So my official stance on the NFL draft is that I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to speculate on it. I don’t even want to acknowledge its existence. I have this irrational fear that if I do, the NFL season will never actually come. But I’m changing my mind for three reasons:
A. I’m bored. There’s only so much you can say about the NBA, which is boring by default. In a week or so my favorite team will be eliminated and I’m going to stop caring all together. Don’t get me started on how atrocious baseball is.
B. People love it. They do. I don’t know why, but it’s strangely addictive.
C. The draft is going down in a week, whether the NFL season goes down at all or not. We can at least cling to it as what may turn out to be the last bit of NFL-relevant news for a long, painful while.
Unfortunately I lack the time and intelligence to do a 7-round mock. So I’ll do one round, and hope it’s as least as accurate as Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, who are just barely more qualified than I am. Here goes.
1. CAR-Cam Newton, QB Auburn: I know Carolina fans probably think he’s not the best player on the board. Hell, most analysts don’t think he’s the best QB on the board. I just don’t see a situation where he doesn’t go #1. The Panthers will regret not drafting him here. There’s a need. He’s got the most potential. No other QB warrants #1 overall pick consideration.
2. DEN-Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama: Dareus is this year’s Ndamukong Suh. He’s not quite as athletic, but is slightly less injury-prone. He probably won’t make the immediate impact that Suh did, but for a team like Denver that needs an inside pass rush and all the help it can get stopping the run, he’s a good fit.
3. BUF-Von Miller, OLB Texas A&M: The Bills have an abyssmal pass rush, and Miller addresses that. He’s a prototypical standup rusher but is probably too small to ever play down lineman for the Bills if they switch back to a 40-front.
4. CIN-Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri: I don’t have any inside information, and Gabbert doesn’t necessarily have a buzz this high, or to this team, but I just think that if Cincy wants to avoid taking two steps backward they’ll address QB as they prepare for the inevitibility of Carson Palmer leaving (I think he’s serious about retiring rather than playing for them again). And, um, Carson Palmer isn’t that good.
5. ARI-Patrick Peterson, CB LSU: QB is the most important need, but not only is there not a worthwhile passer available in this scenario, but I think there will be a sense of urgency to get back to the playoffs for the Cardinals, and they won’t want to wait on a rookie (they’ll instead opt for a free agent). That leaves Peterson who, to me, is the absolute best prospect in this class. He can’t drop below 5th.
6. CLE-A.J. Green, WR Georgia: This is the perfect storm for Cleveland, who needs very little on defense, but could use a serious talent infusion at WR. A.J. Green should not slip this far. Even a team that didn’t need him would have to take him at 6.
7. SFO-Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina: I don’t really think Quinn is the pass rusher the ‘Niners need, but with Miller, Peterson and Gabbert off the board they just go best available here.
8. TEN-Jake Locker, QB Washington: The Titans have tons of needs, but they’re one of many teams that could desperately use a QB. Locker’s biggest knock is that he’s not very accurate and is kind of interception-prone. But the big arm to Kenny Britt (if he can stay out of jail) combo could be too enticing to pass up.
9. DAL-Tyron Smith, OT USC: At first glance Smith, an o-lineman, isn’t a typical Jerry Jones first round pick. But he’s athletic and has a lot of hype right now, and word has it the Cowboys like him.
10. WAS-Julio Jones, WR Alabama: Yet another team that will likely be in the market for a QB, Washington in this scenario settles for another need at WR. Santana Moss is a free agent, and even if he stays the ‘Skins need depth and an heir apparent. Jones is a great physical specimen with size and speed, plus lots of top-notch starting experience.
11. HOU-Nick Fairley, DT Auburn: I think Fairley is by far the best prospect available here (I could easily see Tennessee taking him 8th), so the Texans take him. He’s really a 4-3 NT,
but with Houston’s switch to 3-4 he’ll play 5-tech. I still don’t know how Mario Williams, the team’s best player, fits in.
12. MIN-Ryan Mallet, QB Arkansas: I don’t really think Mallet is good enough to go this high, but what do I know? Apparently the Vikings like him, for whatever reason. He fills a need, for sure.
13. DET-Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska: The Lions score big here. They need help all across the secondary and Amukamara has big time potential and the ability to start right away. He’ll still give up yards from time-to-time, but he’s a playmaker.
14. STL-Aldon Smith, DE Missouri: Hometown guy, fills a need, I don’t know. Why not?
15. MIA-Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB Purdue: Miami still needs pass rushers. If they think Kerrigan projects to OLB in a 3-4, he’d be a solid pick, and a good fit.
16. JAC-Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson: The Jags will continue to tool up to stop Indy. Bowers had a big junior season, leading the nation in sacks, and I get the feeling he’s an underrated late bloomer. It’s probably too early for secondary help here.
17. NWE-Anthony Costonzo, OT Boston College: I’m giving New England the player I want for my team (the Colts), because I’m a pessimist. That, and I think Matt Light is outro…and old.
18. SDG-J.J. Watt, DT Wisconsin: The Chargers need 5-techs and Watt is a blue-collar guy who fits in. San Diego continues to bolster their defense and build for the future.
19. NYG-Mike Pouncey, OG Florida: Maurkice’s brother is probably the lesser of the two Pounceys, but he’s quick and versatile enough to fit in with the Giants.
20. TAM-Justin Houston, DE/OLB Georgia: There’s been a lot of buzz lately that Houston is the guy for Tampa, and they should be able to safely pick him here. He’s got boom or bust potential, but he’s a monsterous specimen who would help the Bucs’ dismal pass rush from the DE spot.
21. KAN-Phil Taylor, DT Baylor: Since converting to a 30-front the Chiefs have struggled to find that lynchpin NT to anchor the d-line. Taylor, despite all his risks, is it. He’s got great size and looks like a B.J. Raji type. The “inoperable foot condition” that everyone is talking about is a concern.
22. IND-Derek Sherrod, OT Mississippi St.: Bill Polian has been cute long enough; it’s time for a first round caliber lineman. Sherrod isn’t a franchise-changing LT, but he can play the position, is huge and has the type of brains and experience that the Colts look for in all of their players.
23. PHI-Brandon Harris, CB Miami: The Iggles need help in the secondary and o-line, and there’s not really any better prospect on the board.
24. NOR-Corey Liuget, DT Illinois: The Saints need this dude if for no other reason than his name is pronounced “legit.” Also their front 4 could use some depth.
25. SEA-Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin: While Carimi isn’t the LT prospect many hoped he would be, he can probably play RT in the pros, and he’s too good to pass up for a team in Seattle that was atrocious running the ball last year.
26. BAL-Cameron Heyward, DT/DE Ohio State: A 5-tech who would fit in perfectly in Baltimore. Oh, who am I kidding? A bunch of the draft sites are saying they heard the Ravens are definitely taking him. He is smart though, and supposedly a very good leader.
27. ATL-Kyle Rudolph, TE Notre Dame: There’s always a tight end selected in the first round. This year, the team with the biggest need is Atlanta, who may be losing high-usage vet Tony Gonzalez. Rudolph won’t easily fill his shoes, but he’s got a chance to contribute right away.
28. NWE-Mark Ingram, RB Alabama: If Ingram doesn’t go to New England he’s falling out of the first round. He probably should’ve come out after his sophomore year, even though it was a slightly deeper RB class. Somebody’s getting a good deal, and it might as well be NE, who drafts smart and needs RB help.
29. CHI-Nate Solder, OT Colorado: The Bears’ line is horrid, and while Solder is probably not polished enough to be an effective LT starter right away, he’s far and away the most athletic and intriguing prospect in this draft.
30. NYJ-Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA: Ayers is a very good blitzer and with all the attention the Jets have given to the secondary recently, they still couldn’t generate much of a pass rush last year. Ayers will play situationally at first, but has the skill to become an every-down starter.
31. PIT-Danny Watkins, OT/G Baylor: This may be a slight reach on Watkins, especially considering he’s much older than the average prospect (27), but he’s still got potential because he’s only played organized football for a few years. The Steelers need to continue upgrading their line, and Watkins can play inside and out.
32. GNB-Bruce Carter, OLB North Carolina: The Packers probably really hope a RT prospect like the hometown Carimi falls here, as last year’s first rounder, Bulaga, will eventually be switched to the blind side. But in this scenario they go with an athletic freak to play opposite Clay Matthews.