Every year bloggers, fans, and men on couches mock the draft. It must think we’re a bunch of heartless jerks by now.
We mock because we care. Individually, one mock draft is little more than one writer’s opinion on where a group of elite young men will begin being paid to play professional football. But collectively, as each mock draft is re-worked for the eighth time leading up to draft day, the educated guesses around the Interwebs begin to have a snowball effect and form a consensus.
So you see, we’re all part of something larger here.
Now that I’ve fed you sentimental garbage, the real purpose of this mock draft is to be better than Gagnon.
1. Carolina Panthers: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama – Patrick Peterson is tempting, but Carolina’s run defence needs more help.
2. Denver Broncos: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU – His blazing speed would make for an incredible tandem with Champ Bailey.
3. Buffalo Bills: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri — Gabbert is a safer option than Cam Newton for a franchise that can’t take any more risks after spending early last year on the flash and flare of C.J Spiller.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J Green, Georgia — Tough not to go with a WR given the departure of Terrell Owens and likely Chad Ochocinco.
5. Arizona Cardinals: QB Cam Newton, Auburn – Impossible not to go with the best QB on the board given the struggles last year and the two-headed monstrosity of Derek Anderson and John Skelton.
7. San Francisco 49ers: OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M — Miller’s combination of speed and size is ideal for a 3/4 defence with an aging Takeo Spikes.
8. Tennessee Titans: DE Da’quan Bowers, Clemson — More of a necessity than a needs-based pick. Bowers is too powerful to pass on if he falls to this spot, and would really complement Justin Babin.
9. Dallas Cowboys: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska — One of just seven defences to allow over 240 passing yards per game. After Peterson, Amukamara is the best available CB.
10. Washington Redskins: WR Julio Jones, Alabama — Jones is neck-and-neck with Green, but falls because of team needs. Both are incredibly explosive, and Jones has better hands.
11. Houston Texans: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina — Yet another great DE tandem in the making, this time with Mario Williams. Quinn could also move to OLB in Wade Phillips’ new 3/4 scheme.
12. Minnesota Vikings: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College — A fortified O-line provides peace of mind in front of a young QB, whether it’s Joe Webb or Christian Ponder (that was a hint).
13. Detroit Lions: OT Tyron Smith, USC — Other areas are in greater need (particularly CB), but the value isn’t right here without a trade down. Matt Stafford needs as much help as he can get too.
14. St. Louis Rams: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois — An opportunity to address a major weakness (the Rams were 17th against the run) presents itself with the third-best DT in the draft.
15. Miami Dolphins: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama — Both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are free agents (if/when such a thing exists). Ingram’s power style is close to Williams’, but he can still bounce it outside like Brown.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Cameron Jordan, Cal — Say, I seem to be noticing some kind of defensive lineman trend here. The players are loading up on extra bulk during the labour strife. I hear Goodell’s blitz pickup is brutal too.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland): DE J.J Watt, Wisconsin — Why stop now? The Patriots infamously trade picks, but that’ll be difficult this year with the lockout. Watt will reinforce a weak front seven.
18. San Diego Chargers: DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple — Yeah, we’re still going. An already lethal front seven gets even better. Leading draft analyst Mike Mayock compared Wilkerson to Trevor Pryce.
19. New York Giants: OG/C Mike Pouncey, Florida — Without any glaring need to be filled early, Pouncey provides depth behind the league’s second-best pass protection unit.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA — While perhaps better suited for a 3/4, the Buccaneers need a run stuffer at the second level.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue — The Jaguars’ hot pursuit of Kerrigan screams smokescreen, and the Big 10′s all-time leader in forced fumbles brings the pressure Kansas City needs off the edge.
22. Indianapolis Colts: OT Nate Solder, Colorado — Similar to Pouncey, this becomes a depth move to support a highly effective but aging line. Solder is a beast, just ask Matt Russell.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin — Mike Vick’s greatest strength–his mobility–can also be his greatest detriment, which led to Philadelphia giving up 49 sacks last year. Bulk and aggression up front is the cure.
24. New Orleans Saints: DE Aldon Smith, Missouri – Will Smith will turn 30 in July, and went from 13 sacks in 2009 to 5.5 in 2010. Bringing on another Smith will protect New Orleans from his inconsistencies.
25. Seattle Seahawks: QB Jake Locker, Washington– Matt Hasselbeck is likely gone as a free agent, giving Locker a chance to return to the northwest and battle Charlie Whitehurst.
26. Baltimore Ravens: DE Cameron Heyward — Ideal strength and leverage for a 3/4 front. Heyward will inject some life into a pass rush that put the quarterback on the ground only 27 times in 2010.
27. Atlanta Falcons: DE/OLB Justin Houston, Georgia — John Abraham is still rolling, but durability has never been his strong suit, and now he’s 33.
28. New England Patriots: CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado — Last year, New England addressed a glaring need with Devin McCourty, who turned into a rookie Pro Bowler. The need is still there, and Bill Belichick will try for a repeat on the other side.
29. Chicago Bears: OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State — Of all the quarterbacks who were rocked routinely, no one comes close to Jay Cutler.
30. New York Jets: SS Rahim Moore, UCLA — A secondary boasting ball-hawking cornerbacks is weak up the middle. Moore brings both speed and muscle.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: OG Orlando Franklin, Miami — Pittsburgh’s offensive line holes were exploited during the playoffs. Danny Watkins nearly took this spot, but his late-bloomer story may be too risky for the conservative Steelers. [Editor's note: So Tomlinson picked one Canadian over another.]
32. Green Bay Packers: OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona – The best remaining linebacker in the first round boosts an already lethal pass rush alongside Clay Matthews and A.J Hawk.