point. Kroy Biermann has played better than I ever expected him to when he was drafted in the 5th round, but I am not sure he is the answer at LE for us in the long term. I love watching J.J. Watt play and I think his passion for the game and his non-stop motor makes him a perfect fit on the Falcons. He might not be a 10+ sack guy at LE, but I think he will be good versus the run and get 6+ sacks for us.

32nd– New England- Cameron Jordan, DE, California- The Patriots are the masters of getting great bang for their buck and they did it again last year when they got Devin McCourty late in round one and he has been one of the best rookie corners in this draft class thus far. Jordan is a quality DE and I think he projects pretty well to the 3-4. I honestly expected him to come off the board earlier than this, but somehow he fell and the Patriots, as they probably will be on draft day no matter how it turns out, will benefit from it.

Hopefully you enjoyed my new mock draft! Please leave comments! Thanks for reading!

–Tom

My First Mock Draft of the Year

This is my first mock draft of the year and it is only the first round. I hit some snags while doing it, but for my first mock draft since April I thought it was a good effort. Let me know what you think obviously and hopefully you will enjoy the read!

First round:

Pick:  1  San Francisco 49ers- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas-

Analysis: First off, I don’t think Andrew Luck will declare this year, but if he does I think he is definitely the front-runner for the #1 overall pick.  That said, the next best thing is Ryan Mallett as far as potential is concerned. Mallett’s combination of size and arm strength is borderline unheard of, and as a result his potential is through the roof. He has some mechanical issues, such as his footwork (which I think leads to some inaccurate throws, I don’t think his actual accuracy is as bad as some say), however the #1 overall pick is about production, potential and glitz and glamour, not necessarily the best overall player in the draft. I don’t think Mallett is the best QB in this draft, nor do I think he is the best player in the draft, but that doesn’t mean he won’t go #1.

Pick:  2  Carolina Panthers- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama-

Analysis: This seems a little high for Dareus especially considering the two game suspension earlier this season, but he is an extremely disruptive force at DE in Alabama’s 3-4 defense, and though I think he would be a great fit in a 3-4 defense in the NFL I think he could play defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense as well. The Panthers’ defense is a bit of a mess right now between injuries and losing starters via free agency or trade, but their defensive tackles are absolutely awful. Until they upgrade that position they won’t be able to stop the run or rush the passer, so I think improving up the middle has to be a high priority for them this year.

Pick:  3  Buffalo Bills- Jake Locker, QB, Washington-

Analysis: I think Locker is a top 10-15 selection right now, but this is a very need-based pick so though I think it is a little bit of a reach as far as my evaluation of Locker’s stock at this point, I think it makes sense. The Bills finally cut Trent Edwards loose since he clearly wasn’t getting the job done and they need a new face of the franchise to promote optimism and sell tickets, and Jake Locker fits that bill perfectly. He has great intangibles, great athleticism and great potential, however he has not progressed the way many people thought he would this year so I think his stock has taken a bit of a hit. He could easily move back up to a top 5 pick by the time the draft rolls around, especially if he plays better the rest of the season, but right now Luck and Mallett are in the drivers’ seat for the #1 overall pick. Some will argue, like they do every year, that they should pass on the potential franchise QB and fill another need in round 1 and get a safer, less risky quarterback in round 2. I made that mistake when I wanted Brian Brohm in round 2 instead of Matt Ryan, so I probably won’t ever feel that way again.

Pick:  4  Detroit Lions- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU-

Analysis: The Lions have done a very nice job of acquiring nice pieces of talent since Matt Millen was fired. First there was Calvin Johnson, then Matt Stafford and now Ndamukong Suh. However, they are still lacking at the cornerback position, which is where Patrick Peterson comes in. Not only is Peterson arguably the best cornerback in the nation, but he is an absolutely electric return man. Once he gets the ball in his hands he can make guys miss and turn on the jets in a hurry. That makes him dangerous on punt returns and after he comes away with a turnover on defense. Having that kind of a playmaker at cornerback is something the Lions have lacked since they signed Dre’ Bly away from the St. Louis Rams years ago. The Lions could also consider a defensive end or a left tackle here, but in my opinion there is no better player available at either position than Patterson, making him the best selection for the Lions.

Pick:  5  Cleveland Browns- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia-

Analysis: I think that A.J. Green is in the drivers’ seat to be the first receiver off the board in April, and the Browns are a team that needs desperate help both at quarterback and at wide receiver. With Mallett and Locker both off the board already, the Browns should take the best player available and that figures to be Green. The Browns already have a former Georgia Bulldog on the roster in Mohamed Massaquoi, but he is not thriving as their #1 option. Green definitely has #1 WR potential, and he would give whoever takes snaps at QB more options to throw to as a result. I think Green is a very good player, but something about his game makes me wonder how well he will transition to the NFL. Honestly, I think he is a little over-hyped, but I haven’t scouted him yet this year so perhaps I will change my tune once I do.

Pick:  6  Minnesota Vikings- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska-

Analysis: This may seem like a strange pick, especially since the Vikings picked Chris Cook last year, but the Vikings really like to stick to the best player available, and in this case I think that is Amukamara. Now, when you look at their roster on paper it might not seem like they need a corner. They have Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook waiting in the wings. Asher Allen provides some depth, and bingo! No issue… right? I would say wrong. Winfield has lost a step or two, and will only get slower and become less suitable for the starting role, and Cedric Griffin has now torn both of his ACL’s within the last calendar year. That is too bad, especially since he fits their scheme well, but between Winfield’s age and Griffin’s injury history the Vikings aren’t as deep at corner as they appear to be on paper, and that is assuming Chris Cook pans out as well. Amukamara could really help shore up the position and if Cook pans out they could form a very nice tandem for years to come with Asher Allen filling in at the nickel spot.

Pick:  7  Dallas Cowboys- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa-

Analysis: The Cowboys have a couple of solid DE’s in Igor Olshansky and Marcus Spears, but Spears has never really lived up to his 1st round pick billing. Clayborn strikes me as an ideal 3-4 DE prospect. He doesn’t have the edge speed to fly off the edge as a 4-3 DE but he is so big, strong and has such good hand usage I think he could be very disruptive at the DE spot in a 3-4. He is good versus the run though I have not seen how well he handles double teams, though with coaching and weight training he should have no issues controlling two gaps in the NFL.

Pick:  8  St. Louis Rams- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama-

Analysis: Julio Jones has a boatload of potential and he hasn’t really come close to reaching it at Alabama. Part of that has to do with how balanced their offense is and how worried teams tend to be about him beating them when the Crimson Tide do pass, but he definitely has the potential to be a better NFL player than he was in college. He has great size, speed and can make some highlight reel catches. If the Rams are looking for a potential #1 WR for Bradford to throw to, Jones is one of the best they could hope to get in this draft class. I have my concerns about Jones’ route running and his tendency to drop passes, but that comes down to concentration because his hands are obviously reliable. Jones is one of the more interesting prospects in this draft class to project to the NFL because he strikes me as a hit or miss guy.

Pick:  9  San Diego Chargers- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State-

Analysis: I’m not sure how realistic it is for two 3-4 DE prospects to come off the board in the top 10, but the Chargers really need help at DE. Not only is the starter opposite Luis Castillo a better fit as a back-up, but Castillo himself is regularly injured. Heyward has great size, strength and defends the run well. He doesn’t have the speed off the edge to play DE in a 4-3, however I do think he could slide inside to defensive tackle in that scheme. But, I think his best fit is at DE in the 3-4 defense, and a combo of Heyward and a healthy Castillo at DE would be a very big boost for San Diego’s defense.

Pick: 10  New England Patriots (F/Oak)- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA-

Analysis: The Patriots are notorious for a few things. One is having multiple first round picks (which they have again this year) and the other is consistently spending high draft picks on their front 7 on defense. I think they will go this route again this year with one of their selections at least, and Ayers strikes me as the perfect “Patriot” player. He is a good pass rusher and he can drop back into coverage and make plays. I am not sure how well he defends the run, but he has a lot of potential. This might seem high for him, but the Patriots have made surprising picks like this before, especially when it comes to the front 7.

Pick: 11  Denver Broncos- Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama-

Analysis: The Broncos could really use a stud ILB to play next to DJ Williams, and if they pick up Hightower they could have the beginnings of one of the best front sevens in the NFL. If Ayers, Dumervil, Hightower and Williams are all healthy they would have a very dangerous group of linebackers. They can all get after the passer and defend the run too, which is the scary part. Of course, they all have injury histories which may ultimately scare the Broncos away from Hightower. But ILB is a need for them and Hightower is the best draft eligible ILB prospect without a doubt.

Pick: 12  Cincinnati Bengals- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina-

Analysis: Part of me wants to see the Bengals draft Christian Ponder, but I don’t think the Bengals will give up on Carson Palmer so easily (even if he hasn’t been the same QB since his horrific knee injury). That said, the Bengals could use a boost to their pass rush, and that is Robert Quinn’s specialty. The guy is an absolute freak athlete, and though he is suspended for the rest of this season for his interactions with an agent I would be relatively surprised if he didn’t declare for the draft this year. Perhaps he will surprise me and stay for his senior season, but I think he is talented enough to still get drafted in the 1st round if he declares. He will be a big gamble because he hasn’t played football all season, but the Bengals have taken risks on guys with worse character concerns than Quinn before so I think Cincinnati is definitely one of the most likely landing spots for Quinn in the first round. Combine their tendency to roll the dice on “character risks” with their need for a boost to their pass rush and Quinn makes a lot of sense.

Pick: 13  Seattle Seahawks- Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson-

Analysis: The Seahawks definitely need help at defensive end, and Bowers is the best pass rushing defensive end left on the table (though that isn’t saying much at this point). I honestly think Bowers is overrated at this point because of the hype he had coming out of high school, but he hasn’t really lived up to it during his time at Clemson. He hasn’t gotten to the quarterback as often as I (and many others) probably expected him to, and he doesn’t look like he has the best burst off the line and the best edge speed to be a good/very good pass rusher. At this point I almost think he would be a better fit in a 3-4 defense, but I haven’t scouted him enough yet this year to come to that conclusion yet. Perhaps he will be a better NFL player than college player, but he is just as likely to be a player with huge potential who never lives up to it in my opinion. I don’t know how likely this pick is because the Seahawks made it very obvious last year that they value production over potential when they made two of my favorite picks in the draft with Russell Okung and Earl Thomas.

Pick: 14  Miami Dolphins- Aaron Williams, CB, Texas-

Analysis: The Dolphins have a couple of young corners in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith according to their depth chart, but Sean Smith does not look like a natural corner to me at all. I always thought he would be a better fit at FS, so I think the Dolphins would be much better off drafting another corner and sliding him back to the safety position. Aaron Williams has a lot of potential and athletic ability, and he has been groomed by a program that has been churning out quality defensive back prospects for years now. I haven’t gotten a chance to scout him yet, but I will soon. As you can see from this picture, he is quite the playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.

Pick: 15  Arizona Cardinals- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State-

Analysis: This seems early for Ponder now since I think he has played himself into the “fringe” first rounder area thus far this season, but the Cardinals have to be desperate for a QB at this point and Ponder is the best available at this point. I think they could definitely go in another direction, perhaps cornerback if one they like is available, or they could slide down to get better value for Ponder or to see if some guys they like are still around. But for the sake of this exercise, I think they have to go with a QB. I don’t think Ponder will be ready to play as a rookie, and when I have seen him this year he hasn’t been particularly impressive. I am beginning to think that his terrific performance against UNC last year was an anomaly and that he will only be a solid starter in the NFL. It will be interesting to see if his performance the rest of that year confirms or denies those suspicions.

Pick: 16  New Orleans Saints- Greg Jones, OLB, Michigan State-

Analysis: Greg Jones is one of my favorite prospects in this draft. He has terrific instincts for the position and it physically pains me to mock him to the Saints, that is how good I think he is going to be. The Saints really need linebacker help, whether it is at WLB or MLB, so Jones makes a lot of sense for them from a need perspective.

Pick: 17  Green Bay Packers- Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida-

Analysis: I think Jenkins is being underrated by a lot of draft-niks right now because I haven’t seen him in a 1st round mock yet and I think he is one of the top three or four best corners in the nation. He is an absolute playmaker and he is physical and supports the run very well. I think his physicality makes him a good fit in Green Bay, plus he has dreadlocks so he would continue the tradition of the Packers having at least one corner with dreadlocks that was started years ago by Mike McKenzie. Plus, Al Harris and Charles Woodson are both getting old, and Harris has had trouble with injuries in recent years. They have some talent at corner on the roster in Tramon Williams, but to avoid a drop-off at the position the Packers could use another talented corner, and I think that could be Jenkins.

Pick: 18  New York Giants- Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois-

Analysis: This might seem high for Wilson, and honestly it probably is right now, but I think he has a lot of potential to be a stud ILB in the NFL. He has been a tackling machine this year for the Illini and he is coming off of a season ending injury from a season ago. The Giants might shy away from him because he his injury was from his neck, similar to what helped force Antonio Pierce away from football, but all indications are that he is healthy and he has been a force thus far this season.

Pick: 19  Jacksonville Jaguars- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh-

Analysis: The Jaguars always seem perfectly willing to take a chance on a super talented player even if they have their question marks. I wonder how well Baldwin will be able to adjust to the NFL because he has been able to cruise on his natural athletic ability for so long and because I don’t think he has good enough burst or quickness to create separation and run effective routes. However, he does have very long strides and good deep speed and he locates and adjusts to the ball in the air as well as any receiver I have ever scouted. He definitely has a lot of potential, but I think he will need a couple of years to adjust to the speed of the NFL and to work on his route running. Then in years three or four he will either strut his stuff or end up being a bust. He strikes me as a boom or bust guy.

Pick: 20  Philadelphia Eagles- Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina-

Analysis: The Eagles love to have fast, hard hitting players all over their defense and that makes Carter a perfect fit for their scheme. He is an athletic freak. He is very fast, very strong and he makes plays on defense and on special teams. I don’t think he has very good instincts, though that is masked by his athletic ability on a regular basis. But he won’t be asked to play in coverage that often as the SLB and he should be able to play the run and get after the passer and make an impact on special teams, which is what I think he does best.

Pick: 21  Washington Redskins- Malcolm Floyd, WR, Notre Dame-

Analysis: Floyd is a WR who I have always marveled at. There aren’t many WR’s I have ever seen who high-point the ball in the air better than Floyd does, and whenever there is a jump ball thrown within five yards of Floyd I just assume he is going to come down with it and marvel at how he does it. He doesn’t have very good deep speed and doesn’t run great routes, but his combination of size, leaping ability and reliable hands is hard to come by. He may not strike fear into defenses with his speed, but I think that if he gets single coverage in the NFL he will still find a way to come down with the ball, so despite his lack of deep speed he can still threaten defenses deep. The Redskins really need a deep threat for McNabb to throw to opposite of Santana Moss, and Floyd’s size and leaping ability would really contrast Moss’ quickness and deep speed well.

Pick: 22  Indianapolis Colts- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State-

Analysis: Hudson is the top OG in this class in my opinion and though he is relatively undersized he is so technically sound and mobile for the position that I would be shocked if he slides out of the first round. The Colts love a smart and technically sound offensive lineman and they need help up front so this pick seems like a match made in heaven to me.

Pick: 23  Tennessee Titans- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami-

Analysis: The Titans have tried to find a second quality starting corner but none of their attempts have really hit home yet. I think Brandon Harris would fit in very well on their defense because of his athletic ability and his playmaking ability. Not long ago the Titans secondary was coming down with interceptions with astonishing regularity, but as the pass rush has waned so have the turnovers. They need playmakers in the secondary and pass rushers up front, and if Derrick Morgan can get healthy Harris and the rest of the Titans secondary could stand to benefit.

Pick: 24  Houston Texans- Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA-

Analysis: The Texans have needed help at FS for the majority of their existence as a franchise, so I think it is high time that they finally address that problem. Rahim Moore is a playmaking FS at UCLA and had a mind-boggling 10 interceptions last year as a sophomore. He hasn’t had the same success this year, and though I haven’t watched him I can’t imagine teams are challenging him as often as they were last year. Regardless, he would give the Texans that true centerfielder that they have needed for so long, and with Mario Williams rushing the passer he could come away with some easy turnovers as a Texan.

Pick: 25  Kansas City Chiefs- Jurell Powe, DT, Mississippi-

Analysis: The Chiefs really need help at NT in their 3-4 defense and Powe is the best draft eligible NT in the draft in my opinion. He is quick off the ball and is very disruptive versus the run and can collapse the pocket with his bull rush. He actually reminds me a lot of B.J. Raji, minus the spin move Raji flashed at Boston College. Both are built low to the ground but are very strong and thick, and both project well to the 4-3 NT position. However, like Raji, Powe could end up playing NT in a 3-4.

Pick: 26  Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia-

Analysis: The Bucs have one quality corner in Aqib Talib, but they have not yet found a suitable replacement for the ancient Ronde Barber. I am not a huge fan of Ras-I Dowling, but his size is a huge plus and his lack of elite speed is less of an issue in the Bucs defense. If they continue to run the Cover-2 then Dowling could fit in very well, plus they would have two of the bigger corners in the NFL with Talib and Dowling dropping back into coverage.

Pick: 27  New England Patriots- Cameron Jordan, DE, California-

Analysis: The Patriots love to spend their early selections on the defensive side of the ball, and drafting Ayers and Jordan would really shore up two of their weaker positions in their front 7. Jordan looks to be a nice 3-4 DE prospect who I think may sneak into the first round, though I don’t think he will be drafted as high as his former teammate Tyson Alualu was last season. With Jordan replacing Seymour and Ayers rushing the passer and dropping into coverage at linebacker the Patriots front seven would be very dangerous again.

Pick: 28  Pittsburgh Steelers- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State-

Analysis: This may be late for Sherrod, but I haven’t had a chance to watch him much yet. He is probably the only OT I would grade as a potential top 15 pick at this point, but the way the draft order came out this week I just didn’t think he would get picked until 28. Regardless, the Steelers could use an upgrade over Max Starks at LT and sliding him back to LT and playing Sherrod at LT would improve their pass blocking and their offensive line as a whole.

Pick: 29  Chicago Bears- Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida-

Analysis: The Bears need help all over the offensive line. I am not sure if Chris Williams will ever be a reliable starter, but I’m not sure the Bears are willing to spend another first round pick on the position until they are sure what they have in him. However, their interior offensive line is also a mess and warrants serious overhaul in my opinion. Pouncey may have played awful at center at the beginning of the year for Florida, but he was a very good offensive guard prospect before his horrible showing at the pivot, and I see no reason he shouldn’t be a quality OG prospect now. The Bears could really use him at either guard position, so drafting him at this spot makes perfect sense, especially if they aren’t completely sold on upgrading Chris Williams yet.

Pick: 30  New York Jets- Allen Bailey, DE, Miami-

Analysis: The Jets seem to attract guys with tons of potential and Bailey would fit that bill perfectly. He has a pretty incredible combination of size, strength and overall athleticism and on paper seems to project perfectly to the 3-4 DE position. However, I personally think he is very overrated. I don’t think he sheds blocks well at all and he usually the last Miami defensive lineman off the line of scrimmage. Being slow off the ball and struggling to shed one on one blocks, much less getting washed out by double teams, makes me wonder how he will ever transition to the NFL. However, I have been wrong before, and if he can improve his hand usage and learn to stand up to double teams and beat one on one blocks more consistently he could be a handful in the NFL. He seems to be yet another boom or bust guy, and if I had to put money on one I would put it on bust.

Pick: 31  Atlanta Falcons- Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin-

Analysis: This may seem awfully high for Kendricks, but I have graded him as a early-mid 2nd rounder since I started scouting him last season, and I don’t feel much differently about him now. I don’t know if he will sneak into the first round or not, but I do know that as an Atlanta Falcons fan I would be ecstatic if we ended up with him on draft day. Kendricks is a great athlete, he has very reliable hands and he is a much better blocker than most give him credit for. He had a number of key seal blocks in the bowl game against Miami last year and I watched him block Allen Bailey one on one on more than one occasion in that same game. He is a good in-line blocker, better than I thought he would be actually, and he is an even better receiver. Drafting him while we still have Tony Gonzalez would allow Gonzo to show him some of the tricks of the trade, and when Gonzo retires Kendricks would be ready to step in and give Ryan a reliable target to throw to at the position. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Falcons slide into the 2nd round if they are picking late in round 1. Thomas Dimitroff is a Patriots disciple and the Patriots are notorious for stock-piling draft picks. If there were ever a year for Dimitroff to try that it would be this year.

Pick: 32  Baltimore Ravens- Mark Barron, S, Alabama-

Analysis: Ed Reed has been the gold standard for safety play for years and years, but he is wearing down and injuries or his better judgment will eventually end his career. When that happens the Ravens have to be ready, and getting a playmaker like Barron is the first step for preparing for that day. Reed should still have another year or two left in him (hopefully) and drafting Barron to sit behind Reed (and play when he is injured) would help his development and put the Ravens in terrific position to replace Reed when that day comes. Plus, Dawan Landry and Tom Zbikowski are nothing to write home about.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom