1. Carolina (Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama)
– The Panthers will likely make some attempt to move from this spot. Quarterback is a question mark, but G.M. Martey Hurney invested a second round pick in Jimmy Clausen only last season, and there’s no guarantee Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton can handle a pro system early- both leave plenty of unanswered questions when assessing the immediate transition. The Carolina interior has lacked a true playmaker since Kris Jenkins’ younger days and Marcell Dareus draws similarities to a young Marcus Stroud.
2. Denver (Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn)
– Despite questions about Fairley’s motor and pure size, there is no denying his natural talent. He showed consistently on film that he has the ability to single-handedly take over games. The Broncos ranked 31’st against the run last season and have no bigger need than a dominant interior lineman. Fairley can play all inside technique positions from a 4-3 alignment and shows the aggressive temperament the Denver defense has lacked in past seasons.
3. Buffalo (Patrick Petersen, CB, LSU)
-Patrick Petersen will likely be the top rated player on many boards, and rightfully so. The Bills are in more need of a pass rush than a cornerback, but Petersen has the ability to be the very best in the game with time; a possibility you can’t pass up. He immediately brings creativity to a 3-4 secondary, and can be packaged in any back four position. A complete playmaker who can cover an island, leverage the run game, disrupt timing on the blitz, and go the distance on punt returns.
4. Cincinnati (Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri)
– The Bengals seemingly have plenty of needs everywhere, every year, but this year their quarterback has decided to leave town. I’m not as sold as some on the more ballyhooed quarterback prospects, but the hype and need surrounding the position remains the same. Gabbert has all the tools to be successful and become a franchise quarterback, and with Palmer leaving, the choice is a necessary one for Cincinnati.
5. Arizona (Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M)
– I suspect the Cardinals will add a veteran quarterback either through trade or free agency –whenever that begins- with their second need being a rush linebacker. I rate a few players higher, but none is more explosive than Von Miller from the snap.
6. Cleveland (Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson)
– The Browns are in the process of switching their structure on defense, bringing in Dick Jauron’s cover 2 scheme. Concern’s about Bowers’ knee tear (meniscus) leaves some doubt about his value on teams’ boards. As long as he is able to bend and explode effectively during private workouts, he shouldn’t fall too far. The Browns are hoping he’s available here- Bowers has the potential to be the next Michael Strahan.
7. San Francisco (Ryan Kerrigan, OLB/DE, Purdue)
– Jim Harbaugh believe’s that Alex Smith can still be the answer in San Francisco, so quarterback likely won’t be addressed this early. The 49ers are in need of an outside edge rusher with the possible losses of Manny Lawson and Travis LaBoy. Kerrigan showed he could rush from the ‘9 technique’ at Purdue and be effective. He’s a better prospect than Clay Matthews leaving USC, and plays with the intensity that Harbaugh will find attractive.
8. St. Louis [trade w/Tennessee] (A.J. Green, WR, Georgia)
– The Rams desperately need a deep threat outside for Sam Bradford, and with A.J. Green still on the board they’re willing to part with their 3rd (#78) and 4th (#111) round selections. The Rams will probably re-sign Mark Clayton, and the addition of Green should open up the offense with Danny Amendola lining up inside.
Tennessee alternate: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
9. Dallas (Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska)
– The Cowboys would be thrilled to land a player like Amukamara, and could use him at safety or cornerback. Terrence Newman has been a liability in man coverage, and at 31 years old could soon be leaving. Amukamara would be the best player on the board at this point. Defensive end is also a strong possibility.
10. Washington (Julio Jones, WR, Alabama)
– Outside of Santana Moss the Redskin’s receiving core was very inconsistent last year. Julio Jones possesses the combination of size, strength, and speed to develop into a top NFL wide receiver. Washington may be a bit hesitant to draft a receiver this high with the failings of former high picks Malcolm Jenkins and Devin Thomas, so defensive end and quarterback are two possibilities here as well.
11. Houston ( Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina)
– With Wade Phillips’ 3-4 alignment now in place it becomes even more important to establish the linebacker core. The inside is set with Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans, but the outside is still questionable opposite Connor Barwin. Quinn is a physical freak and has the athleticism to warrant a top five slot if not for a year away on suspension, and medical concerns. He wasn’t asked to cover the flats in college but shows the quickness to adapt with time- an immediate pass rushing threat.
12. Minnesota (Cam Newton, QB, Auburn)
– The Vikings are in dire need of a quarterback to build around, and with questions surrounding free agency, they leap at the opportunity to add the ability and potential of Cam Newton. The selection brings excitement to the fan base and gives new head coach Leslie Frazier a quarterback to start his tenure with.
13. Detroit (Tyron Smith, OT, USC)
– I could see the Lions going against need and adding a player like Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt, but Tyron Smith has as much upside and athleticism as any tackle prospect the past five seasons. Detroit needs a fresh body up front with Jeff Backus winding down; Smith is an immediate starter on the right side and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him at the left side- provided he’s able to participate in off-season training.
14. Tennessee (Cameron Jordan, DE, California )
– The Titans will surely be in the market for a quarterback with the losses of Vince Young and Kerry Collins, so it will be given strong consideration here. Tennessee has lacked a dominant edge rusher since the days of Jevon Kearse, and while Jordan may not be the same type of rusher as Kearse, he brings excellent power and upper body technique to drive the pocket inside and create room for the interior line.
-.St. Louis alternate: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
15. Miami (Akeem Ayers, OLB/ILB, UCLA)
– The Dolphins are in a good position to trade back at this spot and reacquire their lost second round pick. Fans will want a quarterback, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker selected here, but Henne has proven in spurts that he’s capable of leading and the Dolphins could use another playmaker in their linebacker rotation. Ayers has been downgraded by some for not proving to be explosive during ‘workouts’, but his tape is good, and he can be an asset either inside or out as a linebacker in Miami’s 3-4 scheme.
16. Jacksonville (Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas)
– This selection would come as a surprise to some, as G.M. Gene Smith is known to be very hard line when considering any prospects with character concerns. During the Arkansas Pro Day, head coach Bobby Petrino made it a point to address scouts about Mallett’s work ethic and overall character. One NFL team official had this to say about Mallett during the pro day: “Mallett is the best we’ve seen in this draft as far as what he does from the huddle to the line of scrimmage, the pre-snap stuff in the running game..he’s way ahead of the rest..he’s got the best arm, it’s not even close..he’s easily the one that is most ready to play..It’s more bad image that hurts him than anything..he ought to go top ten..he’s gold late in the first round”. David Garrard is on the last year of his contract, so the Jaguars could go quarterback early.
17. New England (J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin)
– The Patriots have leverage with draft picks to move around if the right offer comes to the table. J.J. Watt would bring a physical presence the front line has lacked since the departure of Richard Seymour; able to hold the edge while also managing a pass rush. The selection would seem to be a perfect fit for both involved.
18. San Diego (Muhammed Wilkerson, DE/NT, Temple)
– Muhammed Wilkerson has been moving up boards the more teams are able to look at him on tape- where he was a man among boys against lesser competition. It may be a reach to some at #18 but Wilkerson plays bigger than his size and has the strength to play the nose or end spot with effectiveness. This pick would be similar to Jacksonville’s selection of Tyson Alualu last year- which turned out well.
19. New York Giants (Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College)
– It can either be defensive or offensive tackle here, I’m going with the offense. David Diehl was a liability last season and Castonzo can step in immediately and provide able protection on either side. It doesn’t hurt that Tom Coughlin has strong ties to Boston College and will be very familiar with what Castonzo offers.
20. Tampa Bay (Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa)
– If Adrian Clayborn were to land in Tampa Bay it would be a great fit for both involved. Teamed up with Gerald McCoy and a healthy Brian Price, the Buccanneers could have one of the more dangerous pass rushing attacks in the NFL.
21. Kansas City (Aldon Smith,OLB, Missouri )
– The Chiefs need more of a consistent threat off the edge to compliment Tamba Hali (if he returns) and to replace an aging Mike Vrabel. Smith doesn’t bend and turn as quick as other potential edge rushers, but he uses his length well and is fleet in a straight line. His athleticism poses potential match-up problems and he should only continue to improve with time.
22. Indianapolis (Nate Solder, OT, Colorado)
– The lack of protection for Peyton Manning was noticeable last season, and the tackle spot is in dire need of an upgrade. Nate Solder is a better option than what they currently have and benefits from a scheme and quarterback that gets the ball out quick and decisively.
23. Philadelphia (Jabaal Sheard, OLB, Pittsburgh)
– One of my favorite players in this class, Sheard is always around the football. He has deceptive quickness and balance for his size and plays with very good intensity. The Eagles defense depends heavily on their outside linebackers to generate pressure and neither Ernie Sims nor Moise Fokou were consistent. Sheard will need time to learn coverage drops, but the awareness and ability show he’s very capable.
24. New Orleans (Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois)
– The Saints utilize a very blitz happy scheme under defensive coordinator Greg Williams, which is heavily dependent on the front four. Sedrick Ellis needs someone next to him to free up one-on-one blocking; I have Drake Nevis rated higher (initial quickness), but Liuget showed more consistency when asked to anchor, and also shows the ability to split the interior from the ‘3 technique’ position.
25. Seattle (Jake Locker, QB, Washington)
– The selection of Jake Locker would definitely ignite the fan base; selecting a hometown product while also meeting a big need. As long as Seattle is able to re-sign Matt Hasselbeck the move could be ideal as it would give Locker the ability to learn the system and develop. Pete Carroll is very familiar with Locker, so the choice will depend on how favorably he sees Locker’s potential transition.
26. Baltimore (Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado)
– The Ravens defense hasn’t shown strong cornerback play since Chris McCallister was in his prime. Ladarius Webb and Fabian Washington are more suited for the nickel spot and were suspect in coverage far too much this past season. Jimmy Smith immediately becomes their best cover corner and provides Ed Reed with quality support on the outside.
27. Atlanta (Derrek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi)
– The Falcons will have to decide whether or not to re-sign Harvey Dahl and/or Tyson Clabo- two very solid players. Derek Sherrod is very reliable and doesn’t show any glaring weaknesses; able to line up at either side and play at a high level. A defensive end or safety could be an option here, but I’m not sure if one is worthy of the slot with Sherrod available.
28. New England (Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida)
– The Patriots need young bodies on the offensive line. Matt Light and Dan Koppen are in their 30’s and Logan Mankins missed half of last season. Pouncey can play anywhere along the interior and there’s no reason to believe he can’t be the player his brother Maurkice was for the Pittsburgh Steelers last year.
29. Chicago (Drake Nevis, DT, LSU)
– Tommie Harris has been released and Chicago’s defense relies heavily on pressuring the quarterback with their front four. Nevis lacks pure size, but has excellent quickness and knows how to get to the quarterback. The Bears could also use a clear cut number one receiver, so Leonard Hankerson, Jonathan Baldwin, or even the potential of Torrey Smith could be an option here as well.
30. New York Jets (Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor)
-.Kris Jenkins is getting old in the tooth and the Jets can’t afford to see too much drop off from the nose tackle position in their defense. Phil Taylor shows some technique inconsistencies but is a massive man who’s able to hold two gaps with consistency. A wide receiver or outside linebacker would be good options here as well.
31. Pittsburgh (Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin)
– This would seem to be a great fit if Carimi were to fall to the Steelers, he fits the mold of what the Steelers traditionally look for; hard nosed and physical players. He’ll immediately become one of the stronger tackles in the NFL and provide the upgrade Pittsburgh needs on their offensive line.
32. Green Bay (Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa)
– Green Bay could use one and possibly two defensive ends depending on how the team handles Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly. Ballard has the necessary strength and length to hold the point of attack as a 3-4 end and is a player that still has room to grow physically, while being dependable where he is now.
33. New England (Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama)
34. Buffalo (Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia)
35. Cincinnati (Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami (Fl))
36. Denver (Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame)
37. Cleveland (Stephen Paea, DT, Cleveland)
38. Arizona (Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL))
39. Tennessee (Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State)
40. Dallas (Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State)
41. Washington (Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State)
42. Houston (Marvin Austin, DE, North Carolina)
43. Minnesota (Aaron Williams, CB, Texas)
44. Detroit (Davon House, CB, New Mexico State)
45. San Francisco (Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh)
46. Denver (Jason Pinkston, OT/OG, Pittsburgh)
47. St Louis (Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor)
48. Oakland (Brooks Reed, OLB/DE, Arizona)
49. Jacksonville (Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State)
50. San Diego (Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland)
51. Tampa Bay (Quan Sturdivant, OLB/ILB, North Carolina)
52. New York Giants (Allen Bailey, DE/DT, Miami (FL))
53. Indianapolis (Jurrell Casey, DT, USC)
54. Philadelphia (Marcus Cannon, OT/OG, TCU)
55. Kansas City (Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton)
56. New Orleans (Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois)
57. Seattle (Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia)
58. Baltimore (Jerrell Jernigan, WR, Troy)
59. Atlanta (Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina)
60. New England (Sam Acho, OLB, Texas)
61. Chicago (Orlando Franklin, OT/OG, Miami, (Fl))
62. San Diego (Jarvis Jenkins, DE/DT, Clemson)
63. Pittsburgh (Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville)
64. Green Bay (Jeremy Beal, OLB, Oklahoma)