This is the first of what will be many weekly mock drafts from TheJaggernaut.com.
1 - Carolina Panthers
PATRICK PETERSON - CB - Lousiana State
Nick Fairley is the popular selection for the first overall selection in the draft with Da'Quan Bowers coming in closely behind, but I feel that the Panthers need to go with the best player available draft mentality, making Peterson the pick. Fairley's on-field maturity problems make him an understandable player to pass on with the first pick and Bowers doesn't necessarily represent a need with Charles Johnson racking up sacks for the defense. With those factors in mind, the Panthers are free to select the best player available whom I believe to be Peterson.
2. Denver Broncos
NICK FAIRLEY - DT - Auburn
The Broncos have not made a committment to either the 3-4 or 4-3 defensive alignment and Fairley would allow them to make up their mind in either direction. Despite his on-field maturity issues, his talent is enough to prevent him from falling out of the first few picks in this year's draft. With the possible departure of Champ Bailey, Peterson was likely to be the target had he not been selected with the first overall pick by Carolina. That said, Nick Fairley represents very little drop off in talent.
3. Buffalo Bills
A.J. GREEN - WR - Georgia
Keeping with the trend of SEC players drafted, the Bills select the consensus best receiver and, possibly even, best offensive player in the draft. The Bills have not shied away from drafting playmaker talent with their early picks and showed that by drafting C.J. Spiller with the 9th overall selection in 2010. Couple Green with Spiller and their once woeful offense will begin to take shape as a possibly explosive offense in the future.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
DA'QUAN BOWERS - DE - Clemson
The Bengals are in a quandry where they can really pick any position because their needs are sporadic. Peterson, Fairley and Green all could've been the selection, but with those three off the board Bowers becomes the selection. Carlos Dunlap has quickly established himself as the starting defensive end, but the other side of the line can only be described as a logjam with Odom, Johnson and Gaethers all fighting for playing time. With Bowers, the Bengals will have two legitimate starting defensive ends with strong rotational depth at the position.
5. Arizona Cardinals
VON MILLER - LB - Texas A&M
This isn't the most popular pick being mocked to the Cardinals right now, but I believe it is one that would immediately come in and make an impact for the team. They have a need at OLB and also need a pass rusher. With Von Miller they get both and they get a player who will help to shore up a defense that allowed the league's third highest point total. Miller is flying up boards and with good reason. I wouldn't expect the combine to break that trend.
6. Cleveland Browns
PRINCE AMUKAMARA - CB - Nebraska
What's better than one young stud cornerback? Two young stud cornerbacks. The Browns defense gets even better with a potential shutdown corner to match with their 2010 first round pick, Joe Haden. Amukamara wont be forced into a number one role right away as Haden proved to be more than capabale as the year went on. Furthermore, Prince will fit in perfectly with a defense that has begun to establish themselves as a blue-collar, hard-hitting defense.
7. San Francisco 49ers
ROBERT QUINN - OLB - North Carolina
Some have rated Quinn as the number one 3-4 outside linebacker, ahead of Von Miller. The 49ers don't have a large need at the position, but pass rushers are a premium and Quinn could make an immediate impact for a defense that still needs to compile playmakers.
8. Tennessee Titans
BLAINE GABBERT - QB - Missouri
With the Vince Young and Jeff Fisher days over in Tennessee, their new coach will be looking to start his regime off with a quarterback of his own. Lucky for him, he has his pick of the litter and ultimately gets to choose between Gabbert and Newton. The choice is interesting, especially for a franchise that spent the last five years with a very Newton-esque playing starting for them at quarterback. Perhaps that will be a swaying point for the Titans, but for me I'm selecting the top QB on my board who happens to be Gabbert.
9. Dallas Cowboys
MARCELL DAREUS - DE - Alabama
The Dallas Cowboys are in shambles and look to have a project ahead of them in rebuilding their teams. There are playmakers on both sides of the ball with which they can build around, but their focus will need to be accumulating as much talent as possible. Lucky for them, Dareus represents a top 5 talent that fell to the back half of the top 10.
10. Washington Redskins
CAMERON JORDAN - DE - California
To put it simply, the Redskins defense wasn't very good in 2010. There are playmakers on that defense, namely Brian Orakpo, but he needs help. Cameron Jordan has been a dominant force during the draft process so far, and has justifably earned himself draft stock in the top 10 of the 2011 draft. He will help the Redskins to forget the mess that is, and has been, Albert Haynesworth.
11. Houston Texans
STEPHEN PAEA - DT - Oregon State
The Texans need a nose tackle badly for their switch to a 3-4. Paea represents a reach at this point in time, but a strong combine performance could possibly justify such an early selection. With Paea taking up space in the middle, perhaps the Texans can help to fix up a defense that was very bad in 2010.
12. Minnesota Vikings
CAMERON NEWTON - QB - Auburn
Brad Childress messed up and mortgaged this team's future to help the Vikings win now. It didn't work. The Vikings under Leslie Frazier now have a project on their hands and a franchise quarterback can help that process to begin. As much as Joe Webb was fun to watch against the Philadelphia Eagles, it's foolish to think he'll be the franchise guy for the Vikings. Newton on the other hand can be. For the record, I wouldn't touch him if I were the Jaguars.
13. Detroit Lions
AKEEM AYERS - LB - UCLA
Zack Follett has played well for the Lions at outside linebacker, but an injury that forced him to injured reserve casts his 2011 in doubt as he will have to recover from injury. Ayers would provide the Lions with a playmaking, athletic linebacker to compliment Follett and make their linebacking cores among the best in the NFC North.
14. St. Louis Rams
JULIO JONES - WR - Alabama
Quick, name a Rams receiver. Anyone? Julio Jones is the instant number one receiver for Sam Bradford and the rebuilt Rams offense. When I watch Jones, I see Reggie Williams, who requires no introduction at a Jaguars website. However, Jones appears to be the consensus number two receiver in the draft and the Rams are downright desperate for a weapon for their young quarterback.
15. Miami Dolphins
MIKE POUNCEY - G - Florida
Mike Pouncey is not prepared to be the center that his brother Maurkice has been for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he does represent a talented player at guard. The Dolphins have some talent on their offensive line and with Pouncey it's difficult to imagine that offense not finding success no matter who's at the skill positions.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars
JAKE LOCKER - QB - Washington
The popular selections for the Jaguars at this point in time seem to all be defensive ends and I'm not sure I entirely understand that. Austen Lane, Larry Hart, Jeremy Mincey, Aaron Kampman and Aaron Morgan all represent players who could see significant play time for the Jaguars in 2011 and that's not a particularly bad group. In my opinion, the Jaguars have the luxury to select the best available player and for me that is Jake Locker.
The biggest negatives on Locker have been his footwork and accuracy, which to me appear to be one in the same. He would not be able to be plugged in as the starting quarterback right away, but his talent, upside, intelligence and intangibles will allow him to adjust to the professional level and eventually be an excellent quarterback in the NFL.
17. New England Patriots
ALDON SMITH - DE - Missouri
The Patriots don't have any glaring weakness on their team that needs to be addressed, but they could use a pass rushing OLB to help wreak havoc on defense. Ryan Kerrigan could be considered for the role, but without his hand on the ground I'm not sure he'd be as effective. Aldon Smith, alternatively, is a player that could make an effective transition to a 3-4 defense and be a ferocious pass rusher for the Patriots.
18. San Diego Chargers
JUSTIN HOUSTON - LB - Georgia
Long gone are the days of Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips teaming up to rack up sacks for the Chargers. Phillips is still going strong for the Chargers, but replacing Merriman hasn't been easy for the Chargers. Larry English hasn't done much for the Chargers in his two years at OLB and Houston would provide some competition at the position. Houston is strong and fast enough to be a strong pass rusher for San Diego. The Chargers also pass on Kerrigan for the same reason as the Patriots.
19. New York Giants
MARK INGRAM - RB - Alabama
The Giants have a need at running back and lucky for them, the best one in a few years falls into their laps. Ingram is an every downs guy that can provide a strong running threat to their defense and allow Ahmad Bradshaw to go back into the understudy role he excels in.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RYAN KERRIGAN - DE - Purdue
In the 2010 draft the Buccaneers rebuilt the interior of the defensive line in similar fashion as the Jaguars, drafting Gerald McCoy and Brian Price with their first two selections. With Kerrigan they continue to infuse young talent to the front line of their defense to match the young talent they have at their skill positions on offense.
21. Kansas City Chiefs
PHIL TAYLOR - NT - Baylor
The Kansas City Chiefs are a team on the rise and that is because of excellent drafting in 2010. Question Haley's coaching all you want, but Pioli is putting a lot of talent in place for the team. He continues the trend with Phil Taylor who can become an anchor in the middle of the Chiefs interior defensive line.
22. Indianapolis Colts
DEREK SHERROD - OT - Mississippi State
Bill Polian has essentially said he regrets his 2010 draft in which he passed on offensive tackle Roger Saffold for defensive end Jerry Hughes. Lucky for him, he gets to pick any tackle he wants despite being 22nd in the pecking order. Sherrod is my highest rated offensive tackle at this point in time and as such, he is the pick.
23. Philadelphia Eagles
BRANDON HARRIS - CB - Miami (FL)
Asante Samuel has played well for the Eagles, but across from him is a giant hole. Assuming they don't fill the hole during free agency (which is very possible if there is free agency) they can do so with Brandon Harris who is the number two cornerback on some boards.
24. New Orleans Saints
ADRIAN CLAYBORN - DE - Iowa
The Saints were not as good as expected in 2010, but despite this they are still a strong football team with very few needs. However, a big body defensive end like Clayborn that can be an every downs player would make an immediate impact on the team and help to further solidify an already very good defense.
25. Seattle Seahawks
RYAN MALLETT - QB - Arkansas
Well the playoff run was fun, but let's be honest, this is a team that should be in the upper half of this year's draft. They have large problems and need to find a franchise quarterback to replace Matt Hasselbeck not named Charlie Whitehurst. Ryan Mallett isn't my favorite quarterback prospect, but that's strictly based on what's between the ears. Physically, Mallett is a superior prospect who has plenty of potential to be a franchise quarterback and because of that, he wont fall out of the first round.
26. Baltimore Ravens
JONATHAN BALDWIN - WR - Pittsburgh
The Ravens' playoff loss to the Steelers was a perfect display of Baltimore's receiving woes. They tried to fix the position by signing Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the 2010 offseason, but that clearly wasn't enough. Instead they'll get the opportunity to bring in Jonathan Baldwin whom I believe to be the 2nd best receiver in the draft after A.J. Green.
27. Atlanta Falcons
KYLE RUDOLPH - TE - Notre Dame
Matt Ryan has found a lot of success with a good tight end added to his list of weapons in Tony Gonzalez. Unfortunately for Ryan, Gonzalez is turning 35 this month and will need to be replaced. With that bad news comes good news and that is that the 2011 draft's best tight end, Kyle Rudolph, made it far enough down in the draft to where he can provide that seamless transition for the Falcons offense.
28. New England Patriots
ANTHONY CASTONZO - OT - Boston College
The Patriots success in recent years has been due mostly to an offensive line that has been able to control the line of scrimmage and also keep Tom Brady upright. Continuing to stockpile talent on the offensive line is a move I'd expect of Bill Belichick and who better than the local giant to fill that role? Castonzo is a player that could potentially become the franchise left tackle for the Patriots and protect Tom Brady for the rest of his career.
29. Chicago Bears
NATE SOLDER - OT - Colorado
It's probably painful for the Bears to watch so many offensive tackles slip to the latter half of the round and then watch a streak of lineman come off the board, but at least they were lucky enough to have the colossus Solder available to them in the first round. Solder will probably have to come in right away and help to prevent Cutler from taking another beating like the one he took in 2010.
30. New York Jets
J.J. WATT - DE - Wisconsin
Neither Jason Taylor or Vernon Gholston are cutting it for the Jets defensive line so the Jets can look to help fix that problem. With Watt's size he can play as a defensive end in any scheme and excel and it wouldn't not be surprising to see him do so in New York.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers
JIMMY SMITH - CB - Colorado
Ike Taylor is a solid cornerback for the Steelers, but a new face in the secondary couldn't hurt as their depth is thin and Bryant McFadden is probably best served as a nickelback. Jimmy Smith is a tall corner with size that can compete with the bigger and stronger receivers of the league.
32. Green Bay Packers
MIKEL LESHOURE - RB - Illinois
It's hard to find too many weaknesses on a Super Bowl winning team, but the Packers have one glaring hole in their team and that's at running back. Despite having little talent at the position, the Packers continued to bang their head against a wall and try to run anyway. With Leshoure, their running game can become a legitimate threat for their offense and not just a ploy to remain balanced.