This is the one in which the quarterbacks dropped off the face of the planet. I just can’t condone using an early pick on either Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton, and so I won’t. Here’s my third mock:
1. Carolina Panthers: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU — Peterson isn’t just the safest option, but he’s probably the surest thing. I don’t know how the Panthers can go with anyone but him. I wouldn’t blame them for taking Marcell Dareus or Von Miller but there’s no way you can go quarterback No. 1 this year.
2. Denver Broncos: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama — With Peterson gone, this is a fairly obvious pick for the Broncos. Again, though, I wouldn’t hold a Miller pick against them either.
3. Buffalo Bills: OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M – Add Miller to that young Buffalo defense and the future will be bright for the Bills. They can address their quarterback need through free agency or next year’s draft. This team won’t compete in 2011 anyway.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J. Green, Georgia — And I fully expect them to draft Ryan Mallett in the second round, just to cover themselves if Carson Palmer doesn’t come around.
5. Arizona Cardinals: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina — It probably won’t be a quarterback, so with Green off the board they go with the incredibly athletic Quinn to bolster the front seven.
6. Cleveland Browns: WR Julio Jones, Alabama — The top defensive linemen are off the board, so this is more of a hunch. Name Cleveland’s top three receivers…
7. San Francisco 49ers: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri — With Nick Fairley’s stock dropping and the quarterbacks plummeting, Jim Harbaugh adds a mobile signal caller to compete with Alex Smith.
8. Tennessee Titans: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn — The Titans love their defensive linemen, and I just can’t see them using another first-round pick on a quarterback after the Vince Young fiasco.
9. Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyron Smith, USC — With Patrick Peterson and Julio Jones long gone, this one seems sort of obvious. Smith is head and shoulder above every other tackle.
10. Washington Redskins: QB Cam Newton, Auburn — The Newton slide stops in Washington. Mike Shanahan will be happy to have the option between Newton and Jake Locker.
11. Houston Texans: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska — Considering how weak their secondary is, the Texans can’t pass on this kind of talent. That said, don’t be shocked if they take a 3-4 pass rusher like Aldon Smith.
12. Minnesota Vikings: QB Jake Locker, Washington — With no quarterback-needy teams directly behind them, I’d expect the Vikes to trade down. Either way, they need a quarterback in the first two rounds.
13. Detroit Lions: CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado — Someone’s going to become captivated by Smith’s raw talent and look past his red flags. With the top tackle off the board, the Lions will be that team if they’re in this position. That secondary needs help.
14. St. Louis Rams: DE/OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri — The Rams have addressed all of the crucial building blocks (quarterback, offensive tackle, running back) in recent years. Now they have to keep improving the pass rush.
15. Miami Dolphins: G Mike Pouncey, Florida — The Dolphins can get Mark Ingram or a similarly ranked back by trading into Round 2. They take the versatile Pouncey to improve the interior offensive line here.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson — The Jaguars stop the Bowers slide. Gene Smith won’t be afraid to take a chance, especially if it means helping the pass rush.
17. New England Patriots: DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin — Who are we kidding? The Pats won’t pick here. But if they do, they’ll take the best player available.
18. San Diego Chargers: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple — An ideal addition to the Chargers line, he’ll immediately spruce up the pass rush.
19. New York Giants: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College — I doubt the Giants will let Mike Pouncey get past them. If he’s gone, the top tackle on the board makes sense. Castonzo can play on the inside anyway.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Cameron Jordan, Cal – The Bucs cap a run on defensive ends, grabbing Jordan before a big drop-off.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: NT Phil Taylor, Baylor — You can’t succeed in a 3-4 without a big, strong nose tackle. The Chiefs have a perfect opportunity to fill that hole here.
22. Indianapolis Colts: OT Nate Solder, Colorado — It’s really pretty much a toss-up between Solder and Gabe Carimi here.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin — Jimmy Smith’s gone and it’s too early to take Aaron Williams, so the Eagles take the best player available.
24. New Orleans Saints: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois — I continue to have trouble finding a spot for Liuget until New Orleans is on the board. The Saints need to add size up front.
25. Seattle Seahawks: OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State — I think the Seahawks are still quite unsure about Russell Okung. Still, I really think they’d like to go with a quarterback.
26. Baltimore Ravens: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue — Kerrigan could become a great complement to Terrell Suggs.
27. Atlanta Falcons: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa — There’s little doubt they’ll help the pass rush with this pick. Clayborn and Justin Houston are the top options, and I see Clayborn having more upside.
28. New England Patriots: OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA — With all of the first-round tackles gone, the Pats keep improving the front seven. Cornerback Aaron Williams would be a quality pick here, too.
29. Chicago Bears: G Danny Watkins, Baylor — They need help all over the offensive line, and the Canadian Watkins might be the most versatile O-lineman in the draft. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears waited and took Oregon defensive tackle Stephen Paea instead.
30. New York Jets: OLB Justin Houston, Georgia — The Jets’ pass rush is overrated. They need to improve at defensive end and outside linebacker.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Aaron Williams, Texas — Williams not only fills a basic need, but he’s also the exact kind of player the Steelers love. His aggressiveness will be popular in The Steel City.
32. Green Bay Packers: OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona — This pick hasn’t changed since my first mock draft. Reed is a prototypical Packer.