It’s HERE! The big night has come. NFL Draft round one. No more need for hyperbole, let’s get it started. I’ll be co-hosting an internet radio show for the round. Go here to listen
Cam Newton should be the first overall pick; according to a majority of NFL mock drafters.
For our 2012 Mock Draft go here
For reaction from last night’s first round go here
By Paul M. Banks
1. Carolina Panthers Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton literally coming out of nowhere in 2010. You saw him make some great throws on the run in the national title game, and on the biggest prime time stage he showed the zip of his delivery. His size and speed greatly helps his stock too. Everyone said he’s media day was some enlightened special event, but I truly can’t discern what we learned from it which we didn’t already know.
At the combine Newton did not impress, not at all. So why move him to #1? Because there really isn’t any consensus first overall, can’t miss pick this year. And in situations like this, QB’s usually go number one overall. Can’t find that blue-chip draft pick? Go for the most important position in the field. That train is never late. His pro day also cemented his status.
Carolina’s roster is a messy situation to say the least, and they’re looking to rebuild again, all over the offense. And the defense, and the special teams. They have other needs, but Jimmy Clausen, last year’s 4th round pick, doesn’t seem to be the clear-cut guy. According to a study by DC Pro Sports Report, 62% of mocks have Newton going first.
Is the lockout going to cost us the season? Maybe we can discern that from what the Carolina Panthers do at #1. Go here for more on that.
Car draft possibilities : 4-3 DL, QB, OL, DB, WR
2. Denver Broncos Marcel Dareus, DE, Alabama
Denver’s d line is terrible! Hopefully, for their sake they draft for need. Dareus is over 3 bills, and he’s excellent at moving all that wait around quickly and gracefully. He’s shown a lot of versatility in Nick Saban’s hybrid schematics and perhaps that acumen will carry over to the more sophisticated schemes in the NFL. Can he play in the 4-3? Did you see what he did at the combine? You can’t coach his measurables, and he looks like this year’s “will fit in fine no matter where he goes” prospect.
Den draft possibilities: 3-4 DL, 3-4 LB, RT, TE
3. Buffalo Bills Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
If this were any other year, meaning if there were any better QB prospects available, the Bills would move on one of those. No one is sold on Ryan Fitzpatrick. But that’s another issue for another time. Miller is the top player at the rush linebacker position in this class, and his versatility is getting him noticed all over. He’s displayed a lot of functional strength, and now finds himself the idealized 3-4 pass-rushing prospect.
Buf draft possibilities: QB, OT, 3-4 LB, 3-4 DL, WR
4. Cincinnati Bengals AJ Green, WR, Georgia
Green is a guy who can be both dangerous underneath, and stretch the field. Forget that whole jersey-selling incident; the NCAA needs to relax when it comes to situations like that. And Mr. Green is about to get a lot more stuff that is commonly referred to by his last name in slang terminology. That same stuff is also called “cheddah, bread, paper, c.r.e.a.m.” etc.
Cin draft possibilities: 4-3 ILB, 4-3 DE, DB, QB, WR
Go here for more Bengals draft analysis
5. Arizona Cardinals Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Peterson is a franchise corner who idolizes the Packers Charles Woodson; he could have a stellar career just like him too. Peterson, the Thorpe award winner, goes 6-1, 212 with a 4.42 40 yard dash.
As far as corners go, this is as blue chip as it gets. But cornerbacks never go all that high. They’re not franchise position to draft like QB, LT, DL. So this is about as high as you’ll see a CB go.
Arz draft possibilities: QB,OL, RB, DB, LB
6. Cleveland Browns Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Quinn is like Miami’s Allen Bailey, Pitt’s Greg Romeus and Texas’ Sam Acho, collegiate defensive ends who could likely find themselves playing a linebacker position in the NFL; all dependent on scheme. Except Quinn is much more talented and doesn’t have the question marks of the other prospects. He’ll fit in well in Cleveland; who’s defensive front often looks like a monster, surrounded by a bunch of elves.
Cle draft possibilities: WR, OL, 4-3 DL, DB
Go here for more Browns draft analysis
7. San Francisco Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Alex Smith was a train wreck of a pick, and Troy Smith is just a nice stop-gap; not a long term solution. I just don’t get why NFL scouts are so high on Gabbert. He is tall, and he’s put up some decent numbers, but there’s really nothing exceptional about him. I just don’t buy the hype about Gabbert as a #1 overall pick. I don’t see it- he’s got a slow release, he’s looked kind of fat sometimes (much like his predecessor Chase Daniel) and he’s kind of a “system quarterback.” And that Mizzou system hasn’t produced a ton of great NFL QB prospects.
But he does have the most alternative lifestyle sounding name in sports history since former Chicago White Sox pitcher Lance Broadway. “Have you see Blaine Gabbert sing! Fab-u-lous! Jazz hands everybody!”
S.F. draft possibilities DB, QB, 3-4 DL, WR
8. Tennesse Titans Nick Fairley, DL, Auburn
Fairley is the defensive equivalent of Cam (or as his haters call him $cam) Newton. Coming out of nowhere to become dominant. From obscurity to the top of the college football pantheon, Fairley can play in either the 3-4 or the 4-3 and he’ll give the Panthers defense a much badly needed boost. And Fairley can play either tackle or end, making him a great pick-up.
There are concerns about him being “too physical a player,” or a blatant dirty player. You saw that first hand in the national championship game. But we also saw this same problem with Ndamukong Suh this year, just how influential one extremely dominant player can be to a defense. I think the “dirty” label is actually unfair- in both cases.
Fairley has character and work ethic concerns aplenty; but Tennessee is the one team most likely to overlook those.
For more with/about Fairley go here
Ten draft possibilities: 4-3 DL, 4-3 LB, WR, QB
9. Dallas Cowboys Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Like Ndamukong Suh last season, the Huskers have produced a top NFL defensive prospect with a very difficult name to spell and pronounce. And like Suh last year, he shot up NFL Draft big boards later in the seasonal cycle. He returned this fall without seeking a round projection from the NFL Draft advisory committee. Dallas needs a lot of help in stopping the pass, and Peterson is a top 5 prospect.
To see what the inside of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders locker room looks like go here
Dal draft possibilities: 3-4 DL, DB, OL, WR,
10. Washington Redskins, Aldon Smith DE Missouri
The Skins run defense is atrocious, and they could also use more rush from their front seven. Smith is kind of like this year’s Jason Pierre-Paul in that his high stock is based much more on natural talents and abilities in place of resume or performance. But perhaps the biggest asset to his draft stock is the ability to fit into both the 3-4 and 4-3. Which greatly overshadows his statistics, which don’t really jump out at you.
Was draft possibilities: LB, DL, OL, DB, WR, QB
11. Houston Texans Cameron Jordan, DL, California
Jordan can take over in the trenches like a certain #23 with the same last name used to do on Chicago hardwood. I think he’s better suited for the 3-4, but I could definitely see him being very disruptive inside in a 4-3 system as well. Because of that versatility, he’s shot up the charts in a draft that is filled with great DL prospects.
Hou draft possibilities: OLB, DE, DT, CB, WR, OL
12. Minnesota Vikings Jake Locker, QB, Washington
How far has this guy fallen? The day after the 2010 NFL Draft I received a Jake Locker promotional postcard from the Univ. of Washington in the mail. Here are some of the more interesting quotes included in it. “”If he’s not the number one pick in 2011, it’s an upset,” Mel Kiper Jr. “If I didn’t have to coach against him, I’d be a bigger fan,” Jim Harbaugh. Since then I’ve got two more promotional and informational postcards from UW, but both came before his 4 of 20 passing disaster in week two. Then the mailings stopped.
The luster is off Locker now. There are tons of questions about his accuracy and decision making.
Not having a free agency period means the Vikes have to find a QB via the draft. And no upcoming season means they have extra time to work on Locker’s “project” appeal.
It’s interesting that here Locker is back in the top 15; but only because of desperation, not merit. Consensus around the league says they’re sold on him. Mostly, because what else are they going to do at the most important position in all of sports?
Go here for more Vikings draft analysis
Min draft possibilities: QB, WR, DB, 4-3 OLB
13. Detroit Lions Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Lions could use some more help in stopping the pass. Harris has all the necessary tools, and he was quite a presence for one of the nation’s top ranked secondaries, even though Michael Floyd and Notre Dame torched them in the Sun Bowl. Which ironically, was a cold and snowy game this year. Despite it’s presence in El Paso, Texas.
For more Lions Draft Analysis
To see a glimpse into the Detroit Lions Cheerleaders calendar go here
Det draft possibilities: FB, DB, OL, 4-3 LB
14. St. Louis Rams Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Everyone raves about JJ’s potential and measurables. Not so much about all his drops, but he redeems himself with his durability. And he impressed the NFL world with combine and pro days; putting up the numbers he did through the pain. Rams got Sam Bradford last year, now they can get a wideout weapon to go with him.
For more Rams Draft Analysis
Stl. draft possibilities: WR, 4-3 DL, DB, TE
15. Miami DolphinsTyron Smith, OT, USC
Here’s an excerpt from the CBS Sports scouting report on Smith:
Smith has obvious talent. Blessed with the prototype combination of size, balance and agility, he has the potential to develop into a top-flight left tackle in the NFL. He emerged as a standout in the Pac-10, winning the Morris Trophy as the conference’s top offensive lineman as voted by the league’s defensive linemen.
Here’s what USC and college football blog Gridiron Goddess had to say about Smith:
Smith is ranked #1 for his position heading into this week’s draft. He’s incredibly athletic, fast, accurate and has the look of a seasoned NFL veteran in his style of play. Expect Smith to have a long and successful career. Possible criticisms could arise as he only played right tackle for the Trojans, but his high level of athleticism will prove he can make the switch easily.
Go here for more USC Trojans draft analysis
Mia possibilities: FS, TE, QB, OL, RB
For bikini photos of the USC Song Girls (their cheerleaders) swim charity event go here
Jacksonville’s 2010 NFL Draft made no sense to me yet here they are about to possibly win the AFC South. Some of their draft decisions seemed almost “Millenesque” to me. Also how can you be an NFL franchise, a winning franchise no less and lose money? I don’t know, ask Jax. Justin James Watt excelled in his third year with the Badgers, winning the LOTT Impact trophy. He can also flourish in both a 4-3 or a 3-4.
Not bad for a guy who was attending community college and delivering pizzas less than three years ago.
For more with/about Watt go here
Jax draft possibilities: DB, 4-3 DE, WR, QB, OL
NFL teams are more careful than ever in this era of Roger Goodell’s attempts at legislating morality. Because there are no doubts about Clayborn’s ability on the field. The All-American Honorable Mention had 11.5 sacks last year, and took home the Orange Bowl MVP and National Defensive Performer of the Year Awards.
But a racially-charged incident with an Iowa City cab driver has put his character, and therefore his NFL Draft Stock, into question. After reading this interview/article, any concerns of this sort will be alleviated.
“I would not rather put it all out there. But there were words exchanged that somebody shouldn’t say,” he responded.
“I think I made the right decision. Can’t go back on it now, so why think about it?” He said.
The former Missouri state high school player of the year, who finds himself everybody’s preseason All-American, as well as on the watch lists for the Lott, Lombardi, and Hendricks awards, didn’t even put in the paperwork for the NFL draft last spring. But he did take out the NCAA insurance policy protecting his potential future earnings from the catastrophe of a career ending injury.
For an exclusive interview/profile of Clayborn go here and here
For a synopsis on NE’s draft prospects, and why they’re the most intriguing team in the league this April go here
NE draft possibilities: 3-4 DL, 3-4 LB, WR, OT, trading down and acquiring more picks (oh, wait- that’s a certainty)
18. San Diego Chargers Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
This could be like a bit of a stretch, because I just don’t get the Ayers love. He’ll run a 4.7 and he didn’t exactly own the gridiron in Westwood. But he’s big and everyone seems to be high on him. And NOLA will no doubt draft for defense in ’11.
S.D. weaknesses: 3-4 LB, 3-4 DE, DB, OT, WR
19. NYG Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Temple
NYG’s Jerry Reese is truly a value GM, who’ll take best guy available on the board. Even though this clearly does not fill a need. Wilkerson’s stock is BOOMING, as he’s come out of nowhere to reside in the teens in some mocks.
NYG weaknesses FS, 4-3 LB, OL, RB, C
Ryan Kerrigan could project as a good 3-4 outside rush linebacker, but I’ve also seen show up in quite a few mock drafts landing on 4-3 teams. This fall, I asked Kerrigan about his strengths as a player.
“I’m a hand in the ground guy, so I feel like that’s what suits me best, I’m not as comfortable from the stand-up linebacker position. We do that a little bit, so I’m not totally against it, but I’m just a little more comfortable with my hand in the ground do I can fire off the ball better,” Kerrigan answered.
To read an exclusive interview/profile of Kerrigan go here
Tampa had a very pleasant surprise of a season, but they could use more pressure from their defensive front seven. Kerrigan is certainly a guy who can do that.
T.B. draft possibilities: 4-3 DE, 4-3 ILB, RB, WR, RT
21. Kansas City Chiefs Anthony Castonzo, OL, Boston College
B.C. is quickly becoming “OT U.” Exciting. Yes, I know. But big AC from BC can be as hard-hitting as the music of AC/DC. (damn keyboard, why can’t I figure out how to make a lightning bolt?)
K.C. draft possibilities: NT, rush LB, QB, WR, OT
The news that the Colts had decided to fire Gene Huey, who had served as the team’s running backs coach for 16 seasons, came as a shock to many fans, and plenty of them were quick to label the dismissal as scapegoating for Polian’s inability to assemble a strong offensive line — the real problem behind Indy’s lackluster running game.
While there’s some truth to that notion, Huey might or might not have had to do with the disappointing lack of progress made by second-year back Donald Brown, a first-round draft pick in 2009 who fell to third on the depth chart behind Joseph Addai and 31-year-old Dominic Rhodes, whom the team signed in December for a (brief) third stint in Indy. The Colts need to hire a replacement who can teach the same techniques Huey taught, namely pass-blocking. The team also needs to monitor the statuses of senior offensive assistant Tom Moore and linebackers coach Mike Murphy, who both consider themselves year-to-year when mulling retirement.
Indy was ravaged by injuries more than any other team in the NFL (well, possibly Green Bay) this past season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they focused on shoring up depth at key positions. And yes, actually drafting offense first. Joseph Addai will be in his sixth season (middle-aged by NFL running back standards) and Dominic Rhodes will be in his 10th (geriatric by league standards). Also, Illini players (see Jeff George, Kelvin Hayden, Jack Trudeau, Ken Dilger, Howard Griffith) have a tendency to be drafted by the Colts for some reason (cuz it’s only a couple hours away and easy to scout I guess?)
The Illini runner was second team All-American by the AP, and when it came to efficiency statistics, arguably the best running back in the nation.
For more on why Leshoure is the next Rashard Mendenhall go here
For more Colts draft analysis
IND draft possibilities: OT, rush LB, DT, WR
If they’re drafting for need, then they must go OL. Moffit was named second-team All-American by Lindy’s, Athlon Sports and Consensus Draft Services, and first-team All-Big Ten by Athlon and Blue Ribbon. He’s also on the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List. Here’s our Q&A with the 6-5 324 senior from Connecticut.
Phi draft possibilities: OLB, DB, RT, RG
24. New Orleans Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
After starting his career slowly in Death Valley, the 6-4, 275-pound specimen has found his penchant for penetrating opposing backfields. However, Bowers knee injury is hurting his draft stock immensely. He may even fall out of the first round entirely.
N.O. draft possibilities: 4-3 LB, 4-3 DL, RT, SS
For more on Taylor Corley, the Missippi State cheerleader who left the squad to pursue her Playboy modeling/reality television career go here. (plenty of pictures)
25. Seattle Seahawks Derrick Sherrod, OT, Missippi State
One of the biggest winners of Senior Bowl week, Sherrod is squarely placed on the radar of scouts everywhere now. Blocking opposing SEC linemen will pay off huge dividends for this young man, as no conference in college football challenges O Linemen because every Saturday they must block prospects who are not just ridiculously big, but also insanely fast.
12th man or not, Matt Hasselback is going to last a whole lot longer in this league, unless he gets more people to protect him from getting killed.
Sea draft possibilities: QB, OL, DB, WR
26. Baltimore Stefan Wisniewski, OG/C, Penn State
“I’m trying to work on finishing, putting more players on the ground, as I’m a senior here and I’ve gone from being a freshman where most guys are stronger than me to now, I’m at a point where I’m stronger than most of the people I’m blocking. My uncle was one of those guys that always blocked through the whistle and I’ve tried to learn from him,” the big guy told me.
That uncle is former Penn State All-American Guard Steve Wisniewski. Who went on to make the Pro Bowl eight of his thirteen seasons with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders.
So obviously blocking is in the Wisniewski blood. Other people might not care about the OL a whole lot, but I enjoy listening to offensive linemen talk about their craft. I asked Stefen what he believes his biggest strength is.
For more with Wisniewski go here.
Bal draft possibilities: WR, DE, ILB, OL
Atlanta could really use a TE. Even though Rudolph missed the back half of 2010, his body of work has said enough for him to leave South Bend a year early.
Shoulder surgery limited Rudolph in the spring and summer, but as a freshman in 2008, he set school rookie receiving records, and also became the first Irish freshman ever to start every game at tight end. At Media Day I asked Rudolph what he’s working on to take his game to the next level.
“Technique, you can’t substitute technique for anything, especially in the run game, and being able to perfect my blocking in the run game will allow me to play a bigger part in our game,” he responded.
For more about/with Rudolph go here.
Atl draft possibilities: 4-3 LB, WR, OL, 4-3 DE, TE
It was a shame that ’06 first round pick, Laurence Maroney, out of Minnesota, didn’t pan out. Early in his career, he truly showed flashes of being their legit replacement for Corey Dillon. However, the tandem of Law Firm/Boston Legal and Woodhead have given the Pats the best ground game they’ve had since Dillon left football. Therefore, the Pats will consider tailback with their second first round pick.
For an feature profile/exclusive interview of Ingram go here
For a synopsis on NE’s draft prospects, and why they’re the most intriguing team in the league this April go here
NE draft possibilities: 3-4 DE, 3-4 LB, WR, OT, trading down and acquiring more picks (oh, wait- that’s a certainty)
We know the Bears offensive tackles are TERRIBLE. And we know Jerry Angelo is AWFUL at making personnel decisions! But they need to do something in April, since you and I could probably start at offensive tackle for them. Provided you and I were both 300+ pounds and able to power clean a small battleship.
Carimi, a 6-7, 327 senior from Cottage Grove Wisconsin who’s looking like a top ten pick in April’s draft. Carimi was named preseason First-team All-American by Lindy’s and Consensus Draft Services, as well as first-team All-American and All-Big Ten by Athlon Sports.
He’s shown both power and agility in pushing off defenders and opening holes. He’s arguably the top tackle in this draft, as his physical attributes set him apart from the rest: long arms, quick feet, and solid footwork.
Although he has a lot of experience and size, but he still lacks athleticism and technique. Also, scouts have no idea if he’ll play on the right or left side in the NFL and that could hurt his draft stock. He took over Joe Thomas’ (#3 overall pick in 2007) starting spot protecting the QB’s blind side, and never looked back.
“I was a freshman that year, so I took some technique from him,” Carimi said about what he learned from Thomas.
For more Bears Draft Analysis go here
Some big news about Bears QB Jay Cutler, and his his girlfriend Kristin Cavallari broke today, Go here for that.
And here for many pictures of Cavallari
Chi weaknesses: WR, DB, OL, P
The Jets need to find a way to bring more pressure consistently in an increasingly pass-happy league. But to be more consistent, they need another disruptor. Liuget (that’s pronounced “Legit” like Hammer: “2 Legit 2 Quit”) was a force all season. Liuget dropped 30 pounds in the offseason to get down to 285 in hopes of being more mobile and harder to block. It seems to have paid off.
For much more with, and about Corey Liuget go here
NYJ draft possibilities: CB, WR, DE, ILB
31. Pittsburgh Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida
Mike Pouncey is the brother of Steelers Pro Bowl rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who unfortunately will miss the Super Bowl due to an injury. Bummer because the Steel wall needs all the help it can get blocking Clay Matthews
It helps that Pouncey “knows someone in the organization” who can “put in a good word.” If there’s one thing the Steelers will be looking to augment on draft day, it’s their blocking, because their line is indeed aging quite rapidly.
Pit draft possibilities: OL, WR, DL
32. Green Bay Packers Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Here’s a great example of the best player available filling a team need. Hard to see whether that’s a positive or negative given Ted Thompson’s unpredictable draft strategy. But protecting Aaron Rodgers, who’s well on his way to becoming an all-time great QB had got to be priority #1.
Solder will be the best of the bunch available at this point. And that’s pretty good. Not the next Tony Boselli like Mike Mayock has made him out to be, but still pretty good. Nate Solder went 6-8, 315 pounds at the Senior Bowl, but will likely try and pack on a few LBs before the combine gets here. If that’s the case his stock will shoot up even more. NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock thinks he’ll crack the top 15 or 20. Scouts see him as having “tremendous upside potential” because he’s a bit raw right now.
For more Packers Draft analysis go here
GB draft possibilities: OL, RB, 3-4 DE, 3-4 rush LB
We added a second round!go hereto check that out.
Round three here
For our 2012 Mock Draft go here
He does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and FacebookPowered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks