Monday, March 7, 2011

2011 NFL Draft - Mock 3.0

I’ve got a bit of a shakeup in my first post-Combine mock, and it starts with the #1 overall pick.

1) Carolina Panthers
(DT, QB, WR)
This pick is driving me crazy. It’s nearly impossible to set a mock without having some level of confidence in the #1 overall pick. I’ve had Andrew Luck and Nick Fairley in this spot in the previous two versions, and you can make a legit case for as many as eight prospects. Fairley didn’t stand out at the Combine, but he’s coming off a tremendous season and is the penetrating force the Panthers are lacking. I’ve liked Marcell Dareus more all along, but to me Fairley seems to be the better fit.

Who can we eliminate? I’d start with AJ Green. He was one of the two final choices in my “What Carolina Should Do” piece, but he did nothing to distance himself from Julio Jones at the Combine. He needed a big weekend to gain needed momentum for the top spot. Same thing with Robert Quinn. For a guy who missed the entire season, he didn’t have the lights out combine needed to gain the honor. As much as I love Patrick Peterson, and as much as Carolina could use a player like him, I just can’t see a corner going #1 overall. (The Peterson as a Panther picture above was created by someone at

Back to Fairley. Darin Gantt, Panthers reporter, doesn’t believe that Fairley is in the mix for the pick. If I can trust his sources, that would leave Da’Quan Bowers, Cam Newton, and Blaine Gabbert as the Dareus’ top competition for the #1 pick. Bowers’ stock needle is currently pointing down, but he’s got some time to get back in the spotlight. I just question whether a pass rusher is the way to go. If they re-sign Charles Johnson (they’d be stupid not to), they’d have him Greg Hardy, and Everette Brown. Not exactly a Hall of Fame stable, but is it sufficient enough to address the gaping hole at DT if you’re going to go defense with the pick? Yes, I supported Jimmy Clausen last year, but I don’t care who the QB is. To give up on them after one year doesn’t make a ton of sense. Personally, I’d give Clausen another year to show me he’s not Alex Smith, Rex Grossman, or Heath Shuler. One, because it was only his rookie year, and the offensive line was atrocious. Two, because I’m not sold on any of this year’s QBs being franchise passers. Give Clausen another year, and if it doesn’t work, look to next year’s crop of passers that should/could include Andrew Luck, Nick Foles, Terrelle Pryor, and Landry Jones.

Gabbert is going to impress a ton of people with the way he throws in shorts against an invisible defense on his pro day, so he’ll get some buzz for the top spot. I wouldn’t feel confident taking either Gabbert or Newton #1, but if they do go QB, I think it’s got to be Newton. Rookie Newton puts a lot more butts in seats than rookie Gabbert. For what it’s worth, Gantt doesn’t think Gabbert is on the radar either, so he and Fairley are out if Gantt is right.

So for now I’ve got this coming down to Dareus and Newton. You’ve got to think a QB is going to gain/sustain more momentum in the next two months than a DT. As much as it pains me to do this…

The pick – Cam Newton (QB, Auburn)

2) Denver Broncos
(DT, DE, CB)
Even with them re-signing Champ Bailey, I wouldn’t completely rule out Patrick Peterson here. With Denver moving to a 4-3 front, that sets up Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil at left and right end respectively. I’ve got Bowers falling just a little bit, and I’ve got to think they give Ayers every chance possible to prove he can make a bigger impact. DT has become an easy pick for me with the Broncos, especially if Dareus doesn’t go #1.

The pick – Marcell Dareus (DT, Alabama)

3) Buffalo Bills
Now Buffalo could prove me wrong, but from what I’ve been reading (I don’t think it’s smoke), getting a pass rushing LB doesn’t appear to be top priority. Mix in Buffalo’s tendency to go (what they see as) best player available, and I’m going to back to an earlier selection. This guy didn’t do anything at the Combine to lose his spot as the draft’s top talent.

The pick – Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU)

4) Cincinnati Bengals
(QB, WR, DE)
Carson Palmer and the Bengals are still at a stalemate, and neither side is blinking. I don’t know if the drama will have a chance to play out terribly much further before the draft, so Mike Brown will have a decision to make. Does he take Gabbert or go WR or DE? Terrell Owens won’t be back, and with Chad Johnson likely elsewhere this season, the Bengals will be without a proven threat at WR. I have a hard time seeing Palmer sit out the season (even if he has $80 million in the bank as he claimed), and Brown is going to have to blink a time or two before I start predicting he will. I just can’t make Gabbert the pick here until he does something to justify it. If it’s not Bowers, it’s this guy.

The pick – AJ Green (WR, Georgia)

5) Arizona Cardinals
The SEC has dominated so far by sweeping the first four picks, but it won’t continue here. I’m getting a real anti-QB vibe from everything I’ve seen with the Cardinals. I’d honestly bring in a vet and continue developing John Skelton and Max Hall. As I mentioned in a previous mock, every time I watched the Cardinals play this year, the lack of a serious pass rush threat was obvious. They address the need here.

The pick – Von Miller (LB, Texas A&M)

6) Cleveland Browns
Again, the Browns have hardly any viable parts for their move to a 4-3 front, and there are a few players on the board to ease the transition. I guess you can’t completely rule out Julio Jones here if Green is gone, but I think it’s a defensive lineman. To me this pick comes down to Fairley, Bowers, or Quinn. Do they want an interior presence, or do they go outside with either Bowers or Quinn at end? For me, if you need both a tackle and an end, have comparable talents from which to choose, and the tackle isn’t one of a kind, take the end.

The pick – Da’Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson)

7) San Francisco 49ers
I list QB because of the need, but I don’t see the Niners taking Gabbert. Prince Amukamara would satisfy the CB need, but is he best available? Does he fill the greatest need? With Peterson off the board, I don’t see how they pass up a pass rusher considering how poor they were in that area last year.

The pick – Robert Quinn (DE/OLB, North Carolina)

8) Tennessee Titans
(QB, LB, CB, DL)
Still no 4-3 LB worth taking here. I think Amukamara would be the third choice in this scenario behind Fairley and Gabbert. They could use a penetrator like Fairley, but boy do they need a QB. The Titans are apparently intrigued by this guy, so let’s make him their guy.

The pick – Blaine Gabbert (QB, Missouri)

9) Dallas Cowboys
(DE, T, CB, FS)
Word is that Patrick Peterson is #1 on Dallas’ board, so you can’t rule out the possibility that Jerry Jones deals up to get him. It’s still too early for a safety, and I don’t see them “settling” for Amukamara rather than dealing up for Peterson. If they don’t move up, I think they go with a lineman. Which side of the ball? Doug Free is more than adequate at LT, so do they take Tyron Smith or Nate Solder and play him at RT? I think they can wait on a RT and would be wise to find a replacement for Igor Olshansky on the DL.

The pick – JJ Watt (DE, Wisconsin)

10) Washington Redskins
(QB, WR, RB, CB)
I had Gabbert going here last time, but with him off the board, does Shanahan like Jake Locker enough to take him 10th overall? Does he like him more than Rex Grossman? I’m passing on Prince again, and I think this is a bit high for Mark Ingram. Julio Jones blew the roof off the Combine, and he did it with a broken foot. Shanahan would almost have to go out of his way at this point to not take him.

The pick – Julio Jones (WR, Alabama)

11) Houston Texans
Aldon Smith is still on the board, but he didn’t exactly light up the Combine like Jones. Did he show enough to warrant a 3-4 team taking him this early as a converted pass rushing OLB? Prince, your time has come.

The pick – Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska)

12) Minnesota Vikings
(QB, CB, S, DL)
It’s still too early for a safety, Prince just went off the board, and I don’t see Jimmy Smith going quite this high. They just re-signed Brian Robison to a three year deal, so although they’re likely to lose Ray Edwards, having Robison and a law abiding Everson Griffen across from Jared Allen might allow them to pass up the temptation of taking one of these linemen. They have only Joe Webb at QB, and who knows how free agency and trades are going to be impacted by this CBA stuff. The draft might be their only shot at getting a new passer, so I can’t blame them for taking Locker or Ryan Mallett. With Newton, Gabbert, Peterson, Amukamara, Quinn, and Bowers off the board, I think this sets up as a best available situation or trade down for the Vikings. Kevin Williams is almost certain to be suspended for the first four games of the season, so it’s not like this guy won’t get any snaps.

The pick – Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn)

13) Detroit Lions
(OLB, CB, T)
Since my last mock, I’ve narrowed this pick down to either a tackle or corner. Helping me out a little is Tom Kowalski who is convinced that the Lions will not draft Jimmy Smith. I’m not real high on this guy, but he’s getting a lot of buzz and makes sense for the Lions. RT Gosder Cherilus underwent microfracture surgery near the end of the season, so they may need someone to slide in at his position right away while developing as the LT of the future.

The pick – Nate Solder (T, Colorado)

14) St. Louis Rams
I don’t see any way Julio Jones makes it to #14 anymore, which has to be a real disappointment to the Rams. Sam Bradford desperately needs a premier receiver, and there are only two of them in this draft. I like several other pass catchers in this class, but Green and Jones are clearly the elite. If I can’t get Jones, I’d look to take advantage of the DE talent and add some pass rushing depth across from Chris Long.

The pick – Aldon Smith (DE, Missouri)

15) Miami Dolphins
(RB, QB, DB, G)
I hate making Mark Ingram the pick again to the Dolphins, but until they get a running back (I wouldn’t be surprised if DeAngelo Williams ended up in Miami), there’s not a better fit on the board. There have been a few Ryan Mallett to Miami murmurs recently, so maybe there’s a chance his stock picks up some steam in these last two months.

The pick – Mark Ingram (RB, Alabama)

16) Jacksonville Jaguars
(QB, S, CB, DE)
The Jaguars have a horrid secondary, but with GM Gene Smith’s tendency to focus on character, Jimmy Smith and his questions (right or wrong) might not appeal to them. Like clockwork they need another DE, and I see a good fit here. This guy can come in and play on the left side next to his former college teammate Tyson Alualu.

The pick – Cameron Jordan (DE, California)

17) New England Patriots
LG Logan Mankins was tagged, so he’ll be around for at least one more season. LT Matt Light’s situation is still unresolved, so finding a long term replacement would be one way to go. At OLB, Akeem Ayers looks to be a good fit for the Patriots, but this is a team that never does what you expect them to do (I also think it’s too early for Ayers). If I’m them I take the draft’s best remaining tackle here. Time to reload up front.

The pick – Anthony Castonzo (T, Boston College)

18) San Diego Chargers
I’m sticking with the defensive side of the ball here as there’s talent for San Diego to beef up their front seven. Ayers is still on the board, and I think he stays there. I’m calling for a surprise pick here.

The pick – Muhammad Wilkerson (DL, Temple)

19) New York Giants
(OL, CB, RB)
Jimmy Smith would make sense here as possible BPA, but I don’t know that Tom Coughlin is a guy to spend his first pick on a player with questions. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took Corey Liuget here, but there’s better value on the OL. Do they take Mike Pouncey at guard or look for a future starter at LT?

The pick – Tyron Smith (T, USC)

20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are sure to go with a pass rusher in R1. The questions are – Who will be there for them to pick, and will Mark Dominik get antsy and move up for his guy? I think Justin Houston, Ryan Kerrigan, and Adrian Clayborn will all be there for the Bucs at #20. I have no idea who the Bucs prefer, but if I need to come out of this offseason with two starting caliber ends, here I’m taking the guy I think has the best potential as a pass rusher. Until Clayborn’s medical issues are cleared up, I can’t consider him here, so that narrows it to Houston and Kerrigan. Honestly, I’d be thrilled with either one. Kerrigan’s motor may be on a little more often, but I see more potential, not just as a pass rusher, in Houston.

The pick – Justin Houston (DE/OLB, Georgia)

21) Kansas City Chiefs
A pass rusher is needed because Mike Vrabel can’t play forever, can he? The Chiefs have a glaring need at NT, and Scott Pioli has shown a tendency to address the DL early. Hopefully this works out better than Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson.

The pick – Phil Taylor (NT, Baylor)

22) Indianapolis Colts
(OT, DT)
I still think it’s an offensive or defensive tackle. Do they like Liuget or Stephen Paea over someone to protect Peyton’s blind side? This one stays the same.

The pick – Derek Sherrod (T, Mississippi State)

23) Philadelphia Eagles
(CB, T, WLB)
I’ve got this one down to Jimmy Smith or Gabe Carimi. The latter would be an upgrade over either Winston Justice or King Dunlap at RT, but the Eagles can’t afford to go into the season with the same situation at corner. Getting a physical boundary guy like Smith to pair opposite Asante Samuel, allowing Dimitri Patterson to kick inside as the nickel, would give the Eagles more defense against teams like the Cowboys. This guy could be a steal at #23.

The pick – Jimmy Smith (CB, Colorado)

24) New Orleans Saints
Will Smith is New Orleans’ best pass rushing threat, but he may be sidelined for a bit with his PED and wife beating cases. If it’s not a pass rusher, don’t rule out a linebacker like Akeem Ayers or even Martez Wilson as a versatile player to mix with Jonathan Vilma.

The pick – Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa)

25) Seattle Seahawks
Again the Seahawks sit in good position to address any of their needs, and I still believe they’ll go QB. This time they take a guy a little closer to home.

The pick – Jake Locker (QB, Washington)

26) Baltimore Ravens
(WR, OL, DE, CB)
Jimmy Smith would be incredibly enticing if he makes it this far, but I still think this comes down to a receiver or tackle. At receiver Torrey Smith still makes a ton of sense, but I don’t like how everyone and their mother are tying him to the Ravens. There’s still starting tackle talent out there, and with Michael Oher having some LT/RT versatility, they may be wise to find a complimentary versatile bookend.

The pick – Gabe Carimi (T, Wisconsin)

27) Atlanta Falcons
(WR, OL, TE)
If the Ravens pass on Torrey Smith, the Falcons could snatch him up quickly given their need for a viable option across from Roddy White. Don’t rule out Kyle Rudolph, but I still don’t think it’s happening. This may not be their most urgent need, but I think the Falcons may be tempted to take a pass rusher if they see one they like. This guy’s stock is tough to figure out.

The pick – Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Purdue)

28) New England Patriots
After going with Castonzo at LT with pick #17, the Patriots may focus on the top talents at OLB and RB. Akeem Ayers is still there, but just when you thought you knew who they were going to take, they switch it up on you again. At guard, they have Mankins with the franchise tag, and RG Stephen Neal just retired. Make it back to back OL selections for the Patriots as their youth infusion continues.

The pick – Mike Pouncey (OL, Florida)

29) Chicago Bears
(OL, DL, CB)
I think this one comes down to a lineman. They Bears are in bad shape up front, but they missed out on all the top tackles and Pouncey so far. Do they reach for the next best, or do they move over to the defensive side of the ball and attempt to locate the recently released Tommie Harris’ replacement?

The pick – Corey Liuget (DT, Illinois)

30) New York Jets
With the way this mock has played out, the Jets sit in a good position to address any of their top needs. Cameron Heyward or Stephen Paea might be DL options, and Torrey Smith would be appealing if still on the board. They need immediate help at OLB, and this guy gives it to them.

The pick – Akeem Ayers (OLB, UCLA)

31) Pittsburgh Steelers
(OL, CB, DL)
Mike Pouncey is gone, so the reunion of brothers won’t be taking place. I think they’d consider Phil Taylor if he was still available, but it’s a decent drop off to the next NT. I’m not big on this guy, but his stock is on the upswing again.

The pick – Brandon Harris (CB, Miami)

32) Green Bay Packers
The champs aren’t in really bad shape in any one particular area. They’ll likely lose Cullen Jenkins to free agency, and Cameron Heyward might be their guy to take his place. I’m going a little outside the box and giving them a player I think makes an immediate impact as a much needed return man and vertical receiver. Sure they have Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Jordy Nelson, but they may lose their best vertical guy, James Jones, to free agency. I love this pick.

The pick – Torrey Smith (WR, Maryland)


33) New England Patriots
No, not another offensive lineman here. My second choice here would be Brooks Reed, but I’ve got them taking a guy who can make their dangerous offense even more potent. BenJarvus Green-Ellis seems to be better as part of a distributed attack, not the dominant ball carrier. They get a guy who can handle that job.

The pick – Mikel Leshoure (RB, Illinois)

34) Buffalo Bills
Chan Gailey loves him some of this guy. I think there’s a better shot he’s a Bill than Newton.

The pick – Christian Ponder (QB, FSU)

35) Cincinnati Bengals
(QB, WR, DE)
Whether or not Carson Palmer is a Bengal for ’11, this relationship doesn’t seem to have a lot of life left in it. How do you use your first two picks? Do you take Gabbert and a receiver like Jonathan Baldwin or Leonard Hankerson, or do you get the draft’s best receiver and follow that up with your top remaining passer?

The pick – Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas)

36) Denver Broncos
(DE, CB, LB)
After selecting Dareus with the second overall pick, I expect the Broncos to stay on the defensive side of the ball here. I don’t like the value at safety or DE, but I do think this guy potentially gives them a nice piece in the switch to a 4-3.

The pick – Martez Wilson (LB, Illinois)

37) Cleveland Browns
They weren’t able to get AJ Green in R1, and I don’t think any of the remaining receivers is enough of a big time threat to pass up more needed talent along the DL. They got their pass rusher in Bowers, and now they get the dude who lifts almost as much as I do.

The pick – Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State)

38) Arizona Cardinals
(OL, CB, TE)
I could see them spending a pick on one of the remaining offensive linemen (Benjamin Ijalana makes a lot of sense), but the draft’s TE is still sitting out there and would fill a big area of need.

The pick – Kyle Rudolph (TE, Notre Dame)

39) Tennessee Titans
(OL, LB, CB, DL)
For me this one comes down to an interior lineman or outside linebacker. Bruce Carter would be the OLB to target, but I think they’ll go OL with either Stefan Wisniewski or this guy.

The pick – Danny Watkins (G, Baylor)

40) Dallas Cowboys
(OL, CB, FS)
Do they get the RT now, or do they take a guy that may help them out in one of two areas? If he’s still on the board, I take this guy here. Aside from the local thing, he might have some corner/safety versatility, and the Cowboys need help at corner and free safety.

The pick – Aaron Williams (CB, Texas)

41) Washington Redskins
They need a pass rusher opposite Brian Orakpo, and I like Brooks Reed in this spot. I can’t make him the pick though. I’ve seen Washington linked to this guy a little bit, and I love the fit. He’s not going to be expected to play right away, and I don’t think they’ll be able to get him in R3.

The pick – Colin Kaepernick (QB, Nevada)

42) Houston Texans
I think Houston would be pretty happy with the way I mock their first two picks. After nabbing a needed corner in Amukamara in R1, they come back and get a pass rushing linebacker on the rise.

The pick – Brooks Reed (DE/OLB, Arizona)

43) Minnesota Vikings
(CB, S, LB)
I could see Rahim Moore or Bruce Carter getting the nod over this guy, but I don’t see how a team that’s in as bad a shape as they are at corner can head into next year against Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, and Matthew Stafford without making some upgrades.

The pick – Curtis Brown (CB, Texas)

44) Detroit Lions
(CB, LB)
They do need a corner, but would they take the next one on the board, or do they address a need that is as urgent if not more so? I think this is as far as this guy falls.

The pick – Bruce Carter (LB, North Carolina)

45) San Francisco 49ers
(QB, CB, DE)
If this guy is still on the board, he’s good value in an area of need. It’s about time for another defensive lineman to be picked.

The pick – Cameron Heyward (DE, Ohio State)

46) Denver Broncos
(DE, S)
With Dareus and Wilson in the bag already, I think it’s either a safety or someone a little off the radar here. Rahim Moore or DeAndre McDaniel wouldn’t surprise me, but I’m going off said radar. The Broncos have stated a known need – Knowshon Moreno must have help in the backfield. I love this guy’s potential.

The pick – Ryan Williams (RB, Virginia Tech)

47) St. Louis Rams
The Rams weren’t able to nab a Julio Jones in R1, but there are a couple of receivers they might be intrigued by here. Jonathan Baldwin is one of them, but I don’t know that his inconsistency is something the Rams want to bring to Sam Bradford’s offense. This other receiver may not be in Green’s or Jones’ class but he looks to be what Bradford and the Rams need minus Baldwin’s questions.

The pick – Leonard Hankerson (WR, Miami)

48) Oakland Raiders
(CB, OL, WR)
Whose career do I want to curse? Their offensive line is in flux, and they could use a strong guy with position versatility.

The pick – Marcus Cannon (OL, TCU)

49) Jacksonville Jaguars
(QB, S, CB, LB)
Their secondary is a mess, and they’ve got their choice of safeties.

The pick – Rahim Moore (FS, UCLA)

50) San Diego Chargers
Unless the Chargers like Jabaal Sheard or want to reach a little for Dontay Moch, I’m not sure they’ll have a chance to address their OLB need here. Vincent Jackson is probably entering his last year as a Charger, and Malcolm Floyd’s status is up in the air as well. If this guy lasts this long, I don’t think the confrontationally inclined AJ Smith would hesitate taking him.

The pick – Jonathan Baldwin (WR, Pittsburgh)

51) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(LB, S, OL, DE, RB)
After getting a pass rusher in the first round, I’m basically looking at best available in this spot with a slight focus on finding another DE. The Bucs aren’t in horrible shape in any other area, so I don’t think we need to narrow in on just one position. With the draft playing out as it has, here are the best available for the Bucs in my opinion:

Allen Bailey (DE, Miami) – if R1 pick is anyone other than Kerrigan or Clayborn
Benjamin Ijalana (T/G, Villanova) – swing tackle and possible guard
Kendall Hunter (RB, Oklahoma State) – change of pace back; quickness, vision, and hands
Ras-I Dowling (CB, Virginia) – if he could stay healthy, he’d be a top 15 pick
Jabaal Sheard (DE, Pittsburgh) – not a big fan; don’t like him on the left side after taking Houston at RE
Greg Jones (LB, Michigan State) – could draw some interest as WLB competition for Geno Hayes
Randall Cobb (WR, Kentucky) – extremely versatile playmaker; possibly most polished route runner in class
Titus Young (WR, Boise State) – explosive talent; love how he maximizes every play’s potential
Luke Stocker (TE, Tennessee) – a lot like another former Vol TE; slow but gets open and catches passes

Ryan Williams and Bruce Carter are two other I’d consider if they were on the board, and while I love Rodney Hudson’s potential in the pros, I don’t think he’s a match for what the Bucs are doing up front.

I’ll narrow it down to 5:

I like Hunter’s potential as a complimentary back and think the pairing with LeGarrette Blount is a nice fit. I just don’t see the Bucs spending the 51st pick in the draft on another back.

I know it’s a huge if, but if Dowling can string together some healthy seasons, he may turn out to be the elite corner he was once projected to be. He’s a tall, physical defender who can support the run and make plays with the ball in the air. Again, I don’t see Tampa taking this player.

Iljana is a big guy who plays with a lot of strength and stoutness for a tackle. With the offensive line depth chart a bit up in the air, he intrigues me as a versatile lineman with a high ceiling.

Bailey is one of those gifted athletes who has yet to put it together with consistency. His scheme fit is a bit of a question, and that’s not surprising considering he went to Miami as a linebacker. He played in and out in college which is something that has appealed to the Bucs in the past. I think with some professional coaching and position consistency that he’d be well worth the pick here. If the Bucs happen to sign an end like Ray Edwards or (gulp) decide to run again with Tim Crowder and Kyle Moore, taking another end here isn’t as necessary.

Ok, I’m going with a pick here that I promise you won’t see anywhere else. As I said, the Bucs aren’t in horrid shape at any position besides DE, so I’d really be looking to get the best available talent here. Who can we draft that will fill a need and have the potential to make an instant impact? I still don’t like drafting from the top of this safety class, I really don’t see a LB on the board in this spot that’s going to make us significantly better, and as good as Stocker should be, is cutting into a healthy (?) Kellen Winslow’s snaps with a R2 pick a great thing to do? I think I may have found great value without disrupting the potential flow of remaining Buccaneer draft choices.

The pick – Randall Cobb (WR, Kentucky)

A receiver?!?! Oh, this guy is much more than a receiver. Follow me here. Yes, we have Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Dezmon Briscoe, Sammie Stroughter, Micheal Spurlock, and Preston Parker, so we’re pretty good (certainly not great) at the position. This group is missing something. Williams, Benn, and Briscoe have a lot of potential on the outside, but Stroughter is a marginal player in the slot. Cobb is a tremendous upgrade in that department, giving the Bucs a guy with a plus vision and playmaking ability. He’s slippery in tight spots, a great route runner, and as a productive upperclassman, is someone who can come in and contribute right away on offense. If they don’t make an addition in the backfield, Cobb (228 college carries) could get a few totes as a change of pace guy or a Wildcat QB. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Cobb reminds me a lot of Hines Ward. The guy has played receiver, quarterback, running back, and return man, and just has the toughness and look of an NFL player.

ROUNDS 3 - 7

Buccaneers so far:
R1 – Justin Houston (DE, Georgia)
R2 – Randall Cobb (WR, Kentucky)

Round 3 –
Ok, so after getting a pass rusher and receiver, I’m going to be looking for an upgrade at linebacker, specifically MLB, a playmaking safety, and offensive line depth. I quickly narrow this pick down to two players. First is the playmaking safety. Deunta Williams is going to fall a bit because of his leg injury, but this guy this the type of versatile safety that Tampa targets. I love the way he, when given the choice, will attempt to get the interception rather than just deliver a hit. Williams is an upgrade over anyone on Tampa Bays’ safety depth chart not named Tanard Jackson. Next is the physical middle linebacker. I’ve made no secret about my thoughts on this guy. He has the ability to cover the action from sideline to sideline like the Bucs have historically preferred, but he’s also an aggressive, shoot the gap defender who will undoubtedly improve our run resistance. I love how decisively he reads and reacts to the action, and his ability to consistently make plays behind the line of scrimmage cannot be underemphasized. In addition to his 92 tackles, this guy had 21.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks as a senior, as a MLB. If I had to choose two words to describe this guy it would be “relentless competitor”. I’m as big on him being a Buccaneer as anyone else in this draft class.

The pick – Nate Irving (MLB, NC State)

Round 4 –
If Deunta Williams is still available here, I high step to the Commissioner with his name on the card. Going by the talent I project to be available in round four, I’m looking at three positions here for the Bucs – CB, OL, and TE. The only other guys on my radar here are Greg Romeus (DE, Pittsburgh) and Robert Sands (FS, West Virgina).

Again, I’m huge on DJ Williams (TE, Arkansas), but I think he’ll be off the board by this point and wouldn’t pass up any of the players I’ve previously listed in order to get him. If they do go TE, I’d look to fill the need in this round with either Virgil Green or Rob Housler. They’re two athletic players who are more likely to do their damage lined up in the slot running quick breaking patterns to take advantage of size/speed mismatches in the middle of the field. If we don’t get Cobb in R2, I might make getting one of them more of a priority. Beyond Williams and these two, there isn’t a TE that I’m targeting for the Bucs.

On the offensive line, I think the Bucs are going to retain Davin Joseph. They’re reportedly bringing back Jeff Faine, so with him and Jeremy Zuttah, we’re ok at center. I’m fine with them cutting Faine and handing the job to Zuttah. At the other guard spot, Ted Larsen played well and currently holds the starting job. Derek Hardman and Brandon Carter (the scary dude from Texas Tech) will fight for backup jobs. Donald Penn is set at left tackle, and Jeremy Trueblood may walk as a free agent after losing the right tackle job to James Lee. Demar Dotson might be in the picture there too. The Bucs have some numbers, and if they do spend a pick on a lineman, I want it to be someone with G/C versatility or a swing tackle. There are three linemen I’d target here – John Moffitt, Joseph Barksdale, and Marcus Gilbert. Barksdale could be a swing tackle, but I don’t know that he has the explosiveness and aggressiveness the Bucs are looking for. Gilbert’s kind of in the same boat. He doesn’t dictate the action enough for me; too slow and receptive at times. Those are reasons why these guys are being considered here rather than the first or second round. Moffitt certainly fits as a powerful run blocker. I’d look at him initially as a left guard, but he’s played some center too. To me, Moffitt would be a really safe pick. At worst, he’d probably be better depth than either Hardman or Carter. At best, he’s starting for us at one of the three interior positions.

Last but not least are the corners. Aqib Talib has one side of the field locked down, but we’re old and inexperienced on the other side. Ronde Barber is fine in the slot but has a bullseye on his back when lined up out wide. EJ Biggers was impressive in his first season of action. I have no problem with his play, but what’s behind him? I have no confidence in Elbert Mack, and I didn’t see enough from Myron Lewis to have an opinion on him. We’re basically one Talib injury (or suspension) away from being in bad shape. I have my eye on three corners in this range – Curtis Marsh, Jalil Brown, and Rashad Carmichael. Marsh would be the least-known of the three, hailing from Utah State. I can’t claim to know a ton about the guy, but from the limited action I’ve seen, I like his athleticism and how smooth and fluid he is in his movements/breaks. He looks to have a lot to work with, and our head coach knows a thing or two about defensive backs. Brown is the lesser known of the two Colorado corners, but like Smith, he’s guy that will jam you at the line and play aggressively on the boundary. He looks to be more consistent in technique and assignment than Smith. Carmichael might not be on the board when we pick, but I think his less than stellar Combine may have him sliding a little bit. I think he plays faster than he times, as he routinely stands out for being around the ball. Carmichael isn’t as big and doesn’t play as aggressively as Brown, but he’s been a more productive playmaker (10 INTs and 13 PBU combined over his last two seasons) and has proven his ability to play outside.

The pick – John Moffitt (OL, Wisconsin)
This was the toughest pick for me so far. I’d love to take Carmichael or Brown, but I think it’s more likely the Bucs go OL than CB this early.

Round 5 –
So that makes it a DE, WR, MLB, and G/C so far. Again, I’m not looking at TE anymore, so that narrows my focus to OLB, CB, FS, and DE. I don’t see another linebacker out there that’s worth taking. Would a R5 or worse WLB really push Hayes? I’m good with Watson and Hayward on the other side. I have a short free safety list, and don’t have any of them in this range. If one of the corners I mentioned above is available, I’d certainly consider him here.

So do we go with an offensive lineman here or another pass rusher? On the offensive line, they’re not flashy, but Lee Ziemba and Zach Hurd are two names I’m looking at. Ziemba had a strong Senior Bowl, and while he played LT at Auburn, he’s thought to be more of a RT in the pros. Hurd doesn’t entice me a ton, but he’s the only interior lineman I’d look at in this range. He’s a nice run blocker but at 6-7 might be too tall for a guard. We already drafted Houston as a pass rusher and hopefully sign a proven veteran to man the left side of the defensive line. Since they were that bad at getting to the QB, I’m not above taking another pass rusher here. The guy I’m targeting shows a lot of potential as a weak side situational rusher. I think the main reason he won’t go high is because he doesn’t project as a three down end everywhere and needs a good bit of help with his technique/fundamentals. He’s a hustler and gets around the edge well with an impressively quick first step. The problem is he relies too much on that speed at times and can be shut down with a good punch in the chest or with long/active arms. Still, I think I’m being unbiased in saying he’s a bit of an underrated prospect with the potential to make an impact.

The pick – Markus White (DE, FSU)

Round 6 –
Through five rounds I’ve gone DE (2), WR, MLB, and G/C and would still like to get a CB and/or FS at some point. I’ve got two players in mind here. The first one is Mike Mohamed, a MLB from California. I like his hustle and think he has something to work with, but we’ve already got Irving. I’m not going corner or safety here either. With the first five picks, I think I’ve addressed their key needs. That said, I’m expanding my scope and looking elsewhere. Josh Johnson is likely to walk next year as a free agent , so the Bucs will need another QB at some point. The guy I have in mind is experienced, has won, is an accomplished passer with even more room for growth, and has the potential to make plays as a Wildcat option under center. He and Cobb would be nice speed additions to the offense without disrupting the development of the guys in place. Don’t shake your head at this pick. These guys drafted a punter here last year and didn’t even keep him for the first game of the regular season.

The pick – Tyrod Taylor (QB, Virginia Tech)

Round 7 –
As we wrap things up in the final round, I have four players in mind, each from a different position. Willie Smith is an intriguing OL prospect from ECU. He’s an athletic LT who needs to get bigger and stronger to play there as a pro, but you could find a lot less to work with this late in the draft. I don’t have the Bucs taking a RB, and if they did, I want it to be someone with real quickness. Graig Cooper doesn’t exactly fit that description, but prior to his knee injury over a year ago, he was highly thought of as a draft prospect. He could end up being quite the get this late in the draft. That said, I have the Bucs’ final pick coming down to one of these next two players.

Richard Sherman is a converted receiver who finished as a corner at Stanford. He’s raw as hell, but I think his combination of size, strength, and football IQ would be intriguing to Raheem. In limited action at the position, Sherman has demonstrated a good feel for press coverage and route anticipation. Sherman accumulated just two seasons of experience as a corner at Stanford, but he totaled 6 INTs and 17 PBUs during that time. Pretty impressive for a receiver. Think our head coach might be able to work with that? I haven’t taken a FS yet, and one of the few on my list, Mark LeGree, is likely to be available late. The former Mountaineer had, arguably, the best Combine of all safeties this year. He’s just about as small as I want to get back there, and he’s highly productive and decorated, albeit in the FCS. The guy totaled a whopping 22 INTs during his collegiate career, so he knows how to get to the football. He’s not much of a thumper, so he probably wouldn’t be used much up in the box. He doesn’t look terribly explosive either but rather does a nice job of digesting the action in front of him. What I’d be interested in finding out is that since he looks a lot like a corner, has shown an ability to create interceptions, and was able to put up some corner-like numbers at the Combine, could he possibly be have some pro potential at corner as well?

The pick – Richard Sherman (CB, Stanford)


On offense, I love a lot of the pieces currently in place, but we’re not a finished product. I’ve emphasized a need for speed on offense, and it was either RB or WR for me, especially since I spent another pick on a QB. Aside from Ryan Williams and Graig Cooper, the backs I’m targeting for Tampa Bay (Hunter, Vereen, Locke, and Todman) are quick hitters; guys who can get to the edge and pop off big plays. They each are accomplished receivers and can help the Bucs in multiple ways. Still, I think a receiver has the chance to make a bigger impact on this team, assuming Cadillac is re-signed. I also think Tampa is more likely to spend an early pick on a receiver rather than a back, considering Blount’s presence. Since those quick hitting RBs should be off the board by the end of R4, adding a back just didn’t work out.

I’m assuming the Bucs re-sign John Gilmore as Kellen Winslow’s primary backup, and I don’t think it would be too tough to find a third guy on the depth chart that would be an improvement over Ryan Purvis or Nathan Overbay. How early are the Bucs willing to spend a pick on the position considering the $ allocated to Winslow? Luke Stocker or DJ Williams in R2 doesn’t seem likely, and then you’re looking at Virgil Green, Rob Housler, or Lance Kendricks in the R4 range. Green and Housler are on my radar, but once you get past that point, I’m not sure I see the value in spending a pick on the position considering what you’re likely to get isn’t going to be a significant upgrade over Purvis or Overbay.

I see the Bucs drafting one lineman, and I spent that pick on an interior guy. Donald Penn has LT locked down, and the Bucs have James Lee and Demar Dotson contesting for the RT job if Trueblood isn’t re-signed. If they keep Trueblood, then I really don’t see a pick going towards tackle.

Gerald McCoy…Brian Price…Roy Miller…Frank Okam…Al Woods

I don’t like a lot of the 4-3 OLBs in this class, and as far as the draft goes, I think Tampa Bay’s options are limited for finding someone to push Geno Hayes or take his job. Bruce Carter, Mason Foster, Quan Sturdivant, and Greg Jones are the only ones that entice me slightly, and you probably won’t get any of them later than R3. That’s when I take Nate Irving. I don’t think a late round LB from this class is going to make them any better.

If the Bucs choose to not pursue Quincy Black as a free agency, I’m fine with the combination of Dekoda Watson and Adam Hayward at the position.

It came down to a FS or CB with my last pick, and I went with the corner for a couple of reasons. We already have a few late round (trying to be PC and not say “lesser talented”) guys at the position in Corey Lynch, Cody Grimm, Larry Asante, and Dominique Harris. I know it’s a 7th round pick, but is adding another similarly skilled (marginal ceiling) safety the best use of the pick? I’m not counting on Tanard Jackson, but he could be back in the picture at some point. Sean Jones is still starting, and the Bucs love Grimm. I’m still a Lynch backer and am not anxious to put him out of a job, even if it’s with another ASU guy. Again, if Deunta Williams falls to our R4 pick, I’d take him over Moffitt.


R1 – Justin Houston (DE, Georgia)
A big upgrade in the pass rush department; tons of potential and the scheme flexibility for Tampa Bay to expand upon varying its defensive looks.

R2 – Randall Cobb (WR, Kentucky)
An instant upgrade in the slot receiver spot and the potential for so much more. Cobb fills the offensive need for speed that I’ve mentioned with the ability to utilize it in multiple spots.

R3 – Nate Irving (MLB, NC State)
The relentless competitor the Bucs have needed in the middle of their defense. He gives them an aggressive, powerful presence without sacrificing the ability to play sideline to sideline.

R4 – John Moffitt (OL, Wisconsin)
Potential starter early on at guard with the ability to play center as well. As worst, he’s an upgrade to the guard reserves and competition at center with Zuttah when Faine leaves.

R5 – Markus White (DE, FSU)
Houston is the prize of the draft, but White gives them another pass rusher with potential.

R6 – Tyrod Taylor (QB, Virginia Tech)
I expect Josh Johnson to be traded, and Taylor is a great potential replacement. He’s a leader, a winner, and a better passer than he’s given credit for.

R7 – Richard Sherman (CB, Stanford)
A developmental corner whose intelligence and athleticism should assist greatly in his growth.



  1. Carolina is going to take Cam Newton, motivated as much by the fear that if they don't, and he becomes what his boosters claim he will become in the NFL, they will never live it down. I am curious about something...was there a smile event at the combine? Again and again I hear that the kid's smile lights up the room. Do they measure the angle of his upper lip or something? Why does anyone care about how he displays his teeth? Anyway, if it's me, I don't take him. Too many character questions off the field, didn't throw enough down the field in college for my liking. I would love someone to break down his throws by distance. Maybe I am looking for faults, but it seemed to me Auburns offense comprised bubble screens and him scrambling. Did they throw it down the field and I missed it?

    Various NFL Sirius hosts have the Bucs choosing from Pouncey, Kerrigan and Clayborn. Houston never makes it to us. You know my thinking; they are taking an offensive lineman, and at 20, I wouldnt be unhappy with Pouncey. If Nate Irving was there in the 3rd, it would make my draft. I #$$#@!!&!& love that kid! I know my opinion is partially formed by my getting the chance to watch him because they carry ACC games here, he was terrific every time I saw him play.

    You make a compelling case for Cobb. Not a bad selection given that Benn has a knee injury that could potentially go untreated by the team for months given the labor uncertainty. When you make a favorable comparison to Hines Ward, I'm in on the guy.


  2. No, you’re not looking for faults. They’re there. He wasn’t asked to make a ton of decisions in that offense, and he wasn’t asked to see a whole hell of a lot of the field at one time. He’s going to need a hell of a lot of work, but I expect them to take him. They don’t seem terribly thrilled about going with a defensive lineman, and Gabbert apparently isn’t being considered as highly as Newton by them.

    I only see them going offensive line if Kerrigan, Houston, and Aldon Smith are gone, AND they are 100% sure that Davin Joseph isn’t coming back. They like Larsen at LG and apparently are set on bringing Joseph back. I know I have them drafting Moffitt in the 4th, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t take an offensive lineman at all. Here’s my top 5 for the 20th pick – Houston, Kerrigan, Castonzo, Jimmy Smith, Carimi.

    I know I picked Houston, but I’m pretty confident that if Kerrigan is on the board when the Bucs pick, he’ll be their selection. They’ve apparently been big on him for a while. I’d be fine with that.

    It’s hard not to love Nate Irving. Talk about turning around a rough life. He’s obviously not flawless, but I think he’s exactly what this defense needs. He’s a fiery leader who can give them the sideline to sideline presence while doing a hell of a better job of making plays at and behind the LOS than Ruud has.

    I know Cobb goes against the “defense early” philosophy I expect the Bucs to follow, but he’s the best available for this team in that spot in my opinion. Like Irving, he’s another guy who has been a team leader, and I don’t see how this team can quickly dismiss the possibility of adding a Hines Ward type guy. I’m not saying the Bucs are close to being serious Super Bowl contenders, but one of the things they’re lacking is a speedy, shifty presence on offense. Cobb would give them that dynamic, as would backs like Hunter, Vereen, Locke, and Todman. I’m not loving the LB value in R2 and will be disappointed if the Bucs force a defensive pick just to (attempt to) address a need.

    The talent is down from last year, but the intrigue should be much higher this year. There are a lot more scenarios than usual at this point, and that makes it really tough to make an accurate projection. Now if they can just end this labor stuff and get free agency kicked off.