The final installment of my mock draft. No quarterbacks, or trades! Go figure!
17. New England Patriots- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Just like every year, the Patriots will probably trade out of this spot unless there’s a guy that they truly want. If Watt manages to slip to this spot, I have a hard time believing that the Patriots won’t take him. Watt is an explosive end with a Julius Peppers skill set and build who could step in and produce immediately. The former walk-on put up fantastic numbers in his years at Wisconsin proving his worth as not only a serious playmaking pass rusher, but also a very skilled run defender. His real upside is as a 3-4 end, and I think the Patriots would jump on that.
18. San Diego Chargers- Cameron Jordan, DE, California
For a defense that played so well last season, they sure do have a lot of holes. This once very threateningly explosive team has lost its explosive players. Shawne Merriman went bust, Ladanian Tomlinson got old, and Jamal Williams broke down. Obviously the team has huge needs at linebacker, but their front line needs to be addressed too, and building a good foundation of a line is always the best route to take. Jordan is another exceptional 3-4 end prospect in this class that offers tenacity on every down and a nice array of pass rush skills. His only downside was the lack of true production in college, but every scout will tell you that this guy has tools for success.
19. New York Giants- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
The Giants made a huge investment in Eli Manning a few years ago, making him a hundred million dollar man. This season, Manning got whacked so hard that blood was literally spewing from his head like a waterfall. He has an aging and injured offensive line that could shorten his career and is clearly affecting his play as well as the run game. William Beatty has looked iffy at best so far in his career. Castonzo is the most pro-ready tackle in this draft and displayed great athleticism and durability in his time at BC. He is a solid starter from day one for the next ten years.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Aldon Smith, DE, Mizzou
Smith falls this far out of circumstance, and the Bucs couldn’t be more excited. He has the best measurable of any end prospect in probably the past ten years, but his only questions concern his durability and production last season which dipped noticeably. He fills the Bucs greatest need as an athletic edge rusher, and if he gets anywhere near tapping his potential, then Tampa Bay has a Pro-Bowler. That’s good news for the up and coming team which hosts divisional rivals Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, and soon enough Cam Newton, twice a season.
21. Kansas City Chiefs- Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
The Chiefs had a great second season under head coach Todd Haley, with notable improvements on both sides of the ball. The only problems with the team are some holes on both lines. The offensive line is showing some age, but still produced the best run game in the league last year, so for me, defensive line is a bigger priority. Not only is it a bigger priority, but there’s also more value at line in this mock. Phil Taylor is a mammoth in the middle with the ability to anchor down and occupy blockers, and on occasion get penetration. He’s a good athlete considering his size, and offers Vince Wilfork type potential. The team’s run defense dropped off big time towards the end of last year mainly because they had nothing at the NT position. Taylor instantly steps into that role. Teams don’t view his feet as an issue, so Taylor goes here rather than Gabe Carimi or Derek Sherrod.
22. Indianapolis Colts- Derek Sherrod, OT, Miss. St.
If the Colts want any chance to win, then they have to keep Peyton Manning alive. If he has protection, then this team wins 12 or more games easily. Last season, there was very little help for Peyton who seemingly lost every offensive weapon at some point, with no running game, and little protection. His high interception total was a by-product of the crappiness that the Colts front office has surrounded him with in terms of offensive help. Sherrod offers the consistency and pass production that Bill Polian looks for in his draft picks, he also offers the limited upside Polian likes, too. I love Peyton Manning, and I like the Colts, but they only have three more years or so until Peyton retires and they slip into irrelevance. It’s time to start thinking about L.A.P., Life After Peyton.
23. Philadelphia Eagles- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
I’m a Michael Vick fan. I think he’s paid his price and given his time, and finally straightened his life out. I love watching him play as he’s one of the most electrifying players of our generation, but if he doesn’t get someone on that line to block for him, then he’s going to be a pancake with a couple of broken legs. Carimi can step in and play right tackle from day one, he also offers the size and versatility to play guard at the next level. He reminds me of Jon Runyan, a former Andy Reid favorite. He doesn’t offer a ton of upside, but he’s a fine player that can soothe some of the problems on that line. As for the play of Jason Peters, well, someone needs to inspire him because his play is as sporadic as anyone in the league.
24. New Orleans Saints- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
A gift from the heavens for the Saints. It kills me to see such a good player fall this far, but it happens sometimes. Purdue was the epitome of high level consistent production at Purdue, racking up sacks and TFLs left and right. He has underrated athleticism and technique, and even though he has a limited ceiling, he’s exactly what the Saints need at the end position. It was tough to choose between Kerrigan, Wilkerson, and Liuget, but Kerrigan presented the most value in terms of need. The position is bone dry behind the aging Will Smith, and Kerrigan fills a hole.
25. Seattle Seahawks- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Liuget is a top 15 talent that takes a bit of a tumble. Blame the early QB barrage from the needy teams. Surprisingly, I’m not mocking Andy Dalton or Christian Ponder here even though QB is such a huge need. I believe that Seattle can try to jump up to the early second or back end of the first to grab one of those guys. Liuget is a fantastic talent, possessing great body strength with the ability to penetrate as a three technique, hold his ground and occupy blockers, or get down into run pursuit. Brandon Mebane is going walk in free agency, and even though he was a nice player, Liuget can be much better with a little time.
26. Baltimore Ravens- Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple
This is exactly who the Ravens want. I could see them considering a player like Brooks Reed or Cameron Heyward, but Wilkerson is a player that would easily be a top 10 selection next season. He has immense upside as a pass rusher and run stopper from the edge with his unique combination of strength and arm length. This isn’t exactly their biggest need though, as a player like Jonathan Baldwin would give that boring offense some juice, but I’m not going to buck the trend, Wilkerson is a better prospect anyway.
27. Atlanta Falcons- Justin Houston, DE, Georgia
John Abraham and Kroy Biermann had pretty solid performances last season, but Abraham is reached the end and probably has just one year left in him. It’s the perfect chance for the Falcons to groom a replacement, one that has great potential, but will not have to start right away. Houston is a high upside player, who put up excellent numbers the past few years at Georgia, but he’s still pretty raw. A year to learn under Abraham would work wonders for him and give a ton of help to that funny Atlanta defense. I don’t care what people say about the Falcons needing a tight end, there’s not one worth taking in the first round, Kyle Rudolph is way overrated, and a mid-second round prospect at best. Atlanta would be better off taking one of the freak athlete prospects in the middle rounds. They offer better upside, see Graham, Jimmy.
28. New England Patriots- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
The Patriots get a gift of a pick here. Ingram is going to be a very good running back, and it’s about time the Pats treat themselves to something that they really could use. Getting old, run down backs or ones that just aren’t very talented was a trend that I think everyone was getting tired of. The Pats could also use a pass rusher or a big receiver, but they pick 33rd and there should be guys available there, not to mention they probably won’t stand pat here anyway, so take it as it is.
29. Chicago Bears- Jon Baldwin, WR, Pitt
Yes, Baldwin. The Bears need a guy for Jay Cutler to be able to rely on consistently. He needs a number one receiver who poses a threat to go over the top, over the middle and take a shot, and just make plays when the going gets tough. The Bears spent a lot to get Cutler, but without a good line or a number one receiver, he’s not going to put them over the top. Nate Solder could go here, but I don’t believe he’s a first round player, and would take time to develop. He’s a high risk player that wouldn’t help right away. Not that Baldwin isn’t a risk, but I think the Bears can find a good right tackle in the second or third round, as well as a good guard to complement the run game.
30. New York Jets- Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
Last year the Jets selected Valdimir Ducasse in the second round. He’s undoubtedly a tremendous athlete, but he hasn’t translated that to the NFL just yet. Second year player Matt Slauson didn’t fare very well either. Danny Watkins is a top rated guard prospect who instantly upgrades almost any offensive line. He played tackle in college, and the Jets could even use him on the right side to replace Damien Woody. Yes, he’s already 27, but he fills a role that’s vital to the way the Jets play offense. Without a good line, the Jets can’t use the run to set up the play-action. And then the questions come back up about Mark Sanchez’s mediocrity.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
The Steelers have an extremely lackluster secondary without Troy Polamalu, and even when he’s in there, he’s usually in the box instead of dropped back in coverage. Bryant McFadden is a fringe starter at best and really hasn’t merited the playing time or contract he’s received. Ike Taylor is their shutdown guy, now the Steelers just need a guy that can make some plays. They don’t need a Nnamdi Asomugha or Darelle Revis, they just need a number two guy that can work a zone defense, and Harris can do that. He doesn’t have elite size or speed, but has the quick twitch reaction skills secondary coaches like. Brandon Harris could feed off of the teachings of the great Dick Lebeau.
32. Green Bay Packers- Brooks Reed, OLB/DE, Arizona
Frank Zombo and Erik Walden are really nice players, but they cannot be counted on to be anything more than rotational players. Adding a player like Reed that has polished pass rush skills including a nice “bend” opens up much, much more for the Pack’s attack. His coverage might be raw, but he can be brought along slowly. Plus, the Packers are in love with long, blond, flowing locks, see Matthews, Clay and Hawk, A.J.