McCrystal’s updated mock draft

Carolina Panthers Cam Newton QB Auburn
In the eight years I’ve been posting this mock draft, this is just the second time I’m making a change at No.1 in April. And I could very well make another change before the draft. All signs are starting to point to Newton being the Panthers guy, but I still can’t say I’m any more than 60% confident. The Newton rumors could all just be an attempt to entice the Bills, Bengals or Cardinals to trade up into this slot for a chance to land their new franchise quarterback.
2. Denver Broncos Marcell Dareus DT Alabama
At this point I can’t see Dareus falling any further than No. 2. The Broncos are taking a defensive lineman here, and unless the Panthers grab Dareus at No. 1, I think he’s their guy. Dareus is a perfect fit at defensive tackle in John Fox’s 4-3 scheme. He isn’t quite in the same class as Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy, but he’s a similar player who should join them as a top-three pick. If Dareus were off the board, the decision would come down to Fairley, Bowers and possibly Quinn.
3. Buffalo Bills Von Miller OLB Texas A&M
As the 1st round finally begins to take shape it’s starting to look like the Bills are targeting Miller, and will wait until the 2nd or 3rd round for a quarterback. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Last year Buddy Nix selected C.J. Spiller, at arguably the team’s only strong position, because he was the top player on their board. While they obviously need a quarterback, at least Miller fills a need. Despite the presence of former 1st-round picks Maybin and Merriman, Miller should have no problem starting from day one.
4. Cincinnati Bengals Julio Jones WR Alabama
SI’s Peter King claims that the Bengals have Julio Jones as the top receiver on their draft board, and I’m inclined to believe him. As Marvin Lewis said in King’s article “my boss loves offense.” His boss also loves making bonehead decisions. I like Jones, I gave him a 1st-round grade, but he isn’t a top-five talent. That said, they need a receiver – especially with Ochocinco’s future in question – and if Jones is tops on their board, he could be the pick.
5. Arizona Cardinals Blaine Gabbert QB Missouri
I believe that Gabbert is No. 1 on the Cardinals board, so they will be thrilled when he’s available at No. 5. Their interest in Gabbert may even be strong enough to cause them to move up, possibly all the way to No. 1, to ensure the Bills or Bengals don’t take their guy. There have been rumors of a Kevin Kolb trade in exchange for this pick, but I don’t see that happening – if for no other reason than it appears almost impossible to have a new CBA in place by the draft.
6. Cleveland Browns Patrick Peterson CB LSU
I can’t believe how many mock drafts have Peterson falling to No. 7. He’s the best player in this draft in my opinion, and he’s probably No. 1 on many other draft boards around the league. While the Browns don’t have a glaring need for another cornerback, GM Tom Heckert isn’t going to pass on Peterson. Just like when he was in Philly, Heckert is preaching value over need in Cleveland. Even if A.J. Green is on the board, the Browns are going with Peterson.
7. San Francisco 49ers P. Amukamara CB Nebraska
Obviously the 49ers would love to see Peterson fall, but I can’t see that happening. With Peterson gone, they may try to trade down, but if they stay put Amukamara will probably be high on their board. He would be an immediate starter opposite Nate Clements, and also provide them some insurance in case they decide to part ways with Clements for financial reasons. If they don’t like Amukamara, they may consider a pass rusher such as Aldon Smith.
8. Tennessee Titans Nick Fairley DT Auburn
This pick is almost certain to be wither Nick Fairley or Da’Quan Bowers. Since Derrick Morgan was their 2010 1st-rounder, I’m leaning towards Fairley here. Here 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 Morgan to give the Titans two great young linemen to build around.
9. Dallas Cowboys Tyron Smith OT USC
I’m as confident about this pick as any in the top 10. The Cowboys need to upgrade their aging offensive line and Smith clearly has the highes ceiling of any prospect in this class. 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. If Smith isn’t high on their board, they will probably try hard to trade down.
10. Washington Redskins A.J. Green WR Georgia
Almost everyone seems to have A.J. Green evaluated as a top-five talent, but I think there is a strong possibility that he falls to Washington. The Bengals and Browns are the only teams I can see taking him prior to the Redskins. And if Peter Kings’s report is to be believed, the Bengals aren’t an option. So it could all come down to Cleveland, and I just can’t see them passing at Peterson at No. 6. That leaves Green on the board here, and the Redskins will sprint their card up to the podium.
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 Da’Quan Bowers DE Clemson
This is a long way for Bowers to fall, but I there there is a strong possibility that either he or Nick Fairley drops to the Vikings. As of right now, Bowers is the top prospect who is falling fastest due to concerns about his injury. He’ll have a chance to work out on April 1 and prove that he’s healthy, but if he isn’t 100% there’s a decent chance that some teams will drop him on their board. No matter how bad the injury is, I can’t see him falling past the Vikings.
13. Detroit Lions A. Castonzo OT Boston College
This is absurdly high for Castonzo in my opinion, but the Lions appear to be committed to improving the protection around Matthews Stafford. While I don’t like this as a potential pick, I certainly can’t argue with the logic. I don’t believe Castonzo has a high ceiling, but he should make an immediate impact in Detroit. He has great fundamentals and is arguably the most NFL-ready offensive tackle in this class. He’s better suited to play on the right side, but some teams do view him as a left tackle.
14. St. Louis Rams M. Wilkerson DT Temple
Corey Liuget has become a popular selection for the Rams. I agree with the logic, but I’m going in a slightly different direction. Wilkerson has been one of the hottest prospects this offseason and I believe he has established himself as a top-20 pick. Based on the defensive line the Rams have built, Wilkerson appears to be a better fit. He isn’t as athletic as Liuget, but he’s bigger and stronger and probably better suited to be a true three-down lineman.
15. Miami Dolphins Ryan Mallett OT Arkansas
The popular pick here is Mark Ingram, and I admit he’s a very realistic possibility. However, I think the Dolphins would much prefer to end the Chad Henne era and start over with a new franchise quarterback. There are obviously some character concerns surrounding Mallett but none of the rumors have amounted to anything concrete. As a result, I believe someone will look past the concerns and fall in love with his raw talent and the Dolphins could be that team.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars Robert Quinn DE North Carolina
The fall of Da’Quan Bowers could lead to another defensive lineman falling further than expected, and the Jaguars will be there to swoop him up. I believe either Quinn or Aldon Smith will be on the board here and whichever is available should land in Jacksonville. The Jaguars had one of the league’s worst pass rushes last season, something which Quinn would have an immediate impact on. Had he played in 2010 he legitimately could have been the No. 1 overall selection.
17. New England Patriots J.J. Watt DE Wisconsin
[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 Ryan Kerrigan OLB Purdue
The Chargers drafted Larry English in 2009 in hopes of creating a defensive set with three outside linebackers. But Merriman never got healthy and English looks like a bust. The Chargers defense is built around their pass-rushing linebackers and they currently lack the talent and depth that they’d love to have. There are mixed reviews about Kerrigan’s ability to play with his hand off the ground, but I think he would be a nice fit in San Diego.
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 Cameron Jordan DE California
I believe Cameron Jordan is a top-five talent in this year’s class, so whoever lands him in the mid-to-late 1st round is getting a steal. He is a true three-down lineman who is effective against the run but can also get to the quarterback. 3-4 teams are likely to be interested in him, but I believe he’s best suited to play in a 4-3 system. In Tampa he should start immediately, filling their biggest whole, and giving them a great young tandem on the line with Jordan and McCoy.
Kansas City Chiefs
Phil Taylor
DT Baylor
I’m returning to this theory from previous mocks because I think it just makes too much sense not to happen. There are some character concerns with Taylor, but there simply aren’t many players with his size and ability that enter the league every year. If you run a 3-4 system and don’t have a nose tackle, you can’t afford to let a potential star at that position pass you by. Scott Pioli saw firsthand what Vince Wilfork did for the Patriots, he’ll want to get that guy here.
22. Indianapolis Colts Nate Solder OT Colorado
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, which means they’ll have to reach to fill that need here. Solder is a bit of a project, but he has obvious left tackle athleticism, which could lead the Colts to take a risk. Protecting Peyton Manning as he gets older and even slower is a priority, and they can’t afford to pass up a potential star at that position.
23. Philadelphia Eagles Brandon Harris CB Miami FL
Asante Samuel is among the best in the game, but the retirement of Ellis Hobbs has left the secondary depleted of talent. I have concerns about Harris’ size and his ability to be a No. 1 corner, but in Philly they have the depth to put him in situations that fit his skill set. There’s no denying his speed and athleticism, making him an ideal guy to match up with some of of the smaller, faster receivers that many teams are turning to such as the Giants’ Steve Smith.
24. New Orleans Saints Akeem Ayers OLB UCLA
The Saints can’t afford to pass on Ayers if he’s on the board. They need help at both strong-side and weak-side linebacker and Ayers is the only player worth a late 1st-round pick who could fill that hole. He is a prototypical 4-3 strong-side linebacker and would be a significant upgrade over JoLonn Dunbar. If Ayers is gone, their attention will simply turn to the best available player. Cam Heyward would be a nice fit due to his ability to provide depth at both end and tackle.
25. Seattle Seahawks Jake Locker QB Washington
After the season he had in 2010 it’s comical that Locker is still in 1st-round consideration, but the Seahawks seem intent on finding Matt Hasselbeck’s replacement with this selection. This is too early for Locker, or any other quarterback still on the board, but they appear to be leaning heavily in that direction. Rumors of their interest in Dalton, Ponder and Kaepernick have surfaced as well. And even Ricky Stanzi’s name has been thrown out as a late-1st round possibility.
26. Baltimore Ravens Cam Heyward DE Ohio State
The Ravens don’t have a glaring need for a defensive end, but Heyward may have too much value for them to pass up here. He is a perfect fit in Baltimore due to his versatility. The Ravens run a hybrid defense, with a lot of 3-4 and 4-3 looks, which requires a deep defensive line and lot of guys like Heyward that can play in both systems. Heyward has experience at both end and tackle in Ohio State’s 4-3 scheme, and easily has the size to play end in a 3-4.
27. Atlanta Falcons Adrian Clayborn DE Iowa
The Falcons swung and missed on Jamaal Anderson in 2007 and now they’re looking for an upgrade at defensive end. Clayborn is exactly what they’re looking for – a big, physical three-down lineman. He isn’t an elite pass rusher, but he’s well rounded and would be a nice compliment to John Abraham. The need for an end isn’t enough to reach for someone, but Clayborn is a top-15 raw talent and well worth the risk here. His upside is just too great to pass up.
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 will probably be shifted over to left tackle, opening up a hole on the right size.  Carimi is arguably the most NFL-ready lineman in this year’s class and a prototypical right tackle, making him a perfect fit for the Patriots, who have already showed an interest.
29. Chicago Bears Corey Liuget DT Illinois
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. Liuget has rare size and athleticism and should be able to step into a starting role from day one in Chicago. Stephen Paea is a similar player who could also be a fit.
30. New York Jets Brooks Reed OLB Arizona
I haven’t heard any Brooks Reed/Jets rumors, but he just seems like the type of player Rex Ryan would love to coach. The Jets certainly have a need for youth at outside linebacker, which would seem to make this a perfect fit. Reed is a bit of a project, but who better to coach him up in 3-4 system than Ryan? He’s a high-energy player that could prove the Jets with a serious pass-rush threat – something which they’ve been missing since Ryan took over two years ago.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers Aaron Williams CB Texas
The Steelers have needed to upgrade their secondary for three or four years and it sounds as though they’re finally willing to spend a high pick on addressing the issue. Brandon Harris and Aaron Williams would both be nice fits and I expect at least one of them to be on the board. I’m not crazy about either guy as a 1st-round prospect but when you’re a legitimate Super Bowl contender like Pittsburgh, you can afford to reach to fill a need with someone capable of making an instant impact.
32. Green Bay Packers Jabaal Sheard OLB Pittsburgh
I’m not real high on Sheard as an outside linebacker, but his stock has been gaining momentum throughout the offseason and it looks like he may sneak into the late 1st-round. Clay Matthews is more of a pure pass rusher, and doesn’t fair as well against the run. For that reason, they would be wise to add a more well-rounded guy like Sheard on the opposite side to boost the run defense. For that same reason, Justin Houston would also be a nice fit here.
Picks 1-10Picks 11-20Picks 20-32Round 2Round 3
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Mock Draft Comments Off

About the author

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.