I have always been a big draft nut, but never done a true mock draft. Now that I have the platform to do it, I am going to. Here is my first version. You can expect another one sometime next week after this weekends combine, then another after all the pro days, and one more still the week before the draft.
1) Carolina Panthers – Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Clemson – 6’4” 280 lb. defensive end that will become a force off the end. Not ever going to be quite the pass rusher Julius Peppers was, but damn close. The Panthers have a ton of needs, but bringing in a pass rusher from the defensive end position will help bring back a bit of a defensive identity.
2) Denver Broncos – Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU – Tall for a corner and great ball skills. With Champ Bailey possibly not being in Denver this coming season, a ball hawking corner is a huge need. Plus being a relative of Bryant McFadden, Sinorice Moss, and Santana Moss has got to be a good sign.
3) Buffalo Bills – Cam Newton – QB – Auburn – Ryan Fitzpatrick proved to be a quality quarterback for the Bills. So why draft a QB here? Simple, Cam Newton is the most dynamic talent in the draft, he needs some time to learn the position at the NFL level, so what better way than to sit behind a Harvard grad in Fitzpatrick to learn the game, but get playing time in a triple threat wildcat package with C.J. Spiller where he could hand it off, run, or throw. If they want to compete in the division, a talent like this could go a long way.
4) Cincinnati Bengals – Von Miller – OLB – Texas A&M – This will allow Maualuga to move back to the inside and add an end rusher to the Bengals. He will need to improve on his run defense, but he is fast and can make tackles sideline to sideline. He could be an addition that will make the Bengals line backing core as good a young group as you can find.
5) Arizona Cardinals – Blaine Gilbert – QB – Missouri – This will likely change as we get closer to the draft. I fully expect the Cardinals to get a QB prior to the draft like Kevin Kolb…oh…wait…there probably won’t be a CBA in place so they won’t be able to trade or sign anyone. Ok, Fitz, you will have another terrible season with a rookie QB. The guy is good, better than advertised accuracy, a big arm to get the long ball to Larry Fitzgerald, and a smart QB, but still a rookie.
6) Cleveland Browns – Robert Quinn – DE – North Carolina – He was suspended the entire 2010 season, but the man has skills. He is nearly 6’5” but only 250 or so pounds. He will likely get pushed around in the beginning and might run out of steam by the end of his rookie season after a full year off, but he is quick off the ball, around the end and could make a real impact by mid-season, but you will never know it because he will be playing in Cleveland.
7) San Francisco 49ers – Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn – A huge talent. Could easily go 1 or 2, but I see him falling instead. He is a big man, can get in the backfield and even get to the quarterback. He fits better in a 4-3, but he is such a dynamic talent, the 49ers would not let him slip past here and he is the kind of guy worth taking a second look at your defensive scheme for. Slide Sopanga into the other interior lineman spot, let Ahmad Brooks or Parys Haralson play the OLB/DE spot and this D could really surprise some people.
8) Tennessee Titans – Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska – A quality corner opposite Cortland Finnegan would be a big move for Tennessee. Prince is an incredible athlete and an even harder worker. I would not be surprised if he is a combine stud and moves up this board into the top 5, but for now I see him going Tennessee. Yes, they need a QB and Locker is available, but they need a guy that won’t be a bust, and Prince won’t be. But do look for them to jump on Mallett or even Locker if he is still available on day 2.
9) Dallas Cowboys – Anthony Costanzo – OT – Boston College – It was painfully obvious the Cowboys need a big offensive tackle to protect Tony Romo. And while Costanzo might not even be 300 pounds, he is 6’7” with long arms and very good in pass protection. The Cowboys will no doubt go best available tackle in this position, and right now, I think that is Costanzo.
10) Washington Redskins – A.J. Green – WR – Georgia – Who knows who will be throwing the ball to him in Washington, but it is clear the Redskins need a WR. They have not had a premier receiving threat since…um…Art Monk. A.J. Green is a top 5 talent and could be a huge steal for the ‘skins at 10.
11) Houston Texans – Marcell Dareus – DT – Alabama – He can play either defensive tackle in a 4-3 or defensive in a 3-4. He will be the interior end creating a young, incredibly talented defensive front with Mario Williams, Amobi Okoye, and Dareus. Line Cushing off his hip and you have a pass rush that is second to none and a team that can stuff the run.
12) Minnesota Vikings – Cameron Jordan – DE – Cal – More of a run stopping end than a pass rushing end, but the Vikings already have the pass rushing end in Jared Allen. Jordan can settle in next to the Williams wall. He could start as a defensive end or he can become the replacement to Pat Williams at defensive tackle.
13) Detroit Lions – Jimmy Smith – CB – Colorado – We will see what the combine has in store for him as he could come out of there with a top 10 grade, or I could drop him out of the first round. But for now, I like him to Detroit. He is 6’2” and pretty fast for a big corner. Think Antonio Cromartie without the laundry list of kids. The Lions don’t really have a quality corner to speak of, so Smith would make an immediate impact.
14) St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones – WR – Alabama – Torsten is currently screaming at this article as I do not have an OLB or secondary help here. Yes, the Rams need both, but I see there being big talent available in the second round. Bradford needs another receiving threat, and Julio Jones will fit in very well in St. Louis.
15) Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram – RB – Alabama – Ronnie Brown can’t stay healthy, Ricky Williams has lost a step, and Patrick Cobbs will never be a RB you want carrying the ball more than a couple times a game. A former Heisman trophy winning RB in the middle of the first round that can be a game changer would be a great addition for the Dolphins.
16) Jacksonville Jaguars – J.J. Watt – DE – Wisconsin – Will be a great fit opposite Aaron Kampman on the defensive line, but at 6’6” and 290+ he can play inside as well. He is versatile and productive. He can play the run or the pass, he could very well go earlier, but again, I see him slipping due to the fact he doesn’t fit into any one system perfectly, just every system very well, and that is just the kind of guy the Jaguars need as Jack Del Rio will be on the hot seat all season.
17) New England Patriots (from Oakland Raiders) – Akeem Ayers – OLB – UCLA – The Patriots desperately need a pass rushing threat off the edge, and if the Rams go WR rather than reaching for Ayers in that spot, he should be available for the Patriots and could be a great addition to the defense.
18) San Diego Chargers – Nate Solder – OT – Colorado – They need a guy to be molded into the left tackle of the future, and Nate Solder is the guy. A year behind Marcus McNeil will allow Solder to improve his pass blocking ability. He has good footwork and is very athletic for a guy standing 6’8” and weighing around 315. He will be a great pick for depth along the line for this season and a guy to have Rivers back in the future. They could use help on the defensive side of the ball and at receiver, but both positions can be addressed in the later rounds.
19) New York Giants – Tyron Smith – OT – USC – He can be a big help on this offensive line. Will depend how he comes out in training camp, but he could take the left tackle spot from David Diehl allowing Diehl to slide into left guard, or he could prepare to take the right tackle spot from Kareem McKenzie next season when his contract runs out.
20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn – DE – Iowa – They have a good interior defensive line, Clayborn can be a pass rushing defensive end that can make the Buc’s defensive line one of the best in football for years to come. They will probably get a running back in the second round, look Shane Vereen if he is there in round 2, as I have been in the past, this may be a biased call since I have known him since he was about 9, and improve that offensive line.
21) Kansas City Chiefs – Corey Liuget – DT – Illinois – Liuget is 6’3” 300 lbs, he would line up over center while they have Glen Dorsey at 6’1” also 300 lbs. at “end”. These two, along with Tyson Jackson on the other end, would able to stuff the run in a division with two teams that rely on it. They will look outside linebacker to come off the side around Glen Dorsey later in the draft, but here, they will shore up the defensive line.
22) Indianapolis Colts – Gabe Carimi – OT – Wisconsin – Most of their offensive lineman have been late round picks, and you might look at them and think they are decent. But they aren’t. Peyton Manning is the best at moving around in the pocket and getting rid of the ball quick. What better way to improve the line than adding the best offensive lineman in college last season.
23) Philadelphia Eagles – Mike Pouncey – OG/C – Florida – His brother Maurkice plays on the north end of the state and played incredibly well last season. He may be riding his brother’s coat tails into the draft, and he will never be as good as his brother, but he will be a quality interior offensive lineman. They need help on the line at nearly every position, and Mike Pouncey can play either guard spot or center, and since there is not a tackle here that wouldn’t be a reach, Pouncey is a great pick.
24) New Orleans Saints – Mikel LeShoure – RB – Illinois – Ok, so this may be a bit of a stretch, especially since you see guy after guy fill in well at running back for New Orleans, but I really like LeShoure here. Pierre Thomas is a Free Agent, and missed most of last season due to injury. Reggie Bush is not a true running back. He is a swing back who is at his best in the slot or on screen passes. Do you really want to run with Chris Ivory again? LeShoure’s 6 foot, 230 lb. body can handle the inside runs and will open up the wing for Bush.
25) Seattle Seahawks – Justin Houston – OLB – Georgia – And every Packer fan just shed a tear. This is the last top notch talent at outside linebacker. There are guys that can fill in well, but no more with first round type talent. Houston is a very good pass rushing linebacker, but could improve in his coverage skills. Aaron Curry will handle one side, Lofa Tatupa will run the middle, and Justin Houston will be able to complement those two well.
26) Baltimore Ravens – Brandon Harris – CB – Miami (Fla.) – Another Miami defensive back…it has worked out well for the Ravens in the past. Harris has the ability to be a very good coverage corner. He will fit right into the Ravens style of football and help shut down the pass heavy AFC North.
27) Atlanta Falcons – Cameron Heyward – DE – Ohio State – A big defensive end that can take up space or get to the quarterback. They have some big names at the position, but not so much in terms of production. Heyward would certainly be an upgrade at the defensive end position, and his long frame will help him in pass defense. It will be interesting to see if he can be successful in the running game though.
28) New England Patriots – Ryan Kerrigan – DE – Purdue – He led D-1A, or Bowl Division, or whatever they call it now, in tackles for loss last season. He knows how to get in the backfield, not the biggest guy, but strong enough to bull rush, and fast enough to speed rush. He is a great fit for the New England defense. If they don’t get Ayers in their first pick, don’t be surprised if he is taken there, but he could very well slip down to here as well.
29) Chicago Bears – Derrick Sherrod – OT – Mississippi St. – If Jay Cutler had Derrick Sherrod at Tackle, maybe he wouldn’t have been standing on the sidelines oblivious to the fact there was a NFC Championship game going on after apparently tearing his MCL. Sherrod is a very good tackle and should really help shore up an average line in Chicago.
30) New York Jets – Rahim Moore – S – UCLA – Everyone saw the trouble the Jets secondary had after the Jim Leonhard injury, and while Leonhard is a strong safety and Moore will likely play free safety, a ball hawking, big hitting safety, will be a huge addition to a secondary that already has 3 very good to great corners and a very smart strong safety. Rahim Moore has the talent to be a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, and with the freedom he would have to react on his natural instincts, I see him winning it if he lands in New York.
31) Pittsburgh Steelers – Aaron Williams – CB – Texas – Going into the Super Bowl, the big mismatch everyone pointed to was the Packers 3-4-5 wide receivers vs. the lack of secondary depth of the Steelers. That proved to be a big difference in the game based on the game Jordy Nelson had. Aaron Williams will be a quality Nickel corner his rookie season, and can become a really good #2 or even a decent #1 corner in his career.
32) Green Bay Packers – Aldon Smith – DE – Missouri – The Packers need an outside linebacker opposite Clay Mathews, but it won’t be available here. But the 6’5”, 260 lb. defensive end can play with his hand down, and he may be able to play standing up as well. They can use a pass rushing guy on the line Mathews can rush behind, but with time and coaching, he just may be able to become the OLB to compliment Mathews. Adding a guy like Aldon Smith and some depth later in the draft could set up the Packers to be the favorite to become the first repeat champion since the Patriots.