Updated 3-round mock draft

Carolina Panthers
Blaine Gabbert
QB Missouri
I have no idea what the Panthers are going to do with this pick and you’re lying to yourself if you think you do. But here’s my best guess: they really want to trade down. So they’re making sure that no one who they want by saying they’re considering as many as eight players. Their hope is that someone like the Bills or Bengals gets their heart set on one guy (Newton maybe) and trades up. But if they stay put, I think they’re going with a quarterback.
2. Denver Broncos Da’Quan Bowers DE Clemson
Bowers stock has been called into question by some, partly due to injury concerns, but I still believe he is No. 1 on the Broncos draft board. He is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end and could fill the role that Julius Peppers played for years in John Fox’s defense in Carolina. As long as Bowers is able work out – even at slightly less than 100% – before the draft, he’ll come off the board in the top six. If Bowers isn’t their guy, Denver goes with Fairley or Dareus.
3. Buffalo Bills Marcell Dareus DE Alabama
The Bills need a quarterback, but I have a hard time picturing Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey buying into the Cam Newton hype. Just like last year, I think they’ll enter the draft with the mindset that they’re only going to draft a quarterback if he is truly the top player on their board. Given the Bills need and talent in this year’s class, I think both Dareus and Patrick Peterson are more likely options here than Cam Newton.
4. Cincinnati Bengals Cam Newton QB Auburn
I strongly believe that Newton is far from a top-five prospect, which is why it makes perfect sense that he’ll end up in Cincinnati. The Carson Palmer era is over and by the time the draft rolls around, owner Mike Brown will have come to terms with that fact. He’ll want to make a splash and will fall in love with Newton’s athleticism much like he did with Akili Smith in 1999… and the results this time around won’t be much better.
5. Arizona Cardinals Von Miller OLB Texas A&M
Von Miller has done nothing but boost his stock this offseason and he now looks like a pretty safe bet for the Cardinals at No. 5. The only scenario in which I could envision the Cards passing on Miller would be if Patrick Peterson were still on the board. Miller is slightly undersized for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he is a truly elite athlete and would greatly improve the Cardinals struggling pass rush. He has the potential to be an instant-impact player.
6. Cleveland Browns Patrick Peterson CB LSU
The Browns need a receiver and defensive linemen far more than they need another quarterback, but GM Tom Heckert strongly believes in taking the best available player. In this scenario there is no question that Peterson is the top prospect and the board. I know plenty of Browns fans would prefer A.J. Green, but I simply can’t see Heckert gambling on a receiver in the top 10 when the best player in the draft is still on the board.
7. San Francisco 49ers P. Amukamara CB Nebraska
This is probably the worst-case scenario for the 49ers, who would love to see Patrick Peterson, Blaine Gabbert or even Von Miller fall. Based on the players on the board, this decision should come down to Amukamara and Fairley. Neither fills a huge need, but they’re the best available players. I’ll give the nod to Amukamara because he is capable of making the bigger immediate impact and gives the Niners some security when they eventually part ways with the overpaid Nate Clements.
8. Tennessee Titans Nick Fairley DT Auburn
Fairley, Dareus and Bowers are all in frustrating positions. All three could go No. 1 overall, but one of them is likely to fall to the Titans at No. 8. Fairley is an elite athlete and should be an instant-impact pass rusher from the interior line position, however, he’s slightly undersized and isn’t strong against the run. I believe this deficiency will make him the one to fall. In Tennessee he’ll team up with Derrick Morgan to give the Titans two great young linemen to build around.
9. Dallas Cowboys Tyron Smith OT USC
The Cowboys would love to land Prince Amukamara, and would probably consider trading up for him or Patrick Peterson if the opportunity presented itself. But with both top corners off the board, the Cowboys have to reach to fill another position of need. Tyron Smith played right tackle at USC, but has demonstrated this offseason that he has the athleticism and the size to easily shift over to the left side. This is definitely a risky pick, but the Cowboys don’t have many other options.
10. Washington Redskins A.J. Green WR Georgia
This scenario may seem too good to be true for Redskins fans. There’s a slight chance that Green goes No. 1 overall, but the odds are greater that he falls all the way to No. 10. The Browns and Bengals are the most likely teams to select him earlier, but I believe they both have other more pressing needs that can be filled and Green will land in Washington’s lap.  If Green is gone, Julio Jones should still be on the board and would be the pick.
Houston Texans
Aldon Smith
OLB Missouri
Wade Phillips plans to move Brian Cushing to inside linebacker in the Texans new 3-4 scheme, which opens up a gaping hole on the outside. Connor Barwin will likely earn one starting job, but there isn’t another strong option on the roster. Smith is raw, having entered the draft as a redshirt sophomore, but has the elite physical tools necessary to transition from end to linebacker at the next level. He’s a bit of a project, but could provide an immediate boost to Houston’s pass rush.
12. Minnesota Vikings Robert Quinn DE North Carolina
While the Vikings would love to draft a quarterback here, I just can’t see them reaching for Mallett or Locker. Given their needs and the depth at the position, I believe defensive end is the most likely target here. Jared Allen struggled for much of 2010 and his counterpart Ray Edwards is a free agent. Adding an elite pass rusher like Quinn could help the Vikings defense regain their from from their playoff run in 2009.
13. Detroit Lions Akeem Ayers LB UCLA
This is fairly early for Ayers, but the Lions have reportedly shown a strong interest in him already this offseason. Since coming to Detroit, Jim Schwartz has placed an emphasis in building the defensive front seven. He’s done a great job rebuilding the defensive line, but now needs to focus on the linebackers. Ayers is a big, physical player who fits perfectly at strong-side linebacker in Schwartz’s system. It’s a reach, but with no elite corner on the board it makes sense.
14. St. Louis Rams Julio Jones WR Alabama
If Jones falls, this is an easy choice for the Rams. They desperately need a receiver, and Jones is a top-10 talent. The only team that may take Jones prior to No. 14 is Washington, who opts for A.J. Green in this scenario. Jones would give Sam Bradford a true No. 1 receiver, allowing their other receivers (Amendola, Avery, etc) to play more natural roles as second and third options. If Jones is gone, they’ll probably have to wait until the 2nd round to address this need.
15. Miami Dolphins Mark Ingram RB Alabama
I think the odds of the Dolphins trading this pick are at least 50/50. One option is for them trade up for Cam Newton, whom I believe they are very interested in. Another option would be to trade this pick for Kevin Kolb. If they stay put, however, they’re most likely to target a running back. Ingram is the consensus top available player at the position, so I’ll place him here. However, I wouldn’t rule out Mike Leshoure, who I actually like more than Ingram.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars Ryan Kerrigan DE Purdue
The Jaguars anemic pass rush desperately needs an upgrade, and I think the odds of them added a defensive end here are over 90%. Kerrigan isn’t the top available defensive end, but he’s probably the one best suited for their 4-3 scheme. And as Gene Smith showed last year, he isn’t afraid to reach for a player that he believes fits their system. The Jags are also a candidate to trade up a few slots for a chance at someone like Robert Quinn.
17. New England Patriots J.J. Watt DE Wisconsin
[pick from Raiders] With Watt and Cameron Jordan still on the board it would be hard for the Patriots not to select a defensive end in this scenario. The return of Ty Warren will certainly help their front seven, but they need to add youth to the defensive line. Watt is a top-10 talent, but the depth at defensive end will likely cause him to fall into the 10-20 range. He’s a great fit for New England’s defense and should be a starter from day one.
18. San Diego Chargers Cameron Jordan DE California
I’m a huge fan of Jordan and think he is a top-10 talent. However, the consensus seems to be that he’ll fall to the second half of the 1st-round. If he’s still on the board it will be difficult for the Chargers to pass on him. He has a rare size/athleticism combination which makes him a prototypical 3-4 defense, which also happens to be the Chargers biggest need this offseason. If Jordan were off the board, Muhamad Wilkerson would be nice consolation prize.
19. New York Giants Mike Pouncey OG Florida
The Giants aging offensive line needs an upgrade and they have shown a strong interest in Pouncey this offseason. He’s an intriguing player because he could potentially play any of the three interior line positions. In New York he may not start right away, but would provide them with valuable depth before taking over for Shaun O’Hara at center or Rich Seubert at guard. A tackle such as Anthony Castonzo is also an option here.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Adrian Clayborn DE Iowa
The Bucs had a grand total of 26 sacks this past season – only the Broncos had fewer. As a result, adding a pass rusher here is a must. Adrian Clayborn is an elite talent, who is coming off a disappointing senior year which will likely cause him to fall into the late 1st-round. The Bucs would probably prefer more of a pure pass rusher like Ryan Kerrigan, but Clayborn is a more well-rounded player and should be a three-down lineman for them.
Kansas City Chiefs
Phil Taylor
DT Baylor
This is probably as high as Taylor could climb in the draft, but it’s a very realistic possibility considering the Chiefs needs. Scott Pioli was instrumental in the Patriots decision to draft Vince Wilfork and saw first hand what a dominant nose tackle can do for a defense. If the season started today, the Chiefs would probably be stuck with Shaun Smith as their starter. There won’t be many options available in free agency, making this position a high priority in the draft.
22. Indianapolis Colts A. Castonzo OT Boston College
The Colts offensive line needs some major work and I would be stunned if they did not draft a tackle in one of the first two rounds. This is a weak class of offensive linemen, but they should have their pick of anyone other than Tyron Smith with this selection. With Peyton Manning getting up their in age, the Colts philosophy should be to find someone capable of playing immediately and Castonzo fits that description. He’s fundamentally sound and ready to play immediately.
23. Philadelphia Eagles Jimmy Smith CB Colorado
Asante Samuels is among the best in the game, but the retirement of Ellis Hobbs has left the secondary depleted of talent. Smith is a top-15 talent, but character concerns could cause him to fill into the latter half of the 1st round. The Eagles have become one of the teams confident in their ability to work with players who have some character flaws, so I don’t believe they’ll be scared off. If he’s on the board here, the Eagles should take the risk.
24. New Orleans Saints Cam Heyward DE Ohio State
The Saints need a linebacker, but there isn’t anyone worth considering here. As a result, they’ll likely target the best available player. Heyward is a versatile lineman who can play both end and tackle in the Saints 4-3 scheme, as he did at Ohio State. He is a top-15 talent, but is likely to fall due to his post-season elbow surgery which has prevented him from working out for teams to this point. The Saints would gladly roll the dice if he’s on the board here.
25. Seattle Seahawks Ryan Mallett OT Arkansas
Take away the character concerns, and Mallett may be the top-rated player in this year’s draft class – his raw skills are that good. However, the concerns do exist which is going to cause him to fall into the late 1st and possibly all the way into the 2nd round. Seattle is one of the teams that could stop his free fall. They could re-sign Matt Hasselbeck and allow Mallett to sit and learn for a year or two, hopefully developing his maturity and football skills in the process.
26. Baltimore Ravens Justin Houston OLB Georgia
This stat shocked me when I first saw it: only the Bucs, Jaguars and Broncos had fewer sacks this past season than the Ravens. Terrell Suggs is a beast, but no one else on that defense is capable of getting to the quarterback. Jarrett Johnson is valuable because of his versatility in their 4-3/3-4 hybrid defense, but he doesn’t scare anyone. Justin Houston should be an intriguing prospect for the Ravens because he has played in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme during his time at Georgia.
27. Atlanta Falcons Jerrel Jernigan WR Troy
The Falcons have few needs this offseason and as a result they have the luxury of reaching to fill a need. Jernigan isn’t an elite prospect, but he has impressive speed and athleticism and projects as a quality slot receiver. His speed and ability to make plays after the catch would make him a perfect compliment to Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. The Falcons are reportedly very high on Jernigan, but he’s unlikely to fall to them in the 2nd round.
28. New England Patriots Gabe Carimi OT Wisconsin
The Patriots chose to franchise Logan Mankins rather than Matt Light, which makes me believe there is a strong possibility the 32-year-old free agent will find a new home this offseason. Sebastian Vollmer may move to left tackle, or they could fill that hole in the draft. Carimi is arguably the most NFL-ready lineman in this year’s class, making him a perfect fit for the Patriots, who have already showed an interest.
29. Chicago Bears M. Wilkerson DT Temple
By releasing Tommie Harris the Bears opened up a gaping hole on their defensive line. If the season started today they would probably be forced to start Matt Toeaina and Henry Melton at tackle. The Bears defense has been great for a number of years now, but the system only works if the defensive line does its job. Wilkerson didn’t get attention playing at Temple, but he’s established himself as a legitimate 1st-round pick in his offseason workouts.
30. New York Jets Stephen Paea DE Oregon State
The Jets defensive line was solid in 2010, but they lack depth and they also need to get younger. Paea could be a perfect fit because of his versatility. He’s probably best suited to play defensive end in Red Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. However, he also has the size and strength to play nose tackle if needed. He may not start immediately in New York, but his versatility would get him on the field early and often before eventually stepping into a starting role.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers Danny Watkins OG Baylor
The Steelers value tough, physical linemen who excel as run blockers. Watkins fits that description perfectly and would be a huge upgrade at right guard. An added benefit would be Watkins’ versatility. He played left tackle at Baylor, and while he lacks the athleticism to play the position in the NFL, he could play right tackle if needed. The Steelers are obviously looking to win it all in 2011, so adding an immediate contributor with this pick should be a priority.
32. Green Bay Packers Brooks Reed OLB Arizona
The Packers have struggled to find the right compliment to Clay Matthews at outside linebacker over the past two years, using Aaron Kampman, Brady Poppinga, Brad Jones and Frank Zombo. Reed could finally be the guy they’re looking for. He’s a similar player to Matthews, who excels at getting to the quarterback, and seems to do everything that Green Bay is looking for from their outside linebackers.
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Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Mock Draft Comments Off

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Ryan McCrystal

Ryan launched DraftAce in 2004. His Top 100 board is currently ranked 1st out of 20 publications in The Huddle Report's five-year averages. His mock draft is ranked 10th out of 32 competitors.You can also find Ryan's weekly Heisman Predictor series on ESPN Insider every fall.