Mock draft: Clemson end Da'Quan Bowers the right fit for Vikings?
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Editor's note: Shawn Zobel has broken down NFL Draft prospects since 2007. His 2011 draft preview, featuring more than 240 player profiles, is available now at www.draftheadquarters.com. This is the first of Zobel's four weekly mock drafts for 1500ESPN.com leading up to the first round on April 28.
1. Carolina: QB Cam Newton, Auburn
As stated at Draft Headquarters a month ago, the Panthers are eyeing Newton as the No. 1 overall pick. A physical specimen at 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds, Newton has the skill-set and tools needed to develop into the face of the franchise in Carolina. His upside and potential at the next level are both remarkably high and there is no question he has the talent to be taken first overall. All signs currently point towards Newton being the favorite to be taken first overall by the Panthers.
2. Denver: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
The Broncos are targeting the defensive side of the ball with this selection, and Dareus (6-3 1/8, 319) -- the near-consensus top defensive lineman in this year's draft -- would fit the three-technique in Denver's 4-3 defense perfectly. An explosive penetrator on the interior of the line, Dareus is a lock to be taken among the first three selections in this year's draft and would be an immediate contributor for the Broncos. LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson is also an option for Denver.
3. Buffalo: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
Without predicting trades in this mock draft, I'd find it hard to believe that the Bills would pass on Gabbert (6-4 3/8, 234) if he's available at No. 3 overall. With the makeup to develop into a franchise quarterback, Gabbert would be an ideal player to build around on offense. If Gabbert isn't available, I'd expect to see Buffalo turn their attention to defense and look at Dareus and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller.
4. Cincinnati: WR A.J. Green, Georgia
Although the Bengals would love to have Gabbert fall to them and could trade up to No. 2 overall to draft him, landing the best wide receiver in the draft would be a great fallback option. Capable of contributing immediately, Green (6-3 5/8, 211) would allow for Cincinnati to start over at the receiver position and pair him with Jerome Simpson out wide. A defensive end such as Clemon's Da'Quan Bowers or North Carolina's Robert Quinn could also be options.
5. Arizona: LB Von Miller, Texas A&M
As with Cincinnati, I expect to see Arizona target Gabbert and consider trading up. If the Cardinals can't land Gabbert, then I'd expect to see them look at defense, where they need to upgrade their pass rush. Miller (6-2 5/8, 237) would be a terrific fit to play outside rush linebacker in their 3-4 defense and could provide them with an instant-impact player. He has the tools to produce 10 to 12 sacks every year. Peterson could also be an option to play opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
6. Cleveland: WR Julio Jones, Alabama
Although defensive end remains a clear need, the Browns will be looking at the receiver position as well in the first round. Following a tremendous performance at February's scouting combine, Jones (6-2¾, 220) has his stock on the rise and he's likely to be taken among the first 10 picks in this year's draft. He'd be able to contribute quickly for the Browns, who need a receiver desperately to continue to upgrade their passing game. Bowers and Quinn are also two options at end.
7. San Francisco: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
My top overall prospect, Peterson (6-0¼, 219) would be the steal of the draft if he lasts this long. With Nate Clements future with the team uncertain, landing the consensus top defensive back in this year's draft would be a tremendous way to bolster the 49ers' secondary. The 49ers could also look at outside rush linebacker as well as defensive line with this selection.
8. Tennessee: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
Once considered the top overall prospect in the draft, Fairley (6-2 7/8, 291) has seen his draft stock quietly slip, and a popular landing spot for him this spring is with the Titans, who have three free agents at defensive end and could use further help on the interior. If they don't select Fairley, I'd expect to see them look at Bowers or Quinn. I don't expect them to take a quarterback in the first round unless they trade up for Gabbert.
9. Dallas: OT Tyron Smith, USC
Although Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara remains an option, all signs point towards offensive tackle being the most likely selection for Dallas at No. 9. Smith (6-5, 307) has been on the rise ever since his impressive weigh-in at the Combine, and he should be off the board within the first 12 or 13 picks. Smith has a fantastic combination of size, strength and athleticism and is my top tackle prospect in this year's draft.
10. Washington: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina
I'd be very surprised if Washington took a quarterback at No. 10 overall. Running back doesn't appear to be an option, and Julio Jones doesn't appear likely to fall to No. 10 either. With that said, the Redskins have a need at linebacker because they must generate a better pass rush in 2011. A natural pass rusher who has the fluid athleticism to play with his hand off the ground, Quinn (6-4, 265) would be an excellent player to add opposite Brian Orakpo in Washington's 3-4 defense.
11. Houston: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
With the worst pass defense in the NFL in 2010, the Texans would be awfully lucky if Amukamara (6-foot, 206) falls to them in the draft. Landing him would give them two young, talented corners to build around while also moving Glover Quin to safety, further upgrading their secondary. In the event that Amukamara doesn't fall to No. 11, I'd expect to see Houston upgrade the front seven, as they are moving to a 3-4 defense.
12. Vikings: DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
With questions surrounding his knee injury as well as an average workout at his pro day, the stock of Bowers (6-3 3/8, 280) is slipping. At this point, it'd take a lot for a team like the Vikings to pass on him, given their major need at end opposite Jared Allen. Adding an elite talent whose potential and upside are among the best in the draft could add a jolt into the Vikings defense, which needs one with Pat Williams and Ray Edwards both likely leaving via free agency. I'd expect to see the Vikings add a quarterback in the second round or trade back up into the first to land one -- or wait until 2012. Drafting one at No. 12 would simply be a waste of value.
13. Detroit: DE Aldon Smith, Missouri
Adding to an already talented defensive line, Smith's enormous potential and upside would provide the Lions with a very exciting line that already includes Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril. Although Kyle Vanden Bosch is entrenched at the other end position, he will be 33 by the end of next season and is coming off of neck surgery. Adding Smith (6-4¼, 263) to create a terrific rotation -- as well as fill Vanden Bosch's eventual replacement -- would be ideal. Looking at offensive tackle, linebacker and the secondary are three other options for Detroit.
14. St. Louis: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
With a middle-of-the-pack run defense and nothing in the form of a defensive tackle to build around, the Rams figure to look for an interior defensive lineman this spring. Gary Gibson is headed for free agency, and the Rams could stand to follow the model that brought the New York Giants success -- having depth on the defensive line to continue to rotate linemen. Liuget (6-2 1/8, 298) would be a terrific fit in St. Louis, capable of contributing immediately.
15. Miami: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
The Dolphins have a glaring hole at running back, and adding the best back in the draft would solidify the position they have considered a strength for quite a few years. In the event they pass on Ingram (5-9 1/8, 215), looking at the quarterback position isn't out of the question.
16. Jacksonville: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
Ranking second-worst in the league in sacks last season (26), the Jaguars will be in the market for a pass rusher despite investing a year ago in Aaron Kampman, who ended up tearing his ACL after recording four sacks. Kerrigan (6-3 7/8, 267) is a Kampman look-a-like who will bring a consistent, reliable and high-motor style of play to the team that drafts him. With a major need on the defensive line, the Jaguars could really use a can't-miss, safe prospect like Kerrigan to come in and help get after the quarterback. This is by far their biggest need and they really should take the best 4-3 end available in a draft that is loaded with talent at the position.
17. New England (from Oakland): DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
Armed with six picks in the first three rounds, the Patriots have plenty of ammunition to reload their roster. Although they have depth on the defensive line, adding a player of Watt's caliber would be a great value here. Watt (6-5 3/8, 290) would be an ideal fit as a five-technique in their 3-4 defense and brings the type of makeup that the Patriots look for in a player. Looking at the offensive line is also likely.
18. San Diego: DE Cameron Jordan, California
Jacques Cesaire is a free agent this offseason, and the team has not found a long-term replacement for Jamal Williams, who departed a year ago. Adding depth and young talent to their three-man front should be a priority for the Chargers in this year's draft. Cameron Jordan (6-4 1/8, 287) is an experienced and productive senior who has the tools to start immediately when he reaches the NFL. He'd be an ideal fit in San Diego's 3-4 defense as a five-technique and would provide outstanding value here.
19. New York Giants: G Mike Pouncey, Florida
Kareem McKenzie and Shaun O'Hara are entering contract years in 2011, and guard Rich Seubert is coming off of a knee injury at 32 years old. The Giants are beginning to shows signs of aging on the offensive line and could stand to add young talent and depth here. Like his brother Maurkice, Mike Pouncey (6-5, 303) has what it takes to start as a rookie in 2011. His best fit will come at guard, his more natural position. However, he also has experience at center and could slide inside to anchor as well. Looking at the running back position could be another option.
20. Tampa Bay: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
The Buccaneers did an excellent job of rebuilding the defensive tackle position with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price last year, but they should move their attention to end this year. Tied with Jacksonville for the second-lowest sack total in the league this season, Tampa Bay needs a defensive end as bad as any team in the league. Between Stylez G. White and Tim Crowder, Tampa Bay could use one, if not two new starters. Clayborn (6-2 5/8, 281) is an experienced and productive end prospect who should be capable of contributing relatively early in his career for the team that drafts him. The Bucs could also look at linebacker if there isn't an end available.
21. Kansas City: C Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State
On the interior of the Kansas City offensive line, center Casey Wiegman is 37, a free agent, and could retire, while guard Brian Waters is 34 and only has one year remaining on his contract. The Chiefs need to add young talent and would be best served to add a player of Wisniewski's caliber. Capable of playing center or guard at the next level, Wisniewski (6-3, 313) could play center immediately and switch to guard after the 2011 season, when Waters' contract is up. One of the best technicians that I've seen on the offensive line in the past five years, I'd expect to see Wisniewski contribute early and go on to have a long, successful career in the NFL.
22. Indianapolis: OT Nate Solder, Colorado
The Colts' offensive line in 2010 gave up consistent pressure to quarterback Peyton Manning, and that should result in some changes up front. Left tackle Charlie Johnson is a free agent. Right tackle Ryan Diem, coming off a bad year, is due $5.4 million in one the final year on his contract and isn't guaranteed to be back. The Colts should be looking at the offensive tackle position in 2011 to upgrade their pass protection for Manning. Solder (6-8¼, 319) is a high-upside, experienced offensive tackle who would fill their need well. While he isn't an elite prospect at the position in this year's draft, he should be able to step in and contribute right away.
23. Philadelphia: CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
One cornerback, Ellis Hobbs, opted to retire this offseason and another, Dimitri Patterson, is scheduled to hit free agency. The Eagles could stand to add a starter opposite Asante Samuel and also lack ideal depth at the cornerback position. Smith (6-2¼, 211) has the ideal combination of length and athleticism for a cornerback in Philadelphia's defense. Whether or not the off-field question marks alter their opinion of him remains to be seen. However, Smith would be an ideal candidate to step in and start immediately.
24. New Orleans: DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple
With Remi Ayodele and Anthony Hargrove free agents this offseason, I'd expect to see the Saints look at upgrading the defensive tackle position next to Sedrick Ellis. Wilkerson (6-4 1/8, 315) is a fast-rising prospect who size, strength, and quickness are all reasons he's considered to be one of the top three-technique prospects in this year's draft. Having also played end at Temple, he likely could contribute there as well at the next level.
25. Seattle: QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
Matt Hasselbeck is a free agent this offseason, and his future with the team is uncertain. Despite trading draft picks and handing a big contract to Charlie Whitehurst, the former Clemson quarterback did not look like a player that the team would want to build around for the future. Mallett (6-6¾, 253) has one of the strongest arms to enter the NFL in the last two decades and is likely to be taken within the first 40 picks. He'd be a terrific player for the Seahawks to build around on offense for the future.
26. Baltimore: CB Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.)
The Ravens have three impending free agents at the cornerback position: Chris Carr, Josh Wilson, and Fabian Washington. They are in need of a consistent and reliable corner to build around for the future, rather than the revolving door that they've had at the position for the past few years. Harris (5-9½, 191) is a ball hawk who offers excellent instincts and awareness in coverage. His ability to play man coverage effectively would allow for him to earn playing time early in Baltimore.
27. Atlanta: WR Torrey Smith, Maryland
Neither Michael Jenkins nor Harry Douglas has stepped up to provide the Falcons with a reliable No. 2 receiver opposite Roddy White. With Douglas entering a contract year, it's expected that Atlanta will be in the market for a top wide receiver to pair with White this offseason. Smith (6-0 7/8, 204) is a talented and athletic receiving prospect who has the skillset needed to develop into a very good No. 2 receiver in the NFL. Pairing him with White would give the Falcons an additional weapon for Matt Ryan in the passing game. Defensive end and tight end could both be considered with this pick as well.
28. New England: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
At 33 years old, Matt Light is a free agent this offseason and may be replaced. Carimi (6-7, 314) is a massive tackle prospect who offers the experience and production in college to suggest he could contribute immediately for the team that drafts him. Whether at left tackle or right, he'd pair very well with Sebastian Vollmer to give the Patriots a pair of young, talented bookend tackles to build around on the offensive line. Looking at receiver and outside rush linebacker are also options for New England.
29. Chicago: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
The Bears need to draft the best available offensive lineman with their first-round pick. In the event Castonzo (6-7, 311) is that guy, he'd slide well into the left tackle position opposite J'Marcus Webb. However, the team could also use help on the interior at guard. Determining where Chris Williams will play in 2011 will also factor into this selection. Castonzo has the tools to start on a team's offensive line for the next five to 10 years.
30. New York Jets: DT Phil Taylor, Baylor
Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce are free agents, and nose tackle Sione Pouha only has one year left on his contract. The Jets, who rely on a stout three-man front to defend the run, will likely be in the market to continue to add depth to their defensive line this offseason. Taylor (6-3¼, 334) is the top nose tackle prospect in the draft whose stock is on the rise after a terrific week at the Senior Bowl and a great workout at the Combine. In the event Ellis departs, Taylor has the skills to step in and fill that void as a rookie. If Pouha is not brought back after next season, Taylor could then take over at nose tackle. Taylor is a perfect fit in the 3-4 defense, and with no pass rusher on the board, he'd be the next best option for the Jets.
31. Pittsburgh: CB Aaron Williams, Texas
With the versatility to likely play cornerback or safety at the next level, Williams (5-11 7/8, 204) offers the type of skillset needed to step in and replace Ike Taylor, who is due to hit free agency this offseason. Williams is an awfully talented defensive back who provides great potential and upside for the team that drafts him. The Steelers could also look at offensive tackle or guard with this pick.
32. Green Bay: G Danny Watkins, Baylor
Coming off a tremendous Super Bowl victory over the Steelers, the Packers have some work to do this offseason. Left guard Daryn Colledge is a free agent and signs point towards him departing, along with backup center Jason Spitz. Watkins (6-3 3/8, 310) is a polished, NFL-ready guard whose stock is among the hottest in the draft right now. Following a great week at the Senior Bowl and good combine workout, it's beginning to look like Watkins could sneak his way into the late first round. While he played left tackle at Baylor, Danny projects best at guard on the interior of the line at the next level and would be a perfect fit to take over for Colledge at left guard next season. Cornerback, running back and outside linebacker are also needs for the Packers.