Tag Archive: Cam Newton


NFL Weekly Picks: Week 3

Hey guys, sorry I didn’t have time to get my weekly picks post up last week. I just moved back to Minnesota so now that I am settling in hopefully I will be able to get into a groove with all of these weekly posts that I want to do. So, without further ado, here are my NFL Weekly Picks!

Eagles over Chiefs- I think the Eagles’ offense will be too much for the Chiefs to slow down, but it may come down to whether or not the Eagles defense can stop anyone. Thus far the answer to that question is no. Still, I’m going with Chip Kelly and the home team Eagles in this match-up, especially since the Chiefs have Dunta Robinson on their roster.

Packers over Bengals- The Bengals got a solid win against the Steelers last week but the Packers offense looked borderline unstoppable last week against the Redskins. The Bengals defense is a significantly better unit, but I think the Packers will be able to put up enough points to win this one. If Andy Dalton plays well he could make things interesting though, and I’m not sold on the Packers defense yet. Still, it’s tough to bet against Aaron Rodgers in this match-up even on the road.

Rams over Cowboys- This might surprise some people, but the Rams are a good football team and they gave my Falcons a run for their money last week. The Cowboys couldn’t quite figure out the Kansas City Chiefs, and while the ‘Boys have a lot of talent on offense the Rams are a talented defensive football team that I think has a chance to match-up with the Cowboys on offense. Of course, if Dez Bryant goes off for 180 yards and a touchdown like Julio Jones did last week then I would be completely wrong on that. Still, I have a feeling the Rams will play well in this game and I think they can beat Tony Romo and the Cowboys on the road.

Chargers over Titans- I’m realizing I’m picking a lot of road teams here so far, but I think the Chargers are the better football team in this match-up and it’s tough not to go with Philip Rivers over Jake Locker here. If Locker can pass accurately and use his legs effectively they could give the Chargers defense some problems, but most of us know the likelihood of both of those things happening consistently for four quarters is not likely.

Vikings over Browns- This would have been a more interesting game prior to the Trent Richardson trade, and there is something funny about the Browns making this trade with the Colts just days before they travel up to Minnesota to play the Vikings given that the Vikings are the team that traded down with Cleveland to allow them to move up to number three overall and select Richardson in the first place. The Browns offense has been struggling even with Richardson in the lineup, and it’s hard to imagine them being better without him even with Josh Gordon returning from suspension. The Browns do have a good defense though, so I expect both teams to score less than 20 points. The Vikings have the offensive advantage in this match-up though thanks to Adrian Peterson and a solid game from Christian Ponder, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson should be enough to win this one for the purple. However, it is worth mentioning that this is the kind of game the Vikings traditionally find a way to inexplicably lose.

Patriots over Buccaneers- The Buccaneers aren’t in great shape right now and while the Patriots have barely managed to defeat two rookie quarterbacks in consecutive weeks I don’t think Tom Brady and that offense are going to stay out of synch for more than a couple weeks. That should play to the Bucs advantage this week, but I don’t think it will be enough to get them a victory.

Saints over Cardinals- Originally I had the Cardinals winning this game, but it’s tough to travel into the Superdome and get a victory, particularly since the Saints defense looks significantly better through two weeks than it ever did last season. Carson Palmer has reinvigorated the Cardinals offense, and their defense is still respectable despite the loss of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, but I don’t think it will be enough to go into the Saints’ house and beat Drew Brees on his home turf.

Redskins over Lions- The Lions have shown plenty of flashes through the first two weeks, but I think they are going to come up short against a Redskins team that will likely be very motivated and focused after starting 0-2. It remains to be seen if the ‘Skins defense can get on track, but going up against the Eagles and the Packers in the first two weeks isn’t exactly a fair barometer for a defense, especially since they were essentially the NFL’s guinea pigs against Chip Kelly and his up-tempo offensive scheme. I think the Redskins will be motivated and hungry this week, so I’m giving them the edge over the Lions.

Giants over Panthers- I definitely didn’t expect the Giants to start the season out 0-2, but if Eli Manning can’t stop throwing interceptions they may be in for a long year. However, I am well aware that not all of those turnovers are his fault and I expect he and the Giants to get back on track against the Panthers. It would be really nice if David Wilson would get his act together and stop fumbling the ball, but the addition of Brandon Jacobs back into the fold should help provide at least a little stability in the running game. Maybe Cam Newton and the Panthers will surprise me, but I think the Giants are going to be motivated after starting 0-2 just like the Redskins are. I’m not sure if I can say the same thing about the Panthers yet or not.

Texans over Ravens- The Ravens offense has been ineffective thus far this season and I don’t anticipate them getting back on track against the talented Texans defense. If Andre Johnson can play the Ravens will get to see the Texans explosive combination of Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Andre Johnson AND DeAndre Hopkins who was one of my favorite wide receivers in last year’s loaded draft class. He caught the game-winning touchdown last week against the Titans, so I think the Texans are ready to beat the Ravens on the road this week.

Dolphins over Falcons- It pains me to do this, but the Falcons got way too banged up last week to go on the road and beat the Dolphins in my opinion. I think Ryan Tannehill is about to go off, and Lamar Miller may have a big day as well. Not only that, but Brent Grimes is a sure bet to pick off Matt Ryan in this game and I just don’t think the Falcons will be able to overcome Roddy White not being at 100%, Steven Jackson being out (though Jason Snelling will hopefully get a lot of touches), Kroy Biermann being out for the year, Bradie Ewing being out for the year, AND Sean Weatherspoon being out until Week 11. That’s a lot to replace and account for in one week, and while I think they will be able to survive those set-backs long term I’m not sure they can get away with it this week, so I give the advantage to the Dolphins at home.

Bills over Jets- In the battle of rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Geno Smith I’ve got to give Manuel and the Bills the edge in this one. The Jets defense is still a quality unit despite the departure of Darrelle Revis, but Geno Smith made some questionable decisions and poorly executed throws in the elements against New England last week, and I have been shocked by how well EJ Manuel has been playing thus far. The Bills coaching staff has done a great job managing him thus far, and I trust Nathaniel Hackett to gameplan well more than I trust Marty Mornhinweg to do the same, so I am going with the Bills in this one. May the best rookie QB win. I must say, I was shocked and critical of the Manuel pick at 16 overall, but defeating Geno Smith (who I expected to come off the board first of all the quarterbacks) would be a pretty big vindication for EJ Manuel and the entire Bills organization. It would also make me look stupid, so that’s probably why it will happen.

49ers over Colts- This is an interesting one and it will be worth monitoring just how involved Trent Richardson will be in this game given that he is unfamiliar with the system and has no chemistry with the team at all, but the 49ers are the better squad and are likely very pissed off after the way they lost that game to division rival and offseason Cold War opponent Seattle on Sunday Night. The 49ers should come out firing and it will take a terrific performance from Andrew Luck to leave Candlestick with a victory.

Seahawks over Jaguars- #BecauseJaguars and #AllRussellWilsonEverything

Bears over Steelers- I thought Marc Trestman might give the Bears offense a tune-up and he appears to have done just that, and it makes me happy to see Jay Cutler playing well. The Steelers offense is completely devoid of playmaking at this point and I don’t anticipate they will be able to take advantage of the Bears defense enough to come away with a victory even at home.

Broncos over Raiders- The Broncos are playing some terrific football right now and they are looking especially sharp on the offensive side of the ball so far. They simply have more talent than the Raiders do at this point, though I think Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden may give the Broncos defense a few headaches. It would be a truly fantastic upset if the Raiders were able to come away with a victory against the Broncos on the road, I just don’t see it happening.

Thanks for reading, hopefully I do better this week than I did during the openers. Enjoy the games this weekend!

–Tom

Current 2013 Pick Record: 9-6

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NFL Quick Hits

This is a feature I’m going to try every week where I post some hopefully brief thoughts on the past weekend of NFL games. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do the same with College Football games, but I will post them if I have time to write them all up. Hopefully you guys enjoy this segment.

1- The Falcons Are Who We Thought They Were- I’m sure most of you guys know I’m a Falcons fan by now, and that loss to the Saints was tough. The Falcons scored on their opening drives in both halves, but otherwise were very inconsistent on offense. I’m wondering why they ran the ball so infrequently despite Steven Jackson having solid success on the ground, and I’m also wondering how they managed to hold Drew Brees and the Saints to 23 points despite a lackluster pass rush. I’m not too worried about the offensive line yet, I think they will gel and become a stronger unit, but the amount of pressure in Matt Ryan’s face and the inexplicable avoidance of the run game and quick-hitting pass game to try to counter the pressure was frustrating. Brees was on point as always and I was impressed with the Saints dramatic improvement on defense. Rob Ryan has done a great job with them up to this point, and the pressure they got on Ryan and the looks they were showing him pre-snap stuck out to me. The Falcons will be fine, but I don’t think they are a 13-3 team like they were a year ago. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think they are in the 10-6/11-5 area. We shall see.

2- Peyton Manning Needs To Stop Playing On Rookie- The way Manning was playing on Thursday night it is evident to me he was just playing Madden on a rookie setting, and a veteran with his resume should be playing on All-Madden at least, and preferably with a number of the sliders raised manually beyond that. Manning was obviously masterful, and that was despite having no running backs with a yard per carry average over 3.8 and only gaining 65 total yards on the ground. Joe Flacco came down to Earth after his fantastic playoff performances and it’s clear to me that he is missing Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta right now. Torrey Smith is a stud, but he can only do so much without a significant threat to take some pressure off of him. Dallas Clark surprised me with 7 catches for 87 yards, and if he can keep that up the loss of Pitta shouldn’t be quite as significant. I am a huge Demaryius Thomas fan and had a top 20 grade on him out of Georgia Tech and he has completely lived up to my expectations for him. I definitely expected Decker to be the #2 guy and Welker to be the 3rd option, but if the first week is any indication then Welker is going to get a lot of love from Manning this year. I don’t think 2 catches for 32 yards will be a typical week for Decker by any means, but I think I definitely underrated Welker’s potential impact coming into the year. I was also blown away by how well Duke Ihenacho and Shaun Phillips played. I liked Ihenacho out of San Jose State but realized some of his athletic limitations, however he had 12 tackles (including ELEVEN solo stops), 1 tackle for loss and 3 pass deflections as well as some pretty nice hits in this game. Phillips had 2.5 sacks and 3 QB hits on the night and definitely helped make up for the absence of Von Miller for at least one night. The Broncos looked like they were in mid-season form, but I don’t think the Ravens are going to have that much trouble on offense or defense for the entire season. They have lots of new faces on their roster and they need time to gel, and Manning took full advantage. Don’t hit the panic button yet Ravens fans.

3- EJ Manuel Is Making Me Look Stupid- I was pretty clear that I was not a fan of EJ Manuel at FSU and while it is still very early in his career my analysis of him is looking quite foolish right now. I have been very impressed with how Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have managed Manuel starting from his first pre-season snaps. They haven’t asked him to go out there and be Tom Brady, but much like Cam Newton his rookie season they will likely open up the playbook and let him attack more as he becomes more comfortable. I was happy to see Robert Woods get his first NFL catch and his first NFL touchdown, but Manuel got to see first hand that there’s almost nobody better than Tom Brady when the game is on the line. He may not have had a great day statistically, but when it counted he took the Pats down the field and got them in position to win the game. Danny Amendola predictably had a good game, I loved what Shane Vereen did and I was very sad to see that he is going to miss significant time due to a broken wrist (which he apparently suffered on the first play of the game!). I am hoping that Spiller was given limited touches because of his lost fumble, and not because he is inexplicably being mismanaged again in 2013. Regardless, Bills fans should be very encouraged by the early returns on EJ Manuel.

4- “Same Old Bungles”- That is for my good friend Ryan Koons who is now an active duty marine. He is a die hard Bengals fan and whenever they manage to lose a game like this that is what he would always say. I have to say I really thought those days were behind Cincinnati because on paper I thought they were ready to win the AFC North. However, Andy Dalton continues to make me wonder about just how far the Bengals can go with him as a quarterback even in spite of the absolutely fantastic play of AJ Green. The Bengals have tons of talent on defense, they’ve got weapons on offense, but if they are going to win close games and go deep in the playoffs they need Dalton to play better and limit his turnovers. The run game deserves some ire as well as the Bengals only averaged 3 yards per touch and totaled 63 yards on the ground. On the other side I thought Jay Cutler, overall, had a good game and Brandon Marshall was fantastic. The Bears running game was sluggish as well, and hopefully that offensive line will slowly gel and improve over the course of the season. I know that probably makes Bears fans nervous because they’ve been waiting for that offensive front to improve for years, but I’m hoping this is the year for their sake.

5- Reggie Bush Is Dangerous, Christian Ponder Is Not- The Lions put up 38 points on the Vikings defense and a lot of that is due to Reggie Bush totaling 90 yards on the ground (4.3 ypc) and 101 yards and one touchdown as a receiver (with a long of 77). That’s very impressive production, and it comes despite only hauling in four of his eight targets on the day. Matt Stafford had another high attempt, high yardage day and while it wasn’t the most efficient performance it certainly got the job done. I wouldn’t expect too many four catch, 37 yard days for Calvin Johnson, but Bush, Nate Burleson and Joique Bell took the pressure off of him this week. On the other side Christian Ponder continues to prove his doubters right as he threw 3 interceptions, got sacked three times and lost a fumble on the day. He also spoiled a fantastic game for Jerome Simpson who had 7 catches and 140 yards which I certainly didn’t expect from him. Adrian Peterson had a 78 yard touchdown run on his first carry but gained only 15 additional yards on his next 17 carries, but still managed 93 yards and two touchdowns rushing as well as 18 yards and another touchdown receiving. I will be the first to admit that I liked Ponder out of FSU (clearly I’m 0/2 on scouting Florida State quarterbacks right now) but he doesn’t have the same velocity he had prior to the injuries he sustained his senior year, he isn’t making good decisions and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matt Cassel start at some point this season for the Vikings. That’s not a good sign, and it likely means the Vikings will be looking to draft a quarterback early in the 2014 NFL Draft. I have been patient with Ponder and he occasionally shows signs of life, but unfortunately now that he’s in his 3rd year these kinds of struggles won’t be tolerated anymore. He’s got to step up his game and quick.

6- Pryor Makes Oakland Offense Almost Competent- I really feel like I am ruining any credibility I have as a quarterback scout but I liked Tyler Wilson a lot out of Arkansas and I didn’t like Terrelle Pryor out of Ohio State, but I am glad the Raiders elected to start Pryor over Matt Flynn. Pryor’s legs gave the Raiders life in this game and while I don’t think it will get them to the playoffs it should make them more competitive than they would have been with Flynn at the helm. I didn’t get to see as much of this game as I wanted to because the feed went out for it multiple times at the bar I was watching the games at (for some reason it was streaming online, not sure why), so outside of Pryor impressing me as a runner and Andrew Luck being a stud I don’t have too many thoughts on this game. Sorry guys.

7- Nolan Nawrocki Your Crow Is Ready- I know it’s early, and I know it’s only his first start, but it was fun to see Geno Smith rally the Jets to an unlikely win against Tampa Bay week one. I’m not going to say he made some unbelievable plays on that final drive to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, but if Sanchez was the QB on that final drive I don’t think the Jets would have won that game. Smith isn’t known for his scrambling, but his athleticism was obvious at the NFL combine and he gave the Jets a chance to get lucky thanks to his skill set. He wasn’t mind-blowingly efficient by any means, but it was definitely a solid first start based on what I was able to see. Unfortunately for Bucs fans Josh Freeman struggled (though the Jets do still have a good, well-coached defense) and despite 154 yards from Vincent Jackson he only managed 210 yards on 31 attempts, was sacked three times and threw one touchdown and one interception. I wasn’t a Freeman fan coming out and his first season it really looked like he might make me eat my words, but he seemed to plateau after that rookie season and hasn’t quite been the same since.

8- Kaepernick Is The Truth- I wasn’t wild about Kaepernick’s throwing motion or accuracy coming out of Nevada, but Jim Harbaugh has done a fantastic job with him and that offense is now tailor made for him. It certainly helps having weapons like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis (even though Davis had a drop or two that he shouldn’t have) while Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are injured, but his athleticism, pure arm strength and seemingly improving accuracy really stood out to me against the Packers. Green Bay had absolutely no answer for the Kaepernick-Boldin connection and while they managed to keep him bottled up as a runner he shredded them for 412 yards and three touchdowns as a passer. The Packers will have to go back to the drawing board now to try to figure out how to slow Kaepernick down if they meet again in the playoffs. I thought Aaron Rodgers was great as usual even if he did come up just short, I still love Randall Cobb, and I was happy Jermichael Finley bounced back from that drop that led to Rodgers only interception with some solid catches, good yards after the catch and that impressive touchdown. The Packers should be fine and I think they will be a playoff team, but I’m sure they and their fans are annoyed that another referee controversy led to a do-over for the 49ers that led to an Anquan Boldin touchdown. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think the NFL downgrading Bill Leavy for that mistake is ridiculous. Leavy is a veteran official and while he made a mistake this just reeks of an overreaction to me.

9- RGIII Was Rusty, The Eagles Offense Wasn’t- The Eagles defense made this interesting in the second half as RGIII and the Redskins started to knock some of the rust off, but in the first half RGIII had a lot of issues fading away from throws and not stepping into his passes. He still did some of that in the 2nd half, but he was definitely much more crisp and effective once his receivers stopped dropping passes and Kyle Shanahan adjusted to get him into a rhythm with quicker, easier throws. Michael Vick was impressive, though he’s still the same Michael Vick that will hold onto the ball too long and take unnecessary risks with his body at times. LeSean McCoy looks like an ideal fit for Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme and he should have a huge year. I was also happy to see that one of my favorites from a couple years ago Mychal Kendricks looked much better (based on what I saw live) and was pressuring RGIII pretty consistently. I’m not sure he’s great in coverage, but it was fun to see him rushing some of Griffin’s throws. Additionally, that interception Cary Williams made on that out route that Griffin threw was nothing short of fantastic. What a terrific play.

10- Oh Philip Rivers, You Poor Bastard- Rivers was absolutely fantastic in the 1st half and he started off the 2nd half in the same fashion. He had the Chargers up 28-7 and seemed poised for a statement victory in week one of the 2013 season. Unfortunately, much like he and the Bolts have in the past, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Rivers and the offense began to sputter, the Texans woke up on offense, and the rally was complete once Brian Cushing read Rivers’ eyes beautifully and made a diving interception that he then returned for a game-tying touchdown. The Texans would go on to move the ball down the field and position Randy Bullock for a game winning 41 yard field goal. Andre Johnson continued to show why he is one of the best in the game with a 12 reception, 146 yard performance, Owen Daniels chipped in 67 yards and two touchdowns, and Deandre Hopkins added five receptions and 66 yards. I thought Arian Foster seemed determined to make a big play all game and didn’t seem focused on doing the little things. He was palming the ball and holding it away from his body, he dropped multiple catchable balls, and almost seemed to be showing off and looking to make someone look foolish. Maybe that’s just me over-extrapolating, but he seemed off tonight. I’d be surprised if Gary Kubiak doesn’t talk to him about how he’s holding the ball after he and the other coaches watch film.

Alright, so that was a LOT less brief than I expected it to be. I guess I had more to say than I anticipated, though I shouldn’t really be surprised since I am so long winded anyway. Sorry that was such a long post, hopefully you enjoyed it anyway!

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

Robert Griffin has great tools and fantastic upside. It's easy to see why talent evaluators are gushing about his potential.

**UPDATE** After Griffin’s recent performances against Kansas and most notably Oklahoma I have changed some of my thoughts on Griffin. Because this report is not 100% reflective of these opinions, I wanted to note that Griffin’s performance on Baylor’s last drive against Oklahoma was very impressive and displayed ability to make critical plays and decisions for his team late in close, important games. He played terrific against Oklahoma, and I will eventually have a further updated Robert Griffin post now that I believe he has taken a significant step forward in his development into a potential future NFL starting quarterback. Enjoy the rest of my report!

Size: Solid size for a NFL QB, listed at 6’2”, 220 pounds but looks very skinny on film and could stand to add 10-15 more pounds in my opinion. He regularly takes hits and stays down for a long time but then pops right back up after a while. Seems to be a little dramatic in that instance.

Arm Strength: Griffin has quality arm strength, can make all the NFL throws. He has solid zip on intermediate throws and knows when to take a little off of his throws. Sometimes his zip is lacking on intermediate throws, but he throws a very good deep ball. However, they often have a lot of air under them and at times will be underthrown because he doesn’t have elite arm strength.

Accuracy: Griffin’s accuracy has definitely improved each season and this year is no exception but he still has room to improve. His ball placement overall is definitely better, he throws a very accurate deep ball to the correct shoulder and he has good touch as a passer. However, he has a tendency to miss high when he does miss which is an issue, especially when you attempt throws over the middle in the NFL. His accuracy under pressure is significantly impaired, and I think this has to do with some throws coming off of his back foot. He also has solid accuracy on the move.

Mechanics: Griffin’s mechanics have definitely improved, but they still need work. He has a clean throwing motion and a quick release, but he will hold the ball near his hip when scrambling. This has led to fumbles in college at times and it will lead to more in the NFL. He has to hold the ball high and tight which will help speed up his release even more. His footwork is improving, but he will still throw off of his back foot at times especially in the face of pressure. He also doesn’t keep his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage when he is scrambling to his left, doesn’t reset his feet well when outside of the pocket, throws off balance, and will throw across his body. Because he spends so much time in the shotgun he will have to transition from a purely shotgun and pistol offense to an offense that relies more on three, five and seven step drops. This is a significant change, but if he works hard at it he will be able to improve his comfort level with those drops fairly quickly.

Mobility: This is obviously one of Griffin’s greatest strengths. He’s a fantastic athlete with a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.52. He is a very elusive runner, can extend plays very easily and can gain substantial yardage with his legs. He probably has the speed to attempt a transition to WR, but he has progressed so much as a QB at Baylor that I would be very surprised if that happened. He’s going to get a shot at QB.

Griffin has improved each season he has been at Baylor, but he still has plenty to work on.

Pre/Post-Snap Reads: Griffin has flashed the ability to do this but it isn’t consistent in my opinion. Occasionally he will find his hot receiver versus a blitz and get the ball out fast, but he has progress to make with his pre-snap reads, especially once he is taking more snaps from under center at the next level. He makes solid post-snap reads and seems to be patient, but sometimes it is tough to tell if he is being patient or if he just isn’t processing everything he is seeing. I don’t see many anticipation throws at all and rarely throws his receivers open. The offense he’s in allows him to wait until his receivers are open, but I want to see anticipation throws from him because they have been few and far between. He also doesn’t seem to trust his eyes, will hesitate to throw and start his motion but then pull back and often scramble afterwards. This indicates potential issues processing information and making NFL reads at this time. I think he struggles to make reads on routes over the middle, and this leads to a lot of sideline throws in the games I have seen. He throws over the middle, but they aren’t anticipation throws and often the throw comes after his receiver has ran himself open. At times it seems like he waits for guys to get open, and will force throws into coverage when he is pressured. He doesn’t always make very good decisions, especially when he is pressured. Additionally, he makes lots of one read throws and doesn’t make a lot of progressions, but he does make them at times. I am told he is very smart and has a great work ethic, so he can continue to improve in this area. I underestimated Cam Newton’s ability to do this last year but he has gotten much better at this, so there is no reason Griffin can’t continue to improve either. It also bothers me that he seems unwilling to throw the ball away. When he is flushed from the pocket and has the option he frequently just runs out of bounds and loses his team yardage. Part of that is maturity and coaching and he can easily learn and develop that tendency, but it is something that he doesn’t do at this juncture.

Intangibles: From what I have heard about him, Griffin has great intangibles and a fantastic work ethic. He’s smart, disciplined and has a lot of upside because of the combination of his athleticism, arm talent and the intangibles and work ethic that he brings to the equation. He has improved significantly each year and I think that speaks to his work ethic and determination to get better. However, I am not sold on him as a leader or as a field general so to speak. It is tough to evaluate, but after poor plays he shows frustration and sometimes needs to be calmed down a bit. He doesn’t always stay poised and composed, and I’m not sure he is the guy I want at QB with two minutes left down four points with one time out left in college or in the NFL. He doesn’t seem to have a great sense of urgency that great leaders have, and is almost non-chalant at times on critical downs late in games. He has lost all three games against legitimate Big-12 teams (Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas A&M) but did beat TCU week one. However, in those three losses against those teams he has thrown all four of his interceptions on the season and didn’t necessarily play his best games against the best teams on his schedule, which is something I take into consideration. He has shown he can put up video game numbers against bad defenses (and to his credit, he had a great statistical game against Kansas State with 23/31 passing (74.2% completion), 346 yards, 5 passing touchdowns and only one interception) but hasn’t been as reliable against better teams. I don’t want to take anything away from how good he has been this year, but he got a lot of hype after playing TCU, Stephen F. Austin and Rice in his first three games. I just don’t think I have seen him make clutch throws late in games and I personally wouldn’t trust him to do so at this point in his career. So overall, I believe he has quality intangibles and work ethic, but I am not sold on him being a quality leader.

I am not convinced that Griffin is a good leader and that he is a winner. He wouldn't be my choice at QB for a critical drive late in the fourth quarter.

Character: Griffin has a lot of character from what I know of him. Very disciplined, responsible and smart from what I have been told. He’s a hard worker, a film junkie and has shown improvement from year to year his entire career at Baylor. That speaks to his determination to get better.

Overall: Griffin has top 10 potential and may ultimately end up there should he declare because of his great set of tools. He has a nice combination of size, arm talent, great athleticism and quality intangibles, football IQ and work ethic. There aren’t a lot of mobile quarterbacks who have the same tools that he has which makes Griffin incredibly rare as a prospect. That makes him a very desirable commodity since he has so much potential and upside. He has plenty to work on, but he has the work ethic that should allow him to continue to improve especially with quality coaching. But will he ever be a franchise quarterback? At this point, I don’t think he will be. He’s obviously subject to improvement and I think he can be a good/very good starter if he keeps improving, but I don’t think he’s got the leadership capability that other great QB’s do. I don’t think he makes everyone around him better, and I don’t think he comes up huge late in games when his team needs it most. I don’t know if he will ever win a Super Bowl, but if he is developed correctly I think he can be a productive QB. I just don’t necessarily think he is a “winner.” Some guys have that aura about them, and I don’t think Griffin is one of those players. I personally don’t think he will be ready to start week one as a rookie, but I tend to be more conservative when it comes to QB development. Therefore it is entirely possible that he could study hard, pick up the playbook and force the team that draft him to start him week one much like Cam Newton did with the Panthers.

Projection: Top 15: If Griffin comes out he will blow people away with his athleticism in post-season workouts and in interviews and one or more teams will fall in love with his potential. Like I said, I don’t think he’s a franchise guy, but he’s got a ton of upside that will have NFL teams salivating.

Thanks for reading, I’m looking forward to what everyone thinks of this. Obviously I’m not as high on Griffin as others are, but I think that I’ve identified some things he needs to work on here. Hopefully you enjoyed my report even if you disagreed with me.

–Tom

Overall Team Grades:

Carolina:

1st– Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: 7.0

3rd– Terrell McClain, DT, South Florida 7.0

3rd– Sione Fua, DT, Stanford 7.5

4th– Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia 7.0

5th– Kealoha Pilares, WR, Hawaii 7.0

6th– Lawrence Wilson, OLB, Connecticut 8.0

6th– Zachary Williams, C, Washington State 7.0

7th– Lee Ziemba, OT, Panthers 7.5

Overall Grade: C

Analysis: This is probably going to be the lowest grade that I give anyone in the top ten, and potentially in the entire draft, and a lot of that has to do with Cam Newton going #1 overall. Obviously I don’t agree with the pick, and I didn’t even have a first round grade on him. Obviously he has a ton of upside, but upside is worthless unless you have a realistic chance of living up to that upside, and I don’t think Newton will do that in the NFL. The Panthers did a solid job addressing their glaring need at defensive tackle, but I am not that high on McClain or Fua even though they got solid value with the pick. My favorite pick of theirs was actually Lawrence Wilson in round 6. I was very surprised he fell that far. Overall the Panthers had an ok draft, but it wasn’t anything special. They could have improved their team much more significantly if they picked Marcell Dareus #1 overall.

Denver:

1st– Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M 8.0

2nd– Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA 9.0

2nd– Orlando Franklin, OG, Miami 8.0

3rd– Nate Irving, ILB, NC State 8.0

4th– Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma 8.0

4th– Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State 8.0

6th– Mike Mohamed, ILB, California 7.5

7th– Virgil Green, TE, Nevada 8.0

7th– Jeremy Beal, OLB, Oklahoma 6.0

Overall Grade: B+

Analysis: I really liked the Broncos draft. I don’t think Von Miller is the best fit in a 4-3 scheme, but as Brian Orakpo and the Redskins showed you can make it work. I think he will be an effective player in a 4-3, but I think his ideal fit is in a 3-4, hence my lower grade for him. I am very high on Rahim Moore and this was a great pick because they really needed safety help and he is far and away the best safety in this draft in my opinion and they got good value for him. Franklin will give them depth at either OG or RT, and Irving and Carter added more talent to need positions as well. I thought Carter might be a 2nd or 3rd rounder, so getting him in round 4 was a nice pick-up. Julius Thomas also has a ton of potential as another former basketball player turned tight end, and they picked up another versatile guy in Virgil Green in the 7th round. I don’t think Mike Mohamed has a lot of upside but he is a nice depth/special teams addition. Jeremy Beal will be out of the NFL in a couple years in my opinion, but until then I imagine he could provide value on special teams.

Buffalo:

1st– Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama 9.5

2nd– Aaron Williams, CB/FS, Texas 8.0

3rd– Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU 8.5

4th– Da’Norris Searcy, S, North Carolina 7.5

4th– Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson 8.0

5th– Johnny White, RB, North Carolina 8.5

6th– Chris White, ILB, Mississippi State 7.0

7th– Justin Rogers, CB, Richmond 7.0

7th– Michael Jasper, DT, Bethel 6.5

Overall Grade: B

Analysis: The Dareus pick was one of the best in the draft because they so badly needed defensive help, especially up front, and they were able to address it with a great player at #3 overall. I’m not a huge Aaron Williams fan but he has the versatility to play corner and safety which gives him value and the Bills could use help at both CB and FS, so that helps. I like Kelvin Sheppard a lot and while he may not be an ideal ILB I think he will be alright in a 3-4 ILB alignment provided he has a couple defensive linemen who can eat up blocks at the point of attack. I’m not very high on Searcy and I don’t know how much upside he has, but Hairston has the potential to be a solid RT in the NFL. I love the Johnny White pick and I think he has the potential to be a quality RB in the NFL. I’m glad he didn’t go undrafted because of his injury. Justin Rogers showed me ability at the East-West Shrine Game so I think he might be able to stick on the Bills roster after camp.

Cincinnati:

1st– A.J. Green, WR, Georgia 9.5

2nd– Andy Dalton, QB, TCU 7.5

3rd– Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada 7.5

4th– Clint Boling, OG, Georgia 8.0

5th– Robert Sands, S, West Virginia 6.0

6th– Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford 8.0

7th– Korey Lindsey, CB, Southern Illinois 7.0

7th– Jay Finley, RB, Baylor 7.0

Overall Grade: B-

Analysis: This was a surprisingly solid draft for the Bengals. You obviously can’t go wrong with A.J. Green at #4 overall, and while I thought the 2nd round was too high for Andy Dalton the Bengals stayed patient and got a guy they liked without moving up for him like a lot of people thought they might. Dontay Moch has a ton of potential but at this point he is a great athlete, not a great football player. It will be interesting to see how he pans out in Cincy in their 3-4 alignment, because he could be a fierce 3-4 OLB if he gets coached up well. Boling in round 4 is a pretty good value and he should help add some depth to the OL and can eventually be a solid starter at guard. I’m not high on Robert Sands and I don’t think he will ever be a NFL starter, but I love the Ryan Whalen pick. This kid doesn’t drop anything, so while the Bengals have some talent at WR already Whalen could end up being a go-to guy on 3rd down because while he isn’t the biggest or the fastest he has some of the most reliable hands in this entire draft.

Arizona:

1st– Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU 9.5

2nd– Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech 9.0

3rd– Robert Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic 8.0

4th– Sam Acho, DE, Texas 8.0

5th– Anthony Sherman, FB, Connecticut 8.0

6th– Quan Sturdivant, ILB, North Carolina 7.5

6th– David Carter, DT, UCLA 7.5

7th– Demarco Sampson, WR, San Diego State 7.0

Overall Grade: B+

Analysis: Again, tough to go wrong with Patrick Peterson at #5, and following that up with Ryan Williams, a guy who has top 20 ability, is a great start to your draft. Especially when Beanie Wells has done almost nothing in the NFL and Hightower is more of a rotational power back than an every down starter. Housler has a lot of potential so getting him to potentially open up your offense with an athletic tight end is a nice pick, and Acho in round 4 is a good value. I also like the Anthony Sherman pick, he impressed me in Orlando and he is a good pass catcher out of the backfield for a fullback. I also like both Quan Sturdivant and David Carter, and I think they will provide solid depth with some upside for the Cardinals in the future.

Cleveland:

1st– Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor 8.0

2nd– Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh 7.5

2nd– Greg Little, WR, North Carolina 8.5

4th– Jordan Cameron, TE, Southern Cal 8.5

4th– Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford 9.0

5th– Buster Skrine, CB, Chattanooga 7.0

5th– Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh 8.0

7th– Eric Hagg, S, Nebraska 7.5

Overall Grade: B+

Analysis: Phil Taylor was a pretty good pick at 21, but I thought he was an ideal 3-4 NT. I don’t think he will live up to the hype at a 4-3 DT because he just won’t provide enough of a pass rush to be considered a good/great all around player in that scheme. I was not a big Jabaal Sheard fan as a 3-4 OLB but he could be a pretty effective 4-3 LE, especially if they can get a talented RE across from him. I am a big Greg Little fan and I think the Browns got a very nice value for him. He has first round ability and while he is raw I think he could absolutely burst onto the scene in a couple of years once he has some time to develop. His combination of size, leaping ability and his time spent running hard after getting the ball as a running back makes him a very intriguing player. Jordan Cameron has a ton of potential as a former basketball player and he could end up being an intriguing option at TE because of his ability to threaten defenses down the seam. Marecic is one of everyone’s favorite players in the draft because of his ability to play fullback but also be a special teams ace because of his experience at linebacker. I thought Jason Pinkston had the potential to be drafted in the 3rd round, maybe even higher, so grabbing him in round 5 is a pretty solid value. You also have to love all the draft picks they got out of Atlanta as a result of the trade down. Those picks should be very valuable as they work on rebuilding and transitioning to a 4-3 defense.

San Francisco:

1st– Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri 8.0

2nd– Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada 7.0

3rd– Chris Culliver, S, South Carolina 7.0

4th– Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State 9.0

5th– Daniel Kilgore, OG, Appalachian State 7.5

6th– Ronald Johnson, WR, Southern Cal 7.5

6th– Colin Jones, S, TCU 7.5

7th– Bruce Miller, DE/LB, Central Florida 7.5

7th– Michael Person, OT, Montana State 7.0

7th– Curtis Holcomb, CB, Florida A&M 7.0

Overall Grade: B-

Analysis: Again, I don’t like the fit for Aldon Smith in a 3-4 scheme because I thought he was a perfect fit as a 4-3 DE, but that is just my opinion. I was very surprised to see the 49ers draft Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd round, and I wonder if they have a bad season again and end up with a top three pick, or maybe the #1 pick, if drafting him will keep Harbaugh and company from drafting Andrew Luck. I don’t think it would, but you never know. Kaepernick is very much a long term developmental project who is probably two years away from being a starter, so drafting him here when you could have made your team better and gotten a QB next year was a very strange move in my opinion. Culliver has a lot of athletic ability but I don’t like his lack of instincts, but I loved the Kendall Hunter pick. He could be one of the best values in the draft at that spot. The rest of the 49ers draft added some solid depth and special teams help, and it’s hard to hate that.

Tennessee:

1st– Jake Locker, QB, Washington 8.0

2nd– Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA 7.0

3rd– Jurell Casey, DT, Southern Cal 8.5

4th– Colin McCarthy, ILB, Miami 8.0

4th– Jamie Harper, RB, Clemson 6.0

5th– Karl Klug, DE, Iowa 7.5

6th– Byron Stingily, OT, Louisville 8.0

7th– Zach Clayton, DT, Auburn 7.0

7th– Tommie Campbell, S, California (PA) 7.0

Overall Grade: C+

Analysis: I thought #8 overall was too high for Locker, but it’s not hard to see why the Titans went in that direction. They wanted a guy with great intangibles, great leadership ability and a great work ethic. Essentially, they wanted the opposite of Vince Young. They got that guy with Locker so it’s hard to totally hate the pick, especially since everyone was convinced he would have gone #1 overall ahead of Sam Bradford a year ago at this time. I am very much not an Akeem Ayers fan and I wouldn’t have picked him until round 3, but Jurell Casey and Colin McCarthy are both solid players and I like the value they got for them. They improved their DT rotation and added depth at LB. If Ayers pans out they will have really improved their front seven with this draft. I am not a Jamie Harper guy at all and I think that was their worst pick by far, but I like the depth additions of Karl Klug and Byron Stingily. Klug will be a versatile DL for them and Stingily, while very raw, has the upside to be a solid starter at LT at some point.

Dallas:

1st– Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal 8.5

2nd– Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina 8.0

3rd– DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma 8.5

4th– David Arkin, OG, Missouri State 8.0

5th– Josh Thomas, CB, Buffalo 7.5

6th– Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina 8.5

7th– Shaun Chapas, FB, Georgia 7.5

7th– Bill Nagy, C, Wisconsin 7.0

Overall Grade: B

Analysis: Tyron Smith has the most potential of any LT in this draft class, so it’s hard to dislike that pick, but the Cowboys will have to wait a year at least before he is ready to start, so he won’t have an immediate impact on the team. If they are patient and coach him up it could be worth the wait though. The Cowboys definitely got an athletic specimen in Bruce Carter but I don’t know how well he will fit at 3-4 ILB, especially in the Cowboys scheme. They love athletes and they got one, but Carter doesn’t have great instincts and I don’t know how well he will do against the run when he has to shed blocks from big, powerful interior linemen. I love DeMarco Murray in round three even though they have Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, and David Arkin in round 4 should add more depth and an eventual starter to their offensive line. Josh Thomas is a solid depth addition at corner though I don’t think he will ever be a starter, and Dwayne Harris was one of the best values in the draft in round six. He has potential as a KR, PR and slot receiver, so it will be interesting to see if he sticks and plays well there.

Washington:

1st– Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue 7.5

2nd– Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson 8.0

3rd– Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami 8.5

4th– Roy Helu, RB, Nebraska 8.0

5th– Dejon Gomes, S, Nebraska 8.0

5th– Niles Paul, WR, Nebraska 8.0

6th– Evan Royster, RB, Penn State 5.0

6th– Aldrick Robinson, WR, SMU 7.5

7th– Brandyn Thompson, CB, Boise State 7.0

7th– Maurice Hurt, OG, Florida 7.0

7th– Markus White, DE, Florida State 7.0

7th– Christopher Neild, DT, West Virginia 7.0

Overall Grade: B-

Analysis: Again, Kerrigan doesn’t fit well in a 3-4 in my opinion. The Redskins seem to be a team that is in the wrong defensive scheme. If they used the same personnel but in a 4-3 scheme I think their defensive line would be extremely fierce. Orakpo at RE, Jenkins at NT, Haynesworth as the disrupting UT, and Kerrigan at LE? That would be as good of a defensive front as there is in the NFL if Haynesworth would get his act together. There would be zero room to run up the middle with Jenkins and Haynesworth plugging up the interior gaps, and Orakpo, Haynesworth and Kerrigan would be more than enough to get pressure on quarterbacks without having to blitz to consistently create pressure. But obviously that isn’t going to happen, I just thought I’d point that out because that occurred to me as the draft was going on even before they picked up Jenkins in round 2. Hankerson in round three is a nice value and I think he will prove to be a valuable pick-up. I wouldn’t have wanted him in the top 50 picks, but getting him there is a nice pick-up especially for a team desperate for WR help. Helu, Gomes and Paul are all solid depth additions, as is Aldrick Robinson, but I don’t think Royster will be in the NFL in 3-4 years. I was shocked that he was drafted at all.

Thanks for reading! Look out for the rest of my team grades in the next couple days as well as a preview for players that I expect to break out during the next college football season!

–Tom

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

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

Scouting Report:

Justin Houston has a lot of potential as a pass rusher, but I think he will need a defensive line coach to light a fire under him to get him to reach his potential.

Positives: Perfect size for a RE in a 4-3 at 6’2” or 6’3” and about 255-260 pounds. He is very athletic and has great explosiveness off the ball, especially when he can get a feel for the snap count. When he gets a great jump off the ball he can beat just about anyone off the edge, and he shows the ability to dip his shoulder to get the edge. He seems to have more than adequate hip flexibility to do this as well. He also flashes the ability to slap away the hands of the tackle as he makes a bee-line around him to the quarterback, which makes him very dangerous. Not only does he threaten off the edge he has also developed the awareness to set the tackle up for the speed rush and then burst back inside and get to the quarterback with an inside move. He has good closing speed to get to the QB and is a reliable tackler both when rushing the QB and when pursuing other ball carriers. He wraps up well, and flashes some good pop as a hitter which helps him forces fumbles occasionally. I have found that he is by far most effective when he has his hand in the dirt as a pass rusher like a 4-3 DE would as he just appears much more explosive off the ball and has a lot more success as a pass rusher. He also does a better job of keeping his pads low to play with good leverage when he comes out of that stance. He flashes the necessary motor to pursue, he did a solid job of this in the Auburn game. Probably because he realized that sacks weren’t going to come easy on Cam Newton. He has been extremely productive in the SEC which you have to take into consideration. He has flashed the ability to use a swim move once or twice a game also.

Negatives: The biggest complaint I have with Houston is his motor. It runs very hot and cold, and more cold than anything else. There are times when he is just jogging in pursuit of ball-carriers and more than once it has cost him a chance at a tackle that would have saved a lot of yardage for his defense or a chance at a sack for him personally. I am not sure why his motor is so inconsistent but it leaves a lot to be desired. I think it might be because he is so athletic that he realizes that if he goes hard on a number of plays that he will be able to make plays when he goes all out. Then he throttles down for other plays, especially against the run. He makes plays in the running game, but not as consistently as he does as a pass rusher. I think he needs to continue to improve his hand usage to help him shed blocks in the running game and as a pass rusher, though he has shown improvement in this area. But the more violent he can get his hands the better off he will be. I am 100% convinced that he would be a vastly better 4-3 RE than he would be a 3-4 OLB. He rarely drops into coverage for Georgia and when he does he does not look comfortable and against Arkansas he got burned on a wheel route and didn’t even realize that his guy was gone until the ball was thrown and he was 15+ yards away for a free touchdown. He is horribly mis-cast in a 3-4. His production this year is not because of his pass rushing when standing up in a 3-4 it is because Georgia faces spread offenses consistently enough that they have to go to nickel packages a lot which means four down lineman for their defense. That is when Houston makes his impact, not when he is standing up or dropping into coverage. However, Houston has almost no secondary pass rush moves. He can speed rush, beat his man to the inside after he sets his man up with the speed rush and then bull rush. Very rarely he will swim move but those moves are few and far between. The fact that he is so effective with such a limited repertoire of pass rush moves makes me wonder just how lethal he could be if someone got in his face and challenged him to go hard on every play and develop secondary pass rush moves. But as of right now his pass rushing is limited, as stupid as that sounds for a player who routinely applied pressure as a pass rusher in the SEC.

Overall: I really like Houston as a prospect and his potential is very high as a RE in a 4-3 in the NFL. His explosiveness and edge speed is pretty rare and he has been a very productive pass rusher the past two years in the SEC. I don’t usually like guys with inconsistent motors like Houston but his potential is high enough that he might be worth the risk for a team that really needs a potentially dominant RE. I think his saving grace might be that he will be worked in on a rotational basis in the NFL for his first couple seasons which will allow him the opportunity to go 100% when he comes in to look to make an impact and make a name for himself. I don’t know him personally obviously and I can’t say this for sure without an interview, but I really think that an in-your-face defensive line coach could motivate him to be a dominant player in the NFL. If he is open to coaching, which it seems like he is considering his development these past two years, then he could very well develop some secondary pass rush moves. I would love to see him improve his swim and club moves, and if he ever works in a spin move that he can use once or twice a game he could be absolutely lethal as a pass rusher. Especially if his hand usage improves as well. Really it comes down to how badly he wants to improve and if he is open to coaching. I believe that a good defensive line coach could motivate him to be a great pass rusher in the NFL though, because he has all the tools and really all he needs is coaching, technique development and someone to light a fire under him and push him to reach his potential. I really hope someone finds a way to motivate him because he could be a very fun pass rusher to watch in the NFL if someone does.

Projection: Top 25-40 picks- I don’t think he will break into the top 20 unless he really impresses in workouts and measurements at the combine and at his pro-day. His motor will probably scare some teams away, as it should. But I think some team in the late first round will take a risk on him, particularly a team with a quality coaching staff that can coach him up, motivate him and develop him.

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

STRENGTH: 3.0
QUICKNESS: 4.0
PASS RUSH: 4.0
POINT OF ATTACK: 2.5
RECOGNITION: 3.0
MOTOR: 2.0

Hopefully you enjoyed my scouting report! I’m still working through Alabama tape, but I will have stuff up on that eventually as well as some exclusive content from the East/West Shrine Game since I will be there all week! So look out for all of that. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Hey everyone, sorry I have been so absent lately. Tonight is my last night in Mexico so I have a few scouting reports that I will post once I am home including Blaine Gabbert, A.J. Green and Justin Houston. I have not been able to post predictions for the most recent bowl games, but I have to go on record for how I think the National Championship will go. It starts in thirty minutes, but maybe some people will still read it.

I think this game is going to be a shootout. As soon as I say this it will probably end up a 6-3 game after two overtime periods, but I do not think that either defense is capable of stopping the opposing offense consistently. Oregon is a great passing team and Auburn has a very inconsistent pass defense largely due to a pretty porous defensive backfield. I have a feeling Jeff Maehl and other Oregon receivers will have no problem finding openings in their defense. Cam Newton and Auburn should not have a lot of trouble finding ways to move the ball either, though I imagine their attack will be more focused around the run than the pass.

I think this will be a close game, and I hope it will be too so it is interesting right down to the end. But ultimately I think Auburn will win the game because of Cam Newton. He has led them back again and again this year, and even though I think Oregon may go into halftime with the lead Auburn has been such a good second half (and more importantly, fourth quarter) team this year that I just cannot find it in my heart to bet against them tonight. Newton has proven to be reliable in crunch time and honestly is one of the more clutch quarterbacks in the nation in my opinion. I may have my doubts about him as a pro prospect, but players like Newton usually play their best on stages like this and I expect that to be the case tonight. It will be close, but like great players usually do I think he will give his team the slight edge in what should be a close and high scoring game.

Score: Auburn: 41 – Oregon: 38

Thanks for reading all of my bowl game predictions up until this point. Enjoy the game! I know I will.

–Tom

Here are some positional rankings that I started working on yesterday. I have 10 players for most positions excluding fullback, kicker and punter. Now that I have these rankings churned out I am going to work hard to watch all of the guys I have on this list and churn out scouting reports on them over my upcoming winter break. But until then, enjoy my rankings! Let me know what you think!

* Indicates Junior

**  Indicates Redshirt-Sophomore

Offensive Rankings:

QB Rankings:

1-      Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford**

2-      Jake Locker, QB, Washington

3-      Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas*

4-      Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

5-      Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama

6-      Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa

7-      Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho

8-      Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware

9-      Cam Newton, QB, Auburn*

10-   Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada

RB Rankings:

1-      Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama*

2-      Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech**

3-      DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma

4-      Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State

5-      LaMichael James, RB, Oregon**

6-      Mikel LeShoure, RB, Illinois*

7-      Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia

8-      Shane Vereen, RB, California*

9-      Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State*

10-   Jordan Toddman, RB, Connecticut*

FB Rankings:

1-      Stanley Havili, FB, Southern Cal

2-      Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford

3-      Charles Clay, FB, Tulsa

4-      Ryan Taylor, FB, North Carolina

5-      Anthony Sherman, FB, Connecticut

WR Rankings:

1-      A.J. Green, WR, Georgia*

2-      Julio Jones, WR, Alabama*

3-      Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State**

4-      Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame*

5-      Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma*

6-      Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami

7-      Ronald Johnson, WR, Southern Cal

8-      Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh*

9-      Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy

10-   Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU

TE Rankings:

1-      Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin

2-      D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas

3-      Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame*

4-      Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee

5-      Charlie Gantt, TE, Michigan State

6-      Mike McNeill, TE, Nebraska

7-      George Bryan, TE, North Carolina State*

8-      Rob Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic

9-      Lee Smith, TE, Marshall

10-   Virgil Green, TE, Nevada

OT Rankings:

1-      Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

2-      Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

3-      Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

4-      Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

5-      Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal*

6-      DeMarcus Love, OT, Arkansas

7-      Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU

8-      Danny Watkins, OT, Baylor

9-      Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh

10-   James Brewer, OT, Indiana

OG Rankings:

1-      Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida

2-      Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State

3-      Stephen Good, OG, Oklahoma*

4-      Benjamin Ijalana, OG, Villanova

5-      John Moffitt, OG, Wisconsin

6-      Stephen Schilling, OG, Michigan

7-      Clint Boling, OG, Georgia

8-      Justin Boren, OG, Ohio State

9-      Zach Hurd, OG, Connecticut

10-   Carl Johnson, OG, Florida

C Rankings:

1-      Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn State

2-      Kristofer O’Dowd, C, Southern Cal

3-      Tim Barnes, C, Missouri

4-      Jake Kirkpatrick, C, TCU

5-      Kevin Kowalski, C, Toledo

6-      Zane Taylor, C, Utah

7-      Colin Baxter, C, Arizona

8-      Ryan Bartholomew, C, Syracuse

9-      Alex Linnenkohl, C, Oregon State

10-   Chase Beeler, C, Stanford

Defensive Rankings:

DE Rankings:

1-      Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson*

2-      Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina*

3-      Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

4-      Cameron Jordan, DE, California

5-      Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

6-      Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

7-      Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh

8-      Sam Acho, DE, Texas

9-      Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa

10-   Cliff Matthews, DE, South Carolina

DT Rankings:

1-      Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama*

2-      Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn*

3-      Drake Nevis, DT, LSU

4-      Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

5-      Jurell Casey, DT, Southern Cal*

6-      Jerell Powe, DT, Mississippi

7-      Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson

8-      Sione Fua, DT, Stanford

9-      Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina

10-   Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

OLB Rankings:

1-      Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA*

2-      Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia*

3-      Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

4-      Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma*

5-      Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina

6-      Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada

7-      Jeremy Beal, OLB, Oklahoma

8-      Mark Herzlich, OLB, Boston College

9-      Mason Foster, OLB, Washington

10-   Lawrence Wilson, OLB, Connecticut

ILB Rankings:

1-      Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois*

2-      Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama**

3-      Greg Jones, ILB, Michigan State

4-      Quan Sturdivant, ILB, North Carolina

5-      Colin McCarthy, ILB, Miami

6-      Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU

7-      Nate Irving, ILB, North Carolina State

8-      Josh Bynes, ILB, Auburn

9-      Mario Harvey, ILB, Marshall

10-   Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

CB Rankings:

1-      Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

2-      Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida*

3-      Brandon Harris, CB, Miami*

4-      Aaron Williams, CB, Texas*

5-      Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

6-      Davon House, CB, New Mexico State

7-      Brandon Burton, CB, Utah*

8-      Curtis Brown, CB, Texas

9-      Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

10-   Shareece Wright, CB, Southern Cal

Safety Rankings:

1-      Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU*

2-      Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA*

3-      DeAndre McDaniel, SS, Clemson

4-      Quinton Carter, FS, Oklahoma

5-      Deunta Williams, FS, North Carolina

6-      Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple

7-      Marcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson

8-      Ahmad Black, SS, Florida

9-      Jermale Hines, FS, Ohio State

10-   Jeron Johnson, SS, Boise State

Kicker Rankings:

1-      Alex Henery, K, Nebraska

2-      Kai Forbath, K, UCLA

3-      Josh Jasper, K, LSU

4-      Jake Rogers, K, Cincinnati

5-      Wes Byrum, K, Auburn

Punter Rankings:

1-      Chas Henry, P, Florida

2-      Alex Henery, K, Nebraska

3-      Ryan Donahue, P, Iowa

4-      Derek Epperson, P, Baylor

5-      Dan Hutchins, P, Pittsburgh