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Elite defensive players go early in scout's mock draft

Everyone has a mock draft. And most, come April 28, won't mean much.

But prior to the big show in New York City, there are 32 draft boards that really do matter. Those are the projections made in team war rooms that can guide how far a club thinks it needs to trade up to get a player, and how far it believes it can deal down without really regretting it.

With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to seek out a college scout to put together his own mock draft. And one I know from an AFC team was nice enough to take on the task.

Here is his take on how the first 32 picks could shake out:

First round

  1. Pick No.
    1
    CAR
    MARCELL DAREUS
    DT
    Alabama
     
    Dareus has a well-rounded skill set on the interior. Nick Fairley gets the hype, but Dareus is the best defensive tackle in this draft.
  2. Pick No.
    2
    DEN
    PATRICK PETERSON
    CB
    LSU
     
    Cornerback Champ Bailey was re-signed, but he isn't getting any younger.
  3. Pick No.
    3
    BUF
    VON MILLER
    LB
    Texas A&M
     
    A Derrick Thomas-type pass-rushing talent off the edge for the Bills.
  4. Pick No.
    4
    CIN
    DA'QUAN BOWERS
    DE
    Clemson
     
    A huge need for the Bengals, and they get the best defensive end in the draft.
  5. Pick No.
    5
    ARI
    CAM NEWTON
    QB
    Auburn
     
    The pick here could be Blaine Gabbert, too, but with Miller off the board, it will be a quarterback.
  6. Pick No.
    6
    CLE
    A.J. GREEN
    WR
    Georgia
     
    Their young quarterback needs weapons, and Green is the best non-quarterback offensive player in this draft. Some would argue he is the best offensive player in the draft, period.
  7. Pick No.
    7
    SF
    NICK FAIRLEY
    DT
    AUBURN
     
    Fairley is not an ideal fit for their defensive scheme, but the 49ers can't pass on his elite talent if he drops to them here.
  8. Pick No.
    8
    TEN
    BLAINE GABBERT
    QB
    MISSOURI
     
    Some people feel as if Gabbert is a lock to be a top-5 pick, but he's got some "bust" factor to him, so he falls to the Titans.
  9. Pick No.
    9
    DAL
    ANTHONY CASTONZO
    OT
    BOSTON COLLEGE
     
    If this seems high for Castonzo, it is. The Cowboys would love to move back in the first round to get him, but this is an enormous area of need for this team.
  10. Pick No.
    10
    WAS
    JAKE LOCKER
    QB
    WASHINGTON
    The Redskins could go with wide receiver Julio Jones here, too. But if they trade back to try and get Locker, they risk not getting him at all. They'll take him here.
  11. Pick No.
    11
    HOU
    JULIO JONES
    WR
    ALABAMA
     
    Sure, they have tons of needs as Wade Phillips installs a new 3-4 defense, but in the end they'll be thrilled to match Jones with Andre Johnson.
  12. Pick No.
    12
    MIN
    CAMERON JORDAN
    DE
    CAL
     
    It's no secret the Vikings need help along the defensive line, and they could lose Ray Edwards.
  13. Pick No.
    13
    DET
    NATE SOLDER
    OT
    COLORADO
     
    It's the safe, smart pick. There's nothing sexy about this strategy; Jim Schwartz just needs to keep his quarterback upright in 2011.
  14. Pick No.
    14
    STL
    ALDON SMITH
    DE
    MISSOURI
     
    They wanted A.J. Green or Julio Jones with this pick, and could opt to move back if both receivers are gone.
  15. Pick No.
    15
    MIA
    ROBERT QUINN
    DE
    NORTH CAROLINA
     
    Mark Ingram is the easy pick with this one, but the Dolphins will opt to go defense here and take a running back with their next pick.
  16. Pick No.
    16
    JAC
    PRINCE AMUKAMARA
    CB
    NEBRASKA
     
    The Jaguars are thrilled that a top-level athlete like Amukamara falls to them here.
  17. Pick No.
    17
    NE
    J.J. WATT
    DE
    WISCONSIN
     
    This is terrific value for the Patriots at No. 17. Ingram could also be an option here.
  18. Pick No.
    18
    SD
    RYAN KERRIGAN
    DE
    PURDUE
     
    They would rather have Aldon Smith or Quinn here, but the Chargers will happily take Kerrigan and address a position of need.
  19. Pick No.
    19
    NYG
    GABE CARIMI
    OT
    WISCONSIN
    The biggest area of need for the Giants is addressed.
  20. Pick No.
    20
    TB
    AKEEM AYERS
    OLB
    UCLA
     
    Ayers is a very balanced football player who will be solid in coverage assignments in the Bucs' defensive scheme.
  21. Pick No.
    21
    KC
    PHIL TAYLOR
    DT
    BAYLOR
     
    Taylor might not have a great motor, but these big two-gap players are tough to find, and he's helped himself with a solid Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
  22. Pick No.
    22
    IND
    COREY LIUGET
    DT
    ILLINOIS
    Either way, the Colts will go offensive or defensive line with this pick.
  23. Pick No.
    23
    PHI
    JIMMY SMITH
    CB
    COLORADO
     
    : Smith could surprise some people and go higher than No. 23, and the Eagles are thrilled to get him here. If he drops, it will be due to character concerns, not football ability.
  24. Pick No.
    24
    NO
    RAHIM MOORE
    S
    UCLA
     
    The Saints address a big need with the best safety in the draft.
  25. Pick No.
    25
    SEA
    ADRIAN CLAYBORN
    DE
    IOWA
     
    Clayborn falls a bit and the Seahawks address a need on their defensive line.
  26. Pick No.
    26
    BAL
    BRANDON HARRIS
    CB
    MIAMI
     
    Harris is a player on the rise and could go higher than this. The Ravens would be thrilled to pick him up at No. 26.
  27. Pick No.
    27
    ATL
    MIKE POUNCEY
    C/G
    FLORIDA
     
    The Falcons will likely draft the best player on their board at No. 27 due to multiple needs, but Pouncey would upgrade the interior of their offensive line.
  28. Pick No.
    28
    NE
    MARK INGRAM
    RB
    ALABAMA
    His marginal timed speed causes him to drop, and the Patriots will benefit from it by getting the best running back in the draft.
  29. Pick No.
    29
    CHI
    MUHAMMAD WILKERSON
    DE
    Temple
     
    He's a versatile player who will help the Bears on their defensive line.
  30. Pick No.
    30
    NYJ
    JUSTIN HOUSTON
    OLB
    Georgia
     
    This is a big need for the Jets. Houston has pass-rushing ability and a thick, well-built lower body.
  31. Pick No.
    31
    PIT
    TYRON SMITH
    OT
    USC
    Smith drops right into the Steelers' lap in this mock. Though Smith might not fall this far, the Steelers wouldn't pass on him if he did.
  32. Pick No.
    32
    GB
    DANNY WATKINS
    G
    BAYLOR
     
    Watkins is an instant starter for the Packers. He is an older player who plays with a mean streak.

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