It's mid-March and the NCAA tourney is still on the horizon. Winter is breaking, spring is springing and somewhere Mel Kiper is throwing darts at a picture of Todd McShay. This time of year can only mean one thing: we're all draft experts again!
Now, I love me some mock drafts. Always have. The problem with the medium, however, is that most people don't take the time to tell you what the parameters, thought processes or motivations are when they're making picks. Sometimes it's just some yahoo moving Mike Mayock's picks around in a slightly random order. Sometimes a mock is meant to predict what a team will do, while another mock might be based on what a team should do. Make sense? It's our hope to give you some clear context for this conglomeration of pontification so that the comment section is insightful, interesting and vaguely civil:
• Jimmy made the odd-numbered picks, I made the even numbered picks. SImple enough.
• Unless otherwise noted in the description, all picks were made with the idea of what a team should do, based on value, needs, scheme and overall direction. Most teams don't change these behaviors overnight, even as their personnel and ownership changes.
• The evaluation process is ongoing. These picks are based on what we know bout these kids today. This is especially true where character concerns come into play (see Bryant, Dez; Dunlap, Carlos; Davis, Anthony). Teams spend thousands of dollars and hours investigating backgrounds and interviewing associates to make a judgement of a kid's character because they know they can't just eyeball that from afar. So, why should we pretend we can?
So with that out of the way, lets get to the meat, shall we?
1. St Louis Rams: Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska)
Jimmy: I just can't see the Rams passing up a sure thing with this pick. There are too many questions surrounding Bradford to give him the type of money this pick will command. You can pay Suh less and odds are he will be a better player.
August: The big buzz is that the Rams will take Bradford here, but I think that's insane. The kid is a great prospect, but he also hasn't played in a full year due to a lingering shoulder injury. The Rams have too many issues to go QB this high, Suh is way too talented to pass on and there are too many good QBs who will be around later for me to sign-off on picking Bradford. Anyone who saw the Big 12 championship game knows why Suh is the pick.
2. Detroit Lions: Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma)
August: Big Albert got Schwartz this job, and now McCoy is going to help him keep it. His defense is predicated on collapsing the middle with a 4 man rush. Schwartz knows it, and the Detroit front office knows it, so I wouldn't expect them to interfere. Besides, they went with sexy picks last year. Now they need grit.
Jimmy: What August said. This league is all about getting a push with the front four. Scwartzy has made it clear that is his #1 priority this offseason.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State)
Jimmy: There are no sure things in the the NFL draft, but offensive tackles are the closest thing. No doubt Eric Berry will be in the conversation here, but this just seems too high for a safety.
August: Tampa invested big in Josh Freeman last year, so now's the time to help keep him upright. Okung has Pro Bowl staple written all over him, and he's one of the safer bets in the draft. This year's first round is flush with great OT prospects, but Okung is the complete package with touted leadership skills. With no RBs or WRs justifiable at this point, I like this pick a lot.
4. Washington Redskins: Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma)
August: Mike Shanahan won't take over a team without knowing he has a franchise QB in hand or on the way, and Jason Campbell ain't cutting it. Bradford should be jumping up and down if he gets picked by a certified QB-guru on a team with more talent than their record has shown lately.
Jimmy: This seems like a good fit for both sides. Shanny gets a guy he can groom, and Bradford gets a coach that is excellent with quarterbacks. I think Bradford as a 44% greater chance of being successful here instead of St. Louis.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Berry (S, Tennessee)
Jimmy: Berry is considered by many to be the best football player in this draft, but it is tough to take a safety in the top 5. That being said, if he is on the board at #5 the Chiefs would be crazy not to take him.
August: Safest. Pick. Ever. Eric Berry was the top recruit in the country coming out of high school, and he met every expectation you could expect him to hit with Jonathan Crompton at QB. The Chiefs should hand Goodell the card while he's still up there shaking hands with Bradford if Berry lasts to this pick.
6. Seattle Seahawks: Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, South Florida)
August: The Seahawks need talent in every unit, and there's no one left on the board with more talent than Pierre-Paul. Sure he's short on experience (more people can speak to his talent at gymnastics than football), but he's a complete freak who has gotten good reviews for his motor. That's a win win win, people.
Jimmy: I like this because it means the Titans can't take him. Pierre-Paul will either be a stud or fizzle out, and I think the chances of him fizzling out are 22% greater with the Titans.
7. Cleveland Browns: Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame)
Jimmy: As August mentioned earler, I am a prophet (funny that he doubts me in his comment below). The Browns cannot seriously be heading into a rebuild with Jake Delhomme at the helm.
August: Not sure on this one, but who the hell knows what the Browns are thinking these days. Mike Holmgren is a shrewd QB coach and evaluator, and if he hasn't signed-off on Quinn then you could be looking at a depth chart featuring two Notre Dame signal-callers, or a draft day trade.
8. Oakland Raiders: Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland)
August: The Raiders are always easy to draft for; just find the physical freak whose production probably doesn't match his ability and there you go. This is one of the few picks that I made based on the M.O. of the franchise, not the prudent strategy. Still, Campbell could end up being the best OT in this draft with the right coaching and some hard work, and he's got a great damn. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.
Jimmy: This actually seems like a good pick here, so the Raiders will probably go in another direction.
9. Buffalo Bills: Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State)
Jimmy: Dez has a lot of upside, and the Bills need a big play receiver. I would be terrified of this pick if I were a Bills fan, but it could end up being the steal of the draft.
August: The Bills just jettisoned their big, playmaking WR/head-case, so why not get another one? Plus, Dez could be the kind of star power that sells well in Toronto...
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Earl Thomas (S, Texas)
August: Scary good pick for Jacksonville here. It's a little earlier than some folks are projecting right now, but Thomas could be the last piece Del Rio needs to get the Jags' defense back over the mountain. Of course, that plan hinges on Aaron Kampman returning to form, and Earl Thomas not continuing the pattern of disappointment blazed by so many ex-Longhors lately; he needs to be more Orakpo than Huff.
Jimmy: TEBOW!! TEBOW!! TEBOW!! Thomas looks like he will be a good player, but I think 10 might be a little high for him.
11. Denver Broncos: Joe Haden (CB, Florida)
Jimmy: I know Haden ran a sub-par time at the combine, but he is clearly the best corner in this draft, and his film will show you that he is too good to pass on because of a bad 40 time.
August: If Joe Haden slips past Denver they'll regret it. Bailey is slipping with age, and they have no depth here at all. Haden is a top 7 talent who is only slipping because of his 40 time, but that's an aberration. The kid can is the complete package and the best bet in this draft to make an impact at the CB spot from day one.
12. Miami Dolphins: Dan Williams (DT, Tennessee)
August: Bill Parcells hearts Defense. His DTs are getting old and aren't that good to start with, so I'd expect him to jump all over a big, mobile DT like Williams. Added bonus: he'll keep O-lineman off of Miami's big FA addition Karlos Dansby.
Jimmy: This seems to be a good fit. Williams has been shooting up draft boards, and he looks to be a good fit in the Parcells defense.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Rolando McClain (ILB, Alabama)
Jimmy: McClain is simply too good of a player for the 49ers to pass on here. He can play inside or outside linebacker and will be a stud in the 3-4 alongside Patrick Willis.
August: I just soiled myself out of the fear of seeing McLain and Patrick Willis line-up next to each other on a team coached by Mike Singletary. Great value pick here,
14. Seattle Seahawks: Brian Bulaga (OT, Iowa)
August: Bulaga is the latest Kirk Frentz coached O-lineman that's making scouts drool, and he could finally help fill the void left by Walter Jones. He gives an instant boost next to last year's pic (C Max Unger), and could help Hasselbeck rejuvenate his career by keeping the opposition off his back. Any of the remaining OTs are an option here as well, by Bulaga is the highest value, IMO.
Jimmy: They say games are won in the trenches, and you would have to be pretty happy as a Seahawk's fan if you walk away from this draft with Pierre-Paul and Bulaga. Plus Hasselbeck is really fragile.
15. New York Giants: Trent Williams (OT, Oklahoma)
Jimmy: This pick just made sense. Williams can come in and help the Giants from day one. It is always important to spend money to protect your franchise quarterback.
August: The Giants would be sick about Ronaldo being gone here, but Williams is a mammoth RT who will help with the Giants' struggling run game and re-establish the unit's physical presence in a division that is stacked with defensive line talent.
16. Tennessee Titans: Everson Griffen (DE, Southern California)
August: Lots of good options for the Titans here, but young, raw and an elite athlete has Jeff Fisher and Jim Washburn written all over it. I'd like to see us grab someone who is a little more ready to be a force right away, but Griffen's upside is too hard to pass on.
Jimmy: Seems about right, but I would hope they go Morgan if he is on the board.
17. San Francisco 49ers: Mike Iupati (OG, Idaho)
Jimmy: Again, games are won in the trenches. Iupati is a great value at #17 who should be able to start from day 1.
August: Their whole O-line unit needs an upgrade, and Iupati is a great start. Guard is a bigger need right now than tackle, but I couldn't fault them for going towards Anthony Davis if he checks out in the background checks.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers)
August: Once the Steelers announce this pick, the commentators will probably just start talking about which QB he'll be blocking for rather than talking about this amazingly talented guy. You heard 'character concerns' almost as soon as he announced, but for sheer size and skill he's perhaps the best in the class.
Jimmy: I really hate the Steelers.
19. Atlanta Falcons: C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson)
Jimmy: There is not shot Spiller is still on the board here, but it is just one of those funny things that sometimes happens in mock drafts. Atlanta would be beyond thrilled to get him here, and he would instantly make the Falcons offense one of the most dangerous in the league when plugged in beside Matt Ryan, Michael Tuner and Roddy White.
August: And Matt Ryan rejoices. C.J. Spiller's role in the NFL will be interesting to watch (think Percy Harvin), but where ever he gets the ball he'll be a threat to take it all the way. I don't see him as a workhorse back, but that makes him all the better to augment Michael Turner and the weak Falcons WR corps.
20. Houston Texans: Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)
August: After letting Dunta walk and missing out on Leigh Bodden the Texans have to find a franchise CB or risk getting eaten alive in this division. I'm a big Kyle Wilson fan, and his stock his stalled enough that he may max-out here in terms of value. Texans fans should be happy with this pick.
Jimmy: I hope this doesn't happen because I think Wilson is going to be really good, and he fills a need for the Texans.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Taylor Mays (S, Southern California)
Jimmy: Some picks just make perfect sense. This is one of them.
August: If there are two things the Bengals love, it's USC players and a general lack of discipline. That makes this a match made in heaven.
22. New England Patriots: Jerry Hughes (OLB, Texas Christian)
August: Pure value pick from the team that always gets it's first round pick right (except Mulroney, of course). Hughes would replace Adalious Thomas should the Pats actually cut him like they keep hinting at. Hughes is smart and a very good athlete who should excel under that system and next to Mayo.
Jimmy: If there is one thing we know about the Patriots it is that they take the best player available on their board no matter what. Hughes seems like he is that guy.
23. Green Bay Packers: Charles Brown (OT, Southern California)
Jimmy: The #1, 2 and 3 priorities in this draft should be protecting Aaron Rodgers. Brown is a good place to start. (First test. I will not call you that.)
August: Aaron Rodgers got beatdown all last year, and while some of that is on him, a lot of it is the fault of eroding line play. Chad Clifton is gone, and big Charlie Brown would be a good prospect to eventually take over the LT position.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech)
August: Straight value pick here for the Eagles. It's almost crazy that Morgan has slipped this far, but these kinds of things happen when you start actually matching players to teams. Morgan is a talented pass rusher who brings a mature game and offers a quick upgrade over former-Titan Fuqua
Jimmy: Morgan is easily the best player available here, and the Eagles are in the fantastic position of not having to reach for need.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Jermaine Gresham (TE, Oklahoma)
Jimmy: The Ravens have done a lot this offseason to upgrade the weapons around Flacco. This is just another move to do so. I hate the Ravens.
August: This may be the easiest match to make as almost every draftnik realizes that the Ravens want more weapons for Flacco and Gresham is a lock to be the first TE off the board. He's big, experienced and a natural pass catcher the likes of which Baltimore hasn't seen since Todd Heap mattered.
26. Arizona Cardinals: Sergio Kindle (OLB, Texas)
August: Exit Dansby, enter Kindle. Sergio would be a great value pick this late in the draft should be slide. It's just too easy of a fit for a talented edge-rusher with Kindle's resume and the Cards' needs.
Jimmy: This is another "no way he is available here" pick. That Cards would be nothing short of thrilled with this pick.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Maurkice Pouncey (C, Florida)
Jimmy: Pouncey can play any of the interior line positions and would add quality depth if nothing else for the Cowboys.
August: My guess here would be that Pouncey starts out at guard (perhaps unseating Kyle Kossier) with an eye towards replacing Gourade in a few years. The Cowboys need youth and skill along their line and Pouncey definitely fits that huge-framed space eating mold the Cowboys employ.
28. San Diego Chargers: Brandon Graham (DE, Michigan)
August: Another pick that relates more to value than immediate need. The Chargers front office is pretty shrewd, and I'm betting that they know they'd be fools to expect the Merriman of old (*cough*ROIDS*cough*) to show-up this year after missing all of last year with a nasty knee issue. Graham is another one of these 6'1", 260 lbs. guys who played DE in college that teams like to stand up in the 3-4 defense.
Jimmy: Graham might end up being the best DE in this class. All of the Chargers needs are on defense so this pick makes perfect sense.
29. New York Jets: Jared Odrick (DE, Penn State)
August: Odrick could be a key cog at DE in Rexy's 3-4 attack. He's polished enough to step in and replace Marques Douglas, with the potential to be a serious upgrade as he gets comfortable in the scheme.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Kareem Jackson (CB, Alabama)
August: The Vikes could use quality help at CB, but not as desperately as a lot of other teams. Kareem fits the bill here because he is athletic enough to help, but raw enough that the team can groom him behind Cedric Griffen and the aging Antoine Winfield.
Jimmy: I was a little shocked when Kareem said he was leaving, but he has all of the physical skills to be a good player in the NFL. He needs some time, and the Vikings would have the luxury of letting him sit and develop for a while.
31. Indianapolis Colts: Brian Price (DT, UCLA)
Jimmy: Interior defensive lineman have been a problem for the Colts for some time now. Price is a guy that the "experts" have going all over the draft. He is easily the best value here.
August: the Colts got next to nothing from their 2nd round pick last year (DT Fili Moala), and the middle of the D-line continues to be an issue. Price is a big, fast kid who gives the Colts an instant upgrade even if he's just part of a rotation for a year or two.
32. New Orleans Saints: Sean Weatherspoon (OLB, Missouri)
August: Crazy good measurables make Weatherspoon a good bet to take a risk on at the end of the first round. He could replace Fujita early in the season and eventually could compliment MLB Vilma very well to make a solid core to the Saints' second level.
Jimmy: You can take a chance on a guy that could end up being a workout warrior when you win the Super Bowl. If he ends up playing to his numbers it is a bonus, and if he doesn't it doesn't hurt as much.