March 31, 2010
Despite all the folderol about Tim Tebow's recent Pro Day ("ZOMG! He can actually sort of throw overhand now!"), the most important private workout for NFL scouts in 2010 took place in Norman, Oklahoma on the 29th. In proving that he had fully recovered from the shoulder injuries that ended his 2009 season, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford set the draft boards in motion and gave some certainty to what had been a very fluid process. If he hadn't looked as good as he did, Bradford might have set the wheels turning for one of two defensive tackles to hear their names called with the first overall pick. We begin the second part of this mock with the quarterback rated behind Bradford on every list.
17. San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina) -- QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: Aaron Rodgers(notes) and Brady Quinn(notes), say hello to Jimmy Clausen. He might drop down the first round just like you did. The recent explosion of spread offense quarterbacks who find professional transitions difficult may have people overestimating quarterbacks who played in pro-style offenses but come up short in other important areas. Clausen was productive in the right kind of system at Notre Dame, but a good dose of film review should have a lot of teams balking in the end. He's got a very limited palette when it comes to deep throws, and he telegraphs his reads far too frequently. He's more Jeff Garcia(notes) than Joe Montana. That doesn't make him a bust, but it also doesn't make him a top-five quarterback.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers -- C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: The Steelers' offseason has been far more eventful than anyone inside the franchise would like. When it's time to turn away from the police blotter and head back to the draft board, they'll see what's been staring them in the face for at least two seasons -- their offensive line is a problem from left to right. Pouncey brings experience with the shotgun snap favored by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians (in 2009, Pittsburgh ran shotgun plays 40.1 percent of the time, fifth in the league) as well as the size and drive-blocking ability needed in a line that's become less powerful in the middle.
19. Atlanta Falcons -- DE Jason Pierre-Paul, USF: Two things kept the Falcons out of the playoffs in 2009 -- a below-average pass rush, and a secondary that allowed too many big plays. GM Thomas Dimitroff took care of the latter need with the signing of cornerback Dunta Robinson(notes). Pierre-Paul could solve the first issue in a way that the disappointing Jamaal Anderson(notes) never could.
20. Houston Texans -- CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State: And in losing Robinson, the Texans turn to Wilson to fill the gap. Though Houston plays more zone than man defense, and Wilson has the chops to step right into that scheme, his best ability may be the way he turns his hips and trails deep receivers out of initial press coverage. When you're facing Peyton Manning(notes) twice a year, that's a very valuable asset.
21. Cincinnati Bengals -- WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State: Well, let's see. He missed most of the 2009 season after lying to the NCAA about his relationship with Deion Sanders. There are major questions about his maturity, and he reportedly showed up for his private workout without the cleats that he forgot. The Bengals have long believed that they can find value in the draft by taking players whose stock has dropped due to ancillary issues, and Bryant certainly fits the mold. On the football side, Bryant does have the toughness over the middle and ability to get downfield after the catch that would make him a fine target for quarterback Carson Palmer(notes).
22. New England Patriots -- OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas: Forced to rebuild his defense after years of reliance on heady veterans, Pats head coach Bill Belichick has seen his team fall behind in pass rush. As an award-level defender at end and outside linebacker, Kindle would be a great fit in Belichick's hybrid defenses that often switch between 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. Kindle's not just an edge rusher, though -- he can get downhill against the run and chase down the best offensive weapon.
23. Green Bay Packers -- CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers: While offensive line is the primary need for Green Bay, sometimes the draft doesn't fall the way you want and you have to look at secondary needs. That's exactly what the Packers have, and it starts with the cornerback position. The 35-year-old Al Harris(notes) may miss part of the season recovering from a knee injury, and Tramon Williams(notes) racked up over 100 yards in pass interference penalties in Harris' stead. McCourty could make an impact right away with his speed and surprising toughness in tackling. He's also an outstanding return man, something the Packers, with the moribund special teams, could certainly use.
24. Philadelphia Eagles -- S Taylor Mays, USC: The Eagles have a need at free safety, and Mays has the kind of athleticism rarely seen at any position. The question is whether he can take his measurables to the field in a way that allows him to make a difference. An absolute terror in run support, Mays is still figuring out the complexities of pass coverage. Still, he can make an impact as a rover on a Eagles team that also has weaknesses at outside linebacker.
25. Baltimore Ravens -- TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma: With Todd Heap(notes) getting up in age and Joe Flacco(notes) needing as many reliable targets as possible, Gresham would be a great fit here. People will look at Gresham's size and debit him for not being as physical at the line as other big tight ends, but Gresham projects better as a downfield threat -- think more Antonio Gates(notes) than Brandon Pettigrew(notes).
26. Arizona Cardinals -- DT Jared Odrick, Penn State: In Bill Davis' gap control defense, it's crucial that the front three and four are able to hold the point and prevent big plays up the middle. That's even more important with Darnell Dockett(notes) excelling in his role as an interior disruptor in 4-3 fronts. Odrick doesn't have the sheer weight the Cards will need at some point in the draft, but he has the kind of end-tackle versatility that could be a perfect fit for Arizona's front seven.
27. Dallas Cowboys -- OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland: For the Cowboys, taking things to the next level in the postseason will revolve around the ability to reinforce their offensive line. They learned this after the Vikings absolutely decimated Tony Romo(notes) in a 34-3 divisional loss to end the 2009 season. At 6-foot-7 and 315 pounds, Campbell has the size required on Dallas' line, plus elite raw athleticism. He doesn't project as well on game tape, but Jerry Jones has never shied away from project players.
28. San Diego Chargers -- DT Terrence Cody, Alabama: Losing nose tackle Jamal Williams(notes) -- first to injury, and then to division rival Denver -- set the Chargers' formerly formidable defense back a few steps. By any measure, they were vulnerable to the inside run. Cody didn't live on many first-round draft boards until he dropped to about 350 pounds and showed improved short-area speed and agility at Alabama's Pro Day. Maintaining a better fitness level will be his key to transcending the two-down basher label, and being worthy of a first-round grade.
29. New York Jets -- OG Mike Iupati, Idaho: The Jets' outstanding offensive line was a major key to their great success in 2009. However, left guard Alan Faneca(notes) was a weakness in ways he hadn't been before. According to Football Outsiders' Bill Barnwell, Faneca had more blown blocks (seven sacks and three hurries allowed) than any left guard in the game last year. Adding Iupati to the left side of that line might make it the best in the NFL. Considered by some to have the agility to kick out to left tackle someday, Iupati has an outstanding group of attributes -- he's great in pass pro, a nasty run blocker, and can move on pulls and slides.
30. Minnesota Vikings -- CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State: Right now, the Vikings have a Super Bowl window based on the efforts of their ridiculous running back, mercilessly efficient quarterback (good ol' what's-his-name), and the best front four in the business. Taking advantage of that window will require the team to become more reliable in pass coverage. Robinson might balk out of coverage assignments in Minnesota's frequent zone schemes, but he's also got the recovery speed to make up for any mistakes. A potential shutdown corner over time.
31. Indianapolis Colts -- DT Brian Price, UCLA: The Colts moved from a series of vanilla Cover/Tampa-2 schemes under Tony Dungy to a more aggressive set of defensive looks under new coordinator Jim Bates in 2009. Adding Price to that mix would be a wise move, as he has rare ability to blast through blocks and make plays in the backfield.
32. New Orleans Saints -- DE Jerry Hughes, TCU: Few teams move between 3-4 and 4-3 fronts with more aplomb than the Saints. And while Scott Fujita's(notes) departure to Cleveland leaves a hole at outside linebacker, the Saints also require more pass rush with Gregg Williams' hyper-aggressive defenses. Hughes mirrors that versatility -- while he may be a bit undersized to survive as a 4-3 end, Williams would no doubt find many different uses for his edge speed and run-stopping ability.
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