Hey everyone. It's been a few weeks and movement up and down draft boards is beginning to slow. There shouldn't be too much change from here on out. Most of the evaluation process is already completed, and only so much thinking and re-thinking can take place. As things stand, a few players stand head and shoulders above the rest, and there's not much that will change those evaluations.
A recurring theme here is that need is pushing certain positions up; nose tackles, for example, are in short supply in today's NFL. I still don't think that some players warrant where they will go based on talent alone, but there are a couple of points where I went with need rather than purely with best player available (henceforth abbreviated BPA).
If you're comparing this with the previous version, here is the link. My top 5 is unchanged, but after that get your thinking caps out. Lastly, I need to correct an error, I mistakenly had the 49ers at 16 and the Titans at 17 in my previous mock. That mistake is rectified here. "Previous pick" for those two picks will be the picks I made for those teams, NOT those draft positions.
1. St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
The first case of need, and hardly a surprise. The money that will be given to the top overall pick, combined with need, should force the Rams to do what I've been pushing for all along: they will select their franchise QB. It is a high risk move, but the Rams NEED this guy, so long as he checks out medically. Remember that if he'd entered the draft last year, some people thought he might have gone ahead of last year's No. 1 pick, Matthew Stafford, who went to the Lions.
He is an uncannily accurate passer, and he also has great intangibles. While his supporting cast won't be spectacular, he does have last year's No. 2 overall pick (Jason Smith) guarding his blind side and one of the NFL's best running backs (Steven Jackson) in his backfield. I've said it before, and I've said it again, I think it is stupid to take a QB without a line to protect him. Well, they already have their left tackle... it isn't nearly as difficult to draft right tackles and interior linemen. They have some pieces.
(Previous pick: Bradford)
2. Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Don't get me wrong, I think Mike Mayock might be the best personnel evaluator whose board we get to see leading up to the draft every year. But I just don't understand why he has anybody but this guy ahead of Gerald McCoy, who projects as more of a one-gap DT. Suh is incredibly stout against the run, and oh, he did a full workout at the combine even though he was already viewed as a top pick... and was pretty much a stud, as you'd expect.
The Lions had a truly horrific run defense last season, and while I see the logic behind taking Russell Okung with this pick to protect Stafford's blind side, Okung is flat-out not on the same level as the two top defensive tackles from a talent standpoint. Throw in that Jim Schwartz's best years as a defensive coordinator came with someone named Albert Haynesworth manning the middle, and it simply makes no sense to reach here. You need linemen on both sides of the ball. If Detroit stays put, they should take Suh or McCoy, depending on their evaluation.
Fun fact that I just learned the other day: "Ndamukong" translates to "house of spears." He definitely has a much cooler name than "Gerald."
(Previous pick: Suh)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Let the madness end: left tackles are not quarterbacks, they are not elevated like quarterbacks on draft boards. It is one thing for a team with a need to go and get a quarterback in today's NFL. It is entirely something else for a team with a need at left tackle to elevate him above the two best players in the draft. The best players in the draft WILL go 2-3 to the Lions and Bucs.
Despite how much of a pain it will be to shell out top dollar to defensive tackles, it is just lunacy to pass on a great player at a position of need because of financial reasons. If the Lions take McCoy No. 2, the Bucs should take Suh, they'll get whoever is left and with good reason. The Bucs have a lot of holes to fill, and Barrett Ruud will be thankful for McCoy's pressure up front. With Chris Hovan playing 1-tech, McCoy is left to be the under tackle. That scares offensive linemen everywhere.
(Previous pick: McCoy)
4. Washington Redskins: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
It can be tough to gauge exactly what the Redskins are going to try and do, but I have to believe that Mike Shanahan knows what he's doing. Yes, Jimmy Clausen is available, and yes, he has the tools. But Okung is one of the top players on almost everyone's draft board; Clausen is rising due to need. And, as much as Redskins fans might hate to hear this, I believe Jason Campbell is an NFL starter. He'd get snapped up in a second if he was released.
The Redskins can win with Jason Campbell, but only if he's standing upright. And uh, it's pretty hard to play quarterback when your rear end is regularly planted on the turf by a 300 pound defensive tackle, just ask Peyton Manning about being a good teammate if you're unsure.
Oh, and Okung is the best tackle prospect in a very deep class. Not a bad pickup at No. 4 overall.
(Previous pick: Okung)
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
Yeah, I know the guy's arms are too short. I don't care. Bulaga is a great player and on top of that he's a Scott Pioli kind of player at No. 5. Branden Albert isn't a natural left tackle, but he's got a lot of talent, and if he's moved to the right side or kicked inside he's suddenly quite a bit better. Plus, he does protect the investment in Matt Cassell.
He's also very polished, which is a huge plus when you're looking for a player to make an immediate impact, though it might limit his upside a little bit. Still, tough to pass on a tackle here, there's a wealth of talented guys. Even if Bulaga isn't at the top of Pioli's board, another tackle likely will be.
(Previous pick: Bulaga)
6. Seattle Seahawks: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
Here's three left tackles in a row to come off the board here. Seattle has a need following the retirement of Walter Jones and Williams has solidified his spot as a top ten pick. Sooner fans have to be wondering what might have been with no fewer than half of the top six picks, including No. 1 overall. There are a number of different directions that the Seahawks could go with this pick, they have a lot of needs, and so they might just stand pat and trust their board. The recent trade for Charlie Whitehurst probably takes them out of contention in the Jimmy Clausen sweepstakes, but they could look at the offensive line, a pass rusher, or a flat-out playmaker. They are a serious wildcard, especially with Pete Carroll running the show now.
(Previous pick: Derrick Morgan, GT)
7. Cleveland Browns: Joe Haden, CB, Florida
They need help pretty much everywhere in their secondary. Eric Berry is a strong possibility here, but ultimately it is harder to find good corners than it is to find good safeties in today's NFL. Cleveland NEEDS a guy like Haden who can cover man to man, especially in the suddenly receiver-stacked AFC North. His improvement of his 40 time to about what was originally expected caused him to regain the title of top defensive back in this year's class, and the fact that he makes up for bad technique with athleticism at times makes his ceiling very high indeed.
(Previous pick: Eric Berry, Tenn)
8. Oakland Raiders: Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
Bruce Campbell is the popular pick here, but Davis is still very athletic. He's higher on most draft boards, and most importantly, we all see how the last Al Davis Special from UM(Darrius Heyward-Bey) turned out. "DHB" was basically a non-factor; 4th rounder Louis Murphy was the best player on the roster. Right now I'm thinking that history with the school will keep Davis from taking Campbell so early... but definitely don't rule it out. Oh, and if Davis doesn't take a tackle here Raider fans should defect to San Fran, barring a slip of one of the top-rated DTs (somehow or some way).
(Previous pick: Davis)
9. Buffalo Bills: Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
If I'm sitting in the Buffalo war room on draft day, I'm looking for one of the left tackles to fall. In this mock, the four best tackles are already gone, and while Campbell has enough talent to warrant consideration here, I just can't see him at the No. 9 overall pick; I'm not sure he's ready to step in and start at left tackle on day one. That leaves Buffalo with one of two possible actions: first, take the best player available, or second, take their hopeful franchise quarterback.
Personally I'd use the former approach. With no offensive tackles, any QB is bound to fail (just ask Jason Campbell, hence Russell Okung). Here's the problem, with the way the board is falling (four tackles gone), Clausen almost makes sense here in terms of his raw talent. NFL.com draft guru Mike Mayock, for example, compares him to Mark Sanchez in terms of his physical tools, not bad at all. If Buffalo is sold on his intangibles and the board falls this way, I think they almost are obliged to take Clausen.
(Previous pick: Clausen, although for some different reasons this time)
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
Since my first go-round, I've taken the opinion that Jacksonville's weakness at safety can be disguised by making the pass rush more effective. Originally I wanted to give them Eric Berry, but the more I thought about it the more Morgan makes sense. I don't get why people are keeping Jason Pierre-Paul on the same level as this guy. Morgan has much more college production and has the elite measurables that you'd expect from a franchise caliber DE. On top of that, he's been playing with his hand in the dirt for his whole career and would be playing his natural position for Jack Del Rio. He's also good against the run, a slam dunk, I think, for the Jags here.
(Previous pick: Earl Thomas, Tex)
11. Denver Broncos: Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
Unless Brandon Marshall gets traded, I don't see the Broncos taking anybody not named Rolando McClain, it's really that simple. The Broncos are OLD defensively, and they got older in free agency by signing Justin Bannan, Jamal Williams, and others. Personally I think it's crazy to have so many old guys on defense, where youth is more important by nature of the game, defense is more tiring than offense. McClain is a safe pick, and his talent warrants selection here. He'll be the core of this defensive unit for years to come. Yes, okay, Dez Bryant is still on the board, but he's a huge risk and I'm not sure McDaniels is going to want another diva WR to replace the one he's trying to ship out.
(Previous pick: McClain)
12. Miami Dolphins: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
Okay, I'll admit it. While I still don't think his raw talent warrants selection here, he's a bit of a one year wonder. Williams is a 0-technique, or 3-4 nose tackle, with a prototypical build for the job description. His value, I think, will be artificially inflated, but it's hard to argue with the fact that big-time defensive linemen are often taken earlier than their talent merits. In addition, their current NT is both long in the tooth and suspended for part of the year. Iit never hurts to add depth on the defensive front. Miami can look for a pass rusher in a later round.
(Previous pick: Sergio Kindle, Tex)
13. San Francisco 49ers: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
Another year, another coup by San Fran to get the best player available that has fallen through the cracks. Last year, despite the holdout, it was Michael Crabtree at No. 10 overall, and this year, three picks later, it's Eric Berry. He's a tremendously versatile player and I think there's no way he gets past the 49ers here. They are just loading up on as much talent as they possibly can. He's a special player, and adding him to any defense is definitely a plus.
(Previous pick: Joe Haden, UF)
14. Seattle Seahawks: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
Can't believe he's still on the board here. His talent warrants top 10 consideration. He's a big play waiting to happen, and having already gotten his franchise left tackle, Pete Carroll now turns to the best playmaker in the draft. Spiller can help running the ball, catching it out of the backfield or in the slot, and in the return game he should be a matchup nightmare for defenders. Throw in Seattle's need at the position and it's hard to imagine him falling past 14; he might even go to them at No. 6.
(Previous pick: Bruce Campbell, MD)
15. New York Giants: Mike Iupati, OL, Idaho
Sure, Brandon Jacobs was banged up for a big chunk of the year, but a big part of that was a drop-off in the play of the vaunted Giants' offensive line. There isn't a 4-3 linebacker who warrants serious consideration here, though there's always the possibility of having somebody like Sergio Kindle stand up and play the strong side backer position, but I think that Iupati's talent warrants consideration here and also addresses a need. Iupati can play pretty much any position along the offensive line, and the Giants' brass has shown that it won't take a guy just to fill a need. I no longer think the best 4-3 linebacker available (Sean Weatherspoon) merits selection here, so the Giants go back to their board and get the best player they can use.
(Previous pick: Sean Weatherspoon, Mizzou)
16. Tennessee Titans: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
I'm always wary of a one-year wonder who had a great combine. He was a junior college transfer, and played a whopping total of seven games against FBS competition. But his physical tools are off the charts, and if any coaching staff can make something out of his talent, it's the group in Tennessee. The loss of Albert Haynesworth last year plus Kyle Vanden Bosch and possibly Keith Bulluck this year means the Titans need to look at shoring up their front seven. Pierre-Paul is raw, no doubt about it, and that's why I personally wouldn't be drafting him. But I'm not the one in the draft room. I project the picks that will happen, I don't say what I'd do myself.
(Previous pick: Brian Price, UCLA)
17. San Francisco 49ers: Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland
Here again the 49ers are raking in top level talent left and right, though they'll have to coach up Campbell, who is both immensely talented and very unpolished in his skills. However, there's little doubt that the sky is the limit for this guy, and with Joe Staley the 49ers are not obliged to look for a left tackle from the first day. I feel like Earl Thomas and Dez Bryant could be in the discussion here, too, but they already addressed the safety position with Berry at 13, and they already have Crabtree from last year at WR. That leaves Campbell, who might be the best athlete in the draft regardless of position.
(Previous pick: Trent Williams, OU)
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
I won't be very excited for the Steelers to make this pick if it happens, as a Ravens fan it's not good any time your rival gets ahold of a great playmaker, and Wilson fits that description. In addition, Wilson fills a need for the Steelers, and with their division rivals loading up on wide receivers, there is an increased need for defensive backs. Pittsburgh hasn't taken a corner in the first round for quite some time, and while getting Polamalu back from injury should help, he can't do it all by himself on the back end.
(Previous pick: Wilson)
19. Atlanta Falcons: Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff doesn't bother with the "BPA only" facade that most NFL GMs put on. He admits that the Falcons draft on need. One glaring need that they have is their weak side linebacker spot. That is Weatherspoon's natural position, and in terms of talent he's well worth taking at this juncture, particularly since there's such a huge drop off after him to the next group of 4-3 linebackers. He'll bring an attitude and a swagger to Atlanta with him, both of which the Falcons could use.
(Previous pick: Navorro Bowman, PSU)
20. Houston Texans: Earl Thomas, DB, Texas
There are a couple of talented players still left at this point, Thomas is one of them, and the departure of CB Dunta Robinson left a big hole at the back of the Texans defense. That is not acceptable when you play against Peyton Manning twice in a season, so the Texans will find a way to address that. Thomas is scheme diverse and very instinctive in coverage; he's less of an in-the-box type, more of a traditional centerfielder FS... and he can cover like a corner on a slot WR in man-to-man coverage. That should, in theory, help neutralize the matchup problems caused by the Colts offense.
(Previous pick: Patrick Robinson, FSU)
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
The Bengals have already addressed the wide receiver spot with Antonio Bryant and Matt Jones, and last year they were pretty good on defense. For them to improve they'll need to upgrade their passing attack, and Gresham is a natural pass catcher who fills a need. He's worthy of a top-15 pick as far as talent, but as long as he's cleared medically to play, I figure it would be hard for Cincy to pass on Gresham if he's here. The other serious option, WR Dez Bryant, is more of a character concern and he's also a bigger risk. He also isn't a burner, and if Cincy was going to add another wideout I think that's the type of player they'd look at.
(Previous pick: Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State)
22. New England Patriots: Sergio Kindle, DE/OLB, Texas
Kindle has fallen a full 10 spots since my previous mock. There's just no good place to put him that is a scheme fit, since Kindle is the ideal "conversion" defensive end for the 3-4 teams. I can't imagine a better scenario playing out for the hoody than to get this guy, a bona fide top 15 talent, at 22 overall. He would upgrade an anemic pass rush and continue the youth movement on the defensive side of the ball. But look out... Dez Bryant is still on the board here, too, and with Moss aging on top of Welker's injury, Belichick might opt for offense. Still, it's so hard to find a prototypical rush linebacker in comparison to a good wideout. Don't forget that the Pats have a lot of second round picks to move around and get their guys.
(Previous pick: C.J. Spiller, Clem)
23. Green Bay Packers: Charles Brown, OT, Southern California
Clearly the most talented player left is Dez Bryant, but adding another wideout will not keep Aaron Rodgers upright to use any new toys. The Packers NEED an offensive tackle, and badly. I feel like they should be looking to move up and get somebody in the teens. If they don't, though, reaching on Brown here will be their best option. He isn't as talented as some other players available, but the early run on Green Bay's biggest position of need handicaps them somewhat. Brown is a cut below the other guys, in my estimation... but he's a cut above the next group of tackles, like Roger Saffold, for example.
(Previous pick: Brown)
24. Philadelphia Eagles: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
The Eagles need help at their strong side linebacker spot, but none of the available players who fit that mold are worthy of this selection. Pouncey is an exceptionally versatile and talented player who can play at any of the three inside positions, and while the Eagles appear set on the outside, they could certainly use a player of Pouncey's caliber in the middle of their line. Their embarrassing riches at the wide receiver position probably dictates that they won't spend a pick on a wideout.
(Previous pick: Everson Griffen, USC)
25. Baltimore Ravens: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
At some point, the madness had to stop. Baltimore has a long history of picking the best player available, and while they have upgraded their receiving corps, Derrick Mason isn't getting any younger, while Stallworth and Boldin both have historically had injury problems. Enter Dez Bryant, the best wideout in this year's class, and suddenly the Baltimore offense looks downright scary... unless he busts, of course, he's the biggest risk. However, it does leave the Ravens somewhat thin on the defensive front. This is a pure BPA situation; Jared Odrick or Brandon Graham would make a lot of sense here.
(Previous pick: Golden Tate, ND)
26. Arizona Cardinals: Jared Odrick, DE/DT, Penn State
It's tough to go wrong adding a talented defensive lineman to the rotation, and since there aren't any linebackers of this caliber, the Cardinals, too, will likely pass on one and not directly try to replace Karlos Dansby. Odrick does project as more of a 5-technique, but in my mind that just makes him more versatile. He's got good explosion off the line and he can two-gap up front. The Cardinals don't 'need' him, but he's so talented that in this situation I'm not sure they pass him up.
(Previous pick: Mike Iupati, ID)
27. Dallas Cowboys: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
This marks the official end of the Roy Williams experiment that backfired so miserably. Dallas is looking for a big time target on the other side, and while they're probably planning to tie up Miles Austin long term, adding Thomas wouldn't be such a bad idea on the other side. The real issue with the Cowboys defense is FS Ken Hamlin, but the best safety on the board, Taylor Mays, is more of a SS type, and Thomas is a big play waiting to happen. It would give Tony Romo one more toy... pretty scary for the rest of the league.
(Previous pick: Taylor Mays, USC)
28. San Diego Chargers: Ryan Matthews, RB, Fresno State
I think this isn't the guy the Chargers are targeting, but in this situation he's the best one left. Terrence Cody is the best available nose tackle, I think that's a position they'd like to fill. But taking him in the first round, even with his weight falling, represents a big risk, and guys who struggle with their weight in college often continue the habit into the pros. Ryan Matthews isn't a blazer; he's a bigger back, a thumper, a guy who would be a great complement to the lightning bug Darren Sproles and give the Chargers all kinds of flexibility. He's a devastating blocker for a back, too, regularly knocking blitzers to the turf.
(Previous pick: Dan Williams, Tenn)
29. New York Jets: Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan
Thanks to whiffing on Vernon Gholston at No. 6 overall a couple of years ago, the Jets are still looking for some consistency from their pass rush. Mind you, it isn't bad, not at all. But it could be, dare I say it, even better than last year. On top of that, Graham is a great value for this point in the draft. His talent warrants an early 20s selection rather than a late 20s one. I don't see any way he gets past the Jets here at 29. Merry christmas, Rex Ryan. Enjoy your new tool of QB terrorism.
(Previous pick: Graham)
30. Minnesota Vikings: Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State
The Vikings are basically looking for a way to make the rich get richer here, and with the way the board fell, Patrick Robinson is the best way for them to do that. The Viking corners aren't bad, far from it. But when one starter is coming off an injury, and another is getting up in age... well, it does make some sense to fortify the position. Robinson is a sound technician who has long arms, so he plays taller than his height, 5'11", and has good speed.
(Previous pick: Jared Odrick, PSU)
31. Indianapolis Colts: Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU
Hughes isn't necessarily ideal for the Colts, but he fits the mold of an undersized speed rusher, and could be used in a rotation with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. He played with his hand in the dirt in college, but is athletic enough to stand up if so desired, basically an extra piece for the Colts to play with. They really don't need any help on the offensive side of the ball, there's a ridiculous stable of pass catchers, and while they could use some O-line help, especially after the release of Ryan Lilja, there isn't really a lineman here worth taking. Hughes doesn't fill a need, but as far as talent level is concerned he's a strong selection.
(Previous pick: Maurkice Pouncey, UF)
32. New Orleans Saints: Everson Griffen, DE, USC
With the Charles Grant situation unresolved, picking his replacement doesn't seem like a bad plan, particularly when his replacement is as talented as Griffen. The problem is that Griffen's tape seems to indicate that he takes some plays off, not a good sign. But it's still worth it to bring in a guy of his talent level whenever you get a chance, particularly at a position of need, though as with any Super Bowl champ, the term 'need' is a relative term.
(Previous pick: Jerry Hughes, TCU)
Dropped out of Round 1: Brian Price, UCLA. Navorro Bowman, PSU. Golden Tate, ND. Taylor Mays, USC.
That's it for this one. Hope you enjoyed reading! Feedback, as always, would be much appreciated, and I'd be glad to debate/explain my selections with any and all comers.