I’m splitting up the selections to save on space for you to read as it’s already really long with just 16 picks.
17. New England Patriots- Cameron Jordan, DE, California
As always, the rich get richer when it comes to the Patriots. Bill Belichick can seriously flip a coin here between Jordan and Watt and come away with an immediate starter at the 5-technique DE position. I went with Jordan here because of his pedigree, as he’s the son of long time NFL TE Steve Jordan. He’s a high character player, with a high motor, who is solid against the run, solid against the pass, and is about a safe of a pick as you will find. An OT like Gabe Carimi would be an excellent choice as well, but I just value Watt and Jordan higher right now, and this is also a position of need. The Patriots could go another direction as well with DE Ryan Kerrigan and transition him to rush OLB. He does fit the type of player New England likes at this position, but Jordan doesn’t have to transition at all. He played this position in college, so he’s NFL ready.
18. San Diego Chargers- J.J Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Let the run on 5-techniques begin! I’m surprised to see Watt available here, as I could easily see him going as high as number nine overall to the Cowboys. The Chargers are fairly loaded with talent, and have only a select few holes where they could use some infusions of young talent. When looking at all of these positions (OLB, DE, OT, and ILB), Watt is the best value. I really love Watt’s motor and versatility, and he’s the type of player GM AJ Smith goes for. His best football is ahead of him, and he’s going to be the hard working type that will bring a very good return on a first round investment. The Chargers have two second round picks, and they can take advantage of the depth at those other positions and address them later.
19. New York Giants- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
So I think I am the only person who thinks that Carimi is either the top OT in this draft, or at least 1B to Tyron Smith’s 1A. Carimi allows the Giants to improve at three positions on the OL immediately. How is that so you may ask? Current LT David Diehl can move to the LG spot, which I have always felt he is better suited. Emerging young OT William Beatty can then move to RT and replace the ineffective and old Kareem McKenzie. So in one player, the team is essentially locking up and drastically improving almost their entire starting five offensive linemen. I don’t see the Giants going with anything but an offensive lineman with this pick, whether it’s one of the other OTs or an OC/OG like Mike Pouncey. I’ve seen a lot of rumors in the media say the Giants should seriously look at Mark Ingram here. While I am a big fan of Ingram, I just think a RB can be had in a later rounds, and an OT makes a lot more sense for value in the first.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
I think the Bucs would do cartwheels if the draft shakes out like this and Kerrigan is still available. I have some concerns with how he will hold up at the next level against larger OTs, but Kerrigan showed consistently over his time at Purdue that he can make plays in the backfield. It is the continuation of last year’s top two picks at DT for the Bucs in building a young, elite, front four. If Jimmy Smith were to fall I think Tampa Bay should think hard about him over the available DEs, but even if he and Kerriga are gone, then one of the other DEs like Adrian Clayborn or even one of the top OTs would be a solid value selection.
21. Kansas City Chiefs- Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
This selection came down to three players for me: Taylor, Anthony Castonzo, and Pouncey. Taylor is just too hard to pass on as I believe he is a true impact 3-4 NT, and those are extremely hard to find. A tackle or guard/center can be had in any of the ongoing rounds, but true 0-technique space eaters are few and far between. Don’t believe the recent media reports that Taylor has issues with his feet, as I think that’s nothing but a smoke screen from another team hoping it will push Taylor down further so they can draft him (the Jets have to be a team hoping Taylor is there at 30 when they pick). Kansas City could also use a rush OLB as well, but I just don’t like the value for what is left on the board at this point. Taylor can start immediately and is the missing piece to this defense to really shore up their run defense.
22. Indianapolis Colts- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Again, I am apparently in the minority in that I don’t think Castonzo is as good as everyone is saying he is. Yes, he has the potential and ability to play LT, but he’s going to take some bumps and bruises while developing and working on refining his technique and improving his strength. Good thing is, the Colts offense is a perfect fit for an athletic tackle like Castonzo. He will be asked to come in and start immediately, which in the long run will make him better. Don’t expect a huge impact by him right away, but the Colts absolutely have to address the OT position in the first round and perhaps once again later for a solid back up. A DT like Stephen Paea is a player I really like and think fits extremely well, but protecting the best QB in the league is more paramount to Indy’s success.
23. Philadelphia Eagles- Mike Pouncey, OC/OG, Florida
The Eagles are predictable in a good way. The believe strongly in building from the line outward, and Pouncey is a solid value at this point. I do think that Mike lives a bit on his brother Maurkice’s Pro Bowl rookie season, as he’s solid but I don’t think he’s as athletically gifted as his twin brother. Mike should start out at guard, and may stay there, but he has the ability to play center as well. His versatility is what makes him valuable, and he will fit well on this Eagles OL. Center Jamaal Jackson spent a good amount of time on the disabled list last year, and LG Todd Heremans is not outstanding by any means. So Pouncey should come in and challenge foe one of those positions right away. I came every close to choosing UCLA OLB Akeem Ayers, but I think Pouncey is just a better fit for this team and for the positional value.
24. New Orleans Saints- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The Saints have been missing an elite talent at OLB for years now, and Ayers is the kind of player who can make a huge difference for this defense. Greg Williams likes to mix fronts and blitz packages with his front seven, and Ayers is the exact kind of versatile OLB that this team does not have. Yes, a pass rushing DE like Adrian Clayborn would fit well, but I think Ayers fills a bigger void. I have seen many mock drafts that have the Saints potentially addressing the OT position as well with current LT Jermon Bushrod being a potential free agent once the lockout is sorted, but I remember that the Saints very smartly grabbed USC OT Charles Brown last year, who can take over if needed. I wouldn’t argue with Nate Solder though if he’s the pick here either.
25. Seattle Seahawks- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
I think by now most of you know I am a big fan of Clayborn’s. I know there has been a lot of talk recently about how Clayborn suffers from Erb’s Palsy and he has weakness in his left arm and shoulder. Well, I’m here to say I don’t care. Just watch tape of Clayborn play and it’s all you will need. Yes, he did not have a great 2010 campaign, but it’s not enough for me to pass him at this point in the draft. What stands out most to me with Clayborn are the splash plays he makes, which are events in a game that can change momentum. I still remember the Penn State game in 2009 where he blocked a punt, had one of the most clean sacks on a bull rush I have seen, and made more than one stop in the run game behind the line of scrimmage. Clayborn is a bigger DE as well, and that is what the Seahawks seem to prefer, and he will instantly upgrade their pass rush potential. I know some will connect the very obvious dots of in-state prospect Jake Locker to Seattle, but I just don’t think that the Seahawks need to address the QB right now. Re-sign Hasselbeck, keep Whitehurst around, and maybe look at a QB in the next round or the next draft. If it’s not Clayborn here I would think very long and hard about Nate Solder, Derrick Sherrod, or Danny Watkins to continue to improve that OL.
26. Baltimore Ravens- Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Temple
I would say that the glaring need for the Ravens is a CB, but at this point there is simply too much value left at secondary positions of need for this team. The Ravens love versatile defensive linemen that can line up at several spots, whether it’s a big DT that can play the nose in a four man front or slide down and play the zero-technique in a three man front, a quicker and longer DT who can slide over to play the five-technique or down to a three-technique, or the undersized DE who can also stand up and play OLB. Wilkerson fits the middle instance of a player who can rush the passer as a three-technique DT, or slide out and stuff the run when the Ravens run a three man front. There are some mocks that have Wilkerson going much higher than this, but I just don’t think he’s as game ready as some of the other players with similar styles. To me, this is the ideal value and he goes to a defense that fits him better than probably any other team in the first round. If Jimmy Smith is free falling because the character concerns are that great, I think this is the absolute farthest he will go as the Ravens have the strong locker room that can keep him in line and watch him blossom. If this same scenario pans out though and he’s not there, a CB like Brandon Harris of Miami would be a solid value for their needs as well, but I value Wilkerson higher. For me, if it’s not Wilkerson, then I look at a RT like Nate Solder or Derrick Sherrod.
27. Atlanta Falcons- Justin Houston, DE, Georgia
This one really put me on the spot as I had a tough time picking between the really dire need for a pass rushing threat like Houston or a potential RT replacement for Tyson Clabo (who is a potential free agent) in Nate Solder. What sticks in my memory is watching the Falcons get absolutely torched by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense in the playoffs, so I go for the pass rusher who can help bridge that gap between a one-and-done playoff team and a NFC Championship contender. John Abraham is not getting any younger, and I really liken Houston to him as a player. He’s a tweener who isn’t a great fit for either a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 OLB, but I think he’s better fit with his hand on the ground and doing what he does best which is get to the passer. He won’t be asked to do much except play in a rotation and rush the passer as a rookie, which is ideal while he develops as two-way defender. Besides the above facts, the Falcons could resign Clabo and still be in decent shape on the OL, so it makes more sense to go with a player with potential at this stage of the first round.
28. New England Patriots- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The Patriots will probably move some of the massive amount of picks they have this year, but I think they’d be better off staying where they are and addressing a few positions of need with some good young players. I count DE, OLB, OT, and RB as the positions New England would do well to address with their first four picks in the first two rounds; and they will have some very solid options at all of those picks. As much as I absolutely love Mark Ingram, I just struggle to pick a first round RB over another position that will potentially last longer career-wise. Solder is far from a polished or finished prospect, but this is the perfect situation for him. If the Pats re-sign matt Light, he can sit and learn behind him and very promising young RT Sebastian Vollmer. That should give Solder the time to get stronger and work on stopping the inside counter move. If Light is not resigned, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad idea to throw Solder at RT and Vollmer at LT and just let him learn on the fly. Solder has the athleticism to plat LT at some point in his career, and in this scenario he is given the time to do so. If Solder is gone, then I would very quickly grab mark Ingram over the next best OT (Derrick Sherrod). As for the rush OLB, that’s something that can easily be addressed with pick 33 at the top of the second round.
29. Chicago Bears- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St
I think I hear a collective groan from Bears fans all over as they have to settle for what looks like the fifth best OT in the draft. Could I have potentially looked at a top guard like Danny Watkins of Baylor? Sure, but he’s also a 27 year old rookie, and this is a team that needs youth and talent (especially on the edges). What I really like about Sherrod is his arm length. It’s the one knock on Chris Williams, he didn’t have the ideal long arms you look for in an OT who can lock out and ride defenders outside the pocket. Sherrod has good feet to go along with those long arms, and even if he maybe isn’t as athletic of a player as you want at LT, he can play the position. Absolute worst case scenario, Sherrod can play RT and put J’Marcus Webb back to where he should be, as a decent back up player. Although I would rate Sherrod as the fifth best OT, I think he’s the third best rub blocking tackle behind Carimi and Tyron Smith. Mike Tice loves bigger players who can maul in the run game, and he can work on protection schemes to help hide any deficiencies in their pass blocking. OL is such a gaping hole as far as need for this team that I just don’t know how they can go with another position. A CB or a DT would be a good selection, and they can get some good value here with Stephen Paea of Oregon St or Brandon Harris of Miami, but I think the need and value of Sherrod just outweigh either of those players at this point. Those people hyping DT Marvin Austin of UNC are just off base here. I like Austin, but he’s not a first rounder. And Paea is flat out a better DT than Austin is anyway.
30. New York Jets- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
The Jets would love to see a true 3-4 nose like Phil Taylor fall here, but I don’t think he makes it this far because of his rare skill set and size. The Jets need versatile defensive players who can help get after the passer, and Heyward is a four year long favorite of mine. I think he’s being very undervalued at this point due to his off-season elbow surgery, and the Jets will be the benefactors of this. Heyward can come right in and play one of the DE spots for this hybrid 34/46 defense, and he will provide stout run stopping skills and good enough pass rushing skills as well. A high energy rush OLB like Brooks Reed of Arizona is tempting, but I think this is a position the Jets can address later on. It sounds crazy, but Mark Ingram could even be a possibility here because his value is immense at this late stage of the first round. A sleeper pick that some may think I scrazy considering what they already have at the position is Texas CB Aaron Williams. Why would that be the choice you may ask? Because Williams will be converted to FS on this team and fill a huge hole that is currently missing. But a transition player isn’t what a championship contending team needs. Heyward is the steady value presence that makes this team that much better.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers- Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
I look at Williams as a two-for-one pick here for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has some very glaring needs on the OL and at CB. They have some solid prospects staring at them right here in Williams or Brandon Harris at CB or Danny Watkins at OG/RT. Williams is the pick as he can come in and play at CB immediately, and if he doesn’t work out there, he can transition to FS and help make up one of the stronger safety tandems in the entire league. Pittsburgh likes bigger corners that can be physical at the line and re-route receivers., and this is what Williams is very good at. I just worry about his slight stiffness in turning and running with faster WRs in the NFL. I’d liken him to Malcolm Jenkins of the Saints, where he should be tried at corner, and if not then stick him at FS and be very happy with your return on investment. If Heyward were available, or Sherrod, then I would easily take either of these players over Williams as they are better fits and values.
32. Green Bay Packers- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
This simply amazes me that I have gotten to the last pick of the first round and Mark Ingram is still available. I would be willing to bet a large amount of money that this does not happen. Ingram is just too good of a RB to last this long. But having said that, the fact that the feature-back type of RB is a dying breed in the NFL makes this much more likely. Even though Ingram is very good, his shelf life is probably 8 years. That doesn’t seem bad, but when you think that a CB like say Ronde Barber can play for about 13-15 years, it makes one think very hard about passing on the running back and going another direction. It pains me to say this, but the Packers do the draft right and have a very talented and young team. There are very few needs for the defending Super Bowl champs, so they can take the enviable position of drafting the best player available in each round. Don’t forget the mass amount of injuries this team ahd last year, so they have players coming back at many positions. So I think getting younger at CB, picking up another OT, another DE, a rush OLB to rotate in alongside Mathews, and possibly a RB is solid. Ingram could make what is already a potent offense close to unstoppable. Don’t give me James Starks and Ryan Grant. Can they get the job done? Sure, they proved that with the Lombardi Trophy this year. But there is a difference between getting the job done and having a potentially elite player at the position. He fits this style of offense perfectly as well, so if he’s here, there is no one I would pick over him. The rich get richer and it make me feel sick as a Bears fan.