17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland Raiders) (9-7)
Chris Polk, RB, Washington
Cedric Benson’s contract is up and, whilst I think he’ll be re-signed, he was lacking in the average yards per carry area this year. A running back like Polk would be the perfect compliment in the backfield. They could definitely use an interior lineman and if one like Cory Glenn or David DeCastro present themselves here, they could be the answer to help regenerate the Cincinnati rushing attack. Polk really elevated himself during the Senior Bowl and established himself in the return game also, raising his stock to a potential first rounder. He has excellent patience and burst, hits the holes well and could be a nice acquisition at this stage in the draft.
18. San Diego Chargers (8-8)
Devon Still, DT, Penn State
The Chargers have some questionsÂ hangingÂ over their usually solid defense. They could do with shoring it up with a couple of their early picks and a DE such as Melvin Ingram or Nick Perry would be the more attractive choice to fans. However, I feel they go with a big, physical DT who can hold up the line of scrimmage and take up thoseÂ doubleÂ teams that the Charger sorely need to pave way for their Linebackers in the 3-4. Still is more than capable andÂ hasÂ the tools to be a 2-gap DE. He drew a lot of double teams in College and seemed to deal with them adequately. He would free up lanes for the Chargers’Â LinebackersÂ to make plays.
19.Â ChicagoÂ Bears (8-8)
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Roy Williams wasn’t the answer last season and is the wrong side of 30 whilst Earl Bennett doesn’t wow you and Devin Hester will likely never be a true threat at the position. If DeCastro or Glenn fell this far, what with moving OL coach Mike Tice to coordinator, it might be worth taking a shot at a Guard at this spot however, all those that provide value int he first round are gone. Cutler needs a play maker and Floyd gives you that. A physical athlete who,Â whilstÂ being a little inconsistent with his hands, can go up and snag a ball and be the play maker that Cutler so sorely lacks. His physicality will suit the Bears’ style well who will look to utilise Matt Forte coming off of a career year. Potential off-field issues could turn some teams off of Floyd but I don’t realistically see him falling further than the Bears.
20. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Not many see Kendall Wright falling this far so, despite the need for a pass rush which ranked extremely low last season, the Titans can’t turn down a new weapon for future Quarterback Jake Locker. Kendall Wright would compliment Kenny Britt nicely. There is a potential need at both DE/OLB and DB so do not be surprised with a deep WR class to see the Titans shore up their defense with their top pick.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Bengals, having already added to their Running Back corps with a niceÂ commodityÂ in Chris Polk who will help them run on the aggressive defenses of the AFC North, add a stud Center with the versatility to play across the Offensive Line to pave the way for him and protect their franchise QB. The Bengals will be happy with where their defense is at but will look for a potential Corner/Safety also so could potentially use this pick here. However, with some of the top interior linemen already off of the board, this pick will be hard to turn down.
22. Cleveland Browns (via Atlanta Falcons) (4-12)
Alshon Jefferey, WR, South Carolina
The Browns have already given their QB Colt McCoy a stud RB to take some of the pressure away from him and now they look to give him a big weapon at WR. JeffereyÂ possesses elite size/build and insane ball skills with great hands and the ability to adjust his body well to the ball. There are some question marks about his route running ability coming out of South Carolina where he wasn’t renowned forÂ runningÂ the most complex NFL routes, however he won’t be asked to do too much for McCoy who is still developing. He doesn’t possess elite speed but can use his physicality to gain separation well.
23. Detroit Lions (10-6)
Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Detroit could use some interior Offensive Line help so if a player presents some value at the Guard position, I expect them to lap it up. However, the Lions had a leaky pass defense and with a stellar Defensive Line in the making they need a corner who can really shut down a team’sÂ keyÂ receiver. Gilmore played mostly zone in College so will need to prove his worth in man-on-man. He breaks on the ball very well and has excellent instincts and discipline when in zone coverage. There are strength concerns when matching upÂ againstÂ bigger NFL receivers. Smart player who can locate the ball well. He will go a long way to helping a secondary which struggled throughout the 2011 season and is one of the main reasons they were unable to make a solid playoff run. His height is a great advantage down field.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
TheÂ SteelersÂ could look to shore up a number of positions with this pick. They could use some help at Guard and Tackle and even Linebacker however, they choose to add some youth to an aging defense that saw them struggle in last season’s Wildcard defeat to the Broncos. With Chris Hoke facing potential retirement and Casey Hampton, who has held up the center of LeBeau’s 3-4 for theÂ pastÂ decade, will undergo ACL surgery this off-season and is also turning 35. Poe presents a great opportunity for them to groom Hampton’s replacement and heÂ possessesÂ surprising speed and movement which could lead to versatility in 4 man sub package fronts.
25. Denver Broncos (8-8)
Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
The Broncos possess a pair of great edge rushers in Miller and Dumervil but fail to get consistent pressure up the middle. There are some question marks about his ability to stop the run however his explosiveness off of the snap will collapse pockets and create nightmares for opposing Quarterbacks. What he lacks a little in technique he makes up for inÂ strengthÂ which will help him shed blocks and play the run. Worthy will help fill a hole which John Fox has been seeking to fill for a while now, help disrupt the pocket and will bring the team a step closer to improving their rushing defense.
26. HoustonÂ Texans (10-6)
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
The Texans caught aÂ glimpseÂ of what life without Andre Johnson will be like and when he missed 9 games in the 2011 season due to hamstring issues, Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter were unable to get it done. They could seek a 2-gap Defensive Tackle to help add to their much improved defense of last season however they need to urgently address WR and get some youth there with Andre Johnson the wrong side of 30. Sanu provides a smart and versatile player who is able to play inside and out and is a good, crisp route runner. He has issues with his hands and tends to let the ball get too close to his body at times which results in the odd drop but these are issues that can be coached out of him. The fact he transitioned from a Safety to WR so fast in college is aÂ testament to hisÂ athleticismÂ and smarts.Â His elite size and arm length will cause problems for the best corners in the league. Another prospect I would like if he fell to the Patriots in the right spot.
27. New England Patriots (via New Orleans Saints) (13-3)
Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
The Patriots saw veteran free agent additions Mark Anderson and Andre Carter both register double digit sack seasons however their pass rush still had its inconsistencies and Andre Carter’s age, combined with surgery on a Quad injury sustained in the 2011 season, will be a large concern. The Patriots have yet to find that explosive,Â dominantÂ pass rusher and they find it in Mercilus. The Patriots have turned to a hybrid defense and will likely stick with it as the spread becomes moreÂ prominentÂ in the NFL. Mercilus could be an ideal 5-technique DE but may not be an every down player just yet. He needs to add some bulk and improve in defending the run. Cannot question the kid’s motor…great work ethic…someone Bill Belichick would appreciate in his locker room. He will have an impact right away.
28. Green Bay Packers (15-1)
Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississippi State
Despite having Clay Mathews on their side, the Packers ranked 27th in sacks this year in the NFL. They are going to need an explosive DE to help set the edge and pave the way for Green Bay’s Linebackers to makeÂ moreÂ plays on the Quarterback. Cox could stand to add a little more weightÂ andÂ is capable. He adds a versatility which could see him play in sub packages also.Â Â He can command double teams with his explosiveness, ideal for a 3-4 end, however needs to work on his pass rush moves as he is not the most gifted in that area. Either way, Cox will go a long way towards helping the packers solve those defensive issues and make life easier on Aaron Rodgers. The Pack could use some help at OLB so look for Nick Perry to be a potential option; an explosive player projected as a 3-4 OLB, but has big question marks for me over whether or not he can transition to LB or play with his hand in the dirt int eh NFL…not as versatile as some. Offensive Line is something to watch for also, but probablyÂ won’t presentÂ value for them here.
29. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
Dont’A Hightower, LB, Alabama
Saban’s defense will really leave a mark in this year’s draft class. Not expected to fall this low, the Ravens will not be able to pass this guy up. Failing Hightower being available in this spot, the next best option at Linebacker will be Vontaze Burfict. BurfictÂ hasÂ major off-field issues and could be a liability in the NFL therefore he could drop well into the second round. With Ray Lewis ageing, the Ravens are looking for a guy who can be groomed to make an impact. Hightower has a great deal of versatility to play in 34, 43 and 42 fronts with his hand in the dirt and the Ravens, who mix in a lot of hybrid with their base schemes nowadays, will look to this guy to wreak havoc in Ray Lewis’ place. The team could also do with safety helpo to replace the ageing Ed Reed, and Mark Barron may well still be available in this spot also. Offensive Line help may also be considered here.
30. SanÂ FranciscoÂ 49ers 13-3
Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Yet another Tackle goes in the first round. The 49ers Offensive Line struggled at times when protecting Alex Smith in 2011 and I expect them to re-sign the free agent Quarterback who did enough to prove himself as a good enough game manager for the team. They could decide to provide him with a new weapon at WR in this spot also, or maybe even take aÂ physicalÂ corner to add to their already stellar defense. Protect Alex Smith, give him more time and the former first overall pick will deliver even better in key situations.
31. New England Patriots (13-3)
Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Alfonzo Dennard is a guy I like for the Patriots, but could see him getting snagged up early. This guy does not one thing great, but a lot of things well. He has the size and speed to beÂ physicalÂ and keep up with outside receivers and can flourish in zone coverage. He has the potential to rotate to Free Safety with his size and come up and cover a slot receiver or TE. One of the more underrated prospects for me. This guy will help lock down a Patriots secondary which struggled consistently in 2011. Dennard has the ability to be flexible in the team’s new hybrid scheme but I think he has the potential to transition well into a shutdown corner in the NFL. He has the size, aggression and technique combined with speed to keep up with some of the League’s top targets. He brings leadership and energy to a secondary which desperately needs it.
32. New York Giants (9-7)
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Stanford and Alabama have really stolen the show in this first round. The Giants lost both their TEs, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum to ACL tears in the Super Bowl, leaving 3rd stringer Bear Pascoe as the lone player at the position. WithÂ questionsÂ over whether either of these players will now be ready come opening kickoff, this becomes a high priority. The hybrid TE out of Stanford, one of Luck’s favourite targets, is their man. An Aaron Hernandez type player, he will bring a great deal of versatility to their offense and will be able to line up out in the slot and create mismatches for the best cover safeties. This pick will only make Manning better as they join ranks with the teams investing high picks in these versatile players.
That concludes mock draft (version 1). You will notice I have left Nick Perry off of the list; that is because I have concerns over his ability to transition into anÂ effectiveÂ 3-4 OLB in the NFL and question his versatility. He could slide down the board easily with his undersized frame and less-then-elite length. He has little experience as a 3-4 OB and therefore that could be a tough transition into the NFL. I could see him in a Ninkovich type role potentially somewhere.
Mark Barron is also not onÂ myÂ firstÂ round draft board but he will land somewhere…the Jets (16), the Patriots (27 & 31), the Ravens (29) and the Giants (32) could all use safety help. Barron is a the best of a poor class and I do think his talents are a little overrated. If you want another safety who struggles to cover in the slot and TEs, then he’s your man. He will be reached for and taken high if teams feel he is their best option.
UPDATE: Mark Barron underwentÂ doubleÂ hernia surgery recently andÂ will miss the combine. Could hurt his stock…but he may recover in time to fit in a pro day.
Please feel free to leave your comments and ownÂ analysis.
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