There are two kind of mock drafts. There’s the ones that predict what will happen and those that discuss what should happen. I will be doing the former. So, without further ado….
1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Now, I am not a Cam Newton fan. I don’t see him translating well to the NFL. Fact is, there are very few quaterbacks that I’m a fan of in this draft class. However, from what I understand, the Panthers are enamored with him. They are going to hitch the future of their franchise on the Newton train.
2. Denver Broncos – Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
There’s is no question the Broncos need major help on the defensive side of the ball. They were nothing short of horrendous in 2010. Dareus is a step in the right direction. He is easily the best run stuffing lineman in the draft which will be a huge help for a defense that gave up the second worst yards per game on the ground last season.
3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Buffalo could go in all sorts of directions here. They need offensive line help, they could use a franchise quarterback (Sorry Ryan Fitzpatrick), and their defense needs all kinds of help. That help will come in Von Miller, the best linebacker this draft has to offer. Miller offers explosion on the defensive side of the ball that will be an instant upgrade to a Buffalo defense that dreadful last season
4. San Francisco 49ers (Trade up with Bengals) – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
I don’t care what the reports say. There’s no way the 49ers have any faith in Alex Smith and deservedly so. Could they wait a year for Andrew Luck to enter the draft? It’s possible. But I don’t see it. I think the 49ers suspect the Cardinals will be looking at Gabbert and decide to jump up a few spots in a deal with the Bengals.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
No Blaine Gabbert? That’s okay. There’s still plenty of talent to choose from for the Cards. This team has so many holes to fill but taking a quarterback here would be a major reach. However, Patrick Peterson, the cornerback from LSU. The Cardinals get arguably the best player in the entire draft.
6. Cleveland Browns – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
If the Browns believe Colt McCoy is the answer, they need to get him some weapons pronto. He already has a very good running back in Peyton Hillis and a decent offensive line anchored by Joe Thomas. In A.J. Green the Browns will get an absolute beast of a wide receiver that will finally strike frear in the hearts of opposing defenses in the brutal AFC North.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (Trade down with 49ers) – Nick Fairly, DT, Auburn
The Bengals were among the worst teams in the league at getting pressure on the quarterback in 2010. However, they did have a bright spot in rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap and paring him with Nick Fairly will provide a consistent pass rush for the next decade. The Bengals get somewhat lucky here as questions about Fairly’s work ethic have caused him to slip down a few slots.
8. Houston Texans (Trade up with Titans) – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Texans are very leery of that other team from Texas. They know the Cowboys desperately need a cornerback and Amukamara is easily the second best corner prospect in the draft. The Texans begin shoring up their pathetic pass defense and ensure the Cowboys don’t steal their pick.
9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith, OL, USC
No matter. While the Cowboys may have been gunning for Amukamara, they still have another option open to them in offensive tackle Tyron Smith. Smith is the first step to fixing up an offensive line that allowed their quarterbacks to be abused by opposing defenses.
10. Washington Redskins – Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
The Redskins have so many needs. They need a quarterback, they need receivers, they need linemen on both sides of the ball. At the end of the day, Mike Shanahan historically focuses on fixing up his defense in the draft and that is something the Redskins desperately need to do. Aldon Smith can provide a devastating pass rush that will help take focus off of Brian Orakpo.
11. Tennessee Titans (Trade down with Texans) – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
The Titans missed out on Nick Fairly and decided to stock pile a few more picks. Luckily for them, the best defensive end in the draft class is still available in Robert Quinn. It’s entirely possible that the Titans lose Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin to free agency so shoring up the defensive end position is a key for this team. Quinn provides the building block for a rebuilding defense.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Corey Luget, DT, Illinois
The Vikings are a tough team to figure out. This is another team that has a lot of needs. However, there is no question that their defense needs the most work. They could certainly use a cornerback but taking one now would be a drastic reach. However, there are still plenty of defensive linemen to pick from and they settle upon Corey Liuget from Illinois. This is arguably the greatest value pick of the draft Liuget isn’t a flashy player but he’s about as sturdy as they come.
13. Detroit Lions – Anthony Castonzo, OL, Boston College
I wanted to see the Lions get Prince Amukamara. I really did. However, I don’t see the Lions trading up in order to get him. However, they still come away with an excellent offensive linemen in Anthony Castonzo. Castonzo is a versatile lineman who will spend a long time protecting Matthew Stafford’s blindside as the Lions continue to become a force to be reckoned with.
14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
The Rams can’t believe their luck. Jones has fallen all the way to 14 as teams kept plucking linemen off the board. The Rams come away with one of the premiere pass catchers that the draft has had to offer in the past few seasons. Paired with Sam Bradford, he will bring consistency to a young Rams offense as the Rams find themselves poised to make a lot of noise in the AFC West.
15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida
The Dolphins don’t have many draft picks this year round so they have to make this one count (Well, you always do in the first round) or trade back and gather a few more picks. A team like Tampa could look to trade up but I believe the Dolphins love what Pouncey has to offer and they know that he won’t be around much longer should they trade back. The Dolphins get another piece to add to the experiment that is their offensive line. A very good piece at that.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Jaguars need a quarterback. However, taking one here would be a dramatic reach and it’s far too much of a risk to do so here. Instead, they choose to fix up their horrendous defensive line with Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan exemplifies the idea of a “high motor” player who doesn’t quit. That’s the kind of guy you want to build a team around.
17. New England Patriots – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Patriots are a sneaky team. They rarely stay still but I see them doing just that with their first of two first round picks this year. The target? Defensive end J.J. Watt. Defensive end isn’t necessarily a great need for the Patriots but one can never have enough pass rushers, especially when the defense as whole was fairly weak to the pass last season.
18. San Diego Chargers – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The Chargers have never been afraid of rolling the dice in the draft and this year will be no different. While an offensive lineman is certainly a possibility here, I don’t think the Chargers will be able to resist one of the most talented players in the draft who has dropped because of concerns over the health of his knee.
19. New York Giants – Gabe Carimi, OL, Wisconsin
The Giants desperately need offensive line help. Carimi can provide that. The Giants could also use some help along the defensive line, but they cannot allow one of the better offensive linemen in the draft to slip past them. Carimi is a player who should be able to step right in and make a difference.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
It’s a shame that Aquib Talib went and screwed up as much as he did this offseason. The Buccaneers have other needs to address but rumors are swirling that they’ll be releasing Talib once the CBA is hammered out. That would leave a glaring hole at cornerback. Enter Jimmy Smith, arguably the most skilled corner in the draft. However, character issues have caused him to fall. Ironically, the Buccaneers will replace one headache with another potential headache.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (Trade up with Chiefs) – Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor
The Eagles, rightfully so, suspect the Colts might be looking at Watkins as well. He’s a guy who would fit into their system. However, the Eagles jump up and snag Watkins, who will be a 27 year old rookie with little wear and tear on his body. Most folks seem opposed to drafting a guard in the first round, but I see no problem with it. Right guard was a nightmare for the Eagles last season and Watkins will help fix that problem and keep Mike Vick upright.
22. Indianapolis Colts – Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple
Wilkerson is one of the rare players who exhibits the ability to excel at both defensive end and tackle. The Colts cannot pass up on that. The Colts struggled to record sacks and shut down the run last season and Wilkerson can instantly help with the latter. He very well might be the missing piece to the eternal mystery of the Colts‘ awful run defense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (Trade down with Eagles) – Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
The Chiefs have a formidable pass rusher in Tamba Hali, but not much past that. Ayers is going to change that. The Chiefs are another team that could very easily be looking at taking an offensive lineman to give Matt Cassel some help, but I believe that a prime pass rushing linebacker is going to be too much to pass on for Kansas City.
24. New Orleans Saints – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Is this a steal or a reach? Great question. Clayborn is coming off a down season but there is no denying his ability and potential. The Saints are banking on that. Clayborn can help bolster a run defense that was adequate last year, which will then help an already strong pass defense.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Derek Sherrod, OL, Mississippi State
The Seahawks get their other bookend on the offensive line. Now all they need a quarterback to protect. Because of that, Jake Locker could very likely be a target here. However, the Seahawks don’t strike me as a team that are going to roll the dice on a guy with almost as much downside as upside. The Seahawks play it safe and go with Sherrod.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Cam Heyward, DT, Ohio State
The Ravens used to be a team that had one of, if not the, most feared front sevens in the league. Those days aren’t long gone, but they aren’t anywhere near as formidable as they used to be. Cam Heyward can change that. Heyward is a proven commodity when it comes to shutting down the run and can get after the passer as well.
27. New York Jets (Trade up with Falcons) – Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
The Jets don’t trust those Patriots. In related news, the earth is round. Taylor would be a perfect fit for either team and the Jets do not want to deal with facing him twice a season for the next decade. A trade up with the Falcons allows them to steal Taylor away and add some aggressive youth to an aging defensive front.
28. New England Patriots – Mark Igram, RB, Alabama
The first and only running back to be taken in the first round is the consensus best back in the draft. The Patriots continue to add to their arsenal of offensive weapons with this pick. This is also a spot where the Patriots could very likely trade down if a quarterback needy team doesn’t feel like waiting for the second round.
29. Chicago Bears – Nate Solder, OL, Colorado
Jay Cutler finally gets some viable protection. Well, sort of. Solder is a phenomenal prospect who will likely be protecting Cutler’s blind side in a season. For the time being he is still raw but he has the talent to be a mid first round pick. The Bears get a steal here.
30. Atlanta Falcons (Trade down with Jets) – Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
Tony Gonzalez cannot play forever. Matt Ryan needs a tight end in his offense and Kyle Rudolph is just what the doctor ordered. He is a very tough player who will fight for any ball and will quickly become a commodity in the red zone as he learns the ins and outs of being a professional tight end from one of the best to ever play the position.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
The Steelers have a fantastic defense when it comes to shutting down the run and pressuring quarterbacks. However, in the event that they don’t get that pressure, teams can throw on the Steelers all day long. Williams isn’t one of the three elite corners in the draft but he still has the ability to be a solid starter in this league and that is something the Steelers very much need.
32. Green Bay Packers – Brooks Reed, DL, Arizona
When you’re picking at 32, you’ve done something right. However, the Packers, like all teams, still need some work. Enter Brooks Reed, a relentless pass rusher who will likely convert to an outside linebacker at the pro level. He is an ideal compliment to Clay Matthews and will make that already intimidating pass rush all the more terrifying.