McCrystal’s updated mock draft

Carolina Panthers Cam Newton QB Auburn
It’s starting to sound like the Panthers have settled on Newton. I disagree with it and I think that in five years they’ll regret the decision as much as the Titans regret taking Vince Young – but it looks as if they’re going in this direction regardless. That said, I still wouldn’t be shocked if all of these Newton rumors are just an effort to entice the Bengals or Bills to trade up. If Marcell Dareus’ name gets called I’ll be mildly surprised, but definitely not shocked.
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. There is also a small chance that this pick gets traded. Someone may wish to jump over Buffalo in an effort to land Blaine Gabbert, and the Broncos would be wise to stockpile draft picks if that is an option.
3. Buffalo Bills Blaine Gabbert QB Missouri
Reading between the lines of Buddy Nix’s interviews, I suspect he would prefer to draft Von Miller but is getting pressure from above (Ralph Wilson) to take a quarterbacks. I also believe Nix would prefer Cam Newton, but likes Gabbert enough to settle for him if he’s the guy left on the board. “Settling” for a quarterback at No. 3 certainly isn’t what Bills fans want to hear, but that’s what its come to. I don’t love the pick, but I do like Gabbert a lot more than Newton.
4. Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green WR Georgia
I’ve had Julio Jones here in the past few mock updates based on a report from SI’s Peterk King, but it’s starting to sound like that was nothing more than a smoke screen. That said, the Bengals are going to draft a receiver. A.J. Green is the consensus top receiver – and is considerably better than Jones, despite what some reports will have you believe – and makes a lot of sense here. If they want to lure Carson Palmer back, why not bring in a Randy Moss-like talent.
5. Arizona Cardinals Von Miller OLB Texas A&M
Based on how the top five is shaping up, the Cardinals are going to be in a great position to get an impact player. The Bills are going to take either Miller or Gabbert, and whoever they pass on will fall to Arizona. Both players fill needs and would be great fits for the Cardinals. If Miller is the guy he will become an instant-impact pass rusher who would have to be a preseason favorite for rookie of the year based on his skills and the scheme he would join in Arizona.
6. Cleveland Browns Patrick Peterson CB LSU
I’ve been saying this entire offseason that Patrick Peterson is not getting past the Browns. Wide receiver and defensive line are much greater needs, but GM Tom Heckert isn’t going to pass on the best available player to reach for Julio Jones or Robert Quinn. It simply isn’t going to happen. Peterson and Joe Haden would be a truly elite due at cornerback in Cleveland. And the defensive line can still be addressed with a quality player in the early 2nd round.
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 the decision will come down to Amukamara and Quinn. It’s really tough to say which way the Niners may be leaning, but I’m going to stick with Amukamara. Their secondary is significantly weaker than their front seven, and his addition would make the expensive Nate Clements potentially expendable.
8. Tennessee Titans Nick Fairley DT Auburn
Fairly flashed some truly elite talent in 2010 and was arguably college football’s most dominant defensive player. However, there are legitimate concerns about his work ethic and the fact that he may simply be a one-year wonder. That said, his upside may be too great for Tennessee to pass up. Adding Fairley to a defensive line with 2010 1st-round pick Derrick Morgan could give the Titans a potentially dominant pass rush duo.
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 highest 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 Julio Jones WR Alabama
There seems to be a late surge of draftniks projecting Jake Locker to the Redskins, but I don’t buy it. I think that is nothing more than a case of people overthinking based on a team’s need. The fact is Jake Locker simply isn’t anything close to a top-10 prospect and I would be stunned if any of the 32 teams have him rated as such. The Redskins have a dire need for a receiver, and Julio Jones would fit perfectly into Mike Shannahan’s offensive system.
Houston Texans
Aldon Smith
OLB Missouri
As far as mid-1st round picks go, this is about as easy as it gets to predict. True, there are no sure things in the draft, but Aldon Smith is just too perfect for the Texans. In order for the move to a 3-4 scheme to work, Wade Phillips needs an elite pass rusher off the edge. Brian Cushing is moving to inside linebacker, opening up a spot for Smith on the edge. Smith could fill the role that DeMarcus Ware played for Phillips during his time in Dallas. Robert Quinn is also an option of the same reasons.
12. Minnesota Vikings Da’Quan Bowers DE Clemson
I don’t care how bad Bowers knee is, he is still worth the 12 overall pick. Ir order to pass on him here, you would have to convince me that he may never play football again, and that simply isn’t the case. Even if Bowers is only able to return at 95% of the player he was in 2010 – he’s still a mid-1st round pick. But if he gets back 100%, this will prove to be a steal for the Vikings. Just imagine a healthy Bowers teaming with Jared Allen. It’s a scary though for the rest of the NFC.
13. Detroit Lions Robert Quinn DE North Carolina
I reluctantly bought into the rumors and gave the Lions an offensive tackle in my last mock draft, but going back to my gut instinct. Jim Schwartz is trying to build an elite defense and I just can’t see him passing over the wealth of talent available in this year’s draft class. Quinn, Bowers and Cameron Jordan would all be great fits in Schwartz’s scheme and I believe one of them will be the selection – even if everyone else seems convinced they’re going with an offensive tackle.
14. St. Louis Rams Cameron Jordan DE California
I wrote about this possibility in the blog the other day, and I think I talked myself into it. The Rams need a defensive tackle more than an end, but Jordan may be too good to pass up. He hasn’t received a ton of media attention this offseason, but I remain convinced that he’ll find his way into the top 15. Jordan sits at No. 4 on my big board, so obviously I feel he is well worth the 14th selection. Other options include Corey Liuget and Muhammad Wilkerson.
15. Miami Dolphins Ryan Mallett QB Arkansas
All eyes will be on Miami in the middle of the 1st round, because they could take either Mallett or Mark Ingram. And whichever guy they don’t take, has a great chance to fall to the 2nd round. While some teams have reportedly removed Mallett from their draft board due to character concerns, I’m guessing the Dolphins aren’t going to be one of them. Mallett is an elite talent and has a ceiling higher than either Gabbert or Newton. If he isn’t an off-field distraction, he’ll be a steal for the Dolphins.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars Ryan Kerrigan DE Purdue
It’s hard to imagine the Jaguars not taking a defensive end here, but then again, it was even harder to imagine them taking Tyson Alualu 10th overall in 2010. Their pass rush was almost non-existent last season, and Ryan Kerrigan would immediately improve their ability to get to the quarterback. Some feel he is a better fit in a 3-4 scheme, but I think Jacksonville could use him effectively as a pure pass rusher. Trading up, possible for Da’Quan Bowers, is also a realistic possibility.
17. New England Patriots J.J. Watt DE Wisconsin
[from Raiders] Considering the depth at defensive line and Patriots obvious need to add youth at the position, it would seem as though the Patriots have to take a defensive end here. J.J. Watt is a potential top-10 talent, but he is a likely candidate to fall to the second half of the 1st round. Given his size and strength he would be a great fit at end in Belichick’s 3-4 scheme and could potentially start from day one opposite the (hopefully) healthy Ty Warren.
18. San Diego Chargers M. Wilkerson DE Temple
I am extremely confident that they Chargers are going upgrade their front seven with this selection – either with a defensive end or outside linebacker. Guys like J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan would be great fits if they’re available. If not, they may settle for Muhamad Wilkerson. He played tackle at Temple, but has the strength and athleticism to easily transition to the outside. And GM A.J. Smith hasn’t shied away from drafting players in need of a position switch before (e.g. Luis Castillo, Larry English).
19. New York Giants Mike Pouncey OG Florida
If Pouncey is on the board, the Giants will rush to the podium. And if he’s gone, they may rush to the podium with the name of another offensive lineman (Castonzo? Carimi?). Four of the Giants five starters on the offensive line are over the age of 30 (Chris Snee is the youngest at age 29). Pouncey would provide depth at both guard and center, and his addition could potentially make either Rich Seubert or Shaun O’Hara expendable if the team is looking to save some money.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Adrian Clayborn DE Iowa
This is a tough scenario for the Bucs. None of the obvious 1st-round talents are still on the board, leaving them to chose between Clayborn, Justin Houston, Cameron Heyward and Jabaal Sheard if they want a defensive end. I’ve had them linked with Clayborn for much of the offseason and I’m going to stick with that here. He is a top-10 talent who is falling due to a somewhat disappointing 2010 season along with some injury concerns.
Kansas City Chiefs
Gabe Carimi
OT Wisconsin
The Chiefs are a tough team to predict, but one thing I’m certain of is that they’ll target a player who can contribute immediately. I expect them to strongly consider an offensive lineman and if Carimi is on the board he could be the pick. His upside is significantly lower than someone like Nate Solder, but he is ready to play right now and should be a significant upgrade over Barry Richardson at right tackle. Both Matt Cassel and Jamaal Charles will appreciate this selection.
22. Indianapolis Colts A. Castonzo OT Boston College
Anthony Castonzo could go as high as No. 13 to Detroit, but I think he is more likely to fall into the late 1st. If he’s on the board here the Colts should waste no time making him their selection. I’m not particularly high on Castonzo, but NFL teams are intrigued by him more so this year than they would be in years past because he is “NFL ready”. Teams like that Colts that need to fill a hole on the offensive line may be more comfortable reaching for Castonzo than waiting until free agency.
23. Philadelphia Eagles Jimmy Smith CB Colorado
Due to character concerns I think there are very few teams that will consider Jimmy Smith in the 1st round. However, the Eagles have a glaring hole at cornerback opposite Asante Samuel and haven’t been shy about taking risks in the draft. Speaking strictly from a talent standpoint, Smith should be a top-15 pick and if the Eagles can keep him out of trouble he will be a steal for them here. If they are scared off by character concerns, their attention could turn to Brandon Harris.
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 Kyle Rudolph TE Notre Dame
Unless the Falcons think Justin Houston is a good fit at end in their 4-3 scheme, they’ll turn to the best available player here. Rudolph is an obvious 1st-round talent who only falls due to injury concerns. While some fans may prefer they get someone who fills a more immediate need, I believe GM Thomas Dimitroff has seen the impact Tony Gonzalez has had on Matt Ryan and doesn’t want to lose that in2012 when Gonzalez hangs up the cleats.
28. New England Patriots Danny Watkins OG Baylor
This is a tough pick to predict. Mark Ingram is on the board, and the Patriots could certainly be drawn in that direction. However, there are more glaring needs and I think the Patriots are more likely to fill a hole on the offensive line. I would imagine many fans would prefer Ingram over an interior lineman like Watkins – but Belichick simply doesn’t care what you think. Watkins would step  into the gap at right guard and start from day one in New England.
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 serious 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 provide 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.
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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.