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Super Bowl XLVI: New England Patriots (15-3) vs. New York Giants (12-7) - March 13, 2012 by indyfootballreport

This could be an epic game just like the last time these two teams played in the Super Bowl, when the Giants ruined the Patriots’ bid at a perfect season by beating them 17-14.  The Giants are coming into this game red hot as they have played really well in the playoffs.  But, both teams needed a little luck to win in the Conference Championship Games, so I expect this to be a hard fought, outstanding game.  Here is a look at the matchups in this game:

When the Patriots have the ball:  The Patriots might just run the ball more than usual as the Giants have had issues stopping the running game this year.  If the Patriots can get BenJarvus Green-Ellis going early in the game, it will make the Giants pay for overplaying the passing game.  That doesn’t mean the Patriots aren’t going to pass the ball, because that’s their bread and butter.  For Tom Brady to be effective in this game, the offensive line is going to have to step up and keep DEs Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora away from him.  If Brady has time to throw the ball, he’s going to have a field day as the Giants are not loaded with good cover corners.  WRs Wes Welker and Deion Branch could both have big games for the Patriots this Sunday as Brady is going to challenge Giants’ CBs Aaron Ross and Corey Webster quite a bit in this game.  The Patriots are also going to use TEs Rob Gronkowski (he has a high ankle sprain) and Aaron Hernandez a lot in this game, so Giants’ safties Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant are likely going to have long days if Brady has time to throw the ball.  I see the Patriots scoring a lot of points this Sunday.

When the Giants have the ball:  The Giants are likely going to try to stay somewhat balanced offensively in this game.  That means the front seven are going to have to stop the running game while getting a good pass rush on Eli Manning.  That will be easier said than done.  The Giants have two good RBs in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.  The OLBs (Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo) are going to have to keep the outside contained and force the Giants’ RBs inside to deal with Brandon Spikes and Vince Wilfork.  The Patriots are going to have to get a good pass rush on Eli Manning or they are going to be in big time trouble.  WRs Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham are going to cause big time matchup problems for the Patriots.  CB Kyle Arrington has been a big time player for the Patriots but he’s going to get challenged big time this weekend.  CBs Sterling Moore and Antwaun Molden are really going to have to step up this weekend as they will likely be matched up with Cruz and Manningham.  Safeties Devin McCourty and Pat Chung are going to have to give help over the top for the corners while also keeping an eye on TE Jake Ballard.  A lot of times Manning throws the ball up for grabs after he gets hit a few times early in games, so the secondary is going to have to win those jump balls this Sunday.


New England Patriots NFL News – Patriots Football Blog

Patriots vs. Giants: Fan Notes from the Super Bowl - February 6, 2012 by indyfootballreport

New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead (39) is tackled by New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVI football game, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

I don’t really know what I’m supposed to say here.

The Giants‘ pass rush was nonexistant. There were points to be had on almost every drive. New York put the ball on the ground three times. The defense played as well as you could have possibly asked for. The running game was good enough to keep the defense honest. There were players open. The Patriots had chance after chance to put the game away. But they couldn’t get it done. And once again, the Giants came through in the clutch and scored the game winner late after a ridiculous circus catch. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

I don’t have it in me to say much more than that. Fan Notes after the jump.

  • Tell me that Tommy B didn’t look pissed off when they came out. It was probably because of the hat hair in the starting lineup announcements.
  • The only ten minutes that lasted longer than the period in between the National Anthem and opening kickoff was the last time I hopped on a treadmill in 2005. 10 minutes and half a mile later, that was the end of my stint with exercise.
  • I don’t know about any of you – but I took a great deal of comfort in that grey hoodie.
  • How much money was won and lost worldwide on the opening coin toss? 10 million? 20?
  • Where do you think Tiquan Underwood watched this game? Poor guy.
  • Antuan Molden on Hakeem Nicks and Sterling Moore on Victor Cruz…eek.
  • That said, though, Cruz was a relative nonfactor all game, other than his TD catch.
  • 3rd and 13 on the Pats 42 in 1st quarter. Mark Anderson comes up with a huge sack for a loss to force a punt. That set the tone and the Giants were relatively ineffective on 3rd down overall.
  • Steve Weatherford is the best punter in the NFL, hands down. I know that is the equivalent of being the smartest kid on the short bus, but still…
  • 1st New England play from scrimmage results in a safety. I had absolutely no idea what was going on with that play and I still don’t.
  • Is it me, or did every member of the Giants offense have like 8 inches on the entire Patriots secondary?
  • Jerod Mayo was in PERFECT position to intercept the quick slant to Cruz that put the Giants ahead 9-0. He just forgot to turn around, look for the ball, and be aware of what was going on. He just kind of jumped and threw his hands up. Not a great look, Jerod.
  • Very sad to see Kevin Faulk inactive yesterday. Knowing that he had to watch what is likely his last game as a Patriot from the sidelines isn’t a fitting end for his career.
  • I wonder how the unstoppable force that is Jason Pierre-Paul feels this morning after spending an entire game getting absolutely owned by one man that most people probably haven’t even heard of. Helluva game, Brian Waters.
  • Seriously, we heard Waters’ name once, when he was called for a holding penalty. Other than that, whoever he was up against was like me at speed dating five years ago: nothing.
  • She’s not naked, You aren’t going to fool me. Not again.
  • Not gonna lie; I was kind of hoping this game would be 35-0 after the first quarter. Not exactly the start I was looking for.
  • They are making movies out of board games now? BATTLESHIP? Really?
  • I was a fan of the “Missing Cat” Doritos commercial, though. Anything that promotes the disappearance of cats is something I can fully get behind.
  • Do you think people will ever stop drinking Coke? Do they really need to advertise so heavily?
  • Also – Coke is NOT what people reach for after their favorite team loses. Trust me.
  • I’ll tell you when I just kind of knew the Patriots were in trouble – when Tommy B’s second straight pass was batted down in the middle of the 2nd quarter. The camera cut to a closeup of his eyes, and he just had a look like, “Huh. Not really sure what’s going on here.”
  • The Giants ran a lot of the quick out plays I originally expected from the Patriots, with a tremendous amount of success. Those short plays set up those deeper in-routes beautifully. It was exactly the opposite of what I was expecting – which is probably one of the reasons it worked so well.
  • DANNY WOODHEAD!! Who said he’d be a Patriots Unsung Hero this past week? I don’t remember, but whoever he is, he’s a genius.
  • Tommy B – longest drive in SB history. 16 completions in a row. Yawn. More records for Brady.
  • Whatever happened to the Bud Bowl? Now THAT was a halftime show – not some afroed guy in a toga repeatedly ruining any chance he may have of reproducing by playing crotch trampoline on a tightrope.
  • I honestly don’t think that Madonna sang one lick until “Like A Prayer” came on. It must be nice to get paid insane amounts of money to basically just stand there.
  • I never noticed how much Cee-Lo Green looks like Vince Wilfork.
  • Madonna said she was going to “bring the gay” to her halftime performance. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I’d put the gay factor of that show at about a 4.
  • Aaron Hernandez’s touchdown dance really is awesome. He doesn’t just make it rain; he goes to the safe, opens it, takes out the money, and THEN makes it rain. Sometimes it’s a turn-knob combination. Sometimes it’s digital. And sometimes it’s a thumb print. The only thing that never changes is that there is always money in there. Lots of it.
  • PAT CHUNG! How you like dem apples, Nicks??? WOOOO! I think Nicks was spitting blood after that hit.
  • That Chung hit is the kind of thing you just put on replay over and over again when you’re especially mad at the city of New York – which, for me, is all the time. Especially now.
  • Gronk would have come up with the ball on that Tommy B pick if he was healthy. I don’t want to make excuses, so I won’t speak to his injury any more.
  • Who was that guy they cut to in the middle of the third quarter right after Tynes’s field goal? Did you see that guy’s forehead? Good lord! He has to be a Manning.
  • Latest sign that I’m a horrible human being: I was cheering like a blonde at a Texas high school football game when Jake Ballard went down.
  • It became obvious very early in this one that the game was going to come down to whoever has the ball last. And for the most part, that was true.
  • At least 8 games this season took years off my life. Yesterday must have taken another ten off. For all intents and purposes, I should be dead before July.
  • I’d love to see a study on the counteractive effects adrenalin has on alcohol. I must have had 15 beers throughout the course of the game and I was sober as a nun the entire time. What a waste.
  • How does Tommy B’s block taste, Osi? That can’t feel good.
  • Of all the times for Wes Welker to drop the ball…
  • The Pats were just up-and-down offensively all game. They mixed long, sustained drives with 3-and-outs and other longer drives that ended in no points at all. The Giants deserve all the credit in the world for not allowing any offensive rhythm.
  • Also, penalties absolutely killed us. They almost always allowed a drive to continue, negated turnovers, or resulted in points.
  • All I could think on that amazing Manningham catch was, “Please, no. This can’t be happening again. I can’t live through this again. Please, God, No.”
  • And yet, it happened again. I now have to make room in my own personal hell for that Welker drop next to that Asante Samuel drop in 2008. That drop didn’t cost us the game – but if Welker makes that catch, I’m feeling a lot less awful today, I do know that much.
  • How many ridiculous catches is this team going to pull down against us? Must this happen every single time? The only solace I can take from that Mario Manningham catch is that it was just a spectacular grab, and one he could definitely make again if he had the chance. It wasn’t some million-to-one freakshow like it was four years ago.

I watched this game at my friend’s house uptown. I ended up walking home, all the way back to Brooklyn from 87th Street. That’s about 9 miles, and it took me over three and a half hours. As I walked, the city of New York its usual mix of drunken revelers celebrating in the background and people who hadn’t even watched the game passing me on the sidewalk, I went through the whole gamut of emotions. Sadness, depression, rage, and eventually, just numbness. I even longed, for a brief moment, for those days of the mid-90s when this team was absolutely terrible and I was absolutely ecstatic with a regular season win over the Bills. This isn’t healthy. The amount of sleep I’m going to lose over this one is completely disproportionate to what kind of impact this game had on the world in general. Millions upon millions of people didn’t care about this game in the slightest and went to bed afterwards without any problems whatsoever. The world will continue to turn, and in the grand scheme of things this Super Bowl will be long, long forgotten.

There are also Patriots fans out there who are happy when the Pats win, but when they lose it isn’t the end of the world to them. They are upset for a while, but after a few days of sulking they are back to normal again and are looking forward to all of the other amazing things that life has to offer. Watching football is still fun for them. It still has its rightful place on priorities lists and allows them to spend Sundays outside or with family instead of alone in a dark room screaming at the television, pouring my soul into a team that doesn’t even know I exist. You have no idea how much I envy those people – I would love to make the life change necessary to allow Patriots football to be fun for me again, but I simply don’t know how.

I’m going to try and have have more on the game later in the week. But I just don’t have the energy or the willpower to deal with this right now. I feel nauseous and it’s all I can do not to start crying at my desk.

Congratulations to the Giants. Once again, the better team prevailed. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find a noose.

Pats Pulpit

New York Giants Are Super Bowl Champions, Beat New England Patriots (Again) - February 6, 2012 by indyfootballreport

New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross (31) and punter Steve Weatherford (5) celebrate after Weatherford's punt during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVI football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Pat Semansky)

They did it again.

The New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17, thanks to yet another comeback that reminded you of the Super Bowl these two teams played four years ago, a game the Giants won.

No play will be remembered more than Mario Manningham’s 38-yard reception to kick off the Giants comeback drive. It was the first play of the drive and Manningham made an incredible over-the-back reception near the sidelines. He had two guys on him — one right behind him and a safety coming right at him — yet he still managed to haul the pass in and keep his feet in bounds. Here’s video of that play.

From there, Manning took the Giants down the field before Ahmad Bradshaw punched in the final touchdown with 57 seconds remaining. Bradshaw almost went down at the one yard line so that the Giants could run out the clock but his momentum carried him into the end zone. Here’s video of that play.

The Giants are the champs. At least it was a good game.

Arrowhead Pride

There’s Always a Bit of Good Fortune in Making it to and Winning the Super Bowl - February 5, 2012 by indyfootballreport


A couple of weeks ago, as I watched the final seconds of the AFC Championship game unfold, I couldn’t help but realize just how much luck is involved in winning a championship. There was the Ravens’ Lee Evans with the game-winning touchdown in his hands for a brief moment before having it knocked out at the last second. Just moments later, Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime. Instead, it was the New England Patriots who were off to Super Bowl XLVI while the Ravens players had to be thinking, “you mean we signed up for this?”

Even before those events transpired, the Ravens had to be thinking that. They spent the entire 2011 season trying to get to where their arch-rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, had been so many times in recent years–the AFC Championship game–but instead of playing it at home like Pittsburgh has been able to do so many times over the years, there they were getting ready to face Tom Brady’s bunch at Gillette Stadium.

And that brings me to the point of this post. In my lifetime, I’ve had the good fortune of seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers play in five Super Bowls, and in every single one of them, there was at least a little bit of uncontrollable good fortune that helped them get there, and maybe even in some cases, win it all.

Super Bowl XLV

Just last year, the Steelers were in the exact same position as the Ravens were in 2011. Pittsburgh finished the 2010 season with a 12-4 record and had a bye into the second round of the playoffs. After the Steelers survived their divisional round showdown with the Ravens, it seemed to be an almost foregone conclusion that the team would have to travel to New England for the AFC Championship game to face a Patriots team that had thoroughly defeated them on a Sunday night in November during the regular season. For their divisional round playoff match up, the Patriots were taking on a New York Jets team that they had manhandled, 45-3, in early December. But, shockingly, the Jets pulled off the upset, and instead of the Steelers having to play a team that they had very little success against over the years, they got to host the New York Jets at Heinz Field for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The Steelers jumped out to a 24-0 lead, and held on for a 24-19 win before the home folks. Would things have been different if the Steelers played in Foxboro for the AFC title instead of Heinz? I guess we’ll never know.

Super Bowl XLIII

The 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers captured their record sixth Lombardi trophy with a very thrilling, 27-23, victory over the upstart Arizona Cardinals. Just like the 2010 team, the ’08 Steelers entered the playoffs as the number two seed in the AFC. The Tennessee Titans had the first seed by virtue of their 31-14 defeat of Pittsburgh in the second-to-last game of the regular season. The Titans were surely the favorites in the AFC going into the playoffs, and beings that the Steelers suffered more than their share of ugly losses at Tennessee over the years, the thought of having to travel to LP Field for the AFC Championship game couldn’t have been very appealing to the team, and certainly not for the fans; the Joe Nedney game still makes my skin crawl.

Fortunately, before the Steelers even played their first playoff game, the Titans were knocked out of the divisional round by the Baltimore Ravens. And after Pittsburgh took care of the Chargers the next day, the AFC Championship game was set for Heinz Field the following week. The Steelers went on to defeat their division rivals, 23-14, for their seventh AFC Championship.

In the Super Bowl, the Steelers defeated a Cardinals team that finished the regular season with a 9-7 record. And even though Arizona gave Pittsburgh all that it could handle, I often wonder how things may have turned out against a different NFC representative. In the NFC Championship game, the Cardinals narrowly defeated an Eagles team that thoroughly whipped up on the Steelers in a week 3 match-up. Philadelphia’s defense was so dominant that day, they finished with more sacks (9) than the Steelers had points (6). Beings that the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers may have had the worst offensive line ever for a Super Bowl team, it could have been a long day in Tampa if the Eagles were the Steelers opponent. And let’s not forget about the New York Giants. They were the defending Super Bowl champions, and they, too, defeated Pittsburgh during the regular season. It was a close, exciting game that the Steelers could have very easily won, but they didn’t, and the Giants probably would have been a slight favorite in the Super Bowl. Fortunately, the Eagles took New York out in the divisional round, and they in-turn were vanquished by the Cardinals the following week. So, once again, I guess we’ll never know.

Super Bowl XL

This is my favorite Steelers Super Bowl, and maybe the best example of good fortune helping a team get to where it needed to go. There is no doubt that the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers were rolling once the playoffs started. After surviving an early 10-0 deficit in the wild card game against the Bengals, they dominated the rest of the way and won going away, 31-17. Pittsburgh never trailed against the Colts the following week, but man, did they need some good fortune to survive that game. The Steelers were ahead, 21-10, with barely under a quarter to play and appeared to have the game salted away when Troy Polamalu stepped in front of a Peyton Manning pass for what looked to everyone in America to be a pretty obvious interception. However, after Tony Dungy desperately challenged the play (can’t blame him, might as well, right?), the referee agreed with Dungy’s challenge in one of the most bizarre reversals in NFL history. The Colts capitalized on the reversal by taking the ball down the field and scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion to make it, 21-18. But after the Steelers defense snuffed out what appeared to be the Colts last gasp with barely over a minute to play, Pittsburgh had the ball first and goal and looked poised to score the clinching-touchdown. Unfortunately, Jerome Bettis fumbled, and Nick Harper picked up the football and took off the other way. He probably should have scored on the play, but for whatever reason, he did some weird zigging when he should have zagged, and this allowed Ben Roethlisberger to trip him up. It was later discovered that Harper’s wife stabbed the Colts’ corner in the knee during an argument just the day before. Would Harper have scored if he and his wife had done a better job of communicating? I guess we’ll never know. Anyway, the Colts made it all the way to the Steelers 29 yard line, and the very accurate Mike Vanderjagt was set to send the game into overtime with a 46 yard field goal. Just like the Patriots two Sundays ago, the Steelers had basically no control over their own fate. It all came down to a kick, and if my memory serves me right, Vanderjagt didn’t miss a kick from that distance at home the entire year. Fortunately for the Bus, not only did the Indy kicker miss, he missed it by a mile!

Anyway, you know the rest of the story, the Steelers went on to win their next two games to capture their first Super Bowl in 26 seasons.

Despite all the wacky stuff that occurred in the Indy game, the Steelers wouldn’t even have been in the playoffs to experience it if it wasn’t for a defensive holding call in a game involving the Chiefs and Cowboys on December 11, 2005. The Steelers had just ended a three-game losing streak with a victory over the Bears at Heinz Field to climb to 8-5, but they were still on the outside of the AFC playoff picture and needed a ton of help to get in as the sixth seed. The Chargers helped the cause by losing to the Dolphins at home to fall to 8-5. The Steelers held a tiebreaker over San Diego, but the Chiefs not only held a tiebreaker over Pittsburgh, they entered the week with an 8-4 record. The Cowboys were trailing the Chiefs, 28-24, in the closing moments, but Dallas had the ball deep in Chiefs’ territory and had a chance to take the lead in the final minute. The Cowboys were stopped on 4th and goal, and it appeared that the Chiefs would hold on for the victory. I was watching that game, and for a split-second, I thought, “oh well, at least the Chargers lost.” But before I could even finish my thought, the referee was signaling defensive holding against the Chiefs, and the Cowboys had a fresh set of downs. Dallas eventually converted to knock off Kansas City, 31-28. The Chiefs also went on to lose to the Giants the following week, and the Steelers stayed ahead of them by winning out and clinched the final playoff spot. Everytime I think of the Steelers magical Super Bowl XL run, I get goosebumps knowing that it wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for that holding call in that Cowboys/Chiefs game.

Super Bowl XXX

The story of the 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers was pretty awesome. The team had rebounded from a 3-4 start to finish the year at 11-5. They were the AFC Central Champions and were the number two seed in the AFC once the playoffs began. Just like in ’08 and ’10, however, they were able to host the AFC Championship game after the Cinderella Colts knocked off the top seeded Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs. I know that, just like his long-time friend Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer never met an AFC title game that he liked, but still, ’95 could have been a much different story had the Steeler traveled to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Chiefs for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

And, also, let’s not forget about Colts receiver Aaron Bailey. He had Jim Harbaugh’s Hail Mary pass sitting on his chest for a very brief second on the last play of the 1995 AFC Championship game. Had he been able to securely wrap his hands around that football, well, it would have made the 1992 NLCS loss by the Pirates seem like an exhibition game in-terms of heartbreak. Fortunately, we never got to find out.

Super Bowl XIV

The 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers captured their fourth Super Bowl in six seasons, but they may not have even made it to the game if instant replay had been in-place for the AFC Championship game against the Houston Oilers. Late in the third quarter, with the Steelers ahead, 17-10, the Oilers appeared to tie the score on a Dan Pastorini to Mike Renfro touchdown pass. I can see where the Oilers and their fans would be very upset with this call–it obviously was a touchdown–but in retrospect, seeing it at full speed, it’s easy to see where an official could have missed the call. If there had been instant replay, the call on the field would have more than likely been overturned. I guess we’ll never know. However, as Mean Joe Greene said, “give them the touchdown. We’ll still kick your butts.” A touchdown there would have only tied the game, and it’s easy for fans to talk in “absolutes” today and say that the Oilers would have gone to the Super Bowl. But even in a tie game, they still would have needed to score some more points, and Pittsburgh shut them out the rest of the way and won, 27-13.

As for the Super Bowl itself, the ’79 Steelers took on a Los Angeles Rams team that finished the regular season with a 9-7 record. When the playoffs began, the Dallas Cowboys were the number one seed in the NFC, and beings that they were the two-time defending NFC Champions, and winners of Super Bowl XII just two years earlier, they were the odds-on favorites to make it back to the Big Game for a third-straight-time. The Cowboys had met the Steelers in Super Bowl XIII just a year earlier, and that game could have easily gone in Dallas’ favor had a few plays gone the other way. Who knows what may have happened had there been a re-match. I know the Rams were one of the more consistent teams of the 70′s, and their 9-7 record was due mainly to some early season injuries and front-office unrest, but 9-7 is 9-7. Some have said that you could sort of see the Steelers dynasty eroding during Super Bowl XIV, and had the Cowboys been their opponents in that game, the history of the 70′s might look a lot different today. The fact that the Steelers missed the playoffs the following two seasons while the Cowboys made it to the next three NFC Championship games lends even more credence to that thought. I guess we’ll never know.

In conclusion, this isn’t to suggest that the Steelers have gotten as far as they have over the years simply by luck. Like Chuck Noll once said, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” and the Steelers have been the most successful franchise in the NFL since 1972. When you make the playoffs as many times as the Steelers have over the last four decades, and when you can fill your roster with players named Greene, Lambert, Bradshaw, Harris, Woodson, Bettis, Harrison, Roethlisberger, Polamalu and Ward, well, you’re bound to get “lucky” more times than other teams.

Behind the Steel Curtain

Behind the Steel Curtain 2012 NFL Mock Draft — Post Senior Bowl Edition (Five Rounds) - January 31, 2012 by indyfootballreport

Pittsburgh Steeler's coach Mike Tomlin watches from the sidelines during theNorth squad practice for the Senior Bowl NCAA college football game in Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Here’s Jason’s latest 2012 NFL Mock Draft, with a fifth round added now that the Senior Bowl has come and gone. Great stuff as always from him. Share your thoughts on the selections allotted to the Steelers and other teams. -Michael B.-


1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck QB, Stanford

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Anthony Castonzo OT, Boston College
Team Needs: RT/OC/OG/WR/CB/SS

At this stage of the game it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that the Colts will take Andrew Luck with the first overall pick. The only other option is ransoming this pick for a treasure trove. They could conceivably get two first round picks out of any deal, and that’s just going to be the starting point. In all likelihood they could get three first round picks, or two firsts and a couple of seconds which would seriously help them rebuild their defense. There is a rumor that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is absolutely infatuated with Andrew Luck. A move like that might drop the Colts back too far to get an elite prospect. The Cleveland Browns hold two firsts in this draft thanks to the Atlanta Falcons trade last year and they have almost nothing invested in Colt McCoy. If they do pull that trade the Colts could be looking at Justin Blackmon to replace Reggie Wayne who is a free agent or bolster their defense by taking LSU CB Morris Claiborne. In the next few rounds the Colts will have to invest in the interior of their offensive line as Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem, Mike Pollack, and Jamey Richard are all free agents.

2. St. Louis Rams – Matt Kalil OT, USC

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Robert Quinn DE/OLB, UNC
Team Needs: LT/WR/CB/OLB/DT

St. Louis’ biggest downfall this season was their inability to protect Sam Bradford. Fortunately for them they are the first team up that doesn’t need a quarterback so that leaves them with the top tackle in the draft. Matt Kalil is the only tackle in the draft without any flaws to his game and would be a great blindside protector for Sam Bradford. Taking him means they could move Rodger Saffold over to right tackle and move the disappointing Jason Smith to guard. If the Rams go in any other direction they could take Justin Blackmon to give Bradford another weapon and to replace Brandon Lloyd. Defensively they could really use LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne given that they are currently reduced to starting 36-year-old Al Harris. They’ll also need to replace both starting OLB’s who are free agents and needed to be replaced anyway.

3. Minnesota Vikings – Morris Claiborne CB, LSU

2011 1st Draft Pick: Christian Ponder, QB, FSU
Team Needs: LT/CB/WR/OG/FS

The Vikings offense is really hurting since they lost Sidney Rice to free agency and Justin Blackmon would be a great replacement for him. However they also need a better option than Charlie Johnson at left tackle so if the Rams don’t take Matt Kalil he will likely be the pick. Defensively they must improve their secondary at some point. Antoine Winfield is getting frail in his old age and Chris Cook has legal troubles. With the Colts likely not trading away the right to draft Andrew Luck this is where the draft will get interesting. Matt Barkley is staying at USC and Landry Jones is staying at Oklahoma so that leaves RGIII as the only other viable first round quarterback. With Cleveland sure to take him at number 4 Minnesota will find themselves in prime trading territory. The Redskins and Dolphins will be falling over each other to make the Vikings an offer for this pick and it would certainly be in their best interest to deal if the price is right. If they trade back with Washington it’ll be Justin Blackmon, and if it’s with Miami it’ll be for Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin.

4. Cleveland Browns – Robert Griffin III QB, Baylor

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Phil Taylor NT, Baylor
Team Needs: WR/RT/QB/RB

Cleveland drafted Greg Little in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft and he’s been a nice addition to a very underachieving WR core but they still need a legitimate number one WR. They could take Jonathan Martin or Riley Reiff to fill the void at right tackle but there will be plenty of solid options in the later rounds. But apparently there is a huge rift between the team and current battering ram Peyton Hillis over his contact and he will probably not be there next year. If the Browns were going to find someone to replace him who better than Trent Richardson? On the other side of the ball they could take Morris Claiborne and have one of the top cornerback tandems in the league when paired with Joe Haden. At quarterback Colt McCoy hasn’t shown much and since the Browns took him in the third round they don’t have anything invested in him. As such RGIII makes perfect sense. He has supreme athletic ability with a rocket arm and has drastically improved his decision-making skills from the previous season.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Trent Richardson RB, Alabama

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Adrian Clayborn DE, Iowa
Team Needs: CB/RT/LB/OC/WR

Going into the 2012 season the cornerback position is going to be a huge area of need for the Bucs. Rhonde Barber will be 37 years old by the time the 2012 draft rolls around and who knows what’s going to happen to Aqib Talib as he may be going to jail at some point. Morris Claiborne is already off of the board and it’s too early to draft Alfonzo Dennard or troublemakers Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kirkpatrick. Offensively the Bucs need some serious upgrades on the O-line and as such Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin will garner some consideration. Donald Penn looks grossly overweight and it would really help Josh Freeman’s development to find a replacement for Penn. They also need a compliment to LaGarrette Blount. Richardson is better than his Heisman trophy predecessor Mark Ingram and has a perfect combination of speed and power running ability. At this point it’ll be a toss-up between Richardson and Justin Blackmon but for now I’ll give the nod to Richardson who has a slightly higher draft grade.

6. Washington Redskins – Justin Blackmon WR, Oklahoma State

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Ryan Kerrigan DE, Purdue
Team Needs: QB/WR/O-line depth

As I’ve already stated I believe the Redskins will make a play to move up for Robert Griffin III. However they could go in the opposite direction and move back. The Redskins definitely need to upgrade the interior of their offensive line but it’s too early to take Stanford’s David DeCastro. If Washington stays here the player that makes the most sense is Justin Blackmon. Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, and Donte Stallworth are all over 30 years old and behind them are a bunch of late-round 2011 rookies. Defensively they need an upgrade over Adam Carriker at DE and eventual successor to London Fletcher at ILB. Beyond that the Redskins could really use some depth at OLB and CB. Blackmon has officially declared after a great showing in the Fiesta bowl in which he had three touchdowns while battling a leg infection.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Quinton Coples DE, UNC

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Team Needs: WR/CB/DE/FS

Blaine Gabbert hasn’t shown anything this season that leads me to believe he is a starting caliber quarterback. He looks very skittish in the pocket. Ordinarily it would be inconceivable for a team to take a quarterback in the first round of consecutive drafts. But the team has a new owner that didn’t pay Gabbert his signing bonus, will have a new head coach, and thanks to the rookie wage scale they do not have a lot invested financially in Gabbert. If the team has any reservations about Gabbert’s future they have to pull the trigger if RGIII is available. However at this juncture RGIII will be long gone. If they stick with Gabbert another year they’ll need to get him some weapons so a WR would definitely be an option. Defensively they need a pass-rusher and some help in the secondary. Rashean Mathis will be a 32 year old free agent this offseason and with Dre Kirkpatrick and Alfonzo Dennard both still on the board they would be worth looking into. But the top player available is Quinton Coples and he does fill a big need for the Jags as that need could get bigger if they do not resign Jeremy Mincey.

8. Miami Dolphins – Riley Reiff OT, Iowa

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Mike Pouncey, OG/OC, Florida
Team Needs: QB/RT/OG/OLB/TE

As noted above, the rumor is that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is absolutely infatuated with Andrew Luck. If so he’s going to have to make a huge deal with the Colts to get him. Given how he’s handled the franchise so far it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ross mortgage the future of the team by trading up for Luck. But since I don’t do trades in my mock draft I’ll have to mock them a player to fill their second biggest need. Marc Colombo has been absolutely terrible at right tackle and needs to be replaced immediately. While they may not get an upgrade over Matt Moore they can give him a bookend to pair with Jake Long. They’ll also need a replacement for Vernon Carey if he isn’t resigned and could use an upgrade over Richie Incognito. They could also take Alshon Jeffery to help Matt Moore out as well. Defensively they could very well take Courtney Upshaw as a successor to Jason Taylor.

9. Carolina Panthers – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Cam Newton QB, Auburn

Team Needs: CB/DT/LB/WR/RT/S

The only dependable wide receiver on the Panthers roster is Steve Smith who will be 33 years old shortly after the 2012 NFL draft so the easy pick would be Alshon Jeffery but his stock has taken a bit of a hit after a down year. At right tackle Jeff Otah cannot seem to stay healthy and Jonathan Martin would be a great replacement. The biggest issues for Carolina are on defense as they need players just about everywhere. They relied on two third-round rookies and while Sione Fua was decent Terrell McClain was not. At linebacker Thomas Davis cannot stay healthy and Dan Conner is a free agent. In the secondary the Panthers need someone opposite of Chris Gamble and they need upgrades at both safety positions. With Dre Kirkpatrick’s recent pot bust he’s no longer going to be a top-10 pick and it’s a little early for Alfonzo Dennard. Right now Martin makes the most sense as he is the best talent available that fills a need for the Panthers and he will help aid in budding superstar Cam Newton’s development.

10. Buffalo Bills – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Marcell Dareus DE/DT, Alabama
Team Needs: OLB/OT/WR

The Bills biggest need is to bolster their pass rush. If they are serious about becoming a 3-4 team they’ll need to acquire rush linebackers and Courtney Upshaw is the highest rated one in this draft class so he becomes the easy choice. The Bills also need offensive line help especially if they lose Demetrius Bell to free agency. At wide receiver Steve Johnson is a free agent and the Bills could use a compliment to him anyway. A few other needs they’ll need to address at some point are an upgrade at defensive end over Dwan Edwards and at cornerback over Drayton Florence.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Jonathan Baldwin WR, Pittsburgh
Team Needs: OT/RB/CB

The Chiefs biggest needs going into the 2012 draft will be at right tackle where Barry Richardson is just plain awful in pass protection and at quarterback as Matt Cassel is mediocre at best. One issue they may face this offseason is the resigning of Brandon Carr. They resigned Brandon Flowers at the start of the season and may not be able to afford signing Carr to a big contract. They’ll also need to look for a possible replacement for Kelly Gregg at nose tackle and for Casey Wiegmann at center. I know this seems high for Tannehill but he’s the best QB available. Matt Cassel isn’t good enough to be a starting QB in the NFL. Behind him Tyler Palko and Ricky Stanzi don’t give much hope either. Last year we saw reaches on quarterbacks Jake Locker and Christian Ponder and we could see one with Tannehill this year.

12. Seattle SeahawksWhitney Mercilus DE, Illinois

2011 1st round Draft Pick: James Carpenter OG/OT, Alabama
Team Needs: QB/CB/ILB

Aside from a nice little win against the Ravens and a couple of other decent spurts, current starting quarterback Tavares Jackson is not a long term answer at the position. Unfortunately there just aren’t any other quarterbacks available worthy of this pick. Of course we could see an early rush on QB’s like last year with Chris Ponder and Jake Locker in which case the next QB up would be Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill. Most of Seattle’s issues are on defense. They are really lacking in the pass rush and could use a couple of starters. Raheem Brock is in the twilight of his career and Chris Clemons will be a free agent next year. David Hawthorne, Leroy Hill, and Lofa Tatupu are all free agents at linebacker. At cornerback Marcus Trufant is a free agent who is most likely not going to be resigned and while Richard Sherman played very well in his rookie year Brandon Browner was inconsistent. It may be a little early for him but Whitney Mercilus is the only player who makes sense for the Seahawks. He’s an explosive player whose stock has risen the most this season.

13. Arizona CardinalsAlshon Jeffery WR, South Carolina

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Patrick Peterson CB, LSU
Team Needs: LT/OLB/FS

Arizona’s two biggest needs will be to upgrade the pass-rush and the offensive line. The combo of Clark Haggans and Joey Porter is just ridiculous. They drafted Sam Acho who will probably man one spot, but they’ll need someone to man the other or at least challenge O’Brien Schofield. They also need an ILB to pair with Daryl Washington as Stewart Bradley is not cut out for the 3-4 defense. The Cards need to give some serious upgrades to protect their investment in Kevin Kolb. Coach Whisenhunt has stuck by Levi Brown but he is not left tackle material. Unfortunately Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin are both gone and their need at guard isn’t big enough to draft David DeCastro. They could/may take ASU linebacker Vontaze Burflict. His stock has dropped but he would certainly be a fan favorite and he can play any linebacker position, and is scheme versatile. Alshon Jeffery doesn’t fill a big need but would definitely open up the Cardinals offense by taking the pressure off of Larry Fitzgerald as well as give Kevin Kolb/Jeff Skelton another weapon. He has dropped on a lot of draft boards but I will reserve a final judgment on him after I see what his 40 time is as that will make or break his draft stock. The Cards also have to resign or franchise Calais Campbell. If not they could be looking at Devon Still but it’s still too early for him.

14. Dallas CowboysDavid DeCastro OG, Stanford

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Tyron Smith OT, USC
Team Needs: CB/OG/OC/S/OLB

Dallas has a dire need at cornerback, and really at both safety spots as well. Anyone who watched their season finale against the Giants can see that. Terrence Newman is getting old and Mike Jenkins should be a nickel back at best. With Dre Kirkpatrick’s pot bust I don’t see Dallas looking at him as an option. If Dallas goes in any other direction besides cornerback it’ll be to upgrade the offensive line. David DeCastro is a stud and this is just about the range that he’ll be drafted in. With Derrick Dockery becoming a free agent after missing most of the season with an injury Dallas will need to revamp the entire interior of their offensive line. They could also use an upgrade over Igor Olshansky but it’s way too early for Devon Still who’s the highest rated 3-4 end. Also Anthony Spencer is a free agent looking for a big pay day and with his consistency issues Dallas may let him walk in which case they could be looking for another OLB.

15. Philadelphia EaglesMichael Floyd WR, Notre Dame

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Danny Watkins OG, Baylor
Team Needs: RT/LB/S

So much for the Dream Team huh? Philly’s big free agent spending spree didn’t net them much beyond a colossal failure. They still have a few holes to fill. Linebacker has been an issue for years because Andy Reid just doesn’t value the position. However if he were so inclined to do so this would definitely be the right time to take one with the likes of Vontaze Burflict, Zach Brown, or Luke Kuechly. With so much invested in Mike Vick they need to do everything they can to protect his fragile body so if David DeCastro were to fall this fall he would probably be the pick with Evan Mathis being a free agent. Also its most likely that DeSean Jackson won’t be back next season. He’s worn out is welcome with Andy Reid and is too injury-prone to consider giving a massive contract to, and as such Michael Floyd would be a good replacement. Floyd has some off the field concerns but has stayed out of trouble this season. Andy Reid loves taking cornerbacks early so Dre Kirkpatrick would be tempting. Asante Samuel will most likely be traded or cut and DRC was terrible this season.

16. New York JetsNick Perry DE/OLB, USC

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Muhammed Wilkerson DE, Temple
Team Needs: QB/WR/OLB/RT/S/NT

The Jets are still having issues generating a consistent pass-rush. Calvin Pace has been good but the Jets still need someone opposite of him. Free safety Eric Smith looked overmatched against the Patriots and Jim Leonard is a free agent with a torn patellar tendon but there aren’t any safeties worthy of a pick this high. On the offensive line the Jets have struggled mightily to replace Damien Woody. The biggest questions with the Jets this offseason will be what they do with Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes. Sanchez seems to be wilting in the Big Apple and with the possibility of Peyton Manning being released, and he would be a target for the Jets, he could be traded to his old coach in Seattle. And after Santonio’s behavior he could find himself somewhere else as well. If so the Jets could target Michael Floyd or Alshon Jeffery if either of them slips. Personally I think this is a li9ttle high for Nick Perry but he’s the top player available that fits any type of need for the Jets.

17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland Raiders) – Dre Kirkpatrick CB, Alabama

2011 1st round Draft Pick: A.J. Green WR, UGA

Team Needs: CB/RB/OG/S

Cincy’s biggest need will be at the cornerback position. They lost Jonathan Joseph to free agency and Leon Hall to a torn Achilles. Even if Hall comes back healthy next season they’ll still need another cornerback to play opposite of him. In addition to cornerback the Bengals may also have a need at safety as Reggie Nelson will be a free agent. Offensively the Bengals definitely need to replace the weak link on the line in Nate Livings plus Bobby Williams is a free agent. This is just about the range where Cordy Glenn will come into play. It’s also time for them to start looking for a replacement for Cedric Benson as well. He’s a free agent and rapidly approaching that 30 year old wall for running backs. Dre Kirkpatrick has top 10 talent but has fallen due to a recent pot bust but the Bengals have been known to take players with character concerns before.

18. San Diego ChargersCordy Glenn OG/OT, Georgia

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Corey Liuget DT, Illinois
Team Needs: OLB/ILB/RT/CB

Offensively the Chargers are just about set with the exception of a few offensive linemen. They could definitely use an upgrade over Jeromey Clary at right tackle and with Marcus McNeill’s injuries they may need to find a successor to him at left tackle at some point soon. It also seems like Kris Dielman’s career may be coming to a close as well with the seizure he suffered after a serious concussion. Michael Floyd would be a San Diego-type pick if they don’t resign Vincent Jackson but they have much bigger needs defensively. The Chargers could give a look at some of the available cornerbacks as they may be inclined to move Quinton Jammer to the strong safety position. Their biggest need by far is for a rush linebacker. Unfortunately for San Diego they are all gone by this point, although they could give some consideration to Vontaze Burflict. The best player available that fills a need for the Chargers is Cordy Glenn. He would replace Chris Dielman and could sub in for Marcus McNeill the next time he gets injured.

19. Chicago BearsMike Adams OT, Ohio State

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Gabe Carimi OT, Wisconsin
Team Needs: LT/OG/OC/WR/CB/TE

Offensively Chicago needs desperately to upgrade the line. If Jay Cutler had time to throw the ball on a consistent basis they could really contend every year. J’Marcus Webb should not be starting and Chris Spencer is terrible so the Bears would be looking at UGA OT/OG Cordy Glenn or Wisconsin OC Peter Konz in the event that they move Robert Garza back to guard. One thing they’ve lacked for years is a legitimate number one wide receiver. Devin Hester is good but he’s much better in the slot playing against a nickel CB. If Alshon Jeffery or Michael Floyd fall this far either of them could be drafted. The Bears will need to find another running back in the event that they can’t come to some sort of deal with Matt Forte but I’m sure they will put the franchise tag on him if they can’t. And of course now that Mike Martz is gone the Bears will need to find a pass-catching tight end.

Defensively the Bears could use a linebacker to replace Nick Roach and serve as an apprentice to Brian Urlacher who isn’t getting any younger and tore some knee ligaments in the final game of the season. And if the Bears hope to compete with the Packers they will need to upgrade/add to their secondary and possibly replace Tim Jennings who’s a free agent. Right now it would be a toss-up between Peter Konz and Mike Adams. For now I’ll give the nod to Adams whose stock has risen with a good week of Senior Bowl practices and would fill a bigger need. During the game Adams neutralized Quinton Coples and solidified his status as a first round pick.

20. Tennessee TitansPeter Konz OC, Wisconsin

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Jake Locker QB, Washington
Team Needs: OC/OG/S/WLB/DE

The Titans biggest needs are along the interior of the offensive line. Leroy Harris and Eugene Amano both need to be replaced in a hurry and right guard Jake Scott is a free agent. Given how Mike Munchak criticized the offensive line Konz makes the most sense especially since he’s the last lineman with a first round grade and fills the Titans biggest need. Tennessee’s defense clearly misses Stephen Tulloch as Barrett Ruud just isn’t getting it done so Boston College’s Luke Kuechly could be a good fit. Kenny Britt tore his ACL and MCL and may not come back the same player and even if he does the Titans could still use another playmaker for their offense especially since Lavelle Hawkins and Donnie Avery are free agents. And in addition to that all of Tennessee’s safeties are free agents as well.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Lamar Miller RB, Miami

2011 1st round Draft Pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Team Needs: DT/CB/RT/RB

This time Cincy upgrades the offense with a replacement for Cedric Benson. Lamar Miller has steadily climbed the draft boards and is now garnering first round consideration. Drafting him would make a great young offensive core with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. If the Bengals don’t take a cornerback with the their first pick in the first round they’ll probably take one here, or take Cordy Glenn if he’s available to upgrade over Nate Livings or possibly replace Bobby Williams if they can’t resign him.

22. Cleveland Browns (via Atlanta Falcons) –Luke Kuechly LB, Boston College

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Phil Taylor NT, Baylor

Team Needs: WR/RT/RB

With Cleveland grabbing RGIII with their first pick and securing their future they can focus on other minor things. They still need to upgrade the right side of their offensive line, especially over Tony Pashos. On the defensive side it’s the right side of the line as well. In the secondary the Browns could use a better compliment to Joe Haden than Philly castoffs Sheldon Brown and Dimitri Patterson. MLB D’Qwell Jackson is good when healthy but has missed a lot of games over the last few years. Others rate Kuechly much higher than this but given his lack of athleticism and difficulty shedding blocks I expect him to fall a bit on draft day like a lot of similar style ILB’s. He reminds me a lot of former Buckeye and current Rams MLB James Laurinaitis. Another option would be Virginia CB Chase Minnifield whose father Frank was a Pro-Bowler for the Browns in the late 80’s-early 90’s.

23. Detroit Lions – Vontaze Burflict LB, Arizona State

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Team Needs: LT/CB/OC/LB/DE/SS

Detroit has a habit of taking the best player available regardless of need. It’s why they have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL but also have one of the worst offensive lines in addition to one of the worst secondaries. Left tackle has been an issue for years and they may finally address it now that Jeff Backus is a free agent. OC Dominic Raiola is terrible. Even though the strength of this team has been its defensive line they could potentially take a DE in the first round because Cliff Avril is a free agent who’s going to command a lot of money on the free agent market. The same holds true at linebacker where one-year rental Stephen Tulloch will be looking for a big contract too. At cornerback Eric Wright is a free agent but he needed to be replaced anyway. Virginia CB Chase Minnifield or Wisconsin OC Peter Konz would both be solid options here but the best player available is Vontaze Burflict. When his game is on he’s absolute beast but when it’s not he’s a personal foul machine. It’ll be up to the Detroit staff to get him to focus. With his attitude he’ll fit right in with Ndamukong Suh. They could also look at South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram to replace Cliff Avril.

24. Pittsburgh SteelersDont’a Hightower ILB, Alabama

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Team Needs: OG/NT/ILB/OT/S/CB

The Steelers biggest need is unquestionably at offensive guard. I think most would agree that the frustrating carousel of Chris Kemoeatu, Ramon Foster, Trai Essex, and Doug Legursky is not working. The Steelers could use two starters at the position. At tackle, though embarrassed by Aldon Smith on several occasions, the newly svelte Max Starks played surprisingly well during his return before a torn ACL in the playoff finale put a painful end to his season. There’s the obvious concern that Starks will experience lingering issues in his knee. At right tackle it seems the future is Marcus Gilbert. Some in Steeler Nation, including me, would like to see Willie Colon come back from injury next year and play right guard but Colon might not take kindly to switching positions. Add to that his injury history and the fact that he makes 6mil a year and Colon could end up a cap casualty, especially since it is projected that the Steelers will be 25 million dollars over the cap limit.

With Rashard Mendenhall’s ACL tear I’ve seen some chatter about the Steelers possibly drafting a replacement for him. ACL tears are a serious issue, especially for running backs, and next year will be the final year of his contract. Defensively the Steelers still need to find a long term successor to Casey Hampton at nose tackle. He’s 35 years old, will be coming off of an ACL tear, and the final year of his contract will count 8mil against the cap. The nose tackle with the most buzz is Memphis’ Dontari Poe. I’m going to hold off judgment on him until I see him at the combine. At 6’5″ and 350lbs. I want to see if he shows up looking solid like Phil Taylor did last year or does he show up looking like a big, jiggly fat@ss like Terrence Cody did the year before. From everything I’ve seen on him he’s got the build of a weightlifting champion and if he does show up at the combine like it he’ll push himself into the first round. In the secondary I’ve seen enough promise out of the youngsters at cornerback to finally be ok with the Steelers bypassing the position early in the draft.

At safety though the time is near to start looking for at least one safety for depth to groom behind Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu. The Steelers would have the opportunity to take Alabama’s Mark Barron whose stock has been soaring. At ILB James Farrior will in all likelihood be a cap casualty. At 36 years old he has clearly lost a step and can no longer be depended on to cover across the middle of the field. Some have high hopes for Stevenson Sylvester but at this point he’s just a late round pick who’s been a special teams standout. He hasn’t shown enough to warrant being expected to take over the starting duties. With this pick I really struggled between Hightower and UNC’s Zach Brown. Many tab Brown as a 4-3 player only but I look at him and see a potential next Lawrence Timmons. He’s extremely athletic and can cover running backs, tight ends, and even slot receivers across the middle. He has easily been the best linebacker at the Senior Bowl. With the NFL going to a more pass-heavy system with each passing season it’ll be important to have another athlete like Timmons patrolling the middle of the field. Hightower on the other hand is an absolute beast against the run and in the pass rush.

The only reservation I have with him is in the passing game. At 6’4″, 260lbs. I don’t know that he’ll be able to cover well enough. I see him more like LaMarr Woodley in that he’s good in pass coverage for a man of his size but that doesn’t necessarily make him good in coverage. And as I’ve stated in previous mock drafts, the Steelers place a premium on the linebacker position and it wouldn’t be a Steelers draft without taking at least one of them. However we can all hold out hope that the Steelers make a play to move up for Stanford guard David DeCastro. I’ve already said that guard is their biggest need.

During the 2011 draft the rumor was that the Steelers tried to trade up to pick 15 to take Mike Pouncey but that the Dolphins asking price was too much. Well DeCastro is the best guard prospect I’ve seen in a long time, he’s graded higher than Mike Pouncey, and would be well worth trading up for.

25. Denver BroncosMichael Brockers DT, LSU

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
Team Needs: DT/CB/RB/LG/OC

Offensively Denver just needs a new quarterback but unfortunately they are stuck with Tebow for at least another season. They could however also use a replacement for Zane Beadles and J.D. Walton but they are still young enough to be given another year. Defensively the Broncos have to stop neglecting the tackle position. Brodrick Bunkley is very good against the run but neither he nor Marcus Thomas offer much as a pass rusher. Plus Bunkley is a free agent. Given the weak crop of tackles in this year’s draft they must take this opportunity to take the highest rated one in this draft class. They could also draft an heir to Champ Bailey. He’s turned in another good year but at age 33 (he turns 34 before the 2012 season) how many good years can he have left? At running back Willis McGahee is 30 years old and Knowshon Moreno cannot stay healthy. Head Coach John Fox loves running back by committee so Lamar Miller would be an option as well if he’s available. The player who makes the most sense for Denver is Michael Brockers. He’s an absolute beast and stood out amongst a bevy of playmakers on the LSU defensive line. As the draft gets closer we may even see him work himself into the top 15 with a strong combine performance.

26. Houston Texans – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

2011 1st round Draft Pick: J.J. Watt DT/DE, Wisconsin
Team Needs: OG/WR/OC/NT/CB/SS

The Texans really don’t have any huge pressing needs. The biggest would be to upgrade the interior offensive line, especially over Wade Smith. With DeCastro, Glenn, and even Peter Konz off of the board it’s not really an option. They could also use a better compliment to Andre Johnson than Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. Defensively they appear to be pretty well stacked. They could use a bigger run-stuffing nose tackle so Dontari Poe will be an option. Kareem Jackson is coming close to being labeled a bust so Houston could take Chase Minnifield, Alfonzo Dennard, or Janoris Jenkins. Even if he does turn things around it wouldn’t hurt to have another quality cornerback on the roster with the NFL coming increasingly pass-heavy. Andre Johnson, Bryant Johnson, and Kevin Walter and all 30 years old and the Texans could use someone who can stratch the filed and take the pressure off of Andre Johnson. Kendall Wright is an explosive playmaker and will probably run a sub-4.4 40 at the combine.

27. New England Patriots (via New Orleans Saints) – Devon Still DE/DT, Penn State

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Nate Solder OT, Colorado

Team Needs: OLB/DE/WR

There’s almost no chance the Patriots use both of their 2012 first round picks. It’s likely they’ll find someone to give them a ridiculous deal for this selection, but I don’t do trades in my mock draft. New England needs to just about overhaul their entire defense. Their pass-rush is a joke at this point. They also need a receiving threat that can stretch the field vertically. Unfortunately there aren’t any wide receivers available that would warrant this pick. Devon Still can play end in a 3-4 and tackle when they switch to the 4-3 and he would help revamp New England’s lacking pass rush.

28. Green Bay PackersMark Barron SS, Alabama

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Derek Sherrod OT, Miss. State

Team Needs: OLB/S/DE/RB

Green Bay has the luxury of not really having any serious holes to fill. They do still need a pass-rusher to play opposite of Clay Matthews and will need to prepare for the day that Charles Woodson finally retires. They could also use an upgrade at defensive end over Jarius Wynn and Mike Neal cannot stay healthy. Aside from their needing OLB perhaps their biggest need would be at safety. Nick Collins is coming off of a serious neck injury that could be potentially career threatening. Offensively they could continue to stockpile linemen. If they keep Derek Sherrod at guard they’ll still need to find an heir to Chad Clifton at left tackle, or someone to play right tackle if Bryan Bulaga moves to the left side. At center Scott Wells is a free agent. At running back Ryan Grant is a free agent and James Starks may not be able to shoulder the load full time. Mark Barron is far and away the best safety in this draft class and with all of the 3-4 OLB’s with a first round grade already gone he’s the easy choice.

29. Baltimore RavensRonnell Lewis DE/OLB Oklahoma

2011 1st Draft Pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Team Needs: LT/OC/ILB/S/WR

The Ravens are all about taking the best player on the board as opposed to drafting to fill a need. Offensively they will need to find an eventual long-term successor to Matt Birk at center. At left tackle Bryant McKinnie is just a Band-Aid at this point in his career. At WR Lee Evans did not pan out like the team had hoped and Anquan Boldin is starting to decline as well. Defensively they must find a successor to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. In addition to finding a successor for Ray Lewis the Ravens will have to replace Jameel McClain if they do not resign him. Ed Reed will be 34 years old this coming season and both of his backups Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura are free agents. And at OLB Jarret Johnson is a free agent and Sergio Kindle may never pan out. Ronnell Lewis is built like a tank, has played by linebacker and defensive end, and he has the athletic ability to drop back into coverage. He is the prototypical Ravens pick and would be a perfect fit for their style of defense.

30. San Francisco 49ersAlfonzo Dennard CB, Nebraska

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Aldon Smith DE/OLB, Missouri

Team Needs: CB/OC/NT/RG/RT

Thanks to Jim Harbaugh this team has completely turned around for the better. Heading into the draft the 49ers will only have a few needs and none of them should be too pressing. One will be at cornerback where Carlos Rogers will be a free agent and the second will be at wide receiver where they lacked depth even before releasing Braylon Edwards. Unfortunately with Minnifield gone there’s no other cornerbacks worthy of a first round pick and it’s still too early for any available WR. The only move San Fran has is to take advantage of the available 3-4 defensive line candidates to inject some youth into the line. Isaac Sopoaga and Justin Smith played extremely well this season but they are 30 and 33 years old respectively. If the 49ers resign Carlos Rogers, who will be looking for a big contract after a great year, then this pick will change to something else but for right now I’m going with Alfonzo Dennard. His stock has taken a hit after a poor bowl game against Alshon Jeffery and a poor showing at the Senior Bowl before pulling out with a hip injury but he’s still a first round talent.

31. New York GiantsMelvin Ingram DE, South Carolina

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Prince Amukamara CB, Nebraska

Team Needs: OC/RB/OLB/OG

The Giants got a steal when Prince Amukamara fell to them in the 2011 draft but they failed to address a majority of their needs. They still need a left tackle because William Beatty hasn’t worked out, they had to cut Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert, and their linebacking corps still needs an overhaul. The Giants generally do not take offensive lineman in the first round but that will have to change if they want to stay competitive. Wisconsin’s Peter Konz would provide a serious upgrade over David Baas if he’s available. Just like Philly the Giants have serious issues at linebacker but their history suggests they’ll ignore their need at that particular area again. The Giants love collecting pass rushers and with Mathias Kiwanuka becoming a free agent this pick makes too much sense. Ingram was a beast all season long and would continue the Giants long line of awesome D-linemen.With Rashard Mendenhall’s ACL tear I’ve seen some chatter about the Steelers possibly drafting a replacement for him. ACL tears are a serious issue, especially for running backs, and next year will be the final year of his contract.

32. New England Patriots – Janoris Jenkins CB, North Alabama

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Team Needs: OLB/LG/DE

As previously stated the Patriots will most likely not use both of their first round picks. Here they have the luxury of taking the best player available that fits any sort of need. I gave serious consideration to mocking them Mohamed Sanu but Jenkins is just too much of a talent for Belichick to pass up at this point. He has a history of taking cornerbacks early before and it is a need for them. Jenkins has easily been the best secondary prospect at the Senior Bowl but because of his character concerns it’s really difficult to project how early he’ll come off of the board.

Round 2:

33. St. Louis Rams – Zach Brown LB, UNC

The Rams needs upgrades all over the defense and Brown is the BPA and could easily go in the first round.

34. Indianapolis Colts – Fletcher Cox DT, Miss. State

With the old regime out maybe the new one will invest more in their D-line besides under-sized speed rushers. Like the Rams Indy needs upgrades all over their defense.

35. Minnesota Vikings – Dontari Poe NT, Memphis

Minnesota really missed Pat Williams presence on the D-line.

36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Lavonte David OLB, Nebraska

The Bucs need help at linebacker and the rumor is that they love Lavonte David.

37. Cleveland Browns – Mohamed Sanu WR, Rutgers

Cleveland needs to upgrade its WR corps.

38. Jacksonville Jaguars – Rueben Randle WR, LSU

The Jags have lacked a legitimate number one WR since Jimmy Smith.

39. Washington Redskins – Zebrie Sanders OT, Florida State

Washington needs help all along the offensive line. Sanders played RT for three years before switching to LT after Andrew Datko’s injury.

40. Buffalo Bills – Jerel Worthy DT/DE, Michigan State

The Bills add to their pass rush by upgrading over DE Dwan Edwards.

41. Carolina Panthers – Brandon Thompson DT, Clemson

Terrell McClain was terrible in his first season.

42. Miami Dolphins – Dwayne Allen TE, Clemson

The Dolphins are stuck with Matt Moore so they should at least give him some weapons.

43. Seattle Seahawks – Bobby Wagner LB, Utah State

Seattle has a lot of free agent linebackers.

44. Kansas City Chiefs – Chase Minnifield CB, Virginia

Brandon Carr is a free agent. If they resign him the Chiefs could take a RB to replace Thomas Jones.

45. Chicago Bears – Nick Toon WR, Wisconsin

Jay Cutler needs a solid number one-type wide receiver.

46. San Diego Chargers – Coby Fleener TE, Stanford

Randy McMichael is at the end of his career and it would prolong Antonio Gates career if the Chargers had a capable back-up.

47. New England Patriots (via Oakland Raiders) – Juron Criner WR, Arizona

The Pats need to start upgrading their WR’s at some point.

48. New York Jets – Alameda Ta’amu NT, Washington

Kendrick Ellis is probably going to be deported back to Jamaica.

49. Philadelphia Eagles – Jayron Hosley CB, Virginia Tech

Andy Reid loves spending early picks on two things, cornerbacks and defensive linemen. Asante Samuel will be a free agent and DRC has been terrible this season.

50. Dallas Cowboys – Stephon Gilmore CB, South Carolina

Dallas must upgrade an atrocious secondary.

51. Philadelphia Eagles (via Arizona Cardinals) – Sean Spence OLB, Miami

At some point Andy Reid has to upgrade his linebackers.

52. Tennessee Titans – Kevin Zeitler OG, Wisconsin

Tennessee continues to upgrade the interior of their offensive line to help the running game.

53. Cincinnati Bengals – Marvin McNutt WR, Iowa

Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson are both agents.

54. Atlanta Falcons – Ben Jones OC, UGA

2011 1st round Draft Pick: Julio Jones WR, Alabama

Team Needs: LT/OC/CB/DE/RB

Atlanta has several issues they will need to address in this draft. Unfortunately they traded away their first round pick to Cleveland for the rights to draft Julio Jones. On the offensive line they’ll need to replace Sam Baker who was benched at one point during the season. At center Todd McClure will turn 35 years old before the draft and he is a free agent. RB Michael Turner is starting to show some wear and tear. On defense they’ll have to replace Brent Grimes who they will probably lose to free agency. At defensive end John Abraham is a 34 year old free agent and Kroy Biermann is as well and the Ray Edwards signing last offseason didn’t pan out. ILB Curtis Lofton is a free agent as well but Atlanta is expected to resign him. Ben Jones was the Captain and emotional leader for Georgia’s offense and a 4-year starter in the always tough SEC.

55. Detroit Lions – Vinny Curry DE, Marshall

Detroit likes to take BPA. Kyle Vanden Bosch is 33 years old and Cliff Avril is a free agent who’s due a big pay day.

56. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kelechi Osemele OG, Iowa State

If the Steelers bypass taking an offensive lineman in the first round they simply have to here. Kelechi Osemele was considered as a possible first round pick of the Steelers at the start of the season. He is a massive road grader and would bring some stability to the right guard spot. He’s been experiencing some trouble with speed rushers at the Senior Bowl practices and will probably be thought of as a guard-only prospect now.

57. Denver Broncos – David Wilson RB, Virginia Tech

John Fox likes running back by committee and Knowshon Moreno is always hurt.

58. Houston Texans – Josh Chapman NT, Alabama

Houston needs an upgrade at nose tackle.

59. New Orleans Saints – Tommy Streeter WR, Miami

2011 1st round Draft Picks: Cameron Jordan DE/DT, Cal/Mark Ingram RB, Alabama
Team Needs: LB/LG/WR/DT/SS

Offensively the Saints will probably need a new guard to replace Carl Nicks. Unless they sign Drew Brees before free agency begins they’ll have to use their franchise tag on him which means Nicks will be able to test free agency. At wide receiver Marques Colston and Robert Meachem are free agents as well. Colston has already stated that he will not give the Saints a home town discount so it’s unlikely that he’ll be resigned. Most of the Saints issues are on defense. At outside linebacker the Saints have to upgrade over Scott Shanle and Jo-Lonn Dunbar. In year two Martez Wilson should be able to step into a starting role which would leave N.O. with only one spot to upgrade. And at safety they must find someone who can cover better than Roman Harper. Streeter is raw but can stretch the field and has the size to be a big time weapon.

60. Green Bay Packers – Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State

The Packers need an upgrade over Erik Walden.

61. Baltimore Ravens – Brandon Washington OG/OT, Miami

Bryant McKinnie is not the long term answer at left tackle and Ben Grubbs is a free agent.

62. San Francisco 49ers – Chase Thomas OLB, Stanford

They already have the best tandem of inside linebackers with Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis and a budding star at outside linebacker with Aldon Smith and here they can complete the quadruplet with someone Coach Harbaugh should be very familiar with. Plus Ahmad Brooks is a free agent.

63. New York Giants – Bob Massie OT, Ole Miss

The Giants seriously need some youth on the O-line.

64. New England Patriots – Markelle Martin S, Oklahoma State

They need to find a replacement for Brandon Meriweather and New England has a history of using early picks on defensive backs.

Round 3:

65. Indianapolis Colts – Brandon Boykin CB, UGA

Indy must continue to rebuild its defense.

66. St. Louis Rams – Casey Hayward CB, Vanderbilt

The Rams need more talent and depth across the board on defense.

67. Minnesota Vikings – Dwight Jones WR, North Carolina

Minnesota needs weapons for Christian Ponder.

68. Cleveland Browns – Andre Branch DE, Clemson

Cleveland needs to shore up the LDE spot.

69. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Norman CB, Coastal Carolina

The Bucs need cornerbacks badly. Josh Norman’s stock is on the rise after two great performances during the East-West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl.

70. Washington Redskins – Jared Crick DT/DE, Nebraska

Washington needs an upgrade over Adam Carriker and Shanahan seems to have developed an affinity for Nebraska players. Crick was having a mediocre year before his season ending injury but is worth the gamble here.

71. Jacksonville Jaguars – Cam Johnson DE, Virginia

The Jags will need two DE’s if they don’t resign Jeremy Mincey.

72. Miami Dolphins – Brock Osweiler QB, Arizona State

Miami has to take a QB that can compete for the starting job. Osweiler is a very intriguing prospect. He’s a former basketball player who is extremely mobile with a rocket arm. While his also very raw he has the potential with a little seasoning to be a big time starter at some point.

73. Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers) – Orson Charles TE, UGA

Now that Mike Martz is gone the Bears need a pass-catching TE. This also happens to the pick they acquired from Carolina in the Greg Olsen trade.

74. Buffalo Bills – Stephen Hill WR, Georgia Tech

The Bills could use a compliment to Steve Johnson, or a possible replacement he keeps screwing up.

75. Kansas City Chiefs – Doug Martin RB, Boise State

Thomas Jones will be 34 years old before the start of the 2012 season.

76. Seattle Seahawks – Nate Potter OG/OT, Boise State

Seattle suffered a lot of injuries on the O-line this season. Someone like Potter, who can play multiple positions, would be valuable to the team and could possibly replace Robert Gallery if he struggles again.

77. Arizona Cardinals – Mike McCants OT, UAB

Arizona has to do something about its offensive line.

78. Dallas Cowboys – Kendall Reyes DT/DE, UConn

Dallas could use an upgrade at DE.

79. Philadelphia Eagles – Billy Wynn DE/DT, Boise State

Andy Reid likes to collect D-linemen.

80. New York Jets – Chris Polk RB, Washington

LaDainian Tomlinson will probably not be back next season and Shonn Greene has been disappointing.

81. Oakland Raiders – Forfeited after selecting Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft.

82. San Diego Chargers – LeMichael James RB, Oregon

I bet San Diego misses Darren Sproles.

83. Chicago Bears – Coryell Judie CB, Texas A&M

The Bears have three cornerbacks set to be free agents including starter Tim Jennings.

84. Tennessee Titans – Chandler Jones DE, Syracuse

The Titans have three defensive ends set to be free agents including starter Jason Jones.

85. Cincinnati Bengals – Antonio Allen S, South Carolina

Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker are both free agents and Croker needs to be replaced anyway.

86. Atlanta Falcons – Leonard Johnson CB, Iowa State

Brent Grimes is a free agent and not expected back.

87. Detroit Lions – Shaun Prater CB, Iowa

Giving up 480 yards and 6 touchdowns to Aaron Rodgers‘ backup is humiliating.

88. Pittsburgh Steelers – Mitchell Schwartz OT, Cal

Max Starks will be a free agent coming back from an ACL tear. Even if he’s resigned he may not be ready for the start of the season. Mitchell Schwartz had a very solid week of Senior Bowl practices and held up strong against first round picks Quinton Coples and Courtney Upshaw.

89. Denver Broncos – Tank Carder ILB, TCU

Joe Mays needs to be replaced.

90. Houston Texans – Senio Kelemete OG, Washington

No more defensive picks for the Texans. Wade Smith need to be replaced and Mike Brisiel is a free agent.

91. New Orleans Saints – Travis Lewis OLB, Oklahoma

New Orleans has to rebuild their terrible linebacking corps.

92. Green Bay Packers – Bruce Irvin DE/OLB, West Virginia

I know I’ve already given Green Bay an OLB but Irvin represents the best player available, especially over any of the available cornerbacks or defensive ends.

93. Baltimore Ravens – Michael Brewster OC, Ohio State

Matt Birk will be 36 years old before the 2012 season.

94. San Francisco 49ers – Marvin Jones WR, Cal

San Fran needs a replacement for the released Braylon Edwards. Jones had an outstanding Senior Bowl week.

95. New York Giants – Audie Cole ILB, North Carolina State

The Giants finally invest in their linebackers. Cole will play ILB which moves Greg Jones to WLB which is a better fit for him anyway.

96. New England Patriots – Joe Adams WR, Arkansas

New England gets another weapon for Tom Brady.

Round 4:

97. St. Louis Rams – Brian Quick WR, Appalachian State

Brandon Lloyd will be leaving this offseason.

98. Indianapolis Colts – Josh Robinson CB, Central Florida

Indy’s defense is getting torched.

99. Minnesota Vikings – Brandon Mosley OT, Auburn

Charlie Johnson needs to be replaced.

100. Philadelphia Eagles (via Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Keenan Robinson LB, Texas

If Andy Reid values his job he needs to spend two early picks on linebackers.

101. Cleveland Browns – Bernard Pierce RB, Temple

Peyton Hillis will most likely not be back and Pierce has a nice blend of size and speed.

102. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trumaine Johnson CB/S, Montana

Rashean Mathis and William Middleton are both free agents.

103. Washington Redskins – Brandon Weeden QB, Oklahoma State

Washington needs to bring in some competition for Rex Grossman. Weeden is already 28 years old and should be mature enough to challenge for the starting position in his first year. If he were the typical college age he would’ve been a first round pick.

104. Buffalo Bills – Ladarius Green TE, Louisiana-Lafayette

Scott Chandler is a free agent.

105. Carolina Panthers – DeQuan Menzie CB, Alabama

Carolina continues to rebuild its defense.

106. Miami Dolphins – Jonathan Massaquoi DE/OLB, Troy

Jason Taylor retired.

107. Seattle Seahawks – Mike Martin DT, Michigan

Seattle has to improve its pass-rush.

108. Kansas City Chiefs – Phillip Blake OC, Baylor

Casey Wiegmann may retire.

109. Chicago Bears – Brandon Taylor S, LSU

Brandon Meriweather and Craig Steltz are both free agents, and Major Wright needs to be replaced.

110. San Diego Chargers – Brandon Lindsey DE/OLB, Pittsburgh

San Diego must come away with at least one pass-rusher.

111. Washington Redskins (via Oakland Raiders) – Nigel Bradham LB, FSU

London Fletcher can’t play forever.

112. New York Jets – Harrison Smith SS, Notre Dame

Eric Smith is terrible and Jim Lhonard is a free agent coming off of a torn patellar tendon.

113. Philadelphia Eagles – Luca Nix OG/OT, Pittsburgh

Philly needs O-line depth to protect the fragile Mike Vick and Evan Mathis is a free agent.

114. Dallas Cowboys – Frank Alexander DE/OLB, Oklahoma

Anthony Spencer is a free agent.

115. Arizona Cardinals – Jerry Franklin DE/LB, Arkansas

Arizona needs someone to pair with Daryl Washington in the middle.

116. Tennessee Titans – Tony Dye SS, UCLA

Tennessee has four safeties that are free agents, including starters Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineaux.

117. Cincinnati Bengals – Ryan Miller OG, Colorado

Bobbie Williams is a free agent and Nate Livings needs to be replaced.

118. Cleveland Browns (via Atlanta Falcons) – Jamell Fleming CB, Oklahoma

Sheldon Brown needs to be replaced.

119. Detroit Lions – Andrew Datko OT, FSU

BPA, Detroit needs O-line help and if not for an injury Datko would be a possible first round pick but is worth the risk here.

120. Pittsburgh Steelers – Nick Jean-Baptiste NT, Baylor

It’s likely the Steelers will release Casey Hampton to save the 8mil he’s owed in the final year of his contract. He’s 35 years old and suffered an ACL tear in the playoff loss to Denver. Behind him Chris Hoke is going to retire and Steve McLendon is not a long-term starter. NJB is a load at 6’1″, 335lbs. and had a great week at the East-West Shrine game.

121. Denver Broncos – David Molk OC, Michigan

J.D. Walton is not panning out at center.

122. Houston Texans – Jordan White WR, Western Michigan

Jacoby Jones could be upgraded and Houston needs to start getting younger at the position.

123. New Orleans Saints – Derek Wolfe DT, Cincinnati

New Orleans needs to upgrade its interior pass-rush and get younger at the position.

124. Green Bay Packers – Isaiah Pead RB, Cincinnati

The Packers will need a replacement for Ryan Grant.

125. Buffalo Bills (via Baltimore Ravens) – Russell Wilson QB, Wisconsin

Trent Edwards had an up and down season. Wilson is a good developmental QB that fits Chan Gailey’s system.

126. San Francisco 49ers – DaJohn Harris DE/DT, USC

San Fran lacks depth at DE and Justin Smith will be 33 years old this season.

127. New York Giants – William Vlachos OC, Alabama

They need some youth on the offensive line.

128. New England Patriots – Julian Miller DE/OLB, West Virginia

New England continues to upgrade its defense.

Round 5:

129. Indianapolis Colts – Levy Adcock OT, Oklahoma State

Indy could use a right tackle and move Ben Ijalana inside to guard.

130. Denver Broncos (via St. Louis Rams) – Donnie Fletcher, CB, Boston College

Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman are both 34 years old and Goodman should be replaced anyway.

131. Minnesota Vikings – Danny Trevathan, OLB, Kentucky

E.J. Henderson is a free agent.

132. Cleveland Browns – Tony Bergstrom OT, Utah

Tony Pashos is a terrible RT.

133. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Omar Bolden CB, ASU

The Bucs need cornerbacks badly. Bolden was a possible first round pick before he tore his ACL before the college season started.

134. Washington Redskins – Michael Egnew TE, Missouri

Fred Davis is a free agent.

135. Jacksonville Jaguars – T.Y. Hilton WR, Florida International

The Jags need to give Blaine Gabbert all the help he can get.

136. Miami Dolphins – Kheeston Randall DE/DT, Texas

Kendall Langford is a free agent.

137. Carolina Panthers – Tim Benford WR, Tennessee Tech

Steve Smith will be 33 years old this season and Carolina could use a number two WR anyway. Benford improved his stock with a very good showing during the East-West Bowl week.

138. Buffalo Bills – Matt Reynolds OT, BYU

Demetrius Bell is a free agent.

139. Kansas City Chiefs – Ryan Broyles WR, Oklahoma

Dwayne Bowe is a free agent.

140. Seattle Seahawks – Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas

Red Bryant is a free agent.

141. Arizona Cardinals – Lonnie Edwards OG, Texas Tech

Arizona could use an upgrade over Rex Hadnot.

142. Dallas Cowboys – James-Michael Johnson ILB, Nevada

Bradie James is a free agent.

143. Philadelphia Eagles – Winston Guy jr. SS, Kentucky

Jaiquawn Jarrett was terrible in his rookie season.

144. New York Jets – A,J. Jenkins WR, Illinois

Santonio Holmes might be cut or traded and Plaxico Burress is old.

145. Oakland Raiders – Donte Paige-Moss DE/OLB, UNC

Oakland is converting to a 3-4 defense and will need another OLB besides Kamerion Wimbley. DPM has all kinds of issues but that hasn’t stopped Oakland in the past, plus he could be worth the gamble this late in the draft.

146. San Diego Chargers – Keith Tandy CB, West Virginia

If Quentin Jammer moves to safety they’ll need a replacement.

147. Chicago Bears – Terrell Manning OLB, North Carolina State

Brain Urlacher may not be ready for the start of the season, plus he’ll be 34 years old this season. And they could use an upgrade over Nick Roach anyway.

148. Tennessee Titans – Emmanuel Acho OLB, Texas

The Titans could use an upgrade at WLB.

149. Cincinnati Bengals – Marcus Forston DT, Miami

Pat Sims is a free agent.

150. Atlanta Falcons – Rokevious Watkins OG/OT, South Carolina

Sam Baker was benched and the Falcons could use an upgrade over Joe Hawley.

151. Detroit Lions – Cyrus Gray RB, Texas A&M

Detroit has some injury issues at RB.

152. Pittsburgh Steelers – B.J. Coleman QB, UT-Chattanooga

Dennis Dixon is a free agent looking for a place to start while Charlie Batch/Father Time will most likely retire. Beyond them Byron Leftwich is the only other back-up to Ben Roethlisberger on the roster. The Steelers need to bring in someone who can be the next dependable back-up to Big Ben. Coleman had a great showing in the East-West Shrine game displaying a strong arm and good accuracy.

153. Denver Broncos – Brandon Brooks OG, Miami of Ohio

Zane Beadles needs to be replaced.

154. Houston Texans – Kawann Short DT, Purdue

BPA, Houston could use some depth on the D-line.

155. New Orleans Saints – Gerell Robinson WR, Arizona State

Robert Meachem is a free agent.

156. Green Bay Packers – Travian Robertson DE/DT, South Carolina

G.B. could use an upgrade at DE.

157. Baltimore Ravens – Jeff Fuller WR, Texas A&M

Anquan Boldin is getting old and Lee Evans didn’t do much all year. Fuller has a ton of potential but had a terrible week at the Senior Bowl.

158. San Francisco 49ers – Will Blackwell OG, LSU

Adam Snyder is a free agent who needs to be replaced anyway.

159. New York Giants – Vick Ballard RB, Mississippi State

Ahmad Bradshaw is injury prone.

160. Cincinnati Bengals (via New England Patriots) – Chris Marve LB, Vanderbilt

Manny Lawson is a free agent.

Behind the Steel Curtain

The Philadelphia Eagles send a trio of players to the Pro Bowl - December 31, 2011 by indyfootballreport

The Eagles are sending three players to the Pro Bowl.  31-year old DE Jason Babin has been incredible for the Eagles so far this year.  He has played in 15 games for the Eagles so far this year and he has 38 tackles, 18 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.  He has been a true late bloomer for the Eagles.  23-year old RB Lesean McCoy turned in the best year of his NFL career in 2011.  He has played in 15 games for the Eagles so far this year and he has carried the ball 273 times for 1,309 yards (4.8 ypc) with 17 TD runs.  McCoy has also caught 48 passes for 315 yards (6.6 avg) with 3 TD grabs so far this year.  29-year old OT Jason Peters has played in 13 games (all starts) for the Eagles so far this year.  All three of the Eagles going to the Pro Bowl were elected to the team as starters.

Philadelphia Eagles NFL News – Eagles Football Blog

‘Let’s go to Vegas’: An Early Look at 2011 NFL Super Bowl Odds - August 22, 2011 by indyfootballreport

I love Vegas but I would never want to live there, too many 24/7 temptations. I’d probably be an overweight, oversexed, compulsive gambler, definitely not a pretty picture. But it is interesting to look at the future odds to see how Vegas manages it’s book. They aren’t looking to pick winners, they just want to balance their books for effective risk management. So essentially Vegas lines are predictors of the whole betting public doing a SportsNation pole.

Phil Mickelson won a 22 to 1 bet on the Ravens and cashed out 0,000. But there are pretty good rumors that he has had some huge losses and had to sign with Callaway just to pay his bookies. That part if it is true is not something he is likely to brag about:). Phil still talks about the Ravens, i know some people who have played with him and he loved to talk shop about his gambling. Supposedly, he gave up gambling when his son was born, not sure if i buy that one.

But i digress.  Last year the Packers started at 12 to 1 & Stillers were 10 to 1. The favorites were the Colts at 6 to 1 with the Chargers 2nd at 7 to 1. Here are the historic winners’ pre-season future odds:

Preseason Odds of Recent SB Winners:

XLV – Packers at 12 to 1

XLIV - Saints at 25 to 1

XLIII - Steelers at 18 to 1

XLII - Giants at 30 to 1

XLI - Colts at 5 to 1 (and they won)

This is mostly a sucker bet unless you are able to hedge and play the bookies lines off each other, there often appear to be some big divergences this early. But if you look at the past five winners, these lines were only right once in the last 5 years. Although, in Super Bowl XLII the pre-season favorite was the Pats at 3 to 1. So these lines picked at least 2 teams correctly to appear in the SB, so they are not always way off. But to pick the eventual winner now is like finding a diamond in a haystack full of needles. Yea, you can get lucky like Mickelson (but maybe he had k on 10 teams so he really only won 0k:) ) but the winners are often a good team maybe ranked 5-10 that gets hot and rolls thru. When was the last time a 90 to 1 (Skins) or a 150 to 1 (Bills & Panthers) actually won?

That would be never.


Team 2012 Super Bowl XLVI Futures Odds
Money Odds (Payout Per 0 Bet.)
Arizona Cardinals +,000 (50 to 1)
Atlanta Falcons +,200 (12 to 1)
Baltimore Ravens +,200 (12 to 1)
Buffalo Bills +,000 (150 to 1)
Carolina Panthers +,000 (150 to 1)
Chicago Bears +,500 (35 to 1)
Cincinnati Bengals +,000 (100 to 1)
Cleveland Browns +,000 (60 to 1)
Dallas Cowboys +,000 (20 to 1)
Denver Broncos +,000 (60 to 1)
Detroit Lions +,200 (22 to 1)
Green Bay Packers +0 (6 to 1)
Houston Texans +,200 (32 to 1)
Indianapolis Colts +,000 (10 to 1)
Jacksonville Jaguars +,000 (60 to 1)
Kansas City Chiefs +,000 (30 to 1)
Miami Dolphins +,000 (40 to 1)
Minnesota Vikings +,500 (35 to 1)
New England Patriots +0 (6 to 1)
New Orleans Saints +,200 (12 to 1)
New York Giants +,000 (20 to 1)
New York Jets +,200 (12 to 1)
Oakland Raiders +,000 (50 to 1)
Philadelphia Eagles +0 (6 to 1)
Pittsburgh Steelers +,000 (10 to 1)
San Diego Chargers +,300 (13 to 1)
San Francisco 49ers +,000 (40 to 1)
Seattle Seahawks +,000 (80 to 1)
St. Louis Rams +,000 (50 to 1)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +,000 (30 to 1)
Tennessee Titans +,000 (60 to 1)
Washington Redskins +,000 (90 to 1)

Behind the Steel Curtain

Meineke Now the Title Sponsor of the Texas Bowl - May 10, 2011 by indyfootballreport

From the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas Communications Department

Houston, Texas – ESPN Regional Television (ERT), Inc., a subsidiary of ESPN, and Meineke Car Care Centers announce a three year title sponsorship deal of the Texas Bowl, beginning for the 2011 event. The Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas will …
The Week In Football

Super Bowl XLV: Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4) vs. Green Bay Packers (13-6) - December 26, 2010 by indyfootballreport

This could be an epic battle this Sunday.  The Steelers are 2-0 at home during the post season while the Packers were 3-0 on the road.  That lends to the field possibly favoring the Packers along with the fact that the people that live in the MetroPlex (Dallas, Irving, Ft. Worth and Arlington) hate the Steelers.  The Steelers do have more Super Bowl experience on the roster which should even things out a little bit.  Here is a look at the matchups in this game:

When the Packers have the ball:  The big key for the Packers in this game is going to be the play of the OTs.  If Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga can handle LaMarr Woodley & James Harrison and keep them out of the backfield, Aaron Rodgers and his WRs are going to have big games.  The last time Rodgers played against the Steelers he completed 26 of 48 passes for 383 yards with 3 TD passes and 0 INTs.  He also carried the ball 3 times for 22 yards (7.3 ypc) with a TD run in the last meeting.  If the Packers split out Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson…..the Steelers don’t have the corners to deal with them.  I look for John Kuhn to play a lot more in this game than he has in the first three games in the playoffs because he knows the Steelers’ D from playing with them for a couple years.  His blocking will be important in this game.  Rookie James Starks might also have a big game if he is the lone RB with the Packers spreading out the field.

When the Steelers have the ball:  Ben Roethlisberger had a monster game last year against the Packers.  He completed 29 of 46 passes for 503 yards with 3 TD passes and 0 INTs.  I don’t think he’ll be so lucky this time around because of the awful offensive line in front of him.  The Packers will try to stop Rashard Mendenhall early in this game and force the Steelers to pass against them.  CBs Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields will be up to the challenge this Sunday as long as the Packers are getting good pressure on Roehlisberger.  Clay Matthews is going to be living in the Steelers’ backfield this Sunday and there is nothing they will be able to do to slow him down.  I also think that NT B.J. Raji is going to have a huge game pushing backup center Doug Legursky around all day long!


Green Bay Packers NFL News – Packers Football Blog

Super Bowl XLV: Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25 - December 18, 2010 by indyfootballreport

The Packers’ offense shredded the Steelers’ secondary tonight and the defense made just enough big plays to help the Packers win the Super Bowl and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay where it rightfully belongs!  Aaron Rodgers was the MVP of the Super Bowl as he was magnificent in this game!  Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards with 3 TD passes and 0 INTs against the supposedly tough Steelers’ D!  James Starks pitched in with 52 yards rushing on 11 carries (4.7 ypc) as he had some nice runs in this game.  Jordy Nelson might have dropped some passes but he still made a lot of big plays as he caught 9 passes for 140 yards (15.6 avg) with a TD grab.  Greg Jennings also had a HUGE game with 4 catches for 64 yards (16.0 avg) with 2 TD grabs in this game.  James Jones pitched in with 5 grabs for 50 yards (10.0 avg).  The Packers only had possession of the ball for 26:35 in this game but they still rushed for 50 yards on 13 carries (3.8 ypc) and they completed 24 of 39 passes for 288 yards.

The defense gave up a lot of yards but they also had some game altering plays.  Safety Nick Collins only had 4 tackles and 1 pass defensed but he also got a pick six when he returned a Roethlisberger pickoff 37 yards for a TD!  Back up cornerback Jarrett Bush also had a big game with 5 tackles, 1 pass defensed and 1 interception.  Safety Charlie Peprah (10 tackles), LB Desmond Bishop (8 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and 1 fumble recovery) and LB Frank Zombo (5 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 sack and 1 QB hit) also had solid games for the Packers in this game.  The Steelers finished up with 126 yards rushing on 23 carries (5.5 ypc) and they also completed 25 of 40 passes for 261 yards.  The Packers are now the WORLD CHAMPIONS for the 13th time in franshise history.  This was their 4th Super Bowl win.

Green Bay Packers NFL News – Packers Football Blog

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