This is it: This is the nasty wench that I’m putting all my money on. Anything less than 32 out of 32 correct picks and I consider this a failure.
All right, so I’ll take 10 of 32 correct picks – especially this year where the draft is the ultimate mystery. Thanks to the ongoing CBA fiasco, teams haven’t had the opportunity to address needs in free agency, meaning there are countless scenarios that we could see play out Thursday night in the first round.
Feel free to poke, prod and criticize – just make sure you do it before the draft. Don’t be like this clown, who told me how dumb I was two years after I compiled my 2009 mock draft. (I know how dumb I am, so just be up front with me at the start.)
As a bonus, my colleague at TSR, John Paulsen, spent some time crunching the numbers in order to provide scouting combine comparisons for every player. I’ll let him describe the method behind his madness.
John: I compared each prospect’s combine scores with players from the last six combines to determine the best athletic comparison. There are eight categories: height, weight, 40-yard dash, shuttle, 3-cone, vertical leap, broad jump and bench press. Not all prospects compete in all six tests, so certain comparisons are more confident than others.
Realize that we’re not suggesting that these players will turn into their comparisons – we’re simply saying that athletically, this is whom each prospect compares to based on their combine numbers.
All right – let’s get nasty, Ricky.
No. 1 Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is a possibility at this pick, but I think when it comes down to it Ron Rivera will want to kick off his tenure in Carolina by taking a franchise quarterback. Newton is the ultimate boom or bust selection.
Combine Comparisons: Vince Young; Tim Tebow.
No. 2 Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
There has been a lot of talk the last two days that the Broncos are considering Von Miller with this pick. But he’s not the ideal fit for the 4-3 in my eyes and I think in the end, Dareus is too good to pass up here.
Combine Comparisons: Marcus Thomas; Corvey Irvin; Red Bryant.
No. 3 Buffalo Bills: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The Bills may flirt with the idea of taking a quarterback with this pick and they could certainly use an upgrade on the defensive line. But in the end, I think GM Buddy Nix will take the unquestioned best player in the draft.
Combine Comparisons: Brandon Ghee, Malcom Jenkins, Myron Lewis, Aquib Talib. As John notes, Peterson is faster than all four, although Talib is the best comparison in terms of size/speed. Another interesting comparison is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has the speed, but Peterson is almost 40 lbs heavier. Based on his 40, we really haven’t seen anyone with Peterson’s size/speed combination in the last six years.
No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Bengals need to figure out their quarterback situation in regards to Carson Palmer but I don’t think they’ll pull the trigger on Blaine Gabbert here. With T.O. not expected back and Chad Ochocinco’s status up in the air, I like the Bengals to go receiver at this spot. Julio Jones is definitely a possibility (a lot of mocks have Cincy taking him), but Green is still the better overall prospect.
Combine Comparisons: Malcom Kelly; Limas Sweed; Hank Baskett.
No. 5 Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Miller might not slip past Buffalo at No. 3 but if he does, I think Arizona would love to pair him with O’Brien Schofield at outside linebacker. Miller is viewed as the best pass-rushing OLB in the draft, which is certainly a need for the Cardinals (especially after they release Joey Porter and his $5.75 million salary in 2011).
Combine Comparisons: Aaron Curry; Clay Matthews.
No. 6 Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
GM Mike Holmgren says that he’s looking for a “home run threat” in this year’s draft and if that’s the case, Jones makes a lot of sense. The former ‘Bama star would be highly attractive to a West Coast team like the Browns because of his blocking and run-after-the-catch ability. A.J. Green and UNC’s Robert Quinn are also possibilities at this pick.
Combine Comparisons: Brian Robiskie; Vincent Jackson; Braylon Edwards; Laurent Robinson.
No 7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
This team is hard to figure out. They would seemingly like to bring back Alex Smith for one year and take a QB in one of the first two rounds to groom this season. But they could always wait and draft their signal caller of the future next year. San Fran also has needs along the defensive line and at linebacker, making Nick Fairley and Robert Quinn possibilities at this pick as well. They would do back-flips if Peterson fell to them here, but with him off the board they’ll go with the next best thing in Amukamara.
Combine Comparisons: Aqib Talib; Antoine Cason.
No. 8 Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
For months I’ve projected Auburn’s Nick Fairley to this spot and he’s definitely a possibility. But at the end of the day, what is this team going to do at quarterback? Vince Young’s days in Tennessee are numbered and while they could also address the QB position in the middle rounds, if Gabbert slips I don’t see him falling past this pick.
Combine Comparisons: Jay Cutler; Dan LeFevour.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tryon Smith, OT, USC
The Cowboys’ biggest need in some folks’ eyes is cornerback, but with Peterson and Amukamara off the board they choose to address their right tackle position with this pick. The ‘Boys need a replacement for Marc Colombo and the 20-year-old Smith is an extremely intriguing prospect. He’s a candidate to start as a rookie, no matter where he winds up.
Combine Comparisons: Sam Baker; Joe Berger. (Smith only performed in the bench press.)
No. 10 Washington Redskins: Robert Quinn, DE/LB, North Carolina
For me, the Skins are the hardest team to predict in Round 1. Blaine Gabbert and Julio Jones are both possibilities, but with those two players off the board I think Mike Shanahan will address his defense with the selection of Quinn.
Combine Comparisons: Ricky Sapp; Barka Atkins; AJ Edds; Justin Cole.
No. 11 Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
The Texans’ biggest weakness last year was their secondary, but there aren’t any safeties worthy of this spot and they do like their young corners. One way to help a struggling secondary is to beef up the pass rush, which is exactly what Houston does with the selection of Smith.
Combine Comparisons: Greg Hardy; Jason Pierre-Paul.
No. 12 Minnesota Vikings: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
There’s growing sentiment that the Vikings will draft and start a rookie quarterback. Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett isn’t really a fit for Minnesota, but Locker is. Even though he’s coming off a poor senior season, the former Washington product has great athleticism and sound intangibles.
Combine Comparisons: Vince Young; Stephen McGee; Tim Tebow.
No. 13 Detroit Lions: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
The Lions could address their offensive line with this pick but cornerback is just too big of a need for Detroit. Smith’s stock appears to be on the rise the closer we get to the draft, making this a good fit.
Combine Comparisons: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah; Antwaun Molden; Antoine Cason.
No. 14 St. Louis Rams: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Look, somebody is going to fall. It happens every year. Is it going to be Fairley? I don’t know but I’m taking a shot given his character concerns and the fact that he apparently missed his flight to the combine in February (and then a meeting while he was there). He would be a steal for the Rams at this spot and while I’m well aware he could go well before this, this is my free-faller prediction of this year’s draft.
Combine Comparisons: Gerald McCoy; Turk McBride.
No.15 Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
I’ve had Ingram slated to Miami in all four of my previous mocks and I’m not going to change now. Running back is the Dolphins’ biggest need and while Ingram’s stock seems to be slipping the closer we get to the draft, I really like the fit. Of course, the Fins could address their need at tackle at this spot and taking a running back later.
Combine Comparisons: Frank Gore (only did the 40, but very similar height, weight and speed); Benjarvus Green-Ellis; Ryan Torain.
No. 16 Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Jaguars are trying to rebuild their defensive line and Kerrigan fits the mold that Gene Smith is trying to go with in younger players. Kerrigan has a non-stop motor and displayed more athleticism at the scouting combine than scouts were expecting.
Combine Comparisons: Chris Long; Lawrence Sidbury.
No. 17 New England Patriots: Cam Jordan, DE, Cal
There’s a possibility that Jordan won’t fall this far but it would be like the Patriots to land a potential top-10 prospect in the middle of the first round. Of course, knowing Bill Belichick he probably won’t hang onto this pick either.
Combine Comparisons: C.J. Ah You; Victor Abamiri. (Only ran forty and performed in the bench press.)
No. 18 San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Chargers have needs at receiver, cornerback and offensive tackle, but adding another pass-rusher will be a top priority. At 6’6” and 292 pounds, Watt has the versatility to play as a defensive end in either a 4-3 or a 3-4.
Combine Comparisons: Daniel Te’o-Nesheim; Mario Williams; Chris Long.
No. 19 New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
There are many draft observers who think the G-Men will wind up with running back Mark Ingram at this spot, although offensive tackle is a much bigger need in my eyes. And they’ll have their pick between Castonzo, Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod or Nate Solder.
Combine Comparisons: Corey Hilliard; Kraig Urbik.
No. 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Da’Qaun Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers is one of the many intriguing mysteries surrounding the 2011 draft. Once viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick, teams may be scared off by the health of his knee. In fact, there’s a good chance that he could even slip out of the first round entirely. But the Bucs have a huge need for a pass-rusher and if he medically checks out, then what a steal Bowers would be at this pick.
Combine Comparisons: Tim Jamison; Victor Adeyanju. (Bowers only participated in the bench press at the combine, so John was limited in his comparisons.)
No. 21: Kansas City Chiefs: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
The Chiefs could go in a couple of directions here, including receiver, defensive tackle and even center. But at the end of the day, I could see GM Scott Pioli wanting to fortify his offensive line with the selection of Carimi, who would give KC an upgrade at right tackle. They could keep Branden Albert at left tackle and then plug Carimi (a strong run-blocker) on the right side.
Combine Comparison: Jamaal Brown.
No. 22 Indianapolis Colts: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
The Colts have ignored the offensive tackle position long enough. Their OL has been in steady decline over the past couple of years and given Peyton Manning’s struggles during a nasty three-game stretch last season (which was a combination of his poor decision-making and poor O-line play), the Colts would be wise to go OT here.
Combine Comparisons: Seth Olsen; Bryan Bulaga; Michael Toudouze.
No. 23 Philadelphia Eagles: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Ayers’ stock appears to be falling the closer we get to the draft, but the Eagles need an impact player on defense. Ayers has the ability to get after the passer and could be used in a couple of different roles in new DC Juan Castillo’s system.
Combine Comparisons: A.J. Edds; Daryl Washington; Justin Cole.
No. 24 New Orleans Saints: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Saints’ lack of a pass-rush was apparent last year and while they could use an upgrade at outside linebacker, safety and defensive tackle, I don’t see them going in any other direction besides defensive end.
Combine Comparisons: Victor Adeyanju; Derrick Morgan; Darryl Tapp.
No. 25 Seattle Seahawks: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Jake Locker seems to be a popular pick for the Seahawks these days, although I have him going to Minnesota at No. 12 so obviously he’s not an option. With Russell Okung looking like a solid contributor on the left side, it’s time for the Hawks to address the position opposite him. Solder could be a nice upgrade over Sean Locklear.
Combine Comparisons: Daryn Colledge; Adam Koets.
No. 26 Baltimore Ravens: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
I could definitely see the Ravens addressing their offensive line with this pick, although my belief is that they like Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod, whom I have going to Indy at No. 22. Wilkerson gives Baltimore’s defensive line a much-needed pass-rusher.
Combine Comparisons: Jared Odrick and Clifton Ryan.
No. 27 Atlanta Falcons: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
The Falcons like guys that can play different positions along the defensive line, which fits Heyward, who can play in either as a defensive end or defensive tackle in obvious pass-rush situations. After speaking with him around the Super Bowl, I can say firsthand that Heyward is a tremendous kid with great character and I think he’s going to do very well in the NFL. His dad, “Ironhead” Heyward once made his home in Atlanta, too.
Combine Comparisons: Doug Worthington (height/weight only); Titus Adams.
No. 28 New England Patriots: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
At 26-years-old, Watkins has the majority of a veteran in his prime. And if he were a couple of inches taller and a couple of years younger, he probably would have gone much higher than this. The interior of the Pats’ O-line could use an upgrade and if they hold onto this pick, Watkins would appear to be a good fit.
Combine Comparisons: Roy Scheuning, Leroy Harris and Matt Tennant.
No. 29 Chicago Bears: Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn State
Lovie Smith has been adamant that the Bears will bring back the 34-year-old Olin Kreutz, but the veteran really struggled last year and will need to be replaced at some point. Smith doesn’t like playing rookies anyway, so Wisniewski could learn the ropes for a couple of years and become Chicago’s center of the future.
Combine Comparison: Eric Wood.
No. 30 New York Jets: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
It’s funny, most mock drafts didn’t have Liuget going in the first round a couple of months ago. I had him going No. 14 to the Rams in my first two mocks, but now have him falling later in the first round. (I just see things breaking differently, which is why I have him listed here.) Either way, Liguet’s stock continues to rise and he’s a player that can play end in a 3-4 or slide inside on passing downs in Rex Ryan’s defense.
Combine Comparisons: Clifton Ryan.
No. 31 Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida
All right – I’ll bite on the rumors.
Combine Comparisons: Matt Tennant and Ryan Harris.
No. 32 Green Bay Packers: Justin Houston, LB/DE, Georgia
Houston may not fall this far due to his ability to get to the quarterback but if he does, he’s an intriguing fit for Dom Capers and the Packers. Green Bay doesn’t have a lot of needs, but one thing Ted Thompson may look to add is a pass-rusher. Houston is probably better with his hand in the dirt but if the Packers could get him up to speed as an OLB, he and Clay Matthews could dominant quarterbacks for years to come.
Combine Comparisons: Brian Cushing; Clay Matthews; Aaron Curry; Sean Weatherspoon.