Now that we’ve reached the middle of the pro day season, it’s a great time to unveil my first mock draft.
Although teams are still in the early stages of setting their respective draft boards, the results of the NFL Scouting Combine, medical evaluations and pro day workouts are helping to narrow the focus on which prospects they expect to be available when they pick.
Of course, the ongoing evaluation of game film and teams’ assessment of character will continue to cause movement on draft boards across the league, so this mock draft should be regarded as a fluid exercise in matching team needs with available talent.
Let’s take a look at my initial mock draft:
The Panthers will think long and hard about adding talent to their defensive line, but the need for a franchise quarterback is a must in a division with Matt Ryan
, Josh Freeman
and Drew Brees
. Although Newton is a bit of a project based on his inexperience, his boundless potential makes him worth the risk.
New coach John Fox will attempt to rebuild the Broncos into a title contender by quickly revamping the defense. Dareus gives Fox a rugged defender capable of controlling the point against the run, while also providing disruption as a pass rusher. Nick Fairley and Patrick Peterson will also be in the discussion, but Dareus gets the nod based on his solid body of work at Alabama.
Chan Gailey would love to find an interior defender to anchor his 3-4 scheme, but Miller’s pass rushing prowess would provide an instant impact to a unit that has notoriously struggled to get to the quarterback. Miller’s speed, quickness and disruptive skills could evoke memories of Cornelius Bennett coming off the edge for Bills’ fans.
‘s trade request has put the quarterback position in the spotlight, but the interior of the Bengals’ leaky defensive line needs an infusion of talent and toughness. Fairley was the most dominant defender in the SEC, and his disruptive skills are ideal for the three-technique position in the Bengals’ 4-3 scheme.
Ken Whisenhunt stood behind his trio of quarterbacks last season in spite of their struggles, but he must address the situation to have any chance of retaining wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald
in the future. While Gabbert will certainly need time making the transition from the spread offense to a conventional system, his high football IQ should lessen the learning curve and allow Fitzgerald to get back to his playmaking ways.
Eric Mangini purged the Browns of their top offensive playmakers when he jettisoned Braylon Edwards
and Kellen Winslow upon his arrival. Pat Shurmur will look to juice up the offense by adding the most talented offensive player on the board. Green immediately steps in as the team’s No.1 receiver, and gives Colt McCoy
the go-to guy he desperately needs.
The 49ers will grapple with this decision because defensive end Robert Quinn could provide a jolt to their anemic pass rush. However, Peterson’s dynamic cover skills and play-making ability should lead to more turnovers and provide Jim Harbaugh’s offense with prime scoring opportunities.
The addition of Quinn might not make sense initially, considering the Titans took their pass rusher of the future (Derrick Morgan
) with a top pick a year ago and have a Pro Bowler on the opposite side in Jason Babin
, who will be a free agent. But the Titans have been at their best defensively when using rotations to get after the passer, and Quinn’s electric rush skills could blossom in Jerry Gray’s aggressive system.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will strongly consider adding a top-flight offensive tackle at this point, but the addition of Amukamara would fortify a leaky secondary that surrendered the most touchdown passes in the league.
The Redskins’ roster needs a serious infusion of talent on both sides of the ball. Jones gives the offense a legitimate playmaker in the passing game to build around, but their looming uncertainty at quarterback might prompt the team to go in a different direction.
Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense is dependent upon creating pressure off the edges. The Texans have a nice piece in defensive end Mario Williams
, but need another pass rush threat along the front. Smith’s athleticism, versatility and rush skills make him an intriguing option as a designated rusher.
The Vikings will be excited to land the top overall defensive player on some boards with this pick. The surprising fall of Bowers is not a reflection of his talent or potential, but rather a matter of fit within scheme as well as some growing medical concerns. If Leslie Frazier can pair Bowers opposite Jared Allen, the Vikings’ defense could quickly regain the bite that was missing in 2010.
The Lions need a premier left tackle to protect Matt Stafford’s blind side, and the selection of Castonzo addresses that concern. Although Nate Solder’s ceiling could be higher due to his athleticism, Castonzo is the most pro-ready player at the position, and that could be enough to tip the scales in his favor.
The Rams were hoping that Julio Jones would fall to them, but his remarkable combine workout has sent his stock soaring and he might be unavailable at this pick. Liuget adds talent and bulk to the Rams’ interior and gives Steve Spagnuolo a deep rotation along the line to wear down opposing offenses.
The Dolphins’ running game slumped last season, and the impending free agent status of both Ronnie Brown
and Ricky Williams makes it necessary to add a workhorse to the backfield. Although Ingram may lack explosive home run speed, his rugged style is an ideal fit for a Dolphins’ offense looking to regain its identity.
Jack Del Rio needs a disruptive pass rusher off the edge to boost the Jaguars’ sagging defense. Kerrigan fits the bill as a relentless rusher with disruptive skills, and his penchant for creating sacks and forced fumbles should help the Jaguars make moves in the AFC South.
‘s retirement and Logan Mankins
‘ unhappiness make it necessary for the Patriots to add a talented interior blocker. Pouncey’s experience, versatility and athleticism make him the right choice for the Patriots.
The Chargers don’t have any noticeable holes on their roster, but an upgrade in the front seven could help the defense fulfill its potential. Watt has shot up the boards following sensational workouts at the scouting combine and his pro day and is the blue-collar defender that every defense needs on the interior.
The Giants do a terrific job of stockpiling talent along both lines, and the addition of Solder would give them a talented prospect to develop for a bigger role in future seasons. Although they could opt for an outside linebacker like UCLA’s Akeem Ayers, the chance to nab an elite left tackle of the future to too tempting to pass up.
The Buccaneers revamped their defensive interior with their top two picks in last year’s draft, and the retooling continues with the addition of Clayborn, who would give Raheem Morris a talented edge rusher to complementGerald McCoy
and Brian Price
Smith is arguably the most talented prospect at the position, and the Chiefs opt to ignore a pressing need at outside linebacker to fortify the right side of the offensive line. Smith’s athleticism and skill are top-10 caliber, so GM Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley would be thrilled to land an impact starter at this pick.
Bill Polian can no longer ignore the need along the Colts’ offensive line in the first round. Carimi could play on either side and adds some toughness to their front line.
The presence of cornerback Asante Samuel
prompted quarterbacks to attack the opposite side of the defense last season, and the Eagles lacked the personnel to combat the tactic. Smith would give the defense a rangy cover man with the skills to excel in one-on-one match ups.
The Saints need to add more athleticism and big-play ability to their linebacker corps. Ayers is an impact player capable of providing disruption as an attack player in Gregg Williams’ aggressive system.
Although conventional wisdom suggests that the Seahawks nab their quarterback of the future with this pick, the jury is still out on whether Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett are great fits for their offensive system. In selecting Sherrod, the Seahawks grab an athletic tackle that suits their zone-based blocking system to play opposite of last year’s top pick, Russell Okung
The Ravens’ lack of speed at wide receiver was evident in their playoff loss, so GM Ozzie Newsome addresses the issue by picking one of the fastest receivers in the draft. Smith’s vertical ability will lift the coverage offAnquan Boldin
and help Joe Flacco
create more explosive plays in the passing game.
The Falcons need to add some juice to their passing game, and Young has the speed and athleticism to do it. Although he has a slender build in the mold of a DeSean Jackson
, Falcons’ officials might be willing to gamble that he is capable of delivering that kind of impact to their offense.
Jordan’s stock has been on the rise since he dominated at the Senior Bowl. His intriguing athleticism and skill set are ideally suited for the five-technique spot in the Patriots’ 3-4 defense.
The Bears’ offensive line issues will make getting an offensive tackle a priority, but the defensive line also needs an infusion of youth and athleticism. The release of Tommie Harris
creates the need for a pass rushing defensive tackle, and Wilkerson’s size, athleticism and skill makes an interesting possibility as a three-technique in their 4-3 scheme.
The Jets need a dynamic rusher to pair opposite of outside linebacker Calvin Pace
. Houston lit up the SEC with his rush skills, and his presence would allow coach Rex Ryan to ratchet up the pressure off the edges.
Super Bowl XLV revealed the lack of depth in the Steelers’ secondary, so expect the team to address the need with an early round pick. Harris brings outstanding cover skills and has the ability to slide into the slot as the nickel cornerback.
The Packers will look to take the best available player on the board. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers loves to incorporate versatile athletes into his scheme, and Wilson’s ability to play multiple spots could make him an intriguing prospect at this pick.