It’s tonight. Obviously it’s easy to forget considering the deep labor freeze. There are some stories about the lockout being lifted, court thingies – but for one day it’s football. Note that I do not make any assumptions about trades – and I am not trying to predict the 32 picks, but to assign best value and needs to teams, what they SHOULD do.
1. Carolina Panthers take Cam Newton, QB – Auburn … I think there is a lot of reason not to make the pick. Newton is not the most polished QB of this group – but he has the most talent. His resume is thin, but remarkable – you see the same things I do. This could be an epic bust for the Panthers, but for a team in their state, if you want a face of a franchise QB, he’s your best shot.
2. Denver Broncos take Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama … Denver’s defense has issues. They struggled against the run, without Elvis Dumervil their pass defense struggled too. With a new coach and defensive scheme, getting an impact defender makes sense. Dareus is the best player in a key position.
3. Buffalo Bills take Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M … really #2 and #3 are about systems more than anything else. Bills run a 3-4, Miller makes more sense there. I am not sure he has the bulk to be a DE. Obviously Dwight Freeney disspelled some of this, but that is not a gamble you want to make at #2.
4. Cincinnati Bengals take AJ Green, WR, Georgia … best WR in the draft, though Julio Jones is at least as impactful. The Bengals have a stout defense, but a pathetic offense, with uncertainty at QB. Noodle armed Carson Palmer wants out, and their top receivers returns are questionable. While Blaine Gabbert is interesting here as a QB choice – I think Green can do them more long term good, especially if they suck enough to take Andrew Luck next year.
5. Arizona Cardinals take Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri … clearly the Cardinals need a quarterback. This is not to sate Larry Fitzgerald, who wants a veteran QB. Indeed, the Cardinals might placate him – regardless of that, they could use a long term answer. Gabbert is the best thrower of the group and is not at all unmobile.
6. Cleveland Browns take Julio Jones, WR, Alabama … Colt McCoy is going to be a good quarterback. Peyton Hillis is a good running back, even if he is going to suffer a devastating career ending injury this year. The team lacks weapons on offense otherwise though. The defense showed spunk at times a season ago. Patrick Peterson makes sense here too – only because he is a screaming value. But Jones can be a superstar WR, I am a big believer.
7. San Francisco 49ers take Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU … Peterson is the best player in the draft. The best cornerback, the most devastating kick returner. To get him at 7 is a huge value. Even if they have needs on offense, this is too good to pass up.
8. Tennessee Titans take Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn … Fairley had #1 buzz early on. He is the upside guy among the DL. His motor is questionable but his skillset is not. At #8 this is the sort of mistake you live with. The Titans have missed Albert Haynesworth – this would help a ton.
9. Dallas Cowboys take Prince Amukamura, CB, Nebraska … Dallas was a horrendous pass defense a year ago. This can be solved either with superior pass rush or with superior coverage. Amukamura is a better player, presto.
10. Washington Redskins take Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina … Their offensive line is decrepit, and this is where the lineman could start going. However, I am a big believer in taking value and not becoming slaves to position. Quinn is a top 5 talent. He hasn’t played in a year, but that’s also one year less wear and tear.
11. Houston Texans take Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri … Aldon Smith can be a force as a hybrid elephant LB/DE in a 3-4, which the Texans are switching to. In a related story their defense was awesomely bad a year ago. A pass rush would really come in handy.
12. Minnesota Vikings take Anthony Costanzo, T, Boston College … the Vikings are not far away, so their needs are tricky to pick. However, Costanzo is the best most versatile offensive linemen in the draft.
13. Detroit Lions take Cameron Jordan, DE, California … the Lions need impact players on defense. Ndamukong Suh was obviously brilliant a year ago triggering a really good defensive line. Jordan can bulk up to be a run stopping end, and could slim down to provide some pass coverage possibly.
14. Saint Louis Rams take Tyron Smith, T, USC … the Rams did well rebuilding some of their offense a year ago. However, they still could use a stouter line and a better ability to score. Obviously defense is also possible, especially building line depth. But taking value here makes sense.
15. Miami Dolphins take Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida … the Dolphins need firepower really, but nobody here delivers that. Their defense is pretty solid, but building up their line makes sense. Pouncey is not as highly regarded as his brother, but he is going to produce immediately.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars take Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois … the Jaguars need more power up front, especially with their previous picks for this not being so hot. Liuget can cause some havoc up front and give themselves some help. Once again, no value offensive impact here.
17. New England Patriots take Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson … the Patriots only have a few needs. Sure Bowers is not a clear fit for their 3-4, but he is the best pass rusher in the draft. He could have serious medical issues, but let’s say you get 4 years of Charles Haley like production before he falls to pieces. Would you take that with the #17 pick? An elite specialist? So would I.
18. San Diego Chargers take JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin … JJ Watt is a defensive end with good versatility to be both a run stopper and pass defender. The Chargers don’t need much, they just need to play better, but improving the defensive front is never a bad idea.
19. New York Giants take Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue … the Giants can never have enough defensive lineman depth. Without any obvious offensive players or cornerbacks of note here, building up their pass rush still makes sense.
20. Tampa Bay Bucs take Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado … the Bucs have issues with Aqib Talib’s arrest. They could use a cornerback and Jimmy Smith has the best tools for the job. I know there are concerns about him being sketchy, but the talent at this pick level might be too much to ignore.
21. Kansas City Chiefs take Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple … the Chiefs got a sudden emergence from Tamba Hali as a quality pass rusher a year ago. Can you count on that? Their offense led the league in rushing – and the passing game could stand to improve but those people are not good value choices. As such, keeping the front seven up is a good idea.
22. Indianapolis Colts take Gabe Carini, T, Wisconsin … the Colts were the worst running team in the league a year ago. Taking the best available OL makes a ton of sense.
23. Philadelphia Eagles take Nate Solder, T, Colorado … Solder is raw, but the Eagles can rotate him. Andy Reid used to love taking OL with his first round picks. Fortunately there is a good one here. The team had issues keeping Michael Vick upright and Solder can help there as well improving the running game.
24. New Orleans Saints take Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor … the Saints could stand to improve their defensive front. The team did not force turnovers the way it did in their Super Bowl winning year. Taylor will provide some stoutness.
25. Seattle Seahawks take Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa … Clayborn was a top 10 pick level guy two seasons ago, but some medical concerns caused a slip. However, Clayborn is way too good a value not to take here. He can provide a disruptive force to Pete Carroll’s defense, which is one of his hallmarks. That and fist pumping.
26. Baltimore Ravens take Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State … Heyward is capable of playing a 3-4 end. The Ravens could use someone to give Hatoli Ngata some company up front. Their DL allowed some weird rushing games a year ago, and this could help shore that up.
27. Atlanta Falcons take Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame … I know, I know, Tony Gonzalez is there. But he is no longer a field stretching force. Rudolph has that sort of ability – and for the type of close to the vest passing game they have, giving Matt Ryan more options in the TE passing game is a good thing.
28. New England Patriots take Danny Watkins, G, Baylor … the Patriots could use some more depth in offensive line. They love getting attitude guys and Watkins allegedly has that in spades.
29. Chicago Bears take Derrick Sherrod, T, Mississippi State … the Bears could stand to improve the offensive line, especially for those slow developing pass plays Mike Martz loves so much. The OL needs to be able to let Cutler throw it.
30. New York Jets take Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona … the Jets are NEVER not in the market to get another pass rusher. A defensive tackle to replace, supplement, insure against Kris Jenkins being catastrophically hurt again.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers take Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA … the Steelers taking a LB, who knew?? But hey, it makes sense. They don’t have a ton of needs, so what the hell.
32. Green Bay Packers take Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama … the Packers running game sucked last year. Ryan Grant is coming off of an injury and his replacements were uniformly uninspiring. Mark Ingram might be the skill and character back that makes a ton of sense here.