33. New England Patriots- Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
I know, this is not a ‘sexy’ pick whatsoever, but it’s a very Patriots-like selection. Although Watkins is older than most rookies as I have already mentioned, he’s still young in football years. He was a hockey player and did not play high school football. So in football years, he’s actually younger than what his physical age would say. Watkins is NFL ready, even though he could use more time and technique work. With the retirement of RG Stephen Neal, New England needs someone to step in and at the least provide depth on the interior. It also lets them potentially look at trading Logan Mankins if they cannot get him signed to a long term extension. A pass rusher like Brooks Reed is a solid pick here as well, but I think Reed may be available later, and a blocker like Watkins may not be.
34. Buffalo Bills- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Ponder before Locker, crazy you say? I don’t think so. I think Ponder has more potential long term, and he’s more ready technique wise. Ponder is as athletic as Locker, but he’s smarter. I love smarts in a QB, and the Bills do as well as current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick is a Harvard alumnus. Ponder doesn’t need to start right away, so the nagging injuries he has had this year can be healed while he sits and learns the offense. It’s a solid selection for the future, although I could see this team liking a player like Locker and thinking along these same lines. This is not a player that will start right away, they will have time to sit and learn and work on technique, so it’s a matter of which one you like more. I like Ponder more because he’s more accurate, so that’s why I take him here.
35. Cincinnati Bengals- Andy Dalton, QB, TCU
And the run on QBs starts for me now. I do think that this run will actually happen in the bottom of the first round as some of these teams who want a QB will attempt to get in front of each other for the guy they want. The Bengals are putting in a new West Coast style offense with Jon Gruden’s brother, and they now have the horses to run it at the skill position, so they need someone to pull the trigger on it. Dalton is moving up draft boards because he’s solid if not unspectacular. He doesn’t have as good of an arm as someone like Locker, but he’s more accurate, and he fits better into the WC offense here. Even though I think Dalton could use some time before he starts, he’s more NFL ready than some of the others. So if Palmer does bolt, he can come in and start right away if need be. If it’s not Dalton, and Ponder is there, I still see him being the pick over Locker because of the accuracy issues I have seen with Locker. If the Bengals go another direction other than QB, then I could see a FS like Rahim Moore of UCLA or a DT like Stephen Paea as a very good value pick here. Or if the Bengals don’t re-sign free agent CB Jonathan Joseph, then Brandon Harris is a smart pick here as well.
36. Denver Broncos- Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
I’m a bit shocked I have let Paea slip this far as I am a huge fan of his. Now, before you start to knock me and say it’s because I am falling for the workout warrior who set the combine bench press record, so see what I said about him last season before I knew he was as strong as a damn horse. I think Paea is being mislabeled because of this record now as a ‘hold the point’ type of run stuffer. But if you watch him play, he’s anything but that. Paea makes his living by being quick off the ball and penetrating into the backfield to disrupt the flow of an offense. Yes, his outstanding upper body strength helps him do this, but it’s not his only asset. He’s exactly what is missing from this Broncos DL, and he’d be an immediate starter and impact player. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Paea gone in the top 25-30 picks either, so this might be a long shot to happen anyway.
37. Cleveland Browns- Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
The Browns could really use an elite receiver, but the guys available at this point are far too similar to the players they already have on their roster. And they are also players who potentially will be available in the third round. The only exception may be Jonathan Baldwin, but there are a few other players at other positions that I think are more valuable. I actually don’t think it’s an elite receiver the Browns need, they just need a go-to outlet for young QB Colt McCoy. Rudolph is exactly what this offense needs. He’s the short to medium range safety valve that McCoy can rely on to make positive yardage. His injury this past season does scare me, but the risk is worth the value at this point. A CB like Brandon Harris is a good value, but it’s not a huge need for this team. I think the offense needs some help here, and Rudolph will be a solid option and a good fit for this new offense. Anther pick that may surprise some, but I think is a good fit, is Illinois LB Martez Wilson. He’s raw and doesn’t have a set position yet at either ILB or OLB, but he’s the kind of athlete this defense needs in the front seven.
38. Arizona Cardinals- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
The Cardinals desperately need some help at QB, but as I said in the first round, I don’t think this is a team looking for yet another developmental QB. Now, I’m not saying John Skelton is better than Jake Locker at all, but it’s not enough difference to pass on addressing another area of need with a very good talent. Locker isn’t ready to start now, and the Cardinals need that more than anything. Getting Quinn in the first and Harris in the second now makes this an extremely formidable defense from top to bottom. I wouldn’t be surprised or shocked if they did decide to go for Locker as the second round makes a lot more sense to me value wise, but I just think it’s better to address a team that is closer to being a division winner with a corner and a veteran QB than the opposite.
39. Tennessee Titans- Jake Locker, QB, Washington
I fully expect Locker to go higher as some team will fall in love with his skill set and think they can develop him. I just don’t see it though, and I have doubts he will ever develop into an elite QB. So getting him here in the second round makes a lot more sense from a value perspective. I actually think of this in the same vein as Jimmy Clausen last year. I think they are somewhat similar players, although I do think Locker has a better attitude toward the game than Clausen, but no one thought Clausen would slip as far as he did last year either. So with that in mind, I think this seems that much more likely. The two major things that concern me with Locker are his accuracy and decision making. And I think his accuracy issue comes down to his footwork when dropping in the pocket. So that could potentially be worked on, but why isn’t it better at this point in his career development? So that does make me wonder if he can correct that. The decision making is something he will have to learn, and it’s correctable. But if he can’t correct that, he will never make it at the next level. The risk/reward finally matches for me to pull the trigger on Locker though, based on what else is left on the board. If Locker and the other QB prospects before this are off the board, then I think a LB like Martez Wilson or a corner like Curtis Brown of Texas or Ras-I Dowling of Virginia would be solid fits as well.
40. Dallas Cowboys- Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA
With the Cowboys addressing the OT spot in the first, they will now be looking for either a five-technique DE or a FS. The free safety position is something the Cowboys have been struggling to fill for years now, and Moore is the kind of player that can come in and start right away. Dallas needs the centerfield type player who will stay deeper than the deepest offensive player and can make plays on the ball in the air. Some people are pointing to the corners on this defense as the ones at fault. I actually disagree and think the Cowboys have enough talent at that position right now, and would be better off filling the FS a solid talent. Moore is one of only two safety prospects I would consider in the first two rounds (Aaron Williams being the other). If the Cowboys do go the DE route, then Christian Ballard of Iowa would be a solid fit and value. Alternatively I could see Dallas deciding to bank on the versatility and athleticism of Martez Wilson, and try to find a spot to play him (they do need some youth and athleticism at the ILB spot).
41. Washington Redskins- Curtis Brown, CB, Texas
I like Curtis Brown more than some other draft experts out there, and I think he’s one of those under the radar guys who will make an immediate impact. The Redskins can technically throw the top 10 players available at all positions and throw a dart and not go wrong. This team has so many needs that it’s foolish to go with anything but the best available player. I thought long and hard about rush OLB Brooks Reed of Arizona here to pair with young star Brian Orakpo, but I think there is just a much bigger void at the CB position on this team. Brown is a clean player who is just a solid overall technician. He has great hands and plays the ball very well in the air. He’s an instant upgrade over the vastly overrated DeAngelo Hall.
42. Houston Texans- Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona
I think once again I am higher on Reed than many other experts are as well. Brooks Reed is going to be transitioning to playing with his hand off the ground in this defense, but his attitude and effort on the field are what make me certain he will make an impact on this transitioning defense. The Texans now have strengthened their defensive backfield and still have walked away with an instant upgrade to their pass rushing woes. Martez Wilson may be rated higher by some people, and I will admit he has more athleticism than Reed, but it’s reed’s tenacity that sets him apart. You cannot teach the heart and effort that Reed shows on the field, and I could easily see him going in the first round. But here I feel is about ideal for the position and value.
43. Minnesota Vikings- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
This may seem like a luxury pick, but hear me out. Bernard Berrian stinks and Sydney Rice is a free agent that will want a fat payday. Percy Harvin is an elite level weapon, when he’s not sitting on the sidelines with a headache. So who is left to throw the ball to? That’s right, no one, so that’s why I pick Baldwin here. Building up this team’s talent from the inside out with some OL help or a new DT or DE is the smart way to go, but smart doesn’t fit the value here. Only Marvin Austin is a player I would consider here, but I still think Baldwin has the talent to be one of the best if not the best WR from this class. He’s a bit limited with the types of routes he can run, but he’ll be asked to run deep and be the Randy Moss player this team has missed since he left. That will leave the middle of the field open for Harvin, who you can leave in the slot where I feel he’s most effective. Randall Cobb of Kentucky is a very good receiving talent as well, but I think he’s too similar to Harvin. Baldwin is the bigger outside threat this team will be missing when/if they don’t resign Rice. If not Baldwin, then I do think Austin is a solid fit next to Kevin Williams now that Pat Williams will be going elsewhere. Some say DE is a bigger need with Ray Edwards being a free agent, but I think they will do what they can to resign him. If not, Brian Robison is solid enough to pass on this position at this point.
44. Detroit Lions- Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois
Wilson is one of the wildcards in the first two rounds. On one hand I think he has the untapped potential that can be unleashed by the right defensive coordinator, which will make him an outstanding NFL linebacker at any of the three positions. On the other hand I worry that he is what he has been, a very good athlete that really doesn’t have a set position and may be nothing more than a very talented athlete but a limited football player. At this point, he’s definitely the gamble on a team that needs LB help almost as much as they need help in the secondary (which they addressed in round one). With Jimmy Smith and Wilson, the Lions continue to build a very dangerous and young defense. Wilson is a lot like current MLB DeAndre Levy who is capable of playing multiple positions, so Gunther Cunningham has options for what he wants to do with both players. It’s a huge upgrade to the speed on that side of the ball though, which is needed.
45. San Francisco 49ers- Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
The only knock I have on Dowling is his injury history, which is lengthy and a concern. But if he can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, he can be every bit as good as any of the top three to four corners taken in this draft. Like I have already brought up, upgrading the pass rush may make more sense in hiding the coverage liability that the 49ers have right now, but none of the rush OLB prospects at this point is worth the gamble. Bruce Carter of UNC would be someone I would look at very hard here, but he is also coming off an injury like Dowling, but it’s a much more recent injury than Dowling’s. It’s definitely still early in the draft for me to start gambling on risk/reward players, but this is a team in transition with a whole new coaching staff. So it’s the kind of gamble I am willing to take.
46. Denver Broncos- Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
I can almost hear Ralston yelling while reading this that the Broncos don’t need another RB. I disagree though, as Knowshon Moreno was a terrible pick from the previous regime that needs to be made a rotational back. Leshoure is the power back that will fit well in a complimentary situation, and a strong running game is something new head coach John Fox has been well known to favor. A WR like Randall Cobb would actually make a lot of sense here, but I think the Broncos need to continue to take players who can transition quickly and play now. RBs have shown over the years to be positional players that can transition very easy from college to the pros. Leshoure is no different, and comes with minimal wear on the tires. What I love most is his ball security, as he very rarely puts the ball on the ground. That’s a huge plus in my book. Attacking the defensive side once again with a DE like Jabaal Sheard of Pitt wouldn’t hurt, and neither would an OLB like Bruce Carter, but I think an offensive pick is the right way to go after already upgrading the CB and DT spot. Looking at other running backs, some like Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech more, but I don’t like his injury history at a position known for breaking down quickly (and they have that kind of player already with Moreno).
47. St Louis Rams- Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
I could see Cobb going much higher than this as he played in relative obscurity on a not so talented Kentucky team. Cobb is very versatile, and will also be the starting kick returner for the Rams as well and provide a lot of upside in that area as a plus. I do think Cobb is probably best suited to the slot only, but he can play on the outside if needed, and that part doesn’t matter as much to me at this point. Sam Bradford needs weapons, as he made a group of afterthoughts look good, and Cobb is the most talented pass catcher left on the board.
48. Oakland Raiders- Rodney Hudson, OG/OC, Florida State
I am an unabashed fan of Hudson, and I actually think he could and should go higher than this. Many media outlets will say he’s too small, but watching the game tape doesn’t lie. Hudson has some of the best technique I have seen in an interior lineman in some time. He’s best suited to come right in at guard, but he can play center if needed as well, and that is more than likely where the Raiders will try him to start. I think Hudson is more NFL ready than any other offensive lineman other than Gabe Carimi. And I am confident that those teams that pass on him will regret this in years to come. I understand a lot of people are connecting the dots between Al Davis going with an old time favorite’s nephew in Penn State OC/OG Stefen Wisniewski (whose uncle is former Raider bad boy OG Steve Wisniewski), but to me this is typical Al Davis rhetoric of skipping over a more talented player for someone he likes better. I won’t argue that this fits the modus operandi of the league’s craziest owner, but I’m running the team in this version, and I’m not passing on the vastly more talented Rodney Hudson. With Asamough more than likely leaving as well, corner may be an area the raiders address, but the value doesn’t fit the need here.