I always enjoy reading through these for the ‘what-ifs' and the ideas they may pop into my head, so I figured I may chip in with one.
First off I'd like to point out how certain I am that this is totally wrong. Nix proved to me last year that he'll be very hard to predict. About the only things I got from him is that he likes high character seniors, and that he's going to stick to his board- that is, he isn't gonna pay any attention to people who think he's "reaching" .
My main prediction for the draft is that if we don't take a QB with either of our first 2 picks (whoever that may be), we either wait until very late (7th) to grab one, or not at all. In the latter scenario I think they go after Tyler Thigpen in FA to back up Fitz, and that's the one I'm trying to play out here:
1) A.J. Green (WR, Georgia) 6'4 212lbs
Here's the pick most of us are going to hate. However I think us as fans need to come to terms with the fact that when Nix says he's going BPA that is very literally what he is going to do. I can't help but to believe that if Green is on the board at 3 Buddy will have the pick submitted faster than he did CJ's last year. My opinion on this pick is that although defense is of greater need (and I'm a much bigger fan of Peterson/trading down), if this guy turns into Larry Fitzgerald and makes Fitzy a better QB then I don't see how anyone can hate the selection. I'm cautiously holding out hope that Carolina makes this decision for us, but I simply don't think that's going to happen.
2) Kelvin Sheppard (ILB, LSU) 6'2 250lbs
Last season, arguably the best two players on our team were late round picks from the SEC. Now just imagine what a pair of early round picks from the SEC can do. There's not a lot to be said about this pick that we haven't heard over the past week or two. He's a very smart and active football player. He commanded one of the best defenses in college football and is well suited to do so in the pros. I am actually against starting him at first because I don't want him in before he's ready. I'd say let Davis start the season, in about 4-5 weeks in he'll be injured somehow, and then let Sheppard out of his cage. He is an excellent long term compliment to Poz and his best football is ahead of him.
3) Ben Ijalana (OG/T, Villanova) 6'4 320lbs
I can't tell you whether he'll be better at RT or on the inside as a pro (most believe its inside), but what I can tell you is he's the type of big, physical guy Gailey and Nix seem to love for their offensive line. A while back he was considered to maybe be the best FCS prospect in this 2011 draft, and deservedly so because he is a punishing run blocker with excellent strength who finishes his blocks. I think he can stay on the outside in the pros because as far as I can tell his struggles in pass blocking are more the result of poor footwork and technique than lack of athleticism. I think with good coaching and a little experience the sky's the limit. Worst case scenario is he needs to kick inside and either battle it out for playing time at RG, or provide much better depth than Howard would.
4a) Jabaal Sheard (DE/OLB, Pittsburgh) 6'4 260lbs
To speak plainly: this is Dave Wannstedt's pick. Sheard slips through the cracks in the first 3 rounds (as one might expect a Big East player to do), and Wannstedt has talked this guy up enough for Nix to pull the trigger. For the Bills to seriously consider him I expect he'd need to blow them away during the interview, answering some tough questions in the process about when he was charged with aggravated assault. If Nix and Gailey's minds can be put at ease regarding the possible character issues, Sheard projects well into whatever you want to call Chris Kelsay's current role on the field is (outside defensive end?). He's a very good football player who could transition to a solid 34 outside backer in time.
4b) Lee Smith (TE, Marshall) 6'6 270lbs
Most see this as an out-of-nowhere pick I'd think, but in my opinion out of nowhere is exactly where Nix will be drafting from in the mid to late rounds of the draft. Smith is an excellent blocker with sure hands but lacks the speed to work the intermediate and deep routes over the middle. Sideline Scouting has this to say about his ‘positives':
"Good size... Heady... Fairly quick off the LOS... Solid route runner... Good body control and balance... Adequate receiver... Red zone target... Very solid hands... Has improved as a receiver every season... Very good blocker... Fires off the ball when run blocking, stays low and plays with leverage... Flashes good power... Very solid lateral movement and slide... Solid knee bend... Stays on his blocks, gives a good effort... Finishes his assignments... Aggressive, flashes a mean streak... Team captain... Mature, married with two kids... Might be considered as an offensive line prospect if he can add some bulk... Selected All-Conference USA second team for the 2010 season."
He is far from a flashy pick and he wouldn't be that passing threat we've all been waiting for at the TE position. What he will be is a guy who goes to battle in the trenches and hits people in the mouth, but it's the "mature, married with two kids" comment that pops out at me as a guy Nix and Gailey will warm up to.
5) Richard Sherman (CB, Stanford) 6'2 193lbs
I've seen a few write-ups about "winners and losers" from the senior bowl, and I don't think I've seen Sherman's name once as a "winner". I can hardly believe that, as I thought he looked like the best player in the North's secondary hands down. This pick would remind me in so many ways of Marcus Easley, as Sherman's a very bright guy who came on as a senior and flashed amazing potential. Originally was a receiver but made the switch to corner, Sherman has a near frightening mix of size, speed, and athleticism (he was also a track star during his first two years at Stanford, long and triple jump); he has a great football IQ and reads the receiver's movements very well. I fully expect him to improve rapidly and turn some heads in whoever's training camp he's at, again a la Marcus Easley.
6) Cedric Thornton (DE, S. Arkansas) 6'31/2 299lbs
An Alex Carrington type pick (by that I mean 5tech prospect from a small Arkansas school). Has the size and raw power needed to be a two gap player in the NFL, and shows great effort play in and play out. Won't blow anyone away with his playmaking ability or pass rushing skills, but could turn into a solid, dependable player in the 5tech position. Plus I'd really like to see someone come in and take Stroud's roster spot, he's too much money for a guy who's both out of position and over the hill.
7) CJ Gable (RB, USC) 6'0 205lbs
This guy is a mid round talent if not higher. He spent his entire career at USC splitting running back duties with other players because they were loaded at the position. A lack of both production and solid tape on him therefore causes a free fall down the draft boards. He'd be a solid special teamer from the start and could step in and contribute on offense earlier than expected if either Freddy or the other CJ get hurt.
For those keeping track, this mock includes 4 guys (Sheppard, Smith, Thornton, Sherman) that our coaching staff got to see up close and personal at the Senior Bowl.
For what it's worth, guys I think go undrafted that I like as possible UFA:
Shiloh Keo (SS, Idaho- least likely of this list to not hear his name called late in my opinion), Cortez Allen (CB, The Citadel), Jah Reid (OT, UCF), Terry Griffin (NT, Elizabeth City St.), Ryan Colburn (QB, Fresno St.), DeMarco Sampson (WR, SDSU), Dominic Cook (DB, Buffalo- why not make that a 2 year streak?)
Questions/comments would be excellent... I see these things more as conversation starters anyway. Fire away for the Green pick