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). Robert Quinn – DE – North Carolina
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.