NFL Mock Draft 2011: Will Blaine Gabbert Rise Into the Top Five?

Thomas CopainCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: Will Blaine Gabbert Rise Into the Top Five?

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    TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Missouri Tigers drops back to pass during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes  at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 27-24.  (P
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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.

1. Carolina Panthers: A.J. Green, WR, Auburn

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    AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13:  A.J. Green #8 of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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.

2. Denver Broncos: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Nick Fairley #90 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates the Tigers 22-19 victory against the Oregon Ducks during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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.

3. Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 16:  Marcell Dareus #57 and James Carpenter #77 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Ole Miss Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 19:  Robert Quinn #42 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates after a sack with teammate Marvin Austin #9 against the East Carolina Pirates at Kenan Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by St
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    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.

6. Cleveland Browns: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 20:  Patrick Peterson #7 of the Louisiana State University Tigers reacts after their 43-36 win over the Ole Miss Rebels at Tiger Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

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    LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 30: Cornerback Prince Amukamara #21 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers breaks up a pass intended wide receiver Wes Kemp #8 of the during second half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    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.

8. Tennessee Titans: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Jordan Webb #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks is sacked by Aldon Smith #85 of the Missouri Tigers during the game on November 27, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    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.

9. Dallas Cowboys: J.J. Watt, DE/DT, Wisconsin

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    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the TCU Horned Frogs rushes with the ball as J.J. Watt #99 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs after him in the first quarter of the 97th Rose Bowl game on January 1, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Pho
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    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.

10. Washington Redskins: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

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    TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Missouri Tigers celebrates after scoring a 7 yard rushing touchdown against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the third quarter of the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe,
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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.

11. Houston Texans: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA

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    PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Akeem Ayers #10 of the UCLA Bruins makes a catch in front of Dwight Roberson #59 and Cameron Collins #5 of the Oregon State Beavers at the Rose Bowl on November 6, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Image
    Harry How/Getty Images

    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.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Cameron Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers warms up prior to their game against the Oregon Ducks during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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.

13. Detroit Lions: Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 07:  Jordan Jefferson #9 of the Louisiana State University Tigers throws under pressure from Von Miller #40 of the Texas A&M Aggies during the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on January 7, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by C
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    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.

14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: Julio Jones #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes for a touchdown during the Capitol One Bowl against the Michigan State Spartans at the Florida Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Im
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    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.

15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide scores a touchdown during the Capitol One Bowl against the Michigan State Spartans at the Florida Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Imag
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    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.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

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    TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Defensive end Adrian Clayborn #94 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the Insight Bowl against the Missouri Tigers at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona. The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 27-24.  (Photo by Christian
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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.

17. New England Patriots*: Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 04: Armando Allen Jr., #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is tackled in the end zone for a safety by Ryan Kerrigan #94 and Bruce Gaston #90 of the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium on September 4, 2010 in South Bend, In
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    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.

    *from Oakland

18. San Diego Chargers: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

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    PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Tyler Gaffney #25 of the Stanford Cardinal jumps in the air as he is hit by Stephen Paea #54 and Gabe Miller #99 of the Oregon State Beavers at Stanford Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra S
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    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.

19. New York Giants: Tyron Smith, OT, USC

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    TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 7:  Tyron Smith #70 of the USC Trojans stretches before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils on November 7, 2009 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.  USC won 14-9.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
    Jeff Golden/Getty Images

    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. 

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California

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    BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 24:  Jeff Tuel #10 of the Washington State Cougars passes against Cameron Jordan #97 of the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on October 24, 2009 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    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.

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

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    BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 04:  Brian Orakpo #98 of the Texas Longhorns rushes against Nate Solder #78 the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on October 4, 2008 in Boulder, Colorado. Texas defeated Colorado 38-14.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    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.

22. Indianapolis Colts: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15:  J.C. Brignone #70 and Derek Sherrod #79of the Mississippi State Bulldogs get ready on the line of scrimmage during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2008 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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.

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Gabe Carimi, OL, Wisconsin

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    IOWA CITY, IA - OCTOBER 23- Quarterback Scott Tolzien #16 of the Wisconsin Badgers throws under pressure from Defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn #94 of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes as offensive lineman Gabe Carimi #68 defends during the first half of pl
    David Purdy/Getty Images

    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.

24. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks is sacked by Cameron Heyward #97 and Dexter Larimore #72 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the fourth quarter during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on J
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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.

25. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks looks to pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    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.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

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    FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17:  Defensive back Brandon Harris #1 of the Miami Hurricanes breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver Kevin Cone #82 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Land Shark Stadium on September 17, 2009 in Fort Lauderdale, Flo
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    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.

27. Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

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    CHESTNUT HILL, MA - OCTOBER 03:  Anthony Castonzo #74 of the Boston College Eagles congratulates teammate Montel Harris #2 after Harris scored a touchdown in the first quarter against the Florida State Seminoles on October 3, 2009 at Alumni Stadium in Che
    Elsa/Getty Images

    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. 

28. New England Patriots: Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Georgia

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 27:  Justin Houston #42 of the Georgia Bulldogs pressures quarterback Tevin Washington #13 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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.

29. New York Jets: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Safety Rahim Moore #3 of the UCLA Bruins in the game with the Houston Cougars at the Rose Bowl on September 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 31-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    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.

30. Chicago Bears: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

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    DALLAS - OCTOBER 02:  Cornerback Aaron Williams #4 of the Texas Longhorns drops a pass intended for Ryan Broyles #85 of the Oklahoma Sooners in the second quarter at the Cotton Bowl on October 2, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Ima
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    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.

31. Green Bay Packers: Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple

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    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.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida

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    NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators hugs teammate Mike Pouncey #55 after scoring a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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.