NFL teams will not be going through the exercise of a mock draft until mid-April, but with the East-West Shrine Game, Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror, it's a good time to see how the first round of the draft is shaping up. Pro days are firing up this week and teams will be bringing in up to 30 prospects for individual workouts over the next eight weeks, which means much will change before the April 28-30 draft.
Here's the first of several mock drafts I will be doing over the next two months:
1. Carolina Panthers
2. Denver Broncos
3. Buffalo Bills
Some will say Ryan Fitzpatrick is just fine, and that might be true, but you never pass on a franchise quarterback. Gabbert would not have to play right away, which is ideal. Still, with Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez in the division, it might be time to get a talented youngster for the position. This could turn into the spot Cam Newton goes, but I will go with things I heard at the combine at this point. If teams like San Francisco or Washington want a QB they might have to move up.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
5. Arizona Cardinals
If history is any indicator of what happens in a draft, then the Cardinals might find the top two quarterbacks gone by this point. Miller is an outstanding talent and a great selection here. He starts from Day 1 and will be a pass-rush factor.
6. Cleveland Browns
The Browns lost all of their playmakers over the past few years and Colt McCoy needs a No. 1 receiver. One general manager told me at the combine that Julio Jones had a great weekend, "but there is something special about Green as a playmaker." While the Browns need a defensive end and right tackle, they will expect to cover those issues in the second and third round.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Even though the 49ers might want a QB here, it is a bit high to take Jake Locker. Peterson is an outstanding corner/safety. The Niners have 10 draft picks and should be able to address most of their needs even if they have to move up in other rounds.
8. Tennessee Titans
9. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys need a corner and a right tackle, but unless they shore up the defensive front they aren't going anywhere. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants athletic people up front who can handle all the schemes he's going to throw at opponents.
10. Washington Redskins
Jones put on a show at the combine and then the news came down about his foot injury. He could fall from this spot at a later date, yet right now he fits a need for Washington, and his grade warrants the selection here. Will the Redskins consider Locker? He has skills like Jake Plummer, and Mike Shanahan got all the way to the AFC Championship Game with Plummer.
11. Houston Texans
12. Minnesota Vikings
13. Detroit Lions
14.St. Louis Rams
15. Miami Dolphins
This is a popular pick for the Dolphins, but I suspect there could easily be another position player in this spot by the draft.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars
17. New England Patriots
18. San Diego Chargers
Smith is an edge player who could work out as a defensive end or outside linebacker. In the meantime, he works as a pass rusher. The Chargers could go inside linebacker, another top need, in the next round.
19. New York Giants
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It's no secret the Bucs need an outside pass rusher. They will look at Cam Heyward, but they might have to move up to get one of the better pass rushers.
21. Kansas City Chiefs
22. Indianapolis Colts
23. Philadelphia Eagles
He's a big corner with a physical attitude. He was awarded the "Gatorade" shirt 17 times at Colorado for knocking a wide receiver right off the field.
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24. New Orleans Saints
25. Seattle Seahawks
26. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have a fine offense with very little speed at wide receiver. Smith can fly and he has return skills. He's a nice complement to Anquan Boldin.
27. Atlanta Falcons
Baldwin has a physical presence at 6-4 and 228 pounds. A bit raw but Matt Ryan will get him up and running in no time. With Roddy White on the other side, opponents will have matchup problems.
28. New England Patriots
29. Chicago Bears
30. New York Jets
The Jets need an edge rusher as well as a defensive end, but at this point in the first round the OLB is a higher-graded player. Ayers looks the part and will make the big play. He could fall out of the first round if his film study by the coaches leave them with more questions than answers.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers
32. Green Bay Packers
The Packers build through the draft and here's a guy that could play 10 years. Pouncey told me he can play tackle as well, and that kind of versatility is what every team is looking for. He measured 6-5 and 303 pounds at the combine and is plenty big enough for any spot up front.