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Defense still rules top of two-round mock draft

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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» Kirwan mock drafts: Version 1.0 | Version 2.0

 

The ripple effect that can take place leading up to the NFL Draft is evident this time of year. Take into account a handful of subpar pro day performances, a few medical issues creating doubt or a prospect or two leaving bad impressions during interviews, and the entire landscape of the draft can be altered.

It's important to remember the rumors, innuendo and smoke screens that create deception surrounding the draft, which then create changes in any mock draft. The latest version of the first round of my two-round mock draft includes 29 of the 32 players from version 2.0, but 24 changes to where those players were selected. The second round has nine new players (three who slid) as choices in the first round changed the direction teams went in the second.

In the end, my third mock drafts looks quite different than my second:

First round

  1. Pick No.
    1
    CAR
    MARCELL DAREUS
    DT
    ALABAMA
     
    There could be a quarterback in this position by the time we get to late April, but after several days in New Orleans with owners, general managers and coaches, there was more doubt than conviction about the top quarterbacks in this draft. The Panthers get an instant starter in Dareus and after thinking seriously about Patrick Peterson and Da'Quan Bowers. This is the safe and solid pick for the Panthers.
  2. Pick No.
    2
    DEN
    DA'QUAN BOWERS
    DE
    CLEMSON
     
    Bowers is close to being healthy enough to work out for teams, and his agent said he's ready now. If Bowers can demonstrate the skills that led to 15.5 sacks last year, he rises right back to the top of the draft.
  3. Pick No.
    3
    BUF
    PATRICK PETERSON
    CB
    LSU
     
    Patrick has Charles Woodson-like qualities as well as terrific return skills. With Ryan Fitzpatrick under center the Bills can afford to wait until pick No. 34 for a quarterback. With Tom Brady in the division, the Bills need a shutdown cornerback.
  4. Pick No.
    4
    CIN
    CAM NEWTON
    QB
    Auburn
     
    Newton was in this spot in my last mock draft and will probably only go up from here. The Bengals need to come to grips with the reality that Carson Palmer means what he says about retiring. Why draft a top wide receiver here if you don't have anyone to throw to him?
  5. Pick No.
    5
    ARI
    VON MILLER
    LB
    TEXAS A&M
     
    Sure, the Cardinals need a quarterback. But they could have their eye on one early in the second round, consider a trade up into the bottom of the first round or a trade for a veteran. In the meantime, they need outside linebacker help and Miller is the best in the draft.
  6. Pick No.
    6
    CLE
    A.J. GREEN
    WR
    GEORGIA
     
    Green has been in this spot in three straight mock drafts. There will be consideration for Julio Jones, but Green is a real playmaker.
  7. Pick No.
    7
    SF
    BLAINE GABBERT
    QB
    MISSOURI
     
    Get the thought out of your head that Jim Harbaugh can wait a year and draft Andrew Luck. There are simply no guarantees that the Niners will even be in that position. Gabbert can run, is very smart and works the underneath passing attack well, all which apply directly to the west coast offense.
  8. Pick No.
    8
    TEN
    NICK FAIRLEY
    DT
    AUBURN
     
    This is the second mock draft in which I've had Fairley dropping to the eighth pick. Too many people at the NFL Annual Meeting felt there are some minor doubts about Fairley. Is it his interviews? His junior college track record, or even his casual style? I've interviewed him four times and he's a football player. A bargain at this spot.
  9. Pick No.
    9
    DAL
    J.J. WATT
    DE
    WISCONSIN
     
    It's time for the Cowboys to peel away from the idea of a cornerback and focus on the big players. A top offensive tackle would be a solid pick here and all will still on the board. But Watt has the size and aggressive style that Rob Ryan is looking for in his version of the 3-4 defense. Watt has been moving up draft boards for weeks now and should crack the top 10.
  10. Pick No.
    10
    WAS
    ROBERT QUINN
    DE
    NORTH CAROLINA
    It looks like the Redskins will have to move up if they want a top quarterback. Quinn can really help their ailing 3-4 hybrid defense, but also has health issues that have to be evaluated due to a benign tumor on his brain. Even so, he is moving up draft boards.
  11. Pick No.
    11
    HOU
    RYAN KERRIGAN
    DE
    PURDUE
     
    Kerrigan is getting favorable reviews from many coaches I've spoken with because of his production, attitude and football intelligence. The Texans need an outside linebacker in their new 3-4 defense to create more pass rush pressure in order to help the secondary. They will get a solid cornerback in the next round.
  12. Pick No.
    12
    MIN
    CAM JORDAN
    DE
    MINNESOTA
     
    The Vikings have needs at quarterback, offensive line and defensive line. Jordan is the son of former Viking tight end Steve Jordan. Watching Jordan's game tapes and his work at the Senior Bowl, he is stout, can hold the point of attack, is nimble and can rush from the edge.
  13. Pick No.
    13
    DET
    ANTHONY CASTONZO
    OT
    Boston College
     
    In my last mock it was OT Nate Solder in this spot, but it was Castonzo who drew the praise from two offensive line coaches I've recently spoken with. His versatility makes him a solid fit for Detroit, especially after Jeff Backus played well last year.
  14. Pick No.
    14
    STL
    JULIO JONES
    WR
    ALABAMA
     
    There's a school of thought that Jones will be gone by this spot, and that may very well be true. For now he's a perfect fit in St. Louis. It will be interesting to see just how high he can go in the draft coming off foot surgery.
  15. Pick No.
    15
    MIA
    PRINCE AMUKAMARA
    CB
    NEBRASKA
     
    This is the first mock draft in which I did not put running back Mark Ingram in this spot. Amukamara had yet to fall this far, but his draft grade dictates taking him here. If Amukamara slips, it will be interesting to see how far Ingram could fall.
  16. Pick No.
    16
    JAC
    ALDON SMITH
    DE
    MISSOURI
     
    My last mock draft had Kerrigan here, but he has been moving up draft boards and should be gone by this spot. Smith had an average pro day, but as many coaches have told me, the pro days are overrated and don't mean much.
  17. Pick No.
    17
    NE
    TYRON SMITH
    OT
    USC
     
    Smith played right tackle at USC but is projected on the left side on the next level. Sebastian Volmer is the right tackle in New England but may even be a better at left tackle. Taking Smith here gives the Patriots flexibility. With another pick at No. 28 they could easily trade out this spot to a team looking for a late first-round quarterback.
  18. Pick No.
    18
    SD
    ADRIAN CLAYBORN
    DE
    IOWA
     
    Clayborn is disruptive and fits in any scheme. He did not have big production during his senior season but is still highly regarded. Quinn was in this spot in my last mock draft, but his stock is rising.
  19. Pick No.
    19
    NYG
    NATE SOLDER
    OT
    Colorado
    The Giants need to overhaul their once great offensive line. Solder is a pure left tackle with pass blocking skills. He offers protection on the blind side for Eli Manning, who is a pocket passer.
  20. Pick No.
    20
    TB
    BRANDON HARRIS
    CB
    MIAMI
     
    The Buccaneers don't play as much cover two as everyone believes, and getting a cornerback with man-to-man skills helps them evolve. Ronde Barber can't play forever and as the Bucs improve, the more they will rely on nickel and dime packages when playing with a lead. Harris will play more than 60 percent of the snaps as a rookie.
  21. Pick No.
    21
    KC
    PHIL TAYLOR
    NT
    BAYLOR
     
    Taylor has held down this spot in my last two mock drafts because he might be the best 3-4 nose tackle in the draft. Chiefs GM Scott Pioli likes to build his teams with big people up front, and Taylor fits the bill.
  22. Pick No.
    22
    IND
    COREY LIUGET
    DT
    ILLINOIS
    The Colts could go offensive lineman here, and I would more than understand that choice with Gabe Carimi still on the board. I watched three games of Liuget this week and was impressed with his disruptive three-technique style. Liuget could really help the Colts defense, which in turn might really help the offense even more.
  23. Pick No.
    23
    PHI
    MIKE POUNCEY
    G/C
    FLORIDA
     
    The Eagles have had issues all over the offensive line and could go with a tackle here. With Howard Mudd coaching the offensive line, he will want a key figure inside and the Eagles need a healthy center. Pouncey is versatile and Mudd gets a guy who can play anywhere.
  24. Pick No.
    24
    NO
    CAM HEYWARD
    DE
    OHIO ST.
     
    The Saints defensive coordinator, Greg Williams, loves versatile players with great passion for the game. Hayward is the son of former Saints running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, and this is the second straight mock draft I've had him in this slot.
  25. Pick No.
    25
    SEA
    JAKE LOCKER
    QB
    WASHINGTON
     
    I recently watched six games of Locker and he has tons of raw talent with at least a year of work to prepare. Re-signing Matt Hasselbeck to a short-term deal would make this a solid pick. Coaches seem to like Locker much more than his media perception as an undisciplined scrambler indicates. Two head coaches have told me they would love to coach Locker, and one compared his style to a young Steve Young.
  26. Pick No.
    26
    BAL
    TORREY SMITH
    WR
    Maryland
     
    It appears Smith has slipped out of the first round for some teams, but he has what the Ravens need most of all: speed. Smith was in this spot in my last mock draft and is a player who can take the top off a defense.
  27. Pick No.
    27
    ATL
    JIMMY SMITH
    CB
    COLORADO
     
    I struggled with this pick and might change it next time around because of the type of players GM Thomas Dimitroff likes to bring into the organization. Smith is a big, nasty cornerback who plays a physical brand of ball. That's appealing, but he has to convince Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith of how he will handle himself on the pro level.
  28. Pick No.
    28
    NE
    MUHAMMAD WILKERSON
    DT
    TEMPLE
    Wilkerson has the traits coach Bill Belichick looks for in his five-technique defensnive ends with height, bulk, long arms and a sub-5.0 time in the 40-yard dash at 315 pounds. I expect this pick to be traded to a team looking for a quarterback before the first round comes to an end and teams go home for the night to regroup.
  29. Pick No.
    29
    CHI
    GABE CARIMI
    OT
    WISCONSIN
     
    The Bears will consider themselves fortunate if Carimi falls to them. They need offensive line help and Carimi is NFL ready. Jay Cutler gets sacked too much and the running game needs to improve. Carimi helps on both fronts.
  30. Pick No.
    30
    NYJ
    AKEEM AYERS
    OLB
    UCLA
     
    The Jets could go with Ayers or Justin Houston here. Looking at more tape of Ayers, he is a smooth athlete with speed and size who can drop in coverage, rush the passer and hold the point of attack.
  31. Pick No.
    31
    PIT
    DEREK SHERROD
    OT
    MISSISSIPPI ST.
    The Steelers will also look at guard Danny Watkins, but an offensive tackle might be a better value. At any rate, the Steelers look to be in position to repair their offensive line issues early in this draft.
  32. Pick No.
    32
    GB
    MARK INGRAM
    RB
    ALABAMA
     
    Surprised Ingram fell this far? Wondering why the Steelers, with Rashard Mendenhall, wouldn't take Ingram with the previous pick? Well, the Steelers like to take the highest ranked player and this is no exception.

Second round

33. New England Patriots, Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia

34. Buffalo Bills, Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

35. Cincinnati Bengals, Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami

36. Denver Broncos, Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

37. Cleveland Browns, Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois

38. Arizona Cardinals, Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

39. Tennessee Titans, Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

40. Dallas Cowboys, Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

41. Washington Redskins, Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada

42. Houston Texans, Davon House, CB, New Mexico St.

43. Minnesota Vikings, Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor

44. Detroit Lions, Curtis Brown, CB, Texas

45. San Francisco 49ers, Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon St

46. Denver Broncos, Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame

47. St. Louis Rams, Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson

48. Oakland Raiders, Ben Ijalana, OG, Villanova

49. Jacksonville Jaguars, Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh

50. San Diego Chargers, Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU

51. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh

52. New York Giants, Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina

53. Indianapolis Colts, Rodney Hudson, G/C, Florida St.

54. Philadelphia Eagles, Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

55. Kansas City Chiefs, Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky

56. New Orleans Saints, Quan Sturdivant, MLB, North Carolina

57. Seattle Seahawks, Rahim Moore, S, UCLA

58. Baltimore Ravens, Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

59. Atlanta Falcons, Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee

60. New England Patriots, Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma

61. San Diego Chargers, Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy State

62. Chicago Bears, Edmond Gates, WR, Abilene Christian

63. Pittsburgh Steelers, Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa

64. Green Bay Packers, Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona

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