NFL Mock Draft 2/03/11 Picks 17-32
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: previous selection OLB Aldon Smith
18. San Diego Chargers: WR Julio Jones, Alabama-
The Chargers draft strategy could be determined by free agency particularly if they lose one of their top receivers. If they retain their own talent, then OT, DE and OLB become their three biggest needs. Right now I have to believe that they can keep only one of Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd (not to mention Naanee), so I do think receiver will be a top target. While there are a few offensive tackle options, as well as those at DE and OLB, I think they won’t let one of the top 3 receivers (Green, Baldwin, Jones) slip by them. If all those guys are off the board they could look in a different direction, but with Jones there he has to be their pick. Assuming the retain Jackson (which is the most likely via the Franchise Tag), they will give Rivers a truly elite receiving corps.
pick change, previous pick: DE J.J. Watt
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.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College-
The Buccaneers biggest need is defensive end, but unless they are comfortable playing Justin Houston their full time, there aren’t many quality options for them here. Guys like Bailey, Heyward, and Jordan are surefire picks as 3-4 ends, but don’t profile as well in the 4-3 (at least at end). The Buccaneers should look to address the position in free agency as well as later in the draft (unless they are looking to trade up), and 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 Castonzo 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. Castonzo is one of my favorite players in this draft class and I’m a big believer he will be successful.
pick change: previous selection OT Nate Solder
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 compliment to Hali, and I think Houston is the perfect fit for them.
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: previous selection DT Stephen Paea
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.
24. New Orleans Saints: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama-
The Saints could look to address their front seven or even their offensive line (especially if they lose any key free agents), but I think they will look to add a running back here. Pierre Thomas looks to be on his way out the door, and unless Reggie Bush moves the decimal point over to the left one place on his $11.8 million salary, he will be joining him. Chris Ivory looked good this past season, but he had nagging injuries all year, and Lisfranc fracture that required surgery this offseason. He might be healthy by training camp, but probably won’t be 100%, so New Orleans needs to find a better option. Ingram would be a good safe choice for the Saints, one that would ensure their running back woes didn’t lead to their downfall this season.
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.
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
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.
27. Atlanta Falcons: WR Torrey Smith, Maryland-
Defensive end might be the Falcons biggest need, but I don’t see any great fits here (a few decent ones, but no one that ‘wows’ me). I think the Falcons will look to adding a receiver that can compliment Roddy White with this pick. Smith is a receiver with good size and speed and while I think he is more of an early 2nd rounder this isn’t much of a reach. I think Atlanta will target DE and OL in free agency and later in the draft, but grab a playmaker here.
pick change: previous selection TE Kyle Rudolph
28. New England Patriots: WR Titus Young, Boise State-
The Patriots could go in a number of directions with this pick, but I think they will shock some people and grab a playmaker. Young showed that he was the most explosive player at the Senior Bowl, and the Patriots still haven’t found a down field threat to compliment their short and intermediate passing game. They need a big receiver as well, but my guess is they will value adding an explosive player like Young.
pick change: previous selection DE Allen Bailey
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.
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
Picks 31 and 32 yet to be determined
31. Green Bay Packers: DE Corey Liuget, Illinois-
The Packers will need to keep adding talent to their 3-4 defense, and look to have a big hole at one of the defensive end spots. Liuget, could profile as a DT in a 4-3, but should be the perfect fit for the Packers at defensive end. He had a monster year and shows a good bit of penetration for a guy of his size. Green Bay should be quite happy with what he becomes, and he would give them the elite D-line they are looking for.
Feb. 3rd update: Packers could go in a different direction, but I think Liuget makes a lot of sense for them still.
32. 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.