Now that the combine is over, we're looking at pro days followed by a month of waiting around, concocting rumors (my personal favorite is when it's called "draft buzz"...nothing has happened, and yet there's a buzz in the air), and thinking about how great all these guys will be for the 2012 season (that statement, by the way, is how I've chosen to gradually get into the reality that there's a very real possibility that there won't be any pro football next year and Andrew Luck and Co. will be the closest thing I'll have).
The combine is great by the way. Imagine ten years ago, they barely let cameras into Indy. Now, we're seeing Patrick Peterson running in slow-mo while wearing a jersey that measured his G-Forces...pretty freggin' great like I said. Taylor Moch from Nevada was doing things large defensive ends/linebackers should not be doing (as in running a 4.45 40 and having a vertical of 42"...very few human beings could do that to begin with...but a linebacker?). Plus, having the name "Moch" and having the ability to run fast, that's a PR dream.
I was hoping I would be the first guy to have the #1 pick I'm going with (oh, suspense), but sure enough, the mock draft I go to first every day because I'm a total dork with this, WalterFootball.com, and he beat me to the punch. Oh well, I'll just have to keep the really good ideas I have really, really good. Easy enough.
Alrighty everyone, start prepping yourselves to wrap your head around this one...
- Carolina- Cam Newton, QB, The Treeless Auburn Tigers: And yes, I did have to mention the fact that they have a bunch of dead trees now because it was almost as huge of a bombshell the Panthers are most likely going to attempt in the draft. Like I said in my first version of this, evaluators have this guy going in the 15-20 range. However, in just taking a step back, you realize these four things. 1.) Carolina's GM has come out and said that QB was their #1 priority, 2.) Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen, who, while Panther fans did want to like, totally suck right now, 3.) The Panthers are in a situation now where they have been a team long enough to have a somewhat "ensconced" fanbase. By that I mean that kids who grew up watching the Panthers are now in the adult range, meaning they're having babies who will be Panther fans, and on it goes...but this is a very impressionable group (by that I mean spend the most $$$ at a game), and if you were going to sell the Panthers, the only guy in this draft that will absolutely drum up box office fever, and it's Cam Newton...leading to #4) Southern people love them some college football, yes they do. You have the best collegiate player going to a college football loving demographic (they also really love high school football in the Charlotte/Rock Hill area), you can't miss. The Jake Delhomme/John Fox era, while being surprisingly good at times (Super Bowl XXXVIII anyone?), for the most part was not very good and highly inconsistent. I still think that you have the best 1-2 at running backs in DeAngelo and Jon Stewart, so that's going to take a bunch of heat off, plus he's an athlete, meaning he can overcome the horrendousness that is Carolina's O-Line. Just thought of this one though...it's good idea time by the way...if the Panthers know that there will be no football this year, they will pick #1 again in 2012, meaning they would get Andrew Luck, the guy they wanted the whole time, which would not really make it necessary to take Newton. Andrew Luck or Cam Newton...Newton can make that argument look like Marino/Elway or Bledsoe/Rick Mirer...there may be some colossal ups and downs here.
- Denver- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: I do think that Denver has the cushiest spot in the draft. For all intensive purposes, they are picking #1 at this point because I think there is a very small window of teams who are liking Cam Newton (for numerous reasons...need, character, etc.). Fairley would be the #1 pick in any year but this one. Again though, this is kind of up in the air. Denver could absolutely trade out of here knowing full well they'll either get the DT or DE that they so desperately need. Would not be surprised if there is some kind of J.J. Watt scenario going on here.
- Buffalo- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M: I think Miller is such a beast that he jumps Da'Quan Bowers and lands in Buffalo. I've watched him...this is easy money.
- Cincinnati- Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Cincy is just in total shambles right now. Carson Palmer does not fit in with that team at all. I think really, the only reason this lasted so long was that they were winning before, and winning helps out somewhat divided locker rooms...but going 4-12 will end that real quick. So that offense is going to take a while to build, so Marvin Lewis will want some kind of defensive resurrection in the meantime.
- Arizona- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Too good to pass up. This is like what Eric Berry was to KC last year. It's not their top need, but you just can't let Peterson go.
- Cleveland- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: This is a guy that may re-shape the top 5 based on someone moving ahead of Cleveland to take Dareus. In the current landscape, the only thing more valuable than a franchise QB is a stud defensive tackle. Dareus' name can be found at the top of a few people's boards.
- San Francisco- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Sometimes, teams really help us mock draft people out by releasing a big-name starter that, because of said transaction happening, makes them crank up the departed's position to #1 on the needs list. Nate Clements is on the market, and the Niners need someone who can step in right away.
- Tennessee- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Fact: The QBs available to the Titans will only be able to stop the Vince Young bleeding for a year or two, and they have shown a proclivity to hold back on their rookie QBs. Maybe I'm wrong about Gabbert...it's doubtful though.
- Dallas- Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina: When in doubt, give Dallas one of those DE/OLB hybrids and call it a day.
- Washington- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: This would be a huge get for the 'Skins. I don't know how in the world a scenario like this could play out. Green is in the top 5 of pretty much everyone's board, so for him to get to #10, the draft would have to shake out close to how I have it here.
- Houston- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: What Houston will likely be doing here is taking the best pass-rush option available. Watt is a guy I had in the 20s last time around, but there is serious, serious buzz going on about Watt. So much so that he may get closer to the top 5.
- Minnesota- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: The only hesitation I have here is that Jones is going to have surgery on his fractured foot which he still ran a sub 4.4 40 on Sunday. With Sidney Rice likely moving on to a new locale, the Vikings will be looking for a #1 receiver. Jones and A.J. Green are almost on par with each other with Green getting just the slightest edge right now.
- Detroit- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: Solder is still the #1 tackle on the board, but Tyron Smith may be able to make up the ground needed to slip in at #13 ahead of Solder. It makes the most sense to have the franchise left tackle be the Lions' weapon of choice.
- St. Louis- Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri: The Rams will be looking to move up the board with both A.J. Green and Julio Jones likely gone before the pick gets to the Rams. If they are still here, I would think the attention would turn to the pass rush. Smith is a giant individual...I mean he's a really big dude. If his athleticism can be honed in to rushing the QB, he could get close to double-digit sacks this year.
- Miami- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: I think this is the first pick I have that was the same from last time. The top 15 will probably contain all of these guys, but the order can be any number of things. I think if you're looking for a "lock," this has to be it. I can't see it shaking out any different no matter who's available so long as Ingram is there.
- Jacksonville- Cameron Jordan, DE, California: Jordan could possibly be the most athletically gifted pure D-End in the draft. The Jags are in absolute desperation to get a pass-rushing end, and if Jordan fell this far, they would be able to fill that need with a top 10 talent.
- New England (from OAK)- Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal: It's tough for me to not have Justin Houston here, because he is my guy and all, but at some point, the Pats are going to have to address their line situation. Drafting Smith would likely mean Sebastian Vollmer would move over to left tackle, as Smith almost exclusively played right tackle in college.
- San Diego- Muhammad Wilkinson, DE/DT, Temple: Again, it feels like San Diego will be looking for end help, and more specifically, a five-tech D-End. Wilkinson does not get a ton of pub coming from D-2, but a lot of scouts believe he can make an immediate impact wherever he goes.
- New York Giants- Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College: The Giants just desperately need a tackle, and Costanzo has passed Gabe Carimi for the #3 OT in the draft.
- Tampa Bay- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: The Bucs need sacks, and they have got to get it here. So, there are options, but most likely, you're looking at Kerrigan or Adrian Clayborn here.
- Kansas City- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: While O-Tackle and nose tackle could potentially be bigger needs, the Chiefs will have to address their OLB situation sometime in the near future with the pending retirement of Mike Vrabel.
- Indianapolis- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: While it's rare that Indy would take an offensive lineman this high, I think that the need for a bookend on the line is huge.
- Philadelphia- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Smith is a freakish athlete, but his only problem was an average combine that allowed guys like Aaron Williams and Brandon Harris to close the gap on the #3 CB.
- New Orleans- Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: After Paea broke the all-time record for bench press at the combine (repped 225 lbs. 49 times), he definitely showed that he has the ability to take on multiple blockers up the middle, something the Saints desperately need after their run defense was torched last year (see Marshawn Lynch and what will now be known as "The Run").
- Seattle- Jake Locker, QB, Washington: The combine could have only helped Locker, who is one of the most athletically gifted QBs not only in this draft, but possibly to have ever gone through the process. Also, it will be so easy to sell Seahawk fans on this pick.
- Baltimore- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: No team in the league is more about the U than these guys.
- Atlanta- Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland: This guy was impressive pre-combine, but his stock is up to the point that there's no way he gets out of the first round. I think Baltimore is a threat to steal Smith, but if they go corner, I don't see how the Falcons pass on Smith here.
- New England- Justin Houston, OLB/DE, Georgia: I swear, this is how this version just kind of shook out. I again think that Houston is going to go anywhere from around 15-25, meaning the Pats will have to take him at #17. Could not be a bigger fan of Houston. Loved watching him play against USC, especially the past two seasons.
- Chicago- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: The Bears just cut Tommie Harris, again, a big red flag in terms of what a team's needs become. That red zone receiver in Jonathan Baldwin will be dangling here...very tricky situation. Also, Jay Cutler getting crushed against Green Bay is what cost them their season, so O-Line help could be something to keep in mind.
- New York Jets- Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor: After the Jets' defensive fire sale, clearly, it has to be a speed rusher or a nose tackle. In a 3-4, this is by far the most important player in the scheme. If you don't have the absolutely mammoth guy eating up blocks in the middle, then it just doesn't work. Kris Jenkins is out, and Taylor is the closest they will get to replacing him.
- Pittsburgh- Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: In my mind, there are only three guys that could possibly go here. Sherrod was here for me the first time around and I'm sticking with that purely because I think he'll be solid. The others to keep in mind are Ben Ijalana from 'Nova, who could play either tackle or guard, and Danny Watkins, guard from Baylor.
- Green Bay- Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: Of everyone, this is the most complete team right now, which is great because while there will be a lot of need-based drafting, the Pack will be looking for value. Williams projects to the point where putting him this low seems like a mistake.
Another marker towards the draft has been passed. Next up, pro days. Also, if the NFL locks out, I'm officially changing the Panthers pick strictly due to the fact that they want Andrew Luck real bad, so be on the lookout for that. Hope all is well wherever you are. Take care. Peace.