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.-
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Rams needs upgrades all over the defense and Brown is the BPA and could easily go in the first round.
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.
Minnesota really missed Pat Williams presence on the D-line.
The Bucs need help at linebacker and the rumor is that they love Lavonte David.
Cleveland needs to upgrade its WR corps.
The Jags have lacked a legitimate number one WR since Jimmy Smith.
Washington needs help all along the offensive line. Sanders played RT for three years before switching to LT after Andrew Datko’s injury.
The Bills add to their pass rush by upgrading over DE Dwan Edwards.
Terrell McClain was terrible in his first season.
The Dolphins are stuck with Matt Moore so they should at least give him some weapons.
Seattle has a lot of free agent linebackers.
Brandon Carr is a free agent. If they resign him the Chiefs could take a RB to replace Thomas Jones.
Jay Cutler needs a solid number one-type wide receiver.
The Pats need to start upgrading their WR’s at some point.
Kendrick Ellis is probably going to be deported back to Jamaica.
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.
Dallas must upgrade an atrocious secondary.
At some point Andy Reid has to upgrade his linebackers.
Tennessee continues to upgrade the interior of their offensive line to help the running game.
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.
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.
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.
John Fox likes running back by committee and Knowshon Moreno is always hurt.
Houston needs an upgrade at nose tackle.
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.
The Packers need an upgrade over Erik Walden.
Bryant McKinnie is not the long term answer at left tackle and Ben Grubbs is a free agent.
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.
The Giants seriously need some youth on the O-line.
They need to find a replacement for Brandon Meriweather and New England has a history of using early picks on defensive backs.
Indy must continue to rebuild its defense.
The Rams need more talent and depth across the board on defense.
Minnesota needs weapons for Christian Ponder.
Cleveland needs to shore up the LDE spot.
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.
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.
The Jags will need two DE’s if they don’t resign Jeremy Mincey.
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.
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.
The Bills could use a compliment to Steve Johnson, or a possible replacement he keeps screwing up.
Thomas Jones will be 34 years old before the start of the 2012 season.
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.
Arizona has to do something about its offensive line.
Dallas could use an upgrade at DE.
Andy Reid likes to collect D-linemen.
I bet San Diego misses Darren Sproles.
The Bears have three cornerbacks set to be free agents including starter Tim Jennings.
The Titans have three defensive ends set to be free agents including starter Jason Jones.
Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker are both free agents and Croker needs to be replaced anyway.
Brent Grimes is a free agent and not expected back.
Giving up 480 yards and 6 touchdowns to Aaron Rodgers‘ backup is humiliating.
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.
Joe Mays needs to be replaced.
No more defensive picks for the Texans. Wade Smith need to be replaced and Mike Brisiel is a free agent.
New Orleans has to rebuild their terrible linebacking corps.
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.
Matt Birk will be 36 years old before the 2012 season.
San Fran needs a replacement for the released Braylon Edwards. Jones had an outstanding Senior Bowl week.
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.
New England gets another weapon for Tom Brady.
Brandon Lloyd will be leaving this offseason.
Indy’s defense is getting torched.
Charlie Johnson needs to be replaced.
If Andy Reid values his job he needs to spend two early picks on linebackers.
Peyton Hillis will most likely not be back and Pierce has a nice blend of size and speed.
Rashean Mathis and William Middleton are both free agents.
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.
Scott Chandler is a free agent.
Carolina continues to rebuild its defense.
Jason Taylor retired.
Seattle has to improve its pass-rush.
Casey Wiegmann may retire.
San Diego must come away with at least one pass-rusher.
London Fletcher can’t play forever.
Eric Smith is terrible and Jim Lhonard is a free agent coming off of a torn patellar tendon.
Philly needs O-line depth to protect the fragile Mike Vick and Evan Mathis is a free agent.
Anthony Spencer is a free agent.
Arizona needs someone to pair with Daryl Washington in the middle.
Bobbie Williams is a free agent and Nate Livings needs to be replaced.
Sheldon Brown needs to be replaced.
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.
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.
J.D. Walton is not panning out at center.
Jacoby Jones could be upgraded and Houston needs to start getting younger at the position.
New Orleans needs to upgrade its interior pass-rush and get younger at the position.
The Packers will need a replacement for Ryan Grant.
Trent Edwards had an up and down season. Wilson is a good developmental QB that fits Chan Gailey’s system.
San Fran lacks depth at DE and Justin Smith will be 33 years old this season.
They need some youth on the offensive line.
New England continues to upgrade its defense.
Indy could use a right tackle and move Ben Ijalana inside to guard.
Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman are both 34 years old and Goodman should be replaced anyway.
E.J. Henderson is a free agent.
Tony Pashos is a terrible RT.
The Bucs need cornerbacks badly. Bolden was a possible first round pick before he tore his ACL before the college season started.
Fred Davis is a free agent.
The Jags need to give Blaine Gabbert all the help he can get.
Kendall Langford is a free agent.
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.
Demetrius Bell is a free agent.
Dwayne Bowe is a free agent.
Red Bryant is a free agent.
Arizona could use an upgrade over Rex Hadnot.
Bradie James is a free agent.
Jaiquawn Jarrett was terrible in his rookie season.
Santonio Holmes might be cut or traded and Plaxico Burress is old.
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.
If Quentin Jammer moves to safety they’ll need a replacement.
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.
The Titans could use an upgrade at WLB.
Pat Sims is a free agent.
Sam Baker was benched and the Falcons could use an upgrade over Joe Hawley.
Detroit has some injury issues at RB.
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.
Zane Beadles needs to be replaced.
BPA, Houston could use some depth on the D-line.
Robert Meachem is a free agent.
G.B. could use an upgrade at DE.
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.
Adam Snyder is a free agent who needs to be replaced anyway.
Ahmad Bradshaw is injury prone.
Manny Lawson is a free agent.