Thursday, April 28, 2011

NFL Mock Draft: Picks 11-32

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I lied, today's version will include pick 10 as well. After some thought and dissension from my peers, the Redskins don't take Da'Quan Bowers. I considered putting Jake Locker or Prince Amukamara in that spot, but I'm going to stick with my initial instinct that they go with a defensive end. It just won't be Bowers due to the uncertainty surrounding his knee (which I don't worry about) and his better fit in a 4-3.

This mock is all based on teams staying where they are. I will mention potential trades I've been reading about, but no triggers will be pulled. So without further ado, the rest of the first round.

*10. Washington - Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

Same logic as yesterday, different player. Quinn's upside is that of a top-five pick in this draft but he also comes with risk after his rules-violation suspension last season and resulting apathy. But the Redskins are not opposed to taking risks and if Quinn pans out, opposing offensive coordinators could have nightmares trying to stop him and Brian Orakpo.

11. Houston - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

The Texans pass defense was terrible last season. I've heard rumors that they love Patrick Peterson and I could definitely see them making a trade with Arizona if he's still on the board when the Cardinals pick at five. Assuming they don't make that trade, Amukamara is a decent consolation prize.

I've seen people predicting Aldon Smith to the Texans here, but with Mario Williams already in tow as a pass rusher and a huge hole in their secondary, I don't see it. Houston drafted Kareem Jackson in the first round in 2010 but he was torched constantly last season; Amukamara is the best player on the board and fills a big need.

12. Minnesota - Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Minnesota seems unlikely to re-sign Ray Edwards opposite Jared Allen, so Aldon Smith is also a possibility at this spot. But Joe Webb is not the answer at quarterback and honestly, Jake Locker is. The Vikings want to move down for Locker, but I think Miami is a threat to take the Washington quarterback with the 15th pick.

If they want Locker, I think Minnesota needs to take him here. He went from the potential top overall pick last season if he came out to a possible second-rounder and now back into the early-to-middle portion of round one. The Vikings are getting much better value out of this pick than the Panthers taking Newton with the top pick and should be happy with Locker here.

13. Detroit - Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College

The Lions needs to keep Matthew Stafford healthy. This pick is similar to the Browns taking Julio Jones at six; it's being made mostly to help the team's quarterback. If Dallas moves out of the ninth pick the Lions will get Tyron Smith here but if the Cowboys stay in the top 10 and take Smith themselves, Costanzo should be a Lion.

Left tackle Jeff Backus is 34 and he's no world-beater anyway. If Detroit can keep Stafford on the field they have a chance to compete for a Wild Card berth (yes, I just said that) and drafting Costanzo can go a long way towards that goal. He has the height and size (6-7, 311) along with the athleticism to anchor their left side for years to come.

14. St. Louis - Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

The Rams would have loved to see Julio Jones fall here and in early mock drafts, he did. But now that he seems likely to go to the Browns, the Rams will have to look elsewhere to find a go-to target for Sam Bradford. Mark Ingram is a possibility as well, but the Rams do still have Steven Jackson and can find a running back later.

For me, this pick comes down to Smith or Illinois DT Corey Liuget. The Rams have more of a need at defensive tackle, but Smith is the better player. James Hall is coming off a 10.5-sack season but hadn't had more than 6.5 since 2004 and is 34 years old. Smith can be a rotational player until Hall moves on and then form a dynamic pass rush with Chris Long. I think Liuget is a reach at 14; I don't even have him in my first round.

15. Miami - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

Mark Ingram was projected here by many experts until a few weeks ago, but I haven't seen many mocks lately with him going to Miami. Most mocks have them taking either Florida guard Mike Pouncey or Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett. I'm a huge fan of both players; Pouncey is a versatile lineman who can help Miami's interior line and Mallett has the upside to be the next Peyton Manning. He also has the downside to be the next Ryan Leaf.

If Locker was available at this spot, I think the Dolphins would be more than willing to give up on Chad Henne for him. And while Pouncey fills a need, I think Miami should take Ingram. There have been questions about his knee but Ronnie Brown has never been a perfect picture of health and is a free agent. Brown was healthy last season, didn't even run well and is pushing 30. If Miami can't rely on Brown even when he's healthy, they need to move on. With Ingram.

16. Jacksonville - Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

I'd love to see Jacksonville take Cameron Jordan here, who I feel is more talented, but I hear they love Kerrigan's character and leadership ability. It would also be nice to see the Jags steal Jordan from New England but the Patriots might be moving up anyway, making Jordan unavailable at this spot. Jacksonville benched 2008 first-rounder Derrick Harvey last season and Kerrigan seems to be his likely replacement.

17. New England - Cameron Jordan, DE, California

I've heard rumors of New England using their two-first round picks and overall draft depth to move into the top 10, potentially trading with Dallas who has the ninth pick. The Patriots like Jordan, he fits into their defense and he's the son of a coach. All of these things work great for Bill Belichick, but I'm not sure they need to move up to draft Jordan. He's a possibility for the Rams at 14 and the Jaguars at 16 but I think the Pats can wait. Whether they will is another story.

18. San Diego - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

The Chargers will definitely be looking defense without any huge holes on offense, despite great statistics on that side of the football. Watt is the best front seven player available here and will be the pick. I haven't heard much about San Diego trading out of this spot, but I wouldn't be surprised to see that as well.

19. NY Giants - Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida

The Giants will be very happy if the Dolphins pass on Pouncey at 15. With Costanzo already off the board and a serious need along the offensive line, New York would be left with few options. I've heard Mark Ingram rumors but I don't see it; he's a good prospect but not likely a superstar and the Giants do still have Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw in their backfield. Ingram can be better than both, but it's not necessarily a need pick.

New York could really use a linebacker, but there aren't any good ones available at this spot. They could trade down but their offensive line is getting old and has had issues with injuries over the past few seasons. Pouncey would solve a lot of their problems.

20. Tampa Bay - Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

If Aqib Talib hadn't tried to kill his sister's boyfriend, this would be an easy pick for Tampa Bay. Defensive end is their biggest need and Bowers fits well in their 4-3 scheme. Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith is also a legitimate possibility here as Talib is likely going to be released once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached and Ronde Barber isn't getting any younger.

Bowers' precipitous drop in this draft due to questions about his knee should end here. After hitting with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price at defensive tackle last season, the Bucs will be young on the defensive line but also very talented. Bowers was a potential top-10 pick a few weeks ago and has the ability to make Tampa Bay very happy if he falls to them.

21. Kansas City - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

This was a tough choice between Carimi and Colorado tackle Nate Solder, but Carimi is more ready to contribute right away and that's what the competing Chiefs are looking for. As a four-year starter at Wisconsin, Carimi could step right in to Kansas City's starting lineup at right tackle, as he might lack the skill and footwork to play left tackle early in his career.

22. Indianapolis - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Like the Chiefs, the Colts need help along the offensive line. While Peyton Manning is a one-man blitz detector, Solder has the athleticism and ability to eventually man the blind side, as well as the size (6-8, 320) and growth potential to improve his run blocking and end up at right tackle.

23. Philadelphia - Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

The Eagles have Da'Quan Bowers' knee problems to thank for Smith falling to them and filling their biggest need. If Bowers wasn't available for the Bucs at 20 they surely would take Smith, but instead Philadelphia will take the talented but risky cornerback. Smith failed three drug tests in college, one for codeine, the same drug that has been linked to Jamarcus Russell, who is now out of the NFL.

Dimitri Patterson just won't cut out on the other side of Asante Samuel, while the 6-2, 211-pound Smith has the size and athleticism to be an excellent corner once he matures and develops his game. He may not start right away, but he could very well crack into the Eagles' lineup after a few weeks this season. He could also bust but at 23, his talent is worth the risk.

24. New Orleans - Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

Even when they won the Super Bowl, New Orleans had issues on defense. They were just masked by a ball-hawking secondary and a defense that forced lots of turnovers. Last year, they were exposed and drafting Wilkerson will help their interior defensive line and pass rush.

Wilkerson was a tackle in college and many teams are targeting him as a 3-4 defensive end as well. But at 6-4, 315 pounds, he has enough size to play inside of a 4-3 where New Orleans will need him. His athleticism and versatility will also help New Orleans, as they can move him around their line to exploit mismatches.

25. Seattle - Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

The fourth quarterback taken, Dalton is one that has been rising up draft boards. His poise and leadership ability has been discussed ad nauseam but that makes him more attractive than a quarterback like Ryan Mallett, who has better physical tools but questionable leadership characteristics and intangibles. Dalton is a stronger-armed, more athletic Chad Pennington.

Dalton is also extremely accurate, which can't be said for many of the top quarterbacks in this draft. He isn't the running threat that Cam Newton or Locker is, but he can escape the pocket and pick up yards on the ground well enough to survive in today's NFL.

26. Baltimore - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

It seems more likely that the Ravens will trade this pick rather than take Heyward, considering Smith and the top six defensive ends will be off the board. This is the point in the draft where many teams will be looking to jump into the back end of the first round for a quarterback, and it's very possible the Titans could make a move for the Ravens' pick to take Mallett Florida State's Christian Ponder.

If the Ravens do stay at 26, Heyward will fit well in their defense. He has the ability to outplay this pick but likely will never be a dynamic pass rusher, something the Ravens will be fine with as a 3-4 defensive end. Good value at this point, but I still think Baltimore trades out.

27. Atlanta - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa State

The Falcons are another late first-round trade candidate but if not, Clayborn would be an excellent fit for a team that needs a pass-rushing defensive end. John Abraham is still good but is no spring chicken and Kroy Biermann's biggest claim to fame is his touchdown last season rather than any of his work rushing the passer.

Clayborn has the size (6-2, 281) to play a 4-3 defensive end and the speed (4.81 40-yard dash) to wreak havoc in the backfield. The Falcons' defense is built on speed and the explosive Clayborn would be a great fit. His erb's palsy, which causes slight weakness in his right arm, is cause for concern for some general managers but he's a top-20 talent in this draft that will fall due to that and the overall depth at defensive end. If Atlanta stays here, they should be happy with Clayborn.

28. New England - Brooks Reed, LB, Arizona

Reed has drawn favorable comparisons to Clay Matthews and New England needs helps in their pass rush. I get the feeling they won't be picking at this spot; whether they trade the pick to move up or trade back with a team that wants a quarterback. But if they stay at 28, Reed is the perfect Patriot.

Reed is smart, coachable and brings the attitude to improve that the Patriots covet. Akeem Ayers is also a possibility at this spot, but Reed's intangibles give him the edge when a team like New England is picking. Bill Belichick knows that the Jets are giving Reed a long, hard look as well and he would love nothing more than to stick to New York.

29. Chicago - Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

Jay Cutler could use some protection on the blind side and Sherrod, despite a second-round grade from many draft sites, is the best player available at the Bears' biggest position of need. He can't be worse than Frank Omiyale, the player currently slated to start at left tackle for Chicago.

At 6-5, 310 pounds he will need to add strength to become a solid player but he has the athleticism and upside to justify this pick. Sherrod is a much better pass protector than a run blocker but the Bears' offense is pass-heavy and Matt Forte can just run right. Chicago doesn't need another Cutler injury in the playoffs to derail their chances at a Super Bowl run.

30. NY Jets - Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

This pick could go two different ways if both Taylor and UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers are available, but I think the Jets will take Taylor. A 3-4 defense needs a mammoth nose tackle and with Kris Jenkins gone, the 6-3, 334-pound Taylor should fit nicely. Sione Pouha did a great job replacing Jenkins last season but is more of a 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end. Drafting Taylor would allow Pouha to move outside and form a solid three-man line along with Shaun Ellis.

Ayers is a possibility as well but the Jets could still bring back Bryan Thomas to play outside linebacker opposite Calvin Pace and address the position later in the draft. With the Jets in win-now mode they will want a player who can produce right away and Taylor, despite concerns about his character and 2009 weight issues, can step right in and clog up the middle of the Jets' defense, allowing David Harris and Bart Scott to roam unimpeded.

31. Pittsburgh - Danny Watkins, G, Baylor

Watkins and Taylor become the second pair of college teammates drafted back-to-back after Solder and Smith go 22 and 23. The Steelers are unlikely to find a player at this spot who will start for them considering their current roster, but they could use help along the inside of their offensive line and Watkins could be a nice complement to budding star Maurkice Pouncey.

The downside to Watkins is his advanced age; he will be 27 in November. But that wouldn't preclude the Steelers from taking him here and looking to get him into their starting lineup this season or next season. Pittsburgh is a team looking to win in the present and Watkins is a quick learner and is ready to produce wherever the Steelers will need him.

32. Green Bay - Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA

The Packers would love to get Ayers at this point and create a future outside linebacker tandem of Ayers and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Clay Matthews. Frank Zombo is an overachiever who played well last season, but doesn't have the same talent level as Ayers.

Ayers can rush the passer but that would primarily be Matthews' job, while Ayers could focus on stopping the run and pass coverage. A talented all-around player, the former Bruin will be a perfect complement to Matthews on the outside if he falls to the 32nd pick.

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