After much anticipation, the draft is finally upon us. For the next three days, football fans all around the country will have the chance to put the CBA talk aside and see players take their first step to NFL stardom.
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB Auburn: A new regime usually means a new quarterback so that is most likely what the Panthers are going to draft. There are a lot of question marks around Newton but he also has the most upside of any quarterback in the class. The Panthers could also consider Blaine Gabbert or Patrick Peterson here.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama: The Broncos have been looking to upgrade their defensive line and Dareus certainly fits the bill here. At this time, it seems like this is a sure thing but the Broncos could also consider Patrick Peterson here.
3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, DE Texas A&M: If the Panthers pass on Newton, he will probably be the pick here but Miller isn’t a bad consolation prize. He should come in right away and contribute to a Bills pass rush that only had 27 sacks last season.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR Georgia: With Terrell Owens departing and Chad Ochocinco likely playing his last game as a Bengal, receiver is a need for the team. Green is the top receiver in this year’s class and could come in right away and have a big impact. Even though the Carson Palmer saga continues to play out, it seems like the Bengals are hoping to grab a quarterback such as Andy Dalton or Christian Ponder in the second round.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB LSU: The Cardinals are in need of a quarterback but seem set on bringing in a veteran such as Marc Bulger to compete with John Skelton. Peterson is the best player in this draft class and paired with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would immediately form one of the best young cornerback tandems in the league.
6. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR Alabama: The Browns are hoping that either A.J. Green or Patrick Peterson falls here but if they don’t, they would be happy with Jones. The team has much more pressing needs along the defensive line but they may feel that Jones is too good a value to pass up. Outside of Green and Peterson, Robert Quinn and Nick Fairley could be among those considered at this spot.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri: The 49ers would be ecstatic if Patrick Peterson fell here but they will gladly settle for Gabbert. Like the Panthers, Jim Harbaugh represents a new regime which usually results in taking a quarterback and Harbaugh did recruit Gabbert during his time at Stanford. A pass rusher such as Robert Quinn could also be considered.
8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn: The Titans have been looking for Albert Haynesworth replacement for a few years. Fairley fits the bill perfectly even down to the questionable work ethic. To top it all off, the Titans new defensive line coach Tracy Rocker coached Fairley at Auburn. Jake Locker is also a player to monitor here as he is gaining some momentum.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, T USC: The Cowboys offensive line needs some help and Smith has gained momentum as the draft’s top tackle prospect. Other possibilities for the Cowboys would be to address the defensive line with a pass rusher such as Robert Quinn or a corner like Prince Amukamara.
10. Washington Redskins: Jake Locker, QB Washington: There is a surprise in the top ten every year and this is the one. Mike Shanahan is very intrigued by Locker as a prospect and some say he would have taken him fourth overall if he declared. Locker has the mobility Shanahan looks for to run bootlegs as well. A pass rusher or Julio Jones could also be considered here as well.
11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, DE Missouri: The Texans pass defense was historically bad last year so there is no doubt they will address that come draft day. Prince Amukamara is a very real possibility here but the Texans might not be able to pass up having a pass rusher with double digit sack potential across Mario Williams.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina: The Vikings are supposedly very high on Locker but with have to change plans with him off the board. With Ray Edwards being a free agent, the team needs a pass rusher to line up across Jared Allen. Quinn was considered a top five pick before he had to sit out the year and is a great value at 12. Da’Quan Bowers along with Locker if he falls will be considered here.
13. Detroit Lions: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska: The Lions made great strides last year and along with protecting Matthew Stafford, the secondary is the main priority. Amukamara would be an ideal fit for the Lions and would come in right away as a starter. Anthony Castonzo, Bowers and Jimmy Smith could also be considered at this slot.
14. St. Louis Rams: Corey Liuget, DT Illinois: The Rams are in the market for top receiver for Sam Bradford so if Julio Jones falls, the Rams will pounce. However, with him off the board in this scenario, Liuget is the pick and also fills a need. If available, Aldon Smith will also be considered.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, G Florida: The main thing the Dolphins can hope for is that a team falls in love with a player here so they can trade down and acquire a second round pick. However, Pouncey would be a great addition to the interior of the offensive line. The team might also go quarterback here as the fans are restless in regards to finding the next Dan Marino.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue: The Jaguars method of drafting is to select the best player available which makes them tough to predict on draft day. Most mock drafts make their Jaguars pick the way some used to with the Patriots by selecting players with “non-stop motors and high character” at whatever position was a need. Kerrigan fits the criteria the Jaguars are looking for and the team is still need of a pass rusher in a draft full of them. As Gene Smith showed last year, he sticks to his board regardless of where he is drafting so if a quarterback such as Andy Dalton or Christian Ponder is the choice here, don’t be surprised.
17. New England Patriots: JJ Watt, DE Wisconsin: The Patriots need a pass rusher and Watt is a versatile player that fits the bill. Mike Pouncey is also a player that could be considered here if he is available.
18. San Diego Chargers: Cameron Jordan, DE California: The Chargers need help on the defensive line and Jordan would be able to come right in and contribute. The Chargers might also consider a right tackle or an outside linebacker with this choice.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, T Boston College: The Giants are in need of a left tackle and Castonzo who by some is considered the top tackle in the class would be a great value here. His Boston College ties couldn’t hurt his standing with Tom Coughlin either. Akeem Ayers or Mark Ingram could also be possibilities here.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson: The Buccaneers are a team on the rise but still have some holes to fill. One of those is to find a pass rusher after addressing the defensive tackle position early in last year’s draft. Bowers started the draft process as a top five pick but a knee injury that has scared teams off could lead him to fall on draft day. Other pass rushers such as Justin Houston or Kerrigan if available will be players of interest.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Gabe Carimi, T Wisconsin: The Chiefs have a big hole at offensive tackle so whoever is top on their board could very well be the pick here. Carimi is just a guess but Nate Solder might be the guy the team prefers.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Solder, T Colorado: The Colts need some youth on the offensive line so there is a good chance they will take whatever tackle the Chiefs don’t go with. In this case it is Solder. The team once again had a very hard time stopping the run this year and Phil Taylor could also be considered here.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado: The Eagles are in need of a corner opposite Asante Samuel and Smith fits the bill. If it wasn’t for off the field concerns, he would most likely be a top 15 pick. However, the Eagles have shown over the years questionable character isn’t a huge factor in their decision making so if Smith is available, he should be the pick.
24. New Orleans Saints: Muhammed Wilkerson, DT Temple: The Saints are in need of some youth on the defensive line and Wilkerson is a versatile player that could add valuable depth while he develops into a starter. The team might also be interested in a pass rusher with this selection as well.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Christian Ponder, QB Florida State: Ponder is a great fit for the West Coast offense with his short to intermediate accuracy and with Matt Hasselbeck getting older could be the team’s quarterback of the future. If the team doesn’t go quarterback, the Seahawks will also consider Jimmy Smith if available along with Justin Houston as they are in need of a pass rusher.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State: Heyward had lots of hype coming into the year but would fall into a great situation with the Ravens stepping in for Cory Redding. The team is also in need for a receiver that can stretch the field but might wait until the second or third round to address that need.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Rudolph, TE Notre Dame: Outside of Roddy White, Matt Ryan really doesn’t have many weapons to throw to. The signs of a Tony Gonzalez decline were evident last year and Rudolph would fit the bill as his heir apparent. The Falcons could also consider a pass rusher or a receiver such as Jonathan Baldwin with this selection as well.
28. New England Patriots: Mark Ingram, RB Alabama: Knowing the Patriots, they are either going to trade this pick or the 33rd to a team in need of a quarterback and land what will become a top ten pick in the following draft. However, if the team does keep this selection, Ingram could be the guy as the Patriots are high on him and they don’t have a clear cut number one running option.
29. Chicago Bears: Derek Sherrod, T Mississippi State: After the Bears led the league in sacks allowed, it should be a given that their first pick will be used to patch up the offensive line. Sherrod isn’t a finished product, but he does have the ability to become a quality starting tackle. Picking here, that is definitely worth a shot.
30. New York Jets: Akeem Ayers, LB UCLA: As a linebacker who can rush the passer, Ayers being selected here would officially bring an end to the Vernon Gholston era. He is a very good value here and the Jets could also consider Phil Taylor or Muhammed Wilkerson here if they are available.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Phil Taylor, DT Baylor: The Steelers would love to upgrade their offensive line here but the value just isn’t there. With Casey Hampton getting older, Taylor could be groomed to become his replacement. Cornerbacks such as Aaron Williams and Brandon Harris could also be considered here.
32. Green Bay Packers: Brooks Reed, DE Arizona: The Packers are in need of another pass rusher with Cullen Jenkins set to be a free agent and Houston fits the bill. Reed is a player who due to his high motor and long blonde hair is often compared to Clay Matthews. He is gaining a lot of momentum and if the Packers feel the same way, the will snag him up. A receiver isn’t out of the question here either.