Mock: Panthers can pass on drafting QB
CB Peterson is safest pick, so talent-poor Carolina can select passer at No. 1 next year
Analysis: One of the reasons the Panthers have the first selection in this draft is that they are talent poor. I agree the Panthers need help at quarterback, but I do not know how you pass on a player who is the surest and safest pick on your board. There are more questions about these quarterbacks than there are about Peterson, who is a dynamic football player. Take the quarterback next season when you once again have the first overall pick.
Analysis: Dareus is the best defensive linemen I studied in this draft. He's a perfect fit for the Broncos, who are trying to rebuild a defensive line that was one of the poorest against the run last season. Dareus is a load to deal with down after down. Strong and physical. Never see him stop. Always attacking his man. Never see him coming off the field.
Analysis: In 2010, the Bills were so desperate for outside linebacker help in their 3-4 that they signed a washed-up Shawne Merriman, who did nothing but get hurt. The Bills were ranked 30th in the league in third-down defense last season and 23rd in sacks per attempt. The one thing Miller can do is rush the passer, and he proved during the Senior Bowl practices and game that if he is called on to drop, he can do that, too.
Analysis: There are whispers that the Bengals should take a quarterback here because of the situation with Carson Palmer, but I feel that they will wait until the second round and look at one there in case that matter is not resolved. The Bengals also have to think about what they want to do with Chad Ochocinco at wide receiver. Green is the best receiver in the draft. He is a downfield threat and a home run hitter.
Analysis: The Cardinals' quarterback situation was a mess last season. Three different starters took snaps at various points. Gabbert will be asked to do what Matt Leinart couldn't when he was selected 10th overall in 2006 -- bring stability to the position for the first time since the retirement of Kurt Warner. Outside linebacker and offensive line selections here would help as well.
Analysis: I worked for Mike Holmgren in Green Bay when he was the head coach, so I understand how important the wide receiver position is to him. He's had some great ones over the years. The Browns need to find a way to help Colt McCoy, who did a credible job when put in the lineup as a starter. Jones is an outstanding fit here because of his explosive playmaking ability, which is something the Browns do not have. Cleveland also could use an offensive tackle or outside linebacker.
Analysis: New 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has been active in personally scouting all the quarterbacks in this draft. There is a side of me that believes they could take one in the second round, but I also think Harbaugh wants to build an offense around Newton like Andy Reid did with the Eagles and Donovan McNabb. Harbaugh is outstanding working with quarterbacks and probably feels this talent is too good to pass on.
Analysis: Back-to-back players go for the national champion Auburn Tigers. This selection would have me a little nervous, but Fairley's former defensive line coach at Auburn, Tracy Rocker, would be his position coach for the Titans. I really thought there was a clear difference between Dareus and Fairley in the way they both played, so it will be up to Rocker to get the most out of Fairley.
Analysis: The Cowboys tried to get another year out of Marc Colombo, and it was a struggle for most of it. Smith is athletic and young (20 years old). Pairing him with with Doug Free at left tackle would allow the club to handle the majority of the pass-rushers in the NFL. He has impressive feet and upper-body strength. The club could go with a defensive end here, but I am willing to bet that the offensive tackles on its board are rated higher than Cameron Jordan or Watt.
Analysis: You might think this a reach but I don't, and I don't think Redskins GM Bruce Allen thinks so, either. On tape, Smith is the second-best corner on the draft board. DeAngelo Hall played well at times last season, but who will be the starter at right corner for this team? Kevin Barnes? Smith visited Redskins Park, so that tells me something. He would match up well with all the receivers in the NFC East. Also, watch the Redskins trying to trade back.
Analysis: Wade Phillips is the new defensive coordinator in Houston. The club is going back to the 3-4 defense and will need ends and outside linebackers. Watt would be a perfect fit to play opposite Mario Williams. Tough, high-motor guy. Phillips will fall in love with him. Corner Prince Amukamara is still on the board and could be selected here, but I think the defensive coaches will select Watt.
Analysis: It was a struggle for the Vikings in the secondary at the cornerback spot last season. They were struggling to find consistency opposite Antoine Winfield. The Vikings will look to add a corner who can play man-for-man. Amukamara can do that. Minnesota will be tempted to draft an offensive tackle here as well.
Analysis: Lions coach Jim Schwartz understands talent, especially on the defensive side. Smith might be the best pass-rusher in this draft. All the scouts I have spoken with rave about this player. Schwartz has a force in the middle with Ndamukong Suh. Look for him to add a weapon off the edge to make life difficult for quarterbacks.
Analysis: The Rams are dying for a receiver to help Sam Bradford and might try to move up to get one, but how much are they willing to spend? Without the receiver, the Rams need help inside on the defensive line. Gary Gibson is a street free agent who is a starter. Liuget gives them a big, physical body to play next to Fred Robbins inside and help Chris Long and James Hall on the outside. They also could take an outside linebacker here.
Analysis: The Dolphins will be tempted to hand in the card for Mark Ingram from Alabama, but they really need the help inside with the center/guard spot. Center Richie Incognito does nothing for me and most probably doesn't do it for GM Jeff Ireland, either. Twin brother Maurkice Pouncey was tremendous as a rookie for Pittsburgh.
Analysis: Here ends the slide for Bowers. The Jaguars have two nice inside tackles in Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton. Aaron Kampman can get pressure off the edge as well, but adding Bowers will give their defense serious four-man pressure. At some point they will draft a quarterback and some speed at receiver.
Analysis: The Patriots will not have to look far to replace Matt Light at left tackle. Castonzo is a great fit for the Patriots and what they do scheme-wise. He is tough, smart and reliable. Boston College offensive linemen have a solid history in the NFL.
Analysis: Ayers is one of the best outside linebacker in the draft. He will play all over the place and is impressive as a rusher with his hand in the dirt. Can make things happen. Chases the ball, redirects and gets in on plays. He can drop, but you want him attacking the pocket.
Analysis: Tom Coughlin would have liked a shot at Castonzo but the Patriots beat him to the punch. He also needs speed at outside linebacker, but the Chargers beat him as well. All of the Giants' offensive linemen are older than 30. Carimi makes a lot of sense here because of his toughness and nasty side. The Giants have a history of taking Big 10 linemen that goes back to the George Young days. Here is one more.
Analysis: The Bucs could use a guard here as well, but the need at right tackle is more pressing. Donald Penn did a solid job at left tackle but James Lee off waivers from Cleveland is not the answer on the right side. Look for the Bucs to do everything in their power to help Josh Freeman at quarterback and LeGarrette Blount running the ball. Solder is an athlete who can play in space and mirror edge rushers. Derek Sherrod from Mississippi State is a possibility, but I like Solder better.
Analysis: The Chiefs could use a receiver with speed, but all the top ones are long gone. Quinn is an interesting player here because he has a build similar to that of the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware, with the same kind of pass-rush skills. Could see the Chiefs teaching him how to drop but also using him like the Cowboys use Ware with his hand in the dirt coming off the edge. Could be interesting with Tamba Hali playing the other side.
Analysis: Colts GM Bill Polian has always been different in the way he approaches the draft and has had success doing it that way. He is not at all afraid to pick small-school kids. The Colts need to get bigger inside. Thought about Phil Taylor of Baylor here as well but went with Wilkerson. Could use some depth at end as well. Also watch TCU's Andy Dalton early in this draft for the Colts.
Analysis: There is too much value here for the Eagles. Like the Colts, they could use help inside at defensive tackle but Ingram brings toughness, power and an attitude. He is a hard-nosed player. He is everything LeSean McCoy is not. Nice one-two punch for the Eagles here.
Analysis: Sometimes you just catch a break in the draft, and this is one of those instances. Jordan slides through the draft and winds up on a defense that can really use a base end. Jordan will be most effective when he lines up over the guards as a nickel rusher. This is where the majority of his sacks will come.
Analysis: Seahawks GM John Schneider has been traveling the country studying these quarterbacks, much like the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh. This choice could come down to Locker or Arkansas' Ryan Mallett. The former offensive coordinator for Pete Carroll at USC is now the Huskies' head coach -- Steve Sarkisian. The Seahawks will have this player cold, which is why I see Schneider handing in the card for Locker.
Analysis: Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has an incredible knack for drafting players who fit his scheme and play at a high level for many years. His head coach, John Harbaugh, also has an outstanding eye for talent. Newsome knows he will need some corners on his roster because Lardarius Webb and Josh Wilson will not be long-term answers. Newsome drafted one of the best safeties in the history of the NFL in Ed Reed from Miami. He once again goes that direction to find a corner. Offensive tackle is also a possibility.
Analysis: For so many years, tight end Tony Gonzalez has been one of the most productive players in the NFL. A mismatch player in ever sense of the word. But it's time to move on. When you are drafting this late, you need to select players a round earlier because they won't get back to you in the next round. Rudolph is the best tight end on the board and needs to be taken now. The Falcons also could look at offensive tackle and corner, but Rudolph would be a solid pick.
Analysis: This program has made a living out of taking high-motor, high-effort players who love to compete and do a bunch of different jobs. Reed is that type of guy for the Patriots. He can fit in several roles and will be productive in any one of them.
Analysis: The Bears were terrible in the beginning of the 2010 season but were able to shuffle some players around to make things work. Don't feel like Lovie Smith wants to do that again. Frank Omiyale is not the answer at left tackle. Sherrod would offer a nice upgrade at that spot. The Bears also could use some help inside at defensive tackle so watch for Baylor's Phil Taylor here.
Analysis: The Jets look to add a big, powerful player at the point of attack. Taylor has the size and strength to hold up nicely in the running game but also give the Jets some push in the middle of the pocket. Kris Jenkins was this guy, but knee injuries have been his downfall in recent seasons.
Analysis: The one thing the Steelers learned in the Super Bowl was that you have to match up against teams that attack you with multiple wide receiver packages. The Steelers can put pressure on you all day, but if they can't cover, there are going to be problems. Williams can play press coverage and match up in the slot. Nice value at this point in the draft for a team that needs help here.
Analysis: It's a great feeling when you are selecting 32nd because it means you were the champion. Packers GM Ted Thompson has done a wonderful job of mixing draft picks with street free agents and adding players such as Charles Woodson. Thompson loves to draft because he was brought up that way under Ron Wolf. He will get value for his selection. The Packer Way is to try to build the offensive line, which is why I feel that he will select Watkins and play him in Daryn Colledge's spot on the left side.