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Mock Draft Part II: Post Combine

Post-Combine Mock Draft: Eagles Go Defensive

By Lance Epstein

My first Mock Draft was done before the combine and before free agency began. Now with the big name players in free agency being gone and the NFL combine being over, it is time to update the Mock Draft. Many players saw their stocks raise and fall with the combine. Also, some teams have picked up some players in free agency that might change who and what position they go after.

During the course of the 2009-10 college football season, I attended multiple Arizona Wildcat football games and watched countless hours of the Big 12, Big 10, SEC, Big East football and even some smaller conference. This draft is one of the deepest drafts of the last few years for offensive lineman, particularly tackle, safety and defensive ends. Meanwhile, I do not see a premiere quarterback of the group.

*Mock draft does not contain draft day trades.

#1 St. Louis Rams Rams, Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma, 6-4, 223—Before the combine, the easy pick was Ndamukong Suh, the outstanding defensive tackle out of Nebraska. While Suh is probably the best individual player in this draft, the Rams need a face to their franchise. Furthermore, I do not believe they want to pay a defensive tackle No. 1 pick money. Unless the Rams make a trade for one of the three Eagles quarterbacks (which has been discussed over the past couple of weeks), Bradford seems like the logical choice. Bradford can be a very good quarterback in the NFL, if he can fully recover from his 2009 shoulder surgery. In 2008, he threw for over 4,700 yards, 50 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.

Previous Pick: Ndamukon Suh, DT, Nebraska

#2 Detroit Lions- Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma, 6’3 296 lbs—After the combine, many experts moved McCoy ahead of Suh. Some say he has a relentless motor and is more of a disruptive force then Suh. I am not one of those pundits. McCoy is not a space eater like Suh is against the run or a player that offenses will consistently send two guys too. However, he will provide the Lions 4-3 defense with a pass rushing threat from the defensive tackle position. McCoy has a quick burst off the line and enormous strength, which allows him to get penetration in the backfield. With the Lions organization you never know what they are thinking. I would not be shocked if they take Suh, McCoy or another wide receiver.

Previous pick: Same

#3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ndamukon Suh, Nebraska, 6-4, 295—If this scenario plays out, the fans in Tampa Bay should be jumping for joy. The Buccaneers would get the best player and the most dominant force coming out of this year’s draft. Tampa Bay has been searching for Warren Sapp’s replacement for the past couple of seasons and Suh can be that guy. He is an absolute monster, if you do not believe me, just go back and look at how he manhandled Arizona in the Holiday Bowl. In his college career, Suh became the second Nebraska player to ever win the AP Player of the Year award. In addition, Suh won the Outland Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Trophy, the Lombardi Award and was a two-time All-American. Suh will make an immediate impact and make the Tampa defense respectable again.

Previous pick: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

#4 Washington Redskins, Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State, 6-8, 300—With Bradford off the board and Jimmy Clausen still available, the Redskins could go with a quarterback. Clausen would make sense since new head coach Mike Shannhan would like to have his own quarterback. Moreover, he can mature and not start right away since the Redskins have restricted free agent Jason Campbell expected back in the fold. However the Redskins desperately need help along the o-line before they can start thinking of a quarterback. Chris Samuel’s retired and the free agent signing of Artis Hicks is not the answer to their needs. Russell Okung was a beast at the combine and solidified his status as the number one tackle in the draft. At Oklahoma State, Okung won the 2009 Jim Parker award for best offensive linemen in the country and was twice selected as an All-American. Besides those honors, Okung only allowed one sack and more impressively, only gave up two quarterback pressures all year. Okung will give the Redskins an immediate impact at left tackle and should be a steady force on the left side of the line for years.

Previous Pick: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

#5 Kansas City Chiefs, Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa, 6’6, 312—The Chiefs have problems all over the field. On defense they have giant holes in the secondary and d-line. Despite this, the biggest issue concerning the Chiefs is their offensive line that could not keep franchise quarterback Matt Cassell upright. Even though the Chiefs have tried to upgrade the offensive line through the draft over the past couple of seasons, they have been unsuccessful. Former first round pick, Brendan Alberts might be better suited to play left guard or right tackle then left tackle. Bryan Bulaga might not have as high of a ceiling as the other first round tackles in this draft but he might be the most polished tackle. Bulaga was taught by one of the best at Iowa in Kirk Ferentz, so you know he has sound technique and knows the ins and outs of the position. In this year’s Orange Bowl, Bulaga dominated projected first round prospect Derrick Morgan.

Previous Pick: Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

#6 Seattle Seahawks, Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame, 6-2, 225—While the Seahawks could use help on the offensive line with Walter Jones not getting any younger, they desperately need a quarterback of the future. Matt Hasselbeck struggled this past season when he was on the field, throwing 17 interceptions. Key words in that sentence was “when he was on the field”. Last year, Hasselbeck had numerous injury problems and might be at the end of his career. New Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has told sources he plans to make a splash in his first year as coach. Unless he plans to trade for Donovan McNabb (could also be Brandon Marshall), he will have to make it in the draft. Clausen was unable to work out at the combine due to toe surgery but scouts compare his game to Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Although some scouts say he is closer to a Brad Quinn (bust) then Rodgers. Clausen is a fiery leader, who can make every throw and has learned from one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL in Charlie Weis. I would not be surprised if Clausen did fall into the 20s like fellow golden-domer Quinn.

Previous Pick: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State

#7 Cleveland Browns, Eric Berry, S, Tennessee, 6’0 205— The Browns would be ecstatic if Eric Berry fell to them with the seventh pick. Berry had a spectacular combine where he showed fluid hips and was a head and shoulders above the rest of the draft’s safeties. Normally a prospect like him would shoot up the draft boards with a workout like his but with such great talent at the top of the draft, he actually will fall. I would not be shocked if the Browns and Mike Holmgren trade back in the draft to get more picks from a team desperate for a safety like Berry. Berry is a safety that is good enough to be an Ed Reed and Troy Polomalu player. His freakish talent and abilities at safety do not come along very often. He is actually good enough in coverage to be a cornerback in a nickel or dime package. Berry would be highway robbery for the Browns at seven.

Previous Pick: Joe Haden, CB, Florida

#8 Oakland Raiders, Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland, 6’7, 310—Campbell made the biggest jump out of any prospect at the combine. He ran an extremely fast 4.8 40-yard dash and showed his explosion in the high jump. With that said, watching Campbell on tape he does not always utilize his talents to their full ability. This will not stop the Raiders from selecting him because they are enamored with players that run fast and are combine freaks. Look at last year’s draft where they took an University of Ohio safety in the second round, when he was projected as a seventh round pick. On top of that they took wide receiver Darius Heywood-Bay possibly 20 picks before they should have. Campbell is not deserving of going this high considering he did not get a single vote for All-ACC first team, but the Raiders will reach because they need help at offensive tackle and cause he runs fast.

Previous Pick: Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

#9 Buffalo Bills, Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma, 6’5, 320 lbs—The Bills would love for either Bradford and Clausen to fall to them at nine, but I do not see either of them falling past the Seahawks. The Bills could still make a trade for Vick or give the incumbent Trent Edwards one more chance in 2010. Although do not be surprised if the board shakes out like this if the Bills trade back to collect more picks since they could pick Idaho guard Mike Iupati later in the first round. On the other hand, the Bills could make a little bit of a reach here in Trent Williams. Like Campbell, Williams had an impressive combine to raise his draft status. At Oklahoma, Williams was an All-Big 12 performer and played both the left and right tackle position. On the other hand, Williams needs to work on his pass blocking skills and footwork to be a great left tackle. Unlike Campbell, Williams always plays at a high level and has a great work ethic.

Previous Pick: Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

#10 Jacksonville Jaguars, Joe Haden, CB, Florida, 5’11 190-- In 2009, the Jags finished with a league low 14 sacks. Through free agency, the Jaguars believe they have filled their need on the defensive lineman with the signing Aaron Kampman. Jacksonville gave Kampman a contract in hopes he can return to the Pro-Bowl talent he was before tearing his ACL. Kampman is 30 and there is no guarantee that he will ever be the same again or have the explosive first step that made him a terror on opposing quarterbacks. Still Joe Haden is the local kid out of Florida and could be the best cover corner in the entire draft. At the combine, Haden hurt his draft stock by running a slow 4.6 40-yard dash. He did however make it up at his Florida pro day by running a mid 4.4. At 11, Haden is an excellent value pick and can pay immediate dividends for the Jaguars in their nickel and dime packages.

Previous Pick: Jason Pierre Paul, DE, South Florida

#11 Denver Broncos (from Chicago Bears via Cutler trade), Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State, 6’2 220 – At the start of free agency, the Broncos went out an signed nose tackle Jamaal Williams. Williams can still play at a high level for two or three more seasons, so nose tackle is no longer a pressing need. Also since free agency started, the New York Jets and the Seattle Seahawks have been very interested in Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall. So one would expect the Broncos to be forgetting Brandon Marshall soon, and Dez Bryant is the perfect replacement. Bryant had off the field issues at Oklahoma State, which suspended him for most of the 2009 season. So why replace a headache with a potential headache, because of the Broncos’ need for playmakers. Kyle Orton or newly acquired Brady Quinn are never going to win games by themselves and rookie Knowshon Moreno did not have the impact they expected last year. Furthermore, wide receiver Eddie Royal regressed last year and does not appear to be a No. 1 wide receiver. Besides, Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels comes from the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Bilichick has had numerous players come into his franchise as bad apples and then transform into good soldiers.

Previous Pick: Same

#12 Miami Dolphins, Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee, 6’3 325—In free agency the Dolphins did what everyone expected them to do and signed star linebacker Karlos Dansby. The Fins still could use another linebacker and could go Orlando McClain but nose tackle is a much bigger necessity for their defense. Williams fits the bill for Miami. The massive 325 pounder has the ability to engulf linemen and allow his linebackers to penetrate up the field. He also possesses the exceptional ability to rush the passer from the defensive tackle position. Against the run he sheds blockers with his strength and usually is accounted with double teams. Williams will allow newly acquired Dansby to do what he does best and create turnovers.

Previous Pick: Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama

#13 San Francisco 49ers, Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers, 6’5 330—Since all of the other premiere tackles are off the board, the Niners will have to settle for Davis. Before the combine, many experts projected Davis as the top offensive tackle in the draft. At the combine though, he looked sloppy in drills and did not impressive. Still Davis is worthy of being in the top half of the first round. On tape, he might be the most athletic tackle in the draft and best suited to play the highly regarded left tackle position. Conversely, the Niners will not have ask him to play left tackle with Joe Staley holding the fort at left side. Davis will be a much-needed upgrade over current right tackle Adam Snyder.

Previous Pick: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma

#14 Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos), CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson, 5’11 195— At six, the Seahawks found the first half of their backfield equation with Clausen and with their second pick in the first round they complete the equation. At 14, Carroll will have to deal with the dilemma of whether to draft the most talented running back in the draft in Spiller, his former USC star defensive back Taylor Mays or draft studs defensive ends Jason Pierre Paul or Derrick Morgan. Even though the Seahawks just traded Darryl Tapp to the Eagles and lacked a consistent pass rush, defensive end makes sense. Although getting a healthy Patrick Kerney back will help and makes the defensive end position much less of a need in the first round. On the other hand, Justin Forsett is a nice running back on third downs but he cannot carry the rock 20 times a game and playing a full 16 game slate at his size. Spiller has the explosiveness to take the ball to the house every time he touches it. His lightning fast 4.3 40-yard dash makes him an upgrade for the Seahawks. Plus Spiller will contribute immediately on special teams as a punt returner, an area that the Seahawks struggled with this past season. To boot, he is a deadly receiving threat out of the backfield as well.

Previous Pick: Same

#15 New York Giants, Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama, 6-4, 255—The Giants headed into free agency with a plan. That plan was to eliminate either the huge hole at free safety or the huge hole at middle linebacker. Well, the Giants decided to grossly overpay safety Antrel Rolle by making him the highest paid safety in the game. With the addition of Rolle, this now becomes the easiest pick of the entire draft (if the board falls this way). The Giants are desperate for a middle linebacker that can be a game-changer. McClain skills are comparable to 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis. In 2009, McClain was selected as a consensus All-American and won the Butkus Award. Moreover, McClain can make an impact from day one. His work ethic is impeccable and coaches at ‘Bama describe him as a film room junkie. The only downside to McClain is that he has Crohn’s disease, which might scare teams off. Although Jaguars quarterback David Garrard has proven that players with the disease can still perform in the NFL. When we look back at the 2010 draft, McClain to the Giants might be the steal of the first round.

Previous pick: Earl Thomas, DB, Texas

#16 Tennessee Titans, Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida, 6’6, 265— For the second straight year, the Titans lost one of their starters on the defensive line. This year they lost Kyle Vanden Bosch to the Lions. Luckily for the Titans, the board has shaped up to eliminate the loss of Vanden Bosch and even give them an upgrade. This pick comes down to either Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan or Paul. Morgan and Paul both have their faults but Paul’s has a higher ceiling then Morgan. His frame and athleticism is similar to Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. So why are so many scouts calling him overrated. Simple, he has been in three different schools in three years due to academics. Furthermore, he only had 6.5 sacks this past season and did not always play up to his potential. Moreover, he is not great against the run. The Titan’s fans better hope that Paul is the real deal because Morgan is probably the safer bet.

Previous Pick: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

#17 San Francisco 49ers, Earl Thomas, S, Texas, 5’10 190—Earlier in the first round the Niners filled one of their biggest need on the offensive line with tackle Anthony Davis. Now, they have the chance to fill another position of need at safety. While he is considered to be undersized for a safety at 5-10, he still has a propensity to be around the ball and is a playmaker. In 2009 with the Longhorns, he had eight interceptions and numerous jaw-dropping hits. At the combine, NFL Network’s draft analyst Mike Mayock raved about Thomas and even ranked him higher then Berry on his draft board. Mayock also reiterated multiple times that his playmaking skills are the best he has seen in the last five years of the draft. The Niners can also utilize his cover skills right away by playing him at corner. Thomas also gives them an upgrade over safety Michael Lewis. Thomas’ style is comparable to former Longhorn Michael Griffin that now plays for the Titans.

Previous Pick: Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee

#18 Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho, 6’5 325— The beginning of the offseason has been a tumultuous one for the Steelers. Their starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, for the second time in a calendar year has been accused of sexual assault. This has many in the Steelers organization wondering about if his off-the-field drama will be the demise of his career. That said the Steelers could use an upgrade on the offensive line. It is amazing to think the Steelers were able to win a Super Bowl two years ago with the offensive line that they had. Personally, the Steelers should have upgraded their line last year after winning the Super Bowl. That was one of the main reasons they struggled. Big Ben has taken far too many hits and has had too many concussions at this early stage of his career (maybe that is why he does what he does off the field). Iupati was sensational at the Senior Bowl and was great at the combine as well. He demonstrated that he could play any position on the o-line at a high-level. Iupati can step in right away and dominate in the running game, which will only allow Rashard Mendenhall to take the next step in his career. Furthermore, his style will allow the Steelers to regain their toughness on the offensive line and pound the rock like the Steelers of old.

Previous Pick: Same

#19 Atlanta Falcons, Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech, 6’4 272-- There is always one player that nobody expects to drop in every draft that does. From Aaron Rodgers to Brady Quinn to Jeremy Maclin, it is inevitable. I believe the best candidate this year will be Morgan. With the NFL reaching for offensive tackles, quarterbacks and defensive tackles, Morgan will get overlooked. However, he might turn out to be the best defensive player taken in this draft. In 2009, Morgan won the ACC defensive player of the year registering 12.5 sacks. Scouts love his football IQ in being able to read the play before he gets into his 3-point stance. On the other hand, in his last game at Georgia Tech against Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga, he was manhandled. If the Falcons can get their hands on Morgan, they have one of the best offseason’s in the NFL by eliminating two glaring holes; one at cornerback with Dunta Robinson and defensive end with Morgan.

Previous Pick: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida

#20 Houston Texans, Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State, 5’10 190— Since corner Dunta Robinson left via free agency to the Atlanta Falcons, the Texans have one obvious need on defense, which is at cornerback. At the Senior Bowl, Wilson showed fluid hips that allow him to change direction on a dime. He also showed incredible strength for a corner at the combine. In addition, he was so impressive at the Senior Bowl that Lions Wide Receivers coach said that he was being a pain in the butt due to blanketing the wide receivers. His hips are fluid, making him able to change directions on a dime. More importantly, Wilson can step in from day one and play, which the Texans desperately need.

Previous Pick: Brian Price, DT, UCLA

#21 Cincinnati Bengals, Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma State, 6’6 258 lbs—In the AFC Wild-Card playoff game against the Jets, Darrelle Revis shut down the Bengals only receiving threat and made them one dimensional. In order for the Bengals to make it out of the first round, they needed to find another playmaker. At the beginning of free agency, the Bengals were aggressive going after both Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant. Eventually, the Bengals went with the younger alternative at wide receiver in Bryant, so there is really no need for another wide out. However, the Bengals still lack a playmaking tight end. In fact, since Marvin Lewis became head coach of the Bengals, he has not had a tight end with the play making abilities of Gresham. He would give Carson Palmer a safety valve. If Gresham did not tear his ACL in the 2009, he probably is a top 15 pick. During his 2008 campaign, Gresham finished with 950 yards and 14 touchdowns. Even though he has injury concerns, his size and ability to stretch the field is too great for a team desperate for a playmaking tight end to pass up. Gresham is not the greatest blocker but he should be able to help Chad OchoCinco and Palmer.

Previous Pick: Same

#22 New England Patriots, Everson Griffin DE/OLB, USC, 6’3 278—The Patriots could go in a number of different directions in the draft. On offense, they could use a tight end since Ben Watson signed with the Cleveland Browns. Also, they could fill a void at running back since Kevin Faulk, Lawrence Maroney and Sammy Morris are not the answer. While Jahvid Best and Ryan Mathews would give them a playmaker in the backfield, the outside linebacker position is a much bigger need. The Patriots could go with the Senior Bowl stud Brandon Graham but Everson Griffin has a higher ceiling and has the ideal size to strive at the OLB position. The one question that scouts have with Griffin is that he lost his starting job in last two of the last three seasons. Nevertheless, Griffin is a work out warrior, like he demonstrated at the combine. Additionally he has a great work ethic. Under Belichick, Griffin will probably make team’s regret not taking him higher.

Previous pick: Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan

#23 Green Bay Packers, Charles Brown, OT, USC, 6’5 295—The Packers are hoping that one of the top tier offensive tackles fall to them. Or that Kyle Wilson somehow slips past the Texans at 20 because the last time we saw the Green Bay Packers, Kurt Warner was torching their secondary. If I am Green Bay’s coach those are the only two positions that I need to fix this off-season. My number one priority would be cornerback. Despite that, there are no cornerbacks that are worthy of taking with the 23rd selection. While the Packers could reach for Rutgers corner Devin McCourty in case Al Harris does not full recover from his torn ACL tear, the offensive tackle position needs an injection of youth. That is why Brown is the best fit for the Packers. Brown has nastiness and an attitude that coach’s love in their offensive linemen. Mix that with his athleticism, he will maul opponents in the NFL. The intriguing thing about Brown is that he is only playing in his second season at left tackle. He came to USC as a tight end and converted to the tackle position. Many scouts believe he has just scratched the surface of his potential.

Previous Pick: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

#24 Philadelphia Eagles, Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan, 6-1 263-- Anyone who tries to predict what the Eagles are going to do are kidding themselves. Just look at the last 3 years. In 2007, the Eagles traded back with the Cowboys to select quarterback Kevin Kolb in the second round. The next year, they traded back again and hit the jackpot with DeSean Jackson in the second round. Then last off-season they allowed Brian Dawkins who was the soul of the defensive and an icon in the city walk to the Broncos. Furthermore, they finally used a first round pick (traded up in fact) to take, nonetheless, a wide receiver in Jeremy Maclin. So far this offseason the Eagles have signed defensive back Marlin Jackson, 26, who is coming off two ACL surgeries. However, when healthy Jackson was an ascending player that could play any position in the secondary. His knee injuries are a concern and the Eagles probably will still search for a free safety high in the draft, but just not in the first round. Besides free safety, the Eagles could use upgrades at right tackle/guard, cornerback and at left defensive end. If the board falls like this, I imagine that the Eagles will trade back or trade up for either DE Morgan or Paul. For the purposes of this, I think the Eagles will select Graham. Graham was the player that benefitted the most from the Senior Bowl. His practice drills were good, but Graham was even better in the Senior Bowl game. He won the MVP of the game by registering two sacks, five tackles and a forced fumble. His college career was not too shabby either, as he led FBS in tackles for loss this past season. When I watched Graham at the combine and on tape, he reminds me of defensive end Dwight Freeney. He is a smaller defensive end (by prototypical NFL standards) that has a relentless motor. Not only that he is always uses great technique, utilizes his leverage and coaches’ rave about his football IQ.

Previous Pick: Taylor Mays, S, USC

#25 Baltimore Ravens, Devin McCourty, CB, Rugters, 5-11 185—The Ravems were one of the few teams this offseason to address their biggest need, which was wide receiver. The additions of Donte Stallworth and Anquan Boldin will make the Ravens offense very potent. While the Ravens might lose offensive tackle Jared Gaither to another team, there is not a tackle worthy of taking in the first round. McCourty might be a little bit of a reach, but he does have fluid hips and is durable. In addition, McCourty is not afraid to make a tackle in run support. The only downside with McCourty is that he does not possess a good closing burst.

Previous Pick: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech

#26 Arizona Cardinals, Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas, 6’4 255—The loser of this year’s offseason is the Arizona Cardinals. Dansby? Gone. Antrel Rolle? Gone. Kurt Warner? Retired. On the positive side, the Cardinals kept the up and coming defensive star in Darnell Dockett. The quarterback position is a big unknown for the Cards since Matt Leinart has not done much over his career to prove he is capable of being a starting quarterback in the NFL. But there are no quarterbacks except maybe Colt McCoy that are worthy of the 26th pick. Kindle is a great replacement for the departed Dansby. Even though Kindle needs to add bulk his 6-4 frame to be a better player against the run, he can provide a pass rushing threat from the outside linebacker position like Dansby. He might be a little bit of a project but the investment in two or three years could payoff.

Previous Pick: Same

#27 Dallas Cowboys, Taylor Mays, FS, USC, 6’3 231—The Cowboys finally won their first playoff game in the last 15 years but the Vikings exposed a glaring weakness. The loss to Minnesota showed that they needed to upgrade both offensive tackle positions. Both Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo are nearing the end of their careers and cannot keep up with the quick pass rushers in the NFC East. Unfortunately for Jerry Jones, there are not any elite tackles left and they will be forced to take one in the second or third round. Another position that the Cowboys could use an upgrade at is safety. Last year, Ken Hamlin was average in coverage and did not tackle particularly well either. While Mays is not great in coverage, he will instill fear in opponents going over the middle. Also, Mays will be able to help out against the run and can be a Brian Dawkins’ type of blitzing safety. There is a downside for Dallas, he might be the reincarnation of Roy Williams (ironic both Roy Williams have been bust with Dallas).

Previous Pick: Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland

#28 San Diego Chargers, Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State, 5-11, 218—This offseason, the Chargers released one of the best running back of all-time in LaDanian Tomlinson. Even though LT is going to be a surefire Hall of Famer, he was not the same player anymore. Besides getting rid of their No. 1 back, the Chargers did make the right move in tendering their third down back and receiving threat in Darren Sproles. However, letting Jamaal Williams go was not a smart move unless the Chargers plan on moving up in the draft to take nose tackle Dan Williams. While nose tackle and running back are pressing issues the Chargers could look for a linebacker to replace the aging Shawn Phillips. All that said, if the draft falls this way, the Chargers should trade back or take a running back. Cal’s Jahvid Best might be the most explosive back after Spiller, but he has too many injury concerns for the Chargers to take a gamble on him. Mathews is the best choice for the Chargers. In 2009, Mathews ran for 1,808 yards and 19 touchdowns. The reason that Mathews makes sense here is because he is the ying to the Charger’s yang (Sproles). Mathews might not be great in the passing game (needs to improve in that facet of the game), but Sproles can spell him in those situations. Conversely Sproles is too small to be an inside power runner, which Mathews’ strength.

Previous Pick: Everson Griffin, DE/OLB, USC

#29 New York Jets, Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida, 6’6 290 — As I predicted in my first Mock Draft, the Jets are the team to beat next year and I believe that even more now. The Jets made one of the best moves of the free agency period by trading for cornerback Antonio Cromartie. If Cromartie has his head straight and finances too, he can be a playmaker. With Reevis on one side of the field, Cromartie will have his chances to make plays. On top of that, the Jets solidified their backfield by signing LT to replace Thomas Jones. While Jones might have more tread on the tires, Jones stunted the growth of Shonn Greene. Now Greene will be asked to be main guy for the Jets and can learn from one of the best in the history of the game. The Jets have two other positions that they need to cover in this draft. One is wide receiver. While the Jets have Edwards, he does not always play up to his potential, has buttfingers from time-to-time and is a free agent next year. The Jets have been rumored to smitten with Broncos for wide receiver Brandon Marshall, but the asking price might be too high. The other position of need for the Jets is a defensive end. Dunlap is the best available player on the board at 29 and would have been a top 15 pick if he did not have character issues. He was suspended right before the team’s biggest game of the year against Alabama. Even with those character concerns, Dunlap possesses the athleticism and speed that is comparable to Texans defensive end Mario Williams. At Florida’s pro day, Dunlap ran a 4.6 40-yard dash. For the Jets, they hope he becomes the next Williams and not the next Vernon Gholston.

Previous Pick: Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame

#30 Minnesota Vikings, Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State, 5-11, 190—Knowing that Brett Favre was actively trying to recruit LT to the Vikings, it looks like Favre will be back in the fold. So for one more season, the Vikings do not have to find their quarterback of the future. The next position of need for the Vikings is a cornerback. Late in the NFC Championship game, they lost starting cornerback Cedric Griffin to an ACL tear, so he will most likely not be ready at the start of the season. With Patrick Robinson still on the board, the Vikings will jump at the opportunity to get the talented Robinson. Robinson is known as a bit of a gambler and is not always consistent. However, some scouts believe he may become the only elite cover corner to come out of this draft due to his size and strength. This late in the first round, the Vikings will take the gamble on Robinson, mainly because of his upside.

Previous Pick: Terrance Cody, DT, Alabama

#31 Indianapolis Colts, Brian Price, DT, UCLA, 6’2 300-- After the Super Bowl, Colts President Bill Polian laid into his offensive line. He essentially said that they were the reason that the Colts lost in the Super Bowl. Indeed the offensive line was average, but reason why they lost the Super Bowl was due to the atrocious play of their secondary. Brees marched the Saints up and down the field against them. When the Saints did get into 3rd down and long, Brees would hit a wide receiver in stride for 17 yards. If I were the Colts, I would start with either getting a better pass rush or fixing their soft secondary. Fortunately for the Colts, safety Bob Sanders will be back, so that helps their secondary. While the Colts could go after Florida’s versatile Maurkice Pouncey (can play either guard or center), which would help the o-line out, Price is too much of a bargain to pass up. In Price’s junior seasons he finished with 23.5 tackles for a loss. The greatest asset in Price’s arsenal is his explosiveness, which allows him to regularly get penetration in the backfield. Besides his explosiveness, he also has the strength to just go pummel the blocker in front of him. Teaming Price up with Freeney will make it harder for quarterbacks like Brees to pick apart their secondary.

Previous Pick: Charles Brown, OT, USC

#32 New Orleans Saints, Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri, 6’1 241—Winning a Super Bowl usually means your team does not need a lot of improvement. Although the Saints defense needs an outside linebacker since Scott Fujita signed with the Cleveland Browns. Weatherspoon has the speed and athleticism, which allows defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to bring even more heat from his linebackers. His skills will help create more turnovers from the OLB position. Additionally, Weatherspoon can come in from day one and start and be an upgrade over Fujita. This makes a ton of sense for the Saints and is excellent value this late in the first round.

Previous Pick: Same

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