Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Unlucky NFL Mock Draft #1

With Andrew Luck no longer on the board, Carolina has the one of the unluckiest first overall picks in recent history. Lets just hope that Luck isn't pulling a Jake Locker or Matt Leinart and making the biggest financial mistake of his life. Another looming factor over this year's draft is the new collective bargaining agreement. The last NFL event that is guaranteed to happen before an impending lockout is this NFL draft. There will be no free agency period and there will not be any trades unless they involve draft picks only. I think that the new CBA will be signed prior to the NFL draft and that there will be a rookie weight scale, which makes every draft pick more valuable in the trade market. I predict that this year's draft will have the largest amount of traded picks, especially in the early rounds and picks. Here is my latest first round mock draft if all teams stay where they are in the draft.
  1. Carolina Panthers: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: As stated before, the Panthers really would have liked to have Andrew Luck here, but Fairley is a good consolation prize. Fairley was a beast all season culminating in a dominant performance in the national title game against Oregon. Don't be surprised if the Panthers look to trade back in an attempt to acquire additional draft picks.
  2. Denver Broncos: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: With Champ Bailey possibly leaving as a free agent, the Broncos will have a huge hole to fill at CB. Even if Bailey doesn't leave, Peterson would have the opportunity to learn from one of the best that has ever played. Peterson also has a chance to be a factor from day one in the return game.
  3. Buffalo Bills: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: The Bills are a mess. They played really hard last year and only managed four wins. That means that their players are not very good. I doubt that there was a team that worked harder than Buffalo. With that being said, it's hilarious that they only managed four wins. They are the doormat of the AFC East and that fact will not change in a year or two. That gives plenty of time for Gabbert to evolve into a pro-style QB behind fan favorite Ryan Fitzpatrick. Watch out for Cam Newton here. The Bills would certainly have one of the most athletic offensive cores with Newton at QB, C.J. Spiller out of the backfield, and Stevie Johnson out wide.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: The Bengals flammable personalities are about to explode. Terrell Owens is most likely going to leave via free agency, Chad Ochocinco wants out, Carson Palmer wants out, Cedric Benson has said he wants out if Palmer leaves, and Jonathan Joseph is a free agent. With that being said, the Bengals have done a good job drafting and developing young talent behind the stars. Jerome Simpson (2nd round 2008) looked like a star at the end of last year and Jordan Shipley (3rd round 2010) looked like a solid possession receiver with exceptional route running abilities. On the defensive side, Carlos Dunlap (2nd round 2010) is developing into an elite pass rusher, and another young pass rusher will only make Dunlap (and Bowers by association) better.
  5. Arizona Cardinals: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: The Cardinals biggest need is obviously at Quarterback. However, that they will address that via free agency and get a veteran like Donovan McNabb because the only piece that is missing from their super bowl offense of two years ago is a good veteran QB. Arizona's defense is another story. The defense lost a lot of its veteran leadership when Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby left via trade/free agency. Last year, Greg Toler was a monster in fantasy football in IDP leagues. You may be asking, 'why? I've never heard of him.' Well, when you can't cover a receiver, you will get tons of tackle opportunities, and that is precisely what happened. Outside of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, there is not one bright spot in Arizona's secondary. Amukamara eliminated every teams #1 option last year. His name was never mentioned on any broadcast because no one threw to his side of the field. Pairing Amukamara with Rodgers-Cromartie would go a long way to stopping teams from throwing all over Arizona.
  6. Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: This is the biggest no-brainer in the entire first round. The Browns have an abysmal set of skill players. Peyton Hillis was the only bright spot of last year (and he faded away towards the end of the season). Colt McCoy showed signs of becoming a good QB, but he needs help. Green is a big play threat every time he steps onto the field. Cleveland could also look to the defensive side of the ball with names like Robert Quinn still out there, but none of them have the potential that AJ Green does.
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: With San Francisco going to a 3-4, they need a beast in the middle, and Dareus is that beast. Not only is he a massive load of human, he his athletic too. Dareus demands the double team on running downs, and can move to DE and rush the QB on passing downs. He is a perfect fit for a 3-4 lineman. Once again, Robert Quinn is a possibility here or possibly a QB like Jake Locker. New coach Jim Harbaugh has his work cut out for him here, but I foresee him mimicking his brother's success by building a good running game (Frank Gore is still good) and a good defense, and Dareus is a good first step in that direction.
  8. Tennessee Titans: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: One of the tougher projections in this draft, both player and team. Tennessee has needs on defense, especially in stopping the run, but owner Bud Adams clearly fell in love with a marketable, mobile QB, and Newton fits that mold. Cam Newton could be the compromise that settles the feud between Adams, coach Jeff Fisher, and departed QB Vince Young. I don't think that Cam Newton should be compared to Vince Young because Newton has significantly better throwing mechanics than VY, but Young's shadow will certainly be cast squarely upon Newton. The Titans could easily look for a LB here like Robert Quinn, Akeem Ayers, or Von Miller, but the they desperately need a new direction at QB because Kerry Collins is not a long term answer.
  9. Dallas Cowboys: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: Quinn is an exceptional pass rusher who did not get to showcase is top 5 talent this year due to suspension. The Cowboys would have really like Amukamara to drop here, but getting another pass rusher to rotate in and help DeMarcus Ware won't hurt. An interesting possibility here could be Julio Jones to replace the likely departure of Roy Williams. Another possibility here is to trade back and wait for an offensive lineman like Gabe Carimi or Nate Solder.
  10. Washington Redskins: Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Could he be the next Matt Leinart? Possibly. Accuracy issues are a problem, Like Leinart, and the decision to not come out last year has some questioning his competitiveness, also like Leinart. Coach Mike Shanahan has the ability to develop this talented, mobile, strong-armed Quarterback (i.e. Jake Plummer), but I feel that this is a little bit of a reach here.
  11. Houston Texans: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M: The Texans need loads of help in their pass defense, and Janoris Jenkins would have really helped here, but because he stayed at Florida there simply is not a corner or safety available worthy of this #11 pick. Miller has the athleticism to play in any defense and will only help this defense. In fact, the Texans would have the best young linebacker core in Miller, Brian Cushing, and DeMeco Ryans playing behind one of the best young pass rushers in Mario Williams, and one thing that masks a poor secondary is an elite pass rush and the ability to stop the run. With that being said, I do expect the Texans to draft at least two players later in the draft to play in the secondary.
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: Solder is the offensive line equivalent of Marcell Dareus: He is a massive load of human. The Vikings had trouble protecting whoever was playing quarterback and could not run to the right, and Solder could easily slide into that O-line and start as the right tackle. Minnesota also desperately needs a QB, but free agency will offer a better solution because Minnesota is not far off from being super bowl contenders, and Solder would help protect whatever investment they make at QB.
  13. Detroit Lions: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: Like Von Miller, Ayers is an exceptional athlete who will only help any defense. Detroit hit a home run by drafting the defensive rookie of the year and pro-bowler Ndamukong Suh. Ayers also has above average tackling skills, which the Lions severely lacked last year in their linebacker core. Like Houston, the Lions need a lot of help in the secondary, but there isn't any talent here that would warrant a selection. Another option here would be to solidify their offensive line and take a tackle like Tyron Smith form USC or take a center like Mike Pouncey from Florida.
  14. St Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Another no-brainer. St. Louis was better than everyone expected last year, and I would not be surprised to see them regress a little bit this year with a tougher schedule. However, if they don't, it will be largely because of their offense. The progression of Sam Bradford will be monitored closely around the NFL, and surrounding him with premier talents has to be a priority in St. Louis. Julio Jones is a threat every time he touches the football whether it is in the return game, a bubble screen, or a fly route. With Donnie Avery coming back from IR next year and Danny Amendola in the slot, Julio Jones would not have to catch 80-100 balls to be effective, but he still will manipulate coverage schemes to benefit the rest of the offense. Oh, by the way, I didn't even mention the most underrated running back in Steven Jackson. This pick would make the Rams' offense scary good.
  15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida: The big debate here is whether the first running back goes off the board here because of Ricky Williams' departure. I don't think that Miami will pay another RB big money when they already have Ronnie Brown in the backfield. A good offensive line will make everyone on Miami's offense better. The Dolphins want to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and, in turn, control the clock. If Miami could get some consistent Quarterback play they will be contenders for the playoffs next year.
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Adrian Clayborne, DE, Iowa: Aaron Kampman worked wonders for the Jags' lackluster defensive line and Clayborne will solidify the crucial defensive line in Jack Del Rio's 4-3 scheme. Jacksonville can also use a QB, but Ryan Mallett is the only possible QB available here, and he's simply not good enough. Clayborne is nice safe pick here.
  17. New England Patriots (from Oakland): Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: The rich just get richer. The Patriots have extra picks in both the first, second, and third rounds and will address their needs in the pass rush and in running the football. Kerrigan isn't the best athlete in the world, but he has the perfect work ethic to match Bill Belichek's defense. One thing that the 14-2 Patriots could have improved on was its ability to rush the passer. The Patriots secondary is scary talented with the likes of Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, and Brandon Meriweather who can all take the ball away from bad throws created by unique pressures from a 3-4 defense. Kerrigan can reek havoc in the backfield evident by his leading the nation in tackles for loss last year.
  18. San Diego Chargers: Tyron Smith, OT, USC: The Chargers don't have to look far for this pick. Smith is flying up everyone's draft board and may not be available here after the combine, but for now, the Chargers can not resist the temptation of having one of the best tackle duos in Marcus McNeill and Tyron Smith locked up. San Diego had trouble protecting QB Phillip Rivers in key spots last year and running the ball effectively. Look for the chargers to draft a lot players that will line up in the trenches with extra picks in both the second and third rounds thanks to the Antonio Cromartie and Charlie Whitehurst trades.
  19. New York Giants: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: The Heisman award winning running back should jump for joy if he is selected here because this is the best situation for him to be successful. With the likely departure of Brandon Jacobs and the fumbling problems of Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants would be filling a need at RB. Also look for the Giants to improve the interior of the defensive line at some point in this draft, but Ingram is too good of a talent to pass up at #19.
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: Might be a better fit for a 3-4 defense, but his tenacity and skill can not be ignored for any up and coming defense. Watt can get after people, especially quarterbacks, and with Tampa already addressing the interior of its defensive line last year in Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in the first two rounds, Tampa should focus on getting a pass rush to effectively run its cover 2 shell defense.
  21. Kansas City Chiefs: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: The Chiefs were a very well coached team who outdid all expectations last year. This does not mean, however, that they were world beaters. The Chiefs took advantage of an easy schedule and a down year for San Diego and made the playoffs and got lambasted by the Ravens in the first round at home. Kansas City needs to make a lot of improvements if they want to sustain their success of last year one of which is the pass rush. Smith is the best available pass rusher for a 3-4 system. If Kansas City goes in another direction in the first round, it would be at wide receiver to pair up with Dwayne Bowe, but there isn't one worth the #21 spot.
  22. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: Peyton Manning will be 35 next season and making a ton of money. The Colts would be wise to protect their biggest investment in franchise history with a solid offensive line, which was not the same last year. Castonzo is the most reliable of all the lineman available in the draft and has above average intelligence, which is important for the massive amounts of audibles Peyton Manning calls.
  23. Philadelphia Eagles: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: Like the Colts, the Eagles are going to be making a large investment in a Quarterback if they keep Michael Vick. If they don't, Kevin Kolb needs a superior offensive line to be successful. Carimi is a tenacious run blocker who will, almost guaranteed, block downhill. If Philly can get a little more balanced on offense they will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
  24. New Orleans Saints: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Paea, like Cameron Heyward out of Ohio State, is a tough player to project to the pro game because he sometimes takes plays off. In New Orleans, the competition factor will force Paea to be motivated 24/7. He is not a pass rusher, but the Saints don't need too much help there with Gregg Williams' blitz happy scheme. Paea will demand a double team in the run game with his massive size and strength. Look for the saints to add a LB here if they feel like there is one that is worth it, but Paea has top 15 talent when motivated and is a good fit next to Sedrick Ellis.
  25. Seattle Seahawks: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: The Seahawks, even with a playoff win, still did not finish at .500 this season. They fall right into the unlucky theme of this draft because they get a low pick with a sub par record. Houston will most likely transfer to a DE in the NFL, but he will help Seattle's pass rush without having to blitz. If Hasselbeck leaves via free agency, look for Seattle to pick a QB like Ryan Mallett to back up newcomer Charlie Whitehurst.
  26. Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: Harris has the potential to be the most underrated player in this year's first rounders because, in the right scheme, he can be an elite corner. Baltimore has the system in place to make Harris and his superior ball skills a star. The Ravens have had success going to the Miami Hurricane well in the past (Ed Reed and Ray Lewis) and the trend will continue with this pick this year.
  27. Atlanta Falcons: Cameron Jordan, DE, California: Some will argue that Jordan is a better fit for a 3-4 defense, but Atlanta needs to have another pass rushing threat that is not named John Abraham. Jordan will have to learn how to be a better run stopper, but he will have a good teacher in John Abraham. Lets just hope that he isn't as injury prone.
  28. New England Patriots: Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech: The Patriots have so many picks that they can afford to reach at certain times and this is one of them. Williams has the top end speed that the litany of running backs on the Patriots roster don't have. He also has decent hands and can be used in the passing/screen game that the Patriots love to use. I could also see the Patriots using this pick on Aaron Williams from Texas to help shore up the secondary opposite Devin McCourty.
  29. Green Bay Packers: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: Has the talent, when motivated, to be a top 15 talent. Green Bay loves to attack the quarterback, and Heyward loves to do that too. He proved in the game against Arkansas that he can also be effective vs. the run. Heyward also gives off the impression that he needs to be coddled and no team treats its players better than Green Bay.
  30. New York Jets: Allen Bailey, DE, Miami: The Jets love athletic players on defense and Bailey fits that mold perfectly. The Jets could have a more glaring need at WR if both Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards leave, in which case, Torrey Smith from Maryland makes sense here. Another option would be to go with safety Rahim Moore from UCLA because the Jets simply weren't the same when Jim Leonhard went down. Bailey would also be a nice replacement if Jason Taylor decides to retire.
  31. Chicago Bears: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: Offensive tackle would be the biggest need of the Bears, but there isn't talent here to give the pick any value. The Packers exposed the Bears early in the passing game and Charles Tillman is only one man in the defensive backfield. Williams is a smart corner who would thrive in a cover 2 scheme with his ball skills and intelligence.
  32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame: Pittsburgh does not have any glaring needs and could add depth on the defensive line with Casey Hampton getting up there in age. They could also add some depth on the offensive line, specifically at tackle, but there isn't much talent to warrant the selection. Rudolph is not the first name people have picked in this spot but Heath Miller is starting to decline and Matt Spaeth is a glorified offensive lineman. Rudolph could give the Steelers another target in the middle of the field and create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses.

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