Tag Archive: Von Miller


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

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Demontre Moore: Moore has plenty of upside. He’s got great size at 6’4″, 245 pounds and has good speed off the edge. Not sure he’s an elite athlete, but he has been very productive this season as a sophomore with 51 total tackles (31 solo), 14.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 3 FF’s and 1 pass break up. He and Sean Porter are a fearsome tandem and will be even scarier next year as he will be a junior and Porter will be a senior. He has flashed the ability to shed, keep contain and is a reliable tackler. Showed good burst/explosiveness off the edge.
-Moore made a great play to chase down Diggs on his terrific punt return to save a touchdown. A&M then forced a field goal. Could be a critical play if A&M can get going on offense.

Sean Porter: Porter reminds me a lot of what Von Miller used to be as a junior. He’s 6’2″, 230 pounds and very explosive as an athlete. He has 67 total tackles (44 solo), 13.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble so far this year. He relies almost entirely on his athleticism as a pass rusher and a defender much like Miller used to, but he is still a fearsome player with only that in his arsenal. Like Miller he has plenty of upside and should be back in school next year as a senior, and if he comes back stronger and with better hand usage he could be a very scary prospect much like Miller developed into. It will be interesting to see if he is able to take that next step, but right now he avoids blocks versus shedding them with his speed and burst, but he has to be able to shed and use physical moves to get off blocks once he is engaged. Once he’s engaged he’s not nearly as effective, so he needs to get stronger and work on his hand usage.

Tony Jerod-Eddie: TJE has impressive size at 6’5″, 301 pounds. He has 40 total tackles (20 solo), 6.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks and has shown a solid motor and flashed a swim move. He’s got some potential as a 3-4 DE or a 4-3 DT. Not sure he’s a great pass rusher or run defender, but he has NFL size and that warrants some checking out. He hasn’t flashed a whole lot tonight, but he’s been solid. I’m going to keep an eye on him and see how he looks the rest of the game.

Eddie Brown Jr.: Brown Jr. has been impressive today. He’s tough to move off the line of scrimmage because of his size (6’0″, 310 pounds) and he has a very good burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s regularly one of the first defensive linemen off the ball and moves surprisingly well for a big man. He’s made some nice stops at the line of scrimmage tonight, and definitely has some potential as a rotational defensive lineman. Not sure he’s a starter yet, I just haven’t seen enough of him. But he has some value in my opinion.

Ryan Tannehill: Tannehill is a guy I like, but he has been very off so far tonight. Texas has a talented defense and they churn out talented defensive backs like it’s their job. Tannehill has struggled tonight for reasons I’m not sure of, but there have been drops, bad throws by him, deflections at the line of scrimmage, and he’s gotten hit a bit as well (a few times by Keenan Robinson). We’ll have to see how he does in the second half, but he has much more potential than this. He displayed it a bit on the first drive Texas A&M had when they marched down and scored, but Texas settled in on defense and has thwarted him for the majority of the half since. Tannehill has been very accurate on roll-outs and passes outside the pocket, but he hasn’t been very good inside the pocket yet. He needs to remedy that situation in the second half, because Texas has too much athleticism to continue to rely entirely on passes from outside of the pocket. Corner blitzes will come if they keep doing roll-outs off of play action and he will take more hits, get sacked or turn the ball over. He needs to pass better from the pocket.
-Tannehill has been terrible in this game. Texas has been great on defense since early in this game and their defensive backs have been especially good. Byndom has been in Fuller’s hip pocket all game and has a pick 6, Diggs has nearly made multiple interceptions, Vacarro has an interception, and Christian Scott nearly had his first interception of the season early on with a great break on the ball. Tannehill hasn’t had a lot of open receivers to throw to but he has been inaccurate, he’s stared down his receivers which has led to interceptions and he hasn’t handled his lack of success well as his issues have continued to snow ball. That is worth noting as a prospect, and because this is his 2nd to last game (assuming their 6 wins get them a bowl game which it should) this is definitely going to leave a sour taste in the mouth of evaluators. His only hope is to lead a comeback in the 4th quarter and win a game ugly.

Ben Malena: Malena has been very impressive in this game. He’s been running through arm tackles, churning his legs effectively, displaying impressive burst and speed as well as reliable hands. I’m really enjoying watching him, and should have a lot of touches the rest of the year and next year in a shared backfield.

Jeff Fuller: Fuller has been having a down year and it has something to do with his struggles to create separation. He’s been nicked up, but he struggled to create separation before. He has very impressive hands and can make tough catches even when covered, but you’d like to see him run better routes to generate more separation. A couple times he pushed off of the cornerback defending him to try to get free, but for the most part he was blanketed in the first half. Carrington Byndom has done a great job on him. He’s only a sophomore but he has played great and been in Fuller’s back pocket the entire game. Fuller has the size to beat him (6’4″, 220 pounds versus 6’0″, 180 pounds) but Byndom is more athletic than Fuller is and it has been evident. Fuller has been relatively productive this year, but he has possession receiver numbers with 56 receptions, 602 yards and 4 TD’s on the year. He’s got a 3rd or 4th round grade from me right now, but unless he gets healthy and starts showing he can generate consistent separation he probably won’t move up much more than that

Carrington Byndom: Byndom has been terrific tonight. According to the announcers he matches up with the best receiver on every opposing team and he is only a sophomore. He has been blanketing Jeff Fuller all night and has clearly been frustrating him as he has resorted to pushing off and trash talking, but Byndom has barked back and continues to stick with him in coverage. Byndom has tons of upside as a man coverage corner thanks to his size, speed and he seems to have pretty long arms. He needs to get bigger and stronger, but he’s got tons of upside. Keep an eye on him, he’s #23.
-Byndom had a great play to get a pick 6. He’s a very impressive corner.

Ryan Swope: Swope doesn’t have the same upside Fuller does because he doesn’t have the same size/athletic ability but he has good hands. He has dropped a pass or two in this game though, and hasn’t been able to beat Texas vertically like he has against other teams. He’s been good against zone coverage though, and needs to get more involved in the second half if Texas A&M is going to move the ball. Fuller is being taken out of the game by one on one coverage which leaves a lot of defenders to keep an eye on Swope.

Keenan Robinson: Robinson is a very talented linebacker. He’s clearly very athletic, is a very reliable tackler and has laid the wood on Tannehill a couple times in the first half. He really packs a punch and has a knack for finding his way to the ball carrier and the quarterback. He doesn’t have elite size, but he’s a quality linebacker that is fun to watch.

Quandre Diggs: Diggs is the “other” corner opposite Byndom. He is only a FRESHMAN but he is starting for Texas. He’s 5’10”, 200 but he has 39 total tackles (24 solo), 3.0 TFL, 2 interceptions (a 3rd in this game) and TEN pass deflections. That is incredibly impressive, and he seems likely to be the next stud corner at Texas after Byndom of course. I’ve been impressed with Diggs so far, he had a great recovery to pick Tannehill off. I almost forgot to mention that Diggs is a great punt returner. He flashed a lot of potential in his limited touches in the 1st half, but he really ripped off a great return after A&M’s first punt to set Texas up with the ball on A&M’s 9 yard line.

Kenny Vacarro: Vacarro is a guy that has been tabbed as a potentially underrated safety. It’s tough to watch him play, but he has looked solid in coverage when I could see him. He strikes me as a leader on Texas’ defense and wore Fozzy Whitaker’s #2 jersey because he is injured and unable to play which you love to see. #6 flashed an impressive close to nearly get an interception, but Vacarro is the better prospect at this point.
-Fantastic interception high pointing the ball on the sideline and getting his feet down. Looked like a wide receiver. He’s got a lot of upside.

Kheeston Randall: Randall has demonstrated some ability but he hasn’t been the dominant, disruptive force that I was expecting. He has NFL size and athletic ability, but I think he needs work on his hand usage and pass rush moves. He’s strong and not very easy to move off of the line of scrimmage, but he has left something to be desired thus far.

Randy Bullock:  Bullock is the Texas A&M kicker. He has made 3 FGs in this game, 24 this season. He is a  Lou Groza award finalist. 2 of his 3 field goals in this game have been 50+ yard attempts that he has made convincingly. I want to see him in clutch situations, but two 50 yard field goals is definitely impressive.

Jackson Jeffcoat: Jeffcoat has started to emerge this season along with Okafor. He hasn’t had a lot of pressure on Tannehill as a passer (or at least I haven’t noticed it, hard to see everything at once) but he has made some TFL’s in the backfield against a RB who has been running through unimpressive tackles all game. He’s done a good job versus the run so far.

Alex Okafor: Okafor has emerged as a pass rusher this year. I think they will be really fun to watch next year because they have a lot of athletic ability and upside as pass rushers, but beyond that they have a fantastic secondary that will help them get coverage sacks.

Emmanuel Acho: Acho is a great tackler along with Robinson. He has made some impressive open field stops against Malena who has been making some Texas defenders look silly as the slide off of him. He and Robinson have shown ability in coverage and close very, very fast. Plus they know how to get after the passer when they come on a blitz.

NCAA Top 25 Picks Post

Here is a post where I make some picks for the games the top 25 teams are playing for the week. I’ll try to do this every week, but I might not always have time. I’ll track them to see how well (or poorly) I do over the course of the season. Enjoy!

Week Four NCAA Picks Post:

Oklahoma over Missouri

Analysis: Oklahoma’s offense and defense are both very good, and Missouri didn’t prove they could win against Arizona State, losing 37-30 in OT. James Franklin will probably struggle to carve up the Oklahoma defense like he did the ASU secondary, and I wonder just how much pressure their defense will be able to apply to Landry Jones. Jones will make poor throws when he has pressure in his face, so that will be the key to hanging in on this game. The problem is, I don’t think Missouri’s secondary can hold up consistently if the Tigers are forced to blitz to create pressure.

Oklahoma by 17

LSU over West Virginia

Analysis: LSU’s defense is the best in the country as far as I’m concerned. They were tested right off the bat against Oregon and stood very tall. I’ve never seen a defensive tackle rotation like theirs in all my years of watching football. I believe that they have four starting caliber defensive tackles, and they arguably have three starting caliber cornerbacks in Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon. Claiborne is a junior and Mathieu and Simon are both sophomores, but they might be the best trio of cornerbacks in the country. LSU’s run defense and pass defense are both very good and their defense is very fast, and I think they are going to cause a lot of problems for Geno Smith and his offensive counterparts. On defense, West Virginia will have to pressure Jarrett Lee, but also stop LSU from establishing the running game because they love to run play action after establishing the run (and they’re quite good at it). Without the play action fake LSU struggles to threaten downfield due to Lee’s lack of arm strength. However, I think WVU will struggle to take away the run game, end up loading the box, and therefore allowing Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham and Deagnelo Peterson to get behind the secondary.

LSU by 16

Alabama over Arkansas

This one was tough for me to call. Alabama probably has the #2 defense in the country behind LSU (at least as far as I’m concerned, but it’s definitely close) and they have a quarterback with limited experience as well in AJ McCarron. Luckily, they have two talented running backs to take the pressure off of him in Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. Marquis Maze has stepped up as I thought he would and has 15 receptions, 186 yards and 1 TD in the first three contests. I think Alabama will be able to move the ball on offense against Arkansas’ defense, but I think that Alabama will be able to slow down the Razorbacks offensive attack. I love their WR’s, led by Cobi Hamilton as of now (13 receptions, a team leading 252 yards, 19.4 average per catch and 1 TD) and Tyler Wilson has stepped in to fill the void left by Ryan Mallett like I thought he would. However, Alabama’s defense is vastly better than Missouri State, New Mexico, Troy (the three teams he has faced this year) and much better than Auburn’s defense that struggled mightily to stop big, physically gifted receivers every time they matched up against them. Arkansas won’t get shut out by any means, but Alabama is going to be Tyler Wilson’s first real taste of what it’s like to play against a SEC caliber defense, and I don’t think he’s going to enjoy it.

Alabama by 13

Boise State over Tulsa

This really isn’t a hard pick in my opinion. Boise State’s defensive line is fierce and I expect Billy Winn and company to be in GJ Kinne’s face for the majority of this game. Boise State’s offense is still clicking thanks to Kellen Moore, so I expect this to be a relatively easy win. Kinne has a chance to show talent evaluators what he can do though, as his team is clearly overmatched.

Boise State by 21

Wisconsin over South Dakota

This shouldn’t be much of a contest either, as Wisconsin’s offense has the potential to be one of the best in the Big 10 if it isn’t already the best. Their running game and play action game will be way too much for South Dakota to handle, and hopefully they have continued to work on their run defense. If they don’t have it tuned up soon they will have a lot of trouble stopping Nebraska.

Wisconsin by 21

Texas A&M over Oklahoma State

This one was very tough for me to call as well. This could very easily go either way considering it is a rare battle between the #7 and #8 teams in the country. Oklahoma State’s offense is a juggernaut still led by Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, but Weeden has thrown 6 interceptions already this season, so that is a concerning stat for OSU fans. However, Joseph Randle has stepped up to replace Kendall Hunter very nicely, running for 378 yards and 7 TD’s on only 62 carries (6.1 average). Ryan Tannehill is a dangerous quarterback though, and he’s got a number of weapons to work with. I’m not sure which defense is better than the other, but I do think that Texas A&M will miss Von Miller rushing the passer in this game. However, Oklahoma State’s defense is traditionally their weakness, so that is why I had to go with Texas A&M. I will be at an away game during this contest and I am very angry that I will miss it. It should be a great game. But I had to give A&M the slight edge.

Texas A&M by 6

Nebraska over Wyoming

Not a very tough call on this one. Nebraska should win this game easily even if Taylor Martinez doesn’t dazzle as a passer.

Nebraska by 28

Oregon over Arizona

This one wasn’t as easy for me to pick as I thought it might be. Oregon has a pretty good defense, but Arizona can move the football pretty well. I’m still confident in Oregon, but Nick Foles has a habit of surprising people when they sleep on him. I don’t think Oregon will take him for granted though especially after losing a tough one to LSU in Cowboys Stadium, and that’s why I think they will end up with a big Pac-12 win here.

Oregon by 14

Clemson over Florida State (Upset)

Clemson is absolutely on fire right now, and this is the worst time for Florida State to be playing them. This isn’t a guarantee by any means, but Clemson’s offense is firing on all cylinders and Florida State didn’t get consistent pressure on Landry Jones last week. Clemson’s offensive line isn’t nearly the equivalent of Oklahoma’s, but they have enough weapons on offense to at least make this a plausible upset. I don’t think Clemson has the defense to keep them in the game if they can’t score, so unless their defense steps up and slows FSU down they are going to make me look foolish for this pick.

Clemson by 7

South Carolina over Vanderbilt

This isn’t as easy of a pick as I thought it would be, especially since South Carolina is in a state of flux and Vanderbilt is undefeated for the first time in recent memory after three weeks. I don’t think Vanderbilt will be able to hold off South Carolina, but stranger things have happened. If it was ever going to happen, I think it would happen now. Steve Spurrier doesn’t seem to have much faith in Stephen Garcia and even though they have one of the best backs in the country in Marcus Lattimore you just never know what will happen in the SEC. I don’t expect Vanderbilt to pull it off, but this is one I would watch as a POSSIBLE upset.

South Carolina by 10

Virginia Tech over Marshall

Analysis: This shouldn’t be much of a challenge for Virginia Tech, but it should be a good tune-up game for Logan Thomas. I think he has tons of upside, and it’ll be interesting to see how he develops throughout the season.

Virginia Tech by 17

Florida over Kentucky

Analysis: Kentucky isn’t a terrible team, but Florida’s defense is vastly better than I expected it to be even without Janoris Jenkins. Chris Rainey really impressed me last week and if he can stay healthy I think he could really improve his draft stock. I’m pretty high on Jonathan Bostic, Jaye Howard and Dominique Easley on their defense, so I’m excited to see them play against Kentucky again. I don’t anticipate the Gators having a lot of trouble in this game.

Florida by 14

Baylor over Rice

Analysis: Robert Griffin has been absolutely LETHAL this year. He’s 41/49 for 624 yards (83.7% completion), 12.74 yards per attempts and he has 8 touchdowns and no interceptions. On top of that, he has 116 yards rushing. Kendall Wright has been huge for Baylor with 20 receptions (14 more than the next receiver), 312 yards (184 yards more than the next receiver) and 3 TD’s. I don’t think Rice has much of a chance to slow Griffin down. The first time he might slow down in my estimation would be October 15th against A&M once they get into the real meat of their schedule. I haven’t been able to watch much of him, but it will be interesting to go back and watch him play to see if he has corrected any of the things I said he needed to work on in my preseason scouting report.

Baylor by 21

South Florida over UTEP

Analysis: South Florida is having one of their best seasons in recent memory, at least to start the season, and BJ Daniels seems to be maturing rather nicely. As long as he continues to develop the sky is the limit for USF, and I don’t think UTEP will have much of a chance to slow them down this week.

South Florida by 17

TCU over Portland State

Analysis: TCU lost a tough one against Baylor in week one, but they seemed to have bounced back in recent weeks. Portland State shouldn’t pose much of a threat, even with an inexperienced quarterback still getting a feel for the starting role.

TCU by 17

Michigan over San Diego State

Analysis: Brady Hoke welcomes his former team into the Big House as the Head Coach of the Wolverines this week as pretty heavy favorites. Denard Robinson isn’t my favorite quarterback but he is incredibly fast and I’m not sure SDSU has the speed to keep up with him in this game. Junior Hemingway has really stepped up this year (even though he looks like a TE rumbling downfield sometimes on go routes). It’ll be interesting to see how Michigan does in this game, but I would be pretty surprised if they botched this game after clawing their way into the top 25.

Michigan by 17

USC over Arizona State

Analysis: Before the game against Illinois last week I might have picked Arizona State in this one, but Brock Osweiler is still developing and even though the Sun Devils had a huge win against Missouri a couple weeks ago I don’t think they are ready to knock off USC. USC has a big chip on its shoulder because of the bowl ban that was placed on them, and I think they will approach this game with something to prove even though they are favored.

USC by 10

Illinois over Western Michigan

Analysis: This shouldn’t be a challenging game for Illinois. Western Michigan isn’t a bad program, but I don’t think they have the firepower to stick with Illinois on either side of the ball. They just fought their way into the top 25, so I don’t think they’ll get upset after just earning their #24 ranking.

North Carolina over Georgia Tech (Upset)

Analysis: I have to admit that I am a UNC fan, so that may have had something to do with this pick (which really isn’t much of an upset, though technically it is). I think UNC’s offense can score on Georgia Tech’s defense, and I think UNC’s defense is fast enough and disciplined enough to slow down Georgia Tech’s option offense that absolutely dominated Kansas last week. Georgia Tech is flying high, but UNC usually plays them pretty well and they are talented enough to pull this off. I really wish I could see this game, but I will be traveling and working while it goes on.

Those are my picks for this week. Hopefully you enjoy them and I look forward to seeing some good football this week. Thanks for reading!

–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

First Round Draft Grades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom

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:

Von Miller has all-pro potential as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme and if he can develop a spin move I think he can be a lethal pass rusher.

Positives: Miller is a pretty incredible athlete. He is incredibly fast and quick, he is a very fluid athlete and he has a good get-off and very impressive acceleration and speed off of the edge. He seems to go from 0-60 very quickly and he shows good hip flexibility to get the edge and shows the ability to dip his shoulder to get the edge when rushing the passer. He has tons of speed off the edge but also does a good job of darting back inside when the tackle opens his hips up too early which makes him a very dangerous pass rusher as he isn’t only a speed rusher, he can beat you inside too. Miller also showed a lot of fluidity in coverage during the offseason which was good because I had not seen him a lot in that capacity during the season at Texas A&M. He is what a lot of people look for in that he is a “quick-twitch” athlete and that makes him a very valuable commodity. He is a solid tackler and shows good pursuit from the backside, demonstrates some pop as a hitter and has a knack for forcing fumbles when rushing the passer. He also closes well on quarterbacks when he gets around the edge. He plays with effective leverage and shows some ability to shed blocks despite being undersized and does a pretty good job of setting the edge against the run. Seems to have an impressive motor.

Negatives: He needs to get bigger and stronger because he struggles to shed blocks against bigger, stronger players when they get his hands on him and when he is flying off the edge he can be forced wide by a stronger, slower player if he can engage him and sometimes just a shove will do. He needs to get stronger so he can absorb more contact and still remain in control as a pass rusher. I don’t know that he will ever be very effective versus the run but he should at least be able to shed blocks from TE’s and make some TFL’s in the backfield using his burst and elusiveness. He doesn’t have much experience in coverage which has to be a bit concerning, but he has more than enough fluidity and has flashed comfort in space that it shouldn’t be a problem once he gets some experience dropping into coverage during games, though I don’t think he will ever be as good in coverage as some expect him to be. He will also run himself out of plays at times by going too far upfield and this happens a lot when he is using a speed rush. That is coincidentally one of his only pass rush moves, so his pass rush repertoire needs some work and development because right now he is more or less a one trick pony. He could be absolutely lethal if he worked a swim/rip move and a spin move into his game, especially with his great edge speed and acceleration that he already has.

Overall: Von Miller is a very impressive player. He doesn’t have elite size but he has great athletic ability and he makes up for it with that and his great motor. His edge speed is absolutely lethal and it makes his potential very high as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme, but he will need to get stronger before he is able to start. He is definitely vastly more effective standing up than he is with his hand in the dirt, so the 3-4 scheme is the scheme for him. He should be able to contribute as a situational pass rusher right off the bat, but he won’t be able to do much outside of speed rushing OT’s and countering inside if they open up too early in their drops. However, I think he has all-pro potential in the NFL, especially if/when he gets stronger and develops some pass rush moves. I can’t wait to watch Miller if he learns a spin move, he would be the 3-4 version of Dwight Freeney if he pulls that off. He would be borderline unblockable.

Projection: Top 10. I don’t expect him to make it out of the top 5 (heck, he may not make it out of the top three) but Buffalo and Arizona seem like very likely landing spots for him since both of them really need a pass rushing stud and Miller is the best 3-4 OLB prospect in the draft without a doubt.

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

Speed: 4.0
Tackling: 3.5
Coverage: 3.0
Point of Attack: 3.0
Instincts: 3.5
Pass Rush: 4.0

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