Look, I firmly believe that over-analyzing mock drafts in mid-February, to steal a line from Van Wilder, is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. There are so many things that are going to happen between now and late April that this will probably be rendered completely useless even before the month is over.
But given the fact that we’re now entering the joyless abyss – the end of the NFL season, with no future NFL season(s) in sight – this will hopefully give us something to discuss, chew up, and dissect, until there’s something else noteworthy to talk about.
1. Carolina Panthers – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley was the best player on the field for the biggest game in college football (Auburn vs. Oregon). Isn’t that what you want from a franchise guy? He reminds you a lot of Albert Haynesworth: a force capable of single-handedly disrupting the opposing offense. The problem is, like Haynesworth, he has a propensity to take plays off every so often.
2. Denver Broncos – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Now that John Fox is the head coach, it looks like Denver will probably go back to the 4-3 defense. Fox took Peppers with his very first pick as the head coach of the Panthers, and I could see him doing the same thing in Denver with Bowers.
3. Buffalo Bills – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Here’s my thought: Gabbert has all the tools you need, but he just needs a lot of “seasoning” before he’s fully ready to go. But the Bills already have Ryan Fitzpatrick as a perfectly viable starter, so the Bills won’t need to start him right away. Regardless, that franchise needs someone to reinvigorate the fan base with, and provide some stability at the position.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – AJ Green, WR, Georgia
Green could be the best offensive player in this entire draft. T.O and Chad Ochocinco are probably going to be leaving Cincinnati after this year because they’re not getting any younger and they’re becoming even bigger headaches, so somebody has to fill those shoes.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Patterson, CB, LSU
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton was a defensive backs coach for the Steelers, so I can see the Cardinals looking in that direction as they take someone to help fix a pass defense in the bottom 10 of the league last year. Everyone has the Cardinals taking a QB here, but I think they’ll address that via free agency or trade, because the last thing Larry Fitzgerald wants is to wait around for a young QB to develop while he’s already in his prime.
6. Cleveland Browns – Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Miller absolutely tore it up at the Senior Bowl, which has catapulted his draft stock into the top 10. Cleveland is going back to the 4-3 defense, and Miller has the type of athleticism and talent to play linebacker on first and second downs, then put his hand in the dirt on third down and go after the quarterback.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina
The 49ers are moving to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Quinn would be an awesome play maker at outside linebacker in this scheme, opposite of Manny Lawson. Plus, having guys like Lawson, Quinn, and Justin Smith would give that defense a ton of flexibility in giving different looks to the opposing offense.
8. Tennessee Titans – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
In a division where they have to deal with the aerial attacks of the Colts and Texans, the Titans could use a guy like Amukamara. Given the fact that they finished in the bottom four against the pass last season, and that Amukamara is one of the most clean-nosed, hard-working guys in this draft (aka, the opposite of PacMan Jones), this pick makes a lot of sense for them.
9. Dallas Cowboys – Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama
Dallas’ biggest need is a “five-technique” defensive end, which Dareus is more than capable of playing at a high level. He’s got great size, does everything right on the field, and is a high-character guy to boot.
10. Washington Redskins – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
The Redskins have a ton of needs all over their team, and Quarterback ranks up there as high as any of them. Newton has all the physical tools and some of the intangibles to be a great quarterback, but he needs a lot of “seasoning” before he’s really ready to lead a team. The question is: will the folks in Washington be patient enough for him to develop?
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