1. Carolina Panthers – Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
With no quarterback worth taking #1 overall, the Panthers will have to stick it out another year with Jimmy Clausen. They are likely go after a veteran free agent as well, though. The Panthers have little available at defensive tackle, so Fairley not only fills a big need, but he is also arguably the best player in the draft.
2. Denver Broncos – Da’Quon Bowers – DE – Clemson
The Broncos will likely move back to a 4-3 base defense. If they do, they’ll need a dominant defensive end. Dumervil is inconsistent, and may not have the same type of success he did in 2009. Patrick Peterson could also be an option here if Champ Bailey walks.
3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller – OLB – Texas A&M
Von Miller has climbed up draft boards recently, and he is worthy of a top five selection. Chan Gailey coached Von Miller at the Senior Bowl and was impressed with him. The Bills will finally have a pass-rush threat they’ve need for quite some time, and Miller should make everyone in Buffalo forget the Maybin pick from a few years ago.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green – WR – Georgia
Both Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson didn’t help the Bengals win games. In fact, the Bengals looked a lot better with them out of the line up. Both wide receivers could potentially be gone this off-season leaving the Bengals very thin at wideout. Carson Palmer is also unhappy and requesting a trade, so they may look for his replacement. Perhaps losing Batman and Robin will help him.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU
I don’t think the Cardinals will take a QB in the first round. Most teams that do go through coaching changes, the Cardinals didn’t. They seem pretty content with John Skelton as well, who was a pretty good late round prospect last year. They need pass-rush help, but they can’t overlook Patrick Peterson. CB is a need as well and Peterson is the best player on the board.
6. Cleveland Browns – Marcell Dareus – DT – Alabama
The Browns will be moving to a 4-3 this year. Defensive end is a need, but with the recent release of Shaun Rogers, there is some uncertainty inside. Dareus can play in the 3-4 and 4-3 and can be successful in both. The Browns can then look to build the defensive line around him.
7. San Fransisco 49ers – Robert Quinn – OLB – North Carolina
The 49ers could be in the market for a quarterback, but I don’t know if Harbaugh will pull the trigger on one. I would imagine Jake Locker is his #1 choice, but he is not worth this high a pick, possibly not even a 1st rounder. They do need some pass-rush help and Robert Quinn fits their 3-4 scheme.
8. Tennessee Titans – Blaine Gabbert – QB – Missouri
The Vince Young era is officially over, and with a new head coach, it’s time they get a new franchise quarterback. Blaine Gabbert is projected to be the first quarterback taken. Gabbert has a lot of question marks, but so do almost all of the top quarterbacks in this years draft. None of them are “safe” picks, but it’s a risk they should be willing to take.
9. Dallas Cowboys – Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska
It is well documented that the Cowboys secondary was terrible this year. Mike Jenkins regressed, and they desperately need an upgrade at free safety. Prince Amukamara would be the smart pick here. They can get a servicable free safety in the 2nd or 3rd round.
10. Washington Redskins – Julio Jones – WR – Alabama
The Redskins need a quarterback, but I don’t think they take one this high. Reportedly they were very interested in Jake Locker last year, but is he worth the 10th overall pick? They may take him, but his stock has taken a huge hit. I can see them trading down(or trading up from the 2nd) to acquire Locker. Whoever the quarterback will be next year, he will need someone to throw to. Julio Jones has a lot of potential and can develop into a great #1 wide receiver.
11. Houston Texans – Akeem Ayers – OLB – UCLA
The Texans hired Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator which means they will be switching to a 3-4 defense. The problem is, they have no 3-4 outside linebackers on the roster. Connor Barwin has potential as a 3-4 outside linebacker but he is unproven and shouldn’t be relied on. Akeem Ayers has the ability to play in the 3-4 and should at least fill one of the spots.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Cam Newton – QB – Auburn
The Vikings will definitely be targeting a quarterback in this year’s draft. Head Coach Leslie Frazier hinted at taking a quarterback early, and they have already spoken to a number of quarterback prospects at the Senior Bowl. Cam Newton’s stock is rising, and the more hype he gets, the more likely this selection will be.
13. Detroit Lions – Brandon Harris – CB – Miami
With Akeem Ayers off the board, there isn’t a linebacker worth taking this high. The Lions don’t reach for their picks and linebackers can be drafted later on. Cornerback is a big need for the Lions. Chris Houston was average, and Alphonso Smith was wildly inconsistent. Brandon Harris is the 3rd ranked cornerback, and is very talented. He makes a lot of sense here.
14. St. Louis Rams – Aldon Smith – DE – Missouri
The Rams got a lot of pressure last year, and they want to be able to keep that up this year. James Hall will be 34 and George Selvie is not a starter. Aldon Smith is one of the best players on the board and can play opposite Chris Long.
15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram – RB – Alabama
This is almost a unanimous pick among mock drafts, and it makes sense to me. The Dolphins winning formula begins with running the ball. The more they run, the less likely Chad Henne throws a costly interception. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are both getting too old to carry the load. Brown also has had trouble staying healthy. Ingram is the best back in the draft, and the Dolphins will certainly take a good look at him.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan – DE – Purdue
It seems as though the Jaguars may try to run a little bit of a 3-4 next year. They have scouted linebackers heavily so far this off-season, and quite a few are 3-4 outside linebackers. Some say Kerrigan can play both in the 3-4 and the 4-3 so the Jaguars may have him standing up a few times this season. They’ve already talked to Kerrigan as well, and they will probably bring him in for a workout closer to the draft.
17. New England Patriots – Cameron Jordan – DE – California
I think I’ve had this pick in nearly all of my mocks. Cameron Jordan dominated the Senior Bowl and really raised his stock. He may even crack the top 15 now. The Patriots do need help on the defensive line and Jordan projects well to the 3-4 because that’s what he played at Cal.
18. San Diego Chargers – Corey Liuget – DE – Illinois
The Chargers also need defensive line help, and Liuget has climbed draft boards ever since he declared. He has the size to play in the 3-4 and certainly has 1st round talent.
19. New York Giants – Mikel LeShoure – RB – Illinois
This is a bit of a surprise pick, but LeShoure is very talented. Someone will take him in the 1st round. The Giants have other needs but the running back position shouldn’t be ignored. Jacobs is getting up there in age and did not look good running the ball this past year. On the other hand Ahmad Bradshaw is a free agent, and may want too much money. LeShoure can be a feature back and can handle running the ball 20 times a game.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn – DE – Iowa
The Bucs are in the market for a defensive end since they currently don’t have much of a pass-rush. They bolstered their interior with Gerald McCoy, who had a nice rookie year, but still need help on the outside. Clayborn had a less productive season than most thought he would, but his play last year can’t be forgotten.
21. Kansas City Chiefs – Anthony Castanzo – OT – Boston College
The Chiefs could go in a number of different directions here. They could be in the market for a new nose tackle, an outside linebacker,or an inside linebacker. The offensive line shouldn’t be ignored though. Richardson should not be starting, and the Chiefs have already looked at Castanzo at the Senior Bowl.
22. Indianapolis Colts – Nate Solder – OT – Colorado
Charlie Johnson is a free agent, and is a better fit at right tackle or guard anyways. The Colts need to get Peyton Manning a new left tackle. Nate Solder has the athleticism to play left tackle, but I really doubt he will be as good as many say he will be. He still needs a lot of work on his fundamentals. Regardless, a team will draft him in the first round and hope he reaches his potential.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Gabe Carimi – OT – Wisconsin
Mike Vick had a great year but fell off towards the end of the season. This could be as a result of simply taking too many hits, and most of these aren’t from him running down field. The offensive line needs to be upgraded. They need help at guard and tackle and Carimi can play both. He’ll be an upgrade regardless of where they play him.
24. New Orleans Saints – Stephen Paea – DT – Oregon State
The Saints need some help on the defensive line. They need another defensive end, but they also need a defensive tackle beside Sedrick Ellis. Stephen Paea just recently suffered an injury so his stock has taken a hit, but the Saints may still feel he warrants this high of a pick.
25. Seattle Seahawks – J.J. Watt – DE – Wisconsin
Raheem Brock was a nice surprise for Seattle, but he is 32 years old and a free agent. Outside of Chris Clemons the Seahawks have no one at defensive end. J.J. Watt fits their scheme as they seem to want big guys on the defensive line. When they are all healthy, they are outstanding against the run. J.J. Watt also brings some pass-rush ability and should be a nice end opposite Clemons.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Jimmy Smith – CB – Colorado
The Ravens desperately need help at cornerback. They have other needs as well, but the Ravens tend to draft the best player available. Jimmy Smith is a good cornerback with great size and ball skills. The Ravens may feel he is the best player on the board, and he takes care of a huge need.
27. Atlanta Falcons – Tyron Smith – OT – USC
The Falcons don’t have a lot of options here so I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded down. Tyron Smith is a very athletic tackle with a lot of potential. Sam Baker has been very inconsistent for the Falcons and Tyson Clabo is a free agent who may want too much money. The Falcons have reportedly already been looking at offensive tackles.
28. New England Patriots – Ben Ijalana OT/OG – Villanova
A bit of a surprise pick here but Ben Ijalana is a great player and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sneaking into the late 1st. Logan Mankins is a free agent and so is Matt Light. It’s unlikely both of them come back so a replacement will be needed. Ijalana can play both Guard and Tackle.
29. Chicago Bears – Derek Sherrod – OT – Mississippi State
The Bears offensive line is atrocious and they can’t keep ignoring it. They need an upgrade at pretty much every position on the line. Derek Sherrod is the best lineman left on the board and will surely be an upgrade somewhere.
30. New York Jets – Cameron Heyward – DE – Ohio State
The Jets got burned last time with an Ohio State player, but Heyward is a much safer pick. It’s always tough to draft 3-4 outside linebackers in the first round because many of them have never been asked to play that position in college. It’s a much tougher transition. Heyward is a perfect fit for the 3-4 because of his size and ability.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Pouncey – OG – Florida
I can definitely see the Pouncey brothers playing together in Pittsburgh. Maurkice Pouncey was very overrated this year but he is still a solid player. The Steelers offensive line has been injury riddled for quite sometime and they need an upgrade inside at Guard. I’m sure both the Pouncey brothers would be more comfortable playing alongside each other.
32. Green Bay Packers – Torrey Smith – WR – Maryland
The Packers won the Super Bowl with a great defense and an explosive offense. The problem is that their receiving corps could be taking a hit this off-season. Donald Driver will probably retire, and James Jones is a free agent. That will leave them with Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. Torrey Smith is a very explosive play maker that would be a welcome addition.