NFL Mock Draft 02/01/11

Steve O Speak

1. Carolina Panthers: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn-

With no Andrew Luck in the mix the Panthers, will go to plan B, which is to choose from one of the elite defensive players in the draft or wide receiver A.J. Green. There might be a big push for the Panthers to go for Green, given their need for a play making receiver (especially to help in the development of Jimmy Claussen), but I think that would be a big mistake. The Panthers have spent a number of draft picks on  receivers the last few years, and while Green is better than all of them, that is just too many resources to put into one position, especially when they have so many other holes. The other reason why Green doesn’t make sense is that receivers just aren’t worth the high draft pick when you have so many other needs. As good as Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are they weren’t enough to keep their teams from having losing records. The Panthers need a bigger impact player.

While the Panthers could go for one of the elite corners or a defensive end, those aren’t nearly as big of a need as defensive tackle. Fairley is an elite player, and fills a major need for the Panthers. Adding Fairley to an already impressive defensive line (assuming they resign Johnson), would jump start the Panthers rebuilding efforts big time.

Feb. 1st update: Still Think Fairley is the pick here, combine, workouts and background work will all be crucial. The reports about his attitude are troubling, but not sold yet that it changes anything.

2. Denver Broncos: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska-

The Broncos could go in multiple defensive directions here, but I’m going to say they nab Amukamara here. The Broncos could opt for a defensive end (or a rush linebacker if they stay in the 3-4), but taking a corner here makes sense. Champ Bailey is an impending free agent, and if they can’t agree to terms with them their corner situation is dismal. Even if they do bring Bailey back, his time at the top of his game is near the end, so adding a young elite corner makes sense. Also, when you play Phillip Rivers twice a year, strengthening your defensive backs is a always a good idea.

Feb. 1st update: Still think CB is the pick here and believe that Amukamara is that guy.

3. Buffalo Bills: DE/OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M-

The Bills could look to grab the top receiver or corner back on the board, but I’m thinking they will go with the best pass rusher to improve their front 7. It doesn’t make much sense to run the 3-4 if you don’t have a rush linebacker who can get to the quarterback. Aaron Maybin has been a huge bust so far, so it is time for the Bills to address their biggest need. Miller really separated himself at the Senior Bowl and I now believe he is a top 5 pick. His instincts are unreal and he has the ability to be a superstar.

pick change: previous selection OLB Robert Quinn

4. Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J. Green, Georgia-

The Bengals will be quite happy to find Green on their doorstep and won’t let him fall any further in the draft. Cincinnati will move on from Terrell Owens this offseason, and it is very likely they look to deal Chad Ochocinco as well. They will need a new big play receiver if they hope to stay competitive, as Carson Palmer (if he is there) can’t run the offense alone.

Feb. 1st update: Yes quarterback could be an issue if Palmer follows through with his trade demands, but I don’t think there is anyone worth taking at this spot.

5. Arizona Cardinals: DE/OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina-

While a lot of people have the Cardinals taking a quarterback in the first round, I don’t think that is the direction they will look to go. I see Arizona looking to add a more veteran option and maybe drafting a QB in the mid-rounds. The Cardinals biggest need after quarterback is a pass rusher, and that is one need they can fill this April. There are some concerns with him since he was suspended for a rules violation this year, but he is a big time talent, and if he is in top shape this offseason he should be a top 5 guy.

pick change: Previous selection CB Patrick Peterson

6. Cleveland Browns: DE De’Quan Bowers, Clemson-

Previously I had the Browns reaching for a wide receiver with this pick and taking Julio Jones, but recent events make me believe they will go in a different direction. With the hiring of Dick Jauron, it is now pretty official that the Browns are heading to a 4-3 alignment, and right now they don’t have the personnel to handle the move. In particular they need to find help at defensive end, making De’Quan Bowers a fantastic selection for them. Bowers is the top rated player on my board, but he doesn’t fit nearly as well into 3-4 teams, and teams like the Panthers and Bengals don’t have a pressing need for a DE, allowing him to fall. The Browns would be wise to end that fall, as he has the potential to be the next Mario Williams or Julius Peppers. Although the Browns still need to add a big play receiver, I think they will look more towards the 2nd round and/or free agency.

pick change: previous selection WR Julio Jones

7. San Francisco 49ers: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU-

While the 49ers could be tempted by a quarterback, I think Peterson makes too much sense for them to pass up. Their secondary got pretty torched last season, and adding a play-maker like Peterson should help fix that problem immediately.  The 49ers could win the NFC West next year with just a few changes so adding guys who can help right away, compared to a developmental QB makes sense. With Peterson in the fold that defense should finally be as good as advertised. Quarterback is still and issue, and one that will likely be addressed in free agency (or via a trade) and a mid-round selection.

pick change: previous selection, QB Blaine Gabbert

8. Tennessee Titans: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri-

The Titans at this point could go in any direction, but it will be hard to gauge until they have a new coach in place. Despite the coaching change it looks as though Vince Young is on his way out. While that would have happened with Jeff Fisher at the helm, he was more likely to look for a more veteran fix (McNabb, Kolb, etc.), then go the rookie route. With a new staff in place it might be time to rebuild in Tennessee, making Gabbert a smart pick. While I don’t know if I’d label him a ‘franchise quarterback’, he does have the best combination of potential, talent, and likelihood of reaching it. Gabbert probably should start until at least mid-season, but he gives hope as a quarterback who can take pressure off Chris Johnson.

pick change: previous selection DE De’Quan Bowers

9. Dallas Cowboys: DT/DE Marcell Dareus, Alabama-

Previously I had the Cowboys selecting and offensive tackle here and I still believe that is on the short list, but now I believe they will target defensive line first (unless one of the top corner falls). Dareus will help fill in the void along the Cowboys line and help strengthen that unit to an elite level. The Cowboys do have bigger needs along the offensive line and in their secondary (both at CB and FS) so a trade back is likely, but if they stay there Dareus would be a great addition.

pick change: previous selection, OT Tyron Smith

10. Washington Redskins: DE/DT Cameron Jordan, California-

While a lot of people will try to ‘mock’ the Redskins a quarterback, that is not the direction this team should be going in. I could also see the Redskins as a prime team to trade back, given their vast needs and small number of picks, but I’m not predicting trades in this mock. The Redskins are likely to part ways with Albert Haynesworth this offseason, meaning their weakness along the defensive line goes from ‘major’ to ‘critical’. Jordan would help stop the bleeding from losing Haynesworth, and provide the Redskins with a true star along the line. In the 3-4 he profiles best as an end, and should automatically upgrade both the Skins rush defense and pass rush. Jordan was by far the most impressive player at the Senior Bowl last week, and impressed scouts each day with his talent. He would be a huge get for the Redskins at the 10th spot.

pick change: previous selection DE Marcell Dareus

11. Houston Texans: OLB/DE Aldon Smith, Missouri-

Houston will be in the midst of transitioning to a 3-4 defense, and with no corner back to take should focus this pick on grabbing a rush linebacker. Smith was a sack artist in college and should have no problem fitting into the Texans new defense as a rush linebacker.

pick change: previous selection OLB Von Miller

12. Minnesota Vikings: QB Cam Newton, Auburn-

I don’t believe Newton is a top 2o or even a top 15 pick, but I have a sneaky suspicion he will here his name called during that time, the the Vikings are the favorites to land him in my book. Minnesota will likely look to upgrade the position this offseason via trade or free agency, but don’t be surprised if they double-dip and take Newton as well. Minnesota needs a long term project at quarterback (Joe Webb doesn’t count), and Newton I think would really intrigue them.

Feb. 1st update: I realize there are some Vince Young to the Vikings rumors, but I still see Newton as the pick here until that happens.

13. Detroit Lions: OT Tryon Smith, USC-

I’m keeping with the theory that the Lions will use this pick on a LT. While a lot will depend on his combine and workouts, I’m a big believer in Smith and liked what I saw on film. If he shows he has the strength, he has the ability to be a top tackle in this league. What the Lions have done in terms of protecting (or not protecting) Matt Stafford is flat out insane. You spend $60 million on a guy and you put him in a situation where he can’t succeed and needs to run for his life. The Lions have to fix that this offseason and grabbing Smith would be a smart move. Detroit might have needs at LB and CB, but they are secondary compared to their need at offensive tackle.

pick change: previous selection OT Anthony Castonzo

14. St. Louis Rams: WR Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh-

Most draftniks will say this is too high for Baldwin, but I think they are underselling him a bit. Baldwin has all the skills to be a number one wide receiver in this league and his addition should make Sam Bradford very happy. The Rams could look at some defensive options, but I think they stay the course and add the top WR on the board. While right now you can make a case of Julio Jones over Baldwin, I don’t think it is nearly as strong as most scouts make it out to be. I believe that Baldwin will separate himself during his workouts, and end up being the 2nd receiver in this class.

Feb 1st update: This pick will be either Baldwin or Jones unless the Rams grab a couple big receivers in free agency. They have to add weapons for Bradford and I don’t see them changing course.

15. Miami Dolphins: DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue-

While it is easy to mock the Dolphins a quarterback or running back considering their needs, Miami should be looking at a rush linebacker to compliment Cameron Wake. Kerrigan had a very successful career at getting to the quarterback with his hand down in college, and if he shows enough at workouts to make the transition outside he should be the Dolphins pick. If not Miami could go for another pass rusher, or turn their attention back to their offensive needs.

Kerrigan had a pretty good Senior Bowl week, and while it didn’t answer many of the questions about being able to stand up, he showed up at a good weight and looked pretty quick in drills. The question about converting into a LB isn’t fully answered, but it was a good first step for him.

Feb. 1st update: Still not buying a quarterback here or a running back. If for some reason Gabbert falls I could see him being taken, but no way Mallett or Locker get picked here. Ingram is a nice back, but not top 15 worthy. Dolphins should stay the course and strengthen that defense.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa:

Clayborn was once thought to be a top 10 pick, but slipped some due to a poor senior campaign. Clayborn’s senior numbers weren’t entirely his fault as teams routinely double teamed him, and ran plays away from the powerful defensive end. Clayborn isn’t a dominate pass rusher, but he has the skills to get between 7-10 sacks a season. Clayborn will help continue to boost a Jacksonville pass rush that let them down when it mattered the most.

Feb. 1st update: Clayborn could be slipping and I nearly had him fall into the 20’s, but still have enough confidence to keep him here. Not participating in the Senior Bowl didn’t help his stock, and at this point unless he has an incredible combine I think the best he can hope for is being taken right here. The Jags could look corner or safety, but my guess is they stay with a lineman.

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