It's April, and the NFL draft is just days away. It's time for my annual mock draft. Here is my analysis of the picks NFL teams might make in the first round of the NFL draft:
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
In my last mock draft, I had Gabbert being taken here, but I've heard reports that the Panthers really like Newton.Their biggest need is at quarterback and in a draft unlike last year's, where there were high pedigree players like Sam Bradford, a team like the Panthers could take a gamble on Newton.
Cam Newton is a hyped player with a lot of athletic ability and potential. Newton had a better pro day than his combine, which helped him a lot. Newton went 50 for 60 at his pro day but threw four bad passes, which were uncatchable.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Recently, I heard a rumor that the Broncos might trade their second pick. That might not be such a bad idea. They could package this pick for more picks later. If they don't trade this pick, I see them taking Dareus.
Marcell Dareus looked solid in his workouts, and by picking Dareus, the Broncos are improving their poor defensive line. Dareus is big, strong and speedy coming off his end or the tackle position.
Dareus wrecked havoc in college while playing at Alabama, especially two years ago. He is powerful and can play off the run and pass. He has 11 sacks and 66 career tackles over the past two years. Dareus was on ESPN's "Sports Science" segment and did some pretty incredible stuff.
3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
The Bills will take Miller to help a much-needed defense that struggled last year. Miller is the safest pick for the Bills and had a great senior season for the Aggies.
Miller had 68 total tackles last year, 38 solo and 30 assisted. He also had 11 sacks as well. He reminds me of Clay Matthews, although Miller is more revered coming out of college.
There's is also a chance the Bills will take Gabbert. They do need a quarterback, however, Newton will probably be taken and Coach Gailey, who coached Miller in the Senior Bowl, knows the type of player he is. I also read in SI's "Truth and Rumors," that the Billls are leaning towards Miller.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Bengals' receiving corps are getting older and Green could be a Larry Fitzgerald or Randy Moss-type receiver. Not to mention, he would give Carson Palmer an excellent vertical threat to stretch the field. Green is very talented and most likely the top receiver available in the draft.
Cincinnati could take Gabbert, however, since Carson Palmer has said he wants out. If they were to take a quarterback, I believe it would be Andy Dalton, since Jay Gruden loves Dalton.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
This is a tough pick to make. The Cardinals could take Blaine Gabbert, Robert Quinn or Patrick Peterson, but I have them choosing Peterson for a couple of reasons.
The Cardinals' biggest need is a rusher that is fearless or a corner. Peterson is very capable of being chosen number one. He is an excellent cornerback that is fast (ran a 4.34 at the draft), has great hands and great range. Peterson has been compared to Charles Woodson. Peterson can also tackle very well, intercept passes, force fumbles, attack the quarterback, block kicks and even return kicks and punts.
The 49ers have a good defense and Peterson would only make them better, and he would start right away.
He shut down Alabama receiver Julio Jones last season, and teams always need good cornerbacks to shut down receivers. Arizona had a 29th-rated defense last year and Peterson would certainly boost that, especially with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the other side.
Gabbert is avalible, but the Cards took a quarterback early last year, and it didn't work out like they hoped. I think they like Dalton as well, but The Arizona Republic's Ken Whisenhunt is unsure. However, this lockout might tempt the Cardinals to take a quarterback if free agency is delayed or they can't trade for Kevin Kolb.
6. Cleveland Browns: Robert Quinn, DE-North Carolina
This is a tough pick to make. Would the Browns pick a receiver to give Colt McCoy more options, or would they pick a defensive player?
There are three options here: Robert Quinn, Nick Fairley or Julio Jones?
I have Quinn being picked here. Although, Quinn didn't play much this year due to a suspension, a year ago he wreaked havoc with 52 total tackles and 11 sacks. Those are solid numbers. The only thing that might hurt him is that he didn't play in 2010.
Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted the Browns could lean toward Julio Jones, but I am not sure.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
The 49ers take Gabbert, as they need a quarterback. The Niners have said they like Alex Smith, but he just hasn't gotten it done. It is time for change.
Gabbert falls, but the Niners are getting an NFL-ready quarterback. Gabbert left Missouri after passing for 3,186 yards and throwing 16 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He had a 127.03 quarterback rating and completed 63.4 percent of his passes. At 6'5" and 240 lbs, he is big and strong but very mobile at the same time.
Also, Gabbert knows the West Coast offense, which the Niners run.
8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley's draft stock dropped a ton since the National Championship game. I have him being selected here, as the Browns should take best player available.
Fairely was named MVP of the BCS title game. On the season, he had 24 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, 36 total tackles, two forced and recovered fumbles and one interception. He proved to be a beast during the 2010-2011 season, wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
He is 6'5" and 298 lbs but is quick for a defensive lineman, as he ran a 4.83 in the 40-yard dash. Fairley is the best option here. Gabbert could fall this low, but it would be a huge surprise.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The Cowboys need an offensive tackle, although, I wouldn't be shocked if they take Amukamara from Nebraska. Smith is 6'5" and 307 lbs and is athletic. He didn't participate at the combine due to injury but is a solid offensive lineman to take this high.
**TRADE**10. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Julio Jones is the second receiver off the board. Jones performance at the combine made scouts' jaws drop. Jones ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash and jumped 11 feet in three broad jump. Jones fills a huge need for the Rams, as Sam Bradford needs a top target to throw to.
11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Texans may have picked a cornerback in the first round last year, and Amukamara may still be on the board, but a pass rusher is their higher priority.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
The Vikings have just one quarterback left on their roster in Joe Webb. Though Webb played solid toward the end of last season, I doubt he is Minnesota's quarterback of the future. By drafting Jake Locker, the Vikings get a quarterback that is accurate, big, strong-armed and mobile. He is also a hard worker. Watching Jon Gruden of ESPN interview all the quarterbacks, I was most impressed with Locker.
If the Vikings don't take Locker, look for them to go with a defensive lineman.
13. Detroit Lions: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Last year, the Lions really boosted their defense by drafting Ndamukong Suh. Now, they can boost their secondary by getting Prince, a guy they want badly.
14. Washington Redskins: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The Redskins will trade down with the Rams, since the Rams will snag Julio Jones. The Redskins take Bowers here and take a risk, which could turn out to be a reward if he produces. Last year, Bowers had 16 sacks and 67 total tackles.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
After Pouncey's brother had a successful rookie season with the Steelers, the Dolphis won't waste time and will take Pouncey. They need Pouncey to protect Chad Henne and Ronnie Brown.
Speaking of Brown, he could be a free agent if and when the lockout is ended, so Miami might be inclined to draft Mark Ingram. The Dolphins also like Andy Dalton and may make a gamble on him or trade down and get him later.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Jags love Kerrigan. Kerrigan was a three-year starter at Purdue and had a solid season last year. He would fit well with Aaron Kampman on the line for Jacksonville. The Jaguars need a solid defensive lineman, because they do not know how well Kampman's ACL will heel.
17. New England Patriots: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Vince Wilfork isn't getting any younger, and Watt had a great season last year. He is 6'5", and 390 lbs and is also very quick for his size. He had 61 total tackles and seven sacks last year.
18. San Diego Chargers: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
The Chargers need a defensive lineman, and with J.J. Watt off the board they'll get the next best thing in Cam Jordan. Jordan is 6'4", 287 lbs and ran a 4.78 in the 40 at combine. He's quick but also very aware.
19. New York Giants: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
At 6'7", 314 lbs, Carimi is big and strong with very long arms. The Giants need an offensive lineman and they'll get a solid one here to replace the aging William Beatty.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DT, Iowa
With Watt and Jordan off the board, supposedly, the Bucs really like Clayborn and Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia.
Clayborn is better fit here, however. The Pewter Report revealed that Clayborn met with the Bucs last week and discussed how he might fit in as a defensive lineman. The report also states that sources mentioned there have been extensive talks about drafting Clayborn.
With 52 total tackles and 3.5 sacks, Clayborn's numbers dropped a little last year. Against Gabe Carimi and Wisconsin, Clayborn had five tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The Chiefs need to fill a hole at offensive tackle and Solder, who climbed draft boards a couple of weeks ago, is still high on big boards. Solder is big and athletic.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Derrek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
The Colts struggled with protection for Peyton Manning late last season. With Sherrod they get a 6'6", 305-lb tackle, who is a solid blocker with big arms and good footwork. He also works hard and is athletic.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
The Eagles need an offensive lineman, but Carimi, Sherrod, Solder and Pouncey will all be gone. It may be a reach to take OG Danny Watkins from Baylor, as well. The Eagles should go defensive and nab Jimmy Smith. Smith has some character issues, but has great athletic talent. Also, Smith may be attractive to the Eagles becuase Ellias Hobbs is retiring.
24. New Orleans Saints: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
The Saints need help on the defensive line. Houston plays outside linebacker but will put plenty of pressure on quarterbacks as an outside linebacker. Last year, Houston had 56 total tackles and 10 sacks.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Liuget dropped in my mock draft due to the Rams trading up for Julio Jones. This is a steal here for the Seahawks, and Liuget will replace Brandon Mebane. The Seahawks could take a look at a quarterback or an offensive lineman with this pick as well.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Brian Baldinger said if Heyward was still on the board at this point, the Ravens would take him, and he will be available. Heyward fits nicely here, as the Ravens will improve their defense, yet again.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
The Falcons could update their aging linebacker crew and can do so in later rounds, but they took Sean Witherspoon last year. Tony Gonzalez isn't getting any younger, so they will go with Rudolph. Brooks Reed is also a player to watch.
28. New England Patriots: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
There have been talks that the Patriots may take Ingram, and personally, I think he would fit well. Ingram, Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead could create a three-headed monster for opponents.
29. Chicago Bears: Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
The Bears need a pass-rushing threat on the other side of Julius Peppers.
30. New York Jets: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
The Jets like him, and that's all it takes to improve their defensive line.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
The Steelers will take the best player available that can help their secondary, as the Packers torched the Steelers' secondary last year in the Super Bowl.
32. Green Bay Packers: Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona
Reed's motor, hard-hitting, playmaking ability and long blonde hair have the Packers gushing. The Packers will most likely draft the best player available and Reed is a great pick here.
There you have it, a full first-round mock draft with analysis. Feel free to comment. Tune into the first round of the draft, Thursday at 7 p.m. on ESPN for full draft coverage.
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