- Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn.
Yes, this is my first projected pick in my first mock draft on NFLMocks.com, believe it or not. While Newton failed to wow many scouts during individual drills at the combine in Indianapolis, the former Auburn quarterback will again provide the Panthers a look at what kind of athletic individual he is at his pro day on March 8. As we move closer to the end of April, Panthers brass will give into the hype surrounding Newton and will make him the third consecutive quarterback to go No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft.
2. Denver Broncos: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU.
Even with the resigning of CB Champ Bailey in Denver, there will still be a need in the secondary. With a cornerback like Peterson (6’0”, 219 lbs.), who is arguably the best defensive prospect in the draft on the board, first-time head coach John Fox would be getting an athletic playmaker. Peterson ran a blazing 4.34 forty time at the combine, showing straight-line speed is not an issue for him (not like anyone was questioning). I also would not be shocked to see Denver take a defensive linemen at No. 2 with how deep the position is this year.
3. Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama
While it may not be the most stylish pick in the draft, Buffalo needs some serious upgrades for their defense that finished last in the league defending the run. Dareus is a force inside at 319 lbs. and has the athleticism to shed blockers and get to the ball. While there are many other prospects worthy of the third round pick, the Bills would be getting a solid player they could count on to stop teams from running down their throats.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
While DE Antwan Odom had a strong start to the 2009 season, an Achilles injury ended his season early. In 2010, Odom only played in 4 games. Set to make over $4 million in 2011, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bengals cut ties with 29 year old defensive end. If that scenario takes place, the Bengals would be looking for some help to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Many analysts think of Bowers as the best defensive end in the entire draft. My guess is the Bengals won’t take the chance of letting a potential big-time pass rusher slip through their hands.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Anyone who has watched the Cardinals defense this past season would agree that Joey Porter has lost a step since his days as a Pittsburgh Steeler. While quarterback is a giant need for this franchise, I doubt they would take a chance on those still left on the board. Miller is very quick for his size (246 lbs.) and could use it to get after quarterbacks off the edge in the Cardinals’ defensive scheme.
6. Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
A few weeks ago, many thought Blaine Gabbert would be well off of the board by now. And with the progress made by QB Colt McCoy last season in Cleveland, Gabbert will still be on the board. With the emergence of RB Peyton Hillis, McCoy now needs a big play receiver and A.J. Green is exactly that. At 6’4”, Green has the ability to win the vertical battle. He also has the acceleration and speed to be the vertical threat the Browns need this season.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
While new head coach Jim Harbaugh has said everything to make Niners fans think QB Alex Smith is their guy heading into the 2011 season, I cannot see them passing up this opportunity at No. 7. Many have projected Gabbert to be a top three pick in this year’s draft. With Smith due to become an unrestricted free agent whenever the labor issues are resolved, San Fran needs to have a backup plan. Why not a young quarterback with a big arm who is capable of being the signal caller for years to come in Gabbert?
8. Tennessee Titans: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
With Jason Babin set to become a free agent in Tennessee, the Titans might have their eyes set on a pass rusher in this year’s draft. Although Quinn did not see the field in 2010 due to violation of NCAA rules, the Titans could likely look past that and see him for what he is, an outstanding rusher off the edge with a non-stop motor. Quinn would be a nice compliment to second-year DE Derrick Morgan in Tennessee.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Cowboys brass and fans would all agree that CB Mike Jenkins fell off the earth during the 2010 season. While I expect his play to improve in 2011, the team also could consider releasing veteran CB Terence Newman this offseason due to his large salary. Amukamara is a corner who is very good in both man and zone coverage schemes while also being able to come up and help in run support. The Cowboys could also look to improve their defensive line at this position with all of the potential free agents they are dealing with.
10. Washington Redskins: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
With QB Donovan McNabb already having one foot out of the door in Washington and head coach Mike Shanahan not likely to give the keys to QB Rex Grossman, I expect the Redskins to reach for a quarterback in the first round. Locker is the type of project that Shanahan would be willing to take on. He is faster than most think and has good size (6’3”, 230 lbs.). His downfall is his accuracy. Let’s see if Shanahan and Co. are up to the task.
11. Houston Texans: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
While the Texans would love to get a cornerback such as Peterson or Amukamara to bulk up their terrible at best secondary, nobody expects either to be on the board at this time. So, they can do the next best thing to help their pass defense and draft a solid pass rusher in Cameron Jordan. Jordan has a big motor and great acceleration off of the edge, exactly the type of player that this defense needs.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
I am not sure anyone really expects Nick Fairley to be on the board at this point in the first round but if he were, the Vikings would jump at the opportunity. With DT Pat Williams set to leave as a free agent, the defense would be able to replace him with a younger, more athletic tackle in Fairley. In this scenario, the happiest man in Minnesota would be DT Kevin Williams, who would get another good compliment next to him in the middle. While it might not be the Williams Wall right away, the Vikings would be lucky for a player of Fairley’s caliber to fall to them.
13. Detroit Lions: Nate Solder, T, Colorado
While many were disappointed to see USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith drop out of the combine, there is no doubt that it helped Nate Solder steal the spotlight. Solder (6’8”, 319 lbs.), was one of the faster offensive linemen at the combine which is impressive for his size. With Jeff Backus not getting any younger in Detroit, he would be a nice tackle opposite of Gosder Cherilus.
14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
This would be the perfect scenario for Rams’ personnel executives and coaches in this year’s draft. While Sam Bradford did more than impress last season in St. Louis, he lacked the big weapon down the stretch. Julio Jones (6’2”) has the ability to be the deep threat that the Rams offense needs. With one of the best in the game at running back in Steven Jackson and a good young quarterback in Bradford, Jones might be the missing piece to the offensive puzzle in St. Louis to get them over the top and win the NFC West.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
With both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams set to become free agents, the Dolphins will be looking to upgrade the position in round one. Ingram, the 2009 Heisman winner, is a downhill runner who is usually the hitter and not the hit-ee in collisions with defenders. While he is not the type of back Miami is used to, I have a feeling Ingram will fit right in to the Dolphins’ equation.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
While the Jaguars found their man in the middle in DT Tyson Alualu in last year’s draft, they still are missing a dominant pass rusher on the outside. Smith seems like a player head coach Jack Del Rio would like, a player who can come off the edge and win one on one with his strength. For the second straight year the Jaguars would not be taking the most popular pick, but like Alualu, it would be a smart pick.
17. New England Patriots: J.J. Watt, DE/LB, Wisconsin
If there is one thing I have learned about head coach Bill Belichick over the years, it is that he can never have enough defensive players that have a knack for getting to the quarterback. Although Watt is not the biggest player on the field (292 lbs.), he has a quick first step and has the acceleration to beat offensive tackles off of the ball.
18. San Diego Chargers: Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue
Like Watt, Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan is not the biggest defensive player but has the quickness off of the ball to be a good pass rushing end in the NFL. Jacques Cesaire is set to be a free agent in San Diego and they could definitely use a guy to pressure the quarterback like Kerrigan. The Chargers have the offensive weapons in place, now it’s time to look towards the defensive side of the ball.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Castonzo (6’7”, 310 lbs.) had a terrific showing at the combine and is arguably the best offensive linemen in the draft next to Nate Solder of Colorado. The Giants do not have the youngest offensive line in the league outside of William Beatty and could use a smart, young, and athletic tackle in Castonzo. Castonzo seems to be one of the safer picks in the draft and has the personality to be a leader in the locker room.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Houston
Buccaneers fans have to be excited about the future. With a promising Josh Freeman leading the offense and young defensive stars in DT Gerald McCoy and CB Aqib Talib, they have a solid core group of guys. Add Justin Houston to the mix and they are getting a relentless pass rusher that can force quarterbacks to make bad decisions. Although undersized (270 lbs.), Houston is a pro at shedding blocks and flying to the ball.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Chiefs got one pass rusher in the 2009 draft in Tyson Jackson out of LSU with the third overall pick. With Glenn Dorsey in the middle, they could add another weapon on the outside with Clayborn. Clayborn is terrific playing in space for his size (281 lbs.) and takes the quickest route to the ball carrier.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
While Peyton Manning (wrongfully) took much of the blame for the issues the Colts offense faced this past season, it was the offensive line that should have been getting some of the criticism. With the inconsistent play of OT Tony Ugoh and starting LT Charlie Johnson set to become a free agent, Carimi is the best option available right now for the Colts to help Manning from facing pressure (assuming he does get his extension).
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
New Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo will look to add some depth to an Eagles defensive line that was beat up during the 2010 season. Taylor (6’3”, 334 lbs.) is a force in the middle and could help the Eagles run defense tremendously. For his size, Taylor has the stamina to stay on the field for most third down packages.
24. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Hayward, DE, Ohio State
While many were projecting the Saints to look for an interior defensive linemen in this draft, they took care of that this past week with the signing of DT Shaun Rogers who was released by the Cleveland Browns. With that need filled, New Orleans can look to find a pass rusher and Hayward is the best option at this point in the draft. Although many teams will be cautious with Hayward due to his elbow surgery back in January, Hayward will be out to prove that he is the same player post-operation as he was in the fall at Ohio State.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
The Seahawks will have a few options here at the cornerback position in both Smith and Miami CB Brandon Harris. While many fans in Seattle will want the quarterback situation addressed in the first round, there is not a prospect at this pick worth reaching for. The Seahawks secondary was unimpressive last season outside of rookie S Earl Thomas and with CB Kelly Jennings contract up, Smith is the best option for Pete Carroll and his staff.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
While WR Anquan Boldin was a nice addition to the Ravens offense in 2010, he did not add enough fire power to the passing game necessary for the team to get over the hump. With Joe Flacco set to be the quarterback for years to come and RB Ray Rice one of the games’ best, Baltimore needs a receiver who can stretch the field. Smith had an impressive combine, running a 4.37 forty time, and would be the best available to take some pressure off of Flacco and Rice.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
While the Falcons have young linebackers that are full of potential, the missed plays in the NFL Divisional Playoffs against Green Bay still burn in my mind. Ayers is a solid prospect that can play either strong side or weak side in a 4-3 defensive scheme. He has the ability to get off of blocks quickly and is an excellent tackler.
28. New England Patriots: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple
Head coach Bill Belichick is all about versatility and Wilkerson is one of the best of all defensive line prospects in this category. Wilkerson (6’4”, 315 lbs.) can play inside or at end and is a force against the run. He gets off of the ball quick and has a knack for finding the ball and making a play. While it may not be the biggest need for the Patriots, it adds depth across the entire defensive line.
29. Chicago Bears: Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
Saying the Bears offensive line struggled in 2010 would be a major understatement and they need some help in a hurry. While it may not be right to judge Mike Pouncey’s potential based on the success his brother Maurkice had for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010, the tape shows two players that are very similar. Pouncey could step in on day one and be a contributor in Chicago. And maybe one of these days, Jay Cutler can actually play calm in the pocket.
30. New York Jets: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
While Jets executives have said repeatedly that CB Antonio Cromartie is a priority heading into the offseason, I am not sure if it is possible if they want to retain both WR Braylon Edwards and WR Santonio Holmes. While the Jets still have CB Darrelle Revis and 2010 first-round pick Kyle Wilson, Revis was not the dominant player he was in 2009 and Wilson struggled in his first season as a pro. Williams is a corner who does a lot of everything, including play on an island and help in run support. Sounds like a player Rex Ryan would love.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Derek Sharrod, OT, Mississippi State
It seems as though the main weakness the Steelers have every offseason heading into the draft is offensive line. This offseason is no exception. With a playmaking defense and a solid core group of skill players on offense, Pittsburgh has many options at offensive tackle with the No. 31 pick. Sharrod (6’5”, 321 lbs.) can move well for his size. At times he can be beat off the line by defensive linemen who are stronger than him but the Steelers would still have a future starter in him.
32. Green Bay Packers: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
While the Packers are pretty set at the cornerback position heading into the 2011 season with Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, and Sam Shields, Woodson will not be around forever. At No. 32, the Packers would be getting good value in Harris (5’10”, 191 lbs.), who plays best in man coverage and has terrific make-up speed. He has the work ethic and instincts to be a future starter in the NFL.
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Also be on the look out later today for round 3 of my seven round mock.
Sayre, will be appearing on the radio tommorrow as well to discuss Ryan Mallett (scouting report should be out tommorrow).
And I had an interview with Ed Valentine of Big Blue View that should be out Sunday night.