Jimmy Johnson, who knew a thing or two about the draft, used to say that he'd monitor the mock drafts of beat reporters around the NFL to see what the competition was doing. For some reason, Johnson believed the reporters knew what the teams they covered might actually do on draft day.
If you truly believe that, you'll love this: Below is a No. 1-32 mock draft compiled Sunday and Monday by beat reporters and others who cover teams regularly around the NFL. I represented the Dolphins (Don't hate). It is, I believe, a solid representation of what might actually happen Thursday night.
It's long. It's detailed, with information such as how many picks each team has, what needs each team has, and where they lack picks. So we're eating up a lot of Internet space. Hope cyberspace doesn't crash or something.
Anyway, I present to you the 2011 beat reporters mock draft:
1. CAROLINA (eight picks, no second, two thirds): Needs: QB, DT, CB. They lack a second-rounder after giving up No 33 this year in a trade during last year's draft to take QB-conversion-WR Armanti Edwards from Appalachian State. He's not without a future, but the previous administration had no interest in projects. While they still think Jimmy Clausen could be a good NFL QB, they haven't had anyone here who threatened to be more than that in franchise history. As tempting as it might be to fill defensive holes with players such as Marcell Dareus or Patrick Peterson, it's hard to pass on someone with a chance to be a premier QB with the first pick, since the hope is you aren't there very often. They've done their homework on the top three (Newton, Gabbert, Mallett), but it's become apparent which one they're most interested in. The Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. They'll listen if someone wants to call and knock their socks off with a trade offer, but no one's really expecting that call to come.
2. DENVER (seven picks, no fourth, no fifth and two sixths) Needs: DT, DE, LB, S, TE, RB. They do have four picks in the top 67, but way thin on Day 2 and Day 3 so are looking to move down if possible for an additional pick or two. They have scouted all the top QBs in person as well as visits just to make sure they didn’t want to take one with No. 2 pick. Elway said last week he still was looking things over but didn't see the "franchise guy'' in the draft at that moment. Overall McDaniels emptied out the cupboard, trading picks right and left to move up and reach on players who didn’t contribute before he was fired. The worst of the trades may have been the fourth-rounder this year to the Patriots for Laurence Maroney who didn’t touch the ball after Oct. 17 and was an inactive for the final eight games. They are looking defense, however, all over the board. Almost everyone I know in the league believes they will take Dareus here and I’ve given him to them in one mock earlier this month. However, I honestly believe Fairley and Miller are rated more highly on their board. Fox wants disruptive, explosive players on defense and with the move to the 4-3 so the pick is: Von Miller, LB, Texas.
3. BUFFALO. (9 picks; 2 in 4th, 2 in 7th). Primary needs: Front 7 (DE, OLB, ILB), OT. Secondary needs: QB, CB. The Bills like QB Ryan Fitzpatrick but they’re realistic: Is he likely to outplay Ben R, Tom B, Philip R or Peyton M in the playoffs? GM Buddy Nix, formerly of S.D., liked the way Rivers was eased into the QB job behind Drew Brees. So the Bills think it’s a good year to take a QB, even though their most dire needs are in defensive front seven. (Buffalo finished 32nd vs. run in ’10. FYI: They don’t put DT on their needs list.) If Carolina doesn’t take Cam Newton, expect Buffalo to pick him. Our expectation is they would be satisfied to take Marcel Dareus or Von Miller next, ahead of Blaine Gabbert, but it would be a close call. At OLB they have Shawne Merriman, trying to come back from a major Achilles injury; Chris Kelsay and Aaron Maybin, who’s on his last chance. So Miller would fit. But their front seven is soft, so they would not be able to pass on Dareus, who's an ideal 5-technique DE and can move to DT in a four-man rush on third down. The pick: DE Marcel Dareus.
4. CINCINNATI (8 picks; 2 in 7th). Primary needs: QB, WR, S, O-line. Secondary needs: RB, CB. It's obvious that they need someone to replace Carson Palmer since I have better odds on becoming the subject of a Taylor Swift ballad than him returning to play for Mike Brown. They have had the trifecta of Pro Day, Cincy visit and private workout with Ponder, Dalton and Newton but not Gabbert. That would place Gabbert fourth on their QB board. Peterson would make a nice fit but there are bigger needs on offense. They need a top WR for future years since Chad 85 will probably be released before the season starts. Simpson and Caldwell are also in the last year of their deal. Could they take Gabbert? With this franchise anything is possible but they need a playmaker and at four a receiver fits. THE PICK: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia.
5. ARIZONA (8 picks, 2 in the seventh round). Needs: OLB, QB, ILB, G, WR. Many mocks have Gabbert going here but I don't believe it. The Cardinals like him but not that much. They need immediate help on defense and the choice will be between Peterson and Quinn. That's my guess. They will go with Patrick Peterson and give new DC Ray Horton two elite corners and hope they find LBs later. So Patrick Peterson.
6. CLEVELAND. – (8 picks, 2 in the 6th (they've got Denver's). Needs: Defensive ends, defensive tackle, No. 1 playmaking receiver, 3rd-4th cornerback, developmental offensive tackle, developmental quarterback. Browns need touchdowns and quarterback sacks on defense. Switching to a 4-3 and they have zero ends on the roster. Zero. The logical choice here would be Robert Quinn. (I'm pretty sure they won't touch Da'Quan Bowers.) Quinn would fit GM Tom Heckert's M.O. for light, undersized ends. Actually, he said last week he's looking for ends weighing "250 -- tops." And Quinn is 265. But I think Mike Holmgren's marching orders are to take a sure thing at No. 6. Or at least a surer thing. So I'm going to select WR Julio Jones. I believe they have Green rated higher, and would snatch him if available. Jones is a tougher call, but he would be a No. 1 on the Browns even though Heckert and Holmgren consistently defend their WR corps. The switch to the West Coast offense also helps the case to take Jones. Selection: Alabama WR Julio Jones.
7. SAN FRANCISCO (12 picks, two in the fourth round, two in the sixth round, four in the seventh round). The team might see Blaine Gabbert as a vehicle for moving down, perhaps to the Redskins, allowing them to take a player to fill a defensive need like CB Prince Amukamara or DE Robert Quinn. Or they may decide that Gabbert is too good to pass on. The 49ers have just one quarterback under contract, David Carr, at the moment and there is no guarantee a good one still will be available in the second round. That is, letting Gabbert slip past could be riskier than taking him. So, Blaine Gabbert's the pick.
8. TENNESSEE -- 9 picks total. Needs: QB, DT, DE, LB, S. The Titans need a quarterback, and some in the building may start sweating it here with two off the board already. If they pass here, then there's a chance it could be slim pickings at the position in Round 2. While some will lobby for Jake Locker, but the Titans go for a guy with more value here and take Auburn DT Nick Fairley, then try and trade up before their second pick. In Round One, though, it's Fairley.
9. . DALLAS – Eight picks, including a compensatory pick in the seventh. Needs: 1. DE. The Cowboys are unsettled at end with Jason Hatcher, Stephen Bowen and Marcus Spears all scheduled to become free agents. 2. OT. The Cowboys have grown old in the offensive line. Right tackle Marc Colombo, right guard Leonard Davis and left guard Kyle Kosier all turn 33 during the 2011 season, and center Andre Gurode is 32. Colombo missed one game last season with a knee injury, and Kosier missed three with a knee injury. Colombo , who allowed 9.5 sacks last season, is due a $2.6 million option bonus and could be cut. 3. S. Strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh will test free agency, and free safety Alan Ball, with four years of experience in the league, could be a free agent. Tyron Smith, OT, USC: The Cowboys could attempt to trade up for Patrick Peterson if he starts falling. They are more likely to move down –if they can find a trade partner – and take either Anthony Castonzo or J.J. Watt. If they stay where they are, Smith could replace Marc Colombo. Just remember that since 1989, when Jerry Jones bought the team, the Cowboys have never used a first-round pick on an offensive linemen.
10. WASHINGTON. Six picks (no third -- traded to Saints for OT Jammal Brown or fourth -- traded to Eagles for QB Donovan McNabb) including a compensatory in seventh. Needs: QB, NT, OLB, CB (if Carlos Rogers doesn't re-sign), WR (if Santana Moss doesn't re-sign, OT (if Brown doesn't re-sign). Nice fits: DE/OLB Robert Quinn, QB Jake Locker, NT Phil Taylor. Washington needs a legitimate quarterback prospect as well as a bona fide nose tackle and with just two picks in the first four rounds would love to trade down from the 10th overall selection to gather enough choices to attempt to address all its needs. But if a trade doesn't happen in the first round, Shanahan might have to hold his breath and hope that Moss, Brown, DE Kedric Golston and either Rogers or nickel back Phillip Buchanon re-sign whenever free agency occurs and that 2010 fourth-rounder Perry Riley is ready to replace free agent inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh because expecting to land an immediate starter in the fifth, sixth or seventh rounds isn't realistic. And that would still leave the Redskins deciding whether to bypass a pass rusher such as North Carolina's Quinn or a nose tackle such as Baylor's Phil Taylor in order to choose his next quarterback with the 10th or 41st selections. PICK: DE/OLB Robert Quinn.
11. HOUSTON: Picks: 8, 2 in the seventh round, including Mr. Irrelevant (compensatory pick). Needs: OLB, CB, FS, SS, WR. Comment: Wade Phillips needs a pass rushing OLB to go with DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing on the inside and Connor Barwin at the other OLB spot. Their starters are set in the defensive line. They were 32nd against the pass. They also need a CB. I expect they’ll give Denver a call to try to trade up to get Von Miller. When the price is too high, if Patrick Peterson were to fall to the 49ers, the Texans would call them, too. They havent’ traded up in the first round in Gary Kubiak’s five drafts. If it comes down to OLB Aldon Smith and CB Prince Amukamara, I’m going with Smith. They’ll look for CB in the second round and free agency. Pick: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri.
12. MINNESOTA (9 picks; 0 in third, 2 in fifth, 2 in sixth, 2 in seventh. Extra 5th is from Giants for Sage Rosenfels; Extra 6th and 7th are compensatory picks) Needs: QB, S, CB, DE, DT, and OL could use an upgrade. DT Pat Williams will not return. LDE Ray Edwards is a fifth-year, unsigned guy who doesn't appear likely to return. WR Sidney Rice is a fourth-year unsigned guy who will leave if the new CBA grants him UFA status. ... The Vikings' No. 1 need is quarterback. But they have numerous holes to fill and can't afford to bypass better value at another position of need for the lesser value that comes with reaching for a QB at No. 12. Like a lot of teams, they prefer to trade down. That could help them get the right price on a QB while getting at least one extra pick. They want to recoup the third-round pick that Brad Childress used in the trade for Randy Moss. Moss lasted all of 26 days before Childress cut him. PICK: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. The Vikings desperately need and want a QB, but I don't see them taking one here. They want to trade down. If they stay here, they could grab Bowers if he slides this far. The Vikings have grabbed guys who have slid before. They got Adrian Peterson at No. 7 when he had injury red flags. They also got Percy Harvin at No. 22 when there were concerns about his character. Among many needs, pass rusher makes the most sense at No. 12 based on what's available and the difficulty of filling that need.
13. DETROIT. Lions pick, based on this scenario: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska.Background is as follows: I don’t think it’s automatic, because they might go for whichever linemen – offense or defense – rated highest among those remaining is still on the board. But cornerback is one of the primary needs – see below. First the history, from a franchise taking yodeling lessons after ascending to the peak of the Alps for going 6-10 last year after so many years of ass-ending the NFC North. Given the 8 p.m. start of the first round on Thursday, and the Lions sitting at No. 13, I figure they’ll make their first pick around 9:45 at the earliest. That means for the first time in recorded history, the Lions will make their first draft pick after dark. And after so many years of drafting IN the dark. The Lions have six picks – one in every round except the sixth. They have no compensatory picks, which means they are not in the running for Mr. Irrelevant – unless another first-round pick is welcomed into the fraternity of Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. The Lions needs, in order: every-down outside linebacker, cornerback, third receiver, depth on either line and a complementary running back. In the first round, focus on cornerback and linemen. The rest will be addressed later, based on the talent pool. There is no linebacker who fits the needs who is worthy of being drafted on the first round, and cornerback is sort of on the balance point, depending on how one values Prince Amukamara of Nebraska, or is willing to overlook character issues involving Jimmy Smith of Colorado. Trades: The Lions have made a trade involving a first-round draft pick for three straight years. Two were on draft day: 2008 they moved down two spots in a deal with KC and drafted OT Gosder Cherilus; in 2010 they moved up four spots, to No. 30 on the first, in a deal with Minnesota and drafted RB Jahvid Best. And during the 2008 season, GM Martin Mayhew made a trade with Dallas that gave the Cowboys WR Roy Williams. In return, the Lions got a first-round pick and used it to draft fut, and future Pro Bowl TE Brandon Pettigrew.The six names I hear most often for this pick are Bowers, Anthony Castonzo, Nate Solder, J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith and Amukamara. A name you don’t hear is Mike Pouncey, the interior offensive lineman from Florida. But the pick is Amukamara, again, based on this mock draft.
14. ST. LOUIS (7 picks--1 pick in first 5 rounds; none in Round 6; two picks in round 7. In exchange for WR Mark Clayton in a trade early last September with Baltimore, the Rams sent their 6th to the Ravens in exchange for Clayton and the Ravens' 7th-round pick). TEAM NEEDS (WR, DT, OLB, RB, CB, S, DE) The draft scenario as it has unfolded here, isn't the best for the Rams. But it's not a disaster either. They were hoping to see maybe a third QB taken ahead of them and another offensive tackle.. That would've push more players down that they liked, including Robert Quinn and Aldon Smith. Of course, they were hoping against hope that Julio Jones would've made it to No. 14. They desperately need a game-changer at wide receiver. After all, what good is it to have a potentially elite QB in Sam Bradford if _ as one long-time coach told me _ he's throwing to a bunch of truck drivers. They may not be truck drivers, but the Rams' receiving corps is injury-plagued and hasn't played that well. Under this scenario, the Rams best options are the defensive line or RB Mark Ingram. I think Steven Jackson still has 2 to 4 elite years in him (he turns 28 this summer). Although I see it happening later in the draft, I just can't see the Rams spending their No. 14 on a running back. So it's defensive line. DEs Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, and Adrian Clayborn are tempting. But a greater need is defensive tackle, where Clifton Ryan (a starter in '08 and '09 who played in only one game last season because of recurring migraines) won't be re-signed. THE PICK: COREY LIUGET, DT, ILLINOIS: Liuget gives the Rams a "3-technique" with some quickness and penetration skills in their 4-3 scheme. By pushing the pocket from the inside, along with veteran Fred Robbins, that should make ends James Hall and Chris Long even more effective than they were last year when they combined for 19 sacks.
15. MIAMI. (8 picks; none in the second round, three in the 7th). Primary needs: The offense, all of it is in need. (RB, C, QB, WR, TE.), Secondary needs: OLB, G. The Dolphins were 30th in the NFL in scoring last season. That's bad in a 32-team league so they went and hired new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and now have to give him weapons to operate. It would be easy to suggest Miami needs a quarterback because that is probably true. Chad Henne has shown no evidence he's a franchise QB. The Dolphins will address the QB spot somehow this offseason. But in the first round? Hard to say considering that player might not immediately contribute. Andy Dalton is a possibility and so is Ryan Mallett. But both are projects and the Dolphins, whose administration is working on a short leash, needs production immediately. Did I mention the Dolphins don't have any running backs of note on the roster? Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are unrestricted free agents and probably past their primes. Miami has unknowns Cory Sheets and Lex Hilliard as their only signed RBs. That's unacceptable for a club coach Tony Sparano says will be a run-first team. So the Dolphins must address the running game in this draft. The problem here is neither Mark Ingram nor Mike Pouncey are value picks here. Miami will desperately try to trade down because it doesn't have a second round pick -- used on, ahem, Brandon Marshall -- and it wants value for its pick. Barring the ability to trade, the Dolphins will consider the best player on their board who likely will be a defensive player. And then they'll address their running game, with either Pouncey or Ingram. The pick: C Mike Pouncey from the University of Florida.
16. JACKSONVILLE (7 picks, two fourths, no 7th, one in rest of the rounds.) Needs: DL, S, LB, CB, G-C, WR, QB. The Jaguars need to improve their pass defense, starting with the pass rush. Last year, they had just 26 sacks, but that was better than the previous year when they had just 14. The pass defense is so bad that Cold Hard Football Facts reported that their average of allowing 7.53 yards every time the opposing quarterback dropped back to pass was the worst in the league. They were 28th in passing yardage allowed and 28th in sacks per pass play.Good QBs just feasted on their defense. They couldn't rush and couldn't cover, particularly at safety so oppoisng teams should have thrown on every play against them. Now that Jack Del Rio has been stripped of the authority to call the defensive plays by owner Wayne Weaver, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will call them and he will use a simplified scheme because the Del Rio scheme seemed to confuse the Jaguars more than it did the opposing teams. It helps that the draft is deep in DL and that Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue fits the Gene Smith profile. Co-captain, team leader, relentless player who goes hard on every down. When fellow scribes call and ask for a 16th pick, I don't even ask for the names of the first 15. I just say if Kerrigan is there, put him down. He's also been compared to Aaron Kampman, another character guy with a high motor. Now we have no inside info on whether Smith really likes Kerrigan and J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan are still available in this draft and maybe they like them. Kerrigan is almost too obvious and Smith often likes surprises. There's been some speculation they might go for a quarterback because they haven't drafted one since they took Byron Leftwich in 2003 and David Garrard is not in the elite class and they have to groom somebody for the future.. They also need help at S, CB and LB but there don't seem to be any mid first rounders at those positions. I suspect Watt may be gone even though he is available in this draft. So the pick is Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue.
17. NEW ENGLAND (9 picks; 2 firsts, 2 seconds, 2 thirds, no sevenths) Needs: Defensive end, pass-rusher, guard, running back. The Patriots are overflowing with draft picks thanks to frequent trades in previous years, including sending Richard Seymour to Oakland for this first rounder. Bill Belichick has nine picks now, but don’t expect that number to stay there. They’ll likely trade down several times to stock up for 2012. At this pick, however, they will look for Seymour’s replacement. They’ve struggled to set the edge as a defense for years, and they haven’t found a five-technique end who can take on two blockers and free up their outside linebackers to rush the passer. With ample depth on the defensive line in this draft, they can finally fill the void. The Pick: Cameron Jordan, California. Slightly more athletic than Seymour but not as stout, Jordan provides them with serious athletic ability and versatility. He could be a hybrid like Willie McGinest was or he could bulk up and mimic Seymour. Either way, expect an immediate starter.
18. SAN DIEGO: Eight picks. (18 in the first. 50 and 61 in the second. 82 and 89 in the third. No fourth or fifth. 183 and 201 in sixth. 234 in seventh.) This draft is almost exclusively about defense. They need to improve their defensive front seven, particularly the pass rush. They want to replace RDE Jacques Cesaire and add an OLB. With the five picks in the first three rounds, they’ll get those two players plus a CB and WR. They need a third corner who they can put in the slot and groom to succeed Quentin Jammer. They have just four WR actually under contract and two of them probably won’t make the roster. They seem content to stay at 18, since there are ample DEs and it appears J.J. Watt is going to fall to them. But they like Ryan Kerrigan too. With Jacksonville and New England looking at the same positions, essentially, I can’t rule out a trade with Miami. THE PICK: J.J. Watt, Wisconsin. All-around solid player. Don’t need and probably won’t get spectacular numbers from him at that position, but they think he’s a really good player who can help them against the run and take pressure off Luis Castillo on the left side. Plus, he’s an A.J. Smith kind of guy: plays hard and excellent character.
19. Giants: (8 picks, one each in rounds 1-4, none in round 5, three in round 6 (including 2 compensatory picks) and one in round 7. They traded their fifth rounder to Minnesota last year for QB Sage Rosenfels and return man Darius Reynaud.) Biggest needs are offensive line and outside linebacker, with OL by far the bigger concern. The Giants once enjoyed remarkable stability along the line, with LT David Diehl, LG Rich Seubert, C Shaun O’Hara, RG Chris Snee and RT Kareem McKenzie starting 38 straight games from 2007-2009, the longest streak by five offensive linemen since the 1970 merger. But offensive line injuries were a major problem last year. McKenzie, Snee and Seubert started all 16 games, but Seubert suffered a major knee injury in the regular season finale. Diehl missed 4 games with a hamstring and O’Hara missed 10 with foot problems that required two off-season surgeries. Seubert had a dislocated kneecap repaired. McKenzie, Seubert and O’Hara are all over 30. Outside linebacker is also a weakness, with the Giants not expected to bring back Keith Bulluck. Michael Boley has been solid since signing a 5-year, $5 million free agent deal from the Falcons in 2009. But he has not been the kind of impact player the Giants had expected. The Giants’ defensive line is considered a strength, but GM Jerry Reese said last week that if he felt there was a quality lineman at 19 who was high on their board, he’d make the pick. The Giants invested heavily at defensive line in 2009, adding free agents Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard. They drafted Linval Joseph in the second round last year. And Barry Cofield, arguably the most productive of all their D-tackles, is a restricted free agent. The three ends are Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants have interest in Mike Pouncey, who would address their needs on the interior of the offensive line, and they also like the top-ranked tackles. Given the way the board is falling: The pick: Anthony Castonzo, T, Boston College.
20: TAMPA BAY: Picks: Eight total, two in the seventh. Needs: DE, MLB & SLB, RT, CB. The Bucs addressed defensive tackle last year in picking Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. Their pass rush ranked 30th in sacks per pass attempt last year. Stylez White led the team in sacks last year with 4.5. There are plenty of choices here. They would probably take Cam Jordan if he lasts this long, which is a stretch. They would take Ryan Kerrigan if he is on the board. But he’s gone, too. So the options are: Adrian Clayborn, Justin Houston and Brooks Reed. ... Reed isn’t a huge guy, but he’s got the big DTs in the middle to help plug the run. The pick: Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona
21. KANSAS CITY. (8 picks; one each round except the fifth when they have two picks) NEEDS: LBs, WR, NT, OG-C, OT, QB. If you think we know what’s in the minds of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, you’re sadly mistaken. No one in this organization is available to us aside from a 20-minute say-nothing “news” conference Pioli had 10 days ago, so this is complete guesswork.Here’s what we do know: The Chiefs need another 3-4 outside pass rushing linebacker to complement Tamba Hali and an inside linebacker to pair with Derrick Johnson. They need a speed receiver to stretch the defense and take pressure off Dwayne Bowe. Guards Brian Waters (34) and Ryan Lilja (30) are getting up in age, and center Casey Wiegmann (38) could be retiring. And in the middle rounds, the Chiefs need a quarterback of the future to understudy Matt Cassel. Brodie Croyle, 0-10 in his career as a starter, is unsigned and unwanted. We also know Pioli is all about no-risk, high-character players who take football seriously. Six of their seven draft picks of a year ago were team captains. So who does that leave? Possibly an outside linebacker like Akeem Ayers of UCLA. Or a 3-4 DE like Cameron Jordan, if he were still on the board. They fit the mold. So would Maryland WR Torrey Smith, and while this might seem a bit high for him, remember Pioli took Tyson Jackson with the third overall pick in 2009. With Pouncey off the board, Danny Watkins also fits a need and profile Pioli likes. Muhammad Wilkerson, who could play both DT or DE, is tempting, but the Chiefs have sunk so much money and hope into Glenn Dorsey and Jackson, I can’t believe they’ll go that route. With all that said, the Ravens and Raiders showed at the end of last season, the Chiefs need to be more physical in the offensive line. This crop of tackles is not nearly as good as last year’s when they passed on Okung, Davis and Bulaga, so they need to find one now. THE PICK: Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi. He’ll get first look at right tackle, or they can try him at left and move Branden Albert to right tackle or left guard. And, if Carimi doesn’t measure up at right tackle, he can play either guard and Pioli has his Logan Mankins.
22. INDIANAPOLIS. (6 picks, one in each of the first six rounds. Traded 7th round pick prior to last season to Washington Redskins for CB Justin Tryon. Appears to be a great trade. 7th round picks are dicey and Tryon probably ranks as the Colts 3rd best corner. Needs: OT, DT, S, WR, G. I’ve heard all the arguments for the most pressing need being a run-stuffing defensive tackle. And they are valid. The Colts’ run defense has ranked no better than 24th in each of the past three seasons and has allowed averages of 125.4 yards per game and 4.6 yards per attempt during that stretch. But this is an offensive-driven team and everything on offense starts up front. The offensive line has been in steady decline, which was compounded when 2007 second-round LT Tony Ugoh turned out to be a bust. On top of that, age is catching up with C Jeff Saturday (35) and RT Ryan Diem (31). A legitimate, young LT would allow the team to move Charlie Johnson inside, if he returns. He’s one of several players whose free agency status hinges on the labor agreement. He’s a 5-year vet whose contract has expired. If things fall they way the have, the pick that makes the most sense – and one that Peyton Manning will applaud – is OT NATE SOLDER. Of course, it’s always possible Bill Polian isn’t sold on Solder (pardon the pun). Maybe he tries to move back and get one of the second-tier OTs. In the previous 24 drafts Polian has run with the Colts, Carolina and Buffalo, he’s taken only three offensive linemen in the first round, none since Blake Brockermeyer in 1995.
23. PHILADELPHIA. 10 picks (one in 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 2 in 4th, 2 in 5th, 0 in 6th and 3 in 7th). Needs: CB, OT, DE, WLB. Despite using its first 5 selections on defensive players last year, the primary focus a year later remains defense. They gave up a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes in 2010 and their pass-rush faded down the stretch. They traded up from 24 to 13 last year to select Michigan DE Brandon Graham. But he tore his ACL in December and Andy Reid has acknowledged it will be a “stretch” for him to be ready for the start of the season. The other day he tweeted he was at about 60 percent. They've got numbers a DE, but with the exception of overused RE Trent Cole, not a lot of quality. Juqua Parker turns 33 next month, Victor Abiamiri missed all of last season recovering from microfracture surgery. They signed the CFL's top sacker, Phillip Hunt. They traded for Darryl Tapp last year, but it remains to be seen how he'll do under new d-line coach Jim Washburn. They need to find somebody to start at RCB opposite Asante Samuel. Ellis Hobbs probably isn't going to play again after suffering his second season-ending neck injury. '10 fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley showed some promise and could be in the mix. Nickel man Joselio Hanson doesn't have the speed to play outside. And Dimitri Patterson, who replaced Hobbs last year, is better suited for a backup/special teams role. They brought in Colorado's Jimmy Smith in for a visit two weeks ago and they said all the right things about him. But I can't see them rolling the dice on a guy with his character and work-ethic questions. Besides, defense, they also need to upgrade RT, which is QB Michael Vick's blindside. Winston Justice struggled last year as the Eagles gave up 49 sacks. Mississippi State's Derrick Sherrod could be a possibility here. So could Mike Pouncey, who they could plug in at another weak spot, RG. Though that doesn't really address RT. My sense is that they think they can eventually address the corner problem in free agency, whenever that is. I think they will go for yet another pass-rusher. Their new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has a son who plays corner at Iowa, so he's well-acquainted with the good and bad of DE Adrian Clayborn. I think they'll take him, Erb's palsey or no Erb's palsey. EAGLES PICK: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa.
24. NEW ORLEANS. (6 picks, 1, 2, 3, 3, 7, 7). … Needs: OLB, DE, DT, RB, TE, C, OT, S. … The Saints could really use a more dynamic athlete in their front seven, preferably a pass rusher. But keep in mind that they run a 4-3 defense and have traditionally stayed away from ‘tweener pass-rushers that fit better as outside linebackers in 3-4. So I don’t think they’d go for a Brooks Reed/Justin Houston/Jabaal Sheard type unless they definitely think they’re big enough to play defensive end. … The most pressing immediate need is OLB since they haven’t re-signed either of their starters from last year and were just mediocre at the position to start with. But I don’t know if Akeem Ayers is a true OLB in a 4-3 or another of those ‘tweener types. … DE makes the most sense in this draft since there seems to be so many to choose from. I think Cameron Heyward or Adrian Clayborn could make sense here, and you could definitely plug in guys like Da’Quan Bowers, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, etc., if they happen to fall this far in your mock draft. … I also think some DTs could be the best available player, like Muhammad Wilkerson and Phil Taylor, and Cory Liuget if he falls this far. … The Saints need more depth at RB, but I’d be surprised if they use their Round 1 pick at RB, even if Ingram falls. … They are a “best available player” team, though, so it wouldn’t shock me if they picked a running back, offensive tackle or tight end if that’s the highest-rated player on their board. THE PICK here is DT MUHAMMAD WILKERSON. He sounds like a dynamic athlete with a lot of potential, who could provide some pass rush as a tackle and move to end in some 3-4 alignments. The Saints like that kind of versatility.
25. SEATTLE: Eight picks - First round (No. 25), second (No. 57), no third, fourth (No. 99), two fifths (No. 156 and 157), sixth (No. 173) and two sevenths (No. 209 and 242). The Seahawks have too many holes to patch through the draft considering they have only two starting offensive lineman in place – Russell Okung at left tackle and Max Unger at center -- and then a question at quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck is headed toward free agency, and while both sides still hope he’s back, that uncertainty has led many to believe the Seahawks are bound to take a quarterback in the first round. Don’t be so certain about that. Seattle needs depth along its defensive line, it needs the starting left guard it has been looking for ever since Steve Hutchinson left in 2006, and it needs help in a secondary that has ranked in the bottom six of the league in passing yards allowed for each of the past three years. But Pouncey is already chosen and Baylor’s Danny Watkins is older than the Seahawks want in a rookie. The Seahawks are looking for big cornerbacks capable of playing press coverage, which is exactly what Colorado’s Jimmy Smith excels at. There are off-the-field concerns as he was arrested twice, but Seattle believes that one of coach Pete Carroll’s strengths is bringing out the best in players. The Seahawks choose CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado, No. 25 overall.
26. BALTIMORE: Nine picks: First (26th overall), Second (58th), Third (90th), Fourth (123rd), Fifth (164th) and 165th>, both compensatory), Sixth (180th) and 191st) and Seventh (225th). Needs: CB, DE-OLB, WR, OT, C. The Ravens haven’t used a first-round pick on a defensive player since Haloti Ngata in 2006. It’s time for the Ravens to find another young playmaker for a group that has an aging Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The Ravens have been eyeing Jimmy Smith because they need to add size to a cornerback group that doesn’t have an experienced player over 6 feet. If Smith is gone, the Ravens will turn their attention to boosting a pass rush that generated 27 sacks last season, which was a single-season low for the franchise. Take away Terrell Suggs’ 11 sacks, and you can see why the Ravens have to get somebody to put pressure on the quarterback. The pick – Cameron Heyward, DE-OLB, Ohio State. The Ravens like his toughness, bloodlines (he’s the son of the late Ironhead Heyward) and character. Heyward has some versatility, which is a plus for the Ravens’ hybrid style. He could eventually start at defensive end (where Cory Redding is entering the final year of his contract) or at 3-4 outside linebacker (where Jarret Johnson is going into his contract year). Heyward’s average senior season – 3.5 sacks – is the reason why he’ll be available near the bottom of the first round.
27. ATLANTA. (9 picks – 1, 2, 3, 4,5, 6, 7 (three). Overall – 27, 59, 91, 124, 158, 192, 209, 228, 229… Needs: DE, WR, CB, OT, CB, RB and backup QB. The Falcons will likely consider one of the defensive ends. John Abraham isn't getting any younger and they need to rush the passer better. Clayborn, Heyward and Akeem Ayers could be in play if they are still available. … Also, they want to add some playmakers and speed to the offense. They could be going with a wide receiver in the second round and a speed back in the third or fourth round. They are reportedly in love with Troy wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan and he could be a possibility. They also have heavily scouted Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murrary. … The Falcons need to add some depth to their linebacker corps at some point during the draft. They have had Georgia's Akeem Dent in for a visit and could consider California's Mike Mohamed later in the draft. THE PICK HERE IS Akeem Ayers, UCLA's DE/LB. The Falcons worked him out on April 9 in Los Angeles and he him do defensive end and linebacker drills. He would get a chance to help right away as a designated pass rusher opposite of John Abraham.
28. NEW ENGLAND (9 picks; 2 firsts, 2 seconds, 2 thirds, no sevenths) Needs: Defensive end, pass-rusher, guard, running back. The Patriots are serial traders when it comes to the draft, and this year’s edition will be no different. Coach Bill Belichick hosted quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker for private visits not to consider selecting them but to properly evaluate their value for trades. With teams no doubt attempting to trade back into the first round for quarterbacks, the Patriots could look to move No. 28 for a first-rounder in 2012. That makes the most sense. However, if they had to make a selection, they’ll continue with the emphasis on being strong up front on offense and defense. The Pick: Baylor guard Danny Watkins, the 26-year-old former firefighter, is the best available player at a position of need for the Patriots. Guard Logan Mankins’ future is in doubt and former reserve Dan Connolly may be better coming off the bench. That opens the door for a quick fix for 2011 and a potential long-term replacement for Mankins. The immoveable Watkins is the guy.
29. CHICAGO: (6 picks, one in each round except 7th) Needs: Offensive tackle, Defensive tackle, Linebacker, Tall receiver, Cornerback. The Bears have targeted four to six players that could be available at No. 29. But, I think the team is inclined to trade back. Based on this mock draft, with only two quarterbacks off the board, Bears may actually be able to find a trade partner. Based on this mock, talented offensive tackles Derek Sherrod and Phil Taylor are still available, as well as defensive tackle Marvin Austin. With that said, moving back a few spots and picking up an extra pick, may really appeal to the Bears. But, if they weren’t able to do that, I think the Bears would really be fascinated by running back Mark Ingram, who has surprisingly fallen. He’s a terrific athlete, and would give the Bears another playmaker. But the position would be a luxury, with Matt Forte and Chester Taylor on the roster. Justin Houston, the outside linebacker, could also be appealing.
THE PICK: Derek Sherrod. Yes, Phil Taylor is also available. But, Sherrod doesn’t have any character concerns, like Taylor, and he’s been a pretty model player during his collegiate career at Mississippi State. He’s got size (6 foot 5, 320 pounds), and he’s got good athleticism and a great wingspan. He needs to work on getting lower and get more strength, but those are things that offensive line coach Mike Tice would emphasize with him. If he progresses well, he could immediately help the Bears’ offensive line, which gave up a league-high in sacks in 2010. He would need time to grow, but J’Marcus Webb, a seventh-rounder, did fairly well, and Tice can get guys up to speed quickly. If Sherrod is signed, then it would make re-signing Olin Kreutz, the veteran center, an even greater priority, since he’s a free agent.
30. N.Y. JETS. (six picks; no pick in second round): Needs: NT, LB, WR, S. They don’t have a second-round pick. That went to the Chargers in a trade last year for CB Antonio Cromartie, who is now a free agent. The system will determine whether he is an unrestricted or restricted. The Jets own the Cardinals seventh round pick (5th in the round) as the last installment in the Kerry Rhodes trade. They traded their own seventh rounder (30th overall) to the Lions for QB Kevin O’Connell. The Jets have six picks this year. In the last two drafts, they wound up with a total of only seven picks, the lowest in the league. Their biggest need is at nose tackle. Kris Jenkins suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener – it was the second year in a row he suffered a season-ending knee injury. They released him after the season. Sione Pouha is a very good player, but he is 32 years old. That makes Baylor NT Phil Taylor someone the Jets could very well take in this spot. They also have pass rushing needs. They brought in Jason Taylor last year but he had a relatively quiet season and they released him after the season. DE Shaun Ellis is a free agent and he will be 34 in June. They could use a pass rusher at DE or at OLB. The OLB starters are Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas. That makes UCLA’s Akeem Ayers and Arizona’s Brooks Reed possibilities, but in this mock, they are both gone. Receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards are also free agents. Holmes could be a RFA if the requirement doesn’t return to four years of service. Edwards will be a UFA. KR-WR Brad Smith would also be a RFA if six years of service are required. Jerricho Cotchery is the only one of the Jets top four receivers who is not a FA. PICK: BAYLOR NT PHIL TAYLOR. His 337 pounds will fit nicely into the middle of Rex Ryan’s defense.
31. PITTSBURGH. (7 picks, one each round). Needs: CB, OT, DL, WR. Anyone who watched the Super Bowl knows the Steelers need a cornerback. They had one good one and Ike Taylor is a UFA and 30. Don't know if he''ll be back. Top two OT had serious surgeries -- Willie Colon missed season with Achilles rupture. Max Starks second half after neck surgery.. Top healthy OT is Flozell Adams, 36. Defense line good but old. Could use top-flight WR. PICK: Aaron Williams of Texas, CB. Big, not fast but can help until Marines send more and he can move to safety in a few years.
32. GREEN BAY. (nine picks, extra D4 compensatory for Aaron Kampman, extra D7 from Carolina in 2009 trade for LS J.J. Jansen): Needs: DE, OLB, T, G, WR, RB, maybe QB, KR. When the Packers won the 45th SB they had 15 players on IR. Since then, they have dumped two of their 68: S Derrick Martin and TE Donald Lee. They have an imposing roster with no pressing need. Don't be surprised if they trade the pick to a QB-hungry team. I wrote a column Sunday saying Thompson should seriously consider dealing it for a D1 in 2012. The last time GB did that was 1991. Ron Wolf turned around in 1992 and sent that D1 (No. 17) to ATL for Brett Lorenzo Favre. GB does not need players. PICK: I will give them MARK INGRAM just to get him off the board for our purposes. Ryan Grant will be back from a blown ankle, James Starks has promise and UFA Brandon Jackson might be back. But Ingram might be too good to turn down. The other candidate would be Georgia's Justin Houston, more of a hand-down DE who would play ROLB in GB opposite Clay Matthews. At ROLB, the Packers are OK with Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga.
NOT IN ROUND ONE: OAKLAND: Raiders picks: 48 (Round 2), 81 (Round 3), 113 (Round 4), 148 (Round 5), 181 (Round 6), 219 (Round 7), 241 (Round 7) -- The Raiders don't have a first-round pick this year, thanks to the Richard Seymour trade with New England two years ago. Oakland is looking to add some beef to an offensive line that lost guard Robert Gallery and that uses an undersized Samson Satele at center. While the Raiders think they're set in the defensive secondary -- even with the potential loss of free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and safety Michael Huff -- they need some more guys who can cover receivers.