Mock draft: Jake Locker gone at 10; Vikings stick with Da'Quan Bowers
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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 second of Zobel's four weekly mock drafts for 1500ESPN.com leading up to the first round on April 28.
1. Carolina: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
All signs continue to point towards the Auburn signal caller being the first pick in the draft. While he's going to need time to develop, Newton (6-foot-5, 248 pounds) offers the type of "face of the franchise" the Panthers need.
2. Denver: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
There still isn't a consensus with this pick, as the Broncos could go a number of different ways. Between Dareus (6-3 1/8, 319), Nick Fairley, Da'Quan Bowers and Patrick Peterson, they are set up to add one of the best defensive players to a defense that badly need an upgrade.
3. Buffalo: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
In the 3-4 defense, Miller (6-2 5/8, 237) projects as an outside rush linebacker, which is likely what he'd be in Buffalo. With a hybrid defense in which they also run the 4-3, his athleticism and versatility will allow for the Bills to move him around on defense. One of the top natural pass rushers in this year's draft, Miller looks like a great fit for Buffalo.
4. Cincinnati: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
I can confirm that the Bengals have serious interest in Green (6-3 5/8, 211). The only question is whether they'd take Blaine Gabbert if he's on the board. With Carson Palmer's future in Cincinnati uncertain, the Bengals could go with quarterback or receiver with this pick. Green would be a great replacement for Chad Ochocinco.
5. Arizona: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
This would be a dream scenario for the Cardinals, who would run to the podium if Gabbert (6-4 3/8, 234) falls to them. With a large need at the quarterback position, landing one of the draft's top signal-callers would be a major coup for the Cards.
6. Cleveland: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
If Green is on the board, he'll be the pick. If he's gone, I'd expect to see the Browns seriously consider Jones (6-2¾, 220), who would fit perfectly in Cleveland's offense as the No. 1 receiver. A phenomenal athlete, he'd bring the type of home-run threat the team lacks.
7. San Francisco: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
If Peterson (6-0¼, 219) somehow falls this far, it'd be a tremendous value pick for the 49ers. The consensus top defensive back and my top overall prospect in the draft, Peterson has the skill set to develop into a Pro Bowl cornerback in the NFL. He also has the skills to play safety and should be capable of making an immediate impact.
8. Tennessee: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
It's beginning to look like the Titans will have their pick of one of the top defensive tackles and at least one of the top defensive ends, if not both top end prospects when they are on the clock. Having drafted Derrick Morgan last year, they could pair a top end this year with him -- or add an explosive player like Fairley (6-2 7/8, 291) to give them a young, talented defensive line with tremendous upside.
9. Dallas: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The latest word is that Dallas is very high on Smith (6-5, 307) and would immediately plug him into their right tackle spot if they draft him. It doesn't appear they are going to target a cornerback, but rather look at offensive line or for an additional pass rusher. At this point, the money is on Smith to be the pick.
10. Washington: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
In 2006, Mike Shanahan wasn't afraid to go after the quarterback that he liked in Jay Cutler. I'm beginning to hear similar things five years later -- that the athleticism and ability of Locker (6-2½, 231) to throw the ball on the run are things that could entice Shanahan to take him at No. 10 overall. I'm hearing that it could happen.
11. Houston: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Owning the worst pass defense in the NFL, it'd be a heck of a steal for the Texans to pick up the top senior in the draft. With the skillset to contribute immediately, Amukamara (6-foot, 206) could step right in and play opposite last year's first round pick, Kareem Jackson.
12. Vikings: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
There is still a belief Bowers (6-3 3/8, 280) could fall out of the top 10, giving a team such as the Vikings the chance to land a top-five value because of injury concerns. Bowers is a nearly perfect fit as a 4-3 end and would pair extremely well with Jared Allen. He also would likely be an upgrade from what Ray Edwards brought at end for the Vikings. If Bowers is gone, fellow defensive linemen Aldon Smith, Corey Liuget and Phil Taylor could be all be realistic options to help rebuild their defensive line. Don't count out Locker either. The Vikings are one of the hardest teams to project in the draft.
13. Detroit: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Looking into the future, the Detroit Lions have a need at offensive tackle. Jeff Backus is entering a contract year and Gosder Cherilus is coming off of major surgery. While tackle isn't an immediate need, it's one that will be coming shortly in the future, making Castonzo (6-7, 311) a safe selection at No. 13.
14. St. Louis: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
In need of pass rush help, the Rams target one of the top natural pass rushers in the draft here. If Quinn (6-4, 265) manages to fall this far, he'd be a tremendous value pick for St. Louis. Looking at defensive tackle with Corey Liuget is also an option.
15. Miami: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
At this point in the draft process, the Dolphins enter the spring with 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 that they pass on Ingram (5-9 1/8, 215), looking at the quarterback position isn't out of the question.
16. Jacksonville: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Ranking second-worst in sacks last season with just 26, the Jaguars will be in the market for a pass rusher despite investing last offseason in Aaron Kampman, who will be coming off a torn ACL. 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 end position.
17. New England (from Oakland): J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Armed with six picks in the first three rounds, the Patriots have plenty of ammunition to reload their roster this spring. Although they have depth on the defensive line, adding a player of Watt's caliber would be a great value. Watt (6-5 3/8, 290) would be an ideal fit as a five-technique in the Patriots' 3-4 defense and brings the type of makeup they look for. Looking at the offensive line is also likely for New England in this year's draft.
18. San Diego: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Defensive end Jacques Cesaire is a free agent this offseason, and the team needs to add depth and young talent to their three-man front should be a priority for the Chargers. Jordan (6-4 1/8, 287) is a perfect fit for their 3-4 defense.
19. New York Giants: Mike Pouncey, OG, 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 (6-3, 303) has what it takes to start as a rookie in 2011. His best fit will come at guard, which is 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: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
With a major need for pass rushers, the Buccaneers are expected to draft the top defensive end on the board. They are high on Kerrigan, but he's likely to be gone. Smith (6-4¼, 263) is one of the best natural athletes in the draft and would be a great value.
21. Kansas City: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
While they are set at five-technique, the Chiefs could stand to upgrade their nose tackle position in their 3-4 defense. Taylor (6-3 ¼, 334) is a fast-rising prospect whose quick feet and massive size make him a terrific anchor on the interior.
22. Indianapolis: Nate Solder, OT, 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, while right tackle Ryan Diem is coming off a bad year, due $5.4 million in the final year of his contract and not guaranteed to be brought back. The Colts should be looking at offensive tackles to upgrade their protection. 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: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Ellis Hobbs opted to retire this offseason and Dimitri Patterson is scheduled to hit free agency. So, the Eagles could stand to add a talented starter opposite Asante Samuel, and Smith (6-2¼, 211) could be their guy. A talented player with question marks off the field, Smith has the talent to step in and contribute immediately.
24. New Orleans: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
With both Remi Ayodele and Anthony Hargrove scheduled to hit free agency, I'd expect to see the Saints look at upgrading the defensive tackle position next to Sedrick Ellis. Liuget (6-2 1/8, 298) is a fast-rising propect who could be off the board in the first half of the opening frame, and would be of excellent value at this point in the draft.
25. Seattle: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Matt Hasselbeck is scheduled to hit free agency and unlikely to return. With no legitimate quarterback of the future for the Seahawks to build around, landing a talent signal-caller in the mold of Mallett (6-6¾, 253) would be an awfully intriguing option.
26. Baltimore: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
At receiver, Anquan Boldin needs help on the edge, as T.J. Houshmanzadeh is scheduled to hit free agency and unlikely to return. The Ravens could stand to add an elite downfield vertical threat in the mold of Smith (6-0 7/8, 204) to pair with Boldin. Cornerback is also an option.
27. Atlanta: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
After a great pro day and medical recheck that went well, Rudolph (6-6 1/8, 259) appears to be on track to be one of the top 40 players drafted. With Atlanta lacking a tight end of the future behind Tony Gonzalez, he'd present great value.
28. New England: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Matt Light is set to hit free agency, and the Patriots may be in the market to replace him. Carimi (6-7, 314) would be of fantastic value here and would give them a player they could insert into their starting lineup immediately.
29. Chicago: Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State
I was told in Indianapolis at the combine that the Bears have their eye on Hudson (6-2 3/8, 299) as a player that they could use their first round pick on. With the tackles off the board, Hudson becomes a realistic option to help rebuild one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
30. New York Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce are both free agents on the Jets defensive line, 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. Wilkerson (6-4 1/8, 315) is a fast-rising prospect who would provide exactly the type of five-technique the Jets need to add to their front seven.
31. Pittsburgh: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
With the versatility to likely play cornerback or safety at the next level, Williams (5-11 7/8, 204) offers the type of skill set needed to step in and replace Ike Taylor in the Steelers defense, 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: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
Left guard Daryn Colledge is a free agent and signs point towards him departing, along with fellow free agent Jason Spitz. Watkins (6-3 3/8, 310) is a polished, NFL-ready guard whose stock is among the hottest in this year's 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.