I figure I’ll crank out three of these total (at least for publication) with the final one being published the Wednesday before the draft. (Speaking of which if you’d like to submit a mock please do, we’re thinking of a contest or something. Don’t know what prize would be, but maybe glory?) So here’s the 2nd version.
1. Carolina Panthers – Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn
There’s some momentum picking up for an A.J. Green or Marcel Dareus here, but I think when the chips are down, the Panthers will succumb to the traditional pick of quarterback at the top. The buzz about Blaine Gabbert has become a quiet whisper, while Newton’s is a rebel yell. He’s a playmaker, and Carolina certainly needs that, but they’ll have to stay on him if they want to see that high upside come to fruition.
2. Denver Broncos – Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama
100% 99.9% sure this pick will happen. If Dareus is on the board the Broncos will not hesitate to fill a massive, massive hole in their roster. They currently have no one there with significant starting experience. Their entire corp has a total of 4.5 sacks in their career (3 from one player). Dareus is a beast on the inside and Denver definitely needs the presence to take some of the attention off Dumervil.
3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
I’m starting to believe the talk that Buddy Nix (the Bills GM) is a straight shooter. He won’t flat out tell you where he’s drafting, but he doesn’t do the whole escapade of deception that most teams go through. Last year he mentioned several times that he would like a pass catching, explosive running back and proceeded to take C.J. Spiller. This year, he’s been asked directly about taking a quarterback and he said he felt comfortable with Fitzpatrick and that they needed to fill the holes around him. Miller doesn’t quite help Fitzpatrick, but there’s no denying he’s an elite pass rushing talent.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
I’m still not sold on this pick simply because Bengals owner Mike Brown has a track record of not making good selections. He seems to be in denial that Carson Palmer will be leaving which leads me to believe they’ll look towards another position, like say A.J. Green. But I think Marvin Lewis still has some sway in Cincinnati and most of the actions by the team and personnel people lean towards accepting Palmer as gone. If that is indeed the case, they’ll be thrilled Gabbert is available to them at 4.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Quinn, OLB, UNC
Arizona is the most disappointed team in the top 5. They lose out on both quarterbacks and the top pass rusher. I think they’ve got three options here. Draft an elite corner in Patrick Peterson, trade down, or select the next best pass rusher. Peterson is the key here. If San Francisco, Houston or another corner needy team want to push up, Arizona might be happy to ablige them. They could also add Peterson to their group and then possibly transition him to safety ie Malcolm Jenkins in New Orleans. Were I a betting man, I’d wager they look defensively, and Quinn would be my bet (call it 60-40). Quinn’s got a rare combination of size and speed. His drop backs need some work, but he could start day 1 as a pass rusher.
6. Cleveland Browns – A. J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Browns are ecstatic to find the top WR in this class for them. He’s a good run blocker and a physical beast and they’ll finally have a viable target for McCoy to throw to. He’ll replace Braylon Edwards and more. If Hillis can string another solid season together and McCoy develops nicely, this is a Browns offense that might *gasp* scare some teams.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Jim Harbaugh is equally ecstatic to find Peterson down at 7. NFL people talk about finding value in the draft and getting the best player at 7 is a prime example of that. He’s big and physical, like the defense Fangio runs and can play on an island. He can also move to safety if he’s not up to corner.
8. Tennessee Titans -Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
I think this is where the trades really begin to pick up. At some point now we’ll have several mid range teams who are looking for a quarterback (Vikings, Redskins, Dolphins, Jaguars) and the buzz on Locker has him up in the 15 range. Unfortunately teams know they can’t wait around for him to fall to them, they’ll have to make a move. With the blue chip guys all gone, the Titans are a prime candidate to consider a drop. They don’t seem to covet Locker like some other teams, and could swing a good deal with a Miami team, or a desperate Redskins / Vikings team. Assuming they stand pat, they’ll choose between to high risk players – Bowers and Fairley. Both are one year wonder potential guys, but I think they go Fairley because I think they feel they have some experience managing those kinds of personalities. There’s also some talk they could look at WR early because of Kenny Britt’s frequent legal troubles (Another problem they have experience with, players getting into suspension level trouble).
9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith, OT, USC
This is a pick I feel pretty sure about. Their line needs help and I’m fairly certain Jerry Jones doesn’t want to see another Romo-less season. Doug Free and Smith can compete for the LT honors with the loser being a solid RT option. They could use an upgrade inside, but they’ll find that later on.
10. Washington Redskins – Jake Locker, QB, Washington
The Redskins have said little this offseason, other than they’d like to move down in round one. Certainly if they get a big offer from another team (maybe flip with a Minnesota and get a 1st or 2nd next season kind of offer) they might take them up on it, but the Shanahan-Locker relationship looks perfect on paper. He’s a John Elway type player who can make moves outside the pocket deliver strikes when he’s out there. He has good leadership qualities and Shanahan can groom him with a soon to be young team.
11. Houston Texans – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Texans will probably leap to the podium should Amukamara fall to them. What can you say about the Texan’s secondary that’s positive? They were simply horrendous. Kareem Jackson has potential to develop, but he’s not a shutdown guy so they have to get a hold of something more this off season. Unless they’re planning on a run at Nnamdi Asomougha, this should be there pick. If he’s not there Cameron Jordan would be a strong fit for them, with his 34 experience and the big holes the Texans made by switching schemes.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
One of the faster rising defensive ends, Smith has had some very nice production throughout his college career. With Ray Edwards on the way to a nice pay day and Everson Griffin in jail, there’s room for Smith to slide in opposite Jared Allen. They’ll need to replenish their defensive interior, but if they can do that they’ll be set for several years.
13. Detroit Lions – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
I believe the rumors that the Lions won’t let Bowers past them if he’s here. There’s not an elite tackle (which is the biggest need) and if they can get a motivated, healthy Bowers its a great pickup. There’s a lot of risk with this pick, but it’d be scary to imagine Suh + Bowers for 10+ years.
14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Jones has the room to be taken anywhere between Cleveland and the Rams. I can’t see him falling any farther unless Green takes a big spill too. The Rams will pounce on the big play maker and rest easy Thursday night knowing that Bradford has a weapon to work with.
15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
The Dolphins are in a tough spot here. Ingram has fallen out of 1st round consideration, there isn’t a quarterback worth this pick, and their needs don’t coincide with the board. I’ve seen mocks have them reach for a quarterback, others look towards the pass rush, but this looks like a perfect trade position. Write this down – The Patriots will move up in this draft. Yes its opposite of what they usually do, but look at their roster. They’ve got youth across the board and depth at many places. There’s simply not enough room for all their 9 picks this year. That means they can afford to position themselves higher and take a higher caliber player. More on that later. I’m not sure if I’m predicting the Patriots move up here to take Pouncey, or if the Dolphins will move down to take him, but if they stand pat this seems the only option for them to improve dramatically anywhere.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Kerrigan is a good fit for the Jags. They’ve tried the boom or bust guys with Harvey and Groves and neither has really shined. This time they’ll go for a high motor, hard working blue collar guy, and I think they’ll be surprised at how much he gives them.