The Head Cheese Mock Draft I

Since we're just eight weeks and change away from the NFL draft, it's time for me to take my first stab at it. This is the first of four mocks I'll do leading up to the draft. The last one will include every Packer pick of the draft. Each draft will be named after a Packer Super Bowl title.

So, without further ado, here's The Head Cheese Mock Draft I

1. Carolina: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: The Panthers' defense has needs up front. When Julius Peppers left for Chicago, the pass rush went with him. So Carolina tries to replace him with Bowers. Upset pick could be Alabama's Dareus, as Panthers noticed what a great DT can mean to a team like Suh with the Lions.

2. Denver: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: With all-timer Champ Bailey signed but inching closer to eligibility for AARP, the Broncos need to upgrade the position. A duo of Bailey and Peterson would cover up a lot of shortcomings in the front seven. Peterson will also electrify the team's special teams unit as the draft's top return prospect.

3. Buffalo: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: Much temptation to take a QB here, but I think Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to get another shot at leading this offense and the Bills will look to the other side of the ball after drafting Spiller early last year. Dareus fits their scheme and has the size at 6'5" 319 to wreak havoc from his spot.

4. Cincinnati: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: The bet here is that Cincinnati elects to move Carson Palmer (to SF maybe?) and starts over with the top QB prospect on their board. Many believe that will be Cam Newton, but I say Gabbert gets the nod and is the opening day starter in the city of fabulous chili.

5. Arizona: Vonn Miller, OLB, Texas A&M: The pick of Gabbert has some teams freaking out that they need to move up to take Cam Newton here. Wouldn't shock me if Arizona moves down a few spots and can "settle" for Fairley, Quinn or Amukamara, if they lose out on Miller. They need help on defense first and foremost. Yes, they need a QB too; but most reports out of Arizona say Hall and Skelton are both going to get a chance to win the job. Miller gives their pass rush a much needed jolt, but any defensive stud would be welcome here.

6. Cleveland: A.J. Green, WR Georgia: This pick wins my "most likely to remain the same for all four mocks (though #15 might give it a run for its money). " The Browns are desperate for offensive playmakers and Green is the top WR in this draft by a wide margin. He would give Colt McCoy a real downfield weapon and at 6'4" will be a mismatch against most corners. But, with Tom Heckert now making the picks, he may decide to grab a guy like Fairley here and grab a WR a round or two later. He scored with DeSean Jackson in the second round a few years back in Philly. Ultimately, with an offensive-minded head coach, Heckert gives him a shiny, electric new toy.

7. San Francisco: Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina: The guy was suspended for his final season and is more than a year removed from game action, but is rapidly moving up the draft boards and his upside is too much for the 49ers to pass up. Joining a LB corps that already boasts one of the best in Patrick Willis, Quinn gives them an outside rusher and instantly makes a good defense very good. Look for new coach Jin Harbaugh to bring in a veteran QB to compete with Alex Smith (yes, I think Harbaugh hangs on to him).

8. Tennessee: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: He came in a bit smaller than advertised at the combine so his stock is falling, but the Titans are thrilled that he's there for them at #8. Their defensive line has been decimated in recent years and Fairley showed he has all the tools to be a stud, if he can show consistency.

9. Dallas: Cameron Jordan, DE California: As Roger Goodell starts to announce this pick there's a gasp as everyone thinks they're taking Cam Newton, but no, they give new DC Rob Ryan a versatile beast, the son of former Viking great Steve Jordan. Young Cameron would fit perfectly on a Dallas defense that needs re-inforcements. Add him to Ware and Ratliff and suddenly things look a lot better for that unit.

10. Washington: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: Of course, Newton ends up with Daniel Snyder. And Tom Shanahan. And so begins the most watched rookie campaign in recent memory. This pairing would be written about and watched more closely than any in the league, if there's an offseason. The Redskins have a boatload of needs, but with Vick, Romo and Manning in the division, they desperately need an identity. Newton is now it.

11. Houston: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: A classic case of a team in need finding the perfect player at their spot in the draft. The Texans were historically bad in the secondary and are thrilled to find the second corner on their board there for them. He'll need to be ready on opening day. Best news for him: he gets to practice against Andre Johnson every day.

12. Minnesota: Jake Locker, QB, Washington: This franchise has gone a generation without drafting a franchise QB in the first round. With Adrian Peterson getting closer to the end of his rookie deal, the team needs to show they have a plan for the offense that extends beyond #28--to make sure he likes the direction and signs a new deal. In letting Sidney Rice walk in free agency, the Vikings passing attack starts over. It begins with the fleet-footed strong-armed Locker, whose accuracy is a big question mark, but who would have been the first player drafted had he come out last year. Throw in the critical stadium situation and the need for the public's enthusiastic support, Locker is brought in as the future--and maybe the present.

13. Detroit: Tyron Smith, OT, USC: That scream of joy you just heard came from QB Matthew Stafford who has been mostly injured during his first two season in the Motor City. He's seen as a prototypical left tackle and is equally strong in pass protection as he is in the running game. With RB Jahvid Best an "ouside the numbers" guy, a guy like Smith up front could make him lethal off the edge.

14. St. Louis: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Sam Bradford needs a top flight weapon and Jones is the clear #2 in this WR class. He showed toughness at 'Bama, and gives new coordinator Josh McDaniels a legit receiver to move all over the field for his young future star QB to find early and often.

15. Miami: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Virtually every mock draft in America has Ingram going to the Dolphins, which means it probably won't happen. But the Dolphins are moving on from Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and need a guy to be the focal point of the offense. They may bring in a veteran QB here--adding Ingram would be a nice incentive for a free agent signal caller.

16. Jacksonville: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: This position has been cursed the past couple of years. Top 10 pick Derrick Harvey has played like Paul Harvey and free agent prize Aaron Kampman blew out his knee again last year. Watt has the versatility to play a number of roles for Jack Del Rio.

17. Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Purdue: This is the pick the Pats got from the Raiders for Richard Seymour. They'll pick again at #28 and could add another front seven guy. Kerrigan gives them a nice looking pass rusher--an obvious need. But they could go for a DE here like Clayborn.

18. San Diego: Aaron Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Chargers have WR needs, but will address them later. The defense is in need of playmakers and Clayborn has the potential to become one. He had a disappointing '10 season--was thought to be a top 10 pick. Chargers will try to locate the '09 version and plug him in on opening day.

19. N.Y. Giants: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: It's possible that some of Eli Manning's picks came because he was freaked out about his line, which needs reinforcements. There are a few other highly rated tackles still on the board, but Solder is seen to have the most upside, so he's the pick here.

20. Tampa Bay: Aldon Smith, DE Missouri: The Bucs were among the biggest surprises of 2010, winning ten games and narrowly missing the playoffs. Defense is the biggest need and Tampa Bay sees Smith as a potential top 5 talent. He's coming out after his sophomore season so he can grow right along with the league's youngest team--a team that is posed to be a real threat in the NFC in a year or two.

21. Kansas City: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: The Chiefs are another team that made a big jump, but they won't be sneaking up on anyone anymore. Paea's bench pressing acumen has him shooting up the boards and he finds a home here where he'll be asked to step in as the starting nose in a division with good young running backs.

22. Indianapolis: Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College: Whether or not Peyton Manning signs his new contract, certain to be the largest in league history, the Colts will assure him that they will be adding a tackle in the first round and like Bulaga with the Packers, the Colts are thrilled that the technically sound Castonzo is available when they pick. Manning looked jumpier than he ever has in 2010, Castonzo will help him settle down in 2011.

23. Philadelphia: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: A need pick here, made simple by the fact that Smith and Miami's Harris are both available and make perfect sense for an Eagles secondary that needs help and needs to get younger.

24. New Orleans: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple: He'll play end for Gregg Williams and provide immediate help for a defense that was embarrassed in Seattle in last year's playoffs. He's only a junior, and didn't face great competition, but in a year or two could be a mainstay and building block of the defense.

25. Seattle: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: This guy has steam right now and might move up my board down the road. Another junior who flashes huge potential and another reason the defensive line will be the story of the first round this year. Pete Carroll knows his team needs to get nastier. Liuget would be a step in the right direction.

26. Baltimore: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: The achilles heel of the Ravens' perennially tough defense is the secondary, where injuries and age caused inexcusable lapses late in games. The Ravens address the need with the latest in a line of great Hurricane defenders. Former teammate Sam Shields showed his stuff with the Pack as an undrafted guy. Harris has been a very productive corner in Miami and will fit right in with one of the league's best defenses.

27. Atlanta: Titus Young, WR, Boise State: He's this year's DeSean Jackson and a much needed downfield weapon for Matt Ryan. The Packers' exposed the Falcons' needs on defense, but they can't pass up this home run threat who will also add another return guy to the mix. With Tony Gonzalez on his last legs and Michael Jenkins just average, Ryan needs another target to take the heat off of Roddy White. Atlanta's offense looks a lotmore formidable with Young on the field.

28. New England: Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State: Ironhead's kid will be asked to replace Richard Seymour. Bloodlines are there and we saw this kid make huge plays for the Buckeyes, but tended to disappear at times. Looks like a solid Belichick pick who could step right in and start from day 1.

29. Chicago: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: Sorry, Badger fans. I know this is the last place you want to see him go, but it makes all the sense in the world. Pouncey could go here, too, as a future replacement for Olin Kreutz. But Carimi is going to be a hot name as the draft approaches and if he's still on the board, the Bears grab him.

30. N.Y. Jets: Allen Bailey, DE, Miami: He doesn't need to step in and play right away and can learn from some grizzled veterans. Bailey has lots of upside, but needs to be coached up. Jets could also go wide receiver here, with Baldwin from Pitt one to watch.

31. Pittsburgh: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida: With his brother to his left, the younger Pouncey could be an immediate fixture at right guard and help a Steelers offensive line that nearly got Big Ben killed last year. Some sacks are on him, but Ben needs more help up front and adding another Pouncey sure seems logical.

OK, so if it falls like this, the Pack has a number of options. Three of the guys likely to be high on their board will be Aaron Williams, the CB from Texas, Justin Houston, the outside linebacker from Georgia and Danny Watkins, a 27 year old guard from Baylor who played at Butte JC, the same place Aaron Rodgers played. One other name to watch is Derek Sherrod, the tackle from Mississippi State.

They all play different positions so it should be as simple as whoever is highest rated on the Packers' board. They all play positions I believe the Packers will try to address in late April, and I'm really tempted to go with the tackle, but I'm going with:

32. Packers: Danny Watkins, G, Baylor: Packers replace Darren Colledge with Watkins who wins the starting job at left guard either in training camp, if there is one, or soon after he gets the chance to show his stuff. He'll make the switch from tackle to guard effortlessly. Four years ago the guy dreamed of being a firefighter and had never played football. Now he's a number one pick and a member of the Super Bowl champs. Not bad for a hockey freak who had to be coaxed into trying football a few years ago.


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