What follows is the first attempt at a mock draft for this year! The plan will be to refine the mocks with new versions every couple weeks all the way up to start of the draft on Thursday April 28th. Eventually the mocks will become a full two rounds. The new format of the draft this year will put the first round in primetime on Thursday night, followed by the second and third rounds on Friday night, and the fourth through seventh rounds on Saturday.
With no CBA agreed upon free agency will not open as it normally would. That makes things a little more stable for the time being as analysis will be based largely on need, which is known right now, rather than having free agent signings that fill in certain holes prior to the draft. Assumptions will be made as to which players will re-sign with their teams and which are likely to hit the market eventually. The deadline for re-signing players is March 4th.
Continue on to check out the full first round mock draft and as always leave your thoughts and/or feedback in the comments!
1. Carolina Panthers – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
The Panthers would have loved to get the potential franchise QB Andrew Luck but unfortunately for them he chose to return to school rather than enter the draft. Looking away from QB then the team obviously has several areas of need. They have spent multiple picks on wide receiver over the last few years so A.J. Green would probably not be the guy here. Fairley looks to be the safest pick and going defensive tackle has proven successful as of late for teams at the top of the draft. The costs involved with signing the #1 pick will be more reasonable with the position. Of course a new collective bargaining agreement could implement a rookie pay scale but until then it will remain a consideration.
2. Denver Broncos – Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
The new coaching staff will likely turn the defense from 3-4 to 4-3 and that will put an undersized Elvis Dumervil on one end. Beefing up the rest of the defensive line could be in order and Dareus would fit as DE in either scheme or even slide to DT in the 4-3. Other options could include DE Da’Quan Bowers as another pass rusher or Patrick Peterson who is considered a lock-down corner. Champ Bailey is set to be a free agent but even still corners generally don’t go this high in the draft.
3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Miller has shined at the Senior Bowl and would provide a much needed pass rushing threat at OLB in the 3-4. Other areas of need include quarterback, though Ryan Fitzpatrick performed relatively well last season, and offensive tackle but there are none expected to go near the top of the draft. The pick will address the front seven on defense.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The Bengals need a pass rushing threat on the edge and Bowers has the potential to be considered as the top pick in the draft. The concern is that he was very much a one-year wonder. With Terrell Owens gone and Chad Ochocinco possibly to be traded or cut, a receiver such as A.J. Green could be talked about. Carson Palmer has demanded a trade but even if he stays it would not be out of the question for the Bengals to draft a QB here.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina
Most will assume that the Cardinals will take their choice of quarterbacks at this spot and no one would fault them for that. There is a sense though that the team will sign a free agent and continue to try and groom one of their young picks from last year. Should that be the case the team needs a pass rusher at OLB (Joey Porter was not the answer) and Quinn could be the guy. There are certainly concerns as Quinn was suspended all of last season but his potential makes him intriguing. Prior to the season he was pegged as a guy to watch for the #1 pick.
6. Cleveland Browns – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Browns need some help in the front seven on defense as well as the offensive line. A.J. Green though is a playmaker that could simply be too tempting to pass up and would help in the development of Colt McCoy. Green is thought of in the mold of a Calvin Johnson but receivers seem to be the most hit-or-miss position high in drafts.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
New coach Jim Harbaugh will have the ability to draft his QB of the future here but there is no certainty that is what he will want to spend the pick on. The 49ers could be a team that looks to sign a veteran QB or trade for someone like Donovan McNabb or Carson Palmer. Regardless is Patrick Peterson gets this far I don’t see him falling past them. The team has a big hole at CB and that doesn’t even include the possibility that Nate Clements gets cut. Peterson is thought to be a lock-down type corner.
8. Tennessee Titans – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Vince Young is gone and Kerry Collins is old and a free agent. This is where a QB almost seems to be the most certain choice. Blaine Gabbert or Jake Locker will likely be the two that get consideration as the team looks to avoid any possible issues due to character. Gabbert may not be able to step in right away as the transition will take some time coming from the spread system in college. He has a good frame, strong and accurate arm, and is thought to have the leadership skills necessary for the next level.
9. Dallas Cowboys – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Cowboys could look a couple directions here but the secondary can really use the upgrade that Amukamara would provide. It is surprising that a draft would have two top flight corners but along with Peterson both are believed to be fantastic options. Offensive line could be under consideration here and someone like Nate Solder might get a look. Defensive end could also use an upgrade. Amukamara though would be the best value here and address an immediate need.
10. Washington Redskins – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Donovan McNabb is obviously not the guy for Washington, and I’m not sure anyone can believe that Rex Grossman is the long term solution. Mike Shanahan’s offensive system calls for a QB with a strong arm that can throw on the move and Newton fits that bill exactly. The mobility would be a big asset. Remember Shanahan is the guy that drafted Jay Cutler who possessed a similar skill set and questions surrounding his character which also affects Newton’s image. Wide receiver, offensive line help, or possibly a defensive tackle to replace Albert Haynesworth would be other options.
11. Houston Texans – Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The Texans had the worst pass defense (maybe ever) last year. At this point a CB might be considered a reach though, ideally someone like Amukamara would fall to them but that seems unlikely. Another option then would be to grab an OLB and Ayers is a playmaker out of the position with the ability to both rush the passer and perform well in coverage. Defensive tackle could also get a look. Essentially this pick is going to be on defense it is just a matter of where the best value remains.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
The defensive line was a disappointment last year, after having been a strength for the team for a long time. Pat Williams is 38 and a free agent and Kevin Williams will be 31 at the start of next season. The line could use an infusion of youth and Paea could be a dominant force especially with the pass rushers the team already has on the edges. An injury at Senior Bowl practice this week could cause his stock to drop so that will have to be monitored. A big look will be given to the crop of QBs as well.
13. Detroit Lions – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Yes, just two picks ago I stated a CB after the top two names might not be worthy of going this high but the Lions are also in desperate need of help in the secondary. Harris comes from a program known for corners that perform at the next level. He is a very good cover corner but also has some physicality. Colorado’s Jimmy Smith could be another option at the position. Like the Texans if not corner then OLB would be the next place to look, and they can also use help on the offensive and defensive lines.
14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
The Rams need to get weapons for Sam Bradford and Jones could be a true #1 receiver. Despite that the receiver corp is not as bad as it seemed last year as it was just ravaged by injuries. Donnie Avery will be back and Mark Clayton would make sense to re-sign. That means they could also look to draft an OLB here or even upgrade on the offensive line.
15. Miami Dolphins – Jake Locker, QB, Washington
The Dolphins aren’t sold on Chad Henne and both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are set to be free agents. As such QB and RB would appear to be the most likely options here. Locker is an intriguing talent and has developed in a pro style system the past two years. He brings with him great intangibles as a leader but there are concerns over his accuracy. He could go in the top 10 or even fall to the bottom half of the first round but there will be a team that wants him badly. The other big name that would fit here is Mark Ingram who is the clear cut top running back in the draft class.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Jordan is another player who is having a standout week at the Senior Bowl. It seems like every year the Jaguars are drafting a DE or signing a free agent and the position remains a weakness. Jordan is a polished four year starter and has shown improvement every year despite playing in a defensive scheme that doesn’t lead to many opportunities for sacks. If not DE here then the secondary could get a look.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland Raiders) – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
How lucky would the Patriots be if this happened? Heisman winner after his junior season, Ingram would be the top flight running back that the team has lacked. The Pats have three picks in the first 33 selections so they can take the best player available. RB, OLB, DE, and offensive line are areas where the team can improve.
18. San Diego Chargers – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
With the uncertainty over whether Vincent Jackson will return a receiver here would make sense. More likely though the team will look to upgrade at DE or possibly grab an offensive tackle. Clayborn would be a good fit in the 3-4 scheme that the Chargers run.
19. New York Giants – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
There aren’t many glaring areas of need with the Giants but offensive tackle and even defensive tackle are possibilities here. Castonzo will be in the discussion as to which LT comes off the board first. He comes from a program that has a history of producing good lineman at the next level and was a four year starter.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
The Bucs can really use upgrades on the defensive side of the ball whether that be at DE, OLB, or CB. Smith could bring the pure pash rush skills so critical to the defensive scheme. He is raw though and may take a couple years to develop into a force but has a high ceiling.
21. Kansas City Chiefs – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Solder is an intriguing prospect given his size and quickness but he has some issues with technique. He could be a good fit in a zone blocking scheme that the Chiefs (and the Colts who pick next) run. DE, OLB, and even another WR could be other options here.
22. Indianapolis Colts – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
The Colts need help on the offensive line and Sherrod is amongst the top OTs and would fit in the zone blocking scheme. If not offensive line then the team can once again use help stopping the run with a new defensive tackle or could look to replace the oft-injured Bob Sanders.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Mike Pouncey, G, Florida
The Eagles could look defense here with an OLB or CB but the versatility of Pouncey would provide a nice upgrade for their offensive line. The brother of Maurkice Pouncey should provide some confidence in the pick. Mike Pouncey did better in his time at guard than after shifting to center last year.
24. New Orleans Saints – Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
Reggie Bush is not a full time back and may not even be back with the team, and Pierre Thomas is injury plagued and a free agent. Leshoure broke out last season rushing for nearly 1700 yards and 17 TDs. He has the frame and physicality to take take the majority of the carries. The Saints could also look to the defensive line or grab a replacement at strong safety.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
The Seahawks improbable playoff run dropped them from what would’ve been the 8th pick all the way to the 25th but the team has needs all over more than just a potential franchise QB. If Jake Locker were to slip here he would probably get strong consideration, and Ryan Mallett would be an option as well. Instead a DE or CB would make a lot of sense. Smith fits the mold of the corners that Pete Carroll takes a liking to.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Baltimore had serious issues with depth at corner and made the trade for Josh Wilson who played well but is a free agent. Fabian Washington and Chris Carr are also set to hit the market. Williams would be a good selection here and would fill an immediate need. Don’t be surprised if Jonathan Baldwin or Torrey Smith come off the board here as Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Donte Stallworth could be lost to retirement or free agency.
27. Atlanta Falcons – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
John Abraham is getting up there in age and the Falcons could use someone opposite him if not just to be the eventual replacement. Kerrigan would be the best value at this pick. He is a polished three year starter with a strong skill set. Corner or offensive tackle are other positions to watch but with five corners already off the board a pass rusher makes the most sense.
28. New England Patriots – JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Back to New England and here JJ Watt would be a good fit at an end in their 3-4 scheme. With the 33rd pick coming up they can really take best value at any number of positions.
29. Chicago Bears – Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Obviously the offensive line is the biggest need for the Bears. Smith may be more suited for RT (where he played at USC) but teams will be evaluating him as a LT. Good workouts could push him up the board. Expect Chicago to take the best tackle or interior lineman available.
30. New York Jets – Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
Both Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes are set to be free agents and they’ll likely only be able to bring one of them back. The Jets went all in on this season and now will be faced with a bunch of decisions. A replacement at receiver or more pieces on the defense (particularly at DT or DE) would contribute. Torrey Smith is a fantastic returner which could also fill the void if Brad Smith leaves in free agency. He is still somewhat raw as a receiver but the return skills differentiate him from another option Pitt’s Jon Baldwin.
*31. Green Bay Packers – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
The Packers faced a ton of injuries this year so evaluating their areas of need isn’t as straight forward as some other teams. They can probably best use new talent on the offensive line at either guard or tackle. A defensive end could also be a possibility. Taking a tackle here such as Carimi would allow for last year’s choice Bryan Bulaga to slide over to LT.
*32. Pittsburgh Steelers – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
The Steelers always seem to draft well and refresh talent particularly on the defensive side of the ball. They have the ability to go best available value here whether that be on the offensive line, at defensive end, or at corner. Heyward is an interesting option in the 3-4 that also showed the ability standing up.
*Picks 31/32 dependent on Super Bowl result.
**It should be noted that Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett has a good chance of going in the first round. In this first run through he started to fall and at that point I believe a team could possibly trade up and make a play for him. The gap between Miami and Seattle would be a possible place for that to happen or the Seahawks could take him at #25. Character concerns are primarily what holds him back right now but lots can change between now and the draft.
***Featured in the Walter Football Mock Draft Database