Monday, March 28, 2011

Updated Post Scouting Combine 2011 NFL Mock Draft

Here is my Updated Post Scouting Combine NFL Mock Draft. It will be followed by a Final Mock shortly before the NFL Draft starts on April 28th.

My mock draft has been linked by The Football Fan Spot, Sports Jabber, DC Pro Sports ReportWalter Football, FF Toolbox,, The Football Expert, and No Limits Sportsline Fantasy Sports in their Mock Draft Databases. If you're a draftnik like me, be sure to click on their hyperlinks and check out all of their extensive NFL Draft related material.

This is not a mock draft where I attempt play general manager and substitute my own judgment for the 32 NFL teams. I do my best to research what particular players or positions each team may be targeting by searching the internet and listening to Sirius NFL Radio for tips from reliable beat writers and NFL insiders in order to provide links and analysis as to why I think a particular player may end up going to the team that I have him slotted to.

1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: The Panthers could use help at quarterback, defensive tackle and defensive end. With talented players available at each position, it is up to the Panthers front office to determine which position is the most worthy of the number 1 overall pick. Some reports have indicated that Carolina has narrowed their choices down to Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, while others say that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is the only player the Panthers see as being worthy of a franchise quarterback in this year's draft. The most recent reports from Carolina insiders are saying that the pick will be Newton, and not Gabbert unless they are able to trade down.

2. Denver Broncos – Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: Denver had the worst ranked defense in the league last season, and ex-head coach Josh McDaniel and GM Brian Xanders have left this unit nearly devoid of talent. As they transition back to a 4-3 defense, Denver has released defensive tackles Jamal Williams and Justin Bannan, making that position the logical choice with the number 2 selection given that Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley are two of the draft's top prospects. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock is on record as having said that his NFL inside sources would consider it a major surprise if the Broncos do not select Dareus.;

3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, OLB, Texas A and M: If Marcell Dareus is available at pick number 3 he will draw consideration from the Bills. While Buffalo GM Buddy Nix has acknowledged that the Bills don't necessarily need a quarterback after Ryan Fitzpatrick had a career year under Chan Gailey, he has also indicated that they would not pass on a player if they view him as a franchise quarterback of the future. While Nix and owner Ralph Wilson seem enamored on Cam Newton, he appears to be headed to Carolina. In that scenario, the question becomes whether the Bills view Blaine Gabbert as a franchise quarterback. Right now, the buzz does not seem to be there, leaving Buffalo to draft Von Miller of Texas A and M in order to greatly improve their non-existent pass rush from the OLB position in their 3-4 defense.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: With Carson Palmer threatening to retire if his demand for a trade is not granted, the Bengals suddenly have huge needs on both sides of the ball. They could easily justify using this pick on a franchise quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive end, defensive tackle or cornerback. A.J. Green will likely be the highest rated player on the board when the Bengals draft at number 4, and he would ease the loss of soon to be departed wide receivers Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, especially if the Bengals find better value in addressing the quarterback position in the second round of the draft or through free agency.;

5. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina: Several reports suggest that the Cardinals are not interested in using their first round pick on a quarterback, and that they will instead try to address that position either via a trade or through free agency. Von Miller would be their first choice given that he seems to be more of a natural OLB in a 3-4 scheme, but Robert Quinn of North Carolina should also be able to adapt to that role. While a cornerback like Patrick Peterson would be a nice compliment opposite Dominique Rogers Cromartie, an elite edge pass rusher is absolutely essential in a 3-4 defense, while a second cornerback would be more of a luxury.;;

6. Cleveland Browns – Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: While wide receiver is one area of need, the Browns' more immediate needs are for a defensive end to rush the passer, and a defensive tackle who can plug the middle following Shaun Rogers' release. If Marcell Dareus is around at the sixth pick he would likely be Cleveland's choice, although the Browns would be thrilled if an elite 4-3 pass rush end like Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers fell to them at the 6th spot due to concerns over a minor surgical procedure that he underwent on his knee after his senior season.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Unless San Francisco can make a play for an established veteran like Kevin Kolb (which they won't be able to do until a new CBA is reached), the 49ers will have to find their long-term answer at quarterback through the draft. While Jim Harbaugh has talked about bringing Alex Smith back for yet another trial of his ability to be an NFL quarterback, the 49ers did not offer him a contract tender, suggesting that all of that rhetoric could have been a smokescreen. Nonetheless, I still look for the 49ers to trade for a veteran quarterback and then draft another one in the early to mid rounds as a developmental project. In that case, San Francisco could go for a lockdown corner like Patrick Peterson to strengthen their aging and porous secondary.

8. Tennessee Titans – Nick Fairley DT, Auburn: While Tennessee is another team with a big void at their quarterback position, the Titans are a veteran team that seems to prefer bringing in a veteran signal caller, either via trade or free agency. If Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley falls due to concerns about his attitude and motor, then the Titans just might find a replacement for Albert Haynesworth that they can build their front seven around.;

9. Dallas Cowboys – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: It's sounding more and more like the Cowboys are less interested in Oklahoma cornerback Prince Amukamara, and are more interested in a defensive end like J.J. Watt of Wisconsin or an offensive lineman like Tyron Smith of USC. With Watt ideally suited to play at the 5 technique in a 3-4 defense like the Cowboys run, it seems like he would be a better value with the ninth pick than a right tackle to play opposite of Doug Free. Still, the Cowboys have had major holes in their roster at tackle and safety for several years, and at some point their front office needs to address those needs during this year's draft or free agency.;

10. Washington Redskins – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: While the Redskins desperately need to find a quarterback, there may not be value in drafting a less polished signal caller like Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett in the top ten if Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton are off the board when they pick. Not only is Julio Jones a top ten talent, but the Redskins have had a glaring need for a go-to receiver for several years.

11. Houston Texans – Prince Amukamara, DE/OLB, Missouri: The Texans would love to land local product Von Miller to provide an edge rush for their new 3-4 defensive scheme, but he'll likely be long gone by the time they pick. The Texans would also love to have the opportunity to choose between Prince Amukamara and Robert Quinn to fill a glaring need at either cornerback or outside linebacker. Given that Quinn is probably better suited to play defensive end in a 4-3 defense than outside linebacker in a 3-4, Amukamara is probably the better fit if he is available when the Texans pick at number 11.;

12. Minnesota Vikings – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Minnesota has holes at DT, DE, S and QB. The only quarterback that the Vikings seem to value highly enough to select in the first round is Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, who could fall to Minnesota if he gets past Carolina and Buffalo. Trading up for Gabbert is also a possibility, as is taking an accurate but lesser armed quarterback like Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton in the second round in the event that Gabbert is not available. In that event, the Vikings could elect to draft an offensive or defensive lineman at number 12.;

13. Detroit Lions – Tyron Smith, OT, USC: The Lions could be in a difficult position if the top two cornerbacks are off the board, as the number 13 pick will probably be too early value wise to draft a 4-3 outside linebacker in this year's draft. Lions GM Martin Mahew has already established a "draft the best player available" philosophy, so does that mean that we could see the Lions do the unthinkable go after yet another wide receiver in the first round? Afterall, there is an outside chance that Julio Jones could still be available when the Lions pick. If he is, Jones just might be the highest rated player available on their draft board. An athletic receiver like Jones would actually make sense for the Lions given that he could fill the role of a much needed deep threat opposite Calvin Johnson while Nate Burleson fills the slot. If Jones is off the board, the other option for the Lions would be to build for the future by taking a raw, but potential franchise tackle like Tyron Smith in order to provide insurance for Gosder Cherilus (who is coming off of microfracture surgery), and ultimately developing him to replace Jeff Backus on the left side.;;

14. St. Louis Rams – Aldon Smith, OLB/DE, Missouri: The Rams need to find a legitimate number one target for quarterback Sam Bradford. Julio Jones would be a no-brainer if he is still available when St. Louis picks, but his performance at the Scouting Combine may have secured him a spot in the top ten picks of the draft. Local product Aldon Smith of Missouri would be a solid choice to improve an aging and inconsistent pass rush at defensive end, while Cameron Jordan of California and Adrian Clayborn of Iowa could also draw consideration. Jordan, in particular, could be a player who garners interest from other teams looking to trade up for one of the elite defensive ends who has the ability to play in a 3-4 defense.

15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram, Jr., RB, Alabama: The Dolphins are looking to trade down from the number 15 spot and acquire a second round pick, having given theirs up to Denver in the Brandon Marshall trade last year. Even if they move lower in the first round they could still be in the mix for former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Jr., who would replace the Dolphins aging and injury prone duo at running back of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. Alternatively, the Dolphins could look for an interior offesnive lineman like Mike Pouncey or Danny Watkins if they can succesfully trade down or out of the first round.;;;

16. Jacksonville Jaguars - Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue: While safety and wide receiver are more pressing needs, there will be little value at those positions on the board when Jacksonville picks at number 16. A defensive end like Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan would be a nice understudy to initially play opposite, and then ultimately replace Aaron Kampman. Aldon Smith of Missouri and Adrian Clayborn of Iowa would also be possibilities at defensive end, while Jake Locker or Christian Ponder could be outside candidates for the Jaguars' pick if they are looking to push quarterback David Garrard.;;

17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) – Cameron Jordan, DE/OLB, California: New England always seems to be looking for defensive ends and outside linebackers who fit their 3-4 defensive scheme. While Cameron Jordan of Cal is a natural 3-4 defensive end, he also showed the ability to play standing up and drop into coverage at the Senior Bowl, which is just the type of versatility that the Patriots love.;;

18. San Diego Chargers – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: The Chargers should benefit from a deep defensive line class. They could use either a defensive end or a 3-4 linebacker who can rush the passer. Reports indicate that the Chargers front office is targeting Purdue DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan, but in this scenario he is off the board. Trading up (possibly with New England) for Kerrigan, J.J. Watt or Cameron Jordan is also a possibility that has been rumored depending on how the the Chargers' board falls into place on draft day.;;

19. New York Giants – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: Replenishing an aging offensive line has to be a priority for the Giants, as is adding some new blood at linebacker. Anthony Castonzo of Boston College has the ability to step in immediately at right tackle or even guard, and then ultimately wind up as a book-end left tackle. Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey will also get a strong look from the Giants based upon his ability to fill a need at guard, as well as his versatility to provide insurance at center.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: While the Bucs have the depth to go for the best player available, getting a rush end via the draft or free agency is probably their biggest off-season priority. Tampa Bay has shown interest in Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue, Aldon Smith of Missouri and Adrian Clayborn of Iowa, all of whom could be off the board by the time they pick at number 20. The question remains as to whether the Bucs would stick to a position of need and select Cameron Heyward of Ohio State, or go in another direction altogether. For now, they hope like hell that a third quarterback gets selected by Washington, Minnesota or Jacksonville in order to push down one of the defensive ends that they seem to covet.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: While Mike Vrable has given the Chiefs more than they could ever have expected as a throw in on the Matt Cassel trade, he probably doesn't have too many productive years left in the tank. Akeem Ayers would be a nice pick to serve as Vrabel's eventual replacement. Justin Houston of Georgia could also be a consideration if the Chiefs are looking to add more of a boost to their pass rush, although questions remain about his ability to drop into coverage and go full out on every play.;

22. Indianapolis Colts – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: The Colts survived with a very mediocre offensive line for years thanks to Howard Mudd, who may be one of the best position coaches to ever coach in the NFL. When Mudd left before last season, the Colts' line was exposed as a major weakness. It's definitely time for Indianapolis to look for some new talent at the the tackle position in order to protect Peyton Manning and re-establish some sort of running game. Nate Solder of Colorado is probably projected to be the best left tackle over the long run in this year's draft, which would make him an ideal choice for the Colts.;

23. Philadelphia Eagles - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The offensive line for the Eagles has underachieved in recent years, especially based upon the amount of money that they've paid to big name players. Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi could start off his NFL career playing right tackle or even guard, which would give the Eagles some depth and versatility. Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey will also garner consideration from the Eagles if he is still on the board when they pick.;

24. New Orleans Saints – Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple: While the Saints could use help at either defensive end or outside linebacker, there are reports that they are interested in drafting Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson. This makes very little sense to me given that the Saints currently have Sedrick Ellis and Shaun Rogers as tandem on the interior of their defensive line, with Anthony Hargrove able to move over from end on pass rushing downs. For now I'm going to run with this report, but I still say that the smart money come draft day will be on the Saints taking an edge pass rusher.

25. Seattle Seahawks – Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida: It is looking more and more like the Seahawks will address their quarterback position via trade (Kevin Kolb/Carson Palmer), free agency (re-signing Matt Hasselbeck) or the later days in the NFL Draft (Christian Ponder/Andy Dalton). Drafting Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey would give the Seahawks the versatility to rebuild the interior and right side of their offensive line.;;

26. Baltimore Ravens – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore's defense continued to be one of the top units in the NFL in spite of a lack of talent at cornerback. If Jimmy Smith of Colorado falls in this year's draft as expected due to character concerns, he may be a talent that the Raven's may not be able to pass up. While a wide receiver like Torrey Smith of Maryland would make sense given the Ravens' need for some outside speed on offense, I'm not sure if his overall rating is in line with GM Ozzie Newsome's philosophy to draft the best player available over filling a specific need.;

27. Atlanta Falcons – Justin Houston, OLB/DE, Georgia: While the Falcons lack a wide receiver to compliment and draw coverage away from Roddy White, drafting Torrey Smith of Maryland in the first round is probably too much of a reach. Atlanta is also still searching for a defensive end to compliment John Abraham. Justin Houston of Georgia is a local kid who could fill that need and get to the passer while playing with his hand in the dirt. Depending on how the defensive ends go off the board, the Falcons could also have an interest in Aldon Smith of Missouri.;;

28. New England Patriots – Benjamin Ijanala, G/T, Villanova: Even if the Patriots are able to franchise tag guard Logan Mankins pending the terms of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, don't look for him to stay in New England long term given his rift with their front office this past year over his contract. Benjamin Ijanala of Villanova could help solidify the interior of the Patriots' line at guard, or even play tackle as he did in college in the event that the they cannot re-sign tackle Todd Light.

29. Chicago Bears - Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: The Bears need help on the interior of their defensive line. While Phil Taylor of Baylor may also be available, local product Corey Liuget from Illinois is a better fit schematically at DT for what the Bears like to run on defense. Danny Watkins of Baylor, Ben Ijalana of Villanova or Derik Sherrod of Mississippi State could also be options if the Bears instead elect to upgrade their offensive line.

30. New York Jets – Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: Defensive tackle Phil Taylor of Baylor would be a logical choice if the Jets do not plan on resigning nose tackle Kris Jenkins at a discounted price after he was released. The Jets currently lack a strong anchor at nose tackle, one of the key positions in their 3-4 defense. Interestingly, an article written by Eric Allen linking the Jets to Taylor on was recently removed from their official website. Hmmm...;

To quote the late Keith Olbermann, "With (their) first pick in the NFL Draft, the New York Jets select Ken O'Brien...Again."

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: While the Steelers arguably have the best defense in the league, neither William Gay nor Bryant McFadden are ideal starting caliber cornerbacks in the NFL. Brandon Harris ran and performed well in drills at the Scouting Combine, and could be a value pick for Pittsburgh this late in the first round.;

32. Green Bay Packers – Brooks Reed, OLB/DE, Arizona: Green Bay won the Super Bowl and will have key players returning from injury last season at tight end, tackle, middle linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end and running back. Still, an elite pass rusher at the linebacker position like Brooks Reed of Arizona would be an ideal compliment opposite Clay Mathews. Alternatively, the Packers could look for a 3-4 defensive end like Cameron Heyward of Ohio State or Muhammad Wilkerson of Temple if they anticipate Cullen Jenkins leaving via free agency.;

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