NFL Draft Day is officially upon us.
I've been hesitant to publicly present a first-round mock this year, but after an overwhelming number of requests (tongue firmly in cheek), I've decided to acquiesce and give the people what they want.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you the official Fantasy Buddha mock draft:
- Carolina Panthers-QB Cam Newton, Auburn. This has been a foregone conclusion for weeks now. Carolina desperately needs a game changer at the QB position in the quarterback-heavy NFC South, and the Panthers believe Newton is the guy. He better be. Otherwise, Ron Rivera's time in Charlotte will be short-lived. Newton has all the ability to be absolutely special; you just have to be concerned about his dedication to become a great NFL quarterback and not just a millionaire celebrity.
- Denver Broncos-OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M. Many people see the Broncos going D-line here, and frankly I don't blame them. Defensive line is the strength of this first round. Without a doubt. However, new Broncos HC John Fox feels he can get another difference-maker on the defensive front with a later pick, whereas there are zero linebackers in this draft who are even comparable to Miller. Miller's a strong player. A playmaker. And he'll be a solid pick.
- Buffalo Bills-DL Marcell Dareus, Alabama. It's either/or here for the Bills. Either Denver passes on Miller and Buffalo gets him at No. 3 or they gladly take Dareus, who is arguably the best overall player in this draft. Dareus is a flat-out stud on the defensive line. He can play all three slots in the 3-4 at an above-average level and can be Kevin Williams-esque in a four-down front. You can't argue with the pedigree either. Nick Saban and the SEC both prepare guys for the league.
- Cincinnati Bengals-WR A.J. Green, Georgia. Adios Ochocinco. Hola A.J. This is the first of many transitional offensive moves I expect to see by the Bengals in 2011. Their QB, Carson Palmer, seems intent on retiring rather than ever suiting up for Cincy again and Cedric Benson looked like he got real old real fast in 2010. This Green pick is simply the leadoff hitter for the Bengals youth movement on O. And a pretty good one, at that.
- Arizona Cardinals-CB Patrick Peterson, LSU. Remember when I said Marcell Dareus was "arguably" the best player in this draft? Meet your argument. Peterson has special written all over him. Enough so to make the QB-needy Cardinals pass on Blaine Gabbert here. Likely the most certain Pro Bowl-level player in this entire draft, Peterson should combine with DRC and Adrian Wilson in that Arizona defensive backfield to make life extraordinarily difficult for NFC West passers.
- Minnesota Vikings via trade with Cleveland-QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri. Mike Holmgren and the Browns aren't in love with any of the players left at No. 6 and Minnesota, in need of a QB, jumps at the opportunity to trade up for Gabbert. I'm not a huge Blaine Gabbert fan, but this move makes sense for a Vikings franchise because they get a guy who they never dreamed would make it past the Cards at the fifth pick and are no longer faced with the proposition of starting Joe Webb at the most important position on the field. Bust alert!
- San Francisco 49ers-CB Prince Amukumara, Nebraska. The Niners were probably hoping Gabbert would fall one more slot to them, but no dice. Amukumara is a sensible pick here and should benefit them for years to come. Prince lacks the ball skills of other corners in this draft, but makes up for it in toughness and consistency. Aside from the name, this isn't a glamorous pick...just a good one.
- Tennessee Titans-DT Nick Fairley, Auburn. This one makes so much sense that it will probably never come to fruition. But it would certainly give the Titans a big-time pocket collapser at the 3-technique which would, in turn, help everyone else along their defensive front become more effective. Fairley is mean, aggressive and uncommonly quick for a man his size. He also makes more plays behind the line of scrimmage than anyone else in this draft. So, yeah, he makes sense.
- Dallas Cowboys-OT Tyron Smith, USC. Young, raw, athletic. If Smith realizes his colossal potential, he could make more Pro Bowl appearances than the rest of this offensive tackle class combined. It sounds like Jerry Jones is tired of watching Tony Romo get beat on like a punching bag and has developed a particular fondness for Smith. With this pick, the Cowboys will be hoping they've found themselves the next Erik Williams...minus the cocaine parties, of course.
- New England Patriots via trade with Washington-OLB/DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina. Alpha dogs make bold moves. It's what they do. And, much to Rex Ryan's chagrin, Bill Belichick is still the biggest alpha coach in the NFL. Quinn is a bona fide playmaker who will fit perfectly in the Patrots varied defensive scheme. Years from now, we may look back at this move and still be in awe.
- Houston Texans-DE Cameron Jordan, Cal. The Texans were craving Quinn here, but Jordan cushions the blow of missing out on their man. In fact, I'd imagine this natural 5-technique player was no worse than a Plan B for new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips anyway. Not a bad way to kick off the implementation of Phillips' new 3-4 scheme.
- Cleveland Browns via trade with Minnesota-WR Julio Jones, Alabama. Well, what do you know? The player Holmgren coveted the most at No. 6 falls right into his lap at No. 12. Jones will look to follow the same sort of career trajectory as another former 'Bama pass catcher in Cleveland, Ozzie Newsome. Expect Ju-Ju-Julio to be a more productive pro than he was in college, just like Newsome. If he works out as a WR1, he'll be the final piece to what could be a very exciting Browns offense. Which, in and of itself, sounds almost ridiculous.
- Detroit Lions-OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College. This is another pick that makes almost too much sense. Detroit needs to bulk up their protection of the positively brittle but immensely talented QB Matthew Stafford and Castonzo is rock solid in fitting that bill. Expect Castonzo to be a solid Lions starter for a decade or more.
- St. Louis Rams-DE/OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri. If you listen closely, you can hear Sam Bradford crying over not having Julio Jones fall to his Rams. No worries, Sammy Boy. Aldon Smith is an athlete. He will make a difference for the Rams. Double-digit sack producer for years to come.
- Miami Dolphins-OG/C Mike Pouncey, Florida. The Phins have tons of needs and Pouncey is the best player available at one of those positions. Miami likes to pound the ball and the the former Gators star should allow them to continue doing it and doing it and doing it well. Lots of broken hearts with this pick. From fans hoping for Mark Ingram or a QB and other NFL general managers who had hoped Pouncey would fall to them.
- Jacksonville Jaguars-DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue. Kerrigan is a Jags-type player: hard working, clean past, productive, comes from a system that develops pass rushers. If Ryan Kerrigan fails in the NFL, it won't be because of work ethic or pedigree. It'll be because the Jaguars are cursed. Not really. Well kinda.
- Washington Redskins via trade with New England-QB Jake Locker, Washington. Would this honestly surprise anybody? Mike Shanahan has had man-love for Locker from the moment he thought Jake was coming out of college early last year. Shanny envisions Locker as the second coming of John Elway. Great size, great athlete, great arm strength. Who knows how it'll turn out? But I'd say my fellow Redskins fans should prepare themselves for the start of the Locker Era.
- San Diego Chargers-DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin. Somehow. Some way. A.J. Smith gets his man. And doesn't have to move up to do so. It's just the way things work out sometimes. Watt should not be available this late but he is. I think he projects as an Brett Keisel-type, 5-technique for a long time and, as much as I'll hate seeing it, A.J Smith will have a big smile on his face after this pick.
- New York Giants-OL Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin. A run on former Badgers? Nah. But consecutive Wisconsin products nonetheless. Carimi is a need player for the Giants, who were hoping for Mike Pouncey. Not a bad guy to have to settle for. He can play right tackle or kick down inside and play either guard spot. He's tough as nails and knows how to drive block in the running game. Could become a beloved Giant for a while.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers-DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa. Yes, this is a bit of a reach. Especially with a talent like Da'Quan Bowers still on the board. But Clayborn's question marks and concerns aren't as big as those surrounding Bowers and his knee. I think the Bucs and Raheem Morris have liked Clayborn for a long time and expect him to be their guy once the clock starts ticking.
- Kansas City Chiefs-OL Danny Watkins, Baylor. Just like Mike Mayock, I think Watkins is very much a Scott Pioli-kind of player. Versatile. Talented. Tough. A bit under the radar. Watkins can be a very solid blocker for Jamaal Charles for a long time. And that's great news for JC Superstar and his fantasy football owners.
- Indianapolis Colts-OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State. Peyton Manning needs protection and what Peyton needs, the Colts management must give him. I love Sherrod. He played exceptional football in the best league this side of the NFL—the SEC—and should be capable of coming in and making a difference for the Colts immediately. Solid all-around tackle also bolsters a woeful Colts rushing game. If this pick was on Facebook, Peyton would "like" it.
- Miami Dolphins via trade with Philadelphia-QB Colin Kaepernick, Nevada. Hey, the word is that the Dolphins are fascinated by this kid. I personally see him struggling as a pro, but he has ridiculous athletic talent, serious size and a cannon arm. If he hits and Miami can teach this kid how to play at the NFL level, then it's a great get. But it reminds me of the Redskins trading up with Denver a few years ago to take Jason Campbell. Bust alert!
- New Orleans Saints-DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina. Austin is a man. Put him inside with Sedrick Ellis, and Gregg Williams has himself one helluva run-stopping, pocket-collapsing duo at defensive tackle. No need to worry about Austin's troubles at UNC, either. This kid is motivated and crazy talented. Likely a Pro Bowler one day.
- Seattle Seahawks-CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado. Teams love Smith's tangibles on the field. Size, speed, playmaking. It's all there. Off the field, however, is a much different story. Red flags are flying all around this player's character. Few teams and coaches are willing to look past these issues, but Pete Carroll is one of them. He has experience taking kids from bad backgrounds and getting the most out of them at USC and he won't hesitate with someone as talented as Smith.
- Baltimore Ravens-DL Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple. Wilkerson is a big, scheme-diverse guy who should make a nice book end to Haloti Ngata in the Ravens' 3-4 and slide down exceptionally to the 3-technique in nickel packages. Another strong pick for GM Ozzie Newsome.
- Atlanta Falcons-TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame. Tony Gonzalez has had an all-time career for a tight end. But his time is running out. Rudolph will give Matt Ryan another dynamic weapon in the Falcons passing game and he'll get the benefit of learning how to play the position from Gonzo for at least one year. This situation reminds me a lot of the 2001 Ravens with Shannon Sharpe outgoing at TE and Todd Heap incoming.
- New England Patriots-DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State. Is this a record for most Camerons drafted in one round? Probably. But, more important, the rich keep getting richer. Another big versatile 5-technique for Belichick to work with and an opportunity to break some hearts in Pittsburgh.
- Chicago Bears-DT Corey Liuget, Illinois. A lot of folks are going to call me crazy for having Liuget fall this far, but I am not a believer in the kid as a surefire NFL star. That being said, Da Bears will gladly take the local kid to try and fill the hole left by Tommie Harris. Hit or miss. I say miss. Bust alert!
- New York Jets-NG Phil Taylor, Baylor. Taylor is a fantastic fit for Rex Ryan's defense. A fat man to anchor the fat man's 3-4. The only way it could possibly be better is if Taylor had better feet. Pun fully intended. The only question is whether the J-E-T-S fans will cheer it or boo it.
- Pittsburgh Steelers-DB Aaron Williams, Texas. Is he a corner or is he a safety? Well? The answer in Pitsburgh is, to quote The Rock, "It doesn't matter!" Williams is whatever Steelers DC Dick LeBeau needs him to be. Good size at corner or safety. A playmaker. Williams should fit right into one of the most enjoyable defenses to watch in the entire NFL.
- Green Bay Packers-RB Mark Ingram, Alabama. When a guy as NFL ready as Ingram slips all the way to you at pick No. 32, it's a sign. The sign reads "Ryan Grant and James Starks are not the answer." Ingram to the defending Super Bowl champs will be a boon for the Packers as well as for fantasy football players, especially dynasty leaguers.
Hopefully, you've enjoyed this wildly speculative mock as much as I've enjoyed preparing it for you.
Now, kick back and let's all watch the drama unfold for real.