Matt Peterson’s Mock Draft

FINAL UPDATE – April 22, 2011
1.
Carolina Panthers Patrick Peterson CB LSU
Most of the country believes Cam Newton will be the selection, but I’m not buying it. Head Coach Ron Rivera begins his tenure by selecting the best player in the draft. Peterson brings playmaking skills to a young secondary and a spark in the return game. The Panthers will consider AJ Green but pass due to their emerging young core of wideouts. I personally believe Jimmy Clausen will improve in year two and that the quarterbacks in this class are not worthy of being taken over the elite prospects such as Peterson, Green, Dareus, or Miller.
2. Denver Broncos Marcell Dareus DT Alabama
Dareus almost makes too much sense for the Broncos, but it is just such a perfect fit. Denver is weak up front due to their transition into a 4-3 defense and are desperate for a force up front. Dareus could possibly have a Suh-like impact for the Broncos- while defensive ends Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers can cause pressure on the quarterbacks. If Denver stays put at number two, then Dareus is their guy.
3. Buffalo Bills Cam Newton QB Auburn
Newton falls into the laps of Buffalo and Chan Gailey gets an interesting player to work with. Newton is by far the biggest question mark in the draft. Some compare him to Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger, while others say he is the second coming of Jamarcus Russell or Vince Young. To me, Newton has all the skills in the world to succeed but the question is if he wants badly enough. Buffalo is an ideal landing spot for Newton because he can sit and learn the game under Harvard-Grad Ryan Fitzpatrick.
4. Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green WR Georgia
The Bengals reel in one of the most talented players in the draft in AJ Green. Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are all but gone, leaving the Bengals with a a very young but talented receiving core. Owner Mike Brown has always selected based on potential regardless of negative concerns- an area where Green fits well. Green has questions about his suspension, thin frame, and slow 40 time, but is too talented a player to pass up. Good pick for the Bengals. Von Miller and Julio Jones could be considered here.
5. Arizona Cardinals Tyron Smith OT Southern California
I have the Cardinals taking the top OT in this draft for several reasons. The Cardinals desperately need a QB, but Ken Wishenhunt is smart enough not to reach for Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert has a good amount of potential, but to me he is not accurate enough for Arizona’s offense. The Cardinals are very weak along the offensive line and need a franchise LT to protect the next QB they bring in. Tyron Smith starts at LT from day one and is the blindside protector for whichever veteran QB (Marc Bulger) is brought in. Look for the Cardinals to take Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton in round two.
6. Cleveland Browns Von Miller OLB Texas A&M
The Browns will waste no time deciding who to draft at number six. Linebacker Von Miller is possibly the best defensive players in this years draft, and seems destined to be an instant force. I compare Von Miller to 2009 prospect Aaron Curry, who, like Miller, was in the discussion for the first few picks. Miller is most effective when rushing the passer, but he may be too small to play OLB in a 3-4- which will cause him to fall. I believe he is best fit as a SLB in a 4-3- which would allow him to cover the tight ends and blitz on occasion. Holmgren selects Miller to be the face of the Browns’ defense, as they transition back in a 4-3. Robert Quinn and Nick Fairley will also be considered.
7. San Francisco 49ers Blaine Gabbert QB Missouri
Who would have thought Gabbert falls to the Niners at #7? Gabbert is a good fit in San Francisco and will excel under head coach Jim Harbaugh. With players such as Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree by his side- Gabbert could make an impact as a rookie, but may be best served sitting under Alex Smith for the season. Prince Amukamara and JJ Watt will be considered.
8. Tennessee Titans Ryan Mallett QB Arkansas
Yep, I did it. The Titans have a huge hole at quarterback and can’t afford to pass on Mallett in round one. I have had concerns with Mallett’s off the field issues all-year long, but he should grow up fairly quickly in the NFL. Mallett has an unbelievable arm and will benefit from Chris Johnson and the Titans’ solid offensive line. With a pure pocket-passer, the Titans’ offense will come to life. Mallett will put up huge numbers with the Titans and could be in the running for Rookie of the Year.
9. Dallas Cowboys JJ Watt DE Wisconsin
Watt’s unbelievable journey to the NFL ends after the ninth overall selection. Watt has incredible strength and speed and a motor that never stops. Jerry Jones has a good eye for defensive talent- having selected pro bowlers DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Mike Jenkins in the past- and would insert Watt into the starting lineup right away. Watt would fill the void of free agent Marcus Spears, and may, in fact, be an upgrade. Anthony Castonzo will also be considered.
10. Washington Redskins Jake Locker QB Washington
I’ll continue to stick with my prediction of Locker to the Skins. I believe the Redskins will select Locker because he fits the bootleg passing game the Redskins like to do and has tremendous athleticism. Mike Shanahan loves mobile QB’s and Locker fits that description. The Redskins likely will trade McNabb, resign Rex Grossman, and have Locker sit under Grossman for a season. Shanahan can’t afford passing on the young QB with tremendous potential at number 10.
11.
Houston Texans
Justin Houston
OLB Georgia
The Texans continue to put up ridiculous offensive numbers, but have yet to garner any respect on the defensive side of the ball. Wade Phillips is a mastermind at the 3-4 defense and Texans help him out by bringing in Justin Houston. Houston is a big guy at 6’3” 270 lbs but still managed to put up mind blowing numbers at the combine. Houston is a fierce pass-rusher but has faced concern over his ability to cover. I like Houston and think he will fit in well with DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing.
12. Minnesota Vikings Nick Fairley DT Auburn
The Vikings luck out as Fairley falls all the way to 12. Fairley’s character concerns and one dominant season factor into his fall. Minnesota has a major need at the DT position with Pat Williams headed for free agency. Fairley should come in and provide an immediate upgrade to the defense along with helping take some pressure off of Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen. Da’Quan Bowers will be considered.
13. Detroit Lions P. Amukamara CB Nebraska
The Lions have had some draft luck the past couple seasons and it will continue with Prince Amukamara. Suh’s former teammate is a very polished corner and seems ready to be a factor in the pro game right away. Detroit gets a great talent, once again, as they look to make the final push into becoming a top contender in the NFC.
14. St. Louis Rams Julio Jones WR Alabama
Realistically, I expect the Rams to trade up to Dallas’ selection and grab Jones in front of the Redskins, but I don’t like doing trades in mock drafts. Jones is a very physical receiver and would give Sam Bradford a number one target for the next 10 seasons. The Rams will consider Cameron Jordan and Robert Quinn here as well.
15. Miami Dolphins Mike Pouncey C Florida
Neither Jake Locker nor Ryan Mallett fall to the Dolphins leaving them with the best interior lineman in the draft. Pouncey is a clone of his All-Pro twin brother and will give Miami a franchise center to complement Jake Long. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pouncey actually went higher than 15.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars Robert Quinn DE North Carolina
The Tyson Alualu selection shocked the world last year, but surprisingly paid off.  Alualu started all season and made the all-rookie team. Now, Jacksonville needs to add a pass rusher to compliment Alualu. Aaron Campman is coming off an ACL tear, and Derrick Harvey has failed to live up to expectations. Somehow, Robert Quinn falls to the Jaguars (due to his year off) and gives them an instant upgrade on defense.
17. New England Patriots Cam Jordan DE California
[from Raiders] Jordan is another player I really like and would not be surprised to see go way before the Patriots selection. Jordan doesn’t have many weaknesses and is a fierce competitor. Cam fills a need for New England as they look to avenge their shocking playoff loss.
18. San Diego Chargers Phil Taylor NT Baylor
San Diego desperately needs to inject some talent into their defensive front seven and begins the process by selecting the best nose tackle in the draft. Taylor is an athlete and has the potential to become very good. Like most big boys, Taylor faces doubts over his conditioning but it shouldn’t be a concern for San Diego.
19. New York Giants Anthony Castonzo OT Boston College
The Giants dominant offensive line is getting old and it is time to inject some youth into the lineup. Castonzo is the consensus second ranked offensive tackle in the draft and has the experience and athleticism to be a pro-bowler. Castonzo would start at left tackle on day one and have the job of protecting Manning’s blind side. Great pick for the Giants.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Aldon Smith DE Missouri
The Bucs had a total of 26 sacks in 2010 and need to find an elite pass rusher to compliment 2010 first round pick Gerald McCoy. Smith is young and doesn’t have much experience but is very talented. Smith should be a rookie starter and could potentially put up some big numbers.
21.
Kansas City Chiefs
Brooks Reed
OLB Arizona
I’m very impressed by the way Reed plays the game. Reed played defensive end in a base 4-3 defense at Arizona, but his natural position is at OLB. Reed is a relentless player who has a nonstop motor- something GM Scott Pioli values very highly when evaluating players. I think Brooks Reed would be a great fit across from Tamba Hali, and could learn under Mike Vrabel his rookie season.
22. Indianapolis Colts Nate Solder OT Colorado
GM Bill Polian admitted his mistake of taking DE Jerry Hughes over LT Rodger Saffold last season, and will look to correct that mistake in the upcoming draft. Solder is a former tight end and is very athletic. Solder needs to gain some more weight and get stronger, but has all the makings of a franchise tackle. The Colts will also consider defensive tackle Corey Liuget.
23. Philadelphia Eagles Gabe Carimi OT Wisconsin
Gabe Carimi is one of the most pro-ready players in the draft, but many believe he isn’t capable of playing the left side. I think Carimi is a great player and could play LT, but in Philadelphia he wont have to. Jason Peters is entrenched at LT, but there is a hole on the right side. Carimi has the responsibility of protecting Michael Vick’s blindside from day one, and should be a mainstay similar to ex-Eagle Jon Runyan.
24. New Orleans Saints Marvin Austin DT North Carolina
One season ago, Marvin Austin was a top 15 pick- but was suspended all of 2010 and seemed to fall out of the first round. However, Austin has worked extremely hard and has proven to teams that he is still as dominant as he once. Austin is a disruptive force in the middle and will be paired with Sedrick Ellis and Shaun Rogers in New Orleans. New Orleans will also consider linebacker Martez Wilson.
25. Seattle Seahawks Colin Kaepernick QB Nevada
Kaepernick has a Joe Flacco-like rise and is selected by the Seahawks in the first round. Kaepernick has the skills to become a top quarterback and compares favorably to Josh Freeman and Joe Flacco who also had unexpected rises on draft day. Pete Carroll traded for Charlie Whitehurst last offseason, but Whitehurst did nothing to prove he is a capable starter. Kaepernick is an athletic QB and can really air the ball out. Seattle will hope to resign Matt Hasselback so Kaepernick can adjust the NFL game.
26. Baltimore Ravens Jimmy Smith CB Colorado
Just looking at film, Jimmy Smith is a top 20 talent, but there are some concerns off the field. I personally don’t know what all the worry is about, but players do fall in the draft. Ozzie Newsome selects the talented corner to boost the weak secondary. Smith should compete for playing time right away.
27. Atlanta Falcons Da’Quan Bowers DE Clemson
The dramatic fall for Bowers’ ends at #27. Bowers has top 10 talent, but is knee seems to be a major concern with teams. This late in round one, Atlanta can afford to roll the dice with Bowers. Bowers would fit perfectly across from John Abraham and may bring enough of an impact to push the Falcons into the Super Bowl in 2011.
28. New England Patriots Torrey Smith WR Maryland
Smith gets selected by the most stable organization in football. The Patriots are desperate for a deep threat and Smith will bring a new dimension for Tom Brady and the Patriots. This is an ideal spot for Smith and will give the Patriots an upgrade over Brandon Tate. Mark Ingram will be considered.
29. Chicago Bears Corey Liuget DT Illinois
The Chicago Bears bring in the talented Corey Liuget to inject some youth into the defense. Liuget is a great fit in Chicago and fills a major need after the departure of Tommie Harris. Some offensive lineman will be considered here, but the Bears end up taking the top DT available and fill the lineman needs in the later rounds.
30. New York Jets Aaron Williams FS Texas
The Jets take another defensive back in Aaron Williams. Williams is a very athletic DB and may make the move to safety in the NFL. There are no current free safeties on the roster with Brodney Pool and Eric Smith becoming free agents. The Jets need a safety with range to cover the defensive backfield. Aaron Williams fills the need.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers Danny Watkins OG Baylor
The Steelers select their second consecutive first round interior lineman in Danny Watkins. Watkins has only two years of football experience and has tremendous potential. The only knock on Watkins is that he is 26 years old. Watkins is given the starting RG position and likely will hold onto it for the next 6+ seasons.
32. Green Bay Packers C. Heyward DE Ohio State
Green Bay is left at the end of round one with the talented Cam Heyward out of Ohio State. Heyward likely would have been selected higher, but injuries have caused his stock to drop. Cullen Jenkins is a free agent and Johnny Jolly likely wont be around due to another recent arrest, leaving Heyward an opportunity to make a strong impact during his rookie season.