With the College All-Star games in the books, not much to do now but wait for the combine.
1. Carolina (2-14): Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Despite being the worst team in the league the Panthers were good at something, they had the #8 passing defense by DVOA. Since passing the ball and stopping the pass are the biggest factors in winning games, there’s actually somewhat of a foundation to build on here. An 8th ranked passing D with the 17th best pass rush points to a strong back 7 and a breakout year from Charles Johnson along with young DEs Everette Brown and Greg Hardy showing promise (6.5 sacks between them last year). A stud DT would give the Panthers an excellent pass D and bring the sub-par run D up to make a very legitimate unit. The offense will still have major issues (though simply having more stability than the revolving door they had at QB and RB should make for improvement), but the D should keep it in reach, and in a close game, anything can happen.
2. Denver (4-12): Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Another team that did one thing very well and lots of stuff very poorly. Denver passed the ball very well most of the season, but it didn’t get them far when they couldn’t play D or run the ball. The O is in flux with the Orton/Tebow question undecided, so while that’s hashed out they can address the D that got McDaniels fired. An elite CB prospect next to/in front of/in place of Champ Bailey (depending on if/where he goes) and the return of Elvis Dumervil makes for a two pronged attack on a pass D that didn’t get pressure well nor cover much better.
3. Buffalo (4-12) Marcel Dareus, DE, Alabama
While NT Kyle Williams was widely praised and earned a Pro Bowl nod, the rest of the DL around him failed miserably against the run. Buffalo ranked dead last in adjusted line yards, last in % of runs stuffed, 31st in 2nd level yards, but 13th in open field yards. The back 7 can bring a runner down, but the DL is getting blown off the ball so badly by the time they can do so, the damage is already done. There are prospects that’d do more for the Bills poor pass rush, but Dareus helps in multiple facets, vital for a D that didn’t do much particularly well.
4. Cincinnati (4-12) AJ Green, WR, Georgia
Green is in the discussion for #1 overall and for good reason. Cincy fed Owens 139 targets (8th most in the league) and Ochocinco 126 (14th most) without getting 1,000 yards or 75 receptions from either of them. No wonder Carson Palmer would rather retire than come back to that. A passing offense built around Green, the far more efficient Jordan Shipley and Andre Caldwell and TE Jermaine Gresham might not send QBs running away screaming.
5. Arizona (5-11) Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina
This draft doesn’t have a quick fix to the glaring hole on Arizona’s roster (you know, the one that turned Larry Fitzgerald into the 71st most productive WR per play) so they address the pass rush. 5 sacks each from your edge rushers isn’t terrible, but both Joey Porter and Clark Haggans will be 34 when the draft rolls around. Quinn and O’Brien Schofield (2 sacks last year) gives them a pair of young edge rushers to take over and improve a mediocre pass rush. Playing in a hybrid D should help ease the transition from 4-3 DE to 3-4 OLB for Quinn.
6. Cleveland (5-11) Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers is also in the discussion at the top of the draft, but the 4-3 teams at the top of the draft have other very pressing needs and Bowers is an odd fit for a 3-4 D as a 6’4″ 275lb college left end with major edge rushing skills. The Browns seem poised for a switch to a 4-3 defense and Bowers fills one of the major holes created by the transition. Bowers was a force against the pass and the run giving the Browns an every down DE, one spot they can stop worrying about in the scheme change.
7. San Francisco (6-10) Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Niners starting OLBs only totaled 6.5 sacks combined. Seems like a good fit for pass rushing demon Von Miller, but the Niners got a combined 10 sacks from Travis LaBoy and Ahmad Brooks as situational rushers at OLB, which is what Miller would be in the short term. Further the Niners ranked 24th in pass defense with the #14 pass rush. Clearly the problem is in the back end. Prince will help bring the secondary in-line with a very good front 7.
8. Tennessee (6-10) Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Reportedly at least 6 teams have Newton as their #1 overall prospect at the moment. While disinformation is all over the place from now until the draft, disinformation has to be believable to be effective. Even if no one actually has Newton as the top prospect, his stock is clearly high enough in some circles for it to be plausible. The Titans fell in love with one mobile, college superstar QB, have they learned their lesson? I hope not!
9. Dallas (6-10) Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal
The Cowboys starting DEs recorded no sacks and their DL graded out with the #25 ranking in adjusted line yards along with 29th place finishes both against power running and at stuffing runs. A talented 3-4 DE like Jordan should make the Cowboys DL much more disruptive improving the D all around.
10. Washington (6-10) Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Brian Orakpo put up a 2nd Pro Bowl season in 2 years, but was the only Redskin with 3 or more sacks on the season, leading to a bottom 3 pass rush and thus a very poor pass defense. Miller gives them a significant threat for the other side.
11. Houston (6-10) Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The Texans need safety help and a real option at NT badly, unfortunately there are no great prospects at either spot. If the Texans stay in this spot Ayers makes a lot of sense opposite Conner Barwin, next to Ryans and Cushing as his extensive experience at OLB gives the Texans far more flexibility and a better contrast to the pass rushing Barwin than any of the prospects converting from DE.
12. Minnesota (6-10) Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Minnesota has some QB options, who are good enough to let them sit a raw QB for a while, but not so much so they won’t be looking to grab a franchise guy. Gabbert has the ability to shred a pass defense and the decision making to then give the game away. It’ll be just like that fantastic run with Favre.
13. Detroit (6-10) Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
OT is a popular pick for Detroit since Matt Stafford was injured again, but Stafford was only sacked 4 times last year in 100 dropbacks. He’s not getting pounded into mush behind a terrible line, dude has a glass shoulder. The Lions OL finished 4th in the league in adjusted sack rate, the Colts were first making it clear that the QB has a lot to do with the sack rate as well, but both Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton had taken sacks at a much higher than average rate in all of their previous seasons, so it seems unlikely that they were a significant cause of that high rating. Harris should be an excellent addition to a pass D that improved greatly from last year, but underperformed it’s pass rush badly (#6 pass rush, #20 pass D).
14. St. Louis (7-9) Julio Jones, WR, Georgia
With the playoffs on the line the Rams were taking deep shots to a 270lb TE. While hilarious, that’s not how you capitalize on a fantastic young QB. I probably shouldn’t have Jones available this late, but Bradford deserves nice things.
15. Miami (7-9) Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Henne wasn’t that bad, he wasn’t particularly good either (17th in DYAR, 22nd in DVOA with a solid line and decent running game supporting him), but there are 32 starting QB jobs to fill and there aren’t nearly that many guys in the league with a better case to start than Henne. With this QB class they’ll be starting Henne next year even with a 1st round QB in the fold. He shouldn’t be dropping back 35 times a game though. With Ronnie Brown and Sticky Ricky high on mileage and possibly headed elsewhere, Ingram provides a workhorse back.
16. Jacksonville (8-8) Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Jags recent history with DEs is not good, but production like 30.5 sacks, 54.5 TFLs and 13 FFs over the last 3 years means the Jags should definitely get a solid player for a D sorely lacking them.
17. New England (from Oakland 8-8) Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
The Pats didn’t have any player with 6 or more sacks last year and they finished in the bottom half of the league in adjusted sack rate and pass defense. That’s not going to fly when (technically “if”, but almost certainly “when”) their absurdly low turnover rate on offense regresses towards the mean. Houston can rush the passer and has the 3-4 OLB experience to be multi-dimensional in a D that loves to mix it up.
18. San Diego (9-7) JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin
What do you get for a team that’s biggest problem was thinking that the season started in week 8 (and wretched STs play)? Watt is another weapon for a fearsome pass rush and brings some explosiveness to a front that held it’s ground against the run well (3rd against power running), but didn’t get the kind of penetration it takes to really smother a run game (21st in runs stopped for no/negative gain, 14th in line yards, 10th in overall run D).
19. New York Giants (10-6) Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
As a fan of Carimi to Indy I can only hope the Giants don’t love this fit as much as I do. The Giants OL played quite well last year though had some issues converting short yardage on the ground and getting runs stuffed in general. Both OTs are on the wrong side of 30, Carimi gives them a bookend for the more athletic William Beatty making a pair that could anchor great lines for years to come.
20. Tampa Bay (10-6) Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
This past year 21 players had more sacks individually than all the DEs on the Bucs roster combined (9.5) and the man responsible for almost half of them, Stylez G. White, turns 32 this summer. How the Bucs put together the 13th best pass D in the league with that little pass rush is a puzzle, they shouldn’t count on being able to repeat that.
21. Kansas City (10-6) Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St.
Right tackle sticks out like a sore thumb in the Chiefs line stats as their least productive and least used spot to run behind. Add in a mediocre year of pass protection that was capped off with the Chiefs QBs taking 10 sacks on 68 dropbacks in their final 2 games of the year and adding a tackle looks like a very good idea. Sherrod comes from a run heavy offense, but is athletic enough to pass protect very well.
22. Indianapolis (10-6) Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College (MtD Scouting Report)
Castonzo won’t be a revelation in the running game right away, but he’s an excellent pass protector which will really take some heat off Peyton. That’s not to say he can’t do anything for the running game, more effective deep passing and moving Charlie Johnson to RT or guard could do a lot for the run game, even if Castonzo isn’t mauling DEs himself. A 4 year starter at BC, with serious academic chops as biochemistry major and nominee for a Rhodes Scholarship make him a nice fit with the Colts profile for early picks.
23. Philadelphia (10-6) Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
The Eagles pass D (11th) underperformed it’s pass rush (5th) and Smith is the kind of corner that should do well in the Eagles scheme manning up on WRs behind a big blitz letting him exploit his length and strength to lock down a target.
24. New Orleans (11-5) Mikel LeShoure, RB, Illinois
I LOVE LeShoure, a big powerful back with good skills in the passing game and good ball security. The Saints finished 21st in running offense despite a #5 ranking in line yards. Pierre Thomas ran well in ’09, but has a serious ankle injury and has never taken more than 150 carries in a season. Undrafted rookie Chris Ivory put up over 5 YPC and the league’s best success rate, but only 1 reception on the season and fumbling 4 times in 138 touches pretty well undermines his case for a bigger role. LeShoure gives the Saints a back appropriate any situation.
25. Seattle (7-9) Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Seattle’s 7 most targeted players had catch rates of 59%, 51%, 65%, 53%, 61%, 72% and 55%, the lone solidly above average target? Soon to be 35 year old Brandon Stokley who was targeted 43 times all season (the 65% from Justin Forsett isn’t very good for a RB as most of their targets are dumpoffs). Seattle’s improbable playoff run was put to an end in large part due to a failure to execute that basic fundamental of the passing game, catching the football. Baldwin is as sure handed as they come and gives Seattle the kind of ridiculous WR size that the Chargers terrorized the AFC West with.
26. Baltimore (12-4) Nate Solder, OT, Baltimore
The Ravens finished well below average in pass protection and while still run blocking well, they regressed from last year. Getting Marshall Yanda back to guard or a utility role should go a long way to improving the line play.
27. Atlanta (13-3) Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
John Abraham is getting too old to be generating the Falcons pass rush alone. The Falcons other DEs totaled 6 sacks to Abraham’s 13 and the Falcons pass rush finished solidly below average. Clayborn gives the Falcons another pass rushing threat who can be used on run downs as well. He didn’t live up to his fantastic junior year, but he’s still a top talent who could excel right away opposite an elite DE and with dangerous DTs like Babineaux and Jerry on the opponent’s minds as well.
28. New England (14-2) Cam Heyward, DE, Ohio St.
In addition to a mediocre pass rush the Pats D was pushed around often, 21st in line yards, 30th at stopping short yardage runs, 25th stuffing runs in general and 23rd overall against the run. A DE upgrade improves the team across the board.
29. Chicago (11-5) Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
The Bears OL is in shambles. They can’t run block, 28th in line yards, dead last in power success, almost 1/4th of their runs were stopped at or behind the LOS the only run stats the Bears finished outside the bottom 1/3rd of the league were running to the edges and 2nd level/open field yardage, i.e. when the OL wasn’t so intimately involved. They can’t pass block either with the worst adjusted sack rate in the league. Jay Cutler took a league high 52 sacks in the regular season (now wonder his knee gave out), almost once for every 9 dropbacks. The only 1st round caliber OT left (Smith) is a project so the Bears upgrade the interior of the line.
30. New York Jets (11-5) Corey Liuget, DE, Illinois
The Jets lack a top pass rusher with no one topping 6 sacks, but generated a solid pass rush bringing pressure from everywhere. 14 players recorded a sack for the Jets. Not among those 14 was starting DE Mike DeVito. While an edge rusher would be ideal, the value isn’t there so the Jets double down on the pass rush by committee approach.
31. Pittsburgh (12-4) Marcus Cannon, T/G, TCU
The Steelers need line help and a monster like the 6’5″ 350lb Cannon will be right at home on a Steelers line that featured several players in the 330-345 range and only center Maurkice Pouncey under 310lbs.
32. Green Bay (10-6) Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Green Bay has the luxury of developing the very talented, but raw Smith as they can probably squeeze another year, maybe even two out of Chad Clifton and can flip Bulaga over if Smith isn’t ready for the blindside. Rodgers could do wonders in the next few years with Smith and Bulaga protecting him.
33. New England – from Carolina (2-14) Stephen Wiesniewski, C/G, Penn St
The Pats line was quite good in 2010, but Logan Mankins is still fuming without the long term deal he was promised and Stephen Neal is well past 30 and coming off a season ending injury.
34. Buffalo (4-12) Kyle Rudolph, TE, Norte Dame
The Bills’ TEs caught 20 passes last year. I don’t mean their starting TE caught 20 passes, I mean all four TEs on their depth chart combined for 20 catches. Ryan Fitzpatrick won’t be mistaken for a franchise QB, but with a decent cast around him, competence is certainly within his reach.
35. Cincinnati (4-12) Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon St.
Cincy’s DL was pushed around badly last year, sub-par across the board in run defense and dead last against power running. Teams converted almost 3/4ths of runs on 3rd/4th and less than two and goal to go runs within the 2. Paea is very strong against the run, but is also disruptive against the pass.
36. Denver (4-12) Allen Bailey, DT/DE, Miami (FL)
An athletic piece the Broncos can use outside and in on their new 4-3 DL. A disruptive inside rusher is needed as the Broncos got only 4 sacks from their d-linemen last year.
37. Cleveland (5-11) Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
Adding stud rookies at DE and DT should smooth over most of the issues in the Browns conversion to a 4-3 D. Austin sat out all season after accepting improper benefits from an agent but looked great back in action Senior Bowl week.
38. Arizona (5-11) Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas
I don’t like these QBs, but they have potential and teams like Arizona are in dire need of a QB.
39. Tennessee (6-10) Greg Jones, LB, Michigan St.
Jones doesn’t have great size, but his talent and production make him a good fit for a 4-3 team looking for a well rounded player at any LB position.
40. Dallas (6-10) Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
The Cowboys struggled badly defending the pass, despite a decent pass rush.
41. Washington (6-10) Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Locker is an unreal talent, but has yet to put it all together. With McNabb likely to be cast aside after one year and Grossman the other option, Washington is a prime candidate to take the gamble on him.
42. Houston (6-10) Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
Taylor reportedly “carried 337lbs well” I’m not entirely sure how that’s possible, but I assume it means he’s got that 2-man-wide build at 6’3″ 1/2 making him more massive than fat.
43. Minnesota (6-10) Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois
Wilson provides some young talent for a LB corps whose average age is about to cross 30. He’s got some pass rushing skill too which should help a D which got 19 sacks from it’s starting DEs, but just 12 from the rest of the team for a finish in the bottom quarter of the league in adjusted sack rate.
44. Detroit (6-10) Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina
With two LBs coming off the board right in front of the Lions, they are left with a bit of a gamble on a top talent coming off injury. Carter has the athleticism of a top 15 pick, but is less than two months removed from surgery on a torn ACL.
45. San Francisco (6-10) Christian Ponder, QB, Florida St.
Ponder looked good at the Senior Bowl and the new Niners regime isn’t going to be able to sell Alex Smith as the QB of the future.
46. Denver – from Miami (7-9) D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas
With some defensive help in the fold the Broncos grab a much better weapon than Daniel Graham for whoever they decide to roll with at QB.
47. St. Louis (7-9) Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
How does anyone, even a DT start all 16 games and amass as their only statistics, 18 tackles and 2 passes defensed. The Rams need more of a playmaker inside if the D is going to rise above mediocrity.
48. Oakland (8-8) Rodney Hudson, G, Florida St.
Hudson would be a great addition to a line that is starting to get it’s act together after a long stretch of awful play.
49. Jacksonville (8-8) Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA
The Jags gave up 58 passes of 20+ yards and 13 passes of 40+, both placing them in the bottom 3 in the league. They need better safety play if they are going anywhere.
50. San Diego (9-7) Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
Last year Vincent Jackson proved he means business about holding out without a long term deal, so if they aren’t going to give it to him, the Chargers need to look for another deep threat elsewhere.
51. Tampa Bay (10-6) Danny Watkins, G, Baylor
Watkins will be an instant upgrade to a line that was ok in pass pro, but didn’t run block that well.
52. New York Giants (10-6) Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
It’s very likely both Bradshaw and Jacobs will be back next year. Williams could compliment either back and would be far cheaper than keeping both.
53. Indianapolis* (10-6) Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma
While I hope both Sanders and Bullitt will be back Carter would be an excellent addition at safety. A high character prospect with the zone coverage and run support skills to step in at strong safety.
54. Philadelphia* (10-6) Demarcus Love, T/G, Arkansas
The Eagles gave up 50 sacks last year, tied for the 2nd most in the league. While running QBs tend to take more sacks, Kevin Kolb was sacked at a higher than average rate too. Love should improve Vick’s protection.
55. Kansas City* (10-6) Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami
Starting Chris Chambers at WR is an embarrassment.
56. New Orleans* (11-5) Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
The Saints D was pretty good, but a more disruptive interior will improve the run D and really help them wreck havoc bringing pressure.
57. Seattle* (7-9) Christian Ballard, DT, Iowa
The Seahawks got very little impact from their interior players which meant a great effort by Brock and Clemons was largely wasted.
58. Baltimore* (12-4) Brandon Burton, CB, Utah
The Ravens got pretty thin at CB last year, they need to restock.
59. Atlanta* (13-3) Jerrell Jernigan, WR, Troy
60. New England* (14-2) Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh
61. San Diego – from New York Jets* (11-5) Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada
62. Chicago* (11-5) Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
63. Pittsburgh* (12-4) Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville
64. Green Bay* (10-6) Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona