Even though we’re still more than two and a half months away from the NFL Draft, analysts and fans are hard at work crafting their own mock drafts. Those mocks will change substantially as NFL hopefuls are evaluated at their school’s Pro Days and then head to Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine. But with the NFL as popular as it is, it’s no surprise that we’re starting to see early versions of mock drafts pop up on a daily basis.
At Behind the Steel Curtain, SB Nation’s Pittsburgh Steelers blog, a four round mock was posted yesterday. Impressively, the author has an explanations for all 128 picks, with the first 32 in the 1st round fairly detailed. Below you’ll see the first round in its entirety, but be sure to check out Rounds 2-4 over at BTSC.
1. Carolina Panthers – A.J. Green WR, UGA
2010 1st Pick: Jimmy Clausen QB, Notre Dame
Damn Andrew Luck for forcing me to change my entire mock draft. With Luck staying for another year at Stanford it changes the entire game plan for Carolina. For one it makes the first overall pick not as valuable for trade partners. The Panthers could have taken Luck to be their franchise QB for years to come, or they could’ve traded it to another QB hungry team and gotten a king’s ransom for it. Now they are pretty much locked into this pick and will have to decide between A.J. Green, Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, Auburn DT Nick Fairley, or LSU CB Patrick Peterson. First off, as much as I love Patrick Peterson I just can’t see a CB going first overall even though he is the best CB prospect since Champ Bailey. In the end I think they’ll take A.J. Green. As far as Fairley is concerned, even though he tore up the SEC this year he was a completely unknown entity before the season began. Thoughts of him being a one year wonder are bound to go through the minds of the front office. Besides that, very few DT’s have a big impact in their rookie years and plenty of them that have been taken number one overall have busted. Bowers is a phenomenal talent but Carolina already has a couple of good young players at DE in Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. A.J. Green is the best WR prospect to come along since Calvin Johnson and has proved his worth all three years at Georgia. Come draft day Jimmy Clausen is going to be a very happy person.
2. Denver Broncos – Patrick Peterson CB, LSU
2010 1st round Draft Picks: Demaryius Thomas WR, Georgia Tech/Tim Tebow QB, Florida
The Broncos have several issues on the defensive side of the ball come the 2011 season. Upfront they need a complete overhaul of the defensive line. In the secondary, Champ Bailey is almost as good as gone after stating that he’s tired of all the changes. Given his age and lack of a championship he will most likely be looking to sign with a contender. 2010 rookie Perrish Cox may be looking at some serious jail time in the near future as well. And to add to all of that, 2009 rookie Alphonso Smith (for who the Broncos traded a 2010 first round pick to acquire) was so bad that they traded him away after only a year. Fortunately for the Broncos the 2011 draft is loaded with D-line and secondary prospects. I’ve seen a lot of mock drafts that have the Broncos taking Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers given that new Head Coach John Fox used his first pick in Carolina on another powerful DE in Julius Peppers, especially given that they will being switching to a 4-3 defense. But they currently have OLB’s Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil on the roster and will probably have both of them playing DE in 2011. So this pick really only comes down to Peterson or Auburn DT Nick Fairley. Peterson is being hailed as the next Darrell Revis. The term “Shutdown” corner is used a lot, but with regards to Peterson it may be true. He has a great size/speed combo, and is equally superior against the pass (in man and zone) as well as against the run.
3. Buffalo Bills – Nick Fairley DT/DE, Auburn
2010 1st round Draft Pick: C.J. Spiller RB, Clemson
NT Kyle Williams has been great this year but he has been the exception along the defensive line. Fairley would be an instant upgrade at DE in their 3-4 scheme, and he’s versatile enough to play DT when they switch to a 4-3. As of right now there aren’t any offensive tackles in this draft that are worth a pick this high so Buffalo will have to wait to fill that huge void until the second round. Personally I still think they need to upgrade the QB position. Ryan Fitzpatrick played decent this season but he just doesn’t have the arm strength to succeed at the pro level. Also don’t count out A.J. Green if Carolina passes on him. Green is an explosive player that would really open up the Bills offense and they currently have nothing at the position outside of Lee Evans, and yes I’m counting Steve Johnson. Fairley dominated this season in an always tough SEC but he’s developed a reputation for being a dirty player and he also has a tendency to take plays off.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – Da’Quan Bowers DE, Clemson
2010 NFL Mock Draft Pick: Jermaine Gresham TE, Oklahoma
A.J. Green would have been my first option but as he’s gone Bowers will be a more than adequate consolation prize. Cincy’s pass-rush has been absolutely dreadful this year except for Carlos Dunlap and Bowers would be a great addition. Current DE Antwan Odom is always injured. Given that QB Carson Palmer’s skills have eroded drastically over the last couple years it would be smart to cut ties with him and truly start the rebuilding process by drafting his replacement now, especially in light of Palmer’s recent desire to be traded as he’s fed up with the continual circus that is the Bengals. Unfortunately for the Bengals and Palmer owner Mike Brown is extremely complacent and resistant to change and will probably allow Palmer to play out his contract before finding a new QB.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Von Miller DE/OLB, Texas A&M
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Dan Williams NT, Tennessee
A lot of mock drafts, including my own previously, have the Cardinals taking a QB given all of the struggles of Derek Anderson, Max Hall, and John Skelton. But I believe given enough time Skelton can turn into a quality QB in the NFL. They would be better off signing a veteran like Marc Bulger or trading for Kevin Kolb. Coach Whisenhunt is in hot water already and cannot afford to have another year with a struggling rookie QB. Given the talent available this pick will come down to Miller and Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara. Prince would give the Cardinals one of the best young CB duos in the league when paired with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and he would replace Greg Toler who has been absolutely dreadful. I’m giving the nod to Miller for several reasons, not least of which is how ancient and anemic Arizona’s pass-rush was this past season. On top of that Miller has been by all accounts the top prospect at the Senior Bowl, beating all of the “elite” offensive line talent in Mobile, and was even seen being chatted up by the Whiz himself. During the game he did not disappoint and has assured himself a selection in the top ten of the draft.
6. Cleveland Browns – Marcell Dareus DE/DT, Alabama
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Joe Haden CB, Florida
It’s no secret that Cleveland’s biggest need is for WR’s. While Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie have shown small flashes of potential neither one of them are ever going to be better than a solid number two at best. Unfortunately I see no way that A.J. Green falls this far and it’s too early for Alabama’s Julio Jones. They will probably end up trading back to acquire more picks with someone looking to snag the top QB available. If they do stay here it will come down to the best defensive front seven player which would be DE/DT Marcell Dareus or OLB/DE Robert Quinn. Currently they employ a 3-4 defense but their next coordinator may switch them to a 4-3. Both Quinn and Dareus have the versatility to play in either scheme so it’ll basically come down to whichever player the Browns feel is a better prospect.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Prince Amukamara CB, Nebraska
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Anthony Davis OT, Rutgers/Mike Iupati OG, Idaho
With a new coach this pick is going to be a difficult one to make. Obviously this team needs an upgrade at QB. Alex Smith is a pending free agent but Jim Harbaugh may feel he can work some magic with him. Troy Smith has been erratic when given his chances to play. With all due respect to ESPN’s Todd McShay I don’t see Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert as the top QB in the draft now that Luck is staying at Stanford. He’s not that accurate and he plays in a spread offense at Missouri which never taught him to look through his progressions before tucking and running. The best fit would probably be Washington QB Jake Locker whose draft stock has fallen but may be able to rebound with a strong showing in the Senior Bowl. Prince Amukamara would be a great replacement for Nate Clements.
8. Tennessee Titans – Robert Quinn DE/OLB, UNC
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Derrick Morgan DE, Georgia Tech
With Vince Young and Jeff Fisher both out at Tennessee this pick has become incredibly hard to pick. They still have Kerry Collins who’s good enough to play another year or two, but they really need someone to develop for the future. Given the headaches this franchise has endured with one running QB I doubt they’ll take another in Cam Newton, but of course owner Bud Adams was so enamored with Young’s athletic ability he could see an upgraded 2.0 version in Newton. Bypassing Newton would pretty much leave Blaine Gabbert or Ryan Mallett. I’ve already stated my feelings on Gabbert but with Kerry Collins on the roster it would give Gabbert a year to adjust to the pro game. Until a new coach is named I’m going to hold off on giving them a QB here. In a division where they have to play Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub each twice a year you can never have enough cornerbacks so Miami’s Brandon Harris is an option but would be considered a reach. Ever since Albert Haynesworth left town they’ve had a hole along the defensive front. Given his rocky relationship in Washington it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Titans trade for Haynesworth. Another issue they have is the pending free agency of DE Jason Babin. He’s 31 years old and will be looking for a big payday and the Titans will probably not want to pay the price tag. If they do resign Babin this pick would be the top QB on their draft board or the best available DT.
9. Dallas Cowboys – Gabe Carimi OT, Wisconsin
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Dez Bryant WR, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys biggest needs are at OT, CB, FS, and DE. Free Safety Alan Ball is decent but certainly not spectacular. At CB, Mike Jenkins was terrible all year and has become a pass-interference machine, and Terrence Newman will be 33 years old before the start of the 2011 season. Prince Amukamara would be great to fill the deficiencies in the secondary. Unfortunately with Andrew Luck going back to school all of the elite talent has shifted up one spot which leaves Dallas out in the cold as far as getting someone to fill a position of need in the secondary. Cal’s Cameron Jordan would be an option to replace Igor Olshansky at DE. Doug Free is marginally good at LT and Mark Colombo is dreadful at RT and even though I think it’s a reach here they will probably take Carimi. Unlike most of the other OT’s with first round grades Carimi is built to start right now and would immediately take Colombo’s place on the right side. I’ve thought of giving them Nate Solder but after watching Solder getting beat by Sam Acho and Brooks Reid at the Senior Bowl I’m convinced he’s only a fringe-first round pick. With Amukamara and Dareus both off of the board Dallas would be wise to either trade up for one of them, or trade back to get better value for their selection.
10. Washington Redskins – Blaine Gabbert QB, Missouri
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Trent Williams OT, Oklahoma
If you’ve read my mock draft up to here you’ll know I’m not a fan of Gabbert’s. I just don’t get where all the love people seem to have for him is coming from. He’s comes from a gimmicky offense that is suppose to highly inflate a QB’s numbers but he couldn’t even accomplish that. Yes he’s tall, mobile, and has a strong arm but the negatives far out weigh any of that. He’s not accurate, and he never reads through his progressions, instead opting to tuck and run every time if his first option isn’t open. If he’s taken he’ll need to sit for a year to learn how to be a pro QB. But having said all of that, if he’s put into the right system and with the right coaching he could become a respectable QB. If the Redskins decide to keep Donovan McNabb they could certainly draft Mark Ingram. Clinton Portis’ career is pretty much done and Ryan Torrain is not a full time starter. And besides that a QB’s best friend is a RB. On the defensive side of the ball the Redskins need a replacement for Andre Carter who is clearly not cut out to be an OLB in a 3-4 defense and with Aldon Smith on the board he’ll be very tempting as will Cameron Jordan to replace Albert Haynesworth at DE.
11. Houston Texans – Aldon Smith OLB/DE, Missouri
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Kareem Jackson CB, Alabama
Now that Wade Phillips has been hired to be the new defensive coordinator I can only assume that the Texans will be switching schemes to a 3-4 defense. Not knowing how the Texans will use what they have currently to fill out the new scheme makes this difficult. DeMeco Ryans will play ILB, and Brian Cushing could play inside or outside. Mario Williams will play DE and although he is very athletic he may not be quick enough to play OLB. That will still leave a vacant spot at OLB. Smith is an athletic freak of nature who could play OLB in a 3-4. In a division with Peyton Manning you can never have enough DB’s, and they really need a replacement for Free Safety Eugene Wilson, so a DB could also be chosen especially if Brandon Harris is still on the board. They will also need a NT if they convert to a 3-4, and if they stay a 4-3 they still need a DT. With Dareus and Fairley off the board OSU’s Stephen Paea is the best available option at DT. They will need to wait until the second or third rounds for a NT and target Ole Miss’ Jerrell Powe, Baylor’s Phil Taylor, or Hampton’s Kendrick Ellis.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Cam Newton QB, Auburn
2010 1st Draft Pick: Chris Cook CB, Virginia
The biggest question facing the Vikings in 2011 will be who is playing QB. Favre is definitely gone, Tavares Jackson has never shown that he’s consistent enough to be anything more than a quality back-up, and after a promising start against Philly Joe Webb deflated his value against the Lions. In addition to needing a QB the Vikings also need to look for replacements for the Williams’ wall as Kevin Williams will be 31 years old and Pat Williams will be a 38 year old free agent. Add to that Ray Edwards will also be a free agent and the Vikings stout D-line could look very different at the start of the 2011 season. They drafted Chris Cook last year but still have a lot of needs in the secondary as Cedric Griffin is very injury-prone and Antoine Winfield will be 34 years old to start the 2011 season. So if they don’t take a QB here they could look at Brandon Harris or Robert Quinn if their available. As with Blaine Gabbert personally I am not a fan of Cam Newton’s. Yes he has all the tangibles you look for, a strong arm, size, and unparalleled mobility. But he’s not that accurate, doesn’t following through his progressions, and he has the look of a bust in my opinion. But he has great “potential” and if he’s allowed to sit and learn for a year he may just be a good NFL player.
13. Detroit Lions – Akeem Ayers OLB, UCLA
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Ndamukong Suh DT, Nebraska/ Jahvid Best RB, Cal
The Lions drafting philosophy is always to take the best available player. Unfortunately the best available players do not fill a position of need for them. They could take one of the DE’s available like Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan but they already have so much money and talent invested in the defensive line. They really need a CB but after watching Miami’s Brandon Harris get burned by Michael Floyd in the bowl game it would be a reach to take him here. And they could also use a Strong Safety to pair with Lewis Delmas but there are none worthy of a pick this high. On offense they need some O-line help soon or Matt Stafford will become the next David Carr. While Ayers would be considered a slight reach here he would fill another huge position of need to replace Julian Peterson.
14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones WR, Alabama
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Sam Bradford QB, Oklahoma
The Rams really need to add weapons for QB Sam Bradford to succeed as well as adding pieces that take pressure off of workhorse back Steven Jackson. Spagnuolo’s past success in New York with generating a great pass-rush with lesser talent will probably influence him to forego using a first round pick on the defensive line so I think they will wait until the second round to find a DE to compliment Chris Long. I think this is a little bit early for Jones but he makes the most sense for the Rams. With the exception of the Auburn game he’s been fairly inconsistent his whole career at Alabama but he’s a supremely gifted athlete. If Spagnuolo does go for a defensive lineman here it’ll be Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan.
15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram RB, Alabama
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Jared Odrick DT/DE, PSU
In the 2011 offseason Ricky Williams will be a 33 year old free agent and Ronnie Brown will be a free agent with a history of injury issues. If he’s available Ingram is the perfect option for the Dolphins. Given how ineffective Chad Henne has been at QB it wouldn’t surprise me to see them target a QB if one of the top prospects is available. Defensively they could use an upgrade at ILB for the often injured Channing Crowder but that need will have to wait until the later rounds. They will also need to address the free safety position at some point because Chris Clemons can’t cover anyone.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan DE, Purdue
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Tyson Alualu DT, Cal
Personally I think Jacksonville needs to replace David Garrard. Unfortunately the Jags seem to be content with him under Center. They could also use some WR help as well. On defense they need someone generating a solid pass-rush. Aaron Kampman’s body just doesn’t seem to be holding up anymore. Kerrigan is a relentless pass-rusher with a great work ethic. He’s also versatile enough to play DE in a 4-3 and OLB in a 3-4. They also need help at CB opposite Rashean Mathis as Derek Cox is no longer consistent enough to be counted on.
17. New England Patriots (via Oakland Raiders) – Cameron Jordan DT/DE Cal
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Devin McCourty CB, Rutgers
The Patriots will almost assuredly take a defensive prospect with this pick. Given how much the Patriots like to trade back and acquire more picks it would surprise me if they stayed here. With the exception of Von Miller no prospect has seen his stock soar as much during the Senior Bowl practices as Cameron Jordan. If he continues to climb he could very well see himself go in the top ten. Right now the Patriots would get great value for him and seriously upgrade their defensive line, replacing the large hole vacated by the Richard Seymour trade to Oakland.
18. San Diego Chargers – Justin Houston OLB/DE, UGA
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Ryan Matthews RB, Fresno State
For statistically being first in the NFL in total offense and defense the Chargers have a lot of issues to address in the offseason. On offense they could see their WR corps become seriously depleted with the pending free agency of Malcolm Floyd and eventual trade of Vincent Jackson. A very tempting option would be Pitt’s Jon Baldwin. He’s a perfect fit for the type of WR the Chargers covet. Defensively they will need to replace pending free agent DE Jacques Cesaire. But more importantly they will need to get someone who can generate a consistent pass rush. Larry English was supposed to be that man, replacing Shawn Merriman, but so far has barely been noticeable. This pick will come down to the top OLB or a DE like Cameron Heyward. I’m giving the nod to Houston because in his first year at UGA converting from DE to OLB in a 3-4 defense he accumulated 11 sacks in the always tough SEC and the skies the limit of him.
19. New York Giants – Tyron Smith OT, USC
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Jason Pierre-Paul OLB, USF
The Giants need a total overhaul of their linebacking corps. Michael Boley can never seem to stay healthy and Keith Bullock is just plain old. Unfortunately the only linebacker of value that fits their scheme is gone long gone. Perhaps an even bigger need is at left tackle. They drafted William Beatty to fill that need but so far he’s been very underwhelming. Tyron Smith is probably going to be the best OT in this draft class but not before he puts on a lot of weight. He’s currently at about 290lbs. which is ridiculously lean, even more so that Nate Solder.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn DE, Iowa
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Gerald McCoy DT, Oklahoma
Tampa Bay certainly upgraded the interior of their defensive line with 2010 picks Gerald McCoy and Brian Price but they added nothing to the DE spot. Coming into the 2011 draft this is going to be a huge need for them. Fortunately there is a plethora of quality 4-3 DE’s in this draft to choose from. Despite his past off the field indiscretions Clayborn is a relentless pass-rusher who slides due to an inconsistent year. The Bucs could also use a replacement of the ageless wonder Rhonde Barber so with Brandon Harris still on the board I could see the Bucs pounce on him.
21. Kansas City Chiefs – Phil Taylor NT, Baylor
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Eric Berry S, Tennessee
Personally I don’t think the Chiefs will get far going forward with Matt Cassell as their Quarterback. He’s got a very weak arm and his intermediate to deep passes always seem to sail a bit. However given their success I don’t think they make a change anytime soon. They also need to add another passing option for Cassell in which case Jon Baldwin and especially Julio Jones would be options. The rest of their issues lie on the defensive side of the ball. Tamba Hali is a free agent although it’s likely he’ll be resigned or at least franchised, but they really need another rusher to compliment him. If available, Justin Houston would be an ideal option to pair with Hali. Current Nose Tackle Ron Edwards is a free agent and the Chiefs could certainly use an upgrade over him anyway. GM Scott Pioli hit it big in New England when he drafted Vince Wilfork and will look to do the same with Phil Taylor. Taylor was one of a few who really improved his draft stock at the Senior Bowl by dominating the competition. There is some lingering concerns about his assault charge, which got him dismissed from Penn State, but that was three years ago and he has kept himself out of trouble ever since.
22. Indianapolis Colts – Derek Sherrod OT, Miss. State
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Jerry Hughes OLB, TCU
Charles Johnson, Tony Ugoh, and Adam Terry will all be free agents this offseason. Add to that Jeff Saturday will be 36 years old and his body has already started to break down. The Colts are in desperate need of an offensive line overhaul. Sherrod is establishing himself as one of the top OT’s in the 2011 draft and is the type of athletic offensive tackle that could be a cornerstone for the rest of Manning’s career. They could also target OG’s Rodney Hudson or Mike Pouncey, or PSU OC Stefen Wisniewski. Aside from the O-line they could also use an upgrade at DT in which case Stephen Paea would fit their defensive scheme.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Mike Pouncey OG, Florida
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Brandon Graham DE, Michigan
Philly’s two biggest needs are on the offensive line and in the defensive secondary. Outside of Asante Samuel they really have nothing at CB. Offensively they need to do a better job of protecting Michael Vick. As far as I see it I think this pick will come down to Florida OG Mike Pouncey or Miami CB Brandon Harris. Gabe Carimi would have been a prefect fit but he’s long gone. It’ll pretty much come down to whichever player Andy Reid covets most. I’m giving the nod to Pouncey because the Eagles will still be able to find a quality CB in the second round and their top priority has to be the protection of Michael Vick. At least Mike Pouncey will get to play in the same state as his twin brother Maurkice if not on the same team.
24. New Orleans Saints – Stephen Paea DT, Oregon State
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Patrick Robinson CB, Florida State
It’s a pretty safe bet that the Saints will draft defense here as their offense is as potent as any in the league. Their biggest needs are at OLB, DT, and for a DE to play opposite of Will Smith. They could also take an ILB and move Jonathan Vilma to WLB. Cameron Heyward and J.J. Watt are both solid options as they are both versatile enough to play DT or DE. Paea represents the best talent available and would form a great inside duo with Sedrick Ellis. He recently injured his knee at the Senior Bowl practices which will keep him out of the game but their should be no long-term issues.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Brandon Harris CB, Miami
2010 1st round Draft Picks: Russell Okung OT, Oklahoma State/ Earl Thomas FS, Texas
Matt Hasselbeck is nearing the end of the line, and Charlie Whitehurst is nothing more than a career clip board holder. There’s a reason he could never beat out Billy Volek for the #2 QB job behind Phillip Rivers in San Diego. Pre-Senior Bowl this would have been a prefect spot for Jake Locker. Unfortunately there was no part of the entire week of practice or the actual game that showed anyone he is worthy of first round consideration. So if they opt to stay with Whitehurst for the 2011 season their attention will shift to the defense where a lot of holes will need to be filled along the front line and in the secondary. Any number of options could come into play here such as Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt but I’m going with Brandon Harris. Seattle’s pass defense is atrocious with the exception of 2010 first round pick Earl Thomas and CB is perhaps their biggest need, especially with Kelly Jennings being a free agent.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Cameron Heyward DT/DE, OSU
2010 1st Draft Pick: Sergio Kindle DE/OLB, Texas
Offensively the Ravens seem pretty set at every position except for Center and Right Tackle. Current starting OC Matt Birk will be 35 years old at the time of the 2011 draft and Jared Gaither will probably be traded in the offseason. An option would be Penn State OC Stefen Wisniewski to replace Matt Birk. With Gabe Carimi already off of the board I can’t see any other Tackles being given much consideration. Everyone knows the Ravens biggest weakness is in the secondary. Chris Carr, Fabian Washington, and Josh Wilson will all be free agents this offseason. Last offseason Ed Reed gave some serious consideration to retirement as his mounting injury history is taking a toll on his body and as such 2010 may be his last season. Because of this I would expect the Ravens to possibly target UCLA’s Rahim Moore here or Oklahoma’s Quinton Carter in the second round. Outside of Terrell Suggs they haven’t been able to generate nearly as good of a pass-rush from their linebackers in recent years as well. I know they drafted Sergio Kindle in the second round of the 2010 draft, and it still may be too early to tell whether or not he’s going to pan out, but they can’t count on him to recover from a serious head injury. They could also use an upgrade over Cory Redding who hasn’t been that good in pass-rushing situations which is why I went with Heyward here as the Ravens rarely draft on need and prefer to go for the best talent available. A dark horse pick would be Illinois ILB Martez Wilson. He’s big, strong, athletic, smart, and plays with a real mean streak, just the sort of player to become the heir to Ray Lewis.
27. Atlanta Falcons – Titus Young WR, Boise State
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Sean Weatherspoon OLB, Missouri
Tony Gonzalez has stated that he’s 50/50 on whether or not he’s going to retire at the end of the season. If he does the Falcons will need to find a dependable replacement to keep the offense moving in which case Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudolph would get some serious considerations. If Gonzalez stays the Falcons will probably turn their attention to the defensive after being absolutely abused by Green Bay’s offense in the divisional round of the playoffs. And DE John Abraham will be 33 years old before the start of the 2011 season. But given the talent available it’s likely they’ll continue to add weapons to continue the growth of their franchise signal caller and take Titus Young. He’s been tearing it up at the Senior Bowl practices and is drawing many comparisons to Philly’s DeSean Jackson, and what offense couldn’t use someone like that to blow the tops off of opposing defenses.
28. New England Patriots – Anthony Castonzo OT, Boston College
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Devin McCourty CB, Rutgers
Current LT Might Light will be a 33 year old free agent this offseason. The Patriots could move Sebastian Vollmer to the left side but that would create a hole on the right side. It also appears as though Logan Mankins may be traded in the offseason. They also could use someone to help generate a pass-rush from the linebacker position. Unless UGA OLB Justin Houston, Florida OG Mike Pouncey or even Miami CB Brandon Harris is available I think the Pats will go with the best available OT.
29. Chicago Bears – Corey Liuget DT, Illinois
2010 1st Pick: Major Wright FS, Florida
Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz finally discovered a play set that doesn’t get Jay Cutler killed, however it’s only masking the serious deficiencies on the O line. On the defensive side they could certainly use some help in the secondary and a complimentary pass-rusher to Julius Peppers. And they also need to find a replacement for Tommy Harris at DT. It’s basically come down to whichever Offensive or Defensive lineman that’s available and highest on Chicago’s draft board. Corey Liuget is a local boy who’s versatile enough to play both DT and DE as he’s a very athletic 6’3”, 300lbs.
30. New York Jets – J.J. Watt DT/DE, Wisconsin
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
The Jets have serious issues along the defensive line. Nose Tackle Kris Jenkins has a long and serious injury history and he may very well retire. Also Defensive End Shaun Ellis will be a 32 year free agent. They also need OLB’s as they signed 36 year old Jason Taylor who’s in the twilight of his career and in 2011 the Jets will probably finally be fed up with first round bust Vernon Gholston. With the run on Defensive Ends and lack of talent at the Outside Linebacker spot the Jets will probably need to move up or down to find a prospect to fit their needs.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jimmy Smith CB, Colorado
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Maurkice Pouncey OC, Florida
By now every Steelers fan knows their weaknesses and what the team needs to be focusing on come draft day. In the secondary the team needs to find a solid CB to play with Ike Taylor. And Taylor himself is on the wrong side of 30 and a free agent. Bryant McFadden has been very poor in coverage and has become injury prone. Willie Gay is barely serviceable as a nickel CB. Hopefully Crezdon Butler will make strides in his second year but that can’t be counted on. On the defensive line age has become a very big concern. Aaron Smith has missed a significant portion of the season for the second time in 3 years. After a very slow start to his career Ziggy Hood has come on as of late. But with the run on 3-4 DE prospects there’s just no first round value left at the position. Also NT Casey Hampton will turn 34 by the start of the 2011 season. The biggest issue by far is on the offensive line. Outside of rookie Maurkice Pouncey every other position has been a struggle just about all year. Both starting OT’s are currently on I.R. as well. LT Max Starks, even when healthy, is only an above average option and would be better suited at RT. Willie Colon will be a free agent and has been looking to cash in. The most pressing issue has been at RG where we have seen a revolving door of players such as Trai Essex, Ramon Foster, and Doug Legursky unable to stabilize the position or capitalize which their chance to start. Unfortunately Mike Pouncey, who would be the best fit, has already been taken. Don’t be surprised to see the Steelers trade up for him. Of course we could go with local product Stefen Wisniewski who is probably a little better in run support but not quite as athletic. Please note this pick was not made because of a knee-jerk reaction to the Super Bowl. I went with Jimmy Smith because he represents the best value for the selection and is a good fit for the Steelers defense. At 6’2”, 205lbs he has solid size and is great in run support. He’s been rising on many peoples draft boards and depending on how he does at the combine, specifically on the 40 yard dash, he may go even higher than this. So just to recap, the top targets for the Steelers in the first round of the 2011 draft will be (in no particular order) Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi, Florida OG Mike Pouncey, OSU DE Cameron Heyward, Miami CB Brandon Harris, and Baylor NT Phil Taylor. And of course I’m not counting those players who the Steelers have no chance of getting such as Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, and Cameron Jordan.
32. Green Bay Packers – Nate Solder OT, Colorado
2010 1st round Draft Pick: Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
The Packers will have a few holes to fill come the 2011 draft. For one, as good as he is Charles Woodson is not going to play forever. They also need to find a replacement for Ryan Grant. James Starks was good in the playoffs but he has a long injury history and even if he pans out they’ll still need someone to compliment him. Perhaps one of their biggest needs is for someone other than Clay Matthews to apply pressure. At defensive end Cullen Jenkins is a free agent and Johnny Jolly will be a free agent next year. And even with the drafting of Bryan Bulaga in the first round last year they still need help along the offensive line. Nate Solder played poorly in the Senior Bowl. While he has great technique and is very athletic he’s also very tall and lean (6’8”, 315lbs.) which is going to give him problems at the pro level getting proper leverage against both the speed and bull rush. He will definitely need to add at least 20 pounds to his frame before he can become a full-time starter. Thankfully Green Bay can afford to give him that time before Chad Clifton retires.