1) Carolina- AJ Green: If they want to help Jimmy Clausen, the best way to upgrade his supporting cast is to give him someone to throw to. Steve Smith is rapidly declining and neither Brandon LaFell nor David Gettis seem consistent enough to be true #1 options. Green is the best receiving prospect since Calvin Johnson and has a good shot to be the first receiver drafted #1 overall since Keyshawn Johnson in 1996.
2) Denver- Nick Fairley: I’m moving Nick Fairley here in the wake of his strong performance in the “National Championship” against Oregon. This pick could still easily be Patrick Peterson, but Fairley will hold more positional value. He can fit a 3-4 and a 4-3, which is good because right now it’s unclear if Fox, traditionally a 4-3 guy, will transition this defense back to a 4-3 or keep it in a 3-4.
3) Buffalo- Patrick Peterson: The Bills ranked 16th against the pass last year, but lack a shutdown corner of Peterson’s caliber in the secondary. With Terence McGee on the wrong side of 30, they need a compliment opposite Leodis McKelvin and if the Bills grade Peterson out as an elite prospect (rare in this class), they won’t pass on him here.
4) Cincinnati- Da'Quan Bowers: Bowers is just too valuable to drop past the Bengals who are in desperate need of a pass rush to aid Carlos Dunlap. Bowers fits those needs and can be a monster on the outside.
5) Arizona- Ryan Mallett: There are some character concerns but for now I have Mallett as my highest rated quarterback. He has the most upside, but still could be an enormous risk for the Cardinals.
6) Cleveland- Robert Quinn: Quinn is the 2nd best defensive end in this class behind Da’Quan Bowers and I really don’t think there’s a big dropoff from Bowers to Quinn. Quinn had 11.5 sacks as a 19 year old sophmore last year before being suspended for something stupid for the entire 2010 season. If he’s in shape at the Combine, he could still go in the top 10.
7) San Francisco- Prince Amukamura: If they do not get a quarterback here, Prince could fit perfectly with Harbaugh. The 49ers owe Nate Clements a ton of money and at age 31, with his play not living up to the contract, they probably want to cut him ASAP. Amukamara is an upgrade over Clements, across from Shawntae Spencer and improves their 23rd ranked pass defense.
8) Tennessee- Marcell Dareus: The Titans love building in the trenches and they have needs at both defensive end and defensive tackle. Resigning Jeff Babin to a longterm deal fills their need at defensive end and bringing back Albert Haynesworth fills their need at defensive tackle. I think it’s a lot more likely that they bring back Haynesworth than resign Babin. Giving 30+ year old players longterm deals is not their way, especially after just one good season. However, they won’t pass on Dareus. Dareus is an elite defensive tackle prospect and the perfect replacement for Albert Haynesworth.
9) Dallas- Cameron Jordan: Jordan has seperated himself from the pack and now looks like the clear #3 3-4 DE/DT behind Nick Fairley and Marcell Dareus. He might not be the 9th best player in this draft class, but he’s the best available player who fills a need for the Cowboys (CB, S, RLB, 3-4 DE, OT) and makes a lot of sense if the Cowboys don’t trade down.
10) Washington- Jake Locker: Either Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton will be the consensus top quarterback prospects here, but Shanahan doesn’t as much about talent as he does how well a certain player will fit the offense. McNabb didn’t fit the offense, so he tried Grossman. Locker ran a true West Coast offense at Washington, something neither Gabbert nor Newton did. Locker also reminds me a bit of a younger Jake Plummer who Shanny had success with in Denver before Jay Cutler.
11) Houston- Von Miller- The Texans had one the league’s worst defenses this year so I expect them to draft best available defensive player. The Texans had 30 sacks this season and 8.5 of those were by Mario Williams, who, in their new 3-4 defense under Wade Phillips, will be moving to 3-4 end, which is a position that focuses more on stopping the run and less on rushing the passer.
12) Minnesota- Cam Newton- It’s between Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, but I’m going with Newton because he has more mobility and athleticism, something this team has strongly valued out of skill position players in the past.
13) Detroit- Aldon Smith- Ndamukong Suh didn’t fill a huge need in 2010, but they still went with him because he was the superior prospect. Smith was hurt this season and only had 6.5 sacks, but he had 11.5 as a redshirt freshman in 2009 and he has good triangle numbers. Smith can come in and be the future replacement for Vanden Bosch, who turns 33 in November.
14) St. Louis- Sam Bradford’s #1 receivers are dropping like flies. Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton both are done for the season and Danario Alexander missed a few weeks. Even when healthy, none of those guys are true #1s. If one of the top 3 receivers in this class (Jones, Green, and Baldwin) is available when they draft, I think they’ll draft a receiver in the first round.
15) Miami- Todd McShay loves Blaine Gabbert, but then again he loved Brian Brohm and JaMarcus Russell and hated Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. He’s hardly an expert on quarterbacks and right now he’s the only one who has a top 5 pick grade on Gabbert. I personally don’t think Gabbert is going to be a good quarterback at the next level, but some team like Miami could be desperate enough to pull the trigger on him in the top 15 because of his physical prowess.
16) Jacksonville- Ryan Kerrigan- Their pass rush, with only 26 sacks, was a huge part of the problem. Top pass rusher Aaron Kampman has torn his ACL in each of the last two seasons so his career is in serious doubt. The Jaguars have shown significant interest in Kerrigan at the Senior Bowl, meeting with him on several occasions.
17) New England- Akeem Ayers- The Patriots desperately need defense, after failing to sack Mark Sanchez once, and Ayers can play opposite Jermaine Cunningham for the future. Ayers is a do everything linebacker/defensive end for UCLA. He can rush the passer and he’s extremely fluid in coverage. He should have no problem transitioning to the 3-4 as a rush linebacker. He also has scheme and position versatility, which is huge because of how many different looks the Patriots use.
18) San Diego- The Chargers never replaced Igor Olshansky once he left for Dallas. In fact, they seem to have made a habit out of not replacing players after they left. Maybe they’ll change that this offseason and take someone like JJ Watt here.
19) New York Giants- Stephen Paea- Paea could have easily gone in the top 15, so getting him here at 19 will be a steal for the Giants who love BPA. He also fills a major need at defensive tackle. The 6-1 313 tackle is a workout wonder and could run a sub 5.0 40. He also benched 44 reps of 225 earlier this season, which would be close to breaking The Combine record. On top of that, he had 7 sacks for Oregon State last season.
20) Tampa Bay- Adrian Clayborn- The Buccaneers only had 28 sacks in 2009 and didn’t draft a defensive end until the 7th round.
21) Kansas City- Jonathan Baldwin- The Chiefs desperately need an upgrade at receiver opposite the epic Dwayne Bowe. They drafted Dexter McCluster in the 2nd round last year, but he’s more of a slot receiver/all purpose player. They need a true #2 receiver opposite Bowe so Cassel has someone else to throw to. They simply have too much money invested in Cassel to not build around him.
22) Indianapolis- Anthony Castonzo- Costanzo is a huge upgrade at left tackle over Charlie Johnson, who is a free agent this offseason, and he’s a perfect fit for this scheme.
23) Philadelphia- Gabe Carimi- Carimi is one of the best pure right tackle prospects in a long time. He fits their size requirements for an offensive lineman and he’s a beast against the run.
24) New Orleans- Mark Ingram- Mark Ingram is the true three down back this team needs. He can run inside, outside, pass block, pass catch and gives this offense a weapon it previously didn’t have, even when they won the Super Bowl in 2009. He is also BPA.
25) Seattle- Brandon Harris Harris could have been a top 20 or even a top 15 pick as the 3rd ranked cornerback in this class, so he’s a real steal at this point for a team that desperately needs him. Barring a bad combine, I would be very surprised if he fell past Seattle.
26) Baltimore- Allen Bailey- Bailey helps out on the defensive line and also improves a pass rush that only managed 27 sacks all year. Cory Redding only managed 3 sacks as starting defensive end and no one other than Terrell Suggs had more than 5.5.
27) Atlanta- Justin Houston- Houston can be a nickel rusher/future replacement for Abraham and fills one of the Falcons few pressing needs.
28) New England- Nate Solder- Solder can play either right tackle (with Sebastian Vollmer moving to left) or left tackle for them. His stock is on the rise with a strong two days at the Senior Bowl.
29) Chicago- Derek Sherrod- Chris Williams is often hurt and not even very good when he does play, so much so that this team seems to have moved to former 1st round pick tackle to guard full time. They need one, if not two, upgrades at the tackle positions (jury’s still out on rookie J’Marcus Webb).
30) New York- Rahim Moore- The Jets only had 12 picks in 2010, tied for 6th worst in the league, and this is despite having Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie at the corners. A playmaking potential Ed Reed type player at safety gives this secondary yet another dimension.
31) Pittsburgh- Mike Pouncey- He fills a huge need for them at guard and he fits the mold of a Steelers’ lineman, just like his brother. Big Ben isn’t going to have a very long career if they can’t protect him. If they want him to be able to play into his late 30s, they have to get him some better protection ASAP.
32) Green Bay- Muhammed Wilkerson- The Packers don’t have a lot of needs but Cullen Jenkins is a free agent and Johnny Jolly is coming off a season long (and possibly longer) suspension for substance abuse. Picking Muhammed Wilkerson fits with their philosophy of taking best available.