65. Carolina Panthers- Jerrell Jernigan, WR/KR, Troy
If I had to bet, I would say Jernigan goes higher than this because of his return skills. I have let him slip here though because I do feel the rules change to move kick offs up will really hurt the value of return guys like Jernigan. I’m a bit concerned about Jernigan’s size as I feel he may be relegated to the slot position only. But this is a team that needs depth at the WR position and some game breaking speed. Jernigan is fast and quick, meaning he can get open in the short area and break that for a long gain. Colin Kaepernick is sitting there staring the Panthers in the face, but he’s not a better prospect than Jimmy Clausen in my opinion. Or if he is, he’s not better enough to warrant skipping over a need that is just as big. Another DL wouldn’t hurt, and the value is there with some solid DTs on the board still, but I think that not having the second round pick forces the need to address the offense here. If Jernigan or an equivalent receiver weren’t there with this pick, I’d scoop up Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks and be very happy.
66. Cincinnati Bengals- Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
At this point of the draft I’m starting to take advantage of what I consider the value picks, and I’m throwing needs out the window to an extent. Nevis was outstanding in 2009, and to me looked simply average in 2010. He flashed at times, but nothing like what I saw in 2009 when I thought he very well could be a first round pick. Depending on why this happened, Nevis very well could go higher than this, but I think this is the right spot balancing out his career as a whole. The Bengals need some juice in the pass rush from the interior and Nevis can bring thing this to the table. While I wouldn’t argue with a running back like Shane Vareen of Cal or Dion Lewis of Pitt, they have to get some help n the defensive side of the ball, and Cedric Benson can be resigned to be the lead back on offense.
67. Denver Broncos- Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin
Some people are more sold on Kendricks and some of the other TE prospects in this draft, but outside of Rudolph, I’m not buying into any of them before the third round at the earliest. Kendricks is never going to be a blocker, but the Broncos already have those guys on the roster. They need a pass catching speed TE who can help stretch the field. This is what Kendricks does well, and it’s the perfect fit of value and need at this point. I do believe that if Kaepernick is still on the board as he is in my mock, Elway and the lot may look very hard at taking him if they agree with me and don’t believe Tebow is the answer. The only problem there is he’s a project QB as well, so is it really worth it to try again with someone you just don’t know will be your QB of the future? I don’t think so, that’s why I add some punch to the offense with a seam stretching TE.
68. Buffalo Bills- Orlando Franklin, OL, Miami
The Bills really need a franchise LT, but they weren’t going to get one at any of their picks before this. And they still aren’t getting one in Franklin. What they do get is a very good value for a player who could potentially be their day one starting RT, or at worse will be one of their starting OGs. I think the Bills almost have to address the OL here, so it’s down to who they feel fits their needs best. It’s possible they could go with a player like Indiana’s James Brewer, who I think has the feet to play LT but needs some time in the weight room to fill out and become a better run blocker. Or they could go with an OC/OG combo player like Wisniewski. I think either way you slice it, they will get a solid lineman
69. Arizona Cardinals- Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
You can start the rude comments now, as I am sure I will hear the ‘if they weren’t drafting a project in the first two rounds, why now?’ My answer to that is because it’s the third round! Getting a project QB here is much more palatable to me than the rounds before. Add to that the fact that while he is a project, he has much greater potential than the other QBs on the Arizona roster. They still should sign a veteran, but Kaepernick is your QB of the future and Skelton is potentially a very good back up of the future or a bargaining chip moving forward like Kevin Kolb is now for the Eagles. I almost went with a bigger need on the OL for the Cards, but this is just too good of a value at this point. I really don’t think Kaepernick will ever be a franchise QB, but he has the potential to be as good as the other guys drafted before him. I just feel he has the most to work on as he has to learn to play under center and he needs to tweak his awkward throwing motion.
70. Cleveland Browns- Terrell McClain, DT, South Florida
The Browns have some options here at several positions of need. McClain is a solid fit though as they are still missing an interior pass rushing threat at the DT position. McClain really stood out at the Shrine game against top competition, enough so to get an invite to the Senior Bowl last minute, where he also looked good in limited action. McClain isn’t great against the run because his game is built on penetrating and disrupting plays in the backfield. He can have the tendency to turn his shoulders to get through the seams to get into the backfield, which can cause blockers to get to the second level easier. A solid LB like Miami’s Colin McCarthy wouldn’t be a bad idea either, but I think the trenches need to be built up first before LB is looked into. A solid RT prospect like Florida’s Marcus Gilbert or James Brewer would fit and could start right away, but there is still some depth at this spot to get someone in the next round. Now, a RB would also be a very good value, but the Browns have to hope last year’s second rounder Montario Hardesty is healed up and ready to back up Peyton Hillis.
71. Dallas Cowboys- Colin McCarthy, ILB, Miami
As you’ve read in the positional breakdowns, I’m one of McCarthy’s biggest fans. ILB is not a huge need for the Cowboys, but it’s a position where they need to add some young talent to eventually pair with up and comer Sean Lee. McCarthy is a perfect fit as an ILB in the 3-4 as he’s not the biggest or fastest guy, but he’s instinctive and knows how to play the position. Even if he’s not a starter right away, he’s going to make a big splash on special teams. I had a tough time with this pick though as an OG like Georgia’s Clint Boling would be a very good fit, as would a solid back up NT like Kenrick Ellis. But at the end of the day, I think this is a solid fit for value and also for need.
72. New Orleans Saints- Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jenkins is long gone before this point. And while this may not be the best fit as he’s similar in style of play as Sedrick Ellis, the value is far too great to pass him up. He’ll be a rotational player, and that’s what this team needs, depth on the DL and interior guys who can rush the passer. Jenkins can do this. He stood out in the games I saw when watching Da’Quan Bowers, and stood out in a good way. Jenkins holds up well in the run game, but he has very quick hands and can get off blocks and get after the passer when needed. There are some top notch RBs here as well, and I would not argue with going that direction, but there will still be solid complimentary type RBs when the Saints are next on the clock.
73. Houston Texans- Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton
I’ve said it countless times but true 3-4 or zero-technique nose tackles are very hard to find. Using that logic, you may wonder why Ellis has slipped this far if he has the ability to play the position. There are two reasons why I have Ellis falling a little lower than some others may. First of all, he has some off-the-field concerns with his character. He was kicked off of Penn State’s team and that is why he played at Hampton. Second, he is a bit taller than you would ideally like in a true NT prospect. A true NT is ideally short and squat and can use leverage and size to hold the point. Ellis is a bit more like the Cowboys Jay Ratliff in that he’s taller and more athletic, so he will also provide more movement skills in getting to the passer. Ellis is plenty big though, and very strong and thick through his lower body, so I am confident he can play the position. This is a lot of effort put into the defensive side of the ball for the Texans, but they are missing some key pieces to make the 3-4 defensive transition. Ellis provides the main cog to make this work as the run stuffer up the middle. The only thing else that could be added is safety help, but that’s something they can look into within the next few rounds. Houston would have to be extremely pleased if the first three rounds shook out this way.
74. New England Patriots- Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa
So this may be the first real surprise for some of you in my mock draft. With the surplus of picks in each of these first three rounds, the Patriots can make a bit of a future investment without worrying about forsaking other positions. Stanzi isn’t flashy, but I think you could probably say that about Brady when he left college as well. The Pats don’t really have a solid back up plan should Brady go down to injury again, so it makes sense to take Stanzi at this point than risk waiting and hoping he will fall to a later pick. Stanzi has a good enough arm, he has good size, and he’s a decent athlete. There are no discussions here about his role, he’s the back up and future QB at best, and his job is to hold a clip board and learn from one of the best in the game. Since there aren’t many other needs this team has to address, the only other option to me is Wisniewski as a back up center. So yes, the QB trumps this here in value.
75. Detroit Lions- James Brewer, OT, Indiana
The Lions are sitting pretty here as they can take their pick of a variety of players at positions of need. I would rate OT as a slightly bigger need, so that’s why I take a shot on Brewer. I don’t think Brewer is ready to start right away, but he may not have to. The Lions have a decent OL as is, but Jeff Backus could extend his career by moving inside to guard in the next two seasons. Getting Brewer a year of coaching and putting on some more weight and added strength could mean he can take over next year as the starting LT and Backus can move in to guard. Worst case scenario, he’s a valuable swing tackle back up should either starter go down. The only other pick worth the value right now would be a RB, and there are plenty of good options available.
76. San Francisco 49ers- Shane Vereen, RB, California
I think the 9ers have a tough call here between a pass rushing OLB like Dontay Mach of Nevada or Chris Carter of Fresno State and one of the top RBs on the board like Vereen. I almost chose DeMarco Murray of Oklahoma here because of his ability to catch passes in the new WC offense being installed, but I just think Vareen is a better overall prospect with fewer miles on his tires. I’ll pass on the OLB because these are project players anyway, so I’d rather get a player who can transition easily and make an impact right away. Yes, Frank Gore is still on the team, but his injury history scares me and this team has no one else behind him. Vereen is a solid running back with very good long speed and size for a shorter back. He reminds me a bit of MJD of the Jags, which is high praise, but I do think he has some potential to make that kind of impact based on the physical and playing characteristics.
77. Tennessee Titans- Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville
The Titans have options here, but this team needs players to defend the top passing teams in its division. Cortland Finnegan is solid on one side, but that’s about where this starts and ends. Patrick isn’t a big name player at this position, but he’s solid. His technique is very good, which is what helps him be in good position to make plays. He’s not quite the athlete you want in an elite corner, but he’s scrappy and fits this team’s profile well. If the team feels that WR Kenny Britt’s offseason antics are enough to worry about his eligibility for next season with a looming suspension, then a WR like Austin Pettis of Boise State or Edmund Gates of Abilene Christian.
78. St. Louis Rams- DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
Steven Jackson can only take the mass amount of carries he gets per year for so long before becoming less effective or breaking down completely. Drafting Murray will hopefully help extend his career, and it also reunites him with former teammate Sam Bradford. Murray is one of the better receiving backs I have seen come out of college, and this is a team that could use some options in the passing game. The only concern I have with Murray is his upright running style, as it can lead to injury. The good thing is he’s not going to be asked to carry the load on this team, just do what he does best.
79. Miami Dolphins- Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh
Lewis had a very good close to his season with a solid bowl game, but 2010 was not nearly as successful for Lewis as 2009. I give him the benefit of the doubt though as there was not much of a passing game to speak of on this offense. Lewis is shifty, runs with very good balance, and at times reminded me of a young Barry Sanders. The Dolphins have publicly stated that they want a smaller scat back type, and Lewis fits this mold. It’s a need, and he will get carries right away behind a very good offensive line. Yes, a center would also be a very solid pick and Wisniewski is still on the board, but I think RB is a bigger need and a better value here.
80. Jacksonville Jaguars- Kelvin Sheppard, MLB, LSU
The Jags could use a physical presence behind a very stout DL, and Sheppard is a true thumper up the middle. The Jags need to be more physical against the run, and Sheppard isn’t as good against the pass, but there are already players of that ilk on the Jags roster. A corner or safety would be solid but the value is simply not there. Sheppard is a bit under the radar because he’s not the most athletic player, but he’s NFL ready.