Wed Mar 24 07:14pm EDT
Since nothing's confirmed, the players taken in this mock are based on the assumption that the rumored Donovan McNabb(notes)-to-St. Louis trade (which the Rams are now shooting down) will not come to pass. If it does, that would obviously throw a big kink in the first few picks - but hey, that's why we're doing mocks all the way up to draft day, right? At the just-concluded Owner's Meetings, Andy Reid said that the Eagles are entertaining offers for all their quarterbacks, but the alleged deal that has McNabb going to the Rams for the 33rd overall pick and safety O.J. Atogwe seems to have the most legs. In the meantime, we'll add some comments from other coaches during the media breakfasts in Orlando this week, and see what might be revealed. Here are picks 17-32; the first half of the first round can be found here.
17. San Francisco 49ers: RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson -- The Niners have tried to find a complementary back for Frank Gore(notes) for years, and they finally strike gold with Spiller. He has the ability to get away from tacklers downfield that this offense desperately needs, he'd be a receiving threat out of the backfield, and his return ability would greatly improve San Francisco's dormant special teams.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida -- We're not sure what the future holds for Ben Roethlisberger(notes) (though the recent concerns expressed by the Commissioner and the Steelers' front office have to leave fans uneasy), but this team needs tough inside blocking on a no-matter-what basis. Just as it's hard to find those big two-gap tackles, it's not every day you see a guy able to block those big men as Pouncey can.
19. Atlanta Falcons: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida -- If Dunta Robinson(notes) is as advertised in the Atlanta secondary, Atlanta could be one good edge rusher away from a deep playoff run. Pierre-Paul is still learning the game, but he's got the kind of speed and agility that gives offensive tackles nightmares.
20. Houston Texans: CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State -- Haden may be the most well-rounded cornerback in this class, but Wilson could have the best lockdown potential. He'll be debited by some teams because he's not very strong in run support. However, he can turn his hips and trail receivers downfield in a way that almost brings Darrelle Revis(notes) to mind.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma -- With question marks at receiver and running back (not to mention wondering which version of Carson Palmer(notes) will show up at any given time), the Bengals need offensive consistency. One of the best ways to get that done is to acquire the kind of tight end that can catch the ball consistently, and then run over everyone in his way. Gresham could be a devastating mid-yardage threat in Cincinnati's offense.
22. New England Patriots: OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas -- Bill Belichick held on to veteran linebackers and linemen as long as he could before the bills came due and he had to start getting younger on defense. Kindle is just the kind of outside disruptor desperately needed by a team whose pass rush has been a problem over the last few years. You want versatility? Kindle is the first player to be named as a finalist for both the Butkus (linebacker) and Hendricks (defensive end) Awards.
23. Green Bay Packers: G Mike Iupati, Idaho -- People who are looking at Iupati as a potential left tackle might want to take a step back, but there's no doubt that he brings a devastating combination of size, toughness, and agility to the field. Despite having some technique issues to deal with, he could start just about anywhere on Green Bay's current line and be an improvement.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: DE Everson Griffen, USC -- The Eagles' defense is built on pressure, and Griffen has the measurables to make that his focus. He's got 4.6 speed at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, and enough quickness in pass rush to make a difference. He sometimes gets washed out on blocks and coaches would like to see more intensity.
25. Baltimore Ravens: WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech -- Joe Flacco(notes) has one of the best downfield arms in the NFL, but it's been in drydock as the Ravens have treated their receiver corps as a relatively unimportant concern. Getting Anquan Boldin(notes) was a major step in the right direction. Thomas would be the deep threat to Boldin's possession-receiver toughness -- he's not route-savvy because he wasn't required to be in Tech's offense, but few receivers in this class are as physical on deep patterns.
26. Arizona Cardinals: OLB Ricky Sapp, Clemson -- The Cardinals have needs all over the place after their star roster was picked off by retirements, trades and free agency. One need transcended the before and after of that process, and it has to do with edge rush. Sapp would be an ideal fit as an outside linebacker in a gap control 3-4, which is just what the Cards run these days.
27. Dallas Cowboys: S Taylor Mays, USC -- A good fit here in that Mays reminds me a bit of Ken Hamlin(notes). He's as athletic as you could ever want, but his stiff hips and rough form in space seem to put him as a box safety or hybrid rover. It's possible that his lack of refined coverage ability could be overdone, and some team could get an outright steal at the bottom of the first round if Mays enhances his game over time.
28. San Diego Chargers: RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State -- At the AFC media breakfast, one thing was on Norv Turner's mind above all else -- the need for a franchise running back who can do it all. "I guess the thing because of what we are and our guys, obviously you want him to be the best runner he can be, but the more versatile the player - catch the ball coming out of the backfield, pass protect, do it all, a complete back." No back in this class is more complete than Matthews, a 220-pound inside runner with 4.5 speed, the ability catch, and the willingness to block.
29. New York Jets: WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame -- Tate's combination of running back form in space and toughness in traffic brings a young Steve Smith (Carolina version) to mind. When Mark Sanchez(notes) tires of Braylon Edwards'(notes) loping, ball-dropping style, he'll find Tate's intensity to be a welcome addition.
30. Minnesota Vikings: CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers -- Sometimes, draft picks boil down to simple math. In 2009, the Vikings were the best team against the run by most metrics you'd care to use -- and decidedly average defending the pass. Like Ronde Barber(notes), McCourty is an undersized (5-foot-11, 193) cornerback with a twin in the NFL (brother Jason was selected in the sixth round of last year's draft by the Titans), and the football acumen to make a difference at the next level. He combines sub-4.4 speed and surprising tackling toughness in an intriguing package.
31. Indianapolis Colts: OT Charles Brown, USC -- Peyton Manning(notes) doesn't need any more kudos thrown his way, but his 2009 season was amazing in that he played perhaps better than he ever had behind a line that did not inspire confidence. And after Bill Polian's post-Super Bowl comments about the offensive line's performance, you can expect moves to be made. A former tight end, Brown has the agility and experience in a pro-style offense to meet the Colts' exacting standards.
32. New Orleans Saints: OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri -- Cleveland snapped up Scott Fujita(notes), leaving the Saints with a need at outside linebacker for a player with the dual abilities to head downhill against the run, and to drop into coverage for all of Gregg Williams' fake blitzes. Weatherspoon has those to spare, plus the confidence to withstand the pressure of playing a feature role on a defending champion.
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