On Saturday I released my first mock draft of the year, and while I was satisfied with how it turned out, I felt as if something was missing. Sunday, while I sat through a boring Wrestlemania match with my family, I came to the conclusion that explanations were needed for the mock draft. I promise they’ll be more interesting and entertaining than the Snooki match yesterday.
I tried to go against the grain with some of the picks because a lot of times that is how the draft turns out. A lot of times I read mock drafts that seem to hold off on a certain player to specifically assign them to a team he would go well with, such as Julio Jones to the Rams just so we can talk about him playing with Sam Bradford. Sometimes, however, there is no way around it, like the popular choice of Mark Ingram to the Dolphins.
I also took into account that this draft has the possibility of relying on need more so than any other year. The labor situation is going to put teams in a pickle should things not get resolved before April 28. Teams will not be allowed to trade current players, rights to drafted players or sign free agents before. Teams who would otherwise be interested in trading for Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb will be forced to make a decisions whether to draft or not draft a quarterback early. Teams that pass on a quarterback and fail to land Kolb, when a new CBA is in place, will be in trouble. Hence, I have three quarterbacks taken early in the first round, reach or not.
As for each team’s explanation for their picks, here they go:
1. Carolina Panthers- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri (pictured)
Carolina is one of those teams that needs a lot of help, but I think they need to swallow the fact they made a mistake with Clausen and start over at the position. Gabbert has a good arm and can make all the throws. I don’t agree with most of the characteristic question marks surrounding Newton, but the fact they’re out there and Gabbert could be a safer pick.
2. Denver Broncos-Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama
Denver does not need to draft a quarterback as they have perfectly able players at the position in Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. I was close to putting Patrick Peterson at this spot, but Denver needs an anchor in the trenches and Dareus can be that man for John Fox.
3. Buffalo Bills- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Ryan Fitzpatrick is decent, and definitely the kind of guy I would feel comfortable with backing up my starter. That’s as far as he goes, however, and Buffalo needs a franchise quarterback. I can see head coach Chan Gailey picking Newton to run the backfield with C.J. Spiller.
4. Cincinnati Bengals- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Cincinnati will need some rejuvenation on offense should Carson Palmer go through with his demands. When Georgia was slumping, Green returned and sparked a fire in their offense. Green will have a shot to do the same in Cincinnati.
5. Arizona Cardinals- Von Miller, OLB/DE, Texas A&M
As much as Arizona also needs some offensive help, there isn’t much to help them at this spot with the top two quarterbacks gone. Miller can replace the aging outside linebackers Arizona currently has.
6. Cleveland Browns- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Jones’ injury should not be made into a big deal. He still ran a 4.39 40 yard dash WITH the injury. It has been said the injury is similar to Michael Crabtree’s before the 2009 draft, and will be ready by the season opener (whenever that is). The Browns could use him now.
7. San Francisco 49ers- Patrick Peterson, DB, LSU
This would be another case of San Francisco getting lucky with a player of great talent falling to them, like Patrick Willis and Crabtree. Nate Clements’ job is in jeopardy in the Bay Area, and Peterson is the perfect player to help an average secondary.
8. Tennessee Titans- Nick Fairley, DL, Auburn
Remember all the talk about Tennessee looking to get Albert Haynesworth back? There’s obviously a need at the position for the Titans. Fortunately for them, Fairley drops to them.
9. Dallas Cowboys-Da’Quan Bowers, DL, Clemson
Yet another player falls from the top five projections widely predicted. Bowers would help Dallas by bringing his versatility to a front seven that relies too heavily on DeMarcus Ware. He has the ability to free the other backers as a 3-4 DE and bring a pass rush in dime packages.
10. Washington Redskins- Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Smith is not the best offensive tackle in my opinion, but I’ve read he is rising up draft boards. Trent Williams can still play the blind side, but Smith would definitely help the right side with his agility.
11. Houston Texans- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Texans secondary has suffered both with and without Dunta Robinson. Amukamara would be able to provide a great cover corner to help solidify the problem.
12. Minnesota Vikings- Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Yes; a bit of a reach, and the consensus is that Seattle will find a way to land Locker, but Locker would fit Minnesota’s system well. Minnesota’s running game and defense will help ease Locker into the pros.
13. Detroit Lions- Anthony Castonzo, OL, Boston College
I think Castonzo fits what head coach Jim Schwartz wants his team to be. Castonzo will help keep Matthew Stafford off his back and open holes for Best to make big plays.
14. St. Louis Rams- Cameron Jordan, DL, Cal
With no big time receiver available, the Rams opt to upgrade their defense that was inconsistent last season. If Bradford continues to improve and throw other passes other than little three yard ins and curls, their offense should be fine and Jordan will be a force to be reckoned with for the NFC West.
15. Miami Dolphins- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (pictured)
I know this is a popular choice, but there’s no way around it. The Dolphins will need to do something with their running game since Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will be free agents when the new CBA is in place. Ingram will be able to hit the ground running and have a big rookie season.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Quinn is a great talent but falls to the spot because of the suspension and the concern over his health. Despite these concerns, Quinn would bring much needed pass rushing to Jacksonville.
17. New England Patriots (From Oakland)- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Watt has the look and feel of a Patriot. He’ll be able to assist the pats early in their 3-4 defensive line rotation and will do so for years to come.
18. San Diego Chargers- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The run on ends continues as San Diego picks the best player still on the board in my opinion. Clayborn fits their system and should help the defense stay relevant without Ron Rivera’s coaching.
19. N.Y. Giants- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The Giants haven’t had the strong front line they once did in a while. Manning has taken some hits lately, and Solder can step in quickly to prevent any more punishment on the quarterback.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Aaron Williams, DB, Texas
Tampa Bay doesn’t run as much zone coverage as people think. Williams will provide coverage that could be ailing with Aqib Talib’s situation hovering over the franchise.
21. Kansas City Chiefs- Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida
As much as everyone wants Pouncey to be around for Pittsburgh at 31, the truth is he might not be. The play of his brother, Maurkice, will make teams hope he will play the same way. KC needs to add some youth to their aging o-line, and Pouncey could be a Chief for the next decade.
22. Indianapolis Colts- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Indy could use some help to take some blockers away from Freeney and Mathis, and they were 25th in run defense last year. The Colts usually draft players without big names and Liuget is a good fit for their system.
23. Philadelphia Eagles- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
The Eagles need help opposite Asante Samuel, and none of the corners on their roster is the answer. The Eagles neeed to be able to cover in order to blitz like they once did, and Harris could be their man.
24. New Orleans Saints- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Like many teams this year, the Saints need an improved pass rush. With Kerrigan still on the board, he could definitely improve this area. He’s a three year starter and fits the bill for previous Saints defensive ends.
25. Seattle Seahawks- Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
I could see this pick get traded for more. The Seahawks could use a few things and do not have a third round pick, so it would make sense. I’ll refrain from going trade-crazy in a first mock draft though. Sherrod will help Russell Okung on the line since Chris Spencer and Sean Locklear could be free agents.
26. Baltimore Ravens- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
As much as I like Michael Oher, he didn’t make much progress from his rookie year and there is talk of him moving to the right side of the line. Aside from him, Baltimore has potential free agents at the tackle position. Carimi will be a stabilizing force to go along with Oher.
27. Atlanta Falcons- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Remember when the Packers torched Atlanta in the playoffs? There was a reason for that. Dunta Robinson only had one interception, and there’s not much after him. Brent Grimes is decent, but he’d be better suited as a third corner. Smith could take over the second spot eventually.
28. New England Patriots- Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
Smith doesn’t necessarily have the best build to be a 4-3 defensive end, but he can be a great pass rusher. Who better to mold him into a pass-rushing 3-4 linebacker than Bill Belichick.
29. Chicago Bears- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State
I almost put Baylor’s Danny Watkins here, and will strongly consider it when making my second mock draft, but I give the edge to the younger Hudson (Watkins turns 27 in November). The Bears need to give Cutler time as they allowed 56 sacks.
30. N.Y. Jets- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
I highly doubt the Jets will be able to keep both Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. My guess is Edwards is the odd man out, and the Jets will need a tall receiver to go up for Sanchez’s floaters.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
I could see Heyward falling to the end of the first round because of his disappointing senior year. The Steelers have Ziggy Hood to replace the now injury prone Aaron Smith, but have no one to give Brett Keisel a breather. Pittsburgh usually drafts the best available, and Heyward is that player.
32. Green Bay Packers- Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
We can’t ignore it, Green Bay needs a running game. Even though they won the Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers’ arm, they can’t do it every year. The Packers have not drafted a running back in the first round since 1990. I think it’s time for one, and Leshoure has a lot of upside.