The Head Cheese Mock Draft IIPosted:Mar 25th, 2011 4:48 pm
Once again, I weigh in on how I think the first round will play out. This is the second of my four mocks and there are boatloads of changes from the first one a few weeks back. My final one will probably look a lot different, but as of today, this is what it feels like. Reminder: each of my mock drafts are named after a Packer Super Bowl title.
1. Carolina: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: I went with the pass rusher Bowers last time, but right now it feels like the Panthers will decide it's impossible to pass up a chance at a franchise quarterback, something they lack (unless you believe Jimmy Clausen is the real deal). In a division that boasts Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and the emerging Josh Freeman, Carolina prays that Gabbert is the real deal. The new labor agreement, whenever it happens, will include a rookie wage scale. So without having to pony up $50 million on a roll of the dice, the Panther scoop the strong-armed Gabbert.
2. Denver: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Most mocks have the Broncos grabbing a defensive lineman here, but I don't think they can pass up the wart-free Peterson, who will benefit from learning from Hall of Famer Champ Bailey for a year or two while also adding a dangerous return threat (even if he has to take it five yards deep from time to time).
3. Buffalo: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Sure, Cam Newton would juice up the fans, but that's what C.J. Spiller was supposed to do last year. Ryan Fitzpatrick showed enough at QB last year to allow the Bills to address a more urgent need: an impact pass rusher to add some teeth to a defense that needs playmakers.
4. Cincinnati: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: It's popular right now to slot Newton in here, since Carson Palmer maintains he will not return and there is not a replacement on the roster. But I think they grab a QB in the second round and address the D-line. Last year's #2 pick, Carlos Dunlap, had a great year with 9.5 sacks, but the line needs toughness in the middle and Dareus delivers, helping a run defense that has to match up in the division with Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall and Peyton Hillis.
5. Arizona: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M: Miller invites comparisons to DeMarcus Ware and that's why the Cardinals can't pass him up. They are desperate for a Clay Matthews type of pass rusher to assist their 3-4 defense and Miller is the draft's best OLB. He led the nation in sacks as a junior and came back from an early ankle injury to post another strong season. The Cards' biggest need is filled and they will turn in their card quickly.
6. Cleveland: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: The Browns need a big-time playmaker to help Colt McCoy and Mike Holmgren remembers how the Pack passed on Randy Moss. Green invites comparisons physically to Moss and the Browns have nothing like him on the roster. GM Tom Heckert stole DeSean Jackson in the second round a few years ago, so he may elect to grab DT Fairley here, but I'll stick with Green, for now.
7. San Francisco: Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina: I'll stick with this pick. There's a new DC in Frisco, Vic Fangio, and he wants to install an aggressive 3-4 and needs a pass rusher to complement stud inside linebacker Patrick Willis. Despite sitting out the season on suspension, Quinn's measurables and 2009 tape show an explosive talent with a great spin move. Look for the Niners to grab a QB in the second round, or trade for one once the league is open for business again.
8. Tennessee: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: I'm sticking with this pick. A couple of months ago, Fairley was a possible first overall pick, and while a few red flags have popped up, there's no way the Titans pass on him here. Like the Cardinals, it's a position of need and he happens to be the top guy on their board. A perfect fit.
9. Dallas: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: The Cowboys were brutal against the pass in 2010, getting lit up weekly. They have needs across the board on defense, and still may grab Cameron Jordan, my original pick here. But great corners are real tough to find and Prince could make an immediate impact.
10. Washington: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: This pick is Dan Snyder's dream, but only happens if Mike Shanahan is impressed enough in private workouts. Can't imagine the Redskins starting the season with Rex Grossman at QB. They could wait till the second round and grab a guy like Christian Ponder, but ultimately, I think Shanahan will believe he can teach Newton the intricacies of the game, as he drools over his athletic ability and strong arm. I wouldn't be shocked if the Vikings swing a trade to move up to nine to grab him, but it would cost them their second round pick and they don't have a third. But Newton in Minnesota could help the stadium bill go through.
11. Houston: Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Purdue: The Texans are the latest team to switch to the 3-4, coming off a season where their pass defense was historically bad. A CB makes sense here, but they did that last year with Kareem Jackson. So I say they go for a Matthews-like pass rusher to make the 3-4 hum. Kerrigan has a great motor and plays every play like it's his last. They had hoped Quinn would be here at #11, but settle for the next guy on their board.
12. Minnesota: Cameron Jordan, DE, California: My original pick was Jake Locker, and if the board falls like this (doubtful, I know), the Vikes may elect to trade down and grab the Washington QB later. But Jordan would be a great pick for a team that is losing Ray Edwards and Pat Williams on the D-line. Unless it wants to see Jared Allen get double-teamed on every play, the Purple needs to add a pass rusher, and the son of former Viking great Steve Jordan fits the bill. He's great against the run and his hands and quickness make him a pass rushing stud.
13. Detroit: Tyron Smith, OT, USC: Another pick I'm not changing, for now. Matthew Stafford is gaining a reputation of fragility and a stud left tackle should help keep him upright. They may choose Castonzo instead, but for now I believe Smith is their highest rated tackle.
14. St. Louis: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Sam Bradford's the real deal and Josh McDaniels was brought in to develop him further and make the offense more explosive. Enter Jones, who has the toughness of Anquan Boldin and gives Bradford a legit #1 target.
15. Miami: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Virtually every mock draft has the former Heisman winner going here, which means it probably won't happen. But the Fins are moving on from Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and it looks like a match made in heaven.
16. Jacksonville: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: The converted tight end got better and better and will provide insurance at end, where Aaron Kampman is recovering from yet another ACL injury. The Jags need a corner too, but after drafting a couple of defensive tackles early last year, I'm guessing they continue to build up front,
17. New England: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: The Patriots are stocked with picks and will take the top guy on their board, regardless of position. The Pats have gotten old on defense in recent years and will use this draft to reload. Clayborn is an instant starter who will have an impact against the run and pass.
18. San Diego: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: The Chargers can score with anybody, but their defense needs difference-makers. Smith provides the pass rusher they need.
19. N.Y. Giants: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: I switched off tackle for the Giants, who need to get nastier up the middle and Liuget fits the bill. With Umenyiora and Tuck on the ends, New York needs inside support. Veteran Barry Cofield is a free agent and may be gone, so the Giants grab the physical, talented youngster who is ready to step right in.
20. Tampa Bay: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple: The Bucs had their hearts set on Clayborn, but he's gone so they grab the next defensive end on their board. The rising Bucs won 10 games but missed the playoffs and finished 31st in the league in sacks. Last year's top pick Gerald McCoy is a stud at DT, and Wilkerson will be the sack artist they desperately need.
21. Kansas City: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: The Chiefs have ignored the offensive line for too long and need an anchor to protect Matt Cassell and help Jamal Charles in the running game. Castonzo is the most complete tackle in the draft and will give instant help to a team that will come into 2011 with high expectations.
22. Indianapolis: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: The Colts covet Castonzo but just miss out so they grab the next tackle on their board. With Peyton dilly-dallying over signing the richest contract in league history, this pick will make him smile.
23. Philadelphia: Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin: The run on tackles continues as Andy Reid addresses a position that needs help. Mike Vick got killed at the end of the season because he had no confidence that the line could protect him. Carimi is tough, smart and comes from a school that knows how to coach up linemen.
24. New Orleans: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: The Saints need a lot of help in their front seven and Paea will help plug the middle of their line and give much needed assistance in run support. He turned heads with his bench press exhibition at the combine, proving that the knee injury he suffered in the Senior Bowl wasn't serious.
25. Seattle: Jake Locker, QB, Washington: John Schneider may be tempted to trade down here, since he only has two picks in the first three rounds. But the temptation to grab the local hero is too great to pass up. Accuracy is the issue with Locker, but his intangibles and rare athletic ability make him the pick to replace Matt Hasselbeck.
26. Baltimore: Derrek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: The Ravens need a tackle opposite Michael Oher and Sherrod can step right in and start at right tackle.
27. Atlanta: Allen Bailey, DE, Miami: When the Falcons saw Aaron Rodgers play catch with his receivers in the playoffs, they realized they need a youth injection in the pass rush department. John Abraham is getting long in the tooth. Bailey has huge upside and would have been a top 10 pick, if not for a torn ACL cost him most of his senior season.
28. New England: Danny Watkins, G, Baylor: Watkins was my pick for the Pack in my first mock, but Belichick gobbles him up here, allowing Logan Mankins to find employment elsewhere. At 27, Watkins is mature enough to handle the pro lifestyle and he has the tools to step right in and start on a team that will enter 2011 as the Super Bowl favorite.
29. Chicago: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Despite a strong season, the Bears have a lot of needs on both sides of the ball: WR, OT and DT come to mind. But ultimately, there's a big drop off at corner after Smith and the Bears know they need to beat the Packers passing game if they want to reach their ultimate goal. Smith is tall, smart, fast and has excellent closing speed. The Bears can't believe he's still on the board and grab him quickly.
30. N.Y. Jets: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: After dumping first round bust Vernon Gholston, the Jets are in desperate need of a pass rusher, if Rex Ryan's aggressive, blitzing scheme is to work. Houston has been tagged as a lazy player who takes plays off. But on this team he'll learn what work ethic means and could pay instant dividends on a team that's been to the AFC title game the last two years.
31. Pittsburgh: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida: Pouncey joins his twin brother Maurkice and slides in to his right as RG to fortify an offensive line that needs reinforcements. They would have grabbed Jimmy Smith here if he were available, but are just as happy to add another Pouncey and give Big Ben more time to operate and the running game more room to run.
And so the Packers are on the clock with the final pick of the first round on Thursday night. Ted Thompson will grab the top guy on his board at this point and he has a few interesting options: there's a dynamic RB, Ryan Williams from Virginia Tech. But the emergence of Starks and Grant coming back makes it hard to believe they'd bite unless Ingram falls to them.
Some predict that Pitt's Jonathan Baldwin might be the pick. With James Jones likely departing via free agency and Donald Driver starting to break down, the Pack will need to give Rodgers a couple of new weapons, but Thompson rarely drafts a receiver in the first round.
Ultimately, I think he grabs an outside linebacker to complement Matthews. Yes, Zombo, Walden and Brad Jones all flashed when they had their chances, but there are a few youngsters available with a lot more upside and the Pack needs another pass rusher to take the heat off Matthews, especially since Cullen Jenkins is unlikely to be back. There are three guys he'll consider: Arizona's Brooks Reed, Texas' Sam Acho and...
32. Packers: Jabaal Sheard, OLB, Pitt: Just a gut feel here. Sheard is being compared to Brian Orakpo of the Redskins and is equally strong against the run and the pass. He played defensive end with the Panthers (three-year starter, 19 sacks) but projects to an OLB in the 3-4 defense. Like Matthews, he has great closing speed and will be taken under Kevin Greene's wing and will make an instant impact on one of the league's top defenses.