Thanks to the non-stop coverage of the combine, we have a ton of measurables and info on these pro prospects at our fingertips, so now seems like a good time for me to do my second NFL mock draft of the offseason.
1. Panthers: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. We still don’t have a consensus first overall pick. Auburn QB Cam Newton didn’t do enough at the combine to vault to the top of the draft (though he still has a time to get there). Meanwhile, Newton’s college teammate, DT Nick Fairley, saw his stock take a hit. That’s why I’m keeping Bowers in the top spot. Defensive end is the Panthers’ biggest need, and Bowers is the best of a deep group of pass rushers.
2. Broncos: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. As expected, Peterson shined at the combine, running a 4.34 40-yard dash on Tuesday. The Broncos re-signed Champ Bailey (much to the chagrin of Ravens fans), but their secondary still needs a lot of work in both the short- and long-term. They will consider the top defensive line prospects, but it will be hard for them to pass on Peterson.
3. Bills: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. I’m convinced the Bills will take a quarterback here, and really, they have to. They don’t have to rush a young passer into action with Ryan Fitzpatrick around, so that’s a plus. So will be it Gabbert or Newton, whom Bills coach Chan Gailey called a “wildcat” quarterback last week? Right now, I think Gabbert is the safer pick, so we’ll go with him here.
4. Bengals: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. If Carson Palmer gets his wish -- a trade to anywhere outside Cincinnati -- the Bengals can add quarterback to their laundry list of needs. Ravens fans, how would you feel about facing Newton twice a year in the AFC North?
5. Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M. Miller, who had a strong combine, looks as if he will play well in any scheme. He can be that 3-4 edge rusher the Cardinals really need, plus he can cover and stuff the run, so he’s more than just a sack specialist.
6. Browns: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia. The Browns are undergoing another change in defensive philosophy, so new personnel is needed for their front seven. But the Cleveland offense needs a sparkplug, too, and Green is an absolute beast who will aid the development of quarterback Colt McCoy.
7. 49ers: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. Fairley probably won’t fall this far, but San Francisco would be cool with it if he did. Fairley, who played in a 4-3 scheme in college, recently said he wouldn’t mind switching to the 3-4. The 49ers would find a way to put this disruptive lineman to use if he crashed into their laps.
8. Titans: Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama. As far as five-technique linemen go, Dareus is seen by many as the best in this year’s draft. But he can also be very productive inside in a 4-3 defense. The Titans’ defensive line needs work, so Dareus is the pick.
9. Cowboys: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado. The Cowboys need to find that left tackle, especially with QB Tony Romo coming off an injury. Tall and athletic, Solder has a load of potential.
10. Redskins: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. Jones was one of the stars of the combine, but he has a fractured foot, so it’s unlikely he’ll blaze by Green to become the first wideout off the board. The Redskins, who will be tempted to draft a quarterback here, should snag Jones if they can.
11. Texans: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska. Amukamara answered questions about his speed by running a 4.43 40-yard dash. Any football nut or fantasy fanatic can tell you how brutally bad Houston’s pass defense was in 2010, so it’s an area the Texans absolutely must address here.
12. Vikings: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. It’s going to be interesting to see where Quinn lands after sitting out all of the 2010 season. The talented end would be a nice fit in Minnesota.
13. Lions: Tyron Smith, OT, USC. Cornerback is an area of need, but Colorado’s Jimmy Smith has character issues that are reportedly scaring teams away. Coach Jim Schwartz has built a strong foundation in Detroit, so instead of shaking it with Jimmy Smith, he’ll fortify it with Tyron Smith, a prospect with upside.
14. Rams: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois. With Chris Long and James Hall, the Rams appear to be set at defensive end. And with Liuget, who is rising fast, they can address the interior defensive line.
15. Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. I’ve seen few mock drafts that didn’t have Ingram here, so I guess you can call me a follower. But don’t be surprised if a team trades up ahead of Miami to take Ingram.
16. Jaguars: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: The Jaguars need a top-flight cornerback, and Smith thinks he has the size and tools to be that guy. He boasted at the combine that he has better ball skills than Raiders All-Pro CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Pipe down, Jimmy. You haven’t done anything yet.