Richard Lines’ Mock Draft v.2.0 – Final
1). Cam Newton – QB – Auburn
This is a tough pick, as personally, I don’t know if any of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft are worthy of the number one overall selection. But, the fact remains that Jimmy Clausen did not play well last year and the passing game was down right putrid. With that in mind, there are a few directions I could see this pick going. The first is the the front office decides to invest in the offense, and Clausen – hoping that a rough first season can be a stepping stone and bring in weapons around him and target wide receiver A.J. Green. The Panthers did draft two receivers; Brandon LaFell and David Gettis last season, and while they did make some plays for the team, neither are the same caliber of player as A.J. Green in my opinion. Steve Smith turns 32 two weeks after the draft and his numbers will begin to decline at some point; it’s inevitable. The second consideration is the middle of the defense. This unit simply doesn’t have the depth it once did. With Ron Rivera’s background, connecting the Alabama Star here is by no means a stretch. The third possibility is that the team drafts Cam Newton. Newton is likely not going to be the opening day starter as he needs to become accustomed to a more expansive playbook than he had at Auburn. In the end, Newton’s ability to be a dynamic play maker at the quarterback position gives him the edge in Carolina.
2). Marcell Dareus – DT – Alabama
Six degrees of separation is at play with this selection as Head Coach John Fox has taken over the reins in Denver. Fox is also a defensive head coach and will want to switch to a 4-3 alignment. The Broncos have Elvis Dumervil to rush the passer, but he is coming back from a torn pectoral muscle so his fitness heading into the season could be a question mark. Outside of Dumervil, the defensive line is made up predominantly of players who are over 30. Defensive tackle was a key component in Fox’s stay in Carolina. Fox wanted both sides of the line to be filled with physical players. Given the age and ability to some of the players in the unit, adding quality talent is a must up front for the defense. Last year the Broncos were ranked 31st against the run, allowing 154.6 yards per game. Patrick Peterson could also be in play here as the Broncos could easily use his services. Renaldo Hill, Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman are each 33 this year and Brian Dawkins is 38. There is some younger talent behind them, but none provide the team with the physical attributes Peterson does. Either way, I see this pick being defensive in nature simply due to the talent available this early, the needs of the team and what Fox will likely want to establish.
3). Von Miller – OLB – Texas A&M
The Bills could go a few different ways with this pick. Steve Johnson, while having a great year with over 1,000 yards receiving and 10 TD’s may not be the answer at wide receiver. I say this because in the two previous seasons Johnson had 12 catches for 112 yards and 2 TD’s combined. Basically, Johnson came from nowhere to be the team’s weapon on offense. Buddy Nix may feel that a player like A.J. Green is just what the offense needs to be a truly dangerous unit. On the other hand, the defense is in desperate need of help at outside linebacker. The 3-4 defenses are predicated on their outside linebackers, and right now the Bills don’t have very much talent at the position. The Bills did draft Aaron Maybin a few years ago to bolster their pass rush, but he is nothing more than a Vernon Gholston clone. Last season Kyle Williams led the Bills in sacks with 5.5. Williams was the team’s nose tackle. Miller possesses great speed off the edge, and while he relies on pure speed over the ability to bend and run the arc, he does have some variety to his pass rush repertoire. Personally, I wonder if someone like Robert Quinn would also garner interest from Nix and company as he too could like play as an outside line backer. Quinn possesses a bit more of an ability to bend his body around the corner than Miller in my opinion, but either player should be a welcome addition to a Bills defense that needs a true play maker if the Bills are to become a more consistent winner.
4). A. J. Green – WR – Georgia
There is a good deal to take in when projecting this selection. Carson Palmer appears willing to make good his intention to retire, should he not be traded. Unfortunately, without a CBA in place, Palmer will not be traded. The Bengals will have to decide if they feel confident enough in their options via free agency to bypass selecting a quarterback when they come up early in round one. Blaine Gabbert is an option, but personally I am not high on Gabbert so I could see the team passing on him here. Cincinnati probably would like to draft a quarterback that is more NFL ready over a longer term project. I imagine Marvin Lewis certainly would like to have someone a bit more polished, as his 8 year tenure in Cincinnati has not always been secure. But Lewis is not the final decision maker; Mike Brown is, and he has historically gone with highly rated players early in the draft – regardless of many off field issues in some cases. And, while Brown is being stubborn with Carson Palmer, he is not exactly showing him the door either. Mike Brown is being stubborn in an effort to keep Palmer, not jettison him from the roster. As such, drafting a quarterback early doesn’t seem to fit that methodology in my opinion. Drafting a quarterback this early would likely not help mend an already testy relationship – if that is at all possible. I don’t expect Brown to sit tight and mortgage the team’s 2011 season for the sake of Carson Palmer, and as such, I expect him to draft a quarterback. However, the team may look to bring in someone like Christian Ponder, should he still be available later, Ricky Stanzi or Greg McElroy. Outside of quarterback, the Bengals have a need at wide receiver and defensive end. Robert Quinn could very well be the choice here as he would help improve the team’s pass rush. Antwan Odom failed to finish the last two seasons, playing in only 10 games over that span. Michael Johnson, a 2009 selection has not proved to be any less enigmatic at the pro level than he was at Georgia Tech. But the team did find someone to help push the pocket in Geno Atkins last year so overall, the unit is not completely bereft of pass rushers. At wide receiver, Terrell Owens is on the decline and may not be in team’s future. Chad Ochocinco is 34 at the start of the season and appears to also be declining. Jordan Shipley is talented, but he is best suited for the slot. The rest of the bodies at the position are role players. A player like Green could come in and help provide either Palmer or a new signal caller with a competent weapon on the outside; something the team needs.
5). Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU
Over the last few seasons, the Cardinals have tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to bring a pass rushing outside linebacker into the fold. In 2009, the team drafted Cody Brown out of UCONN. Last year the team brought in Joey Porter, who struggled to register 5 sacks and is 34 years old. Clark Haggans and Paris Lenon are also 34. The team needs and influx of young linebackers who can help rush the passer in the very near future if they aim to remain competitive in the NFC West. The problem the team faces is this draft, unlike years past is that is not a very deep pool of 3-4 outside linebackers. There are options early in the draft, but the quality drops off at the position fairly quickly. With that in mind, the Cardinals may in fact bypass a quarterback this early in the draft to select Robert Quinn. Quinn, while not as nimble as Von Miller is still a good candidate to make the transition. Quinn can have his struggles against the run, so moving him off the line of scrimmage may help alleviate that problem while still allowing him to rush the passer. The other problem facing the Cardinals is that the 2011 quarterback class may not provide many starters in the later rounds, so there is pressure to select a signal caller in the first two to three rounds. The experiment that was Derek Anderson was unsuccessful to say the least. Rookie John Skelton played the final 4 games of the season, and while he did struggle; completing only 47.6% of his passes, he won 2 games. One less than the team won in their first 12 games. With all that being said, Ken Whisenhunt recently sought the advice of star wide out Larry Fitzgerald regarding the position. The short of it is, the Cardinals are likely looking towards free agency or the later parts of the draft for their answer at that position. With all of that being said, the Cardinals may simply go with the best player available; which is Patrick Peterson. Peterson is a bit big for a corner, so there have been some rumblings that he will be moved to safety. I don’t know if that will ever be the case, but the Cardinals could draft Peterson with that in mind at some stage as Adrian Wilson is 32 this year and may not have many years left. If the Cardinals cannot trade out of this pick, this becomes the definition of a value pick.
6). Julio Jones – WR – Alabama
The Browns would have liked A.J. Green to fall to this spot as they desperately need to upgrade their wide receiving corp heading into this season. The Browns tried, albeit unsuccessfully to fill this void by drafting Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. Massaquoi has shown potential, but thus far Robiskie has been a disappointment, although his production did improve in 2010. Neither player is likely to ever be a number one receiver, but Massaquoi looks to be a solid contributor when given the opportunity. For the offense to be effective moving forward, this unit will need an injection of talent. The Browns could consider Julio Jones here for that very reason. Jones is a big bodied receiver who could thrive in the West Coast system as he is a physical runner after the catch. One criticism of Jones this off season is that he didn’t play at the same speed he put down at the NFL Combine. That may or may not be true but he does seem he could be the type of player Colt McCoy needs to make this offense move.
7). Blaine Gabbert – QB – Missouri
The Forty Niners could be the final landing spot for Gabbert. Jim Harbaugh and company have a one year offer on the table for Alex Smith. It’s not an astounding vote of confidence for the Smith, nor is it a kick out the door either. Harbaugh is going to want his guy, especially at a position the team has struggled to fill with talent since the days of Elvis Grbac. The team needs a quarterback, and while Smith is not the future, Blaine Gabbert may very well be. Having Smith around for one more year, may be just what the team needs as a bridge to future. Gabbert needs to sit for a bit in my opinion, as he does have to become more accustomed to operating a pro style offense and his pocket presence in particular. Now, Gabbert is athletic and mobile, with a good arm and that should intrigue Harbaugh, who seems to like more athletic quarterbacks. An alternative that would still see Gabbert landing here is if Washington decided to move up a few spots to secure his services. This could be the first trade on draft day, should Arizona not find a suitor.
8). Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
This pick has been common place for some time now, and in honesty it just seems to fit. Tennessee also has a need at quarterback, but has recently intimated that they may be more open to Vince Young’s return and previously believed. It certainly doesn’t appear to indicate that the Titans are looking to select a quarterback in the first round. Obviously, as the later rounds unfold, you may see the team invest a pick at the position regardless. As far as the defense goes, the unit has missed the presence of Albert Haynesworth in the middle. The Titans have tried to develop players over the last few years along the interior, but none have truly become a force on the inside. Perhaps the team will continue to count on Sen’Derrick Marks, but thus far I don’t know if he is the answer the club would like. Fairley, is a quick, slashing player along the defensive front and should fit what the team wants to do moving forward.
9). Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska
It is no secret that the Cowboys need help in their secondary moving forward. If the Cowboys wish to compete with the Eagles and Giants for the top spot in the division, they will need a competent and deep secondary. Right now, the Cowboys secondary simply does not have the horses necessary to keep pace with Philadelphia’s varied attack in my opinion. Terence Newman will be 33 by the start of the season, and there is not a replacement for him on the roster. Orlando Scandrick is better served as a role player. Mike Jenkins has improved since his dreadful rookie season, but without a complement on the other side the unit will simply be ill equipped for the future. Prince is arguably the best player on the board and should be a day one starter for the Cowboys, allowing Rob Ryan to utilize blitzes without fear of getting burned on the back end. If he is, I think Amukamara will be the pick for the Cowboys. Tyron Smith while a good tackle may not have the girth the Cowboys are looking for at the position.
10). Cameron Jordan – DE – California
As has been the case since Daniel Snyder, the Redskins do not have a great many picks early on in the draft. The team has 8 selections, but only 2 in the top 41 and then will not select again until pick 144 in the 5th round. Obviously the team would like to trade down and gather more picks, especially if the draft laid out this way thus far. The Redskins need a quarterback, help at receiver and along the defensive line. The Redskins are continuing their evolution as a 3-4 team in 2011 and may look to replace Vonnie Holliday as a starter. Holliday is 35, and may be best in rotational role as a sub if Adam Carriker, who does not provide much push on the pocket. The Redskins need to create more pressure from their down linemen if they are to take some pressure off of Brian Orakpo. Outside of Orakpo’s 8.5 sacks, no one had more than 2.5 sacks in 2010. A 3-4 defensive end in not asked to produce many sacks, but if they can push the pocket or pressure the quarterback, it only helps the defense. Cameron Jordan looks to be a active and versatile 3-4 end. The former Cal Bear, certainly can provide some pass rush to a unit that does need help. Jordan does need to become a little stouter at the point of attack, but he has the potential to be a very good 3-4 end at the next level. The Redskins would have liked to see either Julio Jones or Robert Quinn fall here, but as neither is here, they must take the best player available for their team; and that is Jordan.
11). Robert Quinn – DE – North Carolina
The Texans will need to add talent along the defensive line if they have any chance to compete in 2011. Aside from nose tackle the Texans will need to add someone capable of playing defensive end in that system. Antonio Smith looks to be a player that can make that transition, although players such as Shaun Cody and Amobi Okoye may not. The Texans could also use an additional pass rusher, but the team can utilize Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin, who missed the 2010 season. Barwin’s return from injury could allow the Texans to seek help for the unit in the next round, as he was considered a good outside linebacker candidate for a 3-4 defense. That being said, the thorn in the side of Texans’ fans remains the secondary. The team picked up the much maligned Jason Allen from the Miami Dolphins late last season in an attempt to provide the unit with more quality depth, but he did little to help the bloodletting. The problem now is that both of the top corners are off the board. Can the team count on Barwin coming back and becoming a force? I don’t know, but a 3-4 team never can have enough pass rushers, and with that, Quinn gets the call.
12). Corey Liuget – DT – Illinois
Previously, I had placed Ryan Mallett here to the Vikings. Mallett is a very polarizing figure, but he is a talented player and based on talent alone he should be a first round pick. However, there is a great deal of belief that the Vikings will look to fill their needs at the position via free agency or in the second round. Mallett is in my opinion one of the most NFL ready quarterbacks in the 2011 draft – along with Christian Ponder. Rumors and innuendo aside, the Vikings need a quarterback, and they need one that is ready to play early on. Neither Joe Webb nor Tarvaris Jackson have shown that they are truly ready to lead an NFL Franchise in my opinion. The Vikings are in many ways built to win right now as their roster is loaded with proven talent. Some of that talent is getting a little long in the tooth, especially along the interior of the defensive line. At this point the Vikings may look to take a less polarizing figure and might be a team that looks to trade back into the end of the first round in order to take one. Liuget should fit what the Vikings do on defense and should be able to take over from either Kevin or Pat Williams in the near future, ensuring that the Vikings defensive front is a solid unit.
13).Tyron Smith – OT – USC
The Detroit Lions have only selected an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft once in the last 9 years and that was right tackle Gosder Cherilus. Now consider that in that same span, the Lions have used nothing higher than a 4th round pick on an offensive lineman aside from Cherilus. Such a strategy seems like a recipe for disaster in my opinion. The Lions need Stafford to finish the season in 2011. The team has gotten better around him, although there are still holes to fill; such as corner. Drafting Matthew Stafford two years ago has yielded only 13 starts and multiple injuries. Stafford has started only 13 games in two years. The Lions offense yielded 27 sacks last season and 43 the year before. Some of the disparity in the totals can be attributed to the athleticism of Shaun Hill – who started 10 games in 2010 – not an improvement along the offensive line. Smith was a right tackle in college, but he should be able to slide over to the left side as he is athletic and quick. Jeff Backus is the incumbent starter, but he turns 34 later this year and has been on the decline in recent years in my opinion. With the addition of Smith, Backus could shift to a backup role, and possibly serve as a backup guard as well; only strengthening the depth of the unit. I think 2011 is the year the Lions finally take another offensive lineman in the first round.
14). Aldon Smith – DE – Missouri
The Rams would have preferred Julio Jones being here, but in all likelihood he won’t be. The Rams may consider moving up into the top 10 in order to take Jones, but only time will tell. Outside of receiver, there is a chance the Rams look to add yet another pass rusher to the mix even though the team registered 43 sacks in 2010. The reason? 25 of the team’s 43 sacks came from 3 players; James Hall (34), Fred Robbins (34) and Chris Long who is in his fourth year. Hall and Robbins are both 34, but there may be more concern as to James Hall’s future production. Hall had his second highest sack total (10.5) of his 11 year career, whereas he averaged 4.7 sacks a year over the previous 5 seasons. The backups at defensive end accounted for 5.5 sacks in 2010; hardly inspiring confidence. Smith is somewhat of an inexperienced player who needs to be worked in a bit. He didn’t play football until his junior year of high school and suffered a broken leg in 2010. Smith did return to action 3 weeks after the injury, and way ahead of his expected timetable for recovery; proving his toughness. Smith would be a welcome addition here as a consolation prize for losing out on Julio Jones.
15). Gabe Carimi – OT – Wisconsin
I understand if this pick doesn’t make Dolphins fans stand up and cheer, but the closer we get to the draft the more I’m tending away from a quarterback at this spot. It is clear that this pick is for sale and you could see a trade down with the Chargers, should they want to leapfrog New England for the services of J.J. Watt. Miami had a turbulent off season as owner Stephen Ross appeared ready to make changes. While Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano stayed the executioner and received extensions, there were some changes to the Dolphins coaching staff. Karl Dorrell takes over for David Lee as quarterbacks coach; a position he has never held in his career although he has been an offensive coordinator at the college level. In this atmosphere, drafting a young quarterback does not seem prudent. It could be more likely that the regime drafts a quarterback later on in the draft to provide depth and competition and sees how Dorrell handles incumbent Chad Henne. I just don’t think handing over a highly drafted, young quarterback to an inexperienced quarterbacks coach who is an assistant to a head coach that is still somewhat on the hot seat is how you win championships. The Dolphins need help at either guard spot, or center but have had Richie Incognito refining his snap motion this offseason. If the team does look to move Incognito to center, it would mean that Joe Berger, John Jerry and Nate Garner likely will compete for the two guard spots. Mike Pouncey is a popular pick here but if the Dolphins continue to adhere to their size trumps all paradigm; then Carimi may get the edge over Pouncey. Pouncey has 32 1/4 ” arms, where as Carimi’s come in at 35”. While Carimi was a tackle at Wisconsin, I have serious questions about his ability to handle speed on the edge at the next level. Going back to 2009, Brandon Graham exposed Carimi’s stiff hips more than once. Carimi was asked to pull an awful lot at Wisconsin, and while it may not seem like natural fit, Garimi, paired with Jake Long would give the Dolphins an awfully powerful left side of the line. I will say I am torn in my decision making for this pick, but I think in the end measurables trump all – as was shown last year when the team bypassed multiple undersized outside linebackers to draft the more paradigm friendly Koa Misi.
16). Ryan Kerrigan – DE – Purdue
The Jaguars could go in several directions here as they do have multiple needs. Wide receiver is a need, as is defensive end, and the secondary. The team could look to draft one of those positions at 16, but in my opinion there is not a player of true value at either receiver or in the secondary here with Amukamara already gone to the Texans. In the end, it may come down to the fact that the jaguars need a pass rusher, plain and simple. This pass rusher must be able to handle the Jaguars’ defensive versatility; as the team switches from a 4-3 to a 3-4 depending on the requirements at the time. Kerrigan looks to be just such a player. He was a force in the Big Ten the last two seasons, collecting 25 sacks and 12 forced fumbles. Kerrigan is predominantly seen as a hustle player, but he tested well at the NFL Combine; showcasing his agility and athleticism. Kerrigan is an effort player and while he is certainly quick enough off the edge he does not have an elite burst, but he will get to the quarterback. Da’Quan Bowers is another pass rusher that may draw some interest from Jacksonville here. The Jaguars are a better team than they are given credit for, and if their defense could finally find some teeth the Jags might take a big leap in 2011. I think Kerrigan gives the team the versatility it needs from a defensive end more so than Bowers, who while athletic, has concerns over the health of his knee. Gene Smith takes Kerrigan here.
17). Muhammad Wilkerson – DT – Temple
The Patriots’ defense is not the once feared force it was during their Super Bowl runs. Their quality of play has dropped significantly in the last few years, and the team does not produce much of a pass rush. The defense also needs some added talent along the defensive line, allowing Bill Belichick to showcase his maniacal ingenuity. Wilkerson seems to be the kind of player the Patriots would draft for a defensive end; alert, long and athletic. Wilkerson is not a tree stump against the run, but he is active and handles double teams well enough to see some action in 2011. The team has tried to add depth to the unit by using some late round selections on players like Myron Pryor and Darryl Richard. Myron Pryor has shown some ability, but he may be best as a wave player, and Richard has not amounted to much. There are many who would put J.J. Watt here, but looking at Wilkerson, he seems to be a better fit than the former Wisconsin Badger. The Patriots have two selection in the first round again in 2011, and while the latter selection may be traded, the Pats must come away with some help along either side of the trenches and or a pass rusher if the team wishes to maintain its dominance of the AFC East.
18). J.J. Watt – DE – Wisconsin
The Chargers come into 2011 as a bit of a conundrum. They boasted one of the league’s best defenses but they need help along the defensive line. They could very well look to fill their need at nose tackle early on by selecting Phil Taylor, but they also need to bring in some talent at defensive end. Antonio Garay was a nice find at nose tackle last year, but he is 31 years old and as such, is not the long term answer at the position. The Chargers are rumored to be interested in Watt as they need to continue to add the defensive line. Watt will bring a workman like attitude with him to the West Coast along with better athleticism and quickness than he is given credit for. While Watt has the body of a five technique end, he will provide the Chargers with some added pass rush ability from their front to go along with Garay; who collected 5 sacks himself in 2010. The Chargers also need to add some more bodies at linebacker, but at this stage there aren’t many players at that position worthy of being taken this early. Akeem Ayers would likely be the only outside linebacker worth a look here, but in my opinion he is not the pass rusher he is made out to be for the most part. The Chargers may get more value from Watt moving forward than most other prospects here.
19). Mike Pouncey – G – Florida
The Giants biggest issue heading into the 2011 season? Their offensive line. The team has four of the five starters on the unit over 30 years of age. Rich Seubert is coming back from a leg injury, Shawn Andrews is not much than a warm body at this stage of his career and William Beatty hasn’t proven to be more than a decent swing tackle suitable for spot duty. Basically, the front line is aging and there isn’t much quality depth behind them. This scenario is ideal for the Giants as the anchor of the line; Shaun O’Hara has seen better days and Pouncey’s versatility would be a welcome addition. Tackle may also be a consideration, which may continue to to see Costanzo in the picture as that position is generally more valuable than a guard or center. It doesn’t matter who the Giants select here; Pouncey or Costanzo will be an upgrade for a unit sorely needing young, quality talent.
20). Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Clemson
The Buccaneers have enough talent at the defensive tackle position and expect Gerald McCoy to only get better in 2011. The situation at defensive end however is another matter. Outside of Stylez White, the unit does not have anyone truly capable of applying pressure on the quarterback, and White should be more of a pass rushing specialist to begin with in my opinion. Bowers has seen his stock fall this off season and seems to be the player most likely to fall in round one. When healthy, Bowers should provide the Buccaneers an added presence off the edge moving forward. If the Bucs feel that Bowers knee is too much of an issue, you could see them reach a bit and grab someone like Jabaal Sheard, as he would fit what they like to do on defense, or they could look to fill their need at right tackle. The team has intimated that it would like to upgrade the position this off season, but as it is the right tackle position the need to fill the hole in the first round may be secondary to that of a defensive end. In the end, I think Bowers entices the Bucs too much to let him slip by and they take a flier on the Clemson standout.
21). Anthony Costanzo – OT – Boston College
The Chiefs took big strides in 2010; winning the AFC West. While the team improved dramatically on both sides of the ball, the Scott Pioli must continue to fill out the roster if they wish to repeat as AFC West Champions. The Chiefs need to add someone other than Tamba Hali to help rush the passer in the near future. Should Hali miss time due to injury the team would likely be in serious trouble. That might make you think that Akeem Ayers would be in the running for the Chiefs. While Ayers is a good player, he is not the pass rusher he is often made out to be. He collected only 14 sacks in 3 years at UCLA. His highest total was 6 in 2009. As such, Ayers may be best suited to play linebacker in a 4-3 scheme where his pass rush is a complement to his other skills rather than his primary focal point. The Chiefs do have a rather large hole at nose tackle. The team used several player to man the position in 2010. Obviously some of this was due to situational substitutions but I don’t think it’s in the team’s best interest to rely on Shaun Smith and Ron Edwards (who is a free agent) to man that position moving forward. Phil Taylor is more in the mold of a classic nose tackle, although he has decent athleticism but there may be some concern about a bone condition in his heels curtailing his career. In the end, Pioli brings in Costanzo, who can play either tackle position and even guard in a pinch. This should help keep the Chiefs offense on track for the future.
22). Derek Sherrod – OT – Mississippi State
There is a popular sentiment that the Colts would like to select an offensive lineman here given the fact that left tackle Charlie Johnson is unsigned and the overall play of the unit in 2010. The Colts tend to draft offensive linemen in the second round and later – they have done this going back to at least the year 2000. Now, while history doesn’t portend what a team will necessarily do, I could see the Colts bypassing the offensive tackle position here in order to draft a player I think they will have ranked higher. There are reports that Bill Polian has openly expressed his regret in bypassing Roger Saffold in last year’s draft for Jerry Hughes. Hughes did not do much, while Saffold helped ensure Sam Bradford could be the talent that he is. Is this the year the Colts buck the trend and take an offensive lineman? Yes, and Derek Sherrod gets the call. Nate Solder may also be a consideration, but I think the Colts would like a player who is a bit more ready to go from day one. Solder, while talented, needs to get much stronger before he can be relied on every play.
23). Jimmy Smith – CB – Colorado
This is one of the harder selections to make in this Mock Draft. The Eagles can go a number of different ways here. They do not necessarily need help along the defensive line as they are pretty well stocked. They could use some help at linebacker so again Akeem Ayers may get some consideration at this stage. Should a player like Gabe Carimi fall here, the Eagles would likely be intrigued as they would look to fill their needs along the offensive line. But, in all honesty there are some better than average guards in this class that will be available after round 1, so the Eagles may postpone filling that need until later on. The team could look to add a corner, and someone like Jimmy Smith could be an option. Smith has some off the field red flags, but the Eagles do have a history of taking in players with some issues.
24). Mark Ingram – RB – Alabama
The Saints do need some added pass rush, and could use to upgrade their linebacking corp. Scott Shanle, while still productive is turning 32 this year and Jonathan Vilma just turned 29. Gregg Williams runs a varied, aggressive scheme and having someone that can add extra pressure off the edge in third downs would be a welcomed addition. Sedrick Ellis led the team with 6 sacks in 2010, so getting added pass rush from somewhere is a must. The Saints could choose to simply add a defensive end such as Adrian Clayborn, or maybe Jabaal Sheard gets the nod. However, when looking at the Saints 2010 season a couple of numbers should stand out. In 2009, the Saints threw the ball 514 times while executing 468 pass plays. In 2010, the Saints attempted 658 passes while only running the ball 380 times and Drew Brees saw his interceptions double. The Saints averaged under 100 yards per game on the ground, and while the team does have some talent at the position, the unit is a bit of a hodge-podge. It wouldn’t be hard replacing Reggie Bush with a runner like Ingram, as the added punch in the running game would make the Saints a serious Super Bowl contender again in 2011.
25). Danny Watkins – G – Baylor
The Seahawks only have one quarterback under contract at the moment so the natural inclination is to put a quarterback here. The Seahawks did give up quite a bit in terms of draft picks to get Charlie Whitehurst from San Diego, and while he only has two starts under his belt, he will likely get every opportunity to win the starting job. Christian Ponder would be a good player to select here should the team decide to go that route, but I don’t think that will be what occurs here. The Seahawks are simply not very good on defense right now and could use more talent up front. Nor is the team very good along the offensive line. Seattle chose Russell Okung in 2010 and adding Watkins’ nasty attitude should help Seattle’s anemic rushing attack. .
26). Cameron Heyward – DE – Ohio State
The Ravens are one of the hardest teams to do a mock draft for as Ozzie Newsome will pick the best player on the board regardless of need many times. This year, the team has a few needs that need to be addressed moving forward. The Ravens could use to add talent to their secondary, which frankly not as good as it has been in recent years. The defensive line could use help as well as free agency and age have left this unit lacking depth and in need of talent. Also, the offensive line could also be a target as Jared Gaither is battling injuries and may not make it back to playing shape. The team has some depth in this unit, but adding a player of value to help ease the loss of Gaither could be an option. In the end, I think the Ravens select Heyward as he is likely the best player on the board after Smith went to the Eagles. Heyward should be a classic fit for the Ravens defense.
27). Jabaal Sheard – DE – Pittsburgh
The Falcons need to bring in someone capable of providing pressure off the edge. Sheard is a prototypical player who may help to spell Kroy Bierman who seemed to wear down a bit last season. John Abraham is entering his 12th season and he cannot be counted on as the on as the only legitimate threat off the edge. If Sheard can at the least provide the team a substantial number of reps, keeping Bierman fresh and helping take the strain off of Abraham he will be worth the 27th selection in this year’s draft. You could also see the Falcons look to fill their need at tight end with Kyle Rudolph as Tony Gonzalez truly only has one or two years left at best and has intimated at retirement this off season. But, in the end, I think the Falcons would be happy to address one their most pressing needs moving forward here. With Sheard in the fold, Atlanta’s pass rush could vie for the league’s best.
28). (Trade) Ryan Mallett – QB – Arkansas
This pick would classify as a surprise given that the team is currently quarterbacked by all world player Tom Brady. But, the reality is Brady turns 34 this season and the only insurance policy is Brian Hoyer. I don’t see Hoyer becoming the next Matt Cassell and leading the team to 11 wins in Brady’s absence. Just kidding. I floated Christian Ponder here before, but I think in the end it may be Mallett that gets the call as a team looks to move up and take the Arkansas product. If the draft plays out anything close to this, the Pats will likely trade out of this spot. The Bengals, Cardinals, Redskins and Vikings still need quarterbacks, and given the proximity of those teams to this selection it may be all but a certainty that someone trades up. I don’t know what team it will be, but if had to guess, I could see the Cardinals moving up and taking Mallett. The Cards may still look to bring in a QB via free agency, but if Mallett continues to fall, it may be hard to let him pass by. In my opinion, Mallett is one of the two most pro ready signal callers in the draft, and that could allow him to fit into Arizona’s plans. Could you imagine a partnership between Mallett and Larry Fitzgerald?
29). Stephen Paea – DT – Oregon State
The Bears have parted ways with Tommie Harris and are in serious need of a quick, aggressive player who can attack gaps along the offensive front. Offensive tackle is also an option, but the truth of the matter is; if Lovie Smith’s defense does not have the players required to man the middle it will be largely ineffective. Paea is a strong, quick twitch player who can get into and through gaps; making plays in the backfield. At Oregon State Paea has registered 18.5 tackles for loss along with 9 sacks. Paea has immense strength and violent hands and could make the Chicago defense an intimidating force once again. Should the team decide to go in another direction, Derek Sherrod may get the call. In the end, I think Paea gets the call as he seems to fit the scheme all too well. Some may look to put a player like Marvin Austin here, but I don’t think he fits what the Bears want to do with their cover 2 scheme.
30). Akeem Ayers – OLB – UCLA
The Jets need defensive help going into 2011. That may seem odd given the productivity of the defense in 2010. But, the team is facing some serious questions as they are struggling to keep the team together and under the salary cap. Ayers is a bit over hyped in terms of his college production as he registered only 14 sacks in 3 years, with 6 being his highest total. However, in Rex Ryan’s defense, Ayers could see unfettered rushes off the edge and provide the team with both the pressure and athleticism Jason Taylor failed to provide in 2010. You could see the team surprise here and select Phil Taylor, but I doubt that is in the cards, but you never know.
31). Aaron Williams – CB – Texas
The Steelers are a team that has needed to upgrade their offensive line for the last few years. Last year the team decided to bring Flozell Adams to play left tackle. The team needs to protect Big Ben at a better rate than they currently do. Now, some of this is on Ben himself as he tends to extend the play. As such, improving the athleticism on the edge would be an asset. The Steelers could also use to draft another younger defensive lineman. The front line unit is old in the tooth. The team did take Ziggy Hood two years ago to help the unit, but the reality is that Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel cannot play forever and will need to be phased out. Adrian Clayborn may be an option here, but in the end the Steelers take a big corner capable of playing across from Ike Taylor. This unit also needs some help as there is little quality depth on the roster. I don’t really like the pick, but its the best option unless Calyborn becomes the guy.
32). Adrian Clayborn – DE – Iowa
The Packers are a team that does not have a tremendous amount of holes on the roster. One area that could be improved upon is the defensive line play. There is a great deal of uncertainty at the defensive end spot between Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly, which could leave the team in a bit of lurch talent wise. Clayborn does have health concerns that did affect his collegiate production somewhat his senior year. If Clayborn can be worked in initially, he could prove to be a force in Dom Capers scheme. A tough player with violent hands, he is a good value here at the end of round 1. The Packers could also trade out of this pick as another team looks to trade up and land a QB.