After reading Peter King's (presumably) final mock draft in the new SI, I was really shocked and impressed by some of the predictions he made. However, some of these predictions also left me scratching my head. Here are the main highs and lows I gathered from this latest set of predictions:
The Panthers should pick Cam Newton at No. 1
Although it seems more and more likely that he will be the No. 1 pick in this draft and I really like Newton's athleticism and upside, it would be a mistake for him to go to Carolina. Newton's great strength came from his physical dominance in college, something that will still be great in the NFL, but to a lesser degree because everyone possesses elite athletic ability.
While Carolina does have a passable offensive line and a stellar running attack, there are no receivers outside of an aging, injury-prone Steve Smith and Newton is not ready to fix the massive blackhole that is the Carolina passing game. He probably won't be a competent passer without at least a year of tutelage on the bench, something that Carolina won't be able to give him.
For these reasons, I think that the Panthers would be better off picking one of the elite defensive talents and allowing Newton to fall to a team that's a better fit, like the Bills, Bengals or even the Titans, who already have a decent starter, but are possibly looking to upgrade.
The Browns will pick Julio Jones at No. 6
I really like this pick because in very early mock drafts, I thought the Rams would get a steal on Jones at 14 as a great target for Sam Bradford for years to come. That being said, I think this is where he should go and would be able to have a positive impact. Colt McCoy is only going to get better with a year of experience under his belt and would greatly benefit from a talented target like Jones.
In addition, the Browns should have a strong running attack with Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty, further open the passing attack for this combination. With this pick, the Browns can solidify a strong offense for years to come.
The Texans should trade up and pick Patrick Peterson at No. 7
Although this is completely speculative and subject to the Texans actually making a trade, this is a great fit. I think that Patrick Peterson is the best talent in this draft and the fact that he may actually fall to the end of the top 10 irks me. The Texans have a very shoddy pass defense and could use a lockdown cornerback who will take away half of the field. Even with the picks they would give up, I would say that this would be the preliminary steal of the draft if the Texans were to pull this off.
The Lions picking Da'Quan Bowers at No. 13
Rookies have been able to come off of serious injury and play well before—Sam Bradford did so just last season. Despite critics dropping his stock because of injury, I still think that Bowers can and will be a force in years to come. After all, there was a reason why he was battling with Nick Fairley for the top spot on most mock drafts before the combine. The man has incredible size and skills and would be able to wreak havoc next to Ndamukong Suh on the Detroit defensive line.
Besides, isn't it rather odd that teams would be more willing to take a player who was suspended for all of last season in Robert Quinn over a guy who performed like a beast, but got injured?
Either way, I think Detroit notches a win if they go with this pick.
Wanting Andy Dalton to go to three teams in the top-15 picks before getting selected by Miami
Don't get me wrong, I think Andy Dalton is a fine prospect at quarterback and will be a starter some day. However, I don't think that he is deserving of a top-15 pick. King believes that the Titans, 49ers, and Vikings would all be better served by picking Andy Dalton than another prospect who arguably has better potential or ability.
To me, Dalton is a late-first, early-second round prospect, maybe creeping up into the middle of round one if there is a team that really likes him, such as King's projected destination, the Dolphins. However, I think that the Dolphins would be better served trying to trade down and get more picks seeing as the next five or so picks all have established quarterbacks and will be most likely battling over lineman. The main threats are the Patriots, who I think will look to pick up Ryan Mallett or another quarterback in the later rounds, and the Colts, who the Dolphins could safely slide in ahead of if they really wanted to.
The Chargers picking Cameron Jordan at No. 18 and the Chiefs picking Gabe Carimi at No. 21
I like both of these picks at these spots. Both of these players are fairly underrated in my opinion and both would play to the styles of their prospective teams, Jordan as a multi-talented, 3-4 defensive end and Carimi as a grinding tackle for the Chiefs running attack. Good decisions all the way around.
The Titans picking Christian Ponder at a traded No. 28
Ponder is a solid prospect to me, but not a first-round talent. Second round feels like a better option to me. Looking at the teams at the end of the round, the Titans could definitely try to trade down again and pick up another draft pick or even maybe trade up and try and snag their real guy, Andy Dalton.
The Packers picking Cam Heyward with the last pick of the first round, No. 32
Being a diehard Packers fan, I think this would be a great pick. The defensive line might be thin next year and Heyward is a good talent for their scheme. Although I would prefer Brandon Harris with this pick to fortify the secondary and be the potential replacement for Charles Woodson, this would also be a very savvy selection by Ted Thompson, although I wouldn't at all be surprised to see this pick traded.