3rd- Buffalo Bills- Von Miller LB Texas A&M: Still no Newton you ask? Well, if you ask me, I think Ryan Fitzpatrick is good enough to allow Buffalo to fill a greater need in the first round, and go future-QB in the 2nd or 3rd. Miller is a ball-hawk who will no doubt help a Bills defense that was dead last against the run in 2010. Miller is simply perfect for Buffalo. They are a 3-4 scheme and that is where Miller will excel. His lightning-quick speed makes up for his relative under-sized frame, but his athleticism and heart out-weigh the height. He led the nation in sacks in 2009, and was the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker. For you NFL combine fans out there, his 60-yard shuttle run time was 11.15 which was the best ever in the combine’s history. He will be an All-Pro and a fan-favorite in Western New York, and help that unit right away.
4th- Cincinnati Bengals- Blaine Gabbert QB Missouri: Ok, so everyone out there says A.J. Green is a shoe-in for the Bengals. Well, I don’t disagree that Green is a fine fit, and is also supremely talented. However, Carson Palmer is threatening retirement, and I don’t think Jordan Palmer is evoking much confidence as a potential heir in the Queen City. So, here is one of those draft day wrenches again, and Cincy shocks us all and goes with Gabbert, thus sending Arizona into a tizzy. As for why Gabbert makes sense here. He is a prototypical QB prospect at 6’4’’ 234, who has been wowing scouts with his football and intellectual acumen, which is an intangible that should be very important in Cincy in 2011 moving forward. He does have a lot to learn while he assimilates to the pro-game and taking snaps under-center was not an every down occurrence while at Missouri. Cincy could easily go Green here, but the best QB in this class could be a more prudent move, while a WR in the 2nd could be a great value way to fill that need.
5th- Arizona Cardinals- Nick Fairley DT Auburn: If Gabbert goes to Cincy, the Cardinals may have to resort to their contingency plan, which should be fill the glaring need of no run support in 2010. The Cardinals have no QB, sure, but I have a feeling a veteran is bound for the desert. Perhaps a Donovan McNabb, but either way the 30th ranked rush defense from a season ago needs help in the middle, and Nick Fairley is talented enough to be a top overall pick. Out of Auburn, the uber-talent has every physical tool imaginable, yet there are some character issues. Regardless of the work ethic and less than boy-scout reputation, he can flat out stop the run, and be a force against the pass as well. Fairley can be a terrific plan B here, but if Gabbert is around, the Cards will likely build their team around him.
6th- Cleveland Browns- A.J. Green: The Browns may as well hug and kiss their in-state rivals should the Bengals actually go someone other than Green. If my prediction comes to fruition and Green slips, the Browns will have no choice but to run up and grab the best WR in the draft. The Georgia Bulldog can join fellow alum Mohammed Massaquoi in the Browns WR corp. and give Colt McCoy a viable go-to threat. For some reason, I love the prospects of Green in Cleveland. As for his attributes and abilities, just go to YouTube and enjoy. He is as close to an NFL-Dream WR prospect as possible at 6’4’’and 4.5 fast (40-yd dash). He can be a day one playmaker for anyone who selects him. Cleveland ranked in the bottom barrel of all receiving categories, so if not A.J. Green, expect Julio Jones to be their guy.
7th San Francisco- Prince Amukamara CB Nebraska: If my scenarios do not play out, and Patrick Peterson slips to 7th, then the Niners will love that. Yet, I can’t see that talented of a player pass through six teams, so the Prince will now be a few hundred miles north of Bel Air. The Niners were ranked 24th on pass defense last season, and the Nebraska CB is a fine talent with Pro-Bowl potential. His 4.43 40-yd is terrific and he has the ability to lock down top-tier receivers. He could be a nightmare in the NFC West for perhaps the worst QB division in football.
8th Tennessee Titans- Cam Newton QB Auburn: There ya go Newtonites. The Titans are done with Vince Young, so may as well go Vince Young 2.011, right? 25th overall in passing yards last year, VY and Kerry Collins didn’t get it done, and Bud Adams will love to throw Cam on a holiday card with Chris Johnson this year. Should the above teams decide to pass on the risky and charismatic prospect, Tennessee will have no other option but to roll the dice. A player like Newton along with Chris Johnson could really make the Titans a dynamic offense, as long as they sign or draft a WR after Newton to partner with Kenny Britt. We have seen stranger QB scenarios before, like Tim Tebow to Denver, Kevin Kolb to Philly and Aaron Rodgers falling all the way down to Green Bay. I’m not saying this will be a lock, but should both QBs be gone, I can see the Titans praying Nick Fairly is still around. Back to Newton. We all have seen his rise, near-fall, and higher-rise over the past year and change. To me, regardless of his college game the NFL system and competition is vastly superior. I don’t see a home-run career here.
9th Dallas Cowboys- Tyson Smith OT USC: This is a pretty easy one here. The Boys need to solidify their line, and make life easier on guys like Tony Romo and Felix Jones. Last year was a mess with injuries on the line, and Smith can anchor a younger unit for years to come. Smith is arguably the top O-lineman in the class of 2011 so the Cowboys have an easy choice here. Big and physical, Smith is a perfect NFL left tackle. His burst and ability to adapt to blocking schemes makes him NFL ready, and the Dallas offense has plenty of skill players but need a few trench guys to do the dirty work to make them look good.
10th Washington Redskins- Julio Jones WR Alabama: Elite WR 1a in the 2011 group, Jones is a beast of a playmaker. He is NFL-ready at the WR position at 6’3’’ 220, and is coming out of a pro-style offense with the Tide. His speed (4.39 40-yd dash) and hops (38.5 vertical) make him an ideal deep threat, and if he can cure a mild case of the occasional dropsies, he can develop into a fine No 1. NFL pass-catcher. Many teams could be interested in Jones in this slot like the Rams for instance, but Washington is lacking weapons for Rex Grossman or whomever the Quarterback will be in 2011. Santana Moss (a Free Agent) and Anthony Armstrong are the only viable threats at the moment in D.C., so Jones fits the bill here for the Skins.
11th Houston Texans- Robert Quinn DE UNC: The Texans have a crazy-good offense, so this is a sure-fire defensive selection here, and matching a DE to bookend with Mario Williams can give the Texans a fearsome pass-rush. This is the DE run portion of my mock, as there are about five guys who can go anywhere from here to about 20th. My gut is that the Texans go with upside and that is Quinn. Quinn didn’t play for the Tar Heels in 2010 but that only means he is rested. He can be an elite sack-artist in the NFL and with attention on Super Mario, Quinn could rack up 10+ sacks in no time. He has tremendous strength and he’d go straight through people as opposed to trying to out-run them on the outside. When we all look back at this draft in five years, this pick could be one we continue to talk about.
12th Minnesota Vikings- J.J. Watt DE Wisconsin: Speaking of that DE run, here it is. The Vikings could trade down here and select a QB later on, but hanging at the 12th-slot should have them fill a pass-rushing need to help out Jared Allen. The Vikes were 20th in the league in sacks, and Watt can help out with that cause. He is a hard-working football player, and will be as consistent as they come. He’ll rely on strength and desire more than natural athletic ability, but he is a perfect kind of player for Minnesota. They’ll address QB in the following rounds.
13th Detroit Lions- Cameron Jordan DE California: Jordan is gaining popularity and his stock is on the rise, and the Lions are a team that needs to patch up some defensive needs, because that offense is playoff-ready. Now before we get crazy, the Lions have a long way to go but the trio of Stafford, Johnson, and Best can do plenty of damage when they all gel. Defensively, adding a solid edge man to go along with Ndamukong Suh would be a wise move for Jim Schwartz and Detroit. Jordan is perfect for the 3-4, and has size, good strength and is a good text-book football player against the run. Nothing sexy with this pick, but Jordan can fit right in and quietly produce right away in the Motor City.
14th St. Louis Rams- Aldon Smith DE Missouri: At this point, there is nearly zero chance Julio Jones ends up a Ram at 14th. They will have to trade up if the covet him that badly, but Plan B will be to stay local and go with need at defensive end with Aldon Smith. He set a school record as a redshirt-freshman in 2009 with 11 sacks, and can help strengthen a Rams defensive line which already is a formidable pass-rushing unit. Athletic, fast, and has a nose for the QB, so watch out for Smith to be among the young sack artists in this league.
15th Miami Dolphins- Mike Pouncey OL Florida: An interesting slot here for the Dolphins, which is sort of in draft no-man’s land. They could easily select Mark Ingram, but I would think that is a waste pick because Ingram at 15th has no value. Also, I believe that a better play for Miami would be to address the running back situation with free agents such as DeAngelo Williams and/or Darren Sproles to replace Ricky Williams, and/or Ronnie Brown. Regardless of who is running (or throwing for that matter) in Miami, it is seemingly more obvious that Miami will want to make their offensive line an elite unit, and make all the skill position players’ jobs a tad easier. Mike Pouncey is the guy to help in that task, as he can play multiple spots on the line, and could be an elite center or guard at this level. Miami could use help at either C or G so Pouncey makes safe-sense here. Of course, the Dolphins could get a little tricky and trade down to get back into the 2nd round (2010 Brandon Marshall trade), and perhaps still be able to acquire Pouncey or other O-line help later in the draft.
16th Jacksonville- Ryan Kerrigan DE Purdue: The Jags were 30th in the league last year in sacks, and DE is a top priority. With the first few on their wish list gone, Kerrigan makes for a safer play over say Clemson’s Da’quan Bowers since his recent injury risk worries have de-valued him a bit. Kerrigan is a perfect Jack Del Rio player and he is versatile, has NFL-strength, and has a motor that won’t quit until someone is on their back. He has flexibility to play either DE or OLB so that is always a nice bonus with a mid-rounder like him. This is another pick that many may not flip over, but in a few years can work out just fine.
17th New England- Anthony Castonzo OL Boston College: Many NFL insiders are calling this a perfect fit because the locality and the fact that the New England O-line ain’t getting any younger. I am not going to disagree, and think Castonzo fits fine here. I just doubt the Pats remain here. They could take this pick and their 28th overall and move up and get a top-10 player, or they can trade this pick down and try to stock pile more picks, or they can go another way like RB Mark Ingram. As for Castonzo, his massive size at 6’7’’, 311 lbs mixed with his ability to move laterally will help with New England’s slants, screens and dump passes. Castonzo could get out up field and help clear paths for the Pats’ skill position players. One thing for certain, no one knows what is up the quarter-sleeves of Bill Belichick.
18th San Diego- Akeem Ayers LB UCLA: The Chargers can use help at LB or DE, but the DE’s should be lacking at this point. Ayers is a local selection going to UCLA, and he can play right away and be a solid player on a great team. Ayers can go inside or outside and can close in on the quarterback. Da’Quan Bowers could also go here, but again, that injury-worry is ever present. Ayers is a simpled, minimal-risk selection for a team that doesn’t really need to do much in this draft to get better. The Chargers are an elite team and are very dangerous heading into 2011.
19th New York Giants- Mark Ingram RB Alabama: And the Heisman winner goes to New York. Can’t you see that happening? And why not? Ahmad Bradshaw is a free agent and may or may not be a Giant in ’11 so that leaves aging and weathering Brandon Jacobs. Ingram makes more sense in New York than most places, as he would be a complement to another runner and a potent pass-attack led by Eli Manning and his young WR group. The pressures of NY will be cake for Ingram, who is coming from Nick Saban and Alabama which is essentially the NFL’s 33rd team. Not really, but you know what I mean. It’s a football factory. Forget the criticisms of his NFL readiness. Ingram is a beast after contact, and the lack of breakaway speed isn’t a concern; a little momentum is all he needs. The Giants get a steal within the top 20 and Radio City rocks with the Big-Blue faithfull’s boisterous cheers.
20th Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Da’quan Bowers DE Clemson: Bowers is a major talent and without speculation of a knee injury he would be a top-10 selection. The Bucs can pounce on Bowers here and get much needed pass-rush help, as they finished with a measly 26 sacks in 2011 which was second to last in the NFL. At this point, the potential out-weighs the slight risk factor with the knee, but these Bucs are a feisty bunch, and Bowers can help make that defense have a bit more bite once he proves he is 100% healthy.
21st Kansas City Chiefs- Phil Taylor DT Baylor: The Chiefs need a nose tackle for that 3-4, and Romeo Crennel can make this kid his project and get his head on straight. He is a perfect NT due to his size and ability to occupy space. He is a monster against the run, and has massive strength defenses in the NFL sought after. The Chiefs aren’t terrible against the run, but Taylor can make them formidable in defense of it in 2011.
22nd- Indianapolis Colts- Gabe Carimi OL Wisconsin: The best interior lineman in the nation in 2010, Carimi is massive at 6’7’’, 314 lbs, and should be a perfect bodyguard for Peyton Manning. He is a terror to get around, and he plays a punishing and attacking style of football. If you ask me, this is the kind of guy you want protecting the best QB in the game. This is a relatively easy call to say that the Colts are going OL because why pay for a RB or a WR when you can just plug and play with the 50th+ guys on the roster when you need to?
23rd- Philadelphia Eagles- Jimmy Smith CB Colorado: This is just one of those “fit-picks.” Smith could be plugged in right away and fall right into place in Philly. The Eagles were 29th in the NFL in pass TDs against, so Smith could help cut that number substantially in 2011. For a corner, he has very good size and could battle with taller NFL receivers better than shorter DBs. He has good speed and play-making ability and excels in press coverage. He has that Philly-toughness quality that Andy Reid loves.
24th New Orleans Saints- Adrian Clayborn DE Iowa: Clayborn is a smart play for the Saints since he is versatile enough to play tackle or end. Both needs for the Saints, Clayborn can fit in and help a unit that is a middle of the pack rushing-defense. He is tough to block, and has good football intelligence so he is an easy to plug in multiple situations.
25th Seattle Seahawks Jake Locker QB Washington : Seattle can do a number of things here, but I don’t think taking a QB here is a great move for them. However, what do I know, and the franchise will probably want to bring in a ready-made popular QB in Washington Huskie Jake Locker. Matt Hasselbeck could do one more season in Seattle as a bridge to Locker in 2012. If they want him, it’s now or never for Seattle, as he will likely not be around at 57th unless they pull a trade somehow. Locker could have been a top pick last season, but stayed in school and cost himself money. However, it could have clinched him not having to change area codes. As a prospect, Locker has a better arm in distance terms as opposed to accuracy. He must work on making all the necessary NFL route throws, but his athleticism and big-play style sets him apart from other prospects. Not many in Seattle would disagree with this pick here.
26th Baltimore Ravens- Marvin Austin DL North Carolina: Sure there are character and desire issues, but Austin is a talent who can be forced into success by Ray Lewis and the rest of that Ravens defense. They struck out with Sergio Kindle last season, and this season they will look to make up for it. Austin, if he gets his head on straight, could make the Ravens even better on defense, which is scary as can be.
27th Atlanta Falcons- Cam Heyward DE Ohio State: The Falcons can use a complement to Jon Abrahams and Heyward is a solid DE in a deep D-line class. He has great size at 6’5’’ which helps him in both his pass-rush and his run stopping. He can play in both a DE or DT capacity, and can help the Falcons strengthen that defense, and improve on their 20th overall ranked sack total from last year.
28th New England- Mikel Leshoure RB Illinois: Many feel the Pats are all about Mark Ingram, but if they don’t get him at 17th, then I believe they will miss out on him. Now they also have the 33rd overall pick so they can get Leshoure in the 2nd round. For sake of this mock, I think they make sure they get a solid RB and address other needs in the 2nd, 3rd, and beyond. Leshoure is a solid overall RB who can get outside the hash-marks as well as run well through the gaps and get some yards after contact. He has good overall size compared to say a Danny Woodhead, and should make the NE backfield very solid. This is typical NE, as they rarely seem to feature one RB.
29th Chicago Bears- Nate Solder OL Colorado: The Bears can use help in protecting Jay Cutler and the run game, and Solder is the best of the rest of the lineman in this class. Solder is huge at 6’8’’, 319 lbs and could be viewed as a steal here. He has many tools that can turn him into an elite left tackle in this league. A Solder on the Field in Chicago…it’s almost too perfect.
30th NY Jets- Corey Liuget DT Illinois: The Jets are one of those teams that more often or not conjure up a collective, “huh?” from its fan base on draft day. A few hits here and there aside, the Jets sometimes puzzle us all, so here is my best attempt in getting inside the head of GM Mike Tannenbaum. This being a DL class in 2011, Liuget I believe slips a bit and the Jets will land a very capable future pro. Out of Illinois, Liuget has both size and speed and should be a great fit for Rex Ryan’s defense.
31st Pittsburgh Steelers- Aaron Williams DB Texas: The Steelers don’t need much help, but they can stand for some secondary improvement. The DB class is a big drop off after the top two or three, but Williams is still a fine prospect. He could excel in Dick LeBeau’s system.
32nd Green Bay Packers- Muhammad Wilkerson DT Temple: The champs get a steal here in Wilkerson who is a perfect 3-4 defender. He has a very good size-speed combo and should fit right in with the defending Super Bowl champions.