With one week left before the draft begins, teams are in lockdown mode. Boards are being finalized, those last player checks are done, and if there's a nagging feeling in the back of your head that you need to go watch a bit more film on that long-snapper from Kutztown University ... well, now's the time to get with the program. Here's the second part of our penultimate mock- picks 1-16 can be found here.
This is also a good time to promote the "Tale of the Tape" series, which takes the two best players at a position and looks to see how they match up based on film study. We're up to the linebackers now (inside and outside here), with links to other positions below.
Now, on to Part 2!
17. San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina) — QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: The 49ers have needs along their offensive line, but they've also been a quarterback away from the playoffs more than once in recent years. No matter how much faith they've shown in Alex Smith, and how much they've changed the system to fit him, it's possible that a re-set is needed with the kind of quarterback who comes to NFL far more pro-ready. Clausen impressed most observers at his recent private workout, putting to rest concerns about a toe injury he played through in 2009 without complaint. He doesn't have a deep ball worth mentioning, but most of San Francisco's offensive threats are intermediate targets, anyway. More importantly, the team won't have to move away from their preferred power game with Clausen under center.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers — C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: If there's one thing the Steelers could use right now, it's a relative sure thing to take the sting out of recent trades and transgressions. Pouncey, who made all the line calls for the Gators, would bring a familiarity with the shotgun snap mixed with impressive technique and a physical nature to address a real need the team has for strength up the middle. His experience in Florida's offense would make him a natural in Pittsburgh's receiver spreads and frequent no-huddle shotgun looks.
19. Atlanta Falcons — OLB/DE Jerry Hughes, TCU: The Falcons recently spent some time in Texas observing a workout in which Hughes, who played end in college, was placed in more linebacker situations. The fit with Atlanta is that Hughes has the ability to do both. The Falcons need a pass rusher, but they could also use Hughes in different looks at the second level. Still, with 28.5 sacks for TCU, there's no doubt where he'd spend most of his time with the Falcons.
20. Houston Texans — CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State: With Dunta Robinson(notes) gone to the Falcons, the Texans have to find a legit replacement if they are to build on last year's near-playoff efforts. Wilson has the ability to play Houston's preferred zone schemes, but his most intriguing skill is pure trail speed from the line — he can establish a press, transition seamlessly, turn his hips, and run with just about any receiver. In a league ever more committed to multi-receiver sets and interesting route combos, that's very valuable.
21. Cincinnati Bengals — TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma: The Bengals have rebuilt their offensive concepts over the last year — now, it's more about balance, a reliable running game, an underrated offensive line, and noticeable lack of vertical threats not named Chad Ochocinco(notes). Gresham adds a unique skill set for his size — while he's a decent blocker and can jam at the line, he's best when taking a short pass from the quarterback and bulling over defenders, or getting in an intermediate route and plowing through for yards after catch. The way he sets up matchup advantages brings Antonio Gates(notes) to mind.
22. New England Patriots — OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas: At some point, Bill Belichick knew that he'd have to re-set his defense. Perhaps he waited a year too long with some of his trusted veterans, but the youth movement is now in full effect. What's been missing for the last few years is a consistent pass rusher off the edge in his hybrid fronts. Kindle employs constant forward motion and the ability to blast easily through obstacles, but he might make even more of an impact if he puts on about 10 pounds and lines up in more of an "endbacker" role. He has the potential to resemble Osi Umenyiora(notes) with that extra bulk.
23. Green Bay Packers — OT Anthony Davis(notes), Rutgers: Remember what we said about Jay Cutler(notes), and what Ndamukong Suh might do to him behind the Bears' offensive line? Why should Aaron Rodgers(notes) feel much more comfortable? The Packers are stretching the skills and careers of Chad Clifton(notes) and Mark Tauscher(notes) to their logical conclusions with their high-voltage offense, but more consistent pass protection is needed. Davis does have work ethic and conditioning concerns, and that's the only reason he'd be available this late. When you look at his agility in pass pro and power off the line, Davis could be a steal if he puts it all together.
24. Philadelphia Eagles — FS Taylor Mays, USC: Mays is a great pick for a team in an obvious state of rebuilding. While his physical gifts — start with 4.3 speed at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds — are incredible, he needs development in a few areas. There are legitimate questions about his ability to cover in space and transition from intermediate to deep coverage. Early on, he may be best served in a rover role, spending more time near the line and closing in on short stuff. If he can add specific coverage skills to his current portfolio, watch out.
25. Baltimore Ravens — WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State: The Ravens now have Anquan Boldin(notes) to sit in zones and make the tough catches with Derrick Mason(notes). What they're still missing is the kind of receiver who can get open downfield and blast through coverage when he gets the ball. Bryant doesn't have elite downfield speed, but he's absolutely fearless in traffic and his ability to go vertical would give Joe Flacco(notes) a new reason to air it out.
26. Arizona Cardinals — OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri: The Cardinals will not be able to fully replace Karlos Dansby(notes) in this draft; three-down 3-4 inside linebackers don't grow in trees, especially ones who cover as well as Dansby does. But Weatherspoon is a fine downhill thumper with an underrated ability to drop in a zone. Not the prototype ILB coming out of school, but New England's Jerod Mayo(notes) has been outstanding in that role at about the same size.
27. Dallas Cowboys — OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland: Having released Flozell Adams(notes), the Cowboys must now deal with the line depth issues that came home to roost in their 34-3 divisional playoff debacle against the Vikings, with left tackle Doug Free(notes) and right tackle Marc Colombo(notes) were dominated by Jared Allen(notes) and Ray Edwards(notes). Free is probably a better swing tackle; what Dallas needs is the next decade-long foundation player on the left side. At this point, Campbell's athleticism is worth far more than what his game tape shows, but he's got elite potential if it can just be harnessed. Jerry Jones is in a position to take a gamble at this spot.
28. San Diego Chargers — NT Terrence Cody, Alabama: Losing Jamal Williams(notes) — first to a triceps injury in the 2009 season, and then to the Denver Broncos in the 2010 offseason — put the Chargers in a bit of a poke. They couldn't generate consistent defensive power up front without him. With so few college teams running 3-man fronts, it's rare to find a true nose tackle like Cody, who already has experience soaking up blockers so that others can make plays at an elite level. Down to about 350 pounds, he showed surprising foot speed and short-area quickness in recent workouts.
29. New York Jets — OG Mike Iupati, Idaho: What would be the perfect capper to a very busy Jets offseason? A long-term replacement for left guard Alan Faneca(notes), who played a part in the NFL's best run-blocking line in 2009, but didn't really live up to his Pro Bowl potential. Iupati has the agility to be considered a tackle prospect by some, but technique issues abound on that role. His best future probably lies as a nasty man-on-man guard who can also pull and do things in space.
30. Minnesota Vikings — CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers: When looking at Minnesota's dominant front four, it's difficult to reconcile their equally unimpressive pass defense without concluding that serious help is needed at the quarterback position. McCourty, who combines sub-4.4 speed with experience in the Vikings' preferred brand of zone coverage, could go a long way to rectifying that problem. And with a solid secondary (and the projected return of Ol' What's-His-Name), the Vikings should be able to pin their hopes on a Super Bowl berth as much as any team.
31. Indianapolis Colts — OT Charles Brown, USC: When Colts team president Bill Polian threw his offensive line under the bus following Indy's Super Bowl loss to the Saints, the writing was on the wall — he's ready to go back to the well and try once again to solve a problem at left tackle that has mystified the franchise for a few years now. Brown, a former tight end, has experience with pro-style line calls, and the agility to lead the outside zone plays the Colts have run since the days of Edgerrin James(notes). He also shines as a second-level run-blocker, though he'll need some work on being nasty at the line.
32. New Orleans Saints — DE/DT Jared Odrick, Penn State: No defense transitioned better between three- and four-man fronts than New Orleans', but one weakness frustrated defensive coordinator Gregg Williams up to and through the team's Super Bowl win — when the Saints move to a three-man front, they become very vulnerable to the inside run. Odrick, who can move between a three-tech inside in a 4-3 to a five-tech end in a 3-4, mirrors that versatility and would being a much-needed downhill thump to opposing running backs.
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