Monday, April 4, 2011

Unlucky Mock Draft #2

This is going to be the most interesting NFL draft in the past 20 years because of the implications of the lockout. With teams not being able to fill needs via free agency before the draft, we may see more 'best player available' picks and 'low risk' picks. NFL teams will not even be able to sign their draft picks or give their draft picks a playbook or an off-season workout routine. The latter two items will also effect young players from last year's draft in Fantasy Football next year. Players like Sam Bradford who enjoyed stellar rookie seasons will not be able to further their knowledge of the NFL game with any of their coaches - a vital step in the development process. In the case of Sam Bradford, his new coach will be the now infamous Josh McDaniels. Last time I checked McDaniels' system is not for the uneducated. What this means for this year's draft is that teams may opt for the most NFL ready player and hope that they can fill their needs in free agency. I believe that this is a better system for the players anyway, but that is for another article at another time: now lets get to the picks!

  1. Carolina Panthers: Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama. Previous pick: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn. Change in person, but not position. I refuse to give into the notion that the Panthers have given up on Jimmy Clausen after a portion of last year with the worst team in the league. This is also the first of many 'most NFL ready' picks. In fact, the reason for the switch in players is because Dareus is the most NFL ready defensive tackle. Fairley does have more of an upside, but with questions about his work rate and motivation, the Panthers will go the safe route and draft Dareus, who is no slouch.
  2. Denver Broncos: Patrick Peterson, CB LSU. Previous pick: Patrick Peterson, CB LSU. No changes here. The Broncos need a lot of help everywhere after Josh McDaniels royally misfired on Tim Tebow last year. If the Broncos were a starving family last year, they traded water and bread for a nice bottle of wine and tried to pass the wine off as an essential when they traded three draft picks for Tim Tebow. This year, they go with possibly the most athlectic player in the draft and someone who will have the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest players to play the position he plays in Champ Bailey before becoming his successor. Furthermore, Peterson will help day one on special teams. Another safe pick and a good fit.
  3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, LB Texas A&M. Previous pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri. The first major change in philosophy. I have argued that the Bills will go with a QB despite the semi breakout season of Ryan Fitzpatrick last year. However, with the lockout stunting any development in young players who need serious coaching, like a spread QB, the Bills are forced to go with a player who is NFL ready day one. Von Miller has steamrolled up the mock draft boards because of his ability to get to the passer as an edge rusher. Since the bills are moving to a hybrid between a 3-4 and 4-3 defense, having the best 5 technique player in the draft can not hurt. This would also be one of the smarter picks the Bills have made since the A.J. Smith era.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR Georgia. Previous pick: Da'Quan Bowers, DE. Could go a number of ways with this pick. The combination of Carson Palmer threatening retirement and the lockout paralyzing free agency has created a vacuum where no one can tell if Cincinnati will have a QB next year, which makes Gabbert or Newton possibilities here. Only problem is I don't believe either QB option in the draft has the goods to start day one, especially with the diminished coaching the work stoppage has created. Wide Receiver is another need with the like departure of Chad Johnson (no longer Ochocinco) and Terrell Owens. Jordan Shipley and Chad Simpson did not do terribly at the end of last season, but they need a home run threat on the outside no matter who is the QB next season, and that's where Green makes the most sense. Another player who is ready to start on day one.
  5. Arizona Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri. Previous pick: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska. Arizona would not be any worse at QB last year. If you didn't know the value of Kurt Warner before last year, it became abundantly clear with each incompletion from Max Skelton. Arizona also needs to improve its linebacking core because Karlos Dansby no longer lurks behind Darnell Dockett. If Von Miller was here they would've taken him as a safe pick and hope for a Donovan McNabb, but the Cardinals can still sign a free agent QB to be a stop gap until Gabbert takes over. Arizona can hope for the creation of a rookie weight scale from the lockout, which would make Gabbert's contract more affordable even if they do sign a free agent QB to go along with drafting Gabbert.
  6. Cleveland Browns: Da'Quan Bowers, DE Clemson. Previous pick: A.J. Green. If Green is still available at #6, the Browns will draft him. Julio Jones has also impressed in the combine and in the Alabama Pro Day and could be a viable option, but with Dick Jauron now leading the transition to a 4-3 defense, Bowers fits perfectly as a pass rushing defensive end. Look for Cleveland to address the gaping hole at WR early, possibly even in round 2, with the selection of a Randall Cobb from Kentucky or Jonathan Baldwin from Pittsburgh.
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska. Previous pick: Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama. San Francisco needs to improve is pass defense and Amukamara was an All American last year without having one interception. Interpretation: he locked down anyone he covered. There wasn't a QB in the Big 12 (including Gabbert) who was willing to pick on his side of the field. Another instance of a draft pick that will start on day 1 (as a nickel back at the very least).
  8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn. Previous pick: Cam Newton, QB Auburn. Tennessee had an internal struggle between its QB and its head coach and chose to side with neither and got rid of both. Even though gambling on Cam Newton may prove to be a great value pick here, I don't think the Titans will set themselves up for the same power struggle between QB and head coach so they will go with the other Auburn star in Fairley to help bolster a porous rush defense.
  9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT Southern California. Previous pick: Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina. Gambling on a defensive end that barely played last year may not be in the cards for the Cowboys, who desperately need to protect Tony Romo. Even though Smith shouldn't be a top ten pick, (I have him rated in the 15-25 range of the first round) the reach is a worthwhile one. If I were Romo, I would be writing anonymous letters to the Cowboys front office demanding some protection. Broken collar bones hurt. A lot. Additionally, the Cowboys had arguably the most talented set of running backs, and did next to nothing with them because they had to break tackles before reaching the line of scrimmage. Tyron Smith has emerged as the most complete offensive tackle with the highest ceiling.
  10. Washington Redskins: Cam Newton, QB Auburn. Previous pick: Jake Locker. I concede that having Jake Locker at 10 previously was comical. This time, everything breaks nicely for Washington to gamble on another player with a checkered past (i.e. Albert Haynesworth). With the departure of Donovan McNabb and the perpetual failure that is Rex Grossman as the potential #1 QB going into next year, it would be irresponsible of the Redskins to not look at QB with their first selection. Coach Mike Shanahan loves to run the football and he now could have a dual threat QB to go along with Clinton Portis in the backfield. Newton could be what Shanahan wanted Jake Plummer to be in Denver. Julio Jones is another option here if both Newton and Gabbert are gone.
  11. Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin. Previous pick: Von Miller, OLB Texas A&M. Houston's greatest need is pass defense. They were a fantasy dream come true. Every QB that played against them looked like a pro bowl QB (even Kerry Collins lit them up). New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has made a living using an effective pass rush as his primary pass defense. J.J. Watt is the second only to Von Miller as a 5 technique OLB/DE in a 3-4, which Phillips uses exclusively. Additionally, pairing Watt with Mario Williams with added support from Connor Barwin and Brian Cushing will have Wade Phillips salivating and offensive lines trembling in their collective boots.
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina. Previous pick: Nate Solder, OT Colorado. Even though OT is the biggest need for the Vikings, Quinn's upside is too much to pass up at #12. Going into last year, Quinn was a projected top 5 pick in this year's draft. Potential has become a dirty word in the NFL draft, but Quinn's got loads of it. With the potential departure of Ray Edwards, Jared Allen will need some help getting to the QB in Minnesota's never blitz pass rush. Solder still is an option here, which would give Minnesota the opportunity to have the best offensive line in the league again with McKinnie, Hutchinson, and Loadholt anchoring the young Solder.
  13. Detroit Lions: Nate Solder, OT Colorado. Previous pick: Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA. Another team that is filled with that dirty p word...potential. Matthew Stafford has had difficulties staying healthy, but when he's playing, he's playing well. One way to keep a star QB on the field is protect him with a good offensive line. Solder has elite size and quickness and could be the best O-lineman in this year's draft when all is said and done. The Lions would love it if Amukamara fell to them because the defensive backfield was atrocious last year, but there is no value here after the first two CB. Look for the Lions to try to address this need if Brandon Harris from Miami (FL) is available in the second round.
  14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR Alabama. Previous pick: Julio Jones, WR Alabama. The Rams will waste no time handing in this selection. Jones could easily be taken before this pick, but if he is here, there is no doubt in my mind that St. Louis will take him. Dynamite pick.
  15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB Alabama. Previous pick: Mike Pouncey, C/G Florida. This pick could swing either way between Ingram or Pouncey. Miami has shown in the past that they are built from the inside-out with selections on the offensive and defensive lines in the first round the past couple of years. With that being said, naming a solid skill player on Miami is difficult, especially with Ricky Williams entering free agency and Ronnie Brown aging and injury prone. If Miami had confidence that a player like Ryan Williams from Virginia Tech would fall to them in a later round, then they would go offensive line here, but I have no such confidence so they will go with the top running back on the board.
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aldon Smith, DE Missouri. Previous pick: Adrian Clayborne, DE Iowa. Same idea as last mock but different prospect. I'm buying into the hype machine on Aldon Smith even though a player like Ryan Kerrigan passes my eye test better. Jacksonville got a taste of a good pass rush last year with Aaron Kampman, but can not expect the same this year without some help. Smith's skill set also fits well in coach Jack Del Rio's system
  17. New England Patriots: Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB Purdue. Previous pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB Purdue. I still strongly doubt that New England will keep their draft picks where they are. The Patriots have the unique ability to make a trade in the draft despite the lockout due to their gaggle of picks in rounds 1-3. They have the ability to move as high as they would like and I believe that if they want Von miller badly enough, they will trade up to get him as high as #1. New England is a good pass rusher away from the super bowl, but for the sake of this mock draft, we will keep them at 17 and get the best available player that gets into the opponents backfield in Kerrigan (led the nation in tackles for loss last year).
  18. San Diego Chargers: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE Temple. Previous pick: Tyron Smith, OT Southern California. San Diego has a couple of options here. They need to improve both sides of the line, particularly the front 3 in the 3-4. Names like Cam Jordan from Cal, Akeem Ayers from UCLA, and Adrian Clayborne from Iowa also come to mind, but Wilkerson fits the mold of a book end in the 3-4. Has the ability to eat up blocks freeing up the pass rushers on the edge and the ability to shed blockers and make plays in the run game. Watching game tape against Penn State (Temple's biggest game) showed me what Wilkerson could do against top level talent.
  19. New York Giants: Mike Pouncey, C/G Florida. Previous pick: Mark Ingram, RB Alabama. If Ingram is still on the board, they Giants will look long and hard at him, but with him off the board in this draft, the interior of the offensive line is another need for the Giants' run game. The Giants love to pull their interior O lineman in the running game and Pouncy has shown great athleticism to get to the second level and block linebackers. Additionally, his athleticism with help in New York's screen passing game. Pouncey, like his brother last year drafted at the same spot, will turn out to be one of the best value picks in this draft.
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Houston, DE Georgia. Previous pick: J.J. Watt, Wisconson. Tampa Bay made some great strides last year, especially with their youth movement. Gerald McCoy and Brian Price have solidified the interior of the Bucs defensive line for years to come. This year, it is time to add some pass rush to the original Tampa 2. There aren't that many legitimate 4-3 defensive ends, but Houston is one of them.
  21. Kansas City Chiefs: Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA. Previous pick: Aldon Smith, DE Missouri. Ayers had one of the underwhelming performances at the combine, but he still passes my eye tests when watching him in game. He is a ball hawking linebacker that has the ability to both cover and rush the quarterback. He is better suited as a 4-3 weak side linebacker, but I'm sure Romeo Crennel can get creative enough to utilize him effectively. Could be in the same mold as a Mike Vrabel, but with more athleticism.
  22. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College. Previous pick: Anthony Castonzo. Castonzo is the safest of the offensive tackles because of his superior intelligence, which will come in handy when Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday call their multitude of audibles. Additionally, Manning will be turning 35, and protecting that aging investment should be priority #1, 2, and 3.
  23. Philadelphia Eagles: Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin. Previous pick: Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin. Carimi May be the best pure run blocking tackle in the draft and could start on either side for many teams. Most prognosticators have Carimi fitting in best on the right side of the offensive line, which in Philly's case, would be Mike Vick's blind side. The Eagles have a phenomenal running game, partly because of Mike Vick, but improving the offensive line will only make the running game better. In addition, with a better running game comes a better play-action passing game. The Eagles offense is scary enough as is, but can only get better with better line play.
  24. New Orleans Saints: Adrian Clayborne, DE Iowa. Previous pick: Stephen Paea, DT Oregon State. The Saints need help with the pass rush and the offensive line. The best available O-lineman would be Derrick Sherrod, but that's a little bit of a reach at 24, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen. However, Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams had to blitz far too much for his liking, and that is saying something. Clayborne is the best available pass rusher here and has a good skill set for a 4-3 defensive end.
  25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB Washington. Previous pick: Justin Houston, OLB Georgia. This is perhaps the most difficult pick to project because Seattle is a mess at a few positions. A lot of lenforget that this team did not even break .500 with its playoff win vs. New Orleans. Matt Hasselbeck's future in Seattle and in the NFL is limited and would give Jake Locker a great mentor on how to go about everyday life as an NFL QB. Not to mention the media friendly home grown QB that will keep butts in the seats of Qwest Field.
  26. Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado. Previous pick: Brandon Harris, CB Miami. Elite talent with elite baggage. Having strong leaders like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed already in place is the only reason why Baltimore will think of drafting Smith. The elite size and speed combination doesn't hurt either.
  27. Atlanta Falcons: Cameron Jordan, DE/OLB California. Previous pick: Cameron Jordan, DE/OLB California. Jordan is the only guy who I have dropping for no reason. He has the skill set and the pedigree to succeed in the NFL, but I just don't see many teams taking him before Atlanta. The Falcons don't have many glaring needs but preparing for the inevitable injury to John Abraham can't be a bad idea and Jordan presents tremendous value as a late first round pick.
  28. New England Patriots: Corey Liuget, DT Illinois. Previous pick: Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech. Once again, I strongly doubt that the Patriots picks will remain stable. History has taught us that the Patriots are always looking to move in the draft. If they stay here, they may take the best player available, which would be Liuget. Most people have him going far earlier in the draft, but due to team needs and I have him dropping to the late first round. If they Pats draft Liuget it would allow Vince Wilfork to have the flexibility to move outside and be a DE as well as a DT. Liuget also is a manchild in eating blocks and shedding them.
  29. Chicago bears: Derrick Sherrod, OT Mississippi. Previous pick: Aaron Williams, CB Texas. Another instance where I'm wavering between previous and current pick. Sherrod is not a first round talent but is a first round need for the Bears who let Jay Cutler get hit far too often, as evident in the playoff game against Green Bay. Cutler does need to work on his decision making but having a good offensive line is a nice cheat sheet.
  30. New York Jets: Marvin Austin, DT North Carolina. Previous pick: Allen Bailey, DE/OLB Miami. Even though the Jets are used to being without Kris Jenkins anchoring the defensive line, that does not mean that they have replaced him or are grooming anyone to do so. It is time that they draft someone who has the ability to fill in and limit the load on Jenkins and, eventually, take over.
  31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB Texas. Previous pick: Kyle Rudolph, TE Notre Dame: The Steelers would love to get an offensive tackle here, but there simply isn't one. They could look for another versatile interior lineman like they did last year with Pouncy, but Williams would solve a greater need. Some think that Williams is better suited as a safety, but if he can cover from the safety position or the cornerback position that would give Troy the Hair more freedom to roam.
  32. Green Bay Packers: Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State. Previous pick: Cameron Heyward. Heyward has the talent to be a top 20 pick in the draft, but lacks the mental make up. Green Bay is a great place to be a football player (similar to Columbus, Ohio) and the city will help Heyward early by not being too critical of any shortcomings or laziness. Additionally, if Clay Matthews speaks, people tend to pay attention even if out of fear. Remember, he's been fined for having biceps that scare quarterbacks!

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