Tag Archive: Brandon Harris


Final 1st Round Mock Draft

Hey everyone, here is my final 1st round mock draft of the year. It’s a little different than some you might have seen, but I refrained from guessing trades because it makes things so complicated. We’ll see how many picks I get right and how many players I correctly project in round one. Hopefully I do better than last year. Thanks for reading all season and shortly after the draft is done I will have a list of players to watch out for next season as I think they are likely to emerge. Thanks again!

1st- Carolina- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn-

2nd- Denver- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU-

3rd- Buffalo- Marcel Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama-

4th- Cincinnati- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia-

5th- Arizona- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M- 

6th- Cleveland- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama- 

7th- San Francisco- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska- 

8th- Tennessee- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri- 

9th- Dallas- Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal-  

10th- Washington- Jake Locker, QB, Washington-

11th- Houston- Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri- 

12th- Minnesota- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn-

13th- Detroit- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College-  

14th- St. Louis- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois- 

15th- Miami- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas-

16th- Jacksonville- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue- 

17th- New England- Cameron Jordan, DE, California-

18th- San Diego- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin- 

19th- New York Giants- Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida-

20th- Tampa Bay- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina-

21st- Kansas City- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin-

22nd- Indianapolis- Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State-

23rd- Philadelphia- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami- 

24th- New Orleans- Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson- 

25th- Seattle- Andy Dalton, QB, TCU-

26th- Baltimore- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado-

27th- Atlanta- Justin Houston, DE, Georgia-

28th- New England- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama-

29th- Chicago- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado-

30th- New York Jets- Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple-

31st- Pittsburgh- Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor-

32nd- Green Bay- Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona-

As always, thanks for reading!

–Tom

Top 32 Big Board

Here is my top 32 Big Board for the 2011 NFL Draft. These, in my opinion, are the top 32 prospects in the NFL Draft. Many of them are hot-linked so that you can read my scouting reports on them. Enjoy!

1-      A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

2-      Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama

3-    Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

4-    Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

5-     Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

6-     Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

7-      Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

8-      Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

9-      J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

10-   Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

11-   Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

12-   Cameron Jordan, DE, California

13-   Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

14-   Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

15-   Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal

16-   Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

17-  Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

18-  Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

19-   Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

20-  Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

21-   Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

22-   Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

23- Justin Houston, DE, Georgia

24-   Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky

25-   Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech

26-   Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

27-  Jake Locker, QB, Washington

28-  Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

29-   Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

30-   Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida

31- Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

32- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Scouting Report:

Harris has the potential to be a #1 corner in the NFL, but I don't think he will ever be a very disciplined corner. (Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan)

Positives: Harris is a very good athlete. He has a good combination of size, athletic ability and ball skills for the cornerback position. He is a very fluid athlete and he has good hips. He turns and runs well with offensive players downfield and has good recovery speed. He mirrors offensive players well in man coverage and has good ball skills to locate the ball in the air and make a play on it. He seems to have pretty good hands for the interception. He is a pretty good tackler, and will make some nice stops in the open field at times. His footwork is pretty good, and he doesn’t waste steps in transitions or when changing directions. Plus, he closes well on plays in front of him and breaks on the ball well in zone coverage. He isn’t afraid to tackle a wide receiver or a running back in the open field and seems to have solid instincts for the position.

Negatives: I am not sure Harris is very disciplined. His tackling is inconsistent as sometimes he will wrap up nicely in the open field but other times he will take bad angles or tackle high. He is a fluid athlete, but in the games I watched him in I didn’t get a lot of chances to see him back-pedal and then transition to running with a receiver. Usually he would just take a slide step to open his hips and then run with the receiver, so I think his footwork could use some tweaking. Harris might have solid instincts but he will also bite on double moves and he will get caught peeking into the backfield trying to figure out where the QB is going with the ball. Harris also doesn’t support the run very well. He will make a tackle on a back once he is beyond the line of scrimmage and has gained positive yardage, but very rarely does he get off a block and wrap up a back at the line of scrimmage or behind it. He really struggles getting off of blocks from wide receivers, especially big, physical receivers, and seems content to avoid them even if it means letting the running back gain yardage uncontested.

Overall: Harris is a good cover corner and I think he is the #3 cornerback in this class. Some have him ranked over Amukamara but I don’t like him enough for that. Harris should be a good cover corner in the NFL as he is a fluid athlete and he does well in man and in zone coverage, and he has #1 corner potential because of this. I don’t think he will ever support the run well though and that might knock him down a peg on some draft boards. He will make tackles if he allows a catch in coverage, but he isn’t a great tackler in general and I don’t think he is the most disciplined corner in this draft. Regardless, he is an impressive athlete and should project well to the NFL. He might be able to play some as a rookie especially because he has a lot of experience playing in the slot at Miami. I just don’t think he will ever be a very disciplined corner and while I wouldn’t say he is a gambler I do think he will give up his share of big plays as well as make some of his own in the NFL.

Projection: Mid-late 1st round. I could see him going in the  top 20 but he might slide out of that range. I don’t think he will make it past the Eagles or the Ravens in the later portion of the round though, so that is why I think the Late 1st round is as long as he will last. He just has too much potential in coverage.

SKILLS
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

Speed: 4.0
Man Coverage: 3.5
Zone Coverage: 3.0
Tackling: 3.0
Ball Skills: 4.0

Cam Newton's combination of size, arm strength and mobility make him an extremely intriguing prospect.

1st- Carolina- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn- Is this a logical pick? I don’t know, but I think it’s a possibility. I have heard rumors that Newton is being considered for this pick, and considering Jimmy Clausen’s sub-par rookie season last year (which isn’t necessarily an indictment on his career, but it wasn’t exactly encouraging) I could see Carolina going this way. Clausen and Matt Moore could hold down the fort until Newton was ready, that would keep him from being rushed into playing time. Now, Newton has incredible potential because of his size, arm strength and incredible athleticism but his accuracy is inconsistent largely because of his poor footwork. He could improve with coaching as most quarterbacks will, but I don’t think he will ever be an accurate quarterback. I personally think he will have a comparable career to Vince Young before he completely derailed in Tennessee; he will win games, extend drives and make plays thanks to his athleticism, but ultimately I don’t know if he has the mental capacity to lead a complicated offense and I don’t think he’s an accurate enough QB to consistently lead drives downfield. He will occasionally make a great throw, but then he will miss a relatively easy one afterwards. However, he has tons of potential, is incredibly well known and will help sell tickets which could ultimately sway the Panthers management to make him the pick.

Previous pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

Bowers was a dominant pass rushing force this year, but will his sacks translate to the NFL?

2nd- Denver- Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson- Do I agree with this pick? Honestly, not really. I am not a big Bowers fan because I am not convinced he has 8-10+ sack potential at LE in the NFL. However, he definitely produced this year and really filled up the stat sheet. He plays the run well, he is very strong, shows violent hand usage and shows some burst off the snap even if it isn’t much. I am not sure he will be a dominant pass rushing LE in the NFL, but he definitely has the potential to be a 5-6+ sack guy at that position even without great edge speed. However, I am not sure how good his motor is, how good his work ethic is and I am concerned that he only produced significant stats for one year and then immediately left for the draft. That doesn’t doom him as a prospect obviously, but it definitely makes me wary of him as a player. Regardless, he seems to be a top five lock at the moment and after his pro-day he should be a sure thing to go very early in the draft. It will be interesting to see if he lives up to that lofty draft status though.

Previous pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

Dareus reminded everyone how good of a prospect he is at the NFL combine.

3rd- Buffalo- Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama- Dareus seemed to be the forgotten man for a while as Nick Fairley shot up draft boards and seemed to be the leading man for the race to be the number one overall pick. However, Dareus reminded everyone how good of a prospect he really is by outperforming Fairley at the combine despite carrying more weight. Dareus really is a dominant defensive lineman and I think he will be a very good NFL player whether it is as 3-4 DE or inside at defensive tackle in the 4-3. In this instance he would be playing DE in the 3-4, which I think he would be a perfect fit for in the NFL. The Bills really need a quality defensive lineman and Dareus is extremely well rounded. He  doesn’t do well when he is initially blocked as a pass rusher because he doesn’t have any secondary pass rush moves, but he is very disruptive against the run because of his quickness off the ball and he is incredibly strong which helps him with his bull rush as a pass rusher. Whoever gets Dareus is going to get a very good NFL player even if he doesn’t contribute right away as a rookie. It is just very hard to judge when a defensive lineman will be ready to contribute as a situational player or a starter before he gets to the NFL.

Previous pick: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

A.J. Green is not only the best WR in the draft, he may be the best overall prospect.

4th- Cincinnati- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia- People seem to be down on A.J. Green right now because he ran a 4.50 at the combine, but I can’t believe people are actually dropping him on their draft board because of it. The combine always gives draftniks impressions like this every year but there is absolutely no way that a team had Green graded as a top five talent and dropped him to a top ten grade or a top fifteen grade because he ran a 4.5 instead of a 4.45. That’s just not how smart teams operate. Green is potentially the best WR prospect since Calvin Johnson thanks to his combination of size, speed, athletic ability and fantastic hands. He shows more than enough burst to run good routes, create consistent separation in the NFL, and while he is more of a finesse player that adjusts to the ball very well in the air he is not afraid of contact and does not drop passes just because contact is imminent. The Bengals would be lucky to have him fall to number four and there is no way they could pass him up considering TO’s imminent departure and Chad Johnson’s recent decline as he has gotten older. The Bengals need a future #1 wide receiver and A.J. Green has that written all over him regardless of his 40 yard dash time. The Bengals would be lucky to have him, and a receiving core of Johnson, Green and Jordan Shipley would be a pretty nice group.

Previous pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

We all knew Miller was talented, but he has really improved his draft stock this offseason.

5th- Arizona- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M- Von Miller has really boosted his stock lately as he had a strong finish to the season and a very impressive Senior Bowl showing. It is being argued that he could play 4-3 OLB at this point, but I am not sure he is that effective in coverage. However, I do think he can play the 3-4 OLB position even if he is a little undersized. Will he play right away? I’m not sure. He will need to get at least to 240 or 245 before he will be able to be anything beyond a situational pass rusher in my opinion. But he could rotate in and give a good speed rush at this point. Most pass rushers that get drafted this high aren’t ready to walk into the NFL and contribute right away. They have a lot of potential but they need to be developed, improve their pass rush moves and potentially bulk up. Miller has a great speed rush, especially when standing up, so I think that makes him a good fit for a 3-4. Is the top five a little high for him? In my opinion, yes. He is a good player, I have thought he was a top 15 guy for a while, but top five feels high especially since he will need to add some weight and develop for a year or so before he can contribute as a starter.

Previous pick: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

Nick Fairley has the potential to dominate at the UT position, but you have to worry about him being a one year wonder.

6th- Cleveland- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn- Nick Fairley may have gotten bumped down to the #2 defensive tackle in a lot of rankings after Dareus’ combine performance, but I think a lot of his press about going #1 was caused by Auburn’s media hype after they won the National Title, especially since Fairley was so dominant late in the season and in that championship game. Fairley is a top five talent in my opinion, but so is Dareus, so really they are 1 and 1a in my opinion. However, Dareus went off the board first so Fairley was the one who ended up dropping here. I think Fairley can be a great UT in a 4-3 and he reminds me a lot of Kevin Williams to be honest. He isn’t as tall or as big as Williams is, but he has impressive burst off the ball for his size, he is incredibly disruptive versus the run and he collapses the pocket very well as a pass rusher. I think Fairley deserves a lot of consideration in the top five, but I am sure the Browns would be more than happy to snap him up to help them transition back to a 4-3 defense.

Previous pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

Patrick Peterson is a dynamic corner and return man that could easily go higher than this on draft day.

7th- San Francisco- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU- Peterson is an incredible talent and I really think he could end up in the top five once all is said and done, but because Champ Bailey resigned with the Broncos I don’t think cornerback is a position they can draft #2 overall thanks to all the money they invested in Bailey. I could see them drafting another corner later in the draft, perhaps even as high as the second round, but picking Peterson #2 overall is a ton of money to invest in one position, especially considering the problems they have had rushing the passer at times. So I think Peterson slides a bit and ends up at #7 where the 49ers have no choice but to pick him. The 49ers could very well end up picking Gabbert here, but Peterson would address a huge need at corner because Nate Clements has lost a step and isn’t worth the huge pay day they gave him, so they need an infusion of talent and boy does Peterson have a lot of that. He has an amazing combination of size, athleticism, speed, ball skills and he is even a great return man. He is an incredibly gifted athlete and that’s why the 49ers won’t be able to pass him up here. And if they don’t think he’s a perfect fit at corner I still believe he could be an amazing safety, so he offers some flexibility in that respect.

Previous pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Blaine Gabbert has a great combination of size, arm strength and accuracy. He is also mature for only having started for two seasons.

8th- Tennessee- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri- I have maintained for some time that Gabbert is the best QB in this draft even if he has some serious question marks because of the offense that he played in at Missouri. He has very impressive arm strength and even though he struggles a lot with deep passes he is incredibly accurate within 25 yards and he can throw passes with great zip and velocity in that range. I don’t know if he will ever throw a great deep ball, but he has enough arm strength to stretch the field even if he doesn’t connect very often on throws over the top. Gabbert also displayed his very underrated mobility at the combine when he ran nearly as fast a 40 yard dash time as Cam Newton which surprised a lot of people. Newton has pretty good straight line speed, as does Gabbert (he’s a huge guy so when he gets moving in a straight line he can really get going) but Gabbert doesn’t have the same short-area quickness that Newton does. Regardless, I think Gabbert is a very good QB prospect and while I don’t think he is worth a top five selection I definitely think he has top ten to fifteen potential. The Titans really need a QB because of the Vince Young fiasco and eventually Kerry Collins is going to have to retire, so getting Gabbert now will give him at least a year to develop behind Collins or whoever they decide to start at QB before he is expected to start. That will hopefully prevent him from being forced in too early. However, with Collins at the helm I could see Gabbert becoming the starter around week eight or nine if we even have a season next year just because the playoffs may be out of reach by that point and the coaching staff might like to get Gabbert some playing time.

Previous pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

Cameron Jordan definitely has top ten talent.

9th- Dallas- Cameron Jordan, DE, California- Cameron Jordan has definitely improved his draft stock this offseason as he was quietly rising draft boards before the Senior Bowl. Now everyone knows about him and I would be very surprised if he made it out of the top fifteen selections, especially with all the potential 3-4 teams that could be interested in him. I think Dallas could very well end up taking him because Marcus Spears has just not turned out like they would have hoped, and both of their DE spots could be upgraded even if they resign him. That makes DE a huge need along with safety, so with no safety worth this selection I think Dallas will go with Cameron Jordan to upgrade their defensive line.

Previous pick: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

Julio Jones has the potential to be a better NFL receiver than he was in college. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

10th- Washington- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama- Washington could use an upgrade at QB here, but with McNabb and Rex Grossman they have enough veteran experience at QB to put off drafting a QB at number ten. However, they definitely need a wide receiver because outside of Santana Moss they have very little talent at WR. Julio Jones put on a clinic at the combine and has as much potential as any receiver in this draft. He has a great combination of size, speed, and strength. He offers impressive effort as a run blocker plus he has great hands and makes some incredible catches. His concentration is inconsistent though and he will drop passes that should be routine catches for him at times. However, because of his great potential he definitely warrants a top fifteen selection and because of the glaring need at the WR position the Redskins seem like a perfect fit for him here regardless of who their quarterback is.

Previous pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Amukamara would finally give the Texans some talent at corner, and is the BPA at #11.

11th- Houston- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska- The Texans have had a bad secondary since they were founded and rarely have they had much talent to speak of at corner or at safety. I think they will need to invest in a couple defensive linemen so that they can begin to embrace their transition to a 3-4 defensive scheme but because Amukamara slid to #11 here he is the obvious choice for a team that has been hurting at corner for as long as they have existed. Amukamara has impressive size, he’s physical, he has good ball skills even if he doesn’t have ideal hands for the interception, and I definitely think he has #1 corner potential. The Texans would be very lucky to get him here as he is a very legitimate top ten talent.

Previous pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, California

Liuget is a legitimate top 15 talent in my opinion, and the Vikings would be well-advised to draft him instead of a QB.

12th- Minnesota- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: This might seem high for Liuget (pronounced “Legit” how awesome is that) but I think he has a chance to go this high. I am really high on him as a defensive tackle prospect and I think he could be a great fit in Minnesota. They figure to continue running the Cover-2 scheme with Leslie Frazier assuming the head coaching vacancy left by Brad Childress but I think DT is a huge need for them right up there with QB and Safety. There is no safety worth this selection, and honestly I think they need to sign a stop-gap QB like Matt Hasselbeck or Kyle Orton if he is indeed a free agent (or Donovan McNabb if the Redskins do actually get rid of him) because any of the QB’s they could pick in this draft will need time before they can step in and start. There is not a Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco or Mark Sanchez in this draft class. So, I think the Vikings should fill one of their other needs with a BPA pick here and honestly Liuget might be that guy. When I put together my new DT rankings he will probably be #3 behind only Dareus and Fairley. He would play very well next to Kevin Williams because he is very strong and holds up pretty well versus the run but can also penetrate, make plays in the backfield and get pressure on the QB. Plus he would inject some talent at a position that desperately needs it because outside of Kevin Williams the cupboard is pretty bare.

Previous pick: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

Smith has elite athleticism for a NFL left tackle, but his technique is still a work in progress.

13th- Detroit- Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal: This might seem high for Tyron Smith because he played RT at USC and hasn’t really made a name for himself at USC. However, he is arguably the most athletic offensive tackle in the draft and honestly reminds me a lot of D’Brickashaw Ferguson because they both have some trouble keeping weight on and getting up to 300 pounds, so it will be interesting to see how much he weighs in at when he’s at the combine. However, he should put on a show there because he could very well run a 4.8 in the forty yard dash and surprise people with how athletic he really is. He really is an impressive physical specimen and I think he will be fine moving to LT in the NFL. He is still raw despite starting for over two years at USC, but I have seen him mirror corners blitzing off the edge, so his lateral agility and kick slide is pretty amazing for someone his size. He moves very well in the open field too and gets to the second level easily, but he needs to improve his technique and improve his fundamentals as well as add weight before he can step in as a starter. That is probably ideal for Detroit because he has a very high ceiling but with Jeff Backus still entrenched as the starter he won’t be rushed in before he is ready. Tony Ugoh is still listed as the back-up, but I don’t think having Ugoh on the roster as a back-up is enough to pass on Tyron Smith if they think he can be their franchise left tackle, which if he gets coached up well and patiently developed he definitely could be.

Previous pick: Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal

Quinn is an impressive athlete but he is still raw and has a lot of question marks.

14th- St. Louis- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina- I have openly wondered for many months why so many people didn’t think that Robert Quinn’s season long suspension would hurt his draft stock (which was top five before his suspension and even after) similar to what happened to Dez Bryant last year, but up until recently that didn’t seem to be the case. We all know that Quinn is a good athlete, but I have never really bought into the comparisons to Julius Peppers. Peppers is a freak athlete and while Quinn is certainly a good athlete he isn’t as freakish as Peppers is. Plus he is extremely raw and while he has good potential as a pass rusher he isn’t elite because his technique is very likely undeveloped. Plus he is very hard to judge because there is so little tape on him and that is from his sophomore season from over a year ago. He is a very big boom or bust guy in my opinion and while I think he has the potential to be a quality pass rusher in the NFL he has just as much potential to be an impressive athlete who never amounted to anything more than a third down specialist.

Previous pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

Mark Ingram is one of the most well-rounded running backs to enter the draft in years.

15th- Miami: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: This feels like a really cliché pick to me but I think this could actually happen. The Dolphins don’t have a ton of needs and with Newton and Gabbert off the board I don’t think a QB is an option here unless the Dolphins get enamored with Locker as a potentially ideal wildcat quarterback. However, as everyone seems to state in their mock draft, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are both getting older and while neither of them has completely worn down Ronnie Brown has had some trouble staying healthy and Ricky is older than a typical complementary back because of his time off from the wear and tear of the NFL. Ingram would be an ideal back to bring in to take pressure off of these guys because the Dolphins running game is the heart and soul of the offense. I have never been a big Chad Henne fan because I have always thought he was incredibly inconsistent and he could make a great throw and follow it up with one or two terrible decisions or passes. I haven’t watched a lot of Dolphins games, but when I have seen him he will look good when I’m watching him and then look like a different player just minutes later. Quarterback is definitely something that needs to be considered for Miami, but Jake Locker’s inconsistency might remind them too much of Henne despite his vastly better athleticism and Ingram is one of the safest picks in the draft if he can stay healthy because he will grade very high as a feature back. If he stays healthy he could very well have seven or eight 1000+ yard seasons with 8+ touchdowns once he becomes the feature back for Miami.

Previous pick: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

Clayborn may not be a sack-master in the NFL, but he can still be an effective LE in a 4-3.

16th- Jacksonville- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa- Clayborn has his question marks, such as his Erbs Palsy and he had a down Senior season in my opinion, but he is still a quality defensive end. I don’t think he will be a sack specialist in the NFL, but I think he can be a dependable LE in a 4-3 scheme because he can play the run well, he has very violent hands and while he may not be a burner off the edge he has enough burst to occasionally get outside. I also think he is versatile enough to slide inside to DT in obvious pass rush situations to give the defensive coordinator some flexibility on third downs. Clayborn may not be a sack master in the NFL but the Jaguars need some dependable production from a defensive end in round one and you know what you are getting with Clayborn as long as his nerve damage doesn’t prematurely end his career.

Previous pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

Heyward projects perfectly to the 3-4 DE position in the NFL and reminds me of Richard Seymour.

17th- New England (F/ OAK)- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: This might seem high for Cameron Heyward, but everyone seems to be underrating just how dominant he can be as a DE and DT in a 4-3 or as a 3-4 DE. He has great size, he is extremely strong and has great hand usage. He can absolutely toss some blockers around like rag-dolls (I have seen this happen to Gabe Carimi before) and he is very effective in the run game. He is literally an ideal 3-4 DE so I don’t understand why he is so underrated. However, if there is one team that will recognize how good this guy is it will be the Patriots. He would be a perfect fit in their defensive scheme because he can hold the line versus the run and handle double team blocks. Additionally he can get after the passer even though he doesn’t have much speed off the edge, but at his size he really isn’t supposed to. At 17 he would be a great value, and even at this pick I think in a number of years when he is a very good starter for the Patriots a lot of people will look back and wonder how this guy fell so far. That is my bold prediction about Cameron Heyward.

Previous pick: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Watt has ideal size, length and athleticism for the 3-4 DE position in the NFL.

18th- San Diego- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin- J.J. Watt has really caught fire this offseason but I think that is for good reason. Watt is a great player and he really has an incredible passion for the game and I think that makes him an incredibly attractive prospect. He has great size and length for the position, plus he is a very impressive athlete for his size. I think he could be a pretty good player in a 4-3 scheme at LE but I think it is pretty obvious that his ideal fit in the NFL is at DE in a 3-4 defensive scheme. He has the perfect size and length for the position and his solid burst and edge speed as a pass rusher will be a bigger asset in that scheme than it would have been in a 4-3 scheme where it really would have been more of a hindrance. Watt would fit in great in San Diego and I think he has the potential to be a perennial pro-bowl player in the NFL. Not only that, I think he could end up as high as #9 overall come draft day.

Previous pick: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA

Ayers is an well-rounded prospect and should fill the Giants' void at OLB.

19th- New York Giants- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA- Ayers definitely didn’t blow the lid off the combine but he is still a quality OLB prospect. I don’t know which scheme he is a better fit in, but I think he could play 3-4 OLB or 4-3 OLB depending on the team. The Giants are first and foremost a team that likes to create pressure on the QB and Ayers can definitely contribute to that. The Giants have been looking for linebacker help for a while and Clint Sintim is just not working out, I really think he belonged in a 3-4 scheme (but that is neither here nor there). Ayers could finally solve their OLB problems and boost their pass rush at the same time which definitely helps his case to come off the board at this draft slot.

Previous pick: Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

Aldon Smith has a lot of raw potential but he still needs technique work and coaching up.

20th- Tampa Bay- Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: The Buccaneers spent their first two draft selections to attempt to bolster their defensive line but now it is time to upgrade the defensive end position so that they could have a very good defensive line once all of their prospects develop. Aldon Smith could very well have been a top ten pick if he stayed another year because of his talent level, but I would be surprised if he made it out of the top 25 in this draft. He would fit in well on the Buccaneers and could form a formidable defensive front with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in the future should all of them pan out.

Previous pick: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

Carimi should have a long, impressive career at RT in the NFL.

21st- Kansas City- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Chiefs have a couple needs, such as OLB and potentially CB, but offensive line might be one of the more pressing concerns. They need help at OT and Carimi is probably one of the best OT’s in this draft class even if he doesn’t project to be a great LT in the NFL. I think he offers a lot of value because I think he can be a very good RT in the NFL and potentially start very early in his career but in a pinch he could slide over to LT and hold his own. That makes him a valuable commodity both as a starter and as a back-up, which should make him attractive to a lot of teams including the Chiefs.

Previous pick: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

I don't think Castonzo will ever be a pro-bolwer, but he should have a solid career at LT.

22nd- Indianapolis- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: I struggled with this pick because I couldn’t decide if the Colts would look to pick up a LT to protect Manning’s blind side or if they would try to pick up a DT to help improve their disappointing run defense. Ultimately I think they will prioritize protecting Manning here and the Colts aren’t exactly a team to take a risk on a player like Nate Solder who has a lot of raw athletic ability. They seem more likely to take a player who won’t be flashy but will get the job done, and that seems to be Castonzo to a T. Will he be a franchise left tackle? No. Will he be a quality offensive lineman for a long time? Probably. He has above-average athleticism and pretty good technique, so he should be a pretty good tackle for the Colts and should help keep Peyton Manning upright.

Previous pick: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Harris has 1st round ability, and he is one of my favorite draft elligible corners this year. (Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan)

23rd- Philadelphia- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: The Eagles have little talent opposite Asante Samuel and they have had injury issues at this position. They tend to go after offensive and defensive linemen, and if Gabe Carimi lasted this long I could definitely have seen him being the pick here. However, they also need playmakers in the secondary especially at corner and Harris brings that to the table. He is a bit of a risk-taker like Samuel is but he has good ball skills and impressive athletic ability to close when beaten. He is a very fluid athlete with good ball skills, so teaming him up with Samuel could really help bolster their secondary.

Previous pick: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Kerrigan may not be an elite athlete, but his work ethic and motor are second to none.

24th- New Orleans- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue- Kerrigan may not be the most amazing athletic specimen in the draft but he definitely has good athletic ability and his work ethic and motor are second to none. That means he is going to get every bit of production he can out of the talent he has been given and that is why I think he is worth a late first round pick. I don’t think he will be a 10+ sack guy in the NFL, but at LE in a 4-3 scheme I think he can definitely rush the passer effectively (especially for that position, it’s hard to find a quality pass rusher at LE in a 4-3 defense) and once he gets stronger and adds some weight I think he will hold up well versus the run as well. New Orleans really needs a pass rusher to help out Will Smith and while Kerrigan won’t draw doubles from Smith any time soon he can definitely make teams pay for ignoring him which is really all you can ask for from a LE in a 4-3.

Previous pick: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Locker has a lot of potential but I don't think he will ever be a franchise QB.

25th- Seattle- Jake Locker, QB, Washington: This seems like a match made in heaven. The Seahawks have a couple of stop-gap guys in place with Hasselbeck (who is a free agent) and Charlie Whitehurst (who I thought looked solid against St. Louis, but again it was St. Louis) at quarterback which would allow Locker time to develop behind at least one veteran quarterback. That would prevent him from being rushed into the starting job before he was ready (hopefully) and would give him the best chance at NFL success in my estimation. He has off the chart intangibles but his accuracy and ball placement was just too inconsistent for me to be that impressed. He is a very polarizing prospect as you either seem to love him or hate him, but I find myself thinking that he will not live up to the hype that was created for him by his biggest fans but I also don’t think he will turn out to be a colossal bust like his biggest critics think he will be. I don’t think he will be a franchise quarterback, but I think he can be an effective QB in the NFL who completes 58% of his passes and extends drives with his legs. He won’t ever be incredibly accurate, hence my doubts that he will have a career completion percentage of over 60%, but he has good arm strength and such a good work ethic that I don’t think I can bet against him having a solid career as a NFL starting QB. I’m sure he’d love to stay in the state of Washington and play for the Seahawks, so that would be even more motivation to work (not that he needs it).

Previous pick: Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Wilson is an incredibly impressive athlete and I think he could become a superstar with Ray Lewis' as a mentor.

26th- Baltimore- Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois- Wilson has been my #1 ILB for months on my rankings but he is finally getting some love after his very impressive combine performance. He is a very gifted athlete and I think he would be an ideal replacement for Ray Lewis in Baltimore. The Ravens have been searching for a future replacement for Lewis for years, but Wilson is a big, physical freak who has pretty incredible athleticism for his size. He may not be the imposing hitter  that Ray Lewis is, nor is he as instinctual, but as he watches more film and becomes more of a student of the game like he has over the last year or two at Illinois I think he will learn to take some better angles and will show more comfort in zone coverage. He supports the run well though and has the size and strength to shed blockers and stop ball carriers between the tackles. Plus his sideline to sideline speed is so phenomenal that he can make tackles that a lot of linebackers wouldn’t be able to get to even if he doesn’t have great hip flexibility to turn and run. Wilson may not be a Ray Lewis clone but he is definitely an impressive linebacker who could really gain a lot from having Lewis as a mentor for a year or maybe more.

Previous pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Hankerson has dramatically improved as a receiver over his four years in Miami.

27th- Atlanta- Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami- I am not super wild about this pick for the Falcons but I do think it is a likely pick. Hankerson is an experienced receiver with good size, impressive straight line speed thanks to his long strides and he had a very productive senior season for Miami. He adjusts to the ball well in the air, he has really improved dramatically over the last two years at Miami and while I still think he is a bit of a stiff athlete as a route runner and after the catch he definitely threatens the defense with the deep ball and has shown some willingness to go over the middle during his senior season. Again, I am not a big fan of this pick but I could very realistically see the Falcons going in this direction on draft day because of his combination of experience, production and obvious improvement over the past two seasons.

Previous pick: Trade down.

Danny Watkins may be a bit old for a NFL Draft prospect but I think he is worth a 1st round pick.

28th- New England- Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor- This might feel early for Watkins but I would not be surprised by this pick at all. Watkins seems like a Patriots kind of player even though he will be 27 by the time next season starts (if it ever does). He may be raw because of his relative inexperience but he almost seems to be a natural and the Patriots could use some talent along the offensive line and Watkins offers a lot of talent and versatility, plus he is very experienced and mature because of his age. He may not be ready to contribute immediately because he has not played football for very long, but I think he could end up going to the Patriots or the Steelers late in round one.

Previous pick: Mikel LeShoure, RB, Illinois

Sherrod may not be an elite LT prospect but he would give the Bears a significant upgrade there.

29th- Chicago- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State- Derrick Sherrod may not be an ideal left tackle prospect, but in a shallow offensive tackle class he definitely warrants consideration late in round one, especially for a team that has so many holes along their offensive line. After watching him some more (not enough for a scouting report, but enough to get a feel for his game) I definitely think he can stick at left tackle in the NFL even if he isn’t an ideal fit. That is terrific news for the Bears because I really don’t think that Nate Solder is the answer to their problems at the position, and who knows what the Bears will ever get out of Chris Williams their former first round selection out of Vanderbilt. Sherrod may even be able to start as a rookie, and while he may not have a really high ceiling you know what you are getting with him: a reliable pass blocker who will also be a solid wall-off blocker in the run game, plus he is a high character guy on and off the field. The Bears could use a reliable offensive tackle they can depend on and that makes Sherrod the obvious selection here.

Previous pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Taylor has really seen his draft stock rise and he has pretty incredible athleticism for a man his size.

30th- New York Jets- Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor- Phil Taylor has really improved his draft stock this offseason and the Jets would be foolish to pass on him here. They have had so many problems trying to fill their 3-4 NT position and now that the Kris Jenkins experiment has officially ended it is time to go in another direction. Grabbing Taylor here would help fill the 3-4 NT position for the next decade and it would really do wonders for their defense in my opinion. Nose tackle is a position that can make or break a 3-4 defensive scheme because of the tremendous impact that player has in the running game so getting a potential stud like Taylor would be ideal for the Jets.

Previous pick: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Pouncey could very well end up playing next to his brother Maurkice in the NFL.

31st- Pittsburgh- Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida- This really does feel like a cop-out to me but because Watkins is off the board I think it is the most logical selection. The Steelers offensive line needs another piece, whether it is a RT to allow their current tackle to slide inside or a guard to fill the void that the current RT would have slid in to fill. There isn’t a good enough OT on the board to pass on Pouncey, so he is the logical selection here. He was at his best last year when he was playing next to his brother Maurkice so why not reunite them and let them mow down defenders for Rashard Mendenhall and company? I don’t think Pouncey is the same prospect his brother was and he certainly won’t make the pro-bowl as a rookie like Maurkice did, but he is definitely one of the best guards in this draft class and warrants at least early-mid second round consideration, but could definitely sneak into the very late first round because of his name recognition thanks to his brother’s fantastic debut in the NFL.

Previous pick: Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida

Reed would fit in perfectly in Green Bay because of his athletic ability, non-stop motor and long blonde hair.

32nd- Green Bay- Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona- It took me a while to think of what direction the Packers would go here but suddenly it hit me: What do the Packers like more than cornerbacks with dreadlocks? Linebackers with long blonde hair. Well Brooks Reed has more than enough hair and speed off the edge to make Packers fans drool and he would look terrific playing opposite Clay Matthews in the Packers 3-4 scheme. Like Matthews he has a terrific motor and he just does not quit on plays and will chase plays down from the backside that a lot of players just wouldn’t be able to do. He tested very well at the combine and I think the Packers would be geniuses to grab a potential Matthews clone in Reed and let them both terrorize opposing quarterbacks from the OLB position for the next decade.

Previous pick: DeAndre McDaniel, SS, Clemson

Thanks for reading, this mock took a long time to get ready so I hope you all enjoyed it. Let me know what you think!

–Tom

Hey everyone, sorry I haven’t been posting much recently. I’ve been extremely busy so I haven’t had much time to scout, but I took some time this past week to crank out this mock draft. I wanted to wait until after the Senior Bowl and the Super Bowl were done before I posted another one, but now that the draft order is set and all of the postseason games are over with I am happy to present you with my updated mock draft! Enjoy.

1st round NFL Mock Draft:

1st- Carolina- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: I think that AJ Green is the top player in this draft class, so it makes sense to draft him here especially because there isn’t a QB worth this selection. Nick Fairley will get some consideration here, but this DT class is so deep and talented that there will be quality options available later. Plus Green doesn’t have any of the potential on field distractions that Fairley might bring because of accusations of him being a “dirty player.” Getting another weapon to help Jimmy Clausen bounce back from a pretty terrible rookie season should be a huge priority for Carolina, and while they also badly need a DT I think A.J. Green should be the pick here.

2nd- Denver- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: Fairley shouldn’t make it too far if he doesn’t go #1 overall, at least as things stand currently. He would be perfect for Denver if he does become available here because they will be moving to a 4-3 defense under new head coach John Fox. That means they are going to need a quality DT in the middle and Fairley fits that bill perfectly. He is extremely disruptive and reminds me a lot of Kevin Williams as a player because of his combination of burst off the ball and his great strength. He could be a dominant force in a 4-3, so I think he makes a lot of sense for Denver here.

3rd- Buffalo- DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Bowers was really all potential before this season when he finally capitalized on his immense talent and produced a lot of pressure and sacks this season. I’m wondering how high his ceiling will be in the NFL though. He doesn’t have great burst and speed off the edge, and he was strong enough to beat a lot of offensive lineman with brute strength and hand usage. I think he has the ability to be an impact LE, but I’m not sure he is going to be an 8-10+ sack guy at LE. I understand why he is projected to go this high, but I suppose I would be wary to pick him so high after only one season of consistent production. Buffalo needs pass rush help though and Bowers could be the man to deliver that aid.

4th- Cincinnati- Patrick Peterson, CB/S, LSU: Peterson would be a perfect pick for the Bengals here because they really need help in the secondary, particularly at safety. Peterson definitely has the athletic ability to play cornerback as well as safety so that would give the Bengals flexibility. However, I think Peterson could be an All-Pro safety in the NFL considering his size, athletic ability, speed and ball skills. That is something that the Bengals could really use. It’s possible that the Bengals could go after a DE or a WR here, and Robert Quinn would be a good fit for them, but Peterson is a better player than Quinn, so he makes more sense here. If A.J. Green slid to #4 overall I could also see Cincinnati going in that direction. Quarterback will be considered here, but I personally think that Ryan Mallett could end up falling to the second round due to some potentially serious character concerns. If that ends up being the case then the Bengals could get the best of both worlds here by picking up Peterson, a potentially stud playmaking safety, and Mallett, a rocket-armed quarterback with pretty good pocket poise and accuracy, to eventually replace Palmer. The Bengals haven’t been deterred by character concerns before, so if Mallett does fall to the 2nd round I think the Bengals are a definite landing spot.

5th- Arizona- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M: Von Miller has really boosted his stock lately as he had a strong finish to the season and a very impressive Senior Bowl showing. It is being argued that he could play 4-3 OLB at this point, but I am not sure he is that effective in coverage. However, I do think he can play the 3-4 OLB position even if he is a little undersized. Will he play right away? I’m not sure. He will need to get at least to 240 or 245 before he will be able to be anything beyond a situational pass rusher in my opinion. But he could rotate in and give a good speed rush at this point. Most pass rushers that get drafted this high aren’t ready to walk into the NFL and contribute right away. They have a lot of potential but they need to be developed, improve their pass rush moves and potentially bulk up. Miller has a great speed rush, especially when standing up, so I think that makes him a good fit for a 3-4. Is the top five a little high for him? In my opinion, yes. He is a good player, I have thought he was a top 15 guy for a while, but top five feels high especially since he will need to add some weight and develop for a year or so before he can contribute as a starter.

6th- Cleveland- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: Robert Quinn is a tough guy for me to project just because he had so much potential as a sophomore but we didn’t get a chance to see how much he developed during his junior season to judge him in the NFL. So right now he is still just a guy with tons of raw athletic ability and potential that needs to be developed for a couple of years. Quinn has great burst and speed off the edge, but there is no telling how good his hand usage his, how consistently he gets off blocks or how well his pass rush moves have developed. He is almost like a really expensive grab bag that is required to have a certain amount of value, and it could have no more than that (just raw athletic ability and potential that is never reached) or it could be a fantastic defensive end that everyone looks back on and says “why didn’t we take a chance on him?” Conservative teams should stay away, but I think Robert Quinn can be a very good DE if a team takes their time developing him for a year or two. He should be able to have an impact during those years as a situational pass rusher, but outside of that he should be improving his hand usage and developing pass rush moves. If he can do that, with his speed off the edge, he could be a lethal pass rusher in the NFL.

7th- San Francisco- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: The 49ers need a quarterback first of all. Alex Smith has repeatedly proven to be a bust, and while Troy Smith showed fleeting flashes of potential I don’t think he is anything more than a stop-gap. However, I don’t know that any of these quarterbacks are franchise caliber players. I am high on Gabbert because of his strong arm and great accuracy, but he is going to need some development. Ryan Mallett has a rocket arm and lots of production, but he is not reliable late in games and has potentially serious character concerns that will hurt his stock in my opinion. Jake Locker has problems with consistency, and while he has great intangibles you have to wonder if he will actually make his team better as a player, not just as a leader. Finally, there is Cam Newton, who will need a lot of development before he will be able to have a fair shake at being a starter. He has a ton of potential, but I wonder if he will ever come close to reaching it since he has so much work to do as a passer. So it is arguable that there is a legitimate issue with each of these quarterbacks (not that past QB’s have been perfect, but they have been in pro-style offenses or demonstrated more consistency). That said, I think it makes perfect sense to go another direction here with this pick. Amukamara would give the Cardinals another good corner opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but he would fit into their style of play that Whisenhunt tried to bring over from the Steelers. He is a very physical corner and will match up well with any big, physical receivers in that division (most notably Larry Fitzgerald if he sticks around, but also Mike Williams and potentially Danario Alexander). He supports the run well, is a good tackler and has pretty good ball skills, though I’m not sure he has great hands for the interception.

8th- Tennessee- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: This pick might not make much sense, but I am going out on a limb on this part. I have heard that Tennessee’s owner is high on Cam Newton and really wants him on the Titans. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because I think he is a more undeveloped version of Vince Young with better size, arm strength and similar athleticism. There are questions about his character off the field, but on the field he seems to be a good leader and his teammates seem to like him. However, it seems strange to me that the Titans would want another player with potential off-field concerns. To his credit though, Newton didn’t seem distracted by any of the off-field problems brewing this year, so he can definitely block that stuff out (at least he could in college) and produce on the field. However, he is one or two years away from being ready to be a reliable starter because of the offense he played in. He doesn’t have to make any complicated reads, he doesn’t have to go through many progressions, he rarely went through three, five and seven step drops from under center, and he doesn’t have very good pocket poise because of his ability to scramble and gain yardage with his legs. Will he ever be a good pocket passer? I don’t know, I kind of doubt it. But if he ever did his potential would be immense because of his athletic ability and his ability to extend plays. Regardless, the Titans are rumored to be interested in him and even though I don’t think it makes much sense for them I could see them picking him at #8 overall if their owner truly is interested or trading down and picking him in the middle of the first round.

9th- Dallas- Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama: I previously thought that the Cowboys might trade down from this spot but when I reshuffled some picks Marcell Dareus slid down and he is a perfect fit for Dallas. They really need DE help because Marcus Spears never really lived up to his first round billing, and they need help around Jay Ratliff. Dareus is a perfect 3-4 DE in my opinion even if he isn’t the 6’5”, 315 pound ideal specimen that you would like. He is probably 6’2” but if his arm length checks out then he would be a perfect 3-4 DE because of his experience in that system at Alabama. He is very disruptive against the run game, he is extremely strong, has great hand usage and can also apply some pressure from the DE position in a 3-4. He would really strengthen their defensive line and I honestly think that he could come in and start as a rookie. People seem to have forgotten how good he has been at Alabama and if he does slide to Dallas he could be another very good rookie for them.

10th- Washington- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Originally I had Gabbert getting picked number nine overall after Miami traded up to get him, but because Dallas stayed at #9 to pick up Dareus at that spot Gabbert slides to #10 where Washington could very well be waiting to pick him. On one hand I could see them trading back into the late 1st round to pick a guy like Jake Locker, and spending extra picks to acquire a specific player is a totally Washington Redskins thing to do. However, quarterback is a need for them considering the Donovan McNabb fiasco and Rex Grossman being the back-up. Regardless of who they decide to make their starter they will still be around for another year or two which would be a perfect situation for Gabbert to develop. He will have a very significant transition from the offense he ran at Missouri to a pro-style offense in the NFL. He operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun with four and five wide receiver sets the vast majority of the time so he will need to learn how to take snaps from under center, make pre-snap reads from under center, make his drops and still deliver accurate passes after doing so and he will have to make very different reads than he did at Missouri. However, he has great size, underrated athletic ability and mobility as well as great arm strength and accuracy. His pocket poise leaves something to be desired, but he is fantastic at resetting his feet and delivering accurate throws even after he gets happy feet, which alleviated my concerns about that a bit. Overall he has a lot of potential, so that is why I have him ranked #1 overall in this quarterback class and that is why I think he is worth developing for a year or maybe a little longer than that. His combination of size, arm strength and accuracy is rare so his tools are absolutely worth developing.

11th- Houston- Cameron Jordan, DE, California: This is an interesting pick, but I think it is a good one for Houston. They are apparently switching to a 3-4 defense, which I can’t say I agree with, but that is obviously not my choice to make. I don’t know where Mario Williams fits into that scheme, but I suppose they will have to figure that out. However, they will need a quality DE who can play 3-4 DE in that scheme but also flex into either a 4-3 DE or DT when they run nickel packages and they will probably run a fair amount of 4-3 looks this year as they begin the transition to the 3-4 scheme with some personnel turnover this year. Jordan could potentially play 4-3 DE, he fits best at 3-4 DE in my opinion, but probably has the versatility to slide inside to 4-3 DT if the defense were to be running a nickel package. He is a very good player and is a bit underrated, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved up boards and got drafted in the top 15, especially by a team that needs some scheme flexibility like Houston will this year.

12th- Minnesota- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: This might seem high for Liuget (pronounced “Legit” how awesome is that) but I think he has a chance to go this high. I am really high on him as a defensive tackle prospect and I think he could be a great fit in Minnesota. They figure to continue running the Cover-2 scheme with Leslie Frazier assuming the head coaching vacancy left by Brad Childress but I think DT is a huge need for them right up there with QB and Safety. There is no safety worth this selection, and honestly I think they need to sign a stop-gap QB like Matt Hasselbeck or Kyle Orton if he is indeed a free agent (or Donovan McNabb if the Redskins do actually get rid of him) because any of the QB’s they could pick in this draft will need time before they can step in and start. There is not a Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco or Mark Sanchez in this draft class. So, I think the Vikings should fill one of their other needs with a BPA pick here and honestly Liuget might be that guy. When I put together my new DT rankings he will probably be #3 behind only Fairley and Dareus. He would play very well next to Kevin Williams because he is very strong and holds up pretty well versus the run but can also penetrate, make plays in the backfield and get pressure on the QB. He isn’t on Fairley’s level of disruption, which is comparable to Kevin Williams but he could be a very good player in their system, especially with Williams as a mentor.

13th- Detroit- Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal: This might seem high for Tyron Smith because he played RT at USC and hasn’t really made a name for himself at USC. However, he is arguably the most athletic offensive tackle in the draft and honestly reminds me a lot of D’Brickashaw Ferguson because they both have some trouble keeping weight on and getting up to 300 pounds, so it will be interesting to see how much he weighs in at when he’s at the combine. However, he should put on a show there because he could very well run a 4.8 in the forty yard dash and surprise people with how athletic he really is. He really is an impressive physical specimen and I think he will be fine moving to LT in the NFL. He is still raw despite starting for over two years at USC, but I have seen him mirror corners blitzing off the edge, so his lateral agility and kick slide is pretty amazing for someone his size. He moves very well in the open field too and gets to the second level easily, but he needs to improve his technique and improve his fundamentals as well as add weight before he can step in as a starter. That is probably ideal for Detroit because he has a very high ceiling but with Jeff Backus still entrenched as the starter he won’t be rushed in before he is ready. Tony Ugoh is still listed as the back-up, but I don’t think having Ugoh on the roster as a back-up is enough to pass on Tyron Smith if they think he can be their franchise left tackle, which if he gets coached up well and patiently developed he definitely could be.

14th- St. Louis- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: I have seen this pick in a number of mocks, so it actually kind of bothers me that I am following suit, but previously I had Dallas trading down to #15 with Miami so that Miami could grab Blaine Gabbert before Washington got their hands on him. That led to Julio going #10 overall instead of here. However, when I reshuffled an earlier pick it led to Marcell Dareus sliding to #9, making him the obvious selection for a Dallas team in desperate need of a 3-4 DE. That led to Washington getting Gabbert after all, and thereby forced Julio down the board until St. Louis. They could really use him here, and he would give them a legitimate #1. With Julio opposite Danario Alexander and with Donnie Avery in the slot the Rams would haveJulio Jones is a very big, strong, physical receiver with big play ability downfield as well as serious red zone potential because of his leaping ability, size and strong hands. He can make some incredible catches and when he gets involved consistently he can take over a game, but he wasn’t always involved or thrown at very often at Alabama and he would also drop routine passes more than I would like. He definitely has great hands, he just needs to concentrate and look in routine passes because it is pretty clear to me that he is just taking for granted the fact that he will be able to make the catch and either taking his eye off the ball or trying to run before securing the catch. He reminds me of Braylon Edwards a bit in that respect because of his potential for big, game-changing plays, but he will also drop passes that any receiver of his talent and caliber should catch. It will be interesting to see how Julio transitions to the NFL and if a good WR coach can help him improve his concentration to make him an even better receiver or if he will be content to make some great catches and then drop some easier ones.

15th- Miami: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: This feels like a really cliché pick to me but I think this could actually happen. The Dolphins don’t have a ton of needs and with Newton and Gabbert off the board I don’t think a QB is an option here unless the Dolphins get enamored with Locker as a potentially ideal wildcat quarterback. However, as everyone seems to state in their mock draft, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are both getting older and while neither of them has completely worn down Ronnie Brown has had some trouble staying healthy and Ricky is older than a typical complementary back because of his time off from the wear and tear of the NFL. Ingram would be an ideal back to bring in to take pressure off of these guys because the Dolphins running game is the heart and soul of the offense. I have never been a big Chad Henne fan because I have always thought he was incredibly inconsistent and he could make a great throw and follow it up with one or two terrible decisions or passes. I haven’t watched a lot of Dolphins games, but when I have seen him he will look good when I’m watching him and then look like a different player just minutes later. Quarterback is definitely something that needs to be considered for Miami, but Jake Locker’s inconsistency might remind them too much of Henne despite his vastly better athleticism and Ingram is one of the safest picks in the draft if he can stay healthy because he will grade very high as a feature back. If he stays healthy he could very well have seven or eight 1000+ yard seasons with 8+ touchdowns once he becomes the feature back for Miami.

16th- Jacksonville- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: Jacksonville has had some trouble with defensive ends in the past (Derrick Harvey, I’m lookin’ at you) so I think they may look for a relatively “safe” player here and that would be Ryan Kerrigan all over. He reminds me of Chris Long in that he can still be a productive DE but I don’t think he will ever be a 10+ sack guy in the NFL. He is good off the line of scrimmage and has pretty good speed off the edge as well as very good hand usage to shed blocks. He could probably step in and contribute immediately, and learning from Aaron Kampman (if he can get healthy) would definitely help him develop into a quality starter. Does he have the highest ceiling of any DE in this draft? No. But he has one of the higher floors of anyone in this draft class especially at defensive end. The Jaguars need to get one right at defensive end, so unless they are willing to roll the dice on another defensive end that may or may not pan out I think they will go ahead and grab Kerrigan.

17th- New England (F/ OAK)- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: This might seem high for Cameron Heyward, but everyone seems to be underrating just how dominant he can be as a DE and DT in a 4-3 or as a 3-4 DE. He has great size, he is extremely strong and has great hand usage. He can absolutely toss some blockers around like rag-dolls (I have seen this happen to Gabe Carimi before) and he is very effective in the run game. He is literally an ideal 3-4 DE so I don’t understand why he is so underrated. However, if there is one team that will recognize how good this guy is it will be the Patriots. He would be a perfect fit in their defensive scheme because he can hold the line versus the run and handle double team blocks. Additionally he can get after the passer even though he doesn’t have much speed off the edge, but at his size he really isn’t supposed to. At 17 he would be a great value, and even at this pick I think in a number of years when he is a very good starter for the Patriots a lot of people will look back and wonder how this guy fell so far. That is my bold prediction about Cameron Heyward.

18th- San Diego- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: Ayers makes sense at this pick because the Chargers gave up on Shawne Merriman and his supposed replacement Larry English has disappointed in the 3-4 alignment at OLB. I personally thought he was more of a 4-3 RE who struggled in space, but regardless of whether he has struggled in coverage or not he has simply not been applying pressure on the QB enough for the Chargers’ liking, so he could definitely stand to be upgraded. Ayers is a well-rounded football player and is well worth a selection here. I haven’t scouted him specifically yet, but I have seen him play live once or twice and I came away fairly impressed with what I saw. I’m confident he could play in a 3-4 alignment at OLB and should give the Chargers a quality pass rusher, run defender and coverage linebacker.

19th- New York Giants- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: The Giants don’t have a lot of needs, but they could use help at OT potentially. Sherrod is interesting because he could probably play LT, but I personally think he would be a bit better at RT. He is a quality OT prospect, but he isn’t overly flashy. I haven’t scouted him specifically yet, but the Giants could use a relatively safe, quality pick here and I think Sherrod fits that bill. I could see them grabbing a DT to bolster their interior defensive line depth, but I feel like they have bigger needs barring the loss of Barry Cofield via free agency (should there be one).

20th- Tampa Bay- Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: The Buccaneers spent their first two draft selections to attempt to bolster their defensive line but now it is time to upgrade the defensive end position so that they could have a very good defensive line once all of their prospects develop. Aldon Smith could very well have been a top ten pick if he stayed another year because of his talent level, but I would be surprised if he made it out of the top 25 in this draft. He would fit in well on the Buccaneers and could form a formidable defensive front with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in the future should all of them pan out.

21st- Kansas City- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Chiefs have a couple needs, such as OLB and potentially CB, but offensive line might be one of the more pressing concerns. They need help at OT and Carimi is probably one of the best OT’s in this draft class even if he doesn’t project to be a great LT in the NFL. I think he offers a lot of value because I think he can be a very good RT in the NFL and potentially start very early in his career but in a pinch he could slide over to LT and hold his own. That makes him a valuable commodity both as a starter and as a back-up, which should make him attractive to a lot of teams including the Chiefs.

22nd- Indianapolis- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: I struggled with this pick because I couldn’t decide if the Colts would look to pick up a LT to protect Manning’s blind side or if they would try to pick up a DT to help improve their disappointing run defense. Ultimately I think they will prioritize protecting Manning here and the Colts aren’t exactly a team to take a risk on a player like Nate Solder who has a lot of raw athletic ability. They seem more likely to take a player who won’t be flashy but will get the job done, and that seems to be Castonzo to a T. Will he be a franchise left tackle? No. Will he be a quality offensive lineman for a long time? Probably. He has above-average athleticism and pretty good technique, so he should be a pretty good tackle for the Colts and should help keep Peyton Manning upright.

23rd- Philadelphia- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: The Eagles have little talent opposite Asante Samuel and they have had injury issues at this position. They tend to go after offensive and defensive linemen, and if Gabe Carimi lasted this long I could definitely have seen him being the pick here. However, they also need playmakers in the secondary especially at corner and Harris brings that to the table. He is a bit of a risk-taker like Samuel is but he has good ball skills and impressive athletic ability to close when beaten.

24th- New Orleans- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Clayborn is a bit of a disappointing prospect to me because last year he seemed to command double teams and play relentlessly on most snaps but this season he was being taken out of the play with one on one blocks against average offensive tackles and didn’t seem to play as hard. I personally think he could fall out of the first round, but that might not happen come draft day especially if he interviews well. Regardless, I think he had a disappointing senior season. I don’t think he will be a great 4-3 LE because I don’t think he has the edge speed to be much of a pass rushing threat, and honestly I think he would be best served bulking up a bit and playing DE in a 3-4, but his block shedding ability and strength to hold up versus doubles probably makes that transition a bit problematic. However, the Saints need a quality DE prospect and despite his shortcomings this year Clayborn still has his redeeming qualities. You have to wonder which DE you are going to get in the NFL though. Will you get the dominant one who flashed 6-8 sack potential as a LE in a 4-3 or the LE who will get taken out of plays by one on one blocks and occasionally get a sack or TFL on a talented defensive line? That remains to be seen, but I definitely have my doubts about Clayborn.

25th- Seattle- Jake Locker, QB, Washington: This seems like a match made in heaven. The Seahawks have a couple of stop-gap guys in place with Matt Hasselbeck (who is a free agent) and Charlie Whitehurst (who I thought looked solid against St. Louis, but again it was St. Louis) at quarterback which would allow Locker time to develop behind at least one veteran quarterback. That would prevent him from being rushed into the starting job before he was ready (hopefully) and would give him the best chance at NFL success in my estimation. He has off the chart intangibles but his accuracy and ball placement was just too inconsistent for me to be that impressed. He is a very polarizing prospect as you either seem to love him or hate him, but I find myself thinking that he will not live up to the hype that was created for him by his biggest fans but I also don’t think he will turn out to be a colossal bust like his biggest critics think he will be. I don’t think he will be a franchise quarterback, but I think he can be an effective QB in the NFL who completes 58% of his passes and extends drives with his legs. He won’t ever be incredibly accurate, hence my doubts that he will have a career completion percentage of over 60%, but he has good arm strength and such a good work ethic that I don’t think I can bet against him having a solid career as a NFL starting QB. I’m sure he’d love to stay in the state of Washington and play for the Seahawks, so that would be even more motivation to work (not that he needs it).

26th- Baltimore- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Smith is an interesting guy, but I think that the Ravens will see some similarities to Chris McCalister when they watch him. If they do I would not be surprised if they picked him here, even over the more well known Aaron Williams. Smith has good size and plays physical, plus he has good closing speed. He would fit well in Baltimore’s physical defense in my opinion and would present some much needed talent at cornerback, a position that Baltimore has had trouble with in recent years, especially with injuries. Smith should provide a nice influx of talent to the position with this pick.

27th- Dallas (F/ ATL)- Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: The Falcons have this pick but if the board breaks like this there will be no obvious player that they should select, and I have been saying for months that this feels like the year that Thomas Dimitroff, a General Manager that was trained by the Patriots, could very well make a “Patriots move” and trade down into the 2nd round. If the board breaks like this that would definitely be my preference. Now, the Cowboys don’t necessarily need to move up here as they could end up with Quinton Carter, but Jerry Jones is an aggressive man and I could see him making this trade to try to secure a player who I believe is an absolute ball-hawk. Moore would bring a lot of range and playmaking ability to the Cowboys secondary and it is very badly needed. They have talent at corner but their safety play leaves a lot to be desired. Moving up and securing Moore, arguably the best safety in this draft class if you don’t grade Patrick Peterson as a safety, would make a great first two selections paired with Marcell Dareus for the Cowboys.

28th- New England- Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois: This was a tough pick for me to project, but because the Patriots have so few holes I could see them going straight BPA here and that could very well be Leshoure. Leshoure is a very talented running back and is probably going to be #2 or #3 on my next RB rankings. He would give the Patriots a legitimate feature back instead of just a running back by committee system that they seem to be employing now. This doesn’t seem like a very likely pick for the Patriots, but I don’t see them drafting an OLB here because I don’t think there is a good one on the board still (this is because I don’t think Justin Houston projects well to the 3-4 OLB position at all, but that is my personal opinion).

29th- Chicago- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: I struggled with this pick a lot also because honestly I am not a big fan of Solder, and for some reason I really wanted to mock a quality offensive tackle to the Bears because boy do they need one. However, Solder is the best offensive tackle available at this point and he has the potential to be a very good LT if he can develop fundamentally and improve his technique. Whether he actually does that in the NFL is a different story, but if anyone can coach him up it would definitely be Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice, one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL. So in reality this would be a pretty intriguing selection because Tice managed to produce a relatively solid unit out of a pretty terrible group of offensive linemen, so if the Bears front office got him a guy as athletically talented as Solder he could potentially mold him into a quality left tackle.

30th- New York Jets- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: The Jets don’t have a lot of glaring holes but one place I think they could use some youth and talent is defensive end in their 3-4 scheme and J.J. Watt is probably a perfect fit for that scheme. I think he could play 4-3 LE but he would not get a lot of pressure and sacks from that position, but in the 3-4 he could be a perfect fit. I’m not sure how well he will do if asked to occupy blockers and let linebackers make plays behind him, but if he can penetrate into the backfield and play disruptively like he did in college he could be a very nice DE for the Jets.

31st- Pittsburgh- Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: The Steelers have a very good defense but Casey Hampton is currently 33 years old and they have little talent/depth behind him that could eventually develop into a starter. Taylor has great size, strength and is surprisingly agile for a man of his size. He also holds his weight well. I think he would be a perfect fit at NT in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense which makes him a very hot commodity here.

32nd- Green Bay- DeAndre McDaniel, SS, Clemson: This might not seem like the most logical pick considering Green Bay’s terrific secondary, but strong safety is the weakest link in their secondary. Cornerback is strong if Charles Woodson keeps playing well with Tramon Williams and Sam Shields filling out the rest of their nickel package. Nick Collins is one of the best free safeties in the league but he rarely got any credit for his play, but he probably will now. However, Atari Bigby has his issues in coverage and Charlie Peprah is at best a stop-gap starter. Enter DeAndre McDaniel, a quality ball hawk who would fit in well in Green Bay’s secondary in my opinion. He is probably a mid-2nd round grade right now, but that is just my personal opinion. If he can provide quality coverage from the strong safety position as well as solid run support he would really take that secondary to the next level, so I think he makes a lot of sense here.

Hopefully you enjoyed my mock draft! Leave a comment and let me know what you think of it. I tried to keep it original and go in some different directions, but overall I think it is pretty realistic. Some of you will probably be surprised about Mallett falling out of round one, but I think that is a serious possibility come draft day.

Thanks for reading!

–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

Updated Mock Draft: 12.5.10

Here is my latest mock draft. It is using the draft order that is current as of last week, but I finished the analysis for all of the selections today and I didn’t want to scrap it when the new draft order comes out on Tuesday, so I finished it and I am going to post it. Hopefully it is still interesting, it took a lot of work to put this all together. Let me know if you like or dislike your teams pick! Comments are very much appreciated. Enjoy!

First Round NFL Mock Draft:

1. Carolina (1-10)- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford- If Andrew Luck doesn’t come out this year there will be a lot of disappointed teams at the top of the draft board, and Carolina would be one of them. Yes, they drafted Jimmy Clausen in the 2nd round last year, but he is not a good enough prospect nor he has he played well enough as a rookie to warrant passing on Luck here. Luck has such great intangibles, pretty good arm strength, good accuracy, he has two years of starting experience in a pro-style offense and has good size as well. If he comes out I would be shocked if he didn’t go in the top three overall selections.
2. Detroit (2-9)- Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson- Bowers surprised me this year as I was ready to write him off as a very physically talented player who never translated his physical ability into production, but he made me eat my words this year as he has amassed over 15 sacks already this year. I don’t know how good his burst is off the line of scrimmage, but he is very strong and should test very well. This might seem a bit high for him now, but he is a terrific athlete for the LE position and having a LE who could potentially be a 10+ sack guy is something that any team would love to have. I don’t know if I think he will actually be that kind of a defensive end, but his physical ability certainly makes it a possibility. Detroit could really use a stud LE like Bowers and their defensive line could be terrifying with Suh, Bowers and a seemingly revitalized Kyle Vanden Bosch on the line.

3. Cincinnati (2-9)- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia- A.J. Green is an extremely talented WR. He has great hands, he is a very good deep threat, and he demonstrated his value to Georgia by helping them turn around their seemingly doomed season once he returned from his suspension. Cincinnati needs some young talent at WR. I like Jordan Shipley and he projects to be a very nice slot receiver for the Bengals, but Chad Ochocinco is getting up in age and Terrell Owens, despite his fantastic statistical season, can’t have a lot left in the tank at this point. Drafting A.J. Green would give them a future replacement for Ochocinco and would help soften the inevitable blow their offense will suffer from when T.O. starts to come back to earth.

4. Buffalo (2-9)- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas- I have been saying for a long time that Mallett seems like a very likely candidate to go in the top 5 because some team will fall in love with his amazing combination of size and arm strength, but I am not a fan of Mallett despite this assertion. His footwork needs improvement, I am not sold at all on his intangibles from an intelligence standpoint, nor do I think he makes his team better for being on the field. He doesn’t seem clutch or reliable in critical situations to me, and combining that with his questionable intangibles (in my opinion) makes me doubt him as a NFL prospect. But that doesn’t mean he won’t go early in the draft and get a boatload of cash, and the Bills could really use a QB. Fitzpatrick has played better than expected this season, but if they believe Mallett is a Franchise QB (which I don’t) then they will pick him.

5. Arizona (3-8)- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska- The Cardinals could really use a QB, but Andrew Luck and Mallett are off the board and I’m not sure Jake Locker is worth a top five selection considering his relatively disappointing senior season. I don’t think the Cardinals will want to invest in someone who is as big of a risk as Locker is right now considering the amount of development he will need once he gets to the NFL. I’m a Locker fan, but he needs some coaching up once he gets to the NFL. The Cardinals do have other needs though, and cornerback is one of them. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a good corner, but they have little talent opposite him or behind him. Amukamara is without a doubt the top senior corner and may be the top corner in the draft considering Patrick Peterson’s potential move to safety in the NFL.

6T. Denver (3-8)- Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama- Denver has serious issues versus the run and one thing that McDaniels should realize is that the Patriots built their defenses by adding talent along the front 7, and that should be the Broncos plan of action as well. Dareus is a very big, strong, powerful defensive lineman and I think he projects perfectly to the 3-4 DE position in the NFL and he has plenty of experience playing it in Alabama’s 3-4 defense. Dareus should help solidify their defensive line within his first two seasons on the team.

6T. Dallas (3-8)- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU- Dallas needs serious help at safety and Peterson is an absolute freak athlete who has great size, speed and ball skills. He projects very well to corner and just as well to safety, and could very well be an impact player at FS in the NFL. Having someone with his speed and playmaking ability over the top of the secondary would really make the Dallas secondary very talented and dangerous.

8. San Francisco (4-7)- Jake Locker, QB, Washington- Is Locker a top 10 pick right now? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he went this high when it is all said and done. He has a strong arm, he is very athletic and he has great intangibles. He needs some coaching and development, but I think he has the potential to be an effective NFL QB. I don’t know if he will ever be the franchise QB that so many people thought he would be after his junior season, but I do think he can be effective. Troy Smith has shown flashes this season, but if the 49ers are sold on Locker they should select him. Alex Smith is a 100% certified bust and Troy Smith should remain the starter for at least a year before Locker competes to take over in his second season.

9. Minnesota (4-7)- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn- Do the Vikings have bigger needs than defensive tackle? Yes. QB, Safety and potential Left Tackle depending on what they do with Bryant McKinnie. It’s hard to believe he was voted into the Pro-Bowl just a year ago. Regardless, the heart of the Vikings defense has been their ability to stop the run for years, but that has changed dramatically this year. Pat Williams is wearing down and should probably be released after this season, and despite his lesser numbers this year Kevin Williams is still a very good defensive tackle. But he can’t do it all himself. Nick Fairley is an very talented defensive tackle and honestly he reminds me a bit of Kevin Williams. He has great size, great quickness off the ball and with one move he can beat the offensive lineman and penetrate into the backfield. Getting Fairley would give them a quality defensive tackle to play next to Kevin Williams at some point and they would also have a potential replacement for K-Will as he gets older.

10. Cleveland (4-7)- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State- This might seem high for Blackmon, but I don’t think so. I’ve seen him play a number of games this year and he impresses me every time I see him. He has solid size at 6’0” but he is powerfully built and he is arguably as physical as any receiver in the country. He seems to run relatively effective routes and though I haven’t scouted him specifically yet he seems to have reliable hands. The Browns could very well pick Julio Jones here, but I think Julio Jones might remind them a bit too much of Braylon Edwards. He has incredible potential and ability, but his lapses in concentration will result in drops at times. Blackmon is a very good WR and I have him graded as a top 15 pick right now, so I won’t be surprised if he goes this high at all should he declare.

11T. Seattle (5-6)- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina- Robert Quinn definitely has top 10 talent but I am not entirely convinced he will go that high. He has two years of film on him, but he was very raw and really just demonstrated his freak ability and potential, but didn’t show much in the way of technique or sound fundamentals during his first two seasons. He has a lot of raw ability but he needs probably a year or two of coaching before I think he will be an effective starter. He could definitely be used in a rotation to try to get a speed rush on 3rd down situations before he becomes a starter, but if his technique and hand usage aren’t developed he will not be effective in those situations. But Pete Carroll is not afraid of a gamble on a guy with character questions and the Seahawks really need a pass rushing boost, so it could be a match made in heaven if Carroll and his coaching staff can develop his ability.

11T. New England (from Oakland 5-6)- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA- Akeem Ayers strikes me as a prototypical Patriots player. He is very well rounded and he is good as a pass rusher and in coverage, and the Patriots could really use some talent at OLB because they have had trouble finding quality players to play that position. The strength of the Patriots defenses have always been their front seven, and with Ayers at OLB their defense would definitely be strengthened.

13. Washington (5-6)- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama- The Redskins desperately need talent at receiver so McNabb will have somewhere to go with the ball. Julio Jones is without a doubt the best WR available at this spot and the Redskins would love to have him. He has the highest ceiling of any WR in this draft in my opinion because of his combination of size, speed and ability to make incredible catches. He needs to work on concentrating on routine passes to make sure he doesn’t drop as many catchable balls, but he could really help open up the Redskins offense.

14. Tennessee (5-6)- Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina- The Titans need OLB help very badly and Bruce Carter is probably the most athletically gifted OLB in this draft class. Carter might not be the most fundamentally sound linebacker, but he has the potential to be a special teams ace as well as an impact linebacker. I think that after he tests well and showcases his athletic ability he will be a virtual lock for the top 20, so I could definitely see him going as high as #14 overall.

15. Houston (5-6)- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami- The Texans have had issues in the secondary for about as long as they have existed, and that problem was only magnified by losing Dunta Robinson in free agency last offseason. The Texans could really use some help at corner and at safety, but there is not a safety worth this selection. Brandon Harris is a very athletic corner and he has good ball skills and could really help replace Dunta Robinson in their secondary.

16. San Diego (6-5)- Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia- Justin Houston has had a great junior season and I would be very surprised if he didn’t declare and end up in the top 20 selections. The Chargers really need help at OLB because Shawne Merriman is now a Buffalo Bill and Larry English has not panned out as an OLB like they hoped he would have. Houston is not a tough projection for the 3-4 OLB spot in the NFL because he has played that position effectively in Georgia’s new 3-4 defense, which makes this a very easy selection.

17. Indianapolis (6-5)- Drake Nevis, DT, LSU- The Colts really need help versus the run but they don’t like big run stuffers who take up blockers. They like athletic defensive tackles who can get off the ball, penetrate and make plays in the backfield. There aren’t many defensive tackles who have done a better job of doing just that than Nevis this season. He has been extremely disruptive all season and he is quick off the ball, has impressive hand usage and does a good job of regularly beating one on one blocks. He would give the Colts some much needed talent at the defensive tackle position.

18. Miami (6-5)- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama- The Dolphins have two talented RB’s in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, but Ronnie Brown is about to turn 29 years old and has had trouble with injuries and Ricky Williams will be 34 in May. Both of them probably have a couple of productive years left, but the strength of the Dolphins continues to be their running game and without a healthy back or two their offense struggles to sustain drives and produce on offense. Mark Ingram could step in as a rookie and contribute immediately as a runner and could replace either back depending on who gives out first or who starts to tail off. One of them figures to get injured at some point next year, and having Ingram would be fantastic insurance for both of them. Not to mention he is prepared to be a workhorse back in the NFL which is what the Dolphins will need in a couple of seasons.

19. Tampa Bay (7-4)- Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida- Tampa Bay has a talented corner in Aqib Talib, but opposite him the talent at corner is questionable at best. Jenkins is a local Florida talent and he has fantastic ball skills, supports the run very well and is a good tackler. I’m not sure how good he is in man coverage yet, but having two playmakers at corner like Talib and Jenkins would mean a lot of turnovers for the Bucs once Jenkins breaks into the starting lineup.

20. Green Bay (7-4)- Cameron Jordan, DE, California- The Green Bay Packers have had a lot of injuries this year but one spot they didn’t have an injury was at defensive end. Why do they need one then? Because Johnny Jolly, their quality defensive end, was suspended for the season for charges related to marijuana. The Packers elected to move Ryan Pickett from NT to DE and promoted B.J. Raji into the starting line-up which has worked well for them, but I don’t think that is a lineup that will be productive for the long haul. Cameron Jordan has had a very strong senior season and he is good versus the run as well as the pass, and the Packers could look at him and see him as a productive 3-4 DE. I’m not sure how well he handles double teams because I haven’t watched him play enough yet, but if he plays well versus doubles he would be an ideal 3-4 DE for the Packers. They could also use cornerback help because who knows how much Woodson has left, but I’m not sure that is a position they will want to address in round one.

21. St. Louis (5-6)- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame- The Rams really need a playmaker at receiver and I’m not sure that there is another position they need help at more than receiver. If the draft breaks this way I could see them trading down to try to add more draft picks to stockpile as much talent as possible. But if they stay here I think they will have to address the receiver position, and I think Floyd is the best receiver available at this point. Floyd may not have elite speed, but he has good size, he locates the ball well in the air, has great hands to make tough catches and I think he has a lot of potential as a receiver in the NFL. He has kind of a “prima-donna” attitude and I am worried a little bit about how hard he is going to work to improve in the NFL considering how easy he has had it at Notre Dame, but those are just my concerns personally.

22. Jacksonville (6-5)- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue- I would love to have Kerrigan fall to the Falcons, but I don’t think the Jaguars would pass on him. They really need pass rushing help and Kerrigan has been incredibly productive this season. He has a great first step and he really gets off the ball quickly, plus he has as good a motor as anyone in the country, which really says a lot. He should be able to contribute early since I think he is pretty NFL ready, but I’m not sure his ceiling is much higher than a 5-8 sack LE in the NFL. That’s better than what the Jaguars currently have though.

23. Kansas City (7-4)- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M- The Chiefs really need an OLB to help take some pressure off of Tamba Hali and Von Miller seems to be a perfect fit for them. He has recovered well from a slow start to his senior season and he has had a productive season. I think he projects very well to the 3-4 OLB position and the Chiefs could really use his pass rushing ability.

24. New York Giants (7-4)- Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State- The Giants love quality DT’s who can get upfield and penetrate into the backfield. Paea is freakishly strong but he is very quick and would fit in well on their defensive line. He would help make up for the disappointing players the Giants have at the position besides Barry Cofield.

25. Philadelphia (7-4)- Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma- The Eagles really need some help at OLB as they have tried a number of ways to fill that void but none have been particularly effective. Lewis is a talented linebacker who is very good in coverage and has played a significant role in making Oklahoma’s defense as good as it has been this year. He would fit in well in the Eagles defensive scheme in my opinion.

26T. Chicago (8-3)- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State- I was trying to decide if Sherrod or Castonzo would be the pick here but I gave the slight edge to Sherrod this time. Castonzo would be a safe selection but I think Sherrod offers them more options as far as playing left or right tackle depending on how Chris Williams pans out at some point.

26T. New Orleans (8-3)- Greg Jones, OLB, Michigan State- The Saints really need OLB help and while Jones is not a very big linebacker I think he is one of the best linebackers in the country. He plays smart and is the heart of Michigan State’s defense. He would fit in well in the Saints scheme in my opinion and would look really good playing next to Jonathan Vilma.

28. Baltimore (8-3)- Aaron Williams, CB, Texas- The Ravens really need a playmaker in the secondary and Aaron Williams comes from a Texas program that has produced a lot of talented defensive backs over the years. He hasn’t had the best season this year, but he is very athletic and has good ball skills and that is something that has to be attractive to the Ravens who need playmakers in the secondary very badly.

29. Pittsburgh (8-3)- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin- It might seem strange that Carimi is the pick here instead of Castonzo, but Carimi fits the Steelers’ scheme so much better than Castonzo because of Carimi’s ability to open holes in the running game. He has good size and strength and is good in pass protection, but I don’t think he will be a LT in the NFL, but he should be a quality RT for a long time.

30. New England (9-2)- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa- A lot of people might not think Clayborn is going to slide this far, but I think he might when it is all said and done. He has not looked dominant at all this year, and contrary to last season when he seemed to demand a double team I have watched him get blocked one on one effectively most every time I have watched him. I don’t know where the dominant Clayborn has gone, but I don’t think I would spend a top 20 selection on him after having watched him this year. However, the Patriots are notorious for taking advantage of a player they like falling and being available at the end of the 1st round and I could see them taking advantage of this.

31. New York Jets (9-2)- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State- The Jets could really use a 3-4 DE and Heyward is an absolute mammoth of a man. He has great size and strength and projects perfectly (in my opinion) to the 3-4 DE spot in the NFL.

32. Atlanta (9-2)- Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin- I would be really surprised if the Falcons stayed at this spot if the draft broke this way, I think they would be much more likely to trade down. Remember, Thomas Dimitroff made his name in the Patriots organization before he was hired as the General Manager of the Falcons. However, if they stay here they should be looking for a DE, WR, potentially an offensive lineman, potentially a cornerback or a tight end. There is not a defensive end worth this selection in my opinion, nor is there a corner I like for the Falcons defensive scheme available right now. I think that TE is an underrated need for us because Tony Gonzalez is such a key cog in our offensive system and his reliable hands have resulted in a lot of key conversions for us since we have gotten him. Lance Kendricks might not have had the best season of any TE available this year, but I have been high on him since he was a sophomore TE on Wisconsin. D.J. Williams is another option given the season he has had this year for Arkansas, but Kendricks is a much better blocker and is comparably dangerous as a receiver, so I think he would be a perfect fit in Atlanta.

Thanks for reading guys, hopefully you enjoyed it! Let me know what you think!

–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

Here are my notes from the Miami-Pittsburgh game. Hopefully you guys find them interesting.

Jacory Harris does not look good tonight. He has made some nice throws and completed some passes, but he threw a bad interception when trying to take a deep shot to Benjamin and the ball had a lot of air under it and was thrown to the inside and underthrown instead of to his outside shoulder and over the top, so it got intercepted. Not a good play. He has forced a few throws into coverage, he is throwing off his back foot at times, and he is taking hits occasionally. I am not impressed with him at all thus far. All of his passes, even his routine completions, continue to hang in the air too long. His passes just have too much touch on them. Jacory is playing a bit better in the 2nd half, but he has been disappointing overall in my opinion, but that is because I don’t like some of his fundamental habits.

Berry has looked good thus far, they need to stay with him during the duration of a drive. They go away from him a lot even when he is getting effective yardage. He has gotten good yardage when they run with him. No gain on this run by Berry, Sheard made a nice play moving down the line here.

Travis Benjamin continues to look dangerous, especially as a return man. He had a punt return touchdown called back because of a block in the back, which wasn’t even necessary as he was already half-way by him and wouldn’t have gotten tackled by the player who got blocked. It will be interesting to see if he breaks another big play in this game. He had a nice over the shoulder catch on the sideline earlier in the game too that I must not have seen but I just saw it on replay. Couldn’t tell if he caught it with his hands or not but I couldn’t tell since I only saw it once. Benjamin is beating Pitt up on this drive, already 2 catches in the first 3 minutes of the 2nd half. He is creating a lot of separation. He has 5 catches for 86 yards thus far. Benjamin just punched in a touchdown. He made a nice catch with blanket coverage from Gary for the first time today and he made a nice catch in the end zone for his 8th catch and now has 95 yards I believe.

LaRon Byrd has made some nice grabs today. He is catching the ball with his hands, and he is creating enough separation that even as he waits for the ball to get there from Harris. He made a great catch where he had to extend as far as he could and he fell down after getting his hands on it. I like what I see from him as a possession receiver, he has reliable hands.

Orlando Franklin is getting beat off the edge regularly by Brandon Lindsey #35, the replacement for Greg Romeus tonight. He looks very bad against the speed rush. I think he is a guard on the next level.

Olivier Vernon is very fast off the edge. He has a nice motor too, and he is coming so fast off the edge they are chipping and doubling him with the TE, but he has flashed the football IQ to go inside when he recognizes the double and he just keeps coming until he gets to the QB. I liked what I saw from him last year against Wisconsin and I am definitely keeping an eye on him this year. Vernon is flashing some serious ability, he split a double team nicely and got in Sanseri’s face as he delivered a short throw to Baldwin, but on the next play he got upfield on a speed rush and spun back into the offensive tackle. Vernon just made a great play versus the run. Beat two players and wrapped up the back for a TFL. Very nice block shedding and penetration upfield.

Sam Spence has made some nice plays today, though I haven’t heard much from him in the 2nd quarter. Great job of keeping contain on the reverse, he played the blocker perfectly and was a key cog in forcing an 18 yard loss. Spence with the sack on this play, looks like he may have come free on this play but he still got a sack, nice play by Spence.

Alan Bailey was involved in a play earlier but since then he hasn’t done anything that I have seen. I am not sold on him and this isn’t changing my mind. Bailey is so slow off the line, he is so bad at shedding blocks and on this particular play when Vernon blew up the run he got blocked so far down field he was out of the camera shot with a last shove by the offensive lineman by the time he quit on the play. What a pathetic level of effort and he got driven right downfield by the Pitt double team. Shameful.

Brandon Harris made a solid stop against the run. I haven’t seen him at all tonight because Miami has been stacking the box so the run game has been very ineffective. He missed a tackle on Graham but he didn’t have a good angle to get to him as he was outside and he was in the slot, ran a quick in and he did his best to close but couldn’t get there.

Sanseri, Pitt’s new QB, has looked awful tonight. He hasn’t been able to challenge downfield and he has looked uncomfortable from the start. He has missed some routine throws and he has panicked regularly in the pocket and missed throws he should make while scrambling. He has very little pocket poise.

Graham, the back-up RB I believe, has sparked Pitt’s offense here. He ran a quick in and Graham caught the ball, Harris couldn’t get him from behind as he reached for his ankles, and broke a tackle very nicely and converted a 2nd and 28 pretty much by himself. He is very quick and covers a lot of ground quickly. He has looked good running the ball as well, he is a quicker back. Graham is shifty and just makes guys miss, but he has a lot to work on in pass protection. He let a linebacker who came a little late come unblocked and he nailed Sanseri and had he had a little more time he could have hit Baldwin deep for a touchdown, even still Baldwin almost made a nice catch on the sideline on a poorly thrown ball.

I haven’t seen anything out of Jonathan Baldwin yet. Sanseri isn’t pushing the ball downfield so far in this game, so it makes sense that he hasn’t been involved thus far. He had some separation on one attempted pass downfield but it was a very bad throw. I’ll try to see how he gets off the line as the game goes on and see if he gets any separation. Baldwin had his first catch for 6 yards with about 7 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. He has barely been involved in this game. Baldwin just got two catches in a row from Bostick, one on about an 8 yard curl with some contact as the ball came in, so pretty nice job to haul it in, and another over the middle for a nice chunk of yards and another first down. Let’s see if he can get a little more involved at the end of this game. Baldwin is very, very good at making adjustments to bring passes in. He nearly made an amazing catch, but barely got his finger tips on the ball even after his great adjustment near the sideline, he got his fingers on it and then caught it in after a short bobble but he was already out of bounds. What a catch that would have been. Bostick is targeting Baldwin for sure, he has thrown to him 4 times in one drive. Baldwin didn’t see the ball lobbed up to him from Bostick and it got intercepted easily since he didn’t even make a play on it. Hard to believe he didn’t expected the ball to come his way in that situation, but still it’s hard to be super hard on him since he never saw the ball in the air. I really would have liked to see him make a play on that jump ball though.

Bostick has come into the game late in the 4th quarter and he has hit three quick completions in a row, two to Baldwin, and they are moving now. Already inside the 40 of Miami which Sanseri managed only once. Now 4 completions in a row and another first down. Bostick moved the team down, even though Miami was backing off, and just threw an INT as he just threw up a prayer since the center rolled the ball back to the QB and he tried to give someone a chance to make a play. He led a nice drive though, I would consider playing him next week. He wasn’t afraid to challenge downfield, though he really had nothing to lose. I was definitely more impressed with Bostick than Sanseri. Another lob up to Baldwin but he didn’t see the ball in the air apparently so it was just a gimme interception for Van Dyke. Too bad, would have liked to see Baldwin go up for the ball and make a play.

Brandon Lindsey, #35 on Pittsburgh is Romeus’ replacement because of his injury. He has looked good tonight. He is beating Franklin off the edge regularly and Miami is so concerned about it (even though he isn’t a regular starter) that they are chipping him to try to help Franklin out. It will be interesting to see how he looks in the second half and if he gets to Harris at all. I hope he does, I like the way he plays.

Jabal Sheard, #97, just got a sack on Jacory Harris, nice sack and he beat #61 like he stole something on this play. He has made a couple nice plays tonight, but overall I haven’t noticed him a heck of a lot. I have been looking out for #35 though, so I definitely can’t say Sheard hasn’t been active. He strikes me as a solid DE prospect, but definitely not a 1st or 2nd rounder at this point. Sheard made a nice move to shed a block and get into the backfield but he slid right off of Berry on this play and he broke it for a big run. It would have been a great TFL by Sheard but he botched the tackle, I don’t think he hit him low enough.

#26 Ricky Gary has looked awful tonight. He is a senior corner on Pittsburgh and he has been getting beat on deep comeback routes often, he got beat deep for a TD by Leonard Hankerson and has generally been beaten in coverage all game. I wonder if he has given up 8 or more receptions tonight, I think he may have. He has just been giving up separation all night, I don’t know if it is because he is slow to close or if he doesn’t have a good backpedal, but he doesn’t have good size to play in the NFL and he has been getting worked tonight, so I don’t think he has much NFL ability.

#18 Holley had an absolutely dirty interception. The ball was way underthrown by Harris, but he went up for the ball with Benjamin and it was over Benjamin’s head, Holley hit it with his hand and knocked it towards himself and as he fell to the ground he brought it in for the interception. It was an awesome play, but I haven’t noticed him otherwise. I don’t think he has given up too many catches, #26 has been victimized a few times from what I have noticed. He looked like he may have been out of position/late on that touchdown to Hankerson since I believe he was over the top on that throw.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you found some of it interesting!

–Tom

First of all, I apologize profusely for the huge gap between this post and my last post, which was close to three weeks ago. My computer had a bunch of viruses on it and apparently the hard drive was about to break (which Geek Squad said was probably caused by bumping or dropping it, woops!) so I got it fixed, it took about a week, and I now have Windows 7 instead of Vista and I just installed Microsoft Office 2007 about an hour ago before I finished writing this up (since I couldn’t read any of my notes before that because I didn’t have Microsoft Word on my laptop. It was a pretty serious issue. I also couldn’t watch tape all that time!) Anyways, between my laptop breaking and not having Microsoft Office I had a long unintentional break between my posts, so thank you for bearing with me and occasionally checking my blog out to see if I had gotten my act together and written anything! Here, at long last, is my post about the Wisconsin-Miami Champs Bowl game from last season!

Harris is talented both as a runner and as a passer, but he needs to learn to put more zip on his throws if he is going to legitimize himself as a NFL prospect.

When you watch Miami games Jacory Harris is a guy you just have to take notes on. He’s a very talented guy, he’s a good quarterback and he’s a threat to run, and those players are always intriguing and they always warrant a lot of discussion and projection, especially if they mature throughout their careers, learn to make better decisions, read defenses, and generally just become more efficient. An efficient QB who can run when all else fails and pick up quality yards is scary, which is why Mike Vick was the #1 overall pick in 2001. Little did we all know that you can’t just learn to throw accurately, make good decisions and read defenses from the pocket once you get to the NFL, but he was picked that high because if he became as good at throwing as he was at running he would have been one of the best players in the NFL. Anyways, Harris warrants discussion for a number of reasons. He has pretty good accuracy, and does a respectable job of reading defenses for a young quarterback and showed the ability to recognize a blitz and find his hot read quickly to avoid a sack and to pick up quality yards. That’s good to see.

However, Harris really seemed to struggle in this game. He does not strike me as a tough quarterback at all, and at times he would run timidly and does not seem at all willing to take a hit even if it means picking up the first down. I know you don’t want your quarterback running around initializing contact, but when he’s scrambling and he can either run out of bounds two yards short of the first down marker or put his head down and get as many yards as possible, I want my QB to put his head down and go for it, not run out of bounds with his tail between his legs. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s how I feel about it. Harris seems to prefer jogging out of bounds, and I don’t really like to see that. He also seemed bothered by the cold, but that wasn’t just a problem for him, the whole Miami team was huddled around the heaters and it was only 50 or 55 degrees outside. The Wisconsin players all had short sleeves on, mostly because in the Winter it gets real cold up north, so 50+ is t-shirt weather to those of us from Minnesota and Wisconsin. So between his timid running style and the fact that he seemed to be bothered by the “cold” I was not very happy with how Harris did in this game from a toughness aspect. He did take some shots and he popped right back up from all of them, but that just confused me more because you’d think that if he could absorb the hits he was taking when he was dropping back to pass that he could “suck it up” (so to speak) and run harder when he does scramble.

Harris never got comfortable against Wisconsin. Whether it was his ankle injury, the regular pressure from Wisconsin or the "cold" weather, he never settled in and got into a rhythm.

One thing that is a little alarming about Harris’ game is the amount of touch and air he puts under the majority of his throws. He throws an accurate ball and does great when touch is required, but sometimes you need to throw the ball with some zip and he does not seem to understand when that is necessary. He floats a LOT of passes, whether he is on the run, whether he has his feet set in the pocket, or whether he is throwing into a quickly closing window over the middle. I don’t know if that is something he will ever be able to stop doing since he has probably been getting away with it for his entire playing career, but if it is indeed correctable then he should already be working on it as we speak. Hopefully he shows me some progression in this area because it is really concerning how much air and touch he has on the majority of his passes.

Harris also never really looked comfortable in this game. He had his moments when he completed a few passes in a row, but Wisconsin got enough pressure on him (which, along with his injured ankle, had to contribute to him never getting into a rhythm) to keep him from ever getting into a groove and it definitely showed. He didn’t go through his progressions as well as I would have liked, he stared down his receivers regularly, he didn’t do a good job of buying time in the pocket without scrambling outside of the tackle box, and he looked sloppy throwing on the run when he couldn’t set his feet. He needs to do a better job of keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage even when rolling to his left. That is when you will see right-handed QB’s get a little less accurate if they don’t keep their shoulders square. In my experience it is because their throwing motion will be slightly elongated and their mechanics will therefore be different, meaning the throw won’t be as accurate and won’t have as much zip on it as it would have regularly had if he had set his feet or kept his shoulders square while rolling out.

Overall, Harris has a lot of talent and ability, but he has to work harder on the little things, the fundamentals, if he is going to take big enough strides to be considered a potential NFL starter and an early NFL Draft pick. Right now I’d grade him as a 4th or 5th round selection because of his potential and ability. That alone warrants some consideration in the mid-rounds and if he can be coached up well then he could be well worth the investment. However, he does not look like a NFL starter to me yet. Of course it is very early to be predicting how he will do in the NFL and where he will be drafted because he is going to be a Junior in his second season as the full-time starter, so I realize I am jumping the gun with this. I just feel obligated to state where I think he is as far as his progression as a QB, and in my opinion he is still rather raw and needs developing. Hopefully he stays through his Senior season so he can get as much experience as possible before moving on to the NFL. I have to say, I am intrigued by some of his ability and I really hope he works on putting more zip and less touch on some of his passes this year. Hopefully he takes some significant strides in his second season as a starter.

If Cooper can come back from his serious knee injury healthy then he could still be an impact player in the NFL.

One other player I knew I had to take notes on was Graig Cooper, who was a junior running back for the ‘Canes at the time. As soon as you see him touch the ball you can tell that this kid is fast. He flies around the field, has great acceleration and great burst to hit holes, seams, anything. He definitely has potential as a game-changing running back in the NFL. The tragic part about this was that he suffered a very serious knee injury in this game in the 2nd half on a rather run of the mill kick-off return. In fact, if he hadn’t suffered the injury he could have potentially scored on the play, though that is purely my own speculation. I don’t have much of an update on his rehab obviously, but I read that he has not yet been cleared to begin running as of early April. Hopefully he has made progress since then, but the fact remains that this was a very serious injury, and I would be pretty surprised if he was 100% during his senior season, which is disappointing for him and for his fans (of which I was one) because I was really rooting for him last year. It’s a shame this had to happen to him at such a critical time in his career.

In any event, I still managed to get some notes on him from this game before his injury, and though it would be particularly impressive if he came back to pre-injury form I think he will still have value even if he isn’t just as explosive as he was before he got hurt. He seems to have pretty good vision, and on one particular play that I remember JJ Watt did not stay at home and collapsed to where the run was supposed to go, but Cooper got the ball and immediately cut to the outside to where Watt would normally be and got a nice gain on the play. If he plays next year (which I really hope he will, even if it isn’t a significant amount) I will be interested to see how much of his great quickness and explosiveness he regains as he gets closer and closer to 100%. Hopefully he comes back as strong as can be expected, and I will be carefully monitoring his progress as more information becomes available. I’ll keep you all posted naturally.

Hankerson made this incredible one-handed grab late in the game. I know he has reliable hands, but if he can show this kind of concentration even on routine catches he will be an early NFL Draft pick.

Harris’ primary receivers on the ‘Canes are Leonard Hankerson, LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin, which is a pretty nice trio of receiving targets. I didn’t get a lot of notes on them in this game, though I have been impressed with each of them at different times when I have seen them. Frankly, Harris didn’t give them a lot of catchable balls in this game so it was hard to find times to take notes on them, but when I saw them catch passes they all impressed me. Hankerson had a great one-handed catch late in the game and made another catch or two with his hands which was nice to see. Byrd, as far as I can tell from my notes, didn’t make a catch without catching the ball away from his body which was great to see. And Benjamin has always been good for big chunks of yardage and a lot of separation, and he nearly pulled off a terrific 3rd down catch along the sidelines on Miami’s last ditch attempt after they recovered an onside kick. I am excited to see how all three progress this season, and I think that if Harris continues to improve and if Miami’s offensive line holds up they could have a very explosive offense on their hands. I am excited to see them all play.

Orlando Franklin, Miami’s left tackle in this game, is going to receive mixed reviews from me. I heard rather frequently last year that he looked good filling in for Jason Fox, Miami’s very reliable left tackle who got hurt during his senior season before he left for the NFL. However, he looks more like a left guard to me than a left tackle, though he will have ample opportunity to prove me wrong during his senior campaign. He doesn’t look very quick out of his stance, and he seemed to struggle with Schofield and Watt versus the pass and Watt gave him some trouble with his quickness off the ball versus the run as well. Overall, he just didn’t seem athletic enough to handle Schofield, Watt or Chris Borland, a linebacker who will occasionally play with his hand in the dirt on obvious passing downs. I don’t know if he was quite prepared to play left tackle last season, so hopefully he will look more comfortable on the outside as a senior when he is preparing to play the position. I will definitely be paying attention to him this year.

Bailey has a lot of potential and natural athletic ability, but I am not a believer yet. He needs to get stronger versus the run and improve his hand usage before I buy him as a potential 1st round pick.

On the defensive side of the ball Miami naturally has some talented players, but Allen Bailey is definitely one of the more highly touted players on the roster. He has drawn comparisons to Justin Tuck because of his versatility to play defensive tackle and defensive end, though I think he mainly played defensive end in this game. However, I can’t say I was entirely impressed with him in this game. He had a sack where he got a nice bull-rush on Josh Oglesby, shed his block and wrapped Tolzien up for a sack, but he was also blocked effectively in the run game by Garrett Graham, Lance Kendricks and Oglesby multiple times. That was particularly alarming because a DE/DT ‘tweener should be strong enough with good enough hand usage to man-handle 95% of TE blocks. I can understand getting blocked effectively by Graham a time or two because he has a good reputation as a run blocker (even if I think he gets away with holding rather regularly). But he got blocked effectively by Graham multiple times one on one, by Kendricks multiple times, and got blocked one on one effectively by Josh Oglesby versus the run. That was pretty shocking, and it really made me question him as a prospect. Sure, he can get after the passer, but if he can’t defend the run or shed blocks in the trenches then his value as a prospect will be significantly lower to me. He’s getting a lot of positive pub right now, but I am definitely not a believer in Bailey as of today. He has another year to show me what he can do, but he needs to show me a lot more ability versus the run for me to think he will be the quality player everyone else seems to think he will be.

One player I saw flash some impressive ability was Olivier Vernon, a freshman defensive end on Miami. He didn’t get a lot of playing time as a freshman, but he absolutely tossed Gabe Carimi like a rag-doll on a run play and got a great TFL. He didn’t make any other plays as good as this one in the game that I noticed, but he sure did flash some ability on this play. I have high hopes for him in his career, and I think that he will show some substantial growth as a sophomore. I am very interested in seeing him play this season, he is definitely a sleeper for the DE position. Hopefully he breaks out and makes me look smart!

Harris has 1st round ability, and he is one of my favorite draft elligible corners this year. (Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan)

Finally, one player that I am a big fan of on Miami’s defense is their corner Brandon Harris. He was only a sophomore last season but he managed 15 pass deflections and two interceptions on the year. I watched the Miami-FSU game early in the year and I immediately noticed him. He just makes big plays whenever I watch him. There was one particular play against Wisconsin when Harris got beaten, I believe it was by Garrett Graham underneath, and he turned upfield and I thought it was a certain touchdown. But Harris didn’t give up on the play and he came up behind Graham and as he began to wrap him up he punched the ball out just before he crossed the goal line. Miami recovered the ball in the end zone for a touch-back and Miami stayed in the game, all because Harris didn’t give up on this play and forced the fumble. I think he is going to end up declaring after his junior season and he is going to be a high draft pick if he plays well this year in my opinion. He is definitely one of my favorite draft-eligible corners, even if he doesn’t support the run as well as I might like. Definitely keep an eye out for Harris next season, I think he is going to break out even more than he did last year.

That just about concludes the notes I have for the Miami Hurricanes. Check out my blog post below for my write-ups on the Wisconsin players I took enough notes on to get a feel for their ability as a player. Hopefully you enjoy this post and my other posts to come. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

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