Yet another week has passed and more high priced decisions have been made by college students when it comes to playing football professionally. Also, I have updated the order after four more teams were elinated from the playoffs this weekend and also added a few scouting report links. Below is the latest update in what is proving to be a very fluid mock draft.
1. Carolina – Nick Fairley, DE, Auburn
I’ve been saying for weeks now that Fairley is my favorite player in this draft. After the Championship game, he only solidified the notion that he is a top five talent and worthy of consideration for this top pick. Plus, Carolina needs the help as their pass rush was greatly inconsistent following the departure of Julius Peppers. Fairley might get a bad reputation because of the attitude he brings onto the football field, which often translates to dirty plays being flagged, but sometimes a defense can use that to spark some intensity and, hopefully, success.
2. Denver – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The Broncos have not been shy about making their defense the top priority. They also are likely to automatically get worse on defense if Champ Bailey leaves. Peterson is one of the top cornerback prospects over the last decade or so, and Denver needs the help. Peterson will likely be a favorite choice when it comes to Denver fans, and John Elway claims to be listening to those fans for productive input.
3. Buffalo – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Aaron Maybin has not turned out to be any sort of savior for this Bills defense, so it is time to try and find another one. Bowers projects to be a beast in a 4-3 defense and getting a productive pass rush to go along with that somewhat productive offense they have could be the key to pulling themselves out of the gutter they annually land in.
4. Cincinnati – AJ Green, WR, Georgia
Green is expected to be the next big thing when it comes to wide receivers. The T.Ocho show is expected to be taking their act on the road. With Simpson and Shipley developing nicely, the addition of Green would give Carson Palmer arguably his best shot at success in years.
5. Arizona – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
The Cardinals will be tickled pink if they get to stay at the #5 spot and still get their choice of every quarterback prospect in the draft. Gabbert isn’t the perfect prospect, but neither are any of the other guys, and the coaching staff needs to instill new hope into their fan base or their chair is going to keep getting hotter and hotter.
6. Cleveland – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
In my opinion, this is the first reach of the draft, but Mike Shurman must find a way to surround Colt McCoy with some playmakers. Jones is a solid prospect and I think he will end up being mocked to Cleveland a lot as the draft gets closer, but defense is also a big need.
7. San Francisco – Jake Locker, QB, Washington
There is no doubt in my mind that the Niners, like the Vikings, have to make the quarterback position their top priority this offseason. That plan should include nabbing a free agent or two, but also finding another top prospect to try and develop. (see Scouting Report)
8. Tennessee – Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Everyone expects the Titans to go quarterback with this pick, but when you look at who is out there and their various personality problems, I suspect Jeff Fischer won’t want to go down that road again. If Fischer is not there any longer, however, then this pick would most likely change.
9. Dallas – Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama
The Cowboys could use some help on the right side of their line, and Dareus is projected to go a bit higher than this. He’s a steal for the ‘Boys at this point. The Cowboys are tough to peg in terms of what their needs are, but Jerry Jones was verbally unhappy with his defense when the season ended. Much like the Vikings they have a ton of talent but largely were worthless in 2010.
10. Washington – Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
The Redskins need to continue to find good players to fit their 3-4 defense, and there are some available here, but they are yet another team for whom quarterback is the single biggest need. Mallett has some personality issues and some undefined off-field problems, but that didn’t keep Shanahan from drafting Jay Cutler.
11. Houston – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
I’m not sure why the Texans would hire Wade Phillips and switch to a 3-4 defense at this point. This means they have to find players to fit their scheme in the front seven while simultaneously trying to fix their awful, terrible, horrible secondary. Prince Amukamara has to be considered here, but Quinn is a top talent to help build that 3-4.
12. Minnesota – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Previously, I gave the Vikings linebacker Travis Lewis but he returned to school for another year. Then I gave them quarterback Pat Devlin, but that was admittedly a really big reach for a player that might be there when they select in the second round.
Most Vikings Gab readers want to see the Vikings select an offensive lineman here. In this mock, it is a nice luxury to be allowed to pick from all of the offensive linemen in this draft. However, I think the front office is happier than the fans are when it comes to their tackles, while an interior lineman would be a significant reach at this point.
Cam Newton is the only quarterback left that will warrant any consideration at this spot and I have a hard time seeing Zygi Wilf making this troubled kid the face of the franchise despite the hype and media attention that would follow him into the pros. However, I also have a hard time seeing the Vikings land one of the few remaining big-name offensive coordinators if they aren’t willing to let him use the top pick on an offensive player, and probably a quarterback, even with a top talent like cornerback Prince Amukamara still available.
Trading out of the #12 spot is going to be a continuous discussion between now and April, and this quandary shows exactly why.
So, while I am not thrilled about it, I went ahead and had the Vikings select Cam Newton. If this is the case, then the Vikings also need to find a veteran quarterback to hold down the fort while Newton works on his many flaws that made an appearance in the Championship game.
13. Detroit – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Lions are ecstatic to see the Vikings pass on Amukamara and allow them to fill one of their biggest needs with a top prospect. Detroit is on the rise, in large part due to an improved defense, and their ability to find some quality defensive backs will only continue to improve their record. (see Scouting Report)
14. St. Louis – Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
Outside of Mark Ingram, there are few playmakers worth taking here, so instead the Rams turn to trying to improve their defense, starting with an improved line.
15. Miami – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
The Fins could be losing both Ronnie Brown and Ricky “don’t smoke that number” Williams this offseason. Any new offensive coordinator is probably going to want to make sure that a solid run game is place even before trying to resurrect any sort of passing game in Miami. Besides, they really do not want to see the Patriots get their hands on this guy two picks later.
16. Jacksonville – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
When playing in this division, the Jaguars should not expect to ever establish themselves as a contender until they have the means to efficiently rattle Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub. Even if that means taking a chance on a top pass rusher that is plagued by off-field red flags.
17. New England – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
There could possibly be a lot of turnover this year for the Patriots, and their offensive line and defensive front seven will likely be priorities. However, you-know-who isn’t about to draft strictly for need and will instead draft the best player available (in this case, Watt) and then fill the remaining roster holes with washed up veterans looking to become relevant again.
18. San Diego – Von Miller, DE, Texas A&M
The roster of the Chargers faces a lot of questions this offseason, and they need to upgrade at a few spot, but Miller is good value here and will help a defense and special teams that kept this talented team out of the playoffs.
19. New York Giants – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
I suspect that the offensive line is going to be a big theme for the Giants this offseason, as they aren’t accustomed to getting such poor performances out of their unit and would like to go back to the way things were. Solder has tremendous upside and is known for being a smart technician.
20. Tampa Bay – Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Tampa is on the rise thanks to a whole bunch of young talent on the offensive side of the ball. On defense they could still use some youthful talent and Ayers fits the bill.
21. Kansas City – Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Nobody drafted more immediate impact players last year than the Chiefs. Now it is time for Eric Berry and his secondary to get some help by focusing on getting more consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
22. Indianapolis – Tyron Smith, OT, USC
If the Colts don’t upgrade their ability to pass protect, then Peyton Manning might just retire from football and become a full time commercial actor. In all seriousness, the team needs to focus on protecting Manning now and in the future so that they can keep him around as long as possible. Their G.M. has already admitted it was a mistake not to go this route last year.
23. Philadelphia – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Despite a makeshift offensive line that could use some help, it was ultimately their defense that let them down at the end of the season. Kerrigan could be considered a top 15 prospect that is too good for the Eagles to pass up at this point.
24. New Orleans – Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
The Saints could possibly lose some big names on their offensive line, but for now I’ll assume they re-sign their guys and focus on their continued effort to add talent on defense, especially if Gregg Williams ends up leaving. Nevis is drawing big praise from scouts and could continue to rise up draft boards.
25. Seattle – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
The Seahawks made big enough strides towards the end of the season to lose out on a top ten pick and drop all the way back to a bottom seven pick. It doesn’t change the fact that their roster needs some major help, however. It sounds like Matt and Charlie could still be the top QB’s in Seattle next year, which would allow them to focus on other needs like their secondary. Harris is a pretty big step back from Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara, but he could arguably be an upgrade to most of the existing guys in their defensive backfield.
26. Baltimore – Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA
Dawan Landry could be leaving as a free agent and Ed Reed seems to always be getting hurt, which might cause him to consider retirement again. Opposing teams often were able to throw at-will against a struggling Ravens secondary and they need to preserve their reputation by fixing that quickly.
27. Atlanta – Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
If you want to see the Falcons offense really get rolling, then find a consistent and productive receiver to line up across from Roddy White. Baldwin is a giant at 6’ 5” and 230 pounds and would be a dream for Matt Ryan’s already satisfactory toolbox. This pick would be especially important if Tony Gonzalez decides to hang it up for good.
28. New England – Gabe Carimi, G, Wisconsin
Once again, the Patriots find some great value. They seem likely to lose Logan Mankins this offseason and Carimi provides them with the opportunity to experience minimal drop off. Carimi is also versatile enough to play tackle, and we all know how Belichick loves those versatile players.
29. Green Bay – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
The Packers are pretty well set at most of their skill positions. They could stand to find an upgrade over A.J. Hawk, but their aging offensive line is a bigger priority. Adding Bulaga last year and Sherrod this year would go a long ways towards protecting Aaron Rodgers’ long term status.
30. New York Jets – Justin Houston, DE, Georgia
The Jets still have enough talent to make a run at the Super Bowl. However, the lack of a dominant pass rush might cause them to struggle in the AFC Championship and/or Super Bowl. Adding some talent to that front seven will be the ticket to making that defense as good as Rex Ryan already claims it to be.
31. Chicago – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
The amount of good luck that the bears have had this season on their way to a first round bye in the playoffs is well documented. More than anything, however, it surprises me that they have made it as far as they have with an offensive line that is downright poor. Jay Cutler is only going to benefit from added protection provided by Castonzo. (see Scouting Report)
32. Pittsburgh – Mike Pouncey, G, Florida
Is it fair that the Steelers get both Pouncey brothers? I don’t know. What I do know is that they have been rebuilding their offensive line for years now and the only real good thing to come out of that has been one Pouncey. So why not add another? He fits well. (see Scouting Report)