Archive for April, 2011
Over the weekend, the Eagles welcomed eleven young prospects to the family. How many of them will be able to make their mark on the franchise immediately. Last year, the team got great production out of Jamar Chaney, Kurt Coleman, and Nate Allen, with Riley Cooper, Trevard Lindley, and Brandon Graham showing some promise as well. Here are my grades and analysis of all eleven selections.
1. Danny Watkins (Round 1, 23rd overall): Watkins wasn’t on my radar in the first round, but he will start at right guard from day one and has a great amount of untapped potential as a player who is still new to the game. He reminds me a lot of Logan Mankins, who was taken in a similar spot and then promptly kicked inside to guard, where he excelled. It’s worth noting that he’s almost 27, but he’s still a solid pick for the Eagles. To me, he has a high floor and a higher ceiling, and while I would have rather had Jimmy Smith or Gabe Carimi, I can’t fault Andy Reid too much for this pick. Grade: B-
2. Jaiquawn Jarrett (Round 2, 54th overall): I can tell Jarrett will be a fan favorite. He played his college ball for Temple and will hit the snot out of anything that moves. Brian Dawkins comes to mind as Jarrett excels in run support. Of course, the fact that the Eagles went safety so high almost certainly means that Quintin Mikell’s run in Philadelphia is over. Jarrett will be an exceptional special teams player while he adjusts to the speed of the game and becomes more comfortable in man coverage. If he learns quickly, he will compete with Kurt Coleman for the starting strong safety gig. Because I’m not quite sold in his coverage skills, I give the pick a B- grade.
3. Curtis Marsh (Round 3, 90th overall): Marsh is a developmental cover man who spent a good part of his college career as a running back at Utah State. He recently converted to cornerback, where he showed vast improvement in 2010. Still, a ton of work needs to be done before he can push Trevard Lindley or Joselio Hanson for a prominent role in the defense. While he’s a gifted athlete, I fear that he may have too much work ahead of him before he can become an effective defender. Grade: D+
4. Casey Matthews (Round 4, 116th overall): Matthews is hoping to become the fourth member of his family to be an all-pro NFL player. A vastly inferior athlete to brother Clay, Casey plays with heart, intelligence, and intensity. He’s one of those players who you are simply afraid to bet against, and makes for a wonderful presence in the locker room. He can either play the MIKE or WILL linebacker spots, and would likely be forced into a starting role if Stewart Bradley is not retained when the lockout ends. In the best case scenario, he is a versatile back-up who can play at a high level at all three linebacker slots. Grade: A-
5. Alex Henery (Round 4, 120th overall): A kicker in the fourth round is a rare sight, but Andy Reid felt compelled to pull the trigger on arguably the best kicker in NCAA history. This means that David Akers is as good as gone, especially since Reid refused to talk about him during the post-draft press conference. Henery can also punt, and there’s an outside chance that he can replace both Akers and Sav Rocca and save the Eagles a roster spot. You hate to spend such a high pick on a kicker, but clutch kicking is very valuable and Akers would have to be replaced at some point. Grade: B-
6. Dion Lewis (Round 5, 149th overall): Like LeSean McCoy, Lewis was a superstar running back for the Pitt Panthers and entered the draft as an underclassman. Like McCoy, he’s undersized at 5’7″, 193, and plays much faster than he times (both Lewis and McCoy ran a shade under a 4.6). Lewis doesn’t have very good measurables, but he is very shifty, tough, and has a knack for the game of football. He’s a much better inside runner than McCoy was coming out of college, although he’s not nearly as elusive. The two friends will form a formidable backfield combo, especially if Jerome Harrison is brought back to form another three headed monster. Grade: A-
7. Julian Vandervelde (Round 5, 161st overall): A guard, an opera singer, and an all-academic selection, Vandervelde is an intriguing interior offensive line prospect out of Iowa. At 6’3″, 300, he doesn’t have overwhelming physical traits, but is tough and cerebral. I don’t know much about him, but I believe Howard Mudd will be able to turn him into a solid reserve guard. The Eagles will need depth behind Todd Herremans and Danny Watkins. Grade: C
8. Jason Kelce (Round 6, 191st overall): The last two players the Eagles took out of Cincinnati were also late round picks who were too small or too slow. I’d say Trent Cole and Brent Celek turned out pretty well. Kelce is a severely undersized center prospect at 280 pounds, but as a former linebacker, he displays very good tenacity and quickness for the position. He’s a developmental prospect who will have to beat out practice squad players like Fenuki Tupou and A.Q. Shipley. Grade: D+
9. Brian Rolle (Round 6, 193rd overall): A good buddy of Kurt Coleman, Brian Rolle is an unusually small linebacker. At Ohio State, he played the middle while standing under 5’10” and weighing under 230 pounds. However, he’s exceptionally fast and is absolutely fearless. He attacks blockers as fiercely as James Farrior, and plays the game at full speed. In many ways, he’s similar to Jamar Chaney as far as making up in speed what they lack in size. He will be a special teams demon and looks like a great player to plug into nickel and dime packages although I doubt he will ever be a starter. I like the pick, but I would have much rather had his teammate Ross Homan. Grade: B
10. Greg Lloyd Jr. (Round 7, 237th overall): Lloyd is the son of the former Steelers linebacker, and has a shot at making the team. At 246 pounds, he’s a thumper inside who’s had to overcome several injuries. He reminds me a lot of Joe Mays, a stout middle linebacker who was taken in the late rounds by the Eagles. I’ve never seen Lloyd play, so I will give a grade based on his chances of making the team. Grade: B-
11. Stanley Havili (Round 7, 240th overall): Havili was a matchup nighmare at USC as a fullback/tailback/wide reciever/tight end. At 227 pounds, he’s an athletic fullback who can split out and run routes on linebackers and run the ball hard between the tackles, not unlike Leonard Weaver. He was drafted as insurance in case Weaver is unable to recover from his injury. He and Owen Schmitt would then compete for the fullback job. Grade: B+
Overall, the Eagles got about five players who will be able to contribute as rookies, which is not bad. However, they did nothing to address their huge need at right cornerback. I hope they plan to reel in a big fish in free agency, whether it be Nnamdi Asomugha, Antonio Cromartie, Jonathan Joseph, or Aqib Talib. As always, it will take three or four years to judge this draft class, but if I had to assign it a grade now, I would give it a low B. With the eleven picks the Eagles ended up with, here’s who I would have taken, in order.
Jimmy Smith, Rodney Hudson, Sam Acho, James Brewer, Quan Sturdivant, Richard Sherman, Da’Rel Scott, Ross Homan, Greg Romeus, Eric Hagg, Stanley Havili
Again opting not to move from their predetermined draft slot, Andy Reid gave the second round nod to Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett. Reading between the lines, this means that unrestricted free agent Quintin Mikell is no longer in the Eagles’ plans. Adding Jarrett to two promising youngsters in Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman means that the Eagles are going younger on the back end.
While Jarrett is a solid player, I would have taken either Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick, who would have been a starter at right cornerback, or Rodney Hudson, a top interior offensive lineman who would be great with Danny Watkins, Jason Peters, and Todd Herremans. For those of you who do not watch much of Temple, Jarrett is a lights out hitter, and has an identical frame to Brian Dawkins. He has the makings of a remarkable special teams player who is a great third safety. He can wrap up, deliver the knockout blow, and does not get beat deep. Sometimes, he needs to be more aggressive and instinctive in coverage, and I think he needs a year to work on that before he becomes a really good player. However, there’s no doubt that the talent is there.
Eagles draft grade: Watkins (C+) Jarrett (B-) … Overall – C+
I don’t think anybody saw this one coming. With Gabe Carimi, Jimmy Smith, and Akeem Ayers still on the board, Andy Reid threw Eagle fans yet another curveball by selecting Danny Watkins, the Baylor offensive lineman, in the first round. I still firmly believe that Jimmy Smith should have been the pick, but I believe Watkins will be a good player. After watching additional film of him this morning, I came away really impressed with his skill-set, and there’s no way he’s not one of the top five blockers on the squad.
If you still don’t know, Watkins took a very unconventional route to the NFL. Growing up in Canada, Watkins played a lot of hockey and rugby, but never set foot on the gridiron until after he was older than most of the guys who were drafted last night. At age 22, Watkins played for a community college in California, and two years later became a stud left tackle for the Baylor Bears. He played in an offense very similar to the one the Eagles run, and blocked for one of the most dangerous dual threat passers in college, Robert Griffin III. He put his name on the map in the Senior Bowl, where he was very impressive, and it’s worth noting that he surrendered one sack to Von Miller in two meetings, and that sack happened over four seconds after the snap as Griffin was scrambling. In fact, Reid cited the Texas A&M game as the film that really sold him on Watkins.
Although I believe he is capable of being a solid right tackle, it’s clear that Andy Reid plans to plug him in at right guard from day one. He will team with Jason Peters and Todd Herremans to form a very talented trio up front, with players such as Mike McGlynn, Winston Justice, Jamaal Jackson, and King Dunlap left to battle it out for the two remaining spots on the line. So, while Watkins certainly would not have been my pick, he’s a good player who fills a need. He has a high ceiling and a low floor, and will be in great hands with Howard Mudd. I do want to look ahead to rounds two and three tonight though.
I think the Eagles need to come away with a cornerback in this round, and three guys still on the board really intrigue me. The first is Texas’ Aaron Williams, who almost certainly be taken before 54, when the Eagles select. After him, I love Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling, who the Eagles have a legitimate shot at without moving up. The third player would be Louisville’s Johnny Patrick, who probably has the best shot at still being on the board. Other players to keep an eye out for are UCLA’s versatile linebacker Akeem Ayers, Clemson’s talented defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, and UCLA’s ballhawking safety Rahim Moore.
1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: The one player Carolina believes can turn the franchise around.
2. Denver Broncos – Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: A “safe” pick that John Fox can build around as he takes over a monumentally porous defense.
3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM: A dynamic pass rusher who is headed for NFL stardom.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: A much-needed playmaker for an offense that Mike Brown still believes will be led by Carson Palmer.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: With several talented, young passers already on the roster, look for Arizona to take a player they can immediately plug in. Patrick Peterson would give them a rock solid secondary, complementing Adrian Wilson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
6. Cleveland Browns – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Colt McCoy needs a legitimate target in the passing game, and Jones should be a phenomenal west coast receiver. The Browns can target a defensive lineman in the second round.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: The 49ers need to find a franchise quarterback, and Gabbert may be able to vault them to the top of the weak NFC West.
8. Tennessee Titans – Andy Dalton, QB, TCU: Reportedly, this pick is down to Nick Fairley and Andy Dalton. As quarterback is a huge need and Mike Munchak is an offensive coach, I’ll give Dalton the nod here in a shocker.
9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith, OT, USC: The Cowboys love some of the offensive tackles in this draft, and they desperately need somebody to replace Marc Colombo at right tackle.
10. Washington Redskins – Jake Locker, QB, Washington: The Redskins have only Rex Grossman at quarterback, and they love Jake Locker’s leadership and ability to throw on the run. Defensive needs can wait. All indications are that quarterbacks will be severely overdrafted in 2011.
11. Houston Texans – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Everybody knows how bad the Houston secondary was in 2010, and they are lucky to have such a highly regarded cornerback prospect still available.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: Bryant McKinnie severely regressed in 2010, and he may be replaced here as Leslie Frazier will have to try to rebuild his offense.
13. Detroit Lions – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: Quinn free-falls here due to the four quarterbacks taken in the top ten, and can bring fresh blood to a thin group of 7-techniques in Detroit.
14. St. Louis Rams – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: A rare talent who falls due to maturity issues will be happily scooped up by Steve Spagnuolo, who loves defensive linemen and needs to surround Chris Long with talent.
15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida: A rising prospect who will likely wind up going in the top 20. He will help the ‘Phins rebuild a once dominant offensive line.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: After missing on lots of risk/reward defensive line prospects, Jacksonville finally struck gold with Tyson Alualu, a high-motor overachiever. Following that blueprint with Ryan Kerrigan may reverse the fortunes of the Jacksonville defense.
17. New England Patriots – Cameron Jordan, DE, California: With the best offensive line prospects off the board, New England will look to help out Vince Wilfork with another tough defensive lineman in Cameron Jordan, who has experience playing in a 3-4 from Cal.
18. San Diego Chargers – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: A huge steal who can fill a big need for the Chargers.
19. New York Giants – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: With Barry Cofield potentially leaving as a free agent, the Giants have another excuse to draft a defensive lineman in the first round.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: Another defensive lineman who slips down the draft board falls into the lap of the team that quite possibly is the most desperate for an athletic impact edge rusher.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: The Chiefs need to shore up their offensive line, but I also strongly considered Brooks Reed and Phil Taylor for this pick.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Colts lost their legendary offensive line coach, so they may actually have to rely on talent to protect Peyton Manning. Gabe Carimi should be a solid tackle for the rest of the Peyton era and beyond.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: The Eagles are very interested in Jimmy Smith, and they are reportedly warming up to his character issues. He is supremely talented and fills the team’s biggest need.
24. New Orleans Saints: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: The Saints are one team that can afford to roll the dice on a player like Bowers, who fits the Saint scheme perfectly. He reminds me a lot of Will Smith.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Clayborn is probably the best available talent, and Seattle has a bunch of question marks at defensive end, although they could go in any number of direction with this pick, including quarterback.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona: Baltimore needs somebody besides Terrell Suggs to be able to get to the quarterback. Reed is considered in some circles to be a potential Clay Matthews 2.0.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: The Falcons feel that they are still a piece or two away from being a Super Bowl caliber defense. They love the versatility and athleticism that Ayers brings to the table.
28. New England Patriots: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: The more I hear, the more it looks like the Patriots are growing very concerned about their offensive line. Sherrod could be a decent option at right tackle is Sebastian Vollmer gets moved to left tackle.
29. New York Jets: Marvin Austin, DE, North Carolina: A supremely talented defensive lineman who will be a great fit as a member of Gang Green.
30. Chicago Bears: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: An aggressive, confident, physical player who is an ideal fit in Chicago’s Tampa 2 system. He would fight Zack Bowman and Tim Jennings for the right cornerback job, and add to the overall depth at defensive back, which was a big problem against Green Bay for the Bears.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: A natural fit for the Steelers, a team desperate for help at cornerback.
32. Green Bay Packers: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: With Cullen Jenkins as good as gone, the Packers need help at defensive end, and Cameron Heyward embodies the tough, midwestern profile the Packers want in the trenches.
1. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: Strong, fast, and dominant against both the run and the pass. A scheme versatile, three down player whose immaturity concerns are being blown way out of proportion.
2. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: A tall, explosive receiver who can take games over. He has the skill, potential, and attitude to be a superstar at the next level.
3. Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM: The best pure pass rusher to come out of college football since Mario Williams can be a terror of the edge with his speed and moves.
4. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: The total package at receiver who is extremely big, strong, and tough. A no-nonsense prospect very much in the mold of Andre Johnson who I consider to be a safer pick than A.J. Green.
5. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: A rare talent who plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played and contributes on special teams.
6. Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama: A very solid football player who has no weaknesses in his game, but he’s not the twelve-sack player that Fairley can be.
7. Tyron Smith, OT, USC: Supremely athletic and surprisingly powerful for his weight, Tyron Smith certainly looks like he can blossom into a top left tackle. Had he stayed in school, he would be vying for the top overall pick in 2012.
8. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: Not the best athlete in the world, but is certainly good enough and is the most polished pass rush prospect to come out in some time. He will immediately be a very, very tough player to block.
9. Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: A powerful interior presence who plays with great leverage and dominates his gap in the run game. He will never be a liability, but won’t wow anybody with his rush skills, although they are adequate.
10. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Nobody’s thrilled with his off-the-field antics or attitude, but Smith is as good of a man-to-man cover corner as you will find in the NFL. Think Antonio Cromartie.
11. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina: A very gifted and productive pass rusher, but he needs to develop better moves to complement his amazing natural abilities.
12. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: The knee injury is a serious concern, but Bowers will still have his whole career ahead of him and remains one of the most talented and complete defensive ends to come out since Mario Williams.
13. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: Not as explosive off the edge as Quinn or Bowers, but Watt finds a way to make plays, whether it be by penetrating, rushing off the edge, or batting down a pass. Impressive motor.
14. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA: Not only a ballhawk anymore, Rahim Moore is a sure tackler and somebody quarterbacks will not want to test in coverage. It’s hard to understand why he may not go in the first round, as he reminds me a lot of Earl Thomas, who was drafted fourteenth overall.
15. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: Experience, pedigree, toughness…Carimi has it all. While he may not be an elite athlete, he’s certainly a plug-and-play at right tackle and has the potential to be a solid left tackle.
16. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Prince certainly knows how to play the game, but his tendency to disappear in big games is a huge concern.
17. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Ingram’s stock fell at the combine because he’s the type of runner that thrives when he gets the pads cracking. He should be a very effective back who can shoulder the load of a franchise runner if necessary.
18. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: He’s surrounded by allegations, but the facts say that he’s the only passer in the draft that could move his team up and down the field against the top defenses in the country in a pro-style offense.
19. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: A little raw, but Baldwin is a huge target that will wind up being a deep threat and red zone weapon. He reminds me a lot of Plaxico Burress.
20. Mike Pouncey, G, Florida: A complete interior offensive lineman who has elite mobility and is worthy of a first round pick despite his position.
21. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: A sound tackle who will probably be a starter on the right side, but does not impress me as a run blocker or pass protector. Your pedestrian starting tackle.
22. Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina: A very powerful player who is very tough to move but extremely athletic. If he had played this season, he would be right up there with Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley.
23. Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor: A great 34 nose prospect as he can engulf smaller offensive linemen, but has his weight completely under control.
24. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh: Slightly undersized, but is very powerful at the point of attack, and is a crafty and productive pass rusher.
25. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri: Extremely talented, but would have liked to have seen one more year of college for this raw youngster who has quite a burst but plays far too tall.
26. Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: A fiery competitor who is fast enough to start in the NFL and loves to be physical. A bit of Antoine Winfield in his game.
27. Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: A tall, long cover corner who can also kick inside and play in the slot or at safety. A complete player who just needs to clean up some footwork and fluidity issues.
28. Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: A 3-4 end only in my opinion, Heyward is a tough, strong player who can be a day 1 starter in the right situation. His game compares very favorably to Cullen Jenkins.
29. Cameron Jordan, DE, California: A fundamentally sound player who plays with passion. I just question whether he’s big enough to be an effective 3-4 end or quick enough to be an effective 4-3 end. He will be a solid but unspectacular player.
30. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: A do-it-all linebacker who really allows you to be flexible in your scheme. However, I’d like to see him jump out at me more on tape.
31. Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona: An explosive, relentless pass rusher who definitely reminds me of Clay Matthews a bit, although I doubt he will become that type of player.
32. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: A supremely talented player who is unshakable under pressure. He needs a ton of work, but is a big time prospect.
Everybody loves to predict busts. This guy has character concerns and that guy is too small. The truth is that writing prospects like that off is a dangerous business. For every player that wasn’t athletic enough to make an impact, there’s a Tom Brady and a Wes Welker. For every player that got caught up with off-the-field issues, there is a Ray Lewis and a Michael Vick. Most of the time, players become busts for a reason that isn’t as obvious as what “experts” are pointing to with Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Smith, and Nick Fairley. Here are the players I believe are too risky to take in the first round.
7. Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple: Wilkerson has a rare combination of size and athleticism that will allow him to succeed as either a 3-4 defensive end, or as a 3-technique (DT) in a 4-3 scheme. However, coming from a small school, scouts want to see you dominate your opponents, not just your potential. While Wilkerson flashes extraordinary talent, he plays down to the level of his competition too often. If he can’t be a difference maker in the MAC, I doubt he will find much success in the NFL. He’s worth a draft pick in case the light comes on for him, but the first round comes with too lofty of expectations.
6. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri: Smith’s burst and athleticism are truly remarkable coming off the edge, and there’s no question that he can develop into a great pass rusher. It’s the amount of development that he has in front of him that concerns me. He needs to add a lot of strength, and he plays far too upright right now to make an impact against superior tackles. Nobody questions his ceiling or potential, but it’s no guarantee that he will go from a tall, lanky kid to a solid, fundamentally sound defensive end.
5. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: Cam Newton is another one of those players who has unlimited physical ability, but is just too far away from being a productive pro. In Carolina, his playbook will not be centered around the QB draw and QB sweep. He will not be throwing ten bubble screens a game, and he will not be able to outrun safeties or bulldoze linebackers. He has no experience whatsoever in a pro-style offense, has not proven that he can throw intermediate routes, and should not be forced into the starting role, which is probably what will happen in the event that he is the first player chosen. In his defense, he performs very well under pressure, is ready for the rigors of the NFL, and is supremely talented. Still, he needs too much work and is not worthy of a high first rounder.
4. Jake Locker, QB, Washington: As I stated earlier, prospects usually don’t bust because of one obvious factor. However, poor accuracy is too important of a factor for an NFL quarterback to overcome. Locker’s character, mobility, and toughness cannot make up for this deficiency in his game, and as much as I’d like to see him succeed, the odds are truly stacked against him.
3. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Pick a random Nebraska tape. You likely see an incredibly sound cornerback who plays with great instincts, awareness, feet, and technique. He is likely blanketing receivers and being much too physical for them. You are likely ready to take him in the top ten, unless of course you picked up the Oklahoma State tape. I know it’s only one game, but when he lines up against a receiver of Justin Blackmon and gets beat over and over again, it does not look good. He’ll be expected to lock down receivers at least as good as him in the pros.
2. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: If Andrew Luck had decided to come out, Gabbert would not be a top five pick. He played in a ridiculous offense, which I thought was a spread punt formation at first. He has no pocket presence, and strikes me as arrogant. His deep ball needs a ton of work, and I see him as a fit in a west coast system only. I think the best he can be is a more mobile Chad Pennington. That’s not first-round material.
1. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: Is Nate Solder really supposed to be a left tackle? He is tall and very gifted, but his athleticism does not translate to the field at all. He plays like his feet are stuck in the mud, and you cannot play tackle in this league without feet. I realize that he’s improving and new to the position, but projects like him usually go in the fourth round. I don’t understand why he’s regarded so highly.
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: The Panthers seem to believe Newton is the player that can turn their franchise around. At this point, anybody else would be a big surprise here.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: Denver has needs all over the place, but John Fox tipped his hand by cutting his best interior defensive linemen.
3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM: Peterson or Gabbert could be the pick, but Miller fills a bigger need and the Bills coached him at the Senior Bowl, where he was sensational.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: A quarterback is needed badly, but Mike Brown is too stubborn to admit that Palmer no longer has a future in Cincinnati.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: With so many young signal callers on the roster, I think Arizona will upgrade their defense here, where arguably the best player in the draft is still on the board.
6. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Defensive end is also a huge need, but the talent evaluators in Cleveland are all offensive-minded and there is a much deeper defensive end class than receiver this year.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Gabbert is still on the board, but I think Jim Harbaugh truly believes in Alex Smith.
8. Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: The Titans desperately need a franchise quarterback, and one falls into their lap here.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT, USC: Dallas needs to do a lot better at right tackle, and they reportedly love Tyron Smith, who has a ton of potential.
10. Washington Redskins: Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina: With two passers and two receivers off the board, the Redskins need to add a blue chip defender with this selection. Robert Quinn would be an enormous upgrade over converted offensive lineman Lorenzo Alexander.
11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri: Smith’s draft stock is rising quickly, and Houston needs some edge rushers for their new 3-4 defense.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Jake Locker, QB, Washington: The Vikings love mobile quarterbacks who can throw on the run, and there is no question that quarterback is their biggest need.
13. Detroit Lions: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Yet another piece to the puzzle for an improving Lions defense. Playing alongside Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, and Kyle Vanden Bosch should really help Bowers develop.
14. St. Louis Rams: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: Fairley’s draft stock is dropping due to character concerns, but there’s no way he gets past the Rams at fourteen, who need a presence on the interior.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida: The Dolphin running game certainly isn’t what it used to be. However, the offensive line has as much to do with that as running back. Pouncey has a better chance to be a pro bowl player than Mark Ingram, and you want to take difference makers in the first round.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: Once again, the Jags have serious problems getting to the quarterback. Ryan Kerrigan is a very, very good football player and will help out Tyson Alualu quite a bit.
17. New England Patriots: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: Talent and need converge here as J.J. Watt is the dream pick here for the Patriots.
18. San Diego Chargers: Cam Jordan, DE, California: San Diego is falling in love with the 5-techniques in this class, and Cam Jordan can certainly help solidify an already talented defensive unit.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: Every starter on the Giant offensive line is at least thirty-years-old, so they should be in the market for some youth there. If they don’t, they’ll end up like the Redskins.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Tampa desperately needs to find a sack master, and I’d say Brooks Reed is regarded as that type of player as he keeps drawing comparisons to Clay Matthews.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor: Scott Pioli always takes care of his defensive line first, and he needs to upgrade Ron Edwards in the middle. Taylor is one of the few 330+ pounders coming out of college that is always on top of his weight and can overwhelm smaller offensive linemen.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: There’s little doubt that the Colts will be looking to draft an offensive tackle early on. Nate Solder is a gifted athlete and has the chance to develop into a superb left tackle.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Asante Samuel is 30, and the Eagles don’t have much to write home about behind him on the depth chart. Jimmy Smith can start at right cornerback from day 1 and eventually slide over to the left side.
24. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: The Saints reportedly love Cameron Heyward, and they certainly are in the market for versatile defensive linemen that they can move around a bit.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Seattle needs to do something about their anemic pass rush, and there’s good value still on the board.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Ravens are serious about cutting ties with Jared Gaither and have been organizing visits with a bunch of pass protectors.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Houston, DE, Georgia: The local product will be a big addition to a team that has only one impact defensive lineman in John Abraham, who turns 33 in a couple of weeks.
28. New England Patriots: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis aren’t bad, but Mark Ingram would be a big upgrade over the perennial committee of undersized, old, broken down backs in Foxborough.
29. New York Jets: Marvin Austin, DE, North Carolina: Shaun Ellis, the Jets’ only good 5-technique, will be 34 very soon, and they need young blood on their defensive line. Marvin Austin’s stock is rising again and his athleticism makes him a good fit for the 3-4.
30. Chicago Bears: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: Tim Jennings got abused in the NFC Championship Game, and they could use an upgrade across from Charles Tillman. The Bears will love Harris’ competitiveness, physicality, and aggressiveness.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: The Steelers have an elite run defense, but are far too thin at corner. If Ike Taylor bolts in free agency, the Steelers will be in big trouble defensively.
32. Green Bay Packers: Corey Liuget, DE, Illinois: Outstanding value here for the Packers as they get to replace Cullen Jenkins with a very similar type of player.