2010 NFL Mock Draft (Part Three)
If this is the first story you are seeing, please read parts One and Two first.
I have received good feedback from everyone thus far, but I would like to see it climb the way my reads have (much appreciation for that as well.)
When it comes to the draft, I am a big believer in drafting the best available player for positions of need. And that is how I approached this mock draft.
Enjoy and comment.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Mike Iupati, OG (Idaho)
Cincinnati was one of the biggest surprises in the league in 2009, finishing 10-6 and going undefeated in the AFC North.
Despite several injuries and the tragic death of wide receiver Chris Henry, head coach Marvin Lewis lead the Bengals to one of the best regular seasons in franchise history before being outed by the New York Jets in the Wild Card round.
Lewis has drafted a USC Trojan in the first three rounds four times in his tenure and Taylor Mays could certainly help an already imposing secondary.
But Cincy is very thin and inexperienced on the inside off its offensive line outside of guard Bobbie Williams and center Kyle Cook.
With Mike Iupati, the highest rated guard still on the board, the Bengals get a great talent at the 21st pick.
The Orange Grove, California native, an Outland Trophy finalist and consensus All-American in 2009, is a bruising run-blocker who can help Cincy maintain its dominance on the ground (128 yards/game in 2009).
Draft Needs: WR, TE, OL, FS
22. New England Patriots - Jermaine Gresham, TE (Oklahoma)
Despite struggling against some of the league's top teams, New England won the AFC East with its ninth straight winning season and 12th in the last 13 years.
But it is a time of upheaval for the Pats as many of their reliable veterans have been traded, released or retired in recent years.
Among them, veteran tight ends Chris Baker and Ben Watson, leaving Alge Crumpler as the only proven tight end on the roster.
With the top tight end still available and Wes Welker probably out until November, Tom Brady could use a quality receiver to weather the storm of some of the top defenses New England will face.
Despite missing all of 2009 with a knee injury, Gresham is still one of the most dynamic and explosive players in this year's class.
The Ardmore native was one of Sam Bradford's favorite targets, catching over 100 balls and 26 touchdowns in three seasons with the Sooners.
The former All-American creates match-up problems with his combination of size and speed, thereby opening up the field for Randy Moss, among others.
The Pats could use some new blood on defense, particularly at outside linebacker, but Bill Belichick has never used a first round pick on a rush linebacker.
This is a deep draft for the position; so expect them to address the D in the next few rounds.
Draft Needs: WR, TE, DL, OLB
23. Green Bay Packers - Charles Brown, OT (USC)
In 2009, the Green Bay Packers went 11-5 on their way to another playoff appearance.
Despite ranking third in the league with more than 28 points per game, the Packers struggled in pass protection, surrendering a league-worst 51 sacks.
Green Bay became better at keeping Aaron Rodgers upright in the second half of the season, but improved depth would definitely help going forward.
Charles Brown continues a long legacy of USC offensive linemen making the transition to the NFL.
Like his fellow Trojans, Brown piled up the accolades and earned the praise of scouts for his mauling style and quick first step.
Green Bay resigned tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher in the off-season, but it is doubtful they will want either of them protecting Rodgers' blind side in the coming years.
Brown gives them an athletic, polished presence on the outside who, with more time in the weight room, has the potential to succeed at the next level.
Draft Needs: RB, OL, DE, OLB, S
24. Philadelphia Eagles - Kyle Wilson, CB (Boise State)
The Eagles have made some major personnel changes following their third winning season and playoff appearance in four years.
Among those changes, Philadelphia traded corner-back Sheldon Brown and linebacker Chris Gocong to Cleveland; leaving holes at both positions.
Corner takes precedent with a lack of reliability outside of Asante Samuel and Boise State's standout Kyle Wilson still on the board.
With 159 tackles and 11 interceptions in four seasons with the Broncos, Wilson is an active, agile competitor who started 36 consecutive games at one point.
Samuel's salary increases to 8.4 million dollars in two years, so building some depth to wait in the wings would be a smart move for Andy Reid and Wilson has the talent to contribute right away.
Draft Needs: QB, WR, OLB, CB
25. Baltimore Ravens - Devin McCourty, CB (Rutgers)
After a 9-7 season and a playoff win in 2009, Baltimore will be looking to be more consistent in 2010 to get to the next level.
This means cutting down on the laundry; the Ravens were one of the most penalized teams in the league, leading the NFL in pass interference calls.
This does not get any easier with the premature retirement of Samari Rolle, coupled with the restricted free agent status of Fabian Washington. But it makes picking up a shutdown corner in the draft a priority.
Alabama's Kareem Jackson is still available, but McCourty's stock shot up at the combine, where the New York native ran a 4.38 40, the fastest of any corner-back.
Collecting 80 tackles and 10 pass breakups on his way to All-Big East honors as a Senior, McCourty has the speed and playmaking ability to help a Ravens' defense that is slowly starting to show its age.
Draft Needs: TE, DL, LB, DB
26. Arizona Cardinals - Sean Weatherspoon, LB (Missouri)
For a team that finished 10-6 and won its second straight NFC West title, Arizona has a lot of needs going into draft weekend.
Following another stellar season, the Cardinals let defensive standouts Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle go to free agency, and traded receiver Anquan Boldin, creating several holes.
The biggest could be left by Dansby's exit from inside linebacker, where Gerald Hayes is now the only reliable option.
The Cards could definitely use a player of Weatherspoon's caliber; a three-time Big 12 first teamer who collected 388 tackles and 12 sacks in four seasons with the Tigers.
While the Jasper, Texas native played on the outside in college, he has the skills to be successful in the middle at the next level.
While many doubt that Weatherspoon lasts to the Cardinals at pick 26, due to his rising stock, the speedy play maker lands in the Big Red's lap here and should help them immediately.
Draft Needs: QB, WR/PR, TE, OL, DL, LB
27. Dallas Cowboys - Maurkice Pouncey, OG/C (Florida)
The Dallas Cowboys completed another successful season in 2009, going 11-5 and winning their 18th NFC East title.
While the secondary is a question mark in Big D, some shuffling on the offensive line would ensure Dallas' continued success going forward.
Andre Gurode is not a true center and Wade Phillips would like to have a solid core up front for the near future.
Pouncey is the highest-ranked center in the draft, winning the Rimington award in 2009 as the nation's best center and being named an All-American.
The Lakeland native has impressed scouts with his imposing 6'5" frame, great mobility and strong work ethic.
Dallas' offensive line is starting to get a little long in the tooth and inserting Pouncey in the middle would inject some youth into a team yearning for young talent.
Draft Needs: WR, OL, DL, S
28. San Diego Chargers - Ryan Mathews, RB (Fresno State)
San Diego had a fantastic regular season, going 13-3 and winning their fourth straight AFC West title. But they got exposed in the playoffs against the Jets.
San Diego let go of two of their cornerstones in the off-season, releasing running back LaDainian Tomlinson and trading cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
The Bolts will be looking to replace them over the draft weekend.
Running back takes precedent with the cupboard bare outside of Darren Sproles.
Fresno State's Ryan Mathews makes sense here. He is a big, physical back, who is also a good blocker and receiver out of the backfield, which Norv Turner loves.
Mathews turned a lot of heads at the combine with a 4.4 40 and a 36-inch vertical.
The Bakersfield native lead college football in rushing with over 150 yards per game last season, compiling 3,280 yards and 41 touchdowns in three seasons.
Teamed with Sproles, Mathews would make San Diego one of the most dynamic running teams in the league. If Mathews continues the recent success of rookie running backs, the Bolts could have another cornerstone waiting in the wings.
Draft Needs: RB, WR, TE, CB
29. New York Jets - Jared Odrick, DE/DT (Penn State)
The New York Jets had one of their best seasons in franchise history in 2009, making it to the AFC Championship game before being outed by the Indianapolis Colts.
The Jets kept the momentum going, however, having the league's best off-season; acquiring receiver Santonio Holmes and corner-back Antonio Cromartie. These additions to their already talented roster make the Jets one of the favorites going into 2010.
New York could still use some help in the trenches and Penn State's Jared Odrick is a great place to start.
Odrick is an ideal 3-4 defensive end who can also line up over the center and free up the Jets' talented line-backing corps.
Odrick was a force for the Nittany Lions, earning Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year honors, totaling 98 tackles and 24 tackles-for-loss in three seasons. The 2009 All-American has been praised for high-rev motor and great instincts that should translate well to the next level.
With Kris Jenkins and Calvin Pace lining up on either side of him, Odrick should be put in a position to succeed right away.
Draft Needs: TE, OG, DE, FS
30. Minnesota Vikings - Brian Price, DT (UCLA)
The Vikings went 12-4 in 2009 on their way to a second straight NFC North crown and were a few minutes from a Super Bowl berth.
Alabama's Kareem Jackson makes sense here as Cedric Griffin will be out for half the season with a torn ACL. But Minnesota signed Lito Sheppard in the off-season and he and Bennie Sapp should hold down the fort.
Meanwhile, on the defensive line, Pat Williams is not getting any younger and Brian Price is sill on the board. Price is a quintessential 4-3 defensive tackle with great instincts and explosive pop on the snap.
Price lit up opposing defenses to the tune of 92 tackles and 12 sacks in three years with the Bruins, earning PAC-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2009.
Price creates depth in an already talented group and would give Brad Childress and GM Rick Spielman a viable option for the future.
Draft Needs: RB, WR, DT, S
31. Indianapolis Colts - Rodger Saffold, OT (Indiana)
The Colts finished 2009 at 14-2, the best record in the AFC, on their way to an appearance in the Super Bowl.
Indy could use some help on the defensive line, but protecting Peyton Manning always takes priority. Jim Caldwell would like to have someone other than Charlie Johnson opposite Tony Ugoh and Rodger Saffold fits the bill.
Saffold started 41 gamesin four years for the Hoosiers, allowing just one sack and committing only seven penalties his senior season.
Scouts love Saffold's explosion off the snap and his aggressiveness with speed rushers, giving just what the Colts need to keep their franchise upright.
Draft Needs: TE, OL, DL, FS
32. New Orleans Saints - Brandon Graham, DE (Michigan)
New Orleans became one of the top teams in the NFL, ripping through the competition on their way to their first Super Bowl appearance and championship.
As with most championship teams, the Saints lost several pieces from their championship squad that they will be looking to replace through the draft. One of these losses was Charles Grant, who the team released in the off-season.
New Orleans signed Alex Brown to replace Grant, but Brown was inconsistent in Chicago. The Saints will need a more long-term solution for their pass rush.
With his stock rising a great deal in recent weeks, it is very possible Graham will not last until the end of the first round. But he is most likely a 4-3 defensive end in the pros, meaning he could fall to the Saints here.
Graham has an outstanding motor, evidenced by his 138 tackles and 29.5 sacks in four seasons with the Wolverines and had a great Senior Bowl, where he was the MVP.
Graham is somewhat undersized for his position, but plays with such sound technique and strength that scouts are very high on the Detroit native and would be an ideal fit in the "Big Easy."
Draft Needs: RB, TE, OG, OLB