Mock Drafts are always an inexact science, and this year is proving to be just that. How many draft boards had to be erased and rethought when Andrew Luck decided to stay one more year at Stanford?
But now with the NFL season starting to wind to a close and 2011 almost a month old, it's not too much for the 28 teams not playing this weekend to think about the Draft. And when the body attached to Mel Kiper's hair puts out its first mock draft, you know it's time to start thinking about it.
Like I said a week ago, the top-three prospects have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack. Where they could go is still very much up for debate.
So here now is my latest mock draft.
I had A.J. Green here the last time, and I'm deciding to stick with him. He's big, versatile, gives the Panthers a true No. 1 receiver to replace Steve Smith and he'll have the ability to form a rapport with whoever ends up being the Panthers quarterback.
Like many other picks, I've seen this one go multiple ways.
But almost all of them have the Broncos going defense and either going defensive line or Peterson at corner. If the Panthers decide to break the mold and go Green, then I could see the Broncos going with a dominant-type defensive tackle like Fairley that can open up room for the healthy Elvis Dumervil.
The Bills defense was brutal, and they could use a Albert Haynesworth-type body in the middle of that 3-4 scheme. Dareus would be able to bring that type of presence and perhaps open up space for Shawne Merriman to get to the quarterback.
I've seen a couple of mock drafts go with A.J. Green here. But Bowers would be yet another weapon on the Cincinnati defensive front and a very strong complimentary end along with the young Carlos Dunlap. He'd be more of a project if you listen to some of the experts, but he could be a special player.
I know the Cardinals need a quarterback, but I just don't see Ken Whisenhunt going quarterback here. I would think the choice here would be to address the linebacking corps and the lack of a pass rush, which Quinn would definitely address.
It would be something to see Peterson drop this far, but the Browns need bodies on defense. He's not the playmaker on offense or a defensive lineman, but he does fill a need and would at least give them a playmaker of any sort. It could also make the Browns more competitive to have someone to cover guys like Mike Wallace and Anquan Boldin.
I've seen differing opinions on this one as well, including a couple for Blaine Gabbert to slide in here. But I'm not sure about Gabbert as a prospect nor am I sold on any of the quarterbacks in this draft. Amukamara would be a solid replacement for Nate Clements and would also bring a shutdown ability to the defense.
I had Dareus here in my last mock draft, but I have him going higher here. I still don't think the Titans will go quarterback here, it'll be defense. A couple of mock drafts have suggested Smith, and despite his size, Tennessee could see him as another Jevon Kearse. He could very well be moved to outside linebacker, too.
The Cowboys have a need on the offensive line, but none of the mock drafts have an offensive lineman going this high. Watt would slide right in the Cowboys 3-4 scheme and would be a hard worker that became the heart of the Wisconsin defense as well as a good pass rusher off the edge.
Gabbert is ranked as the best quarterback in the Draft, but I haven't really been sold on any of the quarterbacks in this draft. As I wrote last week, the Redskins could go a bunch of other directions here, but they'll probably go quarterback and take Gabbert.
Ayers gives the Texans a defensive duel threat they've never really had before. He's a good tackler and can support the run, but he's also very responsible and very good against the pass. That type of player makes him, I think, a little more valuable than Von Miller. Although, there might be pressure to take the Aggie Miller.
He'll have to adjust to the 3-4 scheme with Wade Phillips as the coordinator, but his balanced skills might be too much for the Texans to pass up.
Like Ayers, this is where I had Newton in my last mock draft. New Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier has said publicly he wants to find a quarterback, and Newton could be a better option than anything the Vikings have right now.
Miller's going to be a find for anyone who takes him, and I had him going to Detroit as well at No. 13 in my last mock draft. He's a big body who can either rush the passer as a down lineman or come off the edge as a linebacker. It might take an adjustment for him working in a 4-3, but he's a stud linebacker.
I've seen Miller and Ayers swapped in a couple of mock drafts, and I was considering doing it here because Ayers is more of a 4-3 guy and Miller is a better 3-4 fit. But I think either one could have the tools to make it work, ergo I decided to leave both of them at their respective spots.
There are very few times where mock drafts agree when it's not the No. 1 pick, but all the drafts I've seen have the Rams grabbing Jones at 14. He does have some question marks, especially with his hands and how he catches the ball with his body at times, but he's a much better option for the Rams than what they currently have.
Most of the mock drafts agree here as well. The Dolphins don't have many glaring needs outside of replacing Ricky Williams and possibly Ronnie Brown as well. Ingram wouldn't be a back who can run the Wildcat, but he'd be a pounding back and a solid one to boot.
Don't let the senior season fool you, Clayborn is a beast and someone who can be a difference maker. He can step in right away besides Aaron Kampman and also eventually take over as the lead pass rusher. I've seen some earlier versions have a quarterback go here, but most are now predicting defense and a lineman at that. Although, cornerback wouldn't be out of the question either.
Knowing the Patriots, there's always a chance they can trade this pick away, especially since this is the time where teams start moving up, down or out of the first round. But the Patriots can use some help and many drafts are agreeing that Kerrigan is the guy, as someone who can provide depth and a pass rush either on the line or off the edge.
There's a differing opinion on Paea. Some have him going as high as the top 10 and some have him barely staying in the first round. At 6-1, 304, he's probably too small for defensive tackle in a 3-4 system. But he could move to the outside in San Diego's system.
The offensive line is a pressing need for the Giants, and while they could trade down for a running back or a linebacker, the offensive line needs to be attended to. Smith would bring size and speed, especially critical when he has to block players like DeMarcus Ware or Trent Cole twice a year.
Jordan grew into a very nice pass rusher who could come off the edge or even line up inside in certain situations. The Buccaneers will almost definitely go defense with their pick and probably go with a pass rushing end to complement Gerald McCoy, so Jordan would be a good fit.
Solder is a big, physical offensive lineman who would be a welcome infusion of youth for the Chiefs older offensive line. Defense could also be a target here, but I could see them getting a pass rusher off the edge later in the draft or moving up for a chance at Miller.
The Colts could go defense and get a big tackle if he's available, but offensive line and especially tackle to protect Peyton Manning from the rushers off the edge would be a big help as well. There looks to be a lot of offensive linemen available late in the first round, and Sherrod could fit the mold of what the Colts want.
The Eagles could very well go with a cornerback or a linebacker here, or knowing Andy Reid's history, trade into the second round because "that's where the best players were." But there's a pressing need on the offensive line, which was nothing short of a disaster and a revolving door to boot. Carimi at least gives them something to build around.
Most agree that the Saints will go defense with this pick. If that's the case, Heyward would be the best defensive lineman left in my draft ,and he'd be a good fit. He doesn't have to be dominant, but he can be allowed to be aggressive and attack in that defense and he's more of a 4-3 than a 3-4 guy.
The Seahawks could use some help in the secondary and I thought long and hard about Brandon Harris or Aaron Williams in this spot, as well as possibly Rahim Moore at safety. But the Seahawks will probably want a quarterback of the future and Mallett would be the best one available, even though he's a bit of a project right now.
Harris would give the Ravens a speedy corner that can keep up with some of the fast receivers in the conference, especially Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace. He'd also give the Ravens more depth in the secondary and a few options next to Josh Wilson, who struggled at times this season.
I've seen Torrey Smith, the receiver for Maryland here. I've seen tight end Kyle Rudolph here. I've seen Aaron Williams, the cornerback from Texas here. I'm not sure I agree with any of those, but an offensive lineman to protect Matt Ryan, which was a problem against the Packers, could be a good fit here.
Houston could go sooner, but he'd be a good fit in New England. He could play a defensive end, but he could also bounce out and be an rushing outside linebacker, which would fill a big need for the Patriots. It would also be another dynamic talent in a very young group of linebackers.
The Jets also have a need on the defensive line, and Allen Bailey could be a good fit, but Moore is also a ballhawking safety who's very good in coverage and improving against the run according to Kiper. He'd be a great pick to make an already very good secondary even better.
Williams has the ability to be a very good corner besides Charles Tillman and give the Bears yet another defensive weapon. Offensive line is always a possibility and perhaps the Bears would drop back into the second round here to take a look at a Stefen Wisniewski from Penn State, but Williams could be a good fit here.
Has moved up in some draft boards, especially with Kiper. He's a big kid at 6'5", 306 and could play either defensive end or defensive tackle. That's a big need for the Packers and another big playmaker who can penetrate and get into the backfield to disrupt an offense.
A lot of scouts are raving about Pouncey, especially considering the job he did protecting Tim Tebow down in Gainesville. The Steelers are familiar with him, having drafted his brother last year and probably wouldn't pass on taking another Pouncey if he's available.