2011 NFL Mock Draft: Carolina Panthers Take Sizzle over Steak with First Pick
Raw franchise-caliber quarterback or immediate impact defensive lineman?
This is the choice the Carolina Panthers are pondering as the 2011 National Football League draft inches slower to its April 28 reality. New head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney have apparently narrowed the first selection to either Auburn's Heisman winning quarterback or Alabama All-America defensive lineman Marcel Dareus as the franchise begins the road back to respectability following last season's 2-14 crater.
Newton is raw, but has the potential to change the course of the franchise with his rare athleticism and 6'6, 250-pound frame, while Dareus is part Casey Hampton and part Warren Sapp with his ability to create havoc as either a tackle or end.
Who to choose? You won't have to wait long to find out.
1. Carolina Panthers (2-14 in 2010): Marcel Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama
Dareus can be a difference-making force of nature for the Panthers from day one. At 6'3, 305, he has the size to cause havoc from the interior but can occasionally line up outside, where his pass-rushing skills would make for intriguing matchup issues.
Like Newton, Dareus -- who was suspended for two games last season -- isn't an angel, but has fewer off-field questions surrounding him. One has to also consider that Rivera, who was part of the vaunted 1985 Chicago Bears defense, could see Dareus as a Dan Hampton-like presence who can anchor the defensive line for the next decade.
Don't be shocked if the Panthers select Newton; the club is in need of a player who can return them back into a contender in the rugged NFC South, but also someone who can ignite ticket sales. If Carolina does go with Dareus, it would be another sign that veteran WR Steve Smith could be on his way out.
2. Denver Broncos (4-12): Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
A sieve-like defensive line was just one of several reasons why the Broncos allowed an NFL-high 29.4 points per game last season. New head coach John Fox is one of the most astute defensive minds in the business and will look smarter by bringing in the massive 6'3, 291-pounder who recorded 11.5 sacks en route to helping Auburn capture the national title.
Fairley does come with a "buyer beware" tag. He's been accused of taking plays off and earned a bit of reputation of being a cheap-shot artist, but there's no questioning his potential, which features 4.84 speed in the 40 and a 31-inch vertical jump. When he's focused, Fairley is a relentless defender who has drawn comparisons to the Lions' Ndamukong Suh with the way he can dominate a contest (see video above).
3. Buffalo Bills (4-12): Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
One can make a strong argument that Peterson is the best player in the 2011 draft, having drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame DB Rod Woodson with his speed, durability and how he can make receivers disappear.
At 6'0, 219, Peterson has above-average size for his position and has an exceptional nose for the ball. He comes from a family of NFL standouts, as Peterson is related to Steelers DB Bryant McFadden, Redskins WR Santana Moss and Giants wideout Sinorice Moss. The Bills could use an impact player on the defensive side of the ball and while Cam Newton would be a tempting pick, the selection of Peterson --- who also excels as a return specialist -- gives Buffalo a franchise cornerstone.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12): A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Whoever lines up under center in Cincy (Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb, what's behind Door #3) will have an elite game-changer in Green, who has the potential to be Terrell Owens, 2.0 (minus the baggage). Green isn't a burner in the true sense, but has the skills to quickly separate from his man.
At 6'3, 211, Green also draws comparisons to Cardinals All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald for his tremendous desire to catch the ball while also showing top-level leaping skills. About the only true knock on Green is that he tends to be a long strider. With Owens out and Chad Johnson likely to follow, the Bengals need to embrace a new era at the position.
With Green, the next great Cincinnati wideout won't take long to make an impact.
5. Arizona Cardinals (5-11), Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Considered a mid to late first rounder at the beginning of the 2010 season, Miller has zoomed into the top five as an elite-caliber pass rusher.
Miller dispelled doubts that his breakout junior season (17 sacks, four forced fumbles) was a fluke by recording 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. His stock rose further during February's scouting combine, where Miller ran a 4.41 time in the 40 while also topping all outside linebackers in both the 3-cone drill (6.70) and 20-yard dash (4.06). The 6'2, 237-pounder is a hard-worker who will quickly inject Arizona's dormant pass rush by lining up at either OLB or DE.
Miller -- the 2010 Butkus Award winner -- is a lock to be one of the first players off the board; in fact, it would be a surprise of sorts if he lasts this long. If so, the Cardinals won't complain. If he is gone, expect Arizona to find a solution at quarterback, with either Cam Newton or Missouri's Blaine Gabbert as the object of affection.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Jones locked up a top-10 slot after he ran a blistering 4.34 40 time at the scouting combine on a broken foot that has since healed. That answered any and all questions about his intense competitive nature.
In true Crimson Tide fashion, Jones is physical and aggressive, two traits that will serve him well under the Browns' offensive scheme, where receivers are expected to make their living over the middle. At 6'2, 220, Jones is built more like a running back, but he is an impressive route runner while also displaying the will to relish run blocking.
Cleveland finished 29th in passing yards last season as no wideout had more than 40 receptions. Jones immediately jumps into the starting lineup and would give young QB Colt McCoy a more sound outside option while also allowing incumbents Chansi Stuckey, Brian Robiskie and Muhammad Massaquoi to better fit their roles.
7. San Francisco 49ers (6-10): Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Albert, Tittle, Brodie, Montana, Young, Garcia.
History has proven the 49ers don't succeed without a top-shelf quarterback, and after enduring a season of Alex and Troy Smith and David Carr, the franchise tries again under center with Gabbert, a big (6'4, 234) strong-armed field general with pinpoint accuracy.
The recent success of then-rookies Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez has shown that a youngster can win immediately. It helps that Gabbert's new coach -- Jim Harbaugh -- was a proven QB in the NFL and will be able to guide him through the minefields that lie await. Another plus: having RB Frank Gore, WR Michael Crabtree and Pro Bowl TE Vernon Davis to lean on.
Gabbert will have to answer questions about his sidearm delivery and will face the challenge of learning a pro-style offense, but keep in mind he was an All-Big 12 academic team member and quickly gained the respect of his teammates once he was inserted into the starting role in 2009.
8. Tennessee Titans (6-10): De'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Prior to undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, Bowers was in the conversation with Cam Newton, Marcel Dareus and Nick Fairley as the potential first pick in the draft. The surgery forced him to miss February's combine, which knocked his stock down a bit.
When healthy, there is no questioning his ability to cause mayhem as a pass rusher. At 6'3, 280, Bowers has both the size and speed to fly off the line and work his way into the backfield. He also showed tremendous intestinal fortitude last year as Bowers lost both his father and his close friend and teammate, Gaines Adams.
The Titans may also consider Newton, but on the heels of the Vince Young fiasco, owner Bud Adams might be hesitant to scratch off another huge check on a QB whose intangibles far outweigh his production. With Bowers, Tennessee gets a pass rusher to pair with Pro Bowler Jason Babin to help improve the team's paltry pass rush, which finished 27th in 2010.
9. Dallas Cowboys (6-10), J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Cowboys will go either with a defensive end who can hold his on under new coordinator Rod Ryan's 3-4 scheme or an offensive lineman that can keep Tony Romo upright. In this case, general manager Jerry Jones takes the latter, grabbing Watt to help improve a unit that allowed 436 points, second-worst in the league.
At 6'5, 290, Watt fits the bill as a big, rugged end who can shed off blockers to stuff the run while also possessing the power and closing speed to bring down passers. Watt also is solid in knocking down passes and shows great awareness in disrupting throwing lanes.
Adding Watt would make All-Pro Demarcus Ware more dangerous, but if the Cowboys do go with an offensive lineman, Southern Cal's Tryon Smith is at the top of their wishlist.
10. Washington Redskins (6-10): Tryon Smith, OT, USC
Smith won't fall far, landing in the nation's capital as the top 10 concludes. The Redskins don't know who will play QB, but whoever gets the nod will have a 6'5, 305-pound bodyguard who now beginning to realize just how good he can be.
While he doesn't do a lot of great things, Smith's toolbox is filled with a variety of skills that would make him a fixture on the left side for the next 10-12 years. He's a relentless worker who also displayed a bit of a nasty streak last season that helped vault him atop the list of offensive linemen.
Don't be shocked if the Redskins go with Cam Newton. Owner Daniel Snyder loves to make a splash, and the addition of a Heisman winner would be right down his alley. Washington can only hope and pray either A.J. Green or Julio Jones takes a drastic fall, but that's about as likely as them making the playoffs in 2011.
11. Houston Texans (6-10): Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Houston Chronicle writer John McClain felt the Texans may have had the worst secondary in NFL history in 2010. While the stats don't quite back him up (4,280 yards, 33 TDs allowed), their shoddy play more than belied McClain's stance.
The wealth of defensive ends would allow Houston to bypass the position here, going in favor of a pure cover corner who would make the starting roster by the time commissioner Roger Goodell can pronounce his name. Amukamara has the brashness needed to succeed at corner while also possessing above-average instincts and can hold his own in man coverage. New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will also love the fact Amukamara is a sound run defender and at 6'0, 206 won't shy away from contact.
The Texans know they can score with anyone in the league; it's the inability to make every QB look like Peyton Manning that has kept this underachieving squad from finally breaking through. If Amukamara is drafted and second-year CB Kareem Jackson can improve, Houston's long-suffering sports fans may finally get a winner.
12. Minnesota Vikings (6-10): Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
There's no in-between with Newton: either he'll emerge as a franchise QB or evolve into the next big flop.
The Vikings need stability under center like Donald Trump craves attention, and getting the Heisman winner provides head coach Leslie Frazier a player whose natural skills are off the charts, but his character and immaturity also raises red flags. If he lands in Minnesota, the pressure off Newton would be slightly reduced by the fact he would have All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson to hand the ball off to.
At 6'5, 248, Newton also has 4.56 speed in the 40, which makes him sheer hell in the open field and would give the Vikes a deadly red zone trio when joined by Peterson and the versatile Percy Harvin. No one doubts his athleticism, but Newton must be aware that his every step will be magnified.
If he hits big, Newton could change the face of the position. If he whiffs? Well, at least he'll be fun to play with on Madden '12.
13. Detroit Lions (6-10): Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina
GM Martin Mayhew has slowly brought the Lions back to from the slag heap, and the addition of Quinn would put them one big step closer to a return to the playoffs. Quinn missed the 2010 season after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, but he devastated ACC backfields the previous year, recording 11 sacks.
Versatility is perhaps Quinn's best calling card, as the 6'4, 265-pounder is comfortable either as an OLB or DE. The Lions would likely start him at OLB, using him as a Motown version of Demarcus Ware. The survivor of a brain tumor, Quinn has a deep appreciation of his skills and is a fierce competitor who can bring out the best of his teammates.
The biggest question facing Quinn is that he tended to be at his best against inferior competition. He'll need to squash that fast because East Carolina and Duke don't have NFL franchises.
14. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
The Rams' biggest need is a wide receiver to pair up with QB Sam Bradford, but -- provided they don't move down -- will take Liuget, who will add immediate help to the run defense.
Liuget excels as a run stopper, using his 6'2, 298-pound frame to shed off blockers and run down plays. His maturity was in question, but his effort over the last year has helped destroy that image. Liuget ran a 4.97 40 at the combine and (as the video will show) has a knack for being able to make plays in the open field.
A notch below Marcel Dareus and Nick Fairley, Liuget is the type of player that can anchor an interior line as he improves. He has a bright upside and will be a contributor for the Rams from day one.
15. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Temple
The temptation to select Alabama RB Mark Ingram will exist, but the Dolphins take the 6'4, 315-pound Wilkerson, who can disrupt plays at both end and tackle. With his size, Wilkerson is a major headache when blocked by one player, as he uses his exceptional strength to bulldoze his way past linemen.
Wilkerson recorded 9.5 sacks last season; playing at an unsung program like Temple, he played under the radar of most, but has gradually drawn interest since the end of the campaign. While he's highly regarded as a pass rusher, Wilkerson is no slouch against the run, where his closing burst allows him to bring down ballcarriers.
The Dolphins managed 38 sacks in 2010, but teams will begin to throw their focus on Pro Bowl OLB Cameron Wake. The addition of Wilkerson solves two birds with one stone for Miami, whose youth movement on defense would give them another cornerstone.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8): Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
Smith is raw, but may have more upside than any other DE in this class. A rangy 6'4, 263, Smith has the look of an dominant performer. He ran a solid 4.74 in the 40 during the combine while also displaying a 34-inch vertical jump. His athleticism also gives him the ability to play OLB, which is where he could eventually end up.
He recorded 17 sacks in his two years at Missouri, but is still getting a feel for the game, which will leave the Jaguars with few "WTF?" moments. If he matures into the role, the payoff could be huge for Jacksonville, whose lack of a rush (27 sacks in 2010) contributed greatly to the Jags allowing 26.4 points per game last season. With his job on the line, head coach Jack Del Rio will count on Smith making an immediate impact.
Smith may be the best run defender amongst DEs, as his quickness and ability to change direction allows him to close in and disrupt plays from the outside. All indications are that Smith can become a good NFL player, but if the light really comes on, the Jags may have gotten a steal.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) (14-2): Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Don't be fooled by Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis' 1,008-yard, 13-TD season; the pick of Ingram would be a sound move by the Pats, whose committee approach will take a huge hit with the expected retirements of Kevin Faulk, Sammie Morris and Fred Taylor.
The 2009 Heisman winner, Ingram (the son of former Giants WR Mark Ingram) is an Emmitt Smith clone in every sense. Like the Cowboys' Hall of Famer, Ingram doesn't wow scouts with his size (5'10, 215) or speed, but he knows where to find the hole and is a yardage eater who gets better as the game goes on. His desire to maximize his potential is off the charts and while he won't be confused with Titans star RB Chris Johnson in the speed department, Ingram has enough quickness to hit an occasional home run.
Joined by Green-Ellis and slippery Danny Woodhead, the addition of Ingram adds another weapon to New England's offense, the highest-scoring unit in the league last season. Once Ingram improves his pass-catching skills, he could wrest the bulk of the carries and become the go-to man in the red zone.
18. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Cameron Jordan, DE, California
The son of former Pro Bowl TE Steve Jordan is just as athletically gifted as his father, including huge hands that allow him to shed off blocks and knock down passes. At 6'4, 287, the younger Jordan has enough versatility to play OLB, but will make a great fit with a Chargers defense that lacks pressure from the line.
Jordan ran a 4.74 at the combine and his 25 reps on the bench only further zoomed his stock. He was just as impressive in the 20-yard dash, where he clocked in at 4.21.
The Chargers had the NFL's top defense last season, but got minimal production from its front line when it came to rushing the passer. With Jordan, San Diego would have a player that is capable of delivering numbers similar to Shawne Merriman before his career cratered.
19. New York Giants (10-6): Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida
Protecting QB Eli Manning is priority one in the Big Apple, so the Giants will look to the durable, 6'5, 303-pounder who started 45 of his 54 games under Urban Meyer.
The brother of Steelers C Markice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey is a great fit with the Giants. Head coach Tom Coughlin will relish his aggressive approach to run blocking, where his mean streak and ability to fire off and blast defensive tackles will help bolster the league's seventh-best ground attack. He is sound as a pass blocker but does need improvement in that department in order to fully maximize his potential.
Manning was sacked just 16 times in 2010, but the offensive line is in need of new blood, where veterans Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert are ages 33 and 31, respectively. Both handled the center position in 2010, but the addition of Pouncey -- who can also move to guard -- would provide Big Blue with an interior anchor well into Manning's later years.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6): Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
A fierce competitor, Clayborn has overcome Erb's Palsy (which affects his right shoulder) to become one of the nation's premier pass rushers over the last seasons.
While his sack totals fell from 11.5 in 2009 to 3.5 last year, there is no denying the 6'2, 281-pounder can immediate inject life into the Bucs' pass rush, which managed only 26 sacks in 2010. Clayborn's condition has dropped his stock slightly, but he is a very instinctive player who hits with brute force. He may be limited to playing on the right side due to his shoulder, which has also led to concerns as to whether he will eventually become an every down performer or a situational pass rusher.
Either way, Tampa Bay is in need of a sack master, a facet that could lift one of last year's surprise teams into serious contention in a loaded NFC. If the Bucs bypass Clayborn, the likes of Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, Miami (Fla.) end Allen Bailey and Ohio State's Cameron Heyward will be high on their list as well.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6): OT Gabe Carmini, Wisconsin
In time, Carmini could emerge as the best offensive linemen in this class, which means the Chiefs could end up with another in a long line of great interior hosses that dates back to the late Jim Tyrer in the 1960s.
A mammoth 6'7, 314, Carmini is a nasty run blocker whose technical skills are rivaled by his desire to finish off plays. He had a series of injuries at Wisconsin, but also showed he is more than willing to play through pain. Carmini is an astute film watcher and is a four-time member of the Big Ten's all-academic team. He remains a bit of a work in progress with his pass blocking; he struggled at times against quicker rushers, but his strength and intelligence will allow him to win more than his fair share of battles.
Kansas City's top priority is wide receiver, but the class is weak beyond Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones. The failure of Braden Albert to develop makes the pick of Carmini a wise pick, one that QB Matt Cassel and RBs Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles would have no issue with.
22. Indianapolis Colts (10-6): Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
All-Pro QB Peyton Manning looked ordinary (for him) at times last season, and much of that came from the mediocre effort from OTs Charlie Johnson and Ryan Diem. The struggles of the line also contributed to the Colts finishing 29th in rushing, which allowed opponents to tee off on Manning like never before.
Solder (6'8, 319) helps change that. He turned heads at the combine when he ran a 4.96 in the 40 while also topping all offensive linemen with a 32-inch vertical jump. Having started his collegiate career as a TE, Solder has kept his athleticism while adding nearly 100 pounds from the time he arrived in Boulder. He started 38 straight games with the Buffaloes and his desire and intangibles will make him a great fit with the ultra-intense Manning in the film room.
Solder does struggle with anchoring his body and lacks the cold-blooded mentality that Wisconsin's Gabe Carmini possesses. Still, his negatives are things that can be worked out, which makes him an ideal fit for Indy.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Pass-happy head coach Andy Reid knows his future rides on how well Pro Bowl QB Michael Vick is protected, which makes the choice of Castonzo an easy choice. The 6'7, 311-pounder is regarded as perhaps the best pass blocker available, where his outstanding feet (feet that Rex Ryan probably won't get off to) and tremendous balance could equal the end of the line for the erratic Winston Justice at RT.
Castonzo is a very smart player (majored in biology) who busts his hump to improve on a daily basis. He has the frame that could allow him to add extra pounds without losing any production, but the only real weakness Castonzo has is lower body strength that will improve as he embraces the daily grind that comes from being a full-time professional.
There is a possibility that Castonzo could be moved to guard, where the Eagles have gotten so-so production from Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole. If the Eagles miss out on a lineman, they will look in the direction of cornerback, where Colorado's Jimmy Smith and Virginia's Ras-I Dowling will be available.
24. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Ryan Kerrigan, OLB/DE, Purdue
Will Smith and Alex Brown combined for just 7.5 of the team's middling total of 33 sacks, and at age 31 and 29, respectively, the time has come for the Saints to add new life to the pass rush.
That's where Kerrigan (6'3, 267) comes in. While not an athletic in the mold of Missouri's Aldon Smith or Cal's Cameron Jordan, he is relentless (4.67 40 time at the combine) with a non-stop motor that goes hard from whistle to whistle. There's no denying his production, as he recorded 32.5 sacks the last three years despite being the prime focus of opposing offenses. He is the next in a line of solid ends from Purdue, including current Cowboys standout Anthony Spencer.
Perhaps his biggest intangible is his high character, which will drawn plenty of attention. His versatility will allow the Saints to use him off the edge as either an end or as a stand-up OLB. He does need work on expanding his toolbox as a rusher, but there is no question that Kerrigan can contribute as a rookie.
25. Seattle Seahawks (7-9): Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Locker could have been a top five selection had he entered the 2010 draft, but chose to return to Washington, where his senior campaign was plagued with inconsistency (55.4 percent completion mark) and injuries that cost him two games. His stock dropped, but the ultra-competitive field general worked his way back into first round consideration with solid efforts at both the combine and at Washington's Pro Day earlier this month.
At 6'2, 231, Locker is strapped with a rocket arm, a fierce intensity and a level of toughness that will endear him with any team. He has shown a knack for delivering in the clutch and with his elusiveness (4.5 time in the 40), he will be a lethal threat inside the red zone. What he must prove is that he can be effective in a pro-style offensive attack and has to trust his instincts instead of analyzing too much as the the play develops.
The Seahawks would get a steal while also giving their season ticket sales a boost. Locker would be an ideal fit to become the heir apparent to Matt Hasselbeck and would immediately challenge erratic Charlie Whitehurst as the number two quarterback in the Emerald City.
26. Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Smith is a boom or bust type pick. On the one hand, the Ravens would be impressed with Smith's size (6'2, 210), speed and overall potential. He is a physical presence who could emerge as devastating in press coverage while also cutting the field in half. One of the stronger corners in the draft, Smith had 24 reps of bench-pressing 225 pounds.
On the other hand, there's the issue of Smith's desire, which ebbs from play to play. At times, it seems like he doesn't even want to be out on the field, which results in blown coverages and general confusion. Smith has already flunked a documented drug test and has a LeBron James-like entourage of lackeys already surrounding him.
Smith would benefit greatly from being in the Ravens' locker room, where future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed could quickly reel this young talent into the fold. If general manager Ozzie Newsome goes another direction at corner, Miami's Brandon Harris would be a sound alternate.
27. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Georgia
Houston has bulked up to 270 pounds since the end of the season, a clear sign he is ready to embrace a move to defensive end. He will still be able to carry his athleticism to the position, which is good news for a Falcons team that could use a complement to DE John Abraham.
An outstanding athlete, Houston's stock rose during the combine when he displayed a 36.5 inch vertical jump and a 10.5 foot broad jump. He is a hard-hitter who basically makes ballcarriers stop once he wraps his huge arms around them. Houston has to prove that he can play with intensity on each snap while also shedding the belief that he's more of a workout wonder than an actual performer.
Atlanta doesn't have a real glaring need, so it would not come as a shock if they went another direction, but the addition of Houston would pay off if the talented Bulldog comes to play from the opening snap.
28. New England Patriots (14-2): Allen Bailey, DE, Miami (Fla.)
Bailey is a physical presence that the Pats have missed since moving Richard Seymour to the Raiders prior to the 2009 season. He would be a sound fit in a 3-4 scheme, where his 6'4, 287 pounds can give New England the type of bookend that Seymour excelled in providing.
Built like a WWE wrestler, Bailey has raw power and can push a pocket backwards. He has a good motor and his wingspan -- combined with a 36-inch vertical jump -- allows him to disrupt passing lanes. He is big enough to where he can be moved inside on passing situations, a facet head coach Bill Bellichick can't help but love. Bailey does need work on being more fluid and needs to build an array of moves that goes beyond sheer physical dominance.
The Patriots may also look at an offensive guard here; if so, Baylor's Danny Watkins or Georgia's Clint Boling should be available.
29. Chicago Bears (11-5): Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Sherrod doesn't have that one attribute that wows scouts. Instead, the 6'6, 305-pounder provides an array of skills that makes him attracted to a Bears team that has uncertainty at both tackles with sack-prone Frank Omiyale and J'Marcus Webb.
That Sherrod is a solid run blocker comes as good news for Chicago's 22nd ranked ground game. He takes his role very seriously, constantly looking for ways to improve both on and off the field. As a pass blocker, Sherrod plays with good balance and moves well laterally. He has to develop a mean streak; he's a Bears offensive lineman and a less than vicious attitude won't play well at Soldier Field.
The loss of Tommie Harris could compel the Bears to look for a defensive tackle, where the likes of Baylor's Phil Taylor, Oregon State's Stephen Paea and North Carolina's Marvin Austin would be available.
30. New York Jets (11-5): Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
The last time the Jets dipped into the Ohio State pool, it resulted in DE Vernon Gholston, who has yet to record a sack since becoming the sixth overall selection in the 2008 draft. Showing no fear, Gang Green takes the son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, while injecting a talented infusion into the defensive interior.
The younger Heyward (6'5, 287) has the versatility to move inside in certain situations, but he'll likely make his home as the replacement for 11-year veteran Shaun Ellis. Power and explosiveness in short bursts are Heyward's calling card, as is his ability to stuff the run. He is a high character person, but in order to succeed on the next level, Heyward has to stop the tendency of disappearing for stretches while also learning to be more of a playmaker and improving his instincts.
The Jets could use the selection on an offensive lineman (Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod comes to mind) or they could surprise by taking a receiver in case troubled wideout Braylon Edwards bolts once free agency begins. If they go with a receiver, Maryland's Torrey Smith could be tempting in that he also serves as a dangerous return specialist.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): Danny Watkins, G, Baylor
Hockey and rugby were Watkins' sports of choice while growing up in Canada. The aspiring firemen took to football in junior college and has slowly evolved into a player who would help solve the Steelers' issues at guard.
At age 27, Watkins is old for a rookie, but he is quickly learning the responsibilities of the position. An impressive Senior Bowl performance also helped his stock by showing he is capable of playing any position on the line. The 6'4, 310-pounder has shown his athleticism while also showing a willingness to learn from his mistakes. If he has one fault, it's that he has not played the sport for long (five years) and is still learning the nuances of his role.
Pittsburgh won the AFC title despite starting three different players at right guard and suffering the inconsistency of left guard Chris Kemoeatu. The addition of Watkins would at the very least give them a versatile lineman who can fill in when needed.
32. Green Bay Packers (10-6): Jabbal Sheard, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh
Sheard is undersized at 6'2, 254, but has a relentless streak that comes with quickness and the ability to use his long arms to slide past blockers and create havoc in the backfield.
The Packers could envision Sheard and All-Pro LB Clay Matthews spending the next 5-10 years making life sheer hell for quarterbacks as they come off either side. He has endured a string of injuries during his career, but gained the respect of his teammates by showing the desire to play through a broken thumb and bone fragments in his left elbow. Sheard's biggest drawback is that he can too aggressive at times, which has resulted in opponents taking advantage of his wildness.
Adding Sheard would be another potential gem for the defending Super Bowl champs. With him, Matthews, DT B.J. Raji and the return of talented S Morgan Burnett from injury, the Packers would have one of the league's best young defensive foundations, one that could lead to more trophies in Titletown.