Chris Kouffman’s Mock Draft v1.0 Final
1). Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton – QB – Auburn
Over 10 weeks ago we wrote an article about Cam Newton in which we claimed that Cam was not only the favorite to go #1 overall to the Panthers, but that he should draw strong consideration at this spot. Since then, Cam has not disappointed with his smooth handling of a pre-Draft process that can be extremely rough on a player. He had no easy task. At the time we wrote our piece, he had a red-faced Mike Mayock shouting “not that quarterback!” when posed the question of whether Cam ends up going in the top 5, he has had Charlie Casserly calling him a late 1st round project player, and Nolan Nawrocki, who has never met Cam Newton, calling him a fraud and saying that his smile is fake. Cam has somehow managed to skate through this grueling and challenging process with class and dignity, showing that he is ready to handle the challenges of being a star in the NFL. He is driven to be the best football player that he can be, and has shown it in his work ethic, and willingness to work at every aspect of being the potential face of a franchise. His talent could never be denied, but his polish and work ethic have been the attributes that have sealed him as the #1 overall pick.
2). Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus – DT – Alabama
This is a pick that I have had pegged for several months. There was a time when Nick Fairley was considered the favorite for this spot, and I insisted that Marcel Dareus would be the guy that the Broncos eventually target and take. His flexibility for his size is amazing, and he can shed his block at any point in his pass rush. He is not a guy that, like Fairley, needs to beat his man off the ball or not at all. I see him having a career that tracks much like Pat Williams. Early on he will be a disruptive, athletic force that can play the 3-technique or even 5-technique, not unlike Pat Williams early in his career with the Buffalo Bills. Later in Dareus’ career, he can move inside to a 1-technique or even 0-technique, translating what he has learned about leverage in order to lengthen his career and be an unmovable rock against the ground game. The Broncos have made much ado about the quarterback position, but I can’t help but wonder if they have been attempting to induce teams to trade up. If they stay here, Dareus should be the pick.
3). Buffalo Bills: Von Miller – DE – Texas A+M
Von Miller is a versatile player, and he has the ability to do whatever you want him to do. However, first and foremost, he is a very capable pass rusher. In Dave Wannstedt’s system, Miller could play a wide 9 technique the same as Jason Taylor often played for the Miami Dolphins. The Bills need to strengthen their defense, and they have a dominant player in Kyle Williams manning the middle. They need someone to come in and do what Aaron Maybin could not, what Chris Kelsay has been paid to do, but rarely can deliver. They need Von Miller to get after the opposing team’s quarterback. I do not see the Bills considering a quarterback at this pick. I believe there is some meat left on the bone with Ryan Fitzpatrick. He has gotten better every year he has been in the league, and his intelligence suggests that he could be the type of player that continues to get better into his 30′s until his body begins failing him. Before I start reaching for another quarterback here, if I’m Chan Gailey, I would want to see where Ryan Fitzpatrick could take me. Blaine Gabbert has too many holes in his game to take here.
4). Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green – WR – Georgia
The Bengals have become notoriously transparent in their Draft strategies over the last few years. Their interest in Jermaine Gresham was so obvious last year that I actually refused to mock Gresham to Cincinnati on principle, on the idea that no team could be this obvious about their target. I was wrong. They were obvious about it. A.J. Green is not only legitimately one of the very best talents in this Draft, he would serve to replace a void left by Chad OchoCinco and Terrell Owens, both of whom seem likely to leave this off season. As a bonus, between the addition of Green, and the firing of Bob Bratkowski (a move which occurred curiously right after Bob coached along with other Bengals coaches in the Senior Bowl), the Bengals may be of the mind that they can attempt to patch up their rocky relationship with Carson Palmer. It’s the classic carrot and stick method of negotiation. Mike Brown is all too happy to carry out the role of the stick, by refusing to trade Palmer for any amount of compensation, forcing Carson to come to full grips with the idea of retiring before his time. Bringing in Jay Gruden to replace Bob Bratkowski, and subsequently drafting A.J. Green, would function as the carrot to try and bring Palmer back on board. It might not work, but the Bengals would rather find out than move on.
5). Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU
Two things I’m not buying at this stage of the game: that the Arizona Cardinals have warmed up to Blaine Gabbert, or that they are ready to add an outside linebacker at #5 overall. The team is very high on O’Brien Schofield, whom they acquired at a bargain rate in last year’s Draft due to his being in recovery from an ACL injury he suffered in Senior Bowl practices. Traditionally, outside linebacker conversion projects in the 3-4 defense are subject to an extreme amount of fan- and draftnik-based inflation. Von Miller might be an exception, but Robert Quinn is not. Miller will not be available here. Teams that run the 3-4 don’t reach on conversion players nearly as often as fans and draftniks predict them to, and as such I see the Cardinals avoiding that position at #5 overall rather than reaching to take a player you plan on playing at a position he’s never played before. This Draft is unique in that Free Agency is almost sure to come at some point after the Draft, and therefore you are afforded the ability to draft off your board rather than reach in order to satisfy position needs. If the Cardinals draft based on their board, I believe the pick will be Patrick Peterson.
6). Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones – WR – Alabama
Mike Holmgren is no stranger to the idea of using quality resources to add skill position players that can make your offense more dangerous. Though A.J. Green may be gone at this point, I could see Holmgren justifying using this pick on Julio Jones, who could be better in the west coast style that Holmgren prefers, due to his ability to run after the catch. Mike Holmgren tends to be very traditional in his approach to personnel. He wants to make sure he’s got his left tackle, which he has in Joe Thomas. He makes sure he’s got a running back, which they acquired in Peyton Hills. He makes sure he’s got a quarterback he trusts, hence his overruling decision to draft Colt McCoy last year. Now what he needs to make sure he has, is his star wide receiver. That will be Julio Jones.
7). San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert – QB – Missouri
I do believe that the 49ers might be crossing their fingers at this pick, hoping that elite players like Marcel Dareus, Von Miller and/or Patrick Peterson fall to their pick at #7 overall. However, in this Draft which should be dominated (for the most part) by the draft board rather than position needs, I do not believe they will have a crack at any of the three players. Right now, the 49ers have one quarterback on roster. That quarterback is David Carr, whom they even admit is nothing more than a backup to them. Their attempts to bring Alex Smith back to a hostile fan base and a locker room full of mixed opinions, have not necessarily been met with enthusiasm on the part of Alex. At some point the 49ers have to make the decision that they need to secure a quarterback for the roster, rather than face playing musical chairs with a free agent and trade class that may hold few legitimate options. The quarterback position is the one position I see as being an exception to a theme this year where teams feel free to stick to their draft boards rather than draft for need. To me, Blaine Gabbert has always been a Jim Harbaugh kind of quarterback. He moves well, he’s taken the Missouri Tigers on his shoulders, he practices hard and retains information, and he throws a great football. I could see Jim Harbaugh believing he could make an Andrew Luck out of this prospect.
8). Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
I do not have a particularly high grade on Nick Fairley. I am worried that he only shows up to some games and not others, I wonder why he was not nearly the same player from 2009 to 2010, and I think he is the type of player that has to win right at the point of attack rather than being a guy that can win at any point in his rush. Even if Blaine Gabbert were to be available at this pick, I get the feeling that the Titans have really only stuck their toe in the water on this year quarterbacks class, but are not truly ready to take one as high as #8 overall. They could certainly use help on offense, but I do not think they would feel that any of the players on that side of the ball compare with the players on the defensive side of the ball that will be available at this spot. This should leave them deciding between a legitimate Right Defensive End like Robert Quinn, or Fairley as a player that could compliment with Jason Jones. The Titans operate a pressure-oriented defensive scheme that should allow Fairley to turn loose the most dangerous aspects of his game.
9). Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith – OT – Southern Cal
I do not necessarily buy that Tyron Smith is worth this pick in the Draft. He reminds me of a less polished version of Joe Staley, and could similarly fail to take the next step as a legitimate NFL franchise left tackle, just as Staley did. Smith’s inconsistency bothered me, as he’d have one play in five where he would look All Pro, and then have three more mediocre plays and one bad play. He still does not play with functional strength. However, I do believe that the Dallas Cowboys are heavily interested in Tyron Smith as a right tackle to pair with Doug Free at left tackle. The Cowboys are attempting hard to move down and drum up interest in their spot, but the way I have my Draft falling, I am not so sure they’ll truly have that interest. If they get stuck picking where they are, I believe they would steer toward the guy they like, even if they would ultimately like to take him a few spots later.
10). Washington Redskins: Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska
The Nebraska pass defense was the most ridiculous pass defense I saw in college football in 2010. They stifled and suffocated nearly every quarterback they faced. Prince Amukamara was probably the best player on that defense this year, and I find him to be underrated in the Draft community. He gave up some big plays to Justin Blackmon and Jermaine Kearse, but I found the common denominator in most of those plays being the threat of the run causing Prince to peek into the backfield. Was he totally unjustified for peeking into the backfield? Not at all. As ridiculous as Nebraska’s pass defense was, their run defense was a serious weak point. Amukamara’s having been beaten over top on those plays led to speculation that he might not have legitimate NFL speed for the position, or that he is meant only for a cover two system where he will be protected over top. I have never bought into either argument. I think Prince got caught trying to do too much on a defense that could only be beaten one way. Otherwise his athletic ability has never been an issue, and he is one of the most physical corners I have seen. I compare him with a Darrelle Revis, and think he’ll have a bright future. The 49ers had two big weak spots a year ago, the secondary and the offensive line. The offensive line carries some investments worth seeing to maturity. But the secondary could use some help.
11). Houston Texans: Robert Quinn – DE – North Carolina
In many ways, I am going against my better judgment here. I have my concerns about Robert Quinn. He did not play at all in 2010 and when he played in 2009, he could be shut down by the likes of Willie Smith of Eastern Carolina, who will not be drafted high in this year’s draft. He got a lot of his sack production from a Who’s Who of bad college football programs. He had a brain tumor which doctors have advised teams could come back. I think the Texans would be better off going in some other direction at this pick. However, there are some indications that the Texans would like to find a right side pass rusher that could help transition the team toward Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense. There have been some questions about Quinn’s ability to play a true linebacker position, but Phillips’ version of the 3-4 has always called for one weak side attack dog that goes after the passer an overwhelming majority of the time. I could envision Quinn filling that role.
12). Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Castonzo – OT – Boston College
There is some question as to whether the Vikings should take a quarterback here. I believe they would do well to consider a Ryan Mallett at this position, but all indications are that the Vikings are not particularly high on him. Rick Spielman has always tended toward the veteran at every position, and this is especially true of the quarterback position. I believe the Vikings will be heavy players for a quarterback in the free agent/trade market whenever that arrives. I could see Rick Spielman making a play for Jimmy Smith here, but otherwise I believe he will steer toward proven offensive linemen that can help block better for Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. Phil Loadholt has been an overrated player since long before entering the NFL, and I think the Vikings are starting to see what he will not offer them long term at the right tackle position. Castonzo played right tackle at Boston College before switching to left tackle, and I could see him running the same path in Minnesota, competing with Loadholt for the right tackle job and eventually replacing an aged and expensive Bryant McKinnie at left tackle. College experience and production tends to mean something for Rick Spielman, and Castonzo is a four year starter. I believe he could also consider Gabe Carimi at this spot.
13). Detroit Lions: Cameron Jordan – DE – California
Jim Schwartz is a defensive-minded coach. He got the chance to use the #2 overall pick last year on Ndamukong Suh and that paid tremendous dividends for his team. Otherwise, the team has used 5 of its last 6 picks in the 1st round on offensive players. I think Schwartz is going to want to keep working on his defense at this pick, especially given the talents that will be available. I would note that all indications are that the Lions love DaQuan Bowers here, but I do think there could be something to all the medical concerns about his knee. I would steer toward Cameron Jordan as a best available player, and a guy that could continue to help Jim Schwartz get his defense to be a dominating force that can take pressure off Matt Stafford and the offense. If one were to purely follow roster needs, you might plug an offensive lineman in at this pick. However, as I’ve been saying, I believe this Draft will be dominated by philosophy and draft boards, rather than specific team needs, which teams will have the opportunity to clean up in free agency. Cameron Jordan was one of those rare players I saw all year that absolutely went where, and did what he wanted to do. He was a dominating force, a guy that was too much to handle for every single player he faced. He could help the Lions immediately become a better run defense.
14). St. Louis Rams: Cory Liuget – DT – Illinois
There have been some indications that the Rams are coming to grips with the likelihood that Julio Jones is far out of reach for them, and are beginning to settle on Cory Liuget as a good option at the #14 overall pick. I believe Liuget is the kind of player you fall in love with just a little more every time you watch him play football. Steve Spagnuolo was part of a Giants defensive unit that hoarded defensive line players. Fred Robbins played some good football for them last year, as did James Hall. Chris Long was downright inspiring with his play from left end. However, the other defensive tackle position was a problem. The Rams could start to fix that problem by drafting Liuget.
15). Miami Dolphins: Ryan Mallett – QB – Arkansas
I’m all-in on this one. I normally don’t forecast players to the Miami Dolphins just because I want them to take that player, and I do not necessarily feel that is what I am doing this time around either. The Dolphins have made it their business to see Ryan Mallett four times this off season while protesting their interest in him the whole way. When they interviewed him at the Combine, they made sure to leak word to local media sources that they were unimpressed with his personality. Despite this, they were seen spying him at his Pro Day. Later, they worked him out privately in Fayetteville, along with D.J. Williams. Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano went on a double-date with D.J. and Ryan, with Sparano cornering Mallett the whole time. Even so, the Dolphins let word privately get out to Jason La Canfora as well as local media members, that they had zero interest in Mallett and were really only interested in D.J. Williams. In fact, they went as far as to suggest that the only reason Mallett was there was so that D.J. would have someone to throw him the ball. This all smelled like a pretty strong smokescreen, until the Dolphins finished everything off by having Ryan come down to their facilities on a two-day visit, after which they by all appearances stopped even bothering to try and convince people that they still hate him. That last look smells to me like a consensus-building visit: an attempt to get everyone in the building, including and especially owner Stephen Ross, on board with the idea of taking him in the Draft, should the right opportunity arise. I look at the candidates for the Dolphins to take at this pick and I see imperfect options. They tend to steer clear of high investments in tailbacks because they can’t predict their durability at the NFL level, and they tend toward sharing carries anyway. They will not select Mark Ingram at #15 overall. Meanwhile, Mike Pouncey is the exact opposite of the prototype they have established at center over the years, and that leaves them evaluating him as a guard. While they could appreciate his mobility at that position, especially in light of Sparano’s lament over the lack of second level blocks during 2010, but the fact of the matter is the very last time Mike Pouncey played guard at Florida, he was unanimously considered to be a far inferior prospect to his brother Maurkice, and the consensus was strong that he should return to school so that he could take his brother’s place at center rather than continuing to play guard. And yet, this is supposed to be the man the Dolphins are willing to take as high as #15 overall to play an interior line position, when neither Bill Parcells nor Jeff Ireland have shown any indication at any point in their careers that they value guards enough to take them this high? The truth is, the next most likely target aside from Ryan Mallett and other quarterbacks, such as Christian Ponder and Colin Kaepernick, is Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin. Carimi could play left guard for the Dolphins and I could see them coming to think of him as another Steve Hutchinson. The part of me that recognizes that the Dolphins almost never do exactly what I think they should, demands that I type in Gabe Carimi’s name at the top of this pick. But this is the team that took Chad Henne and made him their quarterback of the future. This is the team that has toyed with guys like Tom Brandstater and Tommy Grady. They value the kind of player that Ryan Mallett has established himself to be, and I thought it was interesting that when Bill Parcells unveiled his draft board for ESPN, he had Ryan Mallett at the very top slot of his 2nd round groupings. Other 2nd round players were slotted below, showing that Parcells considers Mallett to be right on the cusp of being worthy of a 1st round pick. If the reason he’s not a full blown 1st round pick on Parcells’ board has something to do with off field issues, the Dolphins may have just spent four visits making sure they’re more comfortable with those off field and character issues than Bill Parcells is. I believe the most likely picks here are Ryan Mallett, Colin Kaepernick, Christian Ponder and Gabe Carimi. Of them, I think Mallett has the slight edge.
16). Jacksonville Jaguars: Aldon Smith – DE – Missouri
There’s a part of me that really wants to slot Christian Ponder to the Jaguars at this pick. I think because they surprised everyone with the Tyson Alualu pick a year ago (except me, as I had Alualu as the #12 player in my Top 100), everyone wants to put the Jags in for a guy here that nobody sees coming. But as I said, Alualu was not a guy that I didn’t see coming. I had him high on my Top 100, and so I think that some of the same things that drew both the Jaguars and myself to valuing Alualu so highly, will also draw us both to Aldon Smith, who is a player that I like very much in this draft. It’s clear the Jaguars appreciate strong, violent hands in a defensive lineman. Aldon Smith has them. The team could use some better coverage, and so Jimmy Smith becomes an option, even on a best player available basis, but here at this pick I have Aldon Smith being one of the very best remaining talents on the board, and he happens to fit what the Jaguars like on defense, and plays a position the Jaguars could sorely use.
17). New England Patriots: Mike Pouncey – G/C – Florida
I hate to get overly simplistic on this one, but the New England Patriots collect Florida Gators like repressed housewives collect Hummel figurines. Relations with Logan Mankins have not gotten any better, and don’t necessarily promise to get any better any time soon. Meanwhile, Dan Koppen turns 33 years old this year, and Stephen Neal turns 35 years old. The Patriots tend to think long term. They’re afforded that ability by the fact that they have an excellent quarterback that helps keep them competitive every year. Pouncey may need some time to work on his snaps from center as well as his anchor ability, but the Patriots would be all too glad to wait for him to get up to speed, and coincidentally for guys like Stephen Neal, Dan Koppen, and perhaps even Logan Mankins, to reach the end of their road with the team.
18). San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt – DE – Wisconsin
I think this pick is written in the stars. This is the guy that the San Diego Chargers want in the Draft and I believe they’ll figure out a way to make it happen, whether it involves trading up or staying put and staring down the Patriots and Jaguars. I don’t buy the team’s need for a nose tackle. Anyone that saw Antonio Garay play last year knows that the has been one heck of a find for the team. He may turn 32 years old by the end of the season but I do not necessarily think that means they go ahead and start replacing him now. Guys like Jacques Cesaire, Ogemdi Nwagbuo and Travis Johnson were not doing it for them along the defensive line, and they combined for nearly 1100 snaps. They need to get a little more talented along that front, otherwise they’ll continue to look cursed on defense.
19). New York Giants: Gabe Carimi – OT – Wisconsin
I believe the Giants would do well here to consider Jimmy Smith of Colorado, because their secondary could use some help and I am not convinced that any of the players on their corner depth chart are as good as Smith can be at the next level. But there are other teams interested in Smith and if he gets this far, you could see a trade. The Ravens are very aggressive in trading up in order to get their man, and if they covet Jimmy Smith as rumors say, then they could trade up with the Giants to get him. I am sure the Giants would love the extra added layer of seeing the player the Eagles are rumored to covet go to another team. But in the mean time, Gabe Carimi feels like a player that fits the Giants’ offensive line the same way David Diehl does. He is a four year starter at left tackle and could slot there for the Giants, but he could also work himself into other positions before being trusted with Eli Manning’s blind side. Having David Diehl be the starter on the blind side, the Giants have shown that they can work around a guy that can be beaten with a wicked speed rush, and so I believe Carimi will appeal to them.
20). Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DaQuan Bowers – DE – Clemson
I believe this is where DaQuan Bowers’ slide down the board could stop, as the Buccaneers look for help at their defensive end positions. I believe Mark Dominik and staff have done their research on Bowers’ knee issues, and they could take on the risk in order to add a potentially premium player. Tim Crowder and Stylez G. White are not doing it for the team. Years ago, Tampa took Gaines Adams out of Clemson. They never quite got comfortable with Gaines, before he tragically died from cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart. The Buccaneers do enough homework to know that DaQuan Bowers is not Gaines Adams. He is a different kind of player, though he played at the same school. His slide down the draft board will only motivate him to make some teams look foolish, and he has the ability to do just that, if he is able to use this off season to get his knee healthy.
21). Kansas City Chiefs: Nate Solder – OT – Colorado
I would have an outside shot of Pioli going with Kyle Rudolph at this pick, as he hails from New England where they always valued the tight end and spent high picks on them. However, with Charlie Weis leaving, which puts the offense more in the hands of Todd Haley, who relied heavily on wide receivers in Arizona, I am willing to put that idea on ice for now. Bill Parcells’ top tackle prospect in the Draft is Nate Solder. I have a hard time seeing it. I think he’s a right tackle at best, and needs a lot of work on his use of leverage, his pad level, and his hands. It’s hard to put on a game and see a 1st round pick in there, but I’m willing to bet that Parcells’ son-in-law could share his view on Solder. I don’t think the Chiefs want to go with Barry Richardson at right tackle indefinitely, and if they’re able to polish Solder up, and Brandon Albert does not take the next step, they might even give Nate a crack at the left side. I do also think the Chiefs could use an inside linebacker, and so Nate Irving would be a surprise pick here that I could see happening.
22). Indianapolis Colts: Derek Sherrod – OT – Mississippi State
I have been a big Derek Sherrod fan in this Draft. I think he compares somewhat to Rodger Saffold from last year, and I believe Bill Polian did covet Saffold in that Draft. Continuing to go with guys like Charlie Johnson at left tackle isn’t going to cut it. Peyton Manning is up for a contract extension and one way they could ease that process would be to show him that he will get better protection. I would count on this pick being the best offensive tackle left on the board either way, and at this point I see that being Sherrod.
23). Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith – CB – Colorado
One way or another, I think Andy Reid is going to get his man in this 1st round, and I believe his man is Jimmy Smith. There are indications that Andy could trade up to secure Jimmy. Since I’m not forecasting trades, I’ll have Jimmy going to the Eagles down here at #23 overall. Andy Reid has a history of falling in love with a player, and if he doesn’t end up getting a shot at him, he trades out. As such, this could be a prime area to see one of the teams in the 2nd round trading up to in order to get hold of guys like Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick or (for whatever reason) Andy Dalton.
24). New Orleans Saints: Adrian Clayborn – DE – Iowa
The Saints absolutely need more pass rush. They can’t do without adding some firepower so that they don’t keep getting involved in shootouts. They’ve spent a lot of resources in recent years on secondary help, but very few on help for pass rush. If they are able to balance those out, they could get back to the level of play they had when they won a Super Bowl. I could see Ryan Kerrigan going here, as he’s a 4-3 end no matter how much people try and make him out to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. However, when it gets right down to it, I think that when you pop on the film Adrian Clayborn is the more dynamic pass rushing threat. Kerrigan is very good at gap control, but only flashes a competitive first step in pass rush once in a while. Clayborn is a handful, and teammates have a high regard for him.
25). Seattle Seahawks: Colin Kaepernick – QB – Nevada
There has been a lot of speculation as to which quarterback the Seattle Seahawks like at #25 overall. I was not necessarily convinced they liked any of them at that spot, but there are reports that recent attempts to talk turkey with the Cincinnati Bengals over Carson Palmer have been completely rebuffed by Mike Brown, who has vowed to force Carson into retirement if he doesn’t play for Cincinnati. Suddenly, I do believe the Seahawks will be serious about a quarterback at this position. But which quarterback? Rumors often link them with Jake Locker, but that’s really just unimaginative thinking. Yes clearly since they’re in the same vicinity they MUST covet Locker, right? Wrong. There was a lot of speculation about Ryan Mallett a while ago but that speculation has seemed to die down, and I’m not sure he’ll be available anyway. Would they view Christian Ponder as an upgrade on Charlie Whitehurst? I’m going with a true wildcard here in Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick’s agent has insisted to me repeatedly that he has feedback valuing his client in this area, and we know that the NFL invited Colin to Radio City Music Hall to attend the draft specifically because several teams piped up and told them that Kaepernick was the #1 quarterback on their entire draft board. Perhaps Seattle was among them. Colin throws a fast ball that can cut through the elements often seen in Seattle’s outdoor stadium.
26). Baltimore Ravens: Muhammad Wilkerson – DT – Temple
In truth, if the Ravens lose out on Jimmy Smith then I think they could decide to trade out of the 1st round and allow another team to move up and grab someone like Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton. Terrence Cody seems heir-apparent for Kelly Gregg at the nose tackle spot in the Ravens’ defense. And of course, Haloti Ngata has one of the end spots down. But Cory Redding might not be the player the team wants to continue on with at the other end spot. I think they would take a shine to Wilkerson, as he’s a guy that can move in pass rush and make plays with his frame and ability to dominate offensive linemen.
27). Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Rudolph – TE – Notre Dame
With Kyle Rudolph still on the board, this decision gets a little easier. Tom Dimitroff cut his teeth in New England and I have no doubt he saw how the Patriots were able to make what should have been a rocky transition from an offense run through a dominating Randy Moss, to a more diverse offense, through the drafting of a pair of rookie tight ends. Tony Gonzalez is not getting younger, and his age is starting to show a little bit. The Falcons have shown some interest in Rudolph and if he is still on the board then I think they will take him here.
28). New England Patriots: Mark Ingram – RB – Alabama
With the Patriots already grabbing an offensive lineman in Mike Pouncey, and in possession of a number of draft picks in the second day of the draft, including the very top draft pick where they could likely pick up a guy like Cameron Heyward, I believe the Patriots would go ahead and take Mark Ingram off the board here on the advice of his good pal Nick Saban. The Patriots have tended to like role players in their offense at tailback in most recent years, but they are infinitely adaptable. The team never does things just one way every year. They change their plans according to what was available in the off season, what they could gain and what they had to lose. They won a championship in 2001 with Antowain Smith shouldering the load as a workhorse back. They won a championship again in 2003, but this time by splitting the duties between Smith and Kevin Faulk. But then they won a championship again in 2004 with Corey Dillon touching the ball 360 times. If they were able to get their hands on a Mark Ingram, I believe they would once again adapt.
29). Chicago Bears: Ryan Kerrigan – DE – Purdue
Kerrigan should be viewed strictly as a 4-3 end. Any talk of him playing in space as a 3-4 outside linebacker is, to me, a stretch. He’s stiff in the middle and among the biggest weaknesses in his game is his total inability to get a guy down when having to break down in space. He is gifted at gap control, and that will be one of his first major tasks as a left end in Chicago’s 4-3 defense. He can continue to work on his pass rush, making his first step quickness more consistent, and eventually I think he would make a good player to pair with Julius Peppers for a very balanced and dangerous attack. I realize that the popular speculation is for the Bears to take an offensive lineman, but I really don’t think they will force it based on position. You could see them let the draft board fall to them, and make their choice from there. Ryan Kerrigan’s selection would be an example of that.
30). New York Jets: Jabaal Sheard – DE – Pittsburgh
Rex Ryan loves lanky pass rushers with a good first step and that fits Jabaal Sheard, who is able to translate that first step ability consistently on most downs regardless of run/pass keys. I think the immediate area of potential for Sheard to get into the game would be as a replacement for Jason Taylor’s role in the defense in 2010. In the future, Sheard might even move out into space more like Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace regularly do for the Jets. I think Sheard would be a very solid pick for New York, a guy that fits Rex Ryan and what he likes to do on defense.
31). Pittsburgh Steelers: Danny Watkins – OG – Baylor
There’s a hot rumor out there that the Steelers want to trade up and grab Mike Pouncey so that they could pair him with his twin brother Maurkice Pouncey. The Steelers have recently indicated that this is just a fantasy, and I tend to believe that. But, there may be some measure of truth to it. I believe the Steelers could go ahead and pounce on a different guard, this one the 26 year old from Baylor University. As indicated by their recent Super Bowl appearance, the team is championship-ready, and they need some immediately helpful elements to try and get over the hump this year. Watkins is probably more ready to contribute now than Pouncey is, and I believe the Steelers could go after him.
32). Green Bay Packers: Mikel LeShoure – RB – Illinois
The Packers seem a shoe-in to trade out of this pick and allow a team to come up and grab a quarterback just before the closing bell of the first day. Absent that, I don’t think they’re going to get away with having undrafted free agents play starting tailback for them for very long. The Packers have to know they got away with something. Aaron Rodgers played unbelievable football and as Drew Brees showed this season, you can’t always keep counting on your star quarterback to look quite that unbelievably good every game, every year. Ted Thompson should focus a little bit on building around Rodgers so that any kind of reversion, or bounce-back from the rest of the league who are now gunning for Rodgers and that passing attack, will be met with new answers from the Packers. The Patriots’ ever-evolving offense is one of the reasons they’re able to achieve such success. LeShoure isn’t my favorite back in this Draft but I believe the Packers would like him.