I thought this would get easier the second time around. Nope.
Perhaps there’s a charm of some kind waiting when we do round three in two weeks. In the second edition of our mock drafts it quickly became clear to me that the position of the top two quarterbacks–Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert–heavily influences the rest of the top 15.
And here we go…
1. Carolina Panthers: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri – If Carolina is bent on making the mistake of taking a quarterback first overall in this draft, Gabbert is the safer, more NFL-ready option. But Cam Newton’s sex appeal may have hypnotized the Panthers.
2. Denver Broncos: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU — This may not address the most glaring need, an atrocious run defence. But Peterson is far too talented to pass on, especially given the incredible tandem he can form with Champ Bailey.
3. Buffalo Bills: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama — A front seven that gave up a league worst of nearly 170 yards per game on the ground needs a large plug to fill a large gap.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Cam Newton — This one’s difficult with both Terrell Owens leaving, and possibly Chad Ochocinco too. But there are other internal receiving options, and Carson Palmer is holding the franchise hostage.
5. Arizona Cardinals: OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M — With both top quarterbacks gone, the Cardinals could take Ryan Mallett, or maybe a falling Jake Locker with their 38th overall pick.
6. Cleveland Browns: WR A.J. Green, Georgia — The maturation of Colt McCoy could speed up nicely with a deep threat like Green spreading the field.
7. San Francisco 49ers: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska — With Miller gone, bolstering a 3/4 pass rush isn’t ideal in this spot. Amukamara is the best available CB to help a weak secondary.
8. Tennessee Titans: DT, Nick Fairley, Auburn — Robert Quinn is also strong possibility here to complement Jason Babin or replace him if he leaves as a free agent. But if Fairley’s bust potential allows him to fall this far, the Titans can’t let him fall further.
9. Dallas Cowboys: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina — This fills a need with the likely departure of Marcus Spears. However, the much more likely scenario has the Cowboys using the value of this pick to trade down and grab an offensive lineman, perhaps Gabe Carimi.
10. Washington Redskins: WR Julio Jones, Alabama — Jones is still neck-and-neck with Green, and may eventually win the race over the next month. But for now he falls to Washington purely due to team needs.
11. Houston Texans: DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson — Maybe Bowers should fall further than three spots given the growing concern over his knee. Paint me a believer in modern medical technology.
12. Minnesota Vikings: OT Tyron Smith, USC –An impressive Pro Day makes Smith the top offensive tackle prospect, and gives some peace of mind to an inexperienced quarterback in Minnesota, whoever it is.
13: Detroit Lions: Anthony Castonzo, Boston College — Another case where fortification is a necessity for a young QB’s future. In two years as the Lions’ starter, Matthew Stafford has missed 19 games.
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 — The only scenario in which Ingram doesn’t play his next football game in South Beach is if the Dolphins aren’t confident in Henne, and trade up for Newton or Gabbert. With the lockout only allowing picks to be traded, that would be very difficult from this spot.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue — Last time around I smelled smokescreen on the Jaguars’ pursuit of Kerrigan. But with a puddle of drool surrounding him now, the Boilermaker is ascending quickly.
17: New England Patriots (from Oakland): DE J.J Watt, Wisconsin — Watt remains here, with his towering frame (6’5″, 290 pounds) and speed ideal to fill the Patriots’ need for a 3/4 defensive end.
18. San Diego Chargers: DE Cameron Jordan, Cal – With experience in Cal’s 3/4 front, Jordan adds even more scary strength to a pass rush that finished second in sacks last year.
19. New York Giants: DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple — With Barry Cofield likely leaving as a free agent, the Giants picked the right draft to have a defensive line vacancy.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA — A defence that gave up the second-worst yards per carry needs a run stuffer at the second level.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin — In this draft tackles don’t get much larger than Carimi, and he’d keep Matt Cassel upright while paving the way for an already lethal running game.
22. Indianapolis Colts: OT Nate Solder, Colorado — The beastly Solder stays here, adding depth to a highly effective unit.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi — A large, mobile tackle would fit nicely in front of an agile and shifty quarterback. After an impressive Pro Day, Sherrod showed he’ll be able to fill that role.
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. New Orleans needs to invest in some insurance at defensive end.
25. Seattle Seahawks: QB Jake Locker, Washington — Despite thoughts of Locker slipping into the second round, this fit just seems too perfect. Matt Hasselbeck moves on, and Locker competes with Charlie Whitehurst.
26. Baltimore Ravens: DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State — Heyward has ideal strength and leverage for a 3/4 front. He’ll inject some life into a pass rush that put the quarterback on the ground only 27 times in 2010.
27. Atlanta Falcons: OLB/DE Justin Houston, Georgia — Atlanta has heavily courted Houston over the past two weeks, which only reaffirms him as a potential protege to serve under John Abraham next season.
28. New England Patriots: OG Danny Watkins, Baylor — Questions still linger over the long-term future of Logan Mankins. The Canadian Watkins can easily handle the frosty northeast.
29: Chicago Bears: C Mike Pouncey, Florida — Olin Kreutz isn’t getting any younger and will enter his 15th season. Pouncey can provide depth elsewhere on the O-line before eventually taking over at centre.
30. New York Jets: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa — Clayborn provides a safety net and is a younger model of an aging Shaun Ellis, who could leave as a free agent but is more likely to sign a short-term deal.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Orlando Franklin, Miami — Protecting the quarterback was the Steelers’ Achilles heel throughout the playoffs, and it needs to be addressed.
32. Green Bay Packers: OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona — Pouncey would also fit well here if he falls, and would support an offensive line that gave up 38 sacks and saw Aaron Rodgers get concussed twice. But for now I’ll stick with Reed, who would make the league’s best pass rush even more blood thirsty.