After the combine, the Senior Bowl is the most important job interview for NFL Draft hopefuls. Now that it’s complete, the general picture of the draft is beginning to take form. Here’s my third mock draft, where I have mocked a different player than in my last edition to more than half the teams.
1. Carolina Panthers: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
The best player available fits a huge need and Carolina has not forgotten what Ndamukong Suh did for Detroit as a rookie in 2010.
2. Denver Broncos: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
A compelling argument for Da’Quan Bowers can be made here http://www.walterfootball.com/draft2011.php, but Denver has a much bigger need at cornerback with Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers capable of playing well in a 4-3.
3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A
Von Miller is the fastest rising prospect in the draft right now because of his performance at the Senior Bowl. Coincidentally, the Bills coached his all-star squad and got the best look at him. Oh yeah, and they could also use a pass rusher.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Bengals are done with the Chad Ochocinco/Terrell Owens experiment and at least one if not both will be gone by the draft. A.J. Green could not only replace them, he could be an upgrade over them. This is a move that could satisfy Carson Palmer and Cedric Benson, two disgruntled cornerstones of the Bengal offense.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina
I don’t see the Cardinals drafting a third quarterback in two season. They will be hoping for Von Miller here, but Robert Quinn is nearly as good as a very fluid athlete and can help rebuild the Cardinal defense.
6. Cleveland Browns: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The Browns are switching to a 4-3 scheme, and have no personnel to make a smooth transition. Luckily, Da’Quan Bowers is a great 4-3 end who could really bail Cleveland out at six if he lasts this long.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The 49ers may look to finally cut the overpriced Nate Clements, and none of the rest of their corners are anything special. Amukamara presents good value here and can anchor a secondary for years to come.
8. Tennessee Titans: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
The Titans haven’t been the same since Albert Haynesworth left, and Dareus is a player who can make a similar type of impact on a team. He’s not a liability against the run and is a great pass rusher from the inside.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
A very overrated prospect, but most people say Solder helped himself a ton during Senior Bowl week. He could be the first offensive tackle taken, and Dallas needs a bunch of answers on the offensive line, especially at right tackle.
10. Washington Redskins: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
The Redskins will be looking for Shanahan’s guy in this draft, and Gabbert has the athleticism, strength, and size to fit the Shanahan style of offense. He’s another player who I believe is destined to be a bust in the NFL.
11. Houston Texans: Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Purdue
Kerrigan is the most polished pass rusher in the draft, and teams are beginning to realize it after the Senior Bowl. He can immediately be an effective rush linebacker across from Mark Anderson or Brian Cushing to help Houston transition to the 3-4.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The Vikings used to have the best offensive line in the league, but now that group is really struggling. Minnesota needs to add a player who can restore the line to its past dominance to allow Adrian Peterson to run wild.
13. Detroit Lions: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The Lions are in the business of adding young defensive playmakers. Ndamukong Suh, Louis Delmas, and DeAndre Levy are a start, but Detroit needs more help in the back seven. Akeem Ayers is a do-it-all linebacker who will fit any role the Lions can ask him to play.
14. St. Louis Rams, Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Sam Bradford was excellent in his first season with the Rams, but he could still use some better weapons. Mark Clayton, Danario Alexander, Danny Amendola, and Brandon Gibson are excellent complementary guys, but they need a go-to player which Julio Jones certainly is.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
The Dolphins could add a runner in free agency, but Mark Ingram is the young talent that is tough to ignore in the middle of round 1. The offense can run through him for the next eight to ten seasons.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Jack Del Rio has been wanting to push David Garrard with a talented backup and has failed with Luke McCown and Trent Edwards. Cam Newton could excite the Jaguar fan base and be the quarterback of the future if he’s coached up right.