April 20, 2010
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17. San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina) - QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: The question with Clausen is whether he's already been coached to the limits of his physical potential. The 49ers, who have modified their preferred power offense to fit Alex Smith's shotgun preferences, might not care. What they need to run inside power effectively is a quarterback who can run a system from under center and make all the short to intermediate throws. Clausen would be a near-perfect fit for such a scheme.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers - C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: It's been a very long offseason for the Steelers, and a little reliability would be in order come draft day. Pouncey is as ready-made as any draft prospect - he's got the size, strength, and technique to excel at the nest level, especially in Pittsburgh's preferred shotgun, no-huddle stuff; it's a lot like what Pouncey helped run at Florida. Pouncey is also familiar with the option game, and that's helpful if Dennis Dixon(notes) winds up as the team's starting quarterback for any length of time.
19. Atlanta Falcons -- DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida: The Falcons have a surprisingly effective gap-control front, which will be even better when tackle Peria Jerry(notes) returns from injury. Having signed Dunta Robinson(notes), they also have the cornerback help they needed. What they don't have is the kind of edge rusher that can make a difference against pass-happy teams. Pierre-Paul is a work in progress - he's still very raw when it comes to technique, and nobody will ever mistake him for a run defender. But he's got the kind of blinding speed at the snap that makes opposing quarterbacks very nervous.
20. Houston Texans - RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State: Losing Robinson to Atlanta puts a need at cornerback for the Texans, but they may look harder at the running back position. Injuries and fumbles have limited Steve Slaton's(notes) effectiveness, though he's a perfect change-of-pace back in Houston's one-cut-and-go scheme. Mathews, however, brings a power and consistency the team simply doesn't have at this point. He'll need to improve on his pass-blocking in this offense, but the 2009 NCAA leader in rushing yards per game can solidify the Texans' ground game once and for all.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma: In the past few seasons, the Bengals' offense has morphed from an aerial attack to a power-based system with frequent six-man lines and a lot of smashmouth. At 6-5 and 260 pounds with legit 4.6 speed, Gresham produces a matchup nightmare in such an offense. He can take quick passes near the line and bull over linebackers, then run the deep and seam routes and blow by safeties. Gresham is the perfect blend of old-school power and new-school versatility at the tight end position.
22. New England Patriots - OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas: New Eng;and's defense has been undergoing a fairly serious rebuild over the last two seasons, and the one thing Bill Belichick still doesn't have is a consistent pass rusher for his hybrid fronts. Kindle can fill that need immediately as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Bulked up about 10 pounds, he could be the perfect hybrid end. With his aggressive style and ability to maintain constant forward motion, Kindle will be a perfect addition to the Pats' younger, faster defense.
23. Green Bay Packers - OT Anthony Davis(notes), Rutgers: While the Packers have stretched the careers of tackles Chad Clifton(notes) and Mark Tauscher(notes) to their logical conclusions, more is required in such a pass-heavy offense. The only reason Davis slides this far in the first round is that there are issues with his consistency and work ethic. But if his talent is harnessed, Davis provides a prototype pass defender with excellent technique.
24. Philadelphia Eagles - S Taylor Mays, USC: In trading for linebacker Ernie Sims(notes), the Eagles show that they're not averse to talented project players. In the same regard, nobody doubts Mays' pure athleticism - at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he's got the kind of rare 4.3 speed that sends some scouts reeling. But when those same scouts turn on the game film, they may wonder how much of a developmental prospect Mays could be. He doesn't transition well and his hip turn isn't nearly as smooth as you'd like. He loses some of that speed on the field because of technique issues, but few players at any level possesses such captivating physical tools.
25. Baltimore Ravens - DT Jared Odrick, Penn State: Though they recently signed defensive end Cory Redding(notes), the Ravens are also looking past stopgap moves and on to the future. After losing Dwan Edwards(notes) and Justin Bannan(notes), Baltimore needs more quickness and toughness at the line. Odrick, the 21009 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, combines pass-rush ability and toughness against the run in a way that connoisseurs of those vintage Ravens defenses would enjoy.
26. Arizona Cardinals - OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri: Replacing Karlos Dansby(notes) won't be easy; there's a reason the Dolphins paid so much to get him. Three-down inside linebackers in 3-4 defenses are hard to find. Weatherspoon is a 4-3 transplant, but he has the range in coverage, and downhill toughness against the run, to make a necessary and complete difference in Arizona's defense.
27. Dallas Cowboys - WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State: An athletic, controversial receiver? Check. The rumor mill has been all over this one, and why not? Miles Austin(notes) and Jason Witten(notes) need a complementary weapon, and Bryant could be a monster in a Dallas offense perfectly set to exploit his toughness over the middle and productivity after the catch. Bryant will make the catches Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton(notes) can't, sending the Cowboys' offense to a different level.
28. San Diego Chargers - NT Terrence Cody, Alabama: Rarely do we see such a need pick in the late first round, especially for a player seen by some as a first-round reach. But when they lost nose tackle Jamal Williams(notes), first to a triceps injury and them to the Denver Broncos, the need became acute. Cody has dropped down to about 350 pounds, and if he can maintain that weight, he has great potential. Not only is he nearly impossible to move off the point, but he has surprising foot speed and short-space agility for a man his size.
29. New York Jets - G Mike Iupati, Idaho: The most active offseason team filled a lot of holes in free agency, but if the Jets are to head back to the AFC Championship game (and maybe out-shoot the Colts this time), a bit more power on an already dominant offensive line would measure as equal parts luxury and necessity. Current left guard Alan Faneca(notes) isn't what he used to be, and that's a problem when you want to pound the rock as much as Rex Ryan prefers. Iupati is a nasty, old-school blocker in a world of two-point, spread offense finesse guys. He could start right away if necessary and has everything it takes to be an elite anchor for the next decade.
30. Minnesota Vikings -- CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama: When Jackson got his grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, he didn't open it. He simply handed it to coach Nick Saban, and asked him to hold it until after the BCS Championship game. The grade may be outmoded anyway - he got a second-round mark, but Jackson is climbing on just about every board. Teams like his pure speed and ability to trail quick receivers. Jackson can play zone as well, but it's worth noting that as a physical player, he may have some issues with the NFL's defensive contact rules.
31. Indianapolis Colts - OT Charles Brown, USC: Colts team president Bill Polian has never been shy about expressing his team's needs. When he threw his offensive line under the bus following Indy's Super Bowl loss to the Saints, he pointed the most likely first-round direction in the draft. Brown, a converted tight end, has the agility to excel in the Colts' inside and outside zone running plays, and his experience with a pro-style offense will serve him well in a system that looks simple on its face but changes infinitely at the line of scrimmage.
32. New Orleans Saints - OLB Jerry Hughes, TCU: In 2009, the NFL champs had two defensive issues - a front line that leaked against the run in three-man fronts, and inconsistent pass pressure. Will Smith(notes) will be back, but free agent acquisition Alex Brown(notes) is more of a do-it-all guy. The Saints need someone who can fire off the edge and keep Gregg Williams from sending everyone on his famed 14-man blitzes. While Hughes doesn't have the size to stand up against the run, he's a potentially scary pass-rusher as a 3-4 linebacker and situational 4-3 end. He can also help the Saints' issues against the run with his ability to penetrate the backfield and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
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