Usually I wait around till March or so before I start doing work and pumping out mock drafts, but with no free agency on the horizon, I wanted to put one out a little earlier. I'm not sure the regularity in which I'll do one, maybe once a week, at most. A lot of sites that pump out mock drafts on a regular basis just seem like they change things for the sake of changing them. I do my mocks based on my own research, what I know about teams and how they operate, and from people I talk to.
Click the jump. Do it.
1. Carolina Panthers (2-14)- Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn
This will be the new "off the wall" mock selection for sites pretty soon, but I've felt his a real possibility for a while. While the team did draft Jimmy Clausen in the second round last year, it was almost a "too good a value" pick more than who they wanted. I'm not going to crush Clausen for his poor season on a really bad football team, but Cam Newton's physical talents are hard to pass up.
2. Denver Broncos (4-12)- Patrick Peterson - CB- LSU
Denver is making the switch from the 3-4 back to the 4-3, so a pick like Da'Quan Bowers will also fit here, but the Broncos are likely going to lose Champ Bailey in free agency. They've opened contract talks, but he's put his Denver home up for sale and the feeling is he'd rather play for a team in contention, not on the rebuild, in the twilight of his career. Peterson will immediately start on the Broncos.
3. Buffalo Bills (4-12)- Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Like Cam Newton first overall, Cam Jordan is going to start climbing up people's mock drafts. Buffalo still needs lineman in the 3-4 to make it work. They recently released starting defensive end Marcus Stroud and Jordan offers the ability to step right in and start in a system he's familiar with on Day 1. Currently, Buffalo is only 5-deep on their entire defensive line.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)- AJ Green- WR- Georgia
This is simply a best available player selection for the Bengals. Their defense is pretty solid and they have a strong defensive line already. Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are not guaranteed to both be back in Cincinnati, and Green will provide a fallback plan and improve their overall depth.
5. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
While the Cardinals need a quarterback in the worst way, I think ultimately they wind up finding a way to finagle Kevin Kolb from the Philadelphia Eagles. I doubt it will be the 5th overall pick, however. The Cardinals are in desperate need of a rush backer in the 3-4 scheme and Miller will provide exactly that.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11)- Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Like the Broncos, the Browns are transitioning back to a 4-3 defense from the 3-4. The Browns recently purged their defense of some players, including defensive tackle Shaun Rodgers. The Browns will to immediately look for a right end in the 4-3 scheme and Bowers would plug right in at that roll.
7. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The 49ers are another team many peg with a quarterback early, but I think Jim Harbaugh is going to try and do work with Alex Smith. Smith isn't a total train wreck and Harbaugh might feel he can salvage something out of him. The 49ers defense is solid, but it lacks in the secondary. Amukamara is a good fit because he can play corner or safety for the 49ers.
8. Tennessee Titans (6-10)- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
The Titans desperately need a quarterback, especially after Jeff Fisher left. The team still plans to release or trade former first round pick Vince Young and the only other quarterbacks on the roster are Kerry Collins and Rusty Smith. New head coach Mike Munchak would prefer to roll with a veteran at the quarterback position, but the Titans will need to address it early. It's a marriage of need and value.
9. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)- Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama
While Dallas has major concerns in the secondary, they also need to address their aging defensive line. Dareus adds an injection of youth to the Cowboys 3-4 system. Dareus can play both the defensive end spot and add some weight to eventually take over at the nose tackle position.
10. Washington Redskins (6-10)- Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Hate to be cliche here, but the worst kept secret in the NFL is the fact that the Washington Redskins covet Jake Locker. They need to address quarterback of the future with Donovan McNabb being a total disaster of a pick up last year and it's not even a sure thing he'll be back in 2011. Locker draws very similar comparisons to Jay Cutler, who Mike Shanahan picked with the Broncos.
11. Houston Texans (6-10)- Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
The Texans are making the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and they'll need a rush backer in the scheme. While Mario Williams is likely to play kind of a hybrid role on the defense, he'll be with his hand on the ground for the most part. Smith is an athletic freak who should have no issue playing standing up and knows how to get to the quarterback.
12. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
While the interior line of the Vikings is still the best part of it's defense, it's going to need an injection of youth. Kevin Williams will turn 31 this season and Pat Williams will turn 39, behind them are 31 year old Jimmy Kennedy and 23 year old Letroy Guion. Fairley represents a best available player pick here, and I think he's going to slide due to character and work ethic concerns.
13. Detroit Lions (6-10)- Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Frankly put, the Lions need to protect Matthew Stafford. Jeff Backus is an adequate tackle, but not on the left side. Smith has tremendous upside and is amazing athletic for his size. Smith played right tackle in college, but he's a former tight end with the athletic ability and feet to play on the left side at the next level.
14. St. Louis Rams (7-9)- Julio Jones- WR- Alabama
This is kind of a no brainer pick here. The Rams desperately need help at the wide receiver position and it's pretty stellar what rookie Sam Bradford was able to do with the weapons he had. The Rams will get back some receivers they lost to injury, but Jones should come right in and help their offense.
15. Miami Dolphins (7-9)- Robert Quinn, LB, UNC
Everyone wants to pen Mark Ingram here, but I don't see it. If Miami were to take a runningback, I actually think they'd opt for Mikel Leshoure over Ingram. While Miami doesn't necessarily need another pass rusher with the emergence of Cameron Wake and Koa Misi, but it doesn't hurt either.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)- Christian Ballard, DL, Iowa
I'm sure right now most Jaguars fans are going "WHAT?" Ballard is a versatile defensive lineman that can play any position on the line in a 4-3. He's not necessarily an edge rusher, but he can play both defensive end positions and be effective. He can also come in on passing downs and provide a rush from the inside, like he did in college. To me, this screams Gene Smith pick.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland 8-8)- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Patriots are secretly rebuilding their once mighty defense. They've shored up a few of the positions, but they still need help on the defensive line. Clayborn can step right in and help at the 3-4 defensive end position. He's big, powerful, and can rush the passer.
18. San Diego Chargers (9-7)- Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
The Chargers had the best defense overall in the NFL last season, but they still need help rushing the passer. Larry English has been a massive disappointment and the Chargers have quite a few linebackers hitting free agency. Houston should fly up boards after a strong combine showing and he just knows how to get to the quarterback.
19. New York Giants (10-6)- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The Giants have a lot of age in their linebacking corps and Ayers will likely be able to step right in and start. Michael Boley has been adequate and Keith Bullock was a good risk signing, but how much longer can he play? Many see Ayers as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he also fits in a 4-3 on the strong side.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Bucs shored up the middle of their defensive line in their first two picks in last years draft and now they'll look for a pass rusher. While Kerrigan doesn't hold up that great against the run, he'll be able to play on the right side of the line and rush the passer off the edge.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)- Phil Taylor- NT- Baylor
It's been reported that Shaun Rodgers is going to visit the Chiefs, which makes a ton of sense because they need a nose tackle in their 3-4 defense. Phil Taylor is far and away the best pure nose tackle in the draft and Scott Pioli likes to build his lines.
22. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)- Anthony Castonzo- OT- Boston College
Guess what Bill Polian has ignored for years and failed when he actually tried to address it with Tony Ugoh? The offensive line. Castonzo is arguably the best overall offensive tackle in the draft and he should be able to start right away on either the left or right side of the offensive line.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
The Eagles has a massive hole in their secondary opposite Asante Samuel. They've been trying to fill the void for a while now and can address with with Jimmy Smith. He's got good size for the corner position and can play in man.
24. New Orleans Saints (11-5)- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Saints need to shore up their defensive line, especially at the end position opposite Will Smith. Watt can fill that left defensive end role. He's strong against the point, but he can also get to the quarterback.
25. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)- Marvin Austin, DT, UNC
The Seahawks still have a lot of needs, but their first two picks last season helped propel them into the playoffs. Seattle has been trying to build their defensive line for a while and Austin would help that. He's an explosive player who can collapse the pocket from the inside. He's a risk selection, but he has all of the tools to be a dominant defensive tackle in the league.
26. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami(FL)
It's not secret the Ravens need to start rebuilding their struggling secondary. They made a play to get Josh Wilson last year and he had a pretty good season, but he's a free agent. Ladarius Webb on the other side is an OK player, but it's a position that needs to be addressed.
27. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Gabe Carimi and the Falcons are a match made in heaven. The Falcons, while having Matt Ryan, are a power running football team at their heart. Carimi is a power tackle, who's ideal fit is probably on the right side but he has the ability to play on the left, especially on a run oriented football team.
28. New England Patriots (14-2)- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
New England doesn't necessarily "need" a wide receiver, but they do need a player who can get open down the football field. Baldwin can do exactly that. The Patriots have a lot of receivers who are great at the shorter routes, but don't have anyone who can get deep with consistency. Baldwin would bring back what the Patriots lost when Randy Moss went in the tank.
29. Chicago Bears (11-5)- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
If anyone should hope for an offensive tackle to fall, it's Jay Cutler. The Bears line quite frankly is atrocious. Solder is kind of a boom or bust offensive tackle, but his potential upside at left tackle is tremendous.
30. New York Jets (11-5)- Allen Bailey, DL, Miami(FL)
The Jets defensive line needs an injection. Trevor Pryce was a stop gap player, Shaun Ellis is a free agent, and Mike DeVito is best as a rotational player. Bailey doesn't really have a defined position, but he's got superb athletic ability. He would be a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end, especially if he gets on a team who can coach his ability out of him..
31. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
While through some act of God, the Steelers have been able to find success with an offensive line in as bad a shape as theirs, it's time they finally address it. It started with addressing the interior with Maurkice Pouncey last year and it should continue with Derrick Sherrod to fit in one of the tackle positions.
32. Green Bay Packers (10-6)- Muhammad Wilkerson- DL- Temple
The Packers have a lot of age at their defense end positions. Wilkerson could immediately provide much needed depth and rotation at the Packers 3-4 end positions that have suffered injuries. Wilkerson is going to climb up draft boards as teams get their hands on him. He's likely going to run terrible at the combine, but he's a 3-4 defensive lineman, not an edge rusher.