Tag Archive: Justin Houston


East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

B.J. Coleman (Chattanooga) remains the top QB in St. Petersburg this week, though he isn’t perfect. His footwork is still developing but he has thrown the ball pretty well all week. He has had accuracy issues, I don’t see a lot of anticipation throws from him, and there are a few balls every day that wobble a bit off of his hand. He has upside and I think he could end up in round 4. Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi) had an up and down day today. He threw a couple interceptions today and doesn’t always look comfortable in the face of pressure (which has forced some mistakes from him). He threw the ball better when he had a clean pocket though, but he just doesn’t have the arm to stretch the field sideline to sideline. I still think he can stick on a roster, but he is a fringe draft prospect.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole (Tennessee) continued to look like the best back in St. Petersburg again today. He was complimented by the coaches a few times today, showed impressive burst, vision and lateral agility. I can’t wait to see how he runs through contact on Saturday. Alfred Morris (Florida Atlantic) showed some burst as well, continued to catch the ball well out of the backfield, and looks thick. It will be interesting to see how he runs through contact on Saturday.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford (Tennessee Tech) continued his strong week catching the ball well, creating separation as a route runner, and proving to be a reliable receiver. He had a couple nice routes that created separation downfield but quarterbacks didn’t see him open. He should get drafted. One guy I have been critical of all week, LaRon Byrd (Miami) looked like a different receiver today. He ran better routes and I don’t think I saw him drop a pass all practice. He looks vastly better than he did on Monday, so take that for what it’s worth. Kevin Hardy (Citadel) continues to be inconsistent catching the ball, and was working with coaches on his route running from what I could see. His coach told him a couple times that the game would be won with his head, not with his speed. Again, take that for what it’s worth.

Tight Ends:

Chase Ford (Miami) continued to catch the ball well today, but I don’t think he offers much as a blocker. He’s got impressive size and length for a tight end along with some athleticism, so he has range as a receiver. His hands are solid and he has definitely helped himself this week, but I don’t think he has a ton of upside. Evan Rodriguez (Temple) looked solid today as he has all week and made a couple nice catches. He’s not a flashy guy, but he’s reliable. Emil Igwenagu (Massachusetts) has gotten an invite to the Senior Bowl which surprised me, but I have a feeling it will be as a fullback, not as a tight end. He missed a couple blocks the last couple days when I was watching him though, so we will see how he does.

Offensive Line:

Bradley Sowell (Mississippi) has impressive size but he has short arms (32 ½ inches) and while he has a solid first step and can create a bit of push off the line of scrimmage he leans quite a bit and hasn’t looked good in 1 on 1’s this week. He looks like an undrafted free agent at this point. Lamar Holmes (Southern Mississippi) also looks like an undrafted free agent this point, and didn’t get a lot of positive comments from the coaches this week. At 6’5”, 320 pounds with 35 ¼ inch arms he has the size and arm length to project to tackle, but the ability just hasn’t been there.

Rishaw Johnson (Cal PA) continues to look powerful with his initial punch and he showed some ability to sustain today. He had a few good match-ups with Akiem Hicks today in team drills and he won them for the most part when I was watching. He’s definitely got starter potential, but like I have said before he has character issues that have to be looked into before teams will be comfortable taking him in the 4th or 5th round range.

I’m not sure if I have this 100% right, but it sounded like the offensive line coach was talking to Quentin Saulsberry (Mississippi State) when he said “I hope you’re ready to play the whole game” during practice today. Not exactly a positive comment for Tyler Horn of Miami, but it definitely reaffirms Saulsberry’s solid week of practice if I am correct. Again, take it for what it’s worth because I can’t be sure.

Defensive Line:

Matt Conrath (Virginia) had a good day of practice today. He got his hands up into passing lanes consistently today (and may have been doing this all week) and batted at least two passes down today. One of them was batted up into the air and he came down with it for an interception. He doesn’t have much burst off the line or enough edge speed to play 4-3 DE in the NFL, but I think he looks like a great prospect to play at 3-4 DE. He seems to take coaching well as he has improved as the week has gone on and at 6’7”, 281 pounds he definitely has the size and solid length (33 3/8 inch arms) to project to that position. He won’t go early, but he seems like a guy who could go in the later portion of the draft in the 5th or 6th round, stick on a roster, and continue to work and improve over the next couple years until he ends up being a significant contributor on the defensive line for a 3-4 team.

Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest) has had a good week this week. He isn’t a top guy obviously, but I think he has a chance to stick as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. He’s lean and needs to add weight, but he has some edge speed and burst. He doesn’t have much in the way of pass rush moves and he doesn’t have the natural power from his lower body to bull rush yet, but I think he has some upside.

Linebackers:

Shawn Losieu (Merrimack) looked pretty good today. He’s not a freak athlete and he likely doesn’t have starter upside, but I like his intangibles and leadership capability and he flows to the ball well. He even showed the ability to stack and shed at the line of scrimmage today which was good to see. I’m not sure he will get drafted, but I would wager that he will make a roster. Brandon Lindsey (Pittsburgh) had an interception in coverage today and while he doesn’t look fluid in coverage and doesn’t always get great depth in his drops he should be alright as a 3-4 OLB when he is asked to drop into coverage. For those of you who don’t remember, Justin Houston came out of Georgia last year and I didn’t think there was any way he could play 3-4 OLB because of his struggles in coverage. He had 46 solo tackles and 5.5 sacks this year. So even if Lindsey struggles some in coverage, don’t assume he won’t be able to survive in a 3-4 scheme. Finally, Max Gruder (Pittsburgh) continues to show quality instincts but his athleticism limits his range sideline to sideline and he doesn’t have great speed.

Defensive Backs:

Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) continues to be the star here and he looked pretty good today. I don’t think he had any interceptions that I know of (therefore marking the first day of practice this week that he hasn’t had one) but he looked good in coverage and may just have played his way into the top-100 of this upcoming draft. Jerrell Young (South Florida) looked solid in coverage today even though he got burned a time or two early this week in 1 on 1’s. I’m interested to see how he looks in coverage on Saturday as he will likely be over the top. But he looked comfortable in zone today. I’m not sure how good R.J. Blanton (Notre Dame) is in zone coverage, but he looks very big for a corner. I will be interested to see how he does in man coverage and in zone on Saturday, but he looked most comfortable in press-man coverage this week.

Final 1st Round Mock Draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25th– Seattle- Andy Dalton, QB, TCU-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, thanks for reading!

–Tom

Top 32 Big Board

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

1-      A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

2-      Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama

3-    Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

4-    Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

5-     Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

6-     Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

7-      Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

8-      Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

9-      J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

10-   Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

11-   Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

12-   Cameron Jordan, DE, California

13-   Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

14-   Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

15-   Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal

16-   Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

17-  Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

18-  Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

19-   Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

20-  Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

21-   Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

22-   Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

23- Justin Houston, DE, Georgia

24-   Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky

25-   Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech

26-   Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

27-  Jake Locker, QB, Washington

28-  Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

29-   Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

30-   Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida

31- Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

32- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Scouting Report:

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

Scouting Report:

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

Positives: Great size, arm strength and accuracy. Has solid mobility and while he might not look graceful as a runner once he gets going he can really pick up a lot of yardage. He has solid vision too and has a good feel for when he should just tuck it down and take off. He has plenty of zip on his throws to make passes from the left hash to the right sideline without a problem, and he can make just about any throw. He has overall terrific ball placement and does a great job of leading his receivers, even against good man coverage, to give them plenty of opportunities for yards after the catch. He has shown flashes of the ability to anticipate his receivers coming open and I have seen him throw a few of his receivers open, but his offense isn’t necessarily conducive to that. He does a good job throwing against man coverage and zone coverage alike because of his accuracy. He can carve up zone coverage with ease and does a great job of combining arm strength, accuracy, timing and touch to throw passes down the seam or down the sideline in-between two defenders for impressive completions. As I said before he is accurate enough to complete passes to his receivers even against blanket man coverage because of his ball placement. He has shown some signs of pocket poise and he has a solid feel for when pressure gets there. I think he progressed in this area as the season went on because he looked better in this aspect against Iowa than he did in all of the previous games I watched him in. And even when he scrambles or moves in the pocket he does a terrific job of resetting his feet and delivering throws with good footwork and mechanics. He has a quick release and he does a great job going from not being set to throw to setting his feet and delivering the ball. He seems to throw better on the run when rolling to his right than he does when he is rolling to his left. He also makes good decisions a lot of the time he throws the ball, which might sound simple, but he throws the ball a lot in his offense and thanks to a largely inconsistent running game he ends up in 3rd and longs more than most QB’s I have scouted this year. However he consistently delivers good passes after making a good decision on where to go with the ball. And if there isn’t a good place to throw the ball he will extend the play and 90% of the time he will throw it away instead of forcing a pass into coverage. That maturity to throw the ball away and not risk a costly turnover is one of the more impressive things about him as a prospect in my opinion.

Negatives: I hate the offense he plays in. It isn’t even close to a NFL offense. I kept track of how often he was working with four and five wide receiver sets and in the games I watched I would say it was at least 80 if not 90% of the time. That is one of my biggest problems with him as a prospect. He will have to work on his footwork on his drops because he rarely if ever made a three or five step drop from under center. That can be coached up though. I am not sure how well he reads defenses because a lot of his reads involve him simply looking at one side of the field and then throwing the ball. He isn’t usually asked to scan the field or go through a lot of progressions. How well he does in the NFL will have to do with how well he learns to use his eyes and how hard he works to learn how to read defenses better, etc. So the offense he plays in definitely makes me wary of him as a prospect. I have a couple other red flags that came up when I watched him. One is his trouble with pocket poise at times. As I said earlier I think he has gotten better in this department, but he still has work to do in my opinion. I would say the majority of the times that he scrambles he is leaving the pocket prematurely, meaning he could have stayed in the pocket or stepped up if he needed to buy more time. That is something I would like to see him improve on, but as I said he flashed the ability to do this more as the season progressed which is encouraging. He also struggles with deep balls. This might sound simple, but the vast majority of his deep passes end up incomplete because he overthrows his receivers. This might have something to do with all of his receivers running 4.5’s or slower (in my estimation) but he should still know to take a little off of it or put a little more air under it to let them run under it after playing with them for two years. But his deep passes, at least in the five games I saw of him, were really the only passes that he struggled to throw accurately with any kind of consistency. Perhaps this won’t be as big of a deal with faster receivers, but not everyone on the team is going to be a burner, so it is worth mentioning that he struggles with ball placement on his deep passes. And, while minor, I think he needs some work on squaring his shoulders when scrambling and attempting to throw on the run. He is pretty good at throwing on the run when moving to the right as he is right handed, but he struggles much more in this area when moving to his left. An additional concern I have is how well he will transition to the NFL because he won’t be throwing the ball as often as he did in college on a regular basis. I don’t think it will be a serious issue, but I wonder how well he will be able to get into a rhythm without throwing the ball as often as he did in college. I’m sure he would trade a chunk of his passing attempts for a more consistent and effective running game though, so this might just be me over-thinking things.

I worry about the offense Gabbert played in, but I believe that if you have good enough intangibles you can overcome a lack of experience in a pro-style offense. We will see if Gabbert proves me right.

Overall: The mark of an effective or even great QB involves a few things: Winning, being effective in the red zone and making big throws late in halves, games and on 3rd downs. Gabbert won a lot of games for just being a two year starter, including an upset of then #1 Oklahoma this season. He is efficient in the red zone despite having almost no running game to keep the defense honest and he makes a lot of good throws late in the half, late in games and especially on 3rd downs. I have to say I was skeptical of Gabbert at first, especially because I am not a Todd McShay fan and he was high on Gabbert, but I was really impressed with what I saw when I watched him play. I took 13 full pages of notes on him so I could learn everything I could about him since I hadn’t seen him play much before, and he is now my #1 QB in this draft class because of Andrew Luck’s decision to stay in school. I would have had him ranked in my top 10 prior to this but probably at about 5 or 6, I just never thought he would declare this year. Now that he has and I have watched him a lot I feel perfectly confident ranking him #1 on my 2011 QB rankings. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to a NFL offense, and while I may be high on him there is no guarantee that the transition will go smoothly. But he has the size, the arm strength, the accuracy and the mechanics to be a successful NFL QB. I wish I could interview him to get a sense for his football IQ, but I think he has pretty good intangibles. I don’t think they are on Matt Ryan’s level, but I think they are adequate. If he has a good football IQ, good intangibles and a good work ethic like I think he does I think he will be a good starting QB in the NFL. Will he be great? I’m not sure. He has the tools to be a great QB, I just don’t know enough about his intangibles and work ethic to say he has that kind of ceiling.

Projection: Top 10. With Luck not declaring there is going to be a vacuum in the top 10 for teams looking for QB’s. Luck wouldn’t have made it out of the top three anyways, but I don’t think I could spend a top 10-15 pick on Locker right now, and I don’t like Mallett much in the top 20 and some teams figure to be turned off by him from interviews based off of what I have heard. That makes Gabbert a prime candidate to leap-frog them all and come off the board first of all the QB’s. I don’t think he warrants the #1 pick to Carolina, but I could definitely see Buffalo or the 49ers picking him in the top 10. He would get a top 15 grade from me, but thanks to the lack of quality QB’s in this class I think he has a great shot to go in the top 10. That makes his decision to declare this year look really smart in my opinion.

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

ARM STRENGTH: 4.5
ACCURACY: 4.5
MOBILITY: 3.0
DECISION MAKING: 4.0
MECHANICS: 3.5
POCKET AWARENESS: 3.0
INTANGIBLES: 3.5

Sorry about the lull of posts lately, I am back and ready for scouting reports. I’ll have my A.J. Green report up tomorrow and my Justin Houston one up after that! I am also going through all of my Alabama games, so expect reports on Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, James Carpenter and Marcell Dareus soon! Hopefully you enjoyed my scouting report on Gabbert. He is a really intriguing prospect. It will be interesting to see where he ends up.

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

New Mock Draft: 12.22.10

1st Round NFL Mock Draft:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom

I have been scouting DE’s because I think the Falcons could really use one considering John Abraham’s age and the limited playing time Lawrence Sidbury has received, but we will (hopefully) be picking late in round one so I was trying to look at guys who aren’t getting a lot of attention that I hadn’t seen play yet. The returns aren’t too good so far to be honest but there is a lot more to come. However, I don’t think there is a great fit for what we need at DE in this entire class. That said, here are my notes!

I scouted Jeremy Beal the other night against Missouri and he was not particularly impressive. Beal looks like a 3rd round pick to me right now, and doesn’t look like a dominant speed rusher to me either. I have read that he has a really good work ethic and motor, but he seems like a 5-6 sack guy in the NFL to me. If he was opposite a quality pass rusher he could produce more than that, but he did not look like a dominant RE pass rusher against Missouri. He flashed a good punch to create separation and he had a really nice swim move to beat his man inside, but he was mirrored pretty effectively by RT Dan Hoch of Missouri in this game which really surprised me. I thought Beal would be quicker off the line and off the edge, and I didn’t see a terrific motor in this game like I expected. Overall he seems like a solid DE prospect, but he doesn’t have a great combination of size, edge speed and burst off the line of scrimmage in my opinion which limits his value.

I also watched Andre Branch, a junior DE on Clemson (who plays opposite of Bowers) to see what kind of talent he had. He’s a little under the radar, but he struck me as a guy with potential. I watched him against Castonzo and he was blocked pretty effectively by him. He doesn’t look like he explodes off the ball very well, and he simply did not look like a dominant pass rusher. He has recorded a lot of QB hurries this year, but I was hoping he would look better than he did against Castonzo. He showed inconsistent burst off the line of scrimmage to me and seemed to have a solid motor, but I didn’t see much in the way of hand usage or pass rush moves against Boston College. I need to watch him more, but he didn’t look like a great pass rusher to me in this game.

Brandon Lindsey was another interesting player to watch. I was surprised how good he was versus the run, and he showed pretty impressive hand usage to shed blocks (especially for a converted linebacker). He has pretty good burst and speed but it didn’t look elite. He has pretty solid closing speed, an OK motor and he flashed a nice swim move twice in the game against USF. He didn’t show the flexibility to dip his shoulder to get the edge which I didn’t like, and he seemed to get worse as the game went on to me. He didn’t do a whole lot in the second half, and seemed to be going through the motions on some plays. He had some good plays to be sure, and flashed some potential, but he was not as impressive as I was hoping he would be. I think that if he stays for his senior season (which is what I think he will do) he could show some more improvement next year, but I think he will be a 3rd round pick next year based on what I have seen from him thus far.

Just some notes on a few DE’s that I watched last week, hopefully you guys found them interesting!

–Tom

Updated Mock Draft: 12.5.10

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

First Round NFL Mock Draft:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom