The NFL Draft is right around the corner and projections on where certain players will go have been rampant around cyber space. Most of the "experts" will have you believe a guy like Auburn's Cam Newton will go first overall, some believe it is Clemson stand out Da'Quan Bowers.
In this slideshow, we will make the comparison between mock drafts conducted by four "experts" of the game and run down some of the differences in those picks. At the end, I will reveal my picks on who will be in the top 10 of this year's draft.
The experts that will be compared are:
Pat Kirwan: NFL.com
Brian Baldinger: NFL Network
Mel Kiper: ESPN.com
Don Banks: SportsIllustrated.com
Kirwan, Kiper & Banks: Cam Newton (QB)- Auburn
Baldinger: Patrick Peterson (DB)- LSU
I think it is pretty unanimous here. The Panthers are in desperate need of a shake up after averaging 12.2 points per game in 2010, last in the entire NFL. Jimmy Clausen hasn't developed into the QB that the Panthers envisioned he would be as of yet and in a division that has Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman, the choice for the Panthers is simple, grab the best player available in the position you are most desperate to fill first.
Peterson will go top 10, but the Panther's offensive woes of a year ago is too obvious to ignore here.
Kirwan, Baldinger, Kiper & Banks: Marcell Dareus (DT)- Alabama
This pick will be more of a formality for the Broncos when they select second overall. Dareus skill on the defensive line will no doubt propel the Broncos out of the slump that left them 31st overall in run-defense in 2010. He is also a great pass rusher but his endurance has been called into question in the past. If this kid works his tail off this summer and keeps that work ethic going, he has the tools to be a standout in the 2011 season.
Kirwan & Kiper: Von Miller (LB)- Texas A&M
Baldinger & Banks: Blaine Gabbert (QB)- Missouri
The Buffalo Bills need a rebuild and they need to start now! Their division is so competitive that if they don't have a plan in set at this point, we will be talking about Buffalo and the first overall pick of the 2012 draft. The best part for them is, the rest of the NFL has put all their concentration in the AFC East and it has nothing to do with Buffalo. They're like the step child nobody expects to do anything but now that they can sit back and enjoy the Pats-Jets saga that just seems to go on and on every day, they can start that rebuild and surprise, not only their divisional foes, but the NFL as well. The Dolphins are in a similar boat, but more on them later.
Ryan Fitzpatrick may not be the answer for the Bills at QB but the Bills seem to have a belief in him. Miller was coached by the Bills in the Senior Bowl so they had a first hand look at him.
Gabbert is touted as an elusive QB and has good vision of the football field but may need to develop a year or so before he is a full fledged starter.
We will have to see where the Bills opt to go, they have needs all around but what one will go first?
Kirwan, Kiper & Banks: A.J. Green (WR)- Georgia
Baldinger: Cam Newton (QB)- Auburn
You knew it was only a matter of time before the Bengals were at this point. The Terrell Owens experiment failed, Ochocinco may be looking for a Super Bowl contender and don't even get me started on Carson Palmer's retirement threats. The question is now, do you look for someone to compliment Palmer and hopefully keep him under wraps for another season or do you grab a QB and get Palmer on a one way trip to another city to finish his career.
You could always just forget about it and grab a safety or a line backer, but look for the Bengals to address the hot topic with this pick and attempt to calm down Palmer, as well as their fan base for a little while at least with Green.
He is the prototypical game changer, standing 6"4', he has the height to get over most corners and safeties but will have to fight for it most nights as with this kind of reputation, will follow with a future of being double-teamed and being up against some gritty competition.
Kirwan & Kiper: Blaine Gabbert (QB)- Missouri
Baldinger & Banks: Von Miller (LB)- Texas A&M
Kirwan & Kiper: Julio Jones (WR)- Alabama
Baldinger: A.J. Green (WR)- Georgia
Banks: Robert Quinn (DE)- North Carolina
The Browns grabbed Colt McCoy last season and now it is time to build on it. A wide receiver will be targeted here, no doubt. Jones offers that reliability to be a stand out in the line up this upcoming season. Green also offers this but will probably be taken at this juncture.
Kirwan, Kiper & Banks: Patrick Peterson (DB)- LSU
Baldinger: Prince Amukamara (CB)- Nebraska
A few months ago, I would've been shocked to see Peterson fall this far down. Baldinger has him pegged as the first overall pick in this draft, however, the rest of the world sees it the other way. The Niners' system will no doubt compliment Peterson's skill set and ability.
The QB issue will be solved as early as next season, however, new head coach Jim Harbaugh may wait a year for a draft class with great QB talent and may ride the wave of Alex Smith for the duration of 2011 and see where that leaves him.
Kirwan, Baldinger, Kiper & Banks: Nick Fairley (DT)- Auburn
It's unanimous and makes the most sense. Fairley will fall to eight and the Titans couldn't be more happy to grab a guy who is shown to have character issues to most teams. His former defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is now with the Titans organization and may convince many of the higher ups to grab him.
Shouldn't be too hard and seems more like a formality, seeing as how every mock draft I have checked out has Fairley going at this point.
Kirwan, Kiper & Banks: Tyron Smith (OT)- USC
Baldinger: J.J. Watt (DE)- Wisconsin
When looking at Dallas' 2010 season, you saw the lowest of lows turn into hope under the leadership of coach Jason Garrett. This off season, one point needing addressing is the defensive line but at this point of the draft, with a guy that can offer pass protection for a returning Tony Romo, who can pass that opportunity.
The Cowboys have already shown interest and Smith will fit right into the defensive scheme.
Kirwan: Robert Quinn (DE)- North Carolina
Baldinger & Banks: Julio Jones (WR)- Alabama
Kiper: J.J. Watt (DE)- Wisconsin
The Redskins need to address a need on D and although it would be tempting to grab a guy like Jones if available. However, Quinn addresses that need at D and can line up in multiple positions. He has the ability to be a premiere pass rusher and has great instincts.
I am going against the panel for the first time here as only Kirwan picked Quinn at this position, however, Kiper has the right idea at addressing the position, just not the guy I expected. Watt is great but Quinn will go here.
Kirwan: J.J. Watt (DE)- Wisconsin
Baldinger: Aldon Smith (DE)- Missouri
Kiper: Robert Quinn (DE)- North Carolina
Banks: Prince Amukamara (CB)- Nebraska
In a division that hosts Peyton Manning, you know that you need a great pass rusher on your squad to stand any chance whatsoever in Indianapolis. With Houston, there is a big need for defensive game-changers at corner back or at the defensive line. Look for Wisconsin's J.J. Watt to be picked up. He offers a rough nose attitude that doesn't quit against the toughest of oppositions.
Quinn will be gone, Smith will be bypassed and the need for a defensive end will trump Amukamara, but don't be surprised if Amukamara gets picked up here.
It is a toss up, really, as you can see, all the four experts analyzed chose different players.
Kirwan & Banks: Cameron Jordan (DE)- California
Baldinger: Robert Quinn (DE)- North Carolina
Kiper: Da'Quan Bowers (DE)- Clemson
The Vikings are coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in their history after reaching the NFC Championship game in 2009. Brett Favre has finally hung up the cleets and there aren't many people that have the ability to replace him, especially in the draft and more importantly, at number 12.
All the experts have the Vikings claiming a defensive end as they slowly look to address their defensive side of the ball. Whomever is available is who the Vikings will look to grab here, probably not Quinn and Bowers may fall further down the list.
Jordan has ties to the organization already as his dad is former Vikings great, Steve Jordan.
Kirwan: Da'Quan Bowers (DE)- Clemson
Baldinger: Cameron Jordan (DE)- California
Kiper: Prince Amukamara (CB)- Nebraska
Banks: Anthony Castonzo (OT)- Boston College
Another toss up by our experts. Well, all four of these gentlemen picked have the ability to crack the Lions line up during their season opener but which one?
Bowers could be bypassed, Jordan will probably be taken and the offensive line isn't exactly a priority at the moment, at least in comparison to the defense that ranked 21st in the NFL in all purpose yards against per game.
Amukamara can be a player on this team that compliments the pass rushing ability of Ndamukong Suh and may spell a large quantity of INT's for the opposition.
Kirwan & Baldinger: Ryan Kerrigan (DE)- Purdue
Kiper & Banks: Corey Liuget (DT)- Illinois
Most will tell you that the most important position to fill is at wide receiver to help out Sam Bradford, however, with a larger than normal free agency class at wide out, the safe bet here is to go for a defensive lineman.
Plus, you can always grab a skilled wide receiver in the later rounds and have him grow in the organization.
Banks calls Liuget "underrated" and he could be right. We shall see what happens at the draft for this pick, a pick that will see another defensive player taken.
Kirwan: Prince Amukamara (CB)- Nebraska
Baldinger, Kiper & Banks: Mark Ingram (RB)- Alabama
The Dolphins (and Bills, as I mentioned in the third slide) have the ability to grow and not be under the spotlight that the Pats and Jets have in the AFC East.
The Dolphins running core right now is aging and Mark Ingram seems to be destined for Miami. The best running back in the draft and the man who seems to be the running back of the future of the Dolphins team.
There is no comparing here, as Kirwan did choose Amukamara, he will probably go earlier, possibly top 10. The others see Ingram in a Dolphins uniform next season and so do I.
Kirwan & Kiper: Aldon Smith (DE)- Missouri
Baldinger: Da'Quan Bowers (DE)- Clemson
Banks: Ryan Kerrigan (DE)- Purdue
The Jags have a few key issues to address. Their QB has been inconsistent, their defense was plain abysmal going to the end of a season full of post-season expectations after going 8-5 and choking under the pressure. Da'Quan Bowers has the tools to compete with Jack Del Rio's squad and is too large a name to pass up at 16th overall. Smith will be passed over and so will Kerrigan.
Kirwan: Anthony Castonzo (OL)- Boston College
Baldinger: Mike Pouncey (OL)- Florida
Kiper: Cameron Jordan (DE)- California
Banks: J.J. Watt (DE)- Wisconsin
These Patriots are well known for how much movement they make on draft day. Bill Belichick will probably trade one of the two first round picks he has (28th overall) and get some picks for later in the draft and build once again, it's no wonder this team is one of the elite, year after year.
I am actually going to go off the board here and even disagree with the undecided panel. As addressed in a previous article of mine, I chose Missouri's DE Aldon Smith and here is why.
Smith has explosive speed coming from the outside and is known for giving opposing QBs fits. He recorded 5.5 sacks and 48 tackles (10 for loss) and played a big part in Missouri's upset victory over No. 1-ranked Oklahoma this past season.
Smith fractured his right fibula this past October, but only missed three games. The kid has heart and incredible size (6'4", 263 pounds) and can become a great player in New England's system.
I think Smith is more of the player New England is looking for in terms of trying to solve their pass defense as quickly as possible.
Sure, addressing the offensive line takes top priority due to the lack of protection on Brady over the course of the last year but that can be addressed a little later on.
Kirwan: Akeem Ayers (LB)- UCLA
Baldinger: Phil Taylor (DL)- Baylor
Kiper: Muhammad Wilkerson (DT)- Temple
Banks: Aldon Smith (DE)- Missouri
The Chargers have a reputation for having depth and have the opportunity to add to it here on the defensive side of the ball. Philip Rivers is one of the better QB's in the league and could do better with some targets but those can be addressed later on (a great possibility, the Chargers pick four more times before the 100th selection is made).
The quickness and ability to play a cover defense for Akeem Ayers helps propel him to this selection. It also helps that he has been going to school at UCLA so he wouldn't have to move all that much.
Kirwan, Kiper & Banks: Mike Pouncey (OL)- Florida
Baldinger: Tyron Smith (OT)- USC
For the Giants, I am going off the board again and the reason is that this certain individual has been passed by many teams and although some others project him even lower, I think the Giants take a chance on this kid. His name is Anthony Castonzo. He has great pass protection and can keep opponents at bay and away from Eli. He is a large body and will find his way into an NFL starting job, sooner rather than later.
Kirwan: Brandon Harris (DB)- Miami
Baldinger: Adrian Clayborn (DL)- Iowa
Kiper: Ryan Kerrigan (DE)- Purdue
Banks: Da'Quan Bowers (DE)- Clemson
I am a big fan of Adrian Clayborn. He can play in multiple different systems and his versatility is known league-wide. The Bucs have addressed so many different positions in the last year, here and now is the time to continue that trend by addressing the few positions left. Clayborn is a great guy to have against a running team and has magnificent hands for the pass rush and in an ever growing division that sits a recent Super Bowl champion, a team that dominated the NFC for the better part of last season and a team in a rebuild of their own, it is the way to go.
Kirwan & Banks: Gabe Carimi (OL)- Wisconsin
Baldinger: Justin Houston (LB)- Georgia
Kiper: Akeem Ayers (LB)- UCLA
Some great choices here. The Chiefs are coming off a divisional championship and will need to beef up the defense if they hope to get back in the same position. I am going off the board again on this one and choosing Phil Taylor from Baylor. He is a massive man and is the ideal size for a nose guard. He has good pass rushing ability and is big enough to stand against a double team.
Kirwan: Corey Liuget (DT)- Illinois
Baldinger & Kiper: Anthony Castonzo (OL)- Boston College
Banks: Nate Solder (OT)- Colorado
Liuget and Castonzo will more than likely be taken by this point, which leaves Nate Solder. The man is an animal, however, I went off the board again and went with Gabe Carimi.
Carimi is also a beast, standing 6"7' and weighing in at 314 pounds. His frame alone will intimidate defensive ends all across the NFL and thinking about it, that kind of man protecting a guy like Peyton Manning, he may have a field day in the pocket. Carimi will need to sustain better leverage but so do most guys his size but he should fit in.
Kirwan: Nate Solder (OL)- Colorado
Baldinger, Kiper: Gabe Carimi (OL)- Wisconsin
Banks: Danny Watkins (OT)- Baylor
The Eagles may turn a lot of heads with this pick. While most experts have them pegged to grab someone to protect Michael Vick, I have them pegged to grab someone at corner back to make a duo that have the potential of Revis and Cromartie.
Yes, I am talking about Colorado's Jimmy Smith. Him and Asante Samuel controlling the deep ball will prevent some of the big players in the NFL from feeling safe on streak routes.
While guys like Solder and Watkins are still available, the Eagles don't listen to the world, they play by their own tune and they play hard football. It was that attitude that brought in Vick in the first place after he was cast down by society for the now-infamous dog fighting ring that had him put behind bars for two years.
Now look at him, he was one of the elite performers in the NFL in 2010. Taking chances, getting tough and gritty, that's Eagle football and that is what Jimmy Smith will bring to the table.
Kirwan: *Jake Locker (QB)*- Washington
Baldinger & Banks: Muhammad Wilkerson (DT)- Temple
Kiper: Phil Taylor (DL)- Baylor
Right away, Wilkerson will probably not get picked here as the Saints did just pick up Shaun Rogers.
Kirwan is predicting a trade that would see this pick go to the Bills and the Bills picking up their QB of the future. For the sake of mock draft specifics, I'll stay the course and make the assumption that all picks are honoured in the first round, though, the trade would make sense as the Saints have a solid roster and needs depth that can be addressed in the later rounds.
I have Taylor pegged for the Chiefs, leaving him unavailable for this point of the draft.
Justin Houston is my pick here. The Saints need a front seven type of player and is the best available. He is a little smaller than most players at his position but he can dig deep and get the job done. He will need to work on his consistency to be a full time starter in the NFL.
Kirwan: Jimmy Smith (CB)- Colorado
Baldinger: Danny Watkins (OL)- Baylor
Kiper: Jake Locker (QB)- Washington
Banks: Andy Dalton (QB)- TCU
The unpredictability that the Seahawks find themselves in is daunting. When you are coming off a 7-9 season, most are looking to address the positions that were troublesome during the season. When you are 7-9 and you win the division, well, that is just insanity.
Thanks to that division title, the Seahawks find themselves up this season against the best the NFC has to offer so what needs to be done? Two experts believe they should throw Matt Hasselbeck to the side and draft a QB. I partially agree, however, not with the specific choices they made. Ryan Mallett out of Arkansas seems like a great fit for the organization. He can stay back a year, work on his accuracy and timing with a veteran like Hasselbeck and grow into the future starter when Hasselbeck retires as early as after the 2011 season or even during if Mallett develops faster. If Mallett listens, he will be great, if not, could be a bust.
Mallett is a large body for the position, standing 6"7' but with that extra height, comes better throwing from the top.
Kirwan: Marvin Austin (DL)- North Carolina
Baldinger: Derek Sherrod (OL)- Mississippi State
Kiper & Banks: Jimmy Smith (CB)- Colorado
Another one off the board coming here, the Ravens D is legendary. Their rushing is sub-par and may need addressing. However, another need is at WR. Anquan Boldin can't do it all by himself so look for the Ravens to pick up some much needed help and allow the offense to open up a bit with the addition of Torrey Smith out of Maryland (another player that won't even need to leave the state to play pro-football).
Kirwan: Cam Heyward (DT)- Ohio State
Baldinger: Kyle Rudolph (TE)- Notre Dame
Kiper & Banks: Adrian Clayborn (DL)- Iowa
The Falcons need to address their defensive line. Free agency will probably see the end of Harvey Dahl or Tyson Clabo so the draft will help the Falcons in a big way.
Now, when I say big, I mean 6"5', 288 pounds of Cam Heyward. He provides a man like John Abraham a break on certain downs but mainly provides a one-two punch at defensive end. Heyward's attitude will fit in great in the organization.
Later on, look for a wide receiver to be picked up. Matt Ryan needs more threats running routes than he did a year ago. Very scary considering they were 13-3 to end the regular season in 2010 and averaged 25.9 points a game, good for fifth in the NFL. As good as that is, the Falcons were only 15th in the NFL in passing yards per game, something has to give and it starts with the pick up of Cam Heyward.
Kirwan: *Ryan Mallett (QB)*- Arkansas
Baldinger: Mikel Leshoure (RB)- Illinois
Kiper: Justin Houston (LB)- Georgia
Banks: *Jake Locker (QB)*- Washington
Not exactly a shocker to anyone, two experts predict that the Pats will trade this pick away for future considerations. However, should Belichick choose to keep this pick, he could go after a guy like Nate Solder. He is the biggest offensive lineman in the draft, a position that is in need in New England.
Tom Brady needs a bodyguard and Solder fits the bill. He also has experience playing tight end, something that is not new to the New England system. Wes Welker and Julian Edelman come to mind right away, playing in multiple situations, albeit on offense, however, offensive positions are quite different in terms of roles than what you see with defense.
Here is what I wrote in my previous article on Nate Solder and the possibility of him going to Foxborough.
This guy is a beast. Standing 6'8" and weighing 319 pounds, Solder is the biggest of the big men available at a much-needed spot for a team that has a "win big, lose big" mentality to get out of.
If Tom Brady wants someone big and strong to give him time, Solder is near the top of the list. He has great speed for his size, and if he combines that with consistent timing in getting off the line of scrimmage, he can be a force for this team in a few years.
Solder may need time to mature, and there are a few little things he needs to grow out of, but he would have the help of veterans Matt Light (who didn't look as impressive in 2010 compared to years past) and third-year player Sebastian Vollmer in learning New England's system.
He may not be the most complete player available at OT, but when No. 28 comes up Solder may be the best choice.
Kirwan: Torrey Smith (WR)- Maryland
Baldinger: Corey Liuget (DT)- Illinois
Kiper: Nate Solder (OL)- Colorado
Banks: Derek Sherrod (OT)- Mississippi State
I like Derek Sherrod going to the Bears. Banks predicts that Danny Watkins will not be available for this choice and Sherrod becomes the best player available.
Sherrod should help with the running game but isn't a solid pass blocker, he won't run down the big bodied defenses of the league and will need to build up some more mass and needs to learn to be more aggressive in order to become a starter.
Until then, he is great to fill in some gaps and provide some protection for Jake Cutler when he needs it.
Kirwan: Christian Ponder (QB)- Florida State
Baldinger: Akeem Ayers (LB)- UCLA
Kiper: Cam Heyward (DT)- Ohio State
Banks: Phil Taylor (DT)- Baylor
The Jets are coming off of consecutive AFC Championship game losses and just continue to grow. Much like last season, the AFC East will be a dog fight between the Jets and the Patriots and the Jets will have to improve on their defensive end to match the Patriots and their constant improvements over the off-season to protect Brady in the pocket.
I predict that Ryan Kerrigan will fall down the list and the Jets will get a steal of a deal. Kerrigan is what the Jets will need to get a step further, however, the Jets will need to be cautious during this draft. After this pick, as it stands now, the Jets do not pick until 94th overall so some trades may be coming to try and do what they always try to do, better the Patriots at everything and grab some picks for the future.
Kirwan, Kiper: Aaron Williams (DB)- Texas
Baldinger: Jimmy Smith (CB)- Colorado
Banks: Marcus Cannon (OT)- TCU
The Steelers will need to address the defensive line this off-season. I don't think Aaron Rodgers was pressured enough in the Super Bowl and that is something that Pittsburgh knows full well.
Marvin Austin from North Carolina is the type of player that the Steel City can get behind for sacks. He is explosive inside as well as outside and can make plays happen.
However, he has had some troubles off the field that turn off some teams. He didn't play football at all last season and has a questionable work ethic. Provided the right team picks him up, Austin could be a great addition and if he works hard enough, has the ability to be a starter as early as this season.
Kirwan: Mark Ingram (RB)- Alabama
Baldinger: Marvin Austin (DL)- North Carolina
Kiper: Derek Sherrod (OL)- Mississippi State
Banks: Cam Heyward (DE)- Ohio State
For the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Packers will need to fill some holes this off-season. The experts are everywhere on this one, offense, defensive line, offensive line, all needed to be filled but what will first?
All the experts have spoken and grabbed players I have already grabbed earlier so this is more of a filler pick than anything. It is Arizona's DL Brooks Reed.
Reed can move around quickly, as great hands and plays with heart and awareness. Great combination and when in a winning environment, should bode well for cheese heads nationwide.
When you look at the experts picks, you can tell that this draft will be built around protecting a team's greatest asset, the QB.
The top 10 was remotely the same thing with a few tweaks, more of the same in through 20 picks, however, after that, the names were all over the board. Some names are more obvious and some names I believe you will have a better chance at seeing in the second round.
Here is my mock draft in it's entirety:
- Carolina: Cam Newton
- Denver: Marcell Dareus
- Buffalo: Blaine Gabbert
- Cincinatti: AJ Green
- Arizona: Von Miller
- Cleveland: Julio Jones
- San Francisco: Patrick Peterson
- Tennessee: Nick Fairley
- Dallas: Tyron Smith
- Washington: Robert Quinn
- Houston: JJ Watt
- Minnesota: Cameron Jordan
- Detroit: Prince Amukamara
- St. Louis: Corey Liuget
- Miami: Mark Ingram
- Jacksonville: Da’Quan Bowers
- New England: Aldon Smith
- San Diego: Akeem Ayers
- NY Giants: Anthony Castonzo
- Tampa Bay: Adrian Clayborn
- Kansas City: Phil Taylor
- Indianapolis: Gabe Carimi
- Philadelphia: Jimmy Smith
- New Orleans: Justin Houston
- Seattle: Ryan Mallett
- Baltimore: Torrey Smith
- Atlanta: Cam Heyward
- New England: Nate Solder
- Chicago: Derek Sherrod
- NY Jets: Ryan Kerrigan
- Pittsburgh: Marvin Austin
- Green Bay: Brooks Reed
Who do you think will go in the first round? Is there anyone on my list you see as a second rounder or a possible bust? What are your thoughts?