NFL Mock Draft: Round 1 Picks 17-32 Feb. 18th Update:
17. New England Patriots (From Oakland): DE J.J Watt, Wisconsin-
The Patriots could look to go in a number of directions here, including DE (the 3-4 variety), RB, WR, OT, OG, or Rush LB, and I think they will take the best player available at one of those needs. Given their propensity to focus on defense I think that is where they will look. While they could go for one of the top rush guys on the board, I think they will target J.J. Watt here. He improves their pass rush from his end position and will help free up their linebackers. I’m sure the Patriots will want one of the top rush linebackers, but I don’t see them reaching for a guy like Houston or Ayers here, not with Watt still on the board.
New England is a prime candidate to trade up (or even trade down), but right now I think Watt is their prime choice.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection OLB Aldon Smith
Feb. 18th update: The Patriots will give Cam Jordan a long hard look, as well as Julio Jones. I think Watt is still their pick and he will be an immediate starter.
18. San Diego Chargers: DE Cam Jordan, Cal-
The Chargers have franchised Vincent Jackson so at least one of their receivers are coming back. While they could still look at Julio Jones here, I think the Chargers take the best player on the board in Cam Jordan. Jordan is a great young defensive end that absolutely dominated during Senior Bowl week. Jordan fills a big need for the Chargers and makes their top defense even better. If they can’t land a receiver or retain Floyd in free agency this could change quickly.
pick change, Jan. 25th previous pick: DE J.J. Watt
pick change, Feb. 3rd previous pick: WR Julio Jones
19. New York Giants: OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA-
Although a number of teams could target Ayers, I see him falling a little bit, since he is more of a 4-3 OLB, than a 3-4. Sure he rushes the passer, but guys like Smith and Miller do it better. Ayers plays better in coverage and diagnosing runs, making him a more ideal fit for a 4-3 team. The Giants desperately need to upgrade their back 7 (and could also look DT). He can be useful blitzing the quarterback, but can go out in coverage as well. He would be a big upgrade for the G-men, and should be able to start from day 1.
Feb. 3rd update: Giants still will look at a few other positions, but I don’t see them passing up Ayers and a big upgrade to that defense.
Feb. 17th update: I know some people are looking for the Giants to take an offensive lineman , but I don’t see it in the first round. Not with Ayers on the board.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin-
The Buccaneers biggest need is defensive end, but unless they are comfortable playing Justin Houston or Ryan Kerrigan there full time, they don’t have much to choose from. Most of the best options profile as a better 3-4 end or rush linebacker. It is possible they pull the trigger, but if they have already addressed the position via free agency (which they should) they can hold off a round or two. I think Tampa should look to acquire a starting OT in the first round. I know James Lee handled RT admirably this past season, but he was far from perfect, and he might not hold up for a full season. Tampa needs to address their offensive line, to keep their new found offense running on all cylinders, and Carimi would be an excellent fit. He profiles at either tackle position, and should be a very good RT for the Bucs for the next 10 years. Carimi is a guy who could fall, since he looks to be a much better RT, and teams usually want to see anyone they draft in the first round move permanently to the left side at some point. Carimi is an absolute mauler and will be a big addition to their ground game.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection OT Nate Solder
pick change: Feb. 3rd previous selection OT Anthony Castonzo
21. Kansas City Chiefs: OLB/DE Justin Houston, Georgia-
The Chiefs might be desperate for a receiver, but there is no one on the board here worth taking. I realize that they have been drafting pretty steady on defense of late, but they do have their tight end, running back, and quarterback (at least they believe so) positions set. Offensive line looks pretty good assuming they resign their free agents (not big name stars so I see them coming back). Receiver is a big issue, but it will need to be addressed in free agency to find a real fix. I think the Chiefs will look to add another pass rusher to compliment Hali, and Houston is a great fit. While the Chiefs defense did a lot of things well this season they were really a one man show when it came to rushing the passer. If they can add a second threat it will strengthen the entire defense.
Feb. 3rd Update: The Chiefs still are in need of a complement to Hali, and I think Houston is the perfect fit for them.
Feb. 18th Update: Justin Houston still looks like a great pick for the Chiefs, though Julio Jones will tempt them. If they have not added anyone via free agency, Jones could be the pick, otherwise Houston and Hali will wreck havoc on the AFC West.
22. Indianapolis Colts: DT Christian Ballard, Iowa-
The Colts have three main needs RB, OT, DT this offseason, and while and offensive tackle would also benefit the running game, I’m thinking that defensive tackle is the way the Colts go. Earlier I mocked Stephen Paea to the Colts, but a recent knee injury will probably set him back some. While I think this is a bit high on Ballard, this seems like it makes too much sense for the Colts. Indianapolis prefers smaller and quicker defensive tackles, and Ballard fits that to a ‘T’. He should get good penetration on the inside, which can really help their ends get more sacks.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection DT Stephen Paea
Feb. 18th update: I realize I’m going against the grain here as most people have them targeting a tackle. I just feel strongly the Colts will use free agency and the rest of the draft to fill their OT need. Ballard is a great fit for them and fills a huge need.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: OT Derrek Sherrod, Mississippi State-
The Eagles have finally realized that Winston Justice just can’t be an effective offensive tackle, and will need to fix that problem area in the first round of this April’s draft. Corner back and defensive tackle will also be on their wish list, but I’m guessing offensive tackle is their top priority. Sherrod is a player I really like, but I don’t love. He offers the versatility to grow into a left tackle down the road, but as long as Michael Vick is the starting quarterback, RT is the prime position on the Eagles offensive line.
Sherrod is a mix bag for me, but I think teams will fall in love with him enough to make him a first rounder. He needs some refinement, but the tools are definitely there.
Feb. 3rd update: Although I’d personally prefer Carimi, I’m thinking Sherrod will go higher in the draft. Unless they upgrade OT in free agency the Eagles need to strengthen that line.
Feb. 18th update: Sherrod could move a little higher, but this seems like a good spot for him. If the Eagles haven’t addressed their corner need a guy like Brandon Harris is a legitimate option.
24. New Orleans Saints: DT Drake Nevis, LSU-
I think Mark Ingram would have been their pick if he was available. With him off the board I think the Saints will look at shoring up their defensive line. Drake Nevis would be a good fit next to Sedrick Ellis and give New Orleans a strong front four. Nevis holds up well against the run and gets a very good pass rush. His addition would have, DC Gregg Williams salivating, and should help keep the Saints defense highly productive.
Feb. 3rd update: More and more I’m thinking the Saints will look at Ingram with this pick. Their lack of a consistent running game is their only flaw on offense. And while the running back by committee approach worked two years ago, this year was a fairly big disaster. Ingram alleviates that, and can be the true feature back for them.
pick change: Feb 3rd. previous selection RB Mark Ingram
25. Seattle Seahawks: CB Aaron Williams, Texas-
The Seahawks has a number of needs despite being a playoff team, while I could see them addressing their pass rush or long term quarterback situation, I think they will look to add a top notch corner. I have Williams and Brandon Harris in basically a dead heat to be the 3rd CB off the board, but think Williams makes a bit more sense for the Seahawks. He is a little bit bigger and taller, which should matchup better against the top receivers in the NFC West.
pick change: previous selection DE Cameron Jordan
Feb. 17th update: Aaron Williams still makes sense at this pick, though D-line is still an option. A lot could depend on whether or not they bring Brandon Mebane back at DT, if he leaves there is a pretty big hole for the Seahawks to fill.
26. Baltimore Ravens: CB Brandon Harris, Miami-
The Ravens have one of the elite defenses in the league, but their corner back play is still average at best. Harris is a promising young corner, who has the skills to develop into a number one corner. Until then the Ravens will be quite happy with him being number two, and a big upgrade.
Feb. 3rd update: Ravens could target defensive line or linebacker, but I’m fairly confident this pick is on defense. CB remains their biggest need and Harris is a good fit for them.
Feb. 17th update: This is pure need over desire. Julio Jones would look nice in a Ravens uniform, but they have to fill that hole at CB.
27. Atlanta Falcons: WR Julio Jones, Alabama-
This is the dream scenario for the Falcons, but it could come close to fruition. Receivers have been known to fall in the draft, and with all the teams needing a receiver having another major hole to fix it makes this scenario plausible. For the Falcons they will add a huge weapon to go along with one of the best offenses in the NFL. There are still questions at TE and DE, but those can be addressed later.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection TE Kyle Rudolph
pick change: Feb. 3rd previous selection WR Torrey Smith
28. New England Patriots: WR Torrey Smith, Maryland-
The Patriots could go in a number of directions with this pick, but I think they will shock some people and grab a playmaker. Smith offers great speed and would give Tom Brady another good young target. While they got by with utilizing their tight ends, New England needs to add a little bit more talent to their receiving corps.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection DE Allen Bailey
pick change: Feb. 3rd previous selection WR Titus Young
29. New York Jets: DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State-
The Jets are likely to lose Shaun Ellis to free agency this offseason leaving a major void along their defensive line. I think this has to be New York’s top priority come draft time, and they should be quite pleased with Heyward. While some question his motor, he seems to read the snap count very well for a college player and a solid assortment of moves. The Jets will be quite pleased with Heyward going forward and he should help keep their defense near the top.
Feb. 3rd update: While Heyward’s injury could have him drop into the early 2nd round, I think the Jets will probably look past that. Now of course you never know and a lot will be dependent on how much he can workout before the draft. Right now I still think he is their pick.
Feb. 17th update: Jets franchised Harris and apparently their top targets are their two receivers. It looks as though they could need a corner, but I’m guessing they find another way to fill that need.
30. Chicago Bears: OT Nate Solder, Colorado-
I have some serious questions about Solder, and worry that he could end up a bust, the Bears success means that they can’t be choosy. Solder is still a top tackle prospect with the tools to become elite. And Chicago has to do a better job of protecting Jay Cutler next season so they will welcome Solder with open arms.
pick change: previous selection OT DeMarcus Love
Feb. 17th update: I have some real concerns about Solder, and the more I watch him the less I like, but I am thinking he will still go in the first round. The Bears have a big enough need they, won’t let the concerns about Solder stop them.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: G/C Mike Pouncey, Florida-
Sure it is a bit of a feel good story, but Mike Pouncey is deserving of hearing his name called in the first round. Now I don’t think he is as refined as his All-Pro brother Maurkice, but he has that potential. Mike fits better as a guard than a center, which is where the Steelers biggest need lies. He should step into their right guard spot and team up with his brother to form a great interior line. If Willie Colon can come back from injury the Steelers offensive line will go from a weakness to one of their strengths. Pouncey could get taken earlier, but I think it is a foregone conclusion that he won’t get past the Steelers first round pick.
Feb. 3rd update: CB and OT are still big needs, but grabbing another interior lineman is key. I don’t think there is anyway they let Pouncey slip by them.
Feb. 17th update: I know the Steelers have a need at corner, but their guards were getting pretty well manhandled in the Super Bowl. Putting the Pouncey boys together will be the best thing for both Roethlisberger and Mendenhall.
32. Green Bay Packers: WR Titus Young, Boise State-
This is a bit of a luxury pick, but it makes sense as well. I know the Packers have some defensive and offensive line issues, but they also could have a huge issue developing at WR. James Jones is a free agent, and I’m guessing he’ll get priced out of what the Packers are willing to pay. On top of Jones leaving, Donald Driver is coming off his worst season and might only have one more year left. Young would be a big time weapon, for a team that loves to throw the ball down the field. I could see Green Bay trying to make their top offense even better, and Young would be the man to do so.
Feb. 3rd update: Packers could go in a different direction, but I think Liuget makes a lot of sense for them still.
pick change: Feb. 3rd previous selection DE/DT Corey Liuget