1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB Auburn
I’ve been hearing a lot of hype lately that the Panthers are going to pull the trigger on Newton. Like him or not Newton is the only quarterback in this draft class with elite potential, Gabbert is at best a better version of Mark Sanchez, Locker is inaccurate and Mallet in addition to character concerns has issues outside the pocket that don’t make him a fantastical candidate behind a poor offensive line in Charlotte. Newton will in all probability sit behind Jimmy Clausen until such time as Clausen has proven his inferiority to Newton.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama
Denver boasted one of the poorest run defenses in the league last year. While their multiple defensive holes may be distracted from by the imminent return of 2009 sack king, Elvis Dumervil, a massive presence like Bama’s Dareus would go a long way toward stopping the run. With new coach John Fox at the helm this is sure to be a defensive pick. I’d also like to take this moment to say that Elway is not nor should he take a quarterback with this pick or any other. Tebow has not been given a decent chance at an NFL career, and there’s no point ignoring obvious defensive issues because Tebow is a bit unorthodox.
3. Buffalo Bills: Blaine Gabbert, QB Mizzou
Were it up to me I would not pull the trigger on this pick, granted, Gabbert is not the unknown factor that is Cam Newton, as inaccurate as Jake Locker or have the character concerns that accompany Ryan Mallet. In fact Gabbert’s crime is that he is too much of a known factor, he’s going to be a middle of the road QB in the mold of Kyle Orton, Carson Palmer or debatably Mark Sanchez. There’s no point in using a #3 overall pick on a guy who’s going to lead you to 8-8 more often than not.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: AJ Green, WR Georgia
Last night Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco made it very clear on his twitter account that he was on his way out in Cincy. With a talented group of up and comers left over from the “Carson just needs more weapons” phase of the Bengals there’s going to be a nice hole opening up for a playmaker. That playmaker is AJ Green, an absolutely bust proof #1 wide out. Green is the next in a line of elite receivers in the NFL, Green could find himself paired with the strong armed Ryan Mallet or whoever the Bengals bring in at quarterback.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB Texas A&M
Arizona fell hard last year due in no small part to the loss of franchise quarterback Kurt Warner. Unfortunately for the Arizona faithful their franchise QB is not waiting for them here. In fact if I know Whisenhunt their franchise QB is on somebody else’s team right now. So the Cardinals receive Von Miller a top ranked pass rusher who could immediately become a terror off the edge similar to Clay Matthews.
6. Cleveland Browns: Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina
Cleveland would love to snag a playmaker for up and coming quarterback Colt McCoy but I don’t think Holmgren and Browns GM Tom Heckert feel comfortable snagging Julio Jones this high. Since I don’t do trade projections, I mocked them Robert Quinn. A clutch playmaker at North Carolina, Quinn would have been a lock for a top 5 pick had he not been suspended this season. After losing Shaun Rogers the defense will be happy of the assistance.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Peterson, CB LSU
A bit of a tumble here for Peterson who is one of the best cornerback prospects to come along in a while. At over 6 feet tall Peterson is a cover corner who has the potential to be the next Darelle Revis. Jim Harbaugh will gladly snag him at #7.
8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn
Fairley was once in contention for the #1 spot, after weighing in at the combine below 300 pounds though he takes a bit of a fall here to the Titans who are desperately searching for pass rushers as they try to reinvigorate their defense. The Titans are also desperately searching for a quarterback after Bud Adams cut Vince Young loose, but it’d be a stretch to take Jake Locker anywhere above #20.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT USC
The Cowboys have needs along their offensive line, with no free agency to tackle this issue I have the Cowboys picking the best tackle in the draft in Tyron Smith. Starting at right tackle for USC Smith shows solid footwork and all the physical attributes that one looks for in a top flight tackle. After seeing Alex Barron single handedly throw away the season opener for the Cowboys Jason Garret will be happy to welcome in some new talent.
10. Washington Redskins: JJ Watt, DE Wisconsin
The Redskins have a lot of needs including but not limited to Quarterback, Running back, O line, linebacker and wide out. With no quarterbacks worth taking this high the Shanahan regime takes DE JJ Watt to pair along side freak of nature Brian Orakpo.
11. Houston Texans: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska
Last time I was mocking this round I sent Da’Quan Bowers to Houston. This time through I knocked him down one spot after considering how truly abysmal Houston’s pass defense is. I know the rule of the AFC South is to apply as much pressure to Manning as possible but this draft is deep at defensive end and the Texans can probably snag somebody to Wade Phillips liking in the second while getting him a top flight cornerback.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson
Bowers slips to Minnesota here as the rebuilding Vikings look to rebuild the dominant front four that they had last season with Ray Edwards as a free agent. Bowers is an athletic freak with great pass rushing ability who falls to #12 over concerns over surgery on his knee.
13. Detroit Lions: Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College
The Lions make a decision here that they have put off getting a new left tackle for entirely too long. The Lions have been drafting well over the past couple of years and have a good set of skill players in Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best and real potential in former #1 overall draft pick Matthew Stafford. That’s not even mentioning the behemoth one of a kind talent that is Ndamukong Suh. That being said Jeff Backus cannot last forever and Stafford is in danger so long as there is not a top flight tackle guarding him from Julius Peppers, Jared Allen and Clay Matthews.
14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR Alabama
A year ago the Rams drafted Sam Bradford out of Oklahoma with the hopes of getting a franchise quarterback. Wish granted. Bradford has shown that he is most definitely the guy that the Rams are going to want under center for the next 10 years displaying uncanny accuracy and playmaking ability. The only draw back is that Bradford’s top target is Danny Amendola. Those of you who are not Ram’s fans or nerds like me probably just fought down the urge to Google who exactly is Danny Amendola. The point is that Jones is the big target that Bradford needs to make plays downfield as the Rams appear to be ready to dominate the NFC West this season.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
Like just about everyone else in the drafting world I have Ingram mocked to the Phins as they try to readjust from a disappointing season.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE Temple
GM Gene Smith takes a solid pass rusher to add to this young Jaguars team as they seek to put still more pressure on Peyton Manning.
17. New England Patriots (Oakland Raiders): Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin
Nobody knows better than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady the importance of protecting your quarterback. I mocked them Solder last time but after some film review I’ve come to the conclusion that Solder needs some technique work and Belichick may need someone to step in next season if Matt Light is a free agent.
18. San Diego Chargers: Aldon Smith, DE Missouri
As I stated much more sarcastically last time, the Chargers need pass rushers as they try to claw their way back into the playoffs. Aldon Smith serves that purpose just fine.
19. New York Giants: Corey Liuget, DT Illinois
I’ll admit that this pick had me flummoxed for a while as I tried to think what the Giants needed. The Giants’ defense got absolutely wrecked last season by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Knowing the Giants’ strength comes from their line I drafted them mid first round prospect Corey Liuget of Illinois.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue
The Buccaneers shocked the world last year after they finished 10-6 but missed the playoffs due to the absolutely bogus rule that Seattle who didn’t even win half their games was guaranteed a playoff spot based solely on the merit of winning the worst division in the history of football. Picking at #20 the Bucs will look for an end to pair with last year’s top pick Gerald McCoy and 2nd round pick Brian Price.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA
The Chiefs also shocked the world last year after having a very solid 2010 draft and improved play from quarterback Matt Cassel. This pick could go a couple different ways. On defense it’s pass rush, though the Chiefs could also grab a #2 wide out to put opposite Dwayne Bowe who I’m still not entirely sold on. I chose pass rush this time around though it really could go either way.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Derek Sherrod, OT Mississippi State
There’s one rule if you play in the AFC South and you don’t play for the Colts. Pressure. Every team is going to come after Manning so Polian takes a great lineman prospect to protect Manning from the oncoming pass rush.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Nate Solder, OT Colorado
The Eagles’ line play was average at best last year and more often than not resurgent QB/human highlight reel Michael Vick was the one bailing out his line. It’s supposed to be the other way around… Following Vick’s injuries last year Andy Reid makes the logical choice to protect his quarterback as opposed to not doing so.
24. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan, DE Cal
Not many needs for this Saints team, Cameron Jordan is a fairly versatile player and the Saints could use a boost along their defensive line.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB Washington
Jake Locker sneaks into the first round here for a Seahawks team in the worst division for quarterbacks. It’s obvious after a couple of minutes watching Charlie Whitehurst that he’s better as “Clipboard Jesus” than “Starting Quarterback Jesus”. Locker is a QB with wheels and a lot of popularity in Seattle as the hometown hero.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado
The Ravens are thin at cornerback, really thin. Jimmy Smith is a mid first round prospect who’s thin on character recommendations, really thin. Smith prevents himself falling into the second round here by going to a team desperate to fill it’s need at cornerback.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Randall Cobb, WR Kentucky
Randall Cobb’s stock is on the rise, and the Falcons are looking for a #2 wideout to make defenses have to back off top flight play maker Roddy White. The Falcons also are looking for a pass rusher but there’s more than enough of them that the Falcons can afford to wait and see what’s available when they pick next.
28. New England Patriots: Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State
The Patriots look for some additional pass rush here to continue the transformation of a young defense. It’s quite possible the Pats could trade out of this spot but I’m not going to risk it here and mock Belichick the pass rusher he was missing last season.
29. Chicago Bears: Mike Pouncey, C/G Florida
The undisputed best center in the draft and twin brother of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey provides an immediate boost to a truly pathetic Bears interior line. There’ll be much more work to do but the idea of Jay Cutler not taking 60 sacks a season has to carry at least a little appeal to Bears coach Lovie Smith.
30. New York Jets: Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa
Clayborn falls a long way here to the Pass rush needy Jets. Clayborn is a dogged pass rusher who has shown off some plays that defy the abilities of mere mortals. However teams could also be concerned that Clayborn due to medical issues is incapable of fully extending his right arm and has some below average upper body strength as a result. But I’m betting Rex Ryan will love Clayborn’s heart and pass rushing abilities and take him at #30.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB Texas
The Steeler defense was completely and totally lights out to start this season without Ben Roethlisberger. However the Steelers will meet their match in offenses like the Saints and Packers with a vast collection of talented receivers and an elite quarterback if they don’t pick up more cornerbacks. You know what they say, they can never be too deep at cornerback.
32. Green Bay Packers: Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech
The Packers rushing attack was al but non existent this season. There were times where QB Aaron Rodgers had more rushing yards than either of the running backs. The Packers are a dangerous team with the return of tight end Jermichael Finley and a talented corp of receivers. With the offensive line soon to be anchored by Brian “I could not look any more like a Packer if I tried” Bulaga, GM Ted Thompson takes a running back as insurance on Ryan Grant and James Starks.