I put up a mock draft a while back in which I had Cam Newton (Panthers) and Blaine Gabbert (Arizona-trade with Denver) going first and second. I reasoned that Buffalo would be stuck at #3 for a few reasons. First, the value of the pick (2200) makes it hard for other teams to jump up to #3. Second, the number of quality defenders makes it a certainty that good players will be available after the Bills take someone off the board at #3. Finally, there's the Maybin Factor; teams can all but rely on Buffalo doesn't something stupid in the first round.
Some of the picks are the same as they were in my initial mock. I have taken a cue from a fanpost and made a couple of assumptions. First, I've made the assumption that Gabbert and Newton will be off the board by the #3 pick and that Buffalo won't be moving up to select either. Second, I've made the assumption that CHIX has targeted QB as a primary need; as Kaisertown has pointed out Fitz isn't the long term answer...or even anything other than a stopgap. Also, if Buffalo doesn't get a QB in 2011 Gailey might not survive long enough in his job to get results out of a 2012 QB pick. Third, I've made the assumption that Nix's stated aversion to trading down has some limits. Finally, I've made the assumption that CHIX recognizes the blindingly obvious-that Buffalo has far more needs than draft picks. Yes, that's a lot of assuming....but we're several weeks out from the draft so why not explore the possibilities?
Rumors out of Carolina suggest that Pickle isn't the long term solution at QB in Ron Rivera's eyes. I had the Panthers taking Newton in my initial mock and haven't heard anything to make me think otherwise. While he may be a bit more of a project than some other QBs his upside is tremendous. Rivera knows he's got two full seasons of grace time in which to extract Newton's potential.
1. Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton
I originally had Arizona trading up with Denver to secure Gabbert as a hedge against Buffalo taking him at #3. Denver gets the #5 and Arizona's 2012 first rounder for #2 and Denver's 2012 second round pick. The Broncos figure to come away with Dareus, Fairley or Quinn at #5-not bad consolation prize considering that they'll head into the 2012 draft with a pair of picks in the top half of the first round.
2. Arizona Cardinals: QB Blain Gabbert
Buffalo is on the clock and every defender is on the board. It's too early to take Locker or Mallett. No one is going to pay the freight to move up to #3 because (a) there are a lot of quality defenders available (b) Buffalo routinely screws up first round picks and (c) it's really expensive. With Gabbert and Newton off the board CHIX settles on Locker. Tennessee, Minnesota and Miami are the biggest threats to take Locker. However, Minnesota (no 3rd) and Miami (no 2nd) aren't in position to move around the draft board without mortgaging the future. Tennessee has a full complement of picks. While Buffalo could try to swing a trade with, say, Dallas it actually makes a little more sense for Buffalo to try to lure Tennessee into a deal. The Titans aren't a threat to take Locker at #3 but might consider him at #8. Buffalo picks up the phone and proposes a swap with Bud "Double Fisted Finger" Adams. CHIX asks for 8 and 39 for 3. Tennessee gets a deal equivalent to a free late second round pick, otherwise known as a deal that's too good to turn down. Adams is hard to predict as he falls in love with players regardless of who the front office and coach might prefer. I'll give him credit for taking perhaps the best player on the board.
3. Tennessee Titans: DT Marcell Dareus
I had the Broncos overpaying a tad and sending 5 and 67 to Cincy for 4 and 100. John Fox gets a defender who could have gone first overall but whose stock has dipped a bit in the run up to the draft. He also gets a reputation as a guy willing and able to move up and down the board to get extra picks and the players he wants. (No change in this pick or rationale from my first mock draft.)
4. Denver Broncos: DT Nick Fairley
In theory, the Bengals could take Locker. This becomes more of a possibility if Carson Palmer pulls a George Costanza and drags the corpse of Paul Brown around the parking lot of the Bengals' stadium and if Locker has a private-and terrific-workout for Cincinnati. Barring those events, Von Miller is too tempting a player to let slide any further.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: LB Von Miller
Like the Bills, the Browns have quite a few holes to fill and only an extra 6th rounder (and no 7th). Trading down would help the cause, particularly if the Browns can remain in the top 10. Jerry Jones loves to wheel and deal and Patrick Peterson is still on the board. Dallas sends the Browns 9 and 71 in exchange for 6. Cleveland comes out slightly behind on the deal but the players still left on the board make it worthwhile.
6. Dallas Cowboys: CB Patrick Peterson
The 49ers have a new coach, like so many teams in the top 10. John Harbaugh has been wooing Alex Smith. In theory it could be a smoke screen and the 49ers could break CHIX's heart by taking Locker earlier than most draftniks think possible. Smith played for something of a nut and was either pulled or threatened with benching in numerous games. Besides, if Smith stinks there's a chance the 49ers could be in line for a certain Stanford QB in 2012. Harbaugh goes defense.
7. San Francisco 49ers: DE Da'Quan Bowers
Buffalo is on the clock and the phone is ringing. Several teams are calling, interested most likely in AJ Green, Quinn, Jones and Amukamara. Dropping back more than one slot poses a real risk. With the draft pick values closing rapidly-Miami could jump to 9 for no more than a 2011 3rd round pick and 2012 3rd round pick along with 15-trading down again poses real risks. CHIX is risk averse by nature. Dropping back to 8 was relatively painless; falling out of the top 10 not so much. To much ridicule from Mel Kiper the pick is in well before time expires.
8. Buffalo Bills: QB Jake Locker
I originally had Cleveland taking Patrick Peterson. A lot of draft experts have Amukamara rated fairly close to Peterson and Amukamara is still on the board. So is Robert Quinn and he is trade bait along with AJ Green. Peyton Manning's window is closing and he was let down by his WRs in 2011. Bill Polian has shown a willingness to trade away future first rounders and does so here, sending 22 and Indy's 2012 first rounder for 9.
9. Indianapolis Colts: WR AJ Green
Washington swung and missed badly on Albert Haynesworth. Washington stands pat and sees Robert Quinn drop to the tail end of the top 10.
10. Washington Redskins: DE Robert Quinn
Houston, with a terrible secondary, has the option of taking the second defensive back off the board or giving the offense yet another weapon in the form of Julio Jones. Indy has proven that it's possible to win with an awesome offense and so-so defense. With that being said, the Texans have to play Indy twice a year.
11. Houston Texans: CB Prince Amukamara
The Vikings are in need of a QB with Leslie Frazier not committing to Tavaris Jackson. The remaining QBs generally figure to be on the board in the early part of the second so the Vikings can instead address other areas. The much vaunted Williams Wall appears to be no more. Frazier is a defensive coach and stopping the run, particularly when the weather turns nasty in places like Green Bay and Chicago, is paramount. Minnesota goes for a wide body.
12. Minnesota Vikings: DT Muhammed Wilkerson
The Lions start getting phone calls from teams who have Julio Jones rated as a top 10 prospect. The Bears, fresh off of a deep playoff run with an offense lacking in elite receiving talent, flies up the board. The Lions send the Bears 13 and 137 (5th rounder) and get 29 and Chicago's 2012 1st rounder in exchange. Lovie Smith certainly hopes that the 2012 first rounder is somewhere in the 30s, which would mean that Chicago wouldn't overpay by much.
13. Chicago Bears: Julio Jones
14. St Louis Rams: OT Anthony Costanzo
Miami has featured a pair of running backs that could start for most teams in the league. Ricky "Pothead" Williams is nearing the end of his career and Ronnie Brown has had some injury issues. Sitting pat works out well for the Dolphins in this scenario. (No change in this pick or rationale from my first mock draft.)
15. Miami Dolphins: RB Mark Ingram
Jack Del Rio still believes in David Garrard so it's unlikely the Jags would take a flyer on Locker or Mallet. The interior line is falling apart and the secondary gets to face Peyton Manning twice a year. Del Rio likes to go with big boys early in the draft....at least when he's not drafting WRs in a Millen-esque fashion. With no WRs on the board worth taking at 16, the Jags go for the trenches. (No change in this pick or rationale from my first mock draft.)
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: C/G Mike Pouncey
There is absolutely no chance that the Patriots will use both first round picks (17, 28). Instead, look for Belichek to deal one of the first rounders for a 2012 first rounder and/or other picks. Like Manning, Tom Brady has a shelf life that is approaching expiration. No, Belichek doesn't look for a QB to replace Brady but rather an offensive lineman to keep Brady playing as long as Favre did.
17. New England Patriots: OT Tyron Smith
San Diego sat and hoped that one of the remaining defensive ends would drop to them at 17. It works out very well with Watt, Jordan and Kerrigan all still on the board. Best of all, the Chargers still have a pair each of second and third rounders, though no 4th, 5th or 7th.
18. San Diego Chargers: DE JJ Watt.
The Giants are in pretty good shape. Tackle, LB and RB are all mentioned as areas of need but none seem to be dire. Additionally, the Giants pick in the territory where it's possible for teams to begin looking to trade back into the first round. A top 10 second rounder this year and a second rounder in 2012 might get it done. (That's over 1000 on the draft chart for 875.) Instead of trading out, the Giants shore up the offensive line.
19. New York Giants: OT Gabe Carimi
I previously had the Bucs taking Adrian Clayborn, a guy with some character concerns. In this incarnation of my mock Cameron Jordan and Aldon Smith are still on the board. While the Bucs may take some perverse joy in taking guys with issues, in this case it's just not necessary.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Aldon Smith
I originally had the Chiefs backing out of the first round, sending the 21st pick to the Bengals who were in the hunt for Jake Locker. With Locker long gone (and Kiper still ripping Buffalo every couple of segments), the Bengals have no motivation to move back into the first round. The Chiefs instead use the pick on the guy I had them getting at 33rd overall after a (now unnecessary) trade with New England.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: DT Phil Taylor
Dropping back into the first has worked well for Cleveland. Cameron Jordan is still on the board, a guy some regard as a top 15 prospect. Atlanta, with every reason to believe that 2011 will be another banner year and a 33 year old John Abraham, come calling. The Falcons ship 27 and 91 plus a 2012 4th rounder to the Browns for 22. For those keeping track, the Browns have dropped from 6 to 27 for 2012 first (Colts) and fourth (Falcons) round picks and a 2011 late third rounder.
22. Atlanta Falcons: DE Cameron Jordan
Like Indy, the Eagles have offensive line issues. Vick masks them to an extent just because he's not the stature Peyton Manning is. Vick, unlike Manning, has an injury history. So, while Vick can avoid rushers who beat blocks he tends to get hurt...leaving the teams in the hands of a less-than-content Kolb. If Andy Reid was willing to trade a 1st and 3rd for Jason Peters he's comfortable with using a late rounder on the offensive line. (No change in this pick or rationale from my first mock draft.)
23. Philadelphia Eagles: OT Nate Solder
I originally had the Saints trading this pick away to the Titans so they could pluck Mallett off the board. However, Ryan Kerrigan remains on the board. He's widely regarded as a top 20 prospect and the Saints can use some help getting pressure on opposing QBs. Even Greg Williams can't blitz every down...
24. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Kerrigan
Seattle, for all of the wheeling and dealing in 2010, is short just a 3rd round pick and has an extra 7th. The Seahawks somehow managed to contain the Saints in the playoffs but that may have been due to the weather; Drew Brees is not known as an outdoor QB. The Seahawks, needing to cover terrific talent in San Fran and stifle Sam Bradford in St Louis, look to shore up the secondary. (No change in this pick or rationale from my first mock draft.)
25. Seattle Seahawks: CB Jimmy Smith
The Ravens have been bounced from the playoffs numerous times in the past few years by various elite QBs. Last year they were lit up by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Granted, I noted that Buffalo rolled out a terrific wrinkle to buy Fitz more time (pulling Levitre on some passing downs) but it doesn't speak well for a secondary that seemed to constantly be losing or almost losing games right at the final gun.
26. Baltimore Ravens: CB Aaron Williams
The Browns have been patient and added some picks both in this draft and the next. Colt McCoy is "The Man" and "The Man" needs someone to throw the ball to. The Browns could go with a WR here but most - if not all - of the second tier WRs figure to be on the board when Cleveland picks again at 37. Besides, the Browns have more than enough juice to move around the board if they're worried about a WR getting away from them.
27. Cleveland Browns: TE Kyle Rudolph
There's no way that the Patriots use this pick. Belichek has to be pissed that the top 4 QBs are all gone as trade bait is looking a little thin. Not to worry. Al Davis will have made it into the office by this point and have some bizarre pick he insists on making. For just a 2012 first rounder (almost certain to be a top 10 selection), Al Davis gets to make a selection. In all fairness he might not be a bad pick at this point in the draft. (No change in this pick or rationale from my first mock draft.)
28. Oakland Raiders: DT Stephen Paea (He set a Combine record for most reps on the bench press.)
For a team that has been just miserable for such a long stretch of time, the Lions aren't as barren of talent as one might suspect. Dropping well back into the first round with a division foe works out fairly well for the Lions. Linebacker is a need and one just happens to be on the board.
29. Detroit Lions: LB Akeem Ayers
The Jets have more issues than are immediately apparent. Jenkins is old, tired and needs to be replace. Shaun Ellis is slowing down. The WR position is a mess. But the Jets live and die by the run. They've been so successful on the ground because they've stocked the offensive line with first round talent. Look for that to continue. (No change in this pick or rationale from my first mock draft.)
30. New York Jets: G Clint Boling
The Steelers, for all the blue collar talk, are a pass first offense. Roethlisberger extends plays due to his size but the Packers figured out how to get him down in the Super Bowl. Sooner or later the team has to upgrade the offensive line. The first step was taken last year with Pouncey. (No change in this pick or rationale from my first mock draft.)
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Derek Sherrod
The Packers offensive line has more issues than are immediately apparent. Both tackles are old and injury prone. Interior depth isn't exactly stellar. It's not a sexy pick for a Super Bowl champion but it should pay dividends down the road.
32. Green Bay Packers: OT Ben Ijalana
It shouldn't be a surprise to see the Patriots with the first pick in the second round. There is a very good chance that teams try to trade up for this pick, trying to snag a guy who made it out of the first round like Clayborn, Liuget and Heyward. CHIX makes a call and offers 39 (from Tennessee) and 99 for 33. Belichek picks up an early fourth rounder to slide back just six slots when quality defenders will still be on the board. Dealing with the devil gives Buffalo the first two picks in the second round. Calls come into the Bills' war room. Teams wanting a guy who slipped from the first round are told to hang on just a minute. Buffalo badly needs an inside linebacker and none have come off the board.
33. Buffalo Bills: LB Martez Wilson
Teams like Baltimore, hoping for Wilson, hang up. Teams interested in Corey Liuget, Cameron Heyward, Adrian Clayborn, Justin Houston or the first of the second tier WRs - like Titus Young and Torrey Smith - are getting a little desperate. Buffalo's options are to use the pick or trade it. You're the GM. You've added QB Jake Locker and LB Martez Wilson to the roster. Not counting 34, you've got picks 68, 121, 130, 164 and 195. What do you do with the 34th pick in the draft?