Similar to last year, it's time to produce our "four-headed" mock draft.
"PatsFanTRichter", "Mr. Scratch" and "401PATSFAN", three regulars in the comments section who add terrific insight to this blog, will join me in doing the selecting. The picks will be made in the comments section of the blog and then I'll cut-and-paste them into the main area of the blog.
Let's proceed in that order for making the picks -- Mike Reiss, "PatsFanTRichter", "Mr. Scratch" and "401PATSFAN" -- as we make our way through the first round.
1. Carolina (Mike Reiss) -- QB Cam Newton (Auburn) -- Not a great year to have the top pick as there is no clear-cut choice. While the Panthers would probably prefer to move down, and pick up additional picks, it is unlikely they will be offered a deal to their liking. One factor to consider is that the Panthers are without a second-round pick; they shipped it to the Patriots last year. In a division that includes impressive young quarterbacks in Josh Freeman (Tampa), Matt Ryan (Atlanta) and Drew Brees (New Orleans), the Panthers go the quarterback route and then have a long wait until they select again.
2. Denver (PatsFanTRichter) -- DT Marcell Dareus (Alabama) -- With Josh McDaniels out and John Elway in, transparency has been the theme in the Broncos' front office, but their advertised interest in a quarterback is just a smokescreen. Denver has a lot of holes to fill on defense with the transition back to a 4-3. Robert Quinn could make sense, and Patrick Peterson is the best overall player on the board, but the Broncos have less at the defensive tackle position than anywhere else, and Dareus has tremendous upside as a 3-down player.
3. Buffalo (Mr. Scratch) -- OLB Von Miller (Texas A&M) -- Miller steps in immediately as a 3-4 OLB and provides Buffalo a much-needed pass rusher. With no OL in the equation at this spot, the only alternative would likely be quarterback Blaine Gabbert. But, it would make more sense to pass on that type of risky investment with a passable QB in the fold and plenty of optioins in the second or even third rounds. Truthfully, if the Bills want to get out of being perpetual AFC East cellar dwellers, they can't miss on many more first rounders.
4. Cincinnati (401PATSFAN) -- QB Blaine Gabbert (Missouri) -- Gabbert, by some accounts, rates as the safest QB in the draft and could be the No. 1 pick. And maybe Carson Palmer wanting out forces the Bengals to look towards the future. Receiver A.J. Green is also a possibility.
5. Arizona (Mike Reiss) -- DE/OLB Robert Quinn (North Carolina) -- Starting outside linebackers Joey Porter (34) and Clark Haggans (34) are long in the tooth so the Cardinals, after both quarterbacks are off the board, go with the impact pass rusher for the 3-4 defense. The Cardinals could come back in the second round to address the quarterback spot, or potentially trade back into the first round depending on how things unfold.
6. Cleveland (PatsFanTRichter) -- WR A.J. Green (Georgia) - With Robert Quinn off the board, the Browns look to upgrade their offense and help out Colt McCoy. Wide receiver is a huge hole for the Browns, and A.J. Green can give them the kind of presence at the position that Cleveland fans envisioned Braylon Edwards delivering. Patrick Peterson is tempting and would represent tremendous value at this spot, but Joe Haden's presence tips the balance in Green's favor.
7. San Francisco (Mr. Scratch) -- CB Patrick Peterson (LSU) -- The 49ers were 24th in the league against the pass last year and Nate Clements turns 32 years-old this year. There is little youth and less talent at the CB position. Peterson brings exactly what they need to their secondary and is the best fit at this spot if he falls to them. Combined with Ted Ginn, Jr. (a FA in 2012) he would also add dynamic returner potential to special teams.
8. Tennessee (401PATSFAN) -- DT Nick Fairley (Auburn) -- Tennessee really missed Albert Haynesworth the last 2 seasons as former coach Jeff Fisher always seemed to get alot out of him. The Titans really need a disruptive force inside and Fairley could bring that. In addition to the need, his former position coach from Auburn, Trace Rocker, is currently the D-line coach and should be able to push the right buttons to garner consistent play. The stars aligned perfectly for Fairley in this situation.
9. Dallas (Mike Reiss) -- OT Tyron Smith (Southern Cal) -- The Cowboys will probably be looking at offensive tackle (Smith), defensive line (Cameron Jordan) or cornerback (Prince Amukamara) in this spot. At offensive tackle, they have Doug Free (left) and Marc Colombo (right), with the 32-year-old Colombo closer to the end of his career. The athletic Smith, who enters the draft after his junior season, could have the luxury to develop before taking over for Colombo.
10. Washington (PatsFanTRichter) -- WR Julio Jones (Alabama) -- The Redskins are another team with a lot of holes across the roster, and Mike Shanahan has to be hoping that he can land a quarterback early in this draft. There isn't a quarterback prospect that represents value at this pick, however, which means the Redskins will look to address their defensive front seven or receiving corps. J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan and Aldon Smith are strong candidates, but the Redskins desperately need a quality receiver, and owner Daniel Snyder likes flashy acquisitions. Jones certainly fits the bill after an impressive combine performance.
11. Houston (Mr. Scratch) -- CB Prince Amukamara (Nebraska) -- This is a selection that may be one of the picks most influenced by the lockout. The Texans have several potential personnel needs in the 3-4 transition and they are nearly certain to be adding some through free agency. The question is: who and where? Ordinarily, we would know some of it by now. Their passing defense last year was flat-out awful and after letting Dunta Robinson walk in free agency and flirting with Leigh Bodden, would they make a significant investment in a FA cornerback and draft a transition OLB or 3-4 DE? I'm guessing not. Wade Phillips will be trying to teach enough guys his 3-4 and it seems more logical to prefer to add players with 3-4 front 7 experience then hoping you can plug and play a transition rookie. Especially when you're not quite even sure just yet who goes where. I'm going with the Texans adding much needed talent to the secondary here. Any which way, we're pretty sure this is defense.
12. Minnesota (401PATSFAN) -- DE J.J. Watt (Wisconsin) -- Tough call between Watt, Ryan Kerrigan and Aldon Smith here. But I chose Watt because of versatility. He could easily add weight to play DT or lose a couple and line up outside in the 4-3. Either way you can't go wrong. He plays with the passion and is non-stop in pursuit. Will need to improve against the run, but he'll a contributor day one. Athlethically he's a freak. At 6-foot-6, 295 pounds, he has better feet than most of the RB that attended the combine and has TE speed. He's scary (4.7-4.8 40-yard dash & 6.88 in the 3-cone drill).
13. Detroit (Mike Reiss) -- DE Da'Quan Bowers (Clemson) -- Not a great scenario for the Lions, who probably would have loved to see a top-rated cornerback or linebacker there at this spot. This seems too high for UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers, but if they reach for need, perhaps they'll consider him. That would presumably turn the focus to the offense. Left tackle Jeff Backus is 34 and one question is how much the Lions like developmental prospect Jason Fox, a fourth-round pick last year. If they see promise in Fox, they could focus more on the interior with Mike Pouncey, one of the safer picks of the draft. In the end, the Lions decide that there is not enough value in these areas based on what they have on the roster and what they can get later in the draft, so they take the best player on their board and make a strength that much stronger.
14. St. Louis (PatsFanTRichter) -- DE Aldon Smith (Missouri) -- The Rams found their franchise quarterback last year in Sam Bradford, and they'd love to find a go-to receiver to complement him, but both of the consensus elite prospects at the position are gone, so they'll look to bolster their defense instead. Chris Long really emerged last year, and a solid rusher on the other side could push the Rams' defense to the next level. While James Hall was very productive, he'll be 34 to start this season. Aldon Smith has a lot of upside, and can come in right away and offer a boost to the Rams' pass rush on third down, both from the end and tackle positions.
15. Miami (Mr. Scratch) -- RB Mark Ingram (Alabama) -- The last 3 seasons Miami has gone from a 48 percent run team in '08 & '09 that averaged 4.2 and 4.4 yards per carry respectively to a 44 percent run team last season that averaged 3.7 yards per carry (30th in the NFL). This is becoming a near consensus pick because it just makes too much sense. With a defense that stepped forward last season and a passing game that showed little improvement, despite the costly addition of Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins are very likely going to have to run the football if they hope to vault into the playoffs. Ingram would provide them a potential immediate workhorse running back that allows them to smoothly transition from the oft-injured Brown and the aging Williams and take prerssure off Henne and the passing game. I considered Mike Pouncey seriously when factoring the issues Miami has had on their interior offensive line. But with no second-round pick, it becomes dicey that they would wait for the third on a starting RB. Teams that can pass the ball can do that, if Miami really considers themselves a running team (as they claim) this is where they have to go. It though makes this spot a strong possibility for a trade as the Dolphins did last year.
16. Jacksonville (401PATSFAN) -- DE Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue) -- What's not to like about Kerriagn? He shows up every game ready to work. And also is said to be a big gym rat. With Jacksonville having solidified their interior DTs spots, the big need now is rush DE. Kerrigan fits the bill as a relentless pass rushers with an array of moves. The Jaguars have tried to address this before (i.e. Quentin Groves & Derrick Harvey). With 25 sacks in his final two seasons at Purdue with 3 forced fumbles is just what the doctor ordered for Jacksonville. Jack Del Rio rejoices.
17. New England (Mike Reiss) -- DL Cameron Jordan (California) -- Jordan isn't the same type of defensive lineman that the Patriots have targeted in past first rounds (Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork), as he relies more on quickness than power, but this seems like the time for the Patriots to think a bit differently at the position. They were 32nd in the NFL last year on third down, with opponents converting 47 percent of the time, and Jordan is the type of interior pass rusher who should help in that area. As for where he fits on early downs, it could be at right defensive end, or perhaps even outside linebacker. Jordan was a team captain at Cal and his father, Steve, was a star tight end in the NFL with the Vikings. Other considerations: Mike Pouncey, Cameron Heyward, Anthony Castonzo.
18. San Diego (PatsFanTRichter) -- OT Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) -- If J.J. Watt or Cameron Jordan were available, they'd be likely targets for the Chargers. Linemen are needed on both sides of the ball, and Muhammad Wilkerson or Cameron Heyward may be considerations as well. Outside linebacker Larry English has disappointed, so a prospect like Justin Houston could be a possibility, but the Chargers could also use a tackle to replace the mediocre Jeromy Clary, and talent and positional value win out. They prefer bigger offensive linemen, and while Carimi isn't going to be a franchise left tackle, as a bookend to Marcus McNeil, he can be a top right tackle in the league.
19. N.Y. Giants (Mr. Scratch) -- OC/OG Mike Pouncey (Florida) -- The Giants need help on the offensive line. Four of their five starters are past 30 and center Shaun O'Hara is recovering from multiple surgeries. I would have otherwise had Carimi pegged here, who I think is better situational/system fit for them, had he not been off the board, and would be more a player Tom Coughlin would lean towards. Between Anthony Castonzo and Pouncey, I felt Pouncey would be the better fit here. One thing that makes me hesitant to go offensive line is simply the proclivity of both the Giants and Coughlin to draft defense. Corey Liuget would probably be the first out name to pop here, but on that side of the ball LB is a much bigger issue. And I don't see the Giants having the luxury to stockpile more DL this year. I also don't see a LB that would make much sense here.
20. Tampa Bay (410PATSFAN) -- OT Anthony Castonzo (Boston College) -- Was debating reaching and selecting cornerback Brandon Harris as Ronde Barber is 36. At the same position, I didn't consider Jimmy Smith because they already picked a risky cornerback in Aqib Talib. With injuries last season, the Buccaneers were forced to kick a guard (James Lee) outside to play right tackle. With this selection they have the possibility of playing Castonzo on either side as they already have Donald Penn on the left side (Pro Bowler last season).
21. Kansas City (Mike Reiss) -- OT Nate Solder (Colorado) -- The Chiefs need a nose tackle and the top-rated player at the position in the eyes of some analysts, Phil Taylor, is available at this spot. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli comes from the New England system, where off-field questions are scrutinzed heavily, and the gut feeling here is that off-field concerns (e.g. weight, team suspension) will steer him away from Taylor. With no receiver or linebacker worth the pick here, they turn to another area that could use a boost -- the offensive line. Solder has potential to be a left tackle of the future, which would allow them to move Branden Albert inside, where he might be a better fit.
22. Indianapolis (PatsFanTRichter) -- OT Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State) -- Even though the Colts have a gaping hole at defensive tackle, they won't be addressing the position here; under Bill Polian, they only draft skill position players and defensive ends in the first round. Only a year removed from selecting Jerry Hughes, and two from taking Donald Brown, they won't be looking to bolster those positions, so instead they opt to continue the run on offensive tackles. A quarterback is a consideration, but none present good value at this point in the draft.
23. Philadelphia (Mr. Scratch) -- CB Jimmy Smith (Colorado) -- Ellis Hobbs' career-ending injury makes this an immediate need. Smith brings superior physical tools to the table and the Eagles have seldomly ever been too afraid of character concerns. With OL tapped out and considering they've selected DL in 5 of their past 8 drafts, they don't have any places that are more pressing now with solid value vailable. I'd still expect that they sign a veteran, anywhere from top flight to solid, but between the Sheldon Brown trade, Asante Samuel hitting 30 and the Hobbs injury they are woefully thin at CB both present and future.
24. New Orleans (410PATSFAN) -- DE/OLB Justin Houston (Georgia)-- The knock on Houston is he looks a little lost when standing up in the 3-4, only looking comfortable coming forward. In Gregg Williams' defense he'll have no such issues. In New Orleans' 4-3 scheme he will be asked to to play both DE and SAM linebacker depending on the package. Potentially could see someone trading up here and selecting one of the three second-round projected QBs like Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick or Andy Dalton.
25. Seattle (Mike Reiss) -- DL Corey Liuget (Illinois) -- John Schneider, who is in charge of the Seahawks' personnel department, comes from the Ted Thompson/Green Bay Packers background (i.e. accumulating picks, trading back, focusing on value of certain positions). Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll should like some of the defensive line options here and they could tap a number of them, depending on what they are looking for. A bigger defensive end like Cam Heyward or Muhammad Wilkerson could fit well on the edge of the 4-3 defense, or a burly nose tackle like Phil Taylor could bolster the interior. But Liuget, who offers insurance for Brandon Mebane at defensive tackle and provides versatility, looks like the best fit of all from this view.
26. Baltimore (PatsFanTRichter) -- DE Cameron Heyward (Ohio State) -- The Ravens have a very solid defensive front seven, and with linebacker Sergio Kindle's future with the team in doubt, they could look at a linebacker/end hybrid propsect. Wide receiver is also a possibility; despite the big names they've collected at the position, they have no one to stretch the field. The Ravens opt for Heyward, though, because they are reportedly enamored with him as a prospect, and pairing him with Haloti Ngata up front could make their defense the best in the league again.
27. Atlanta (Mr. Scratch) -- TE Kyle Rudolph (Notre Dame) -- The Falcons need receiving help and could go WR straight up here, but it's a deep class and the value difference between here and the second probably isn't that great, so they would be wiser to address later. They need to put some more weapons around Ryan than just Roddy White, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez, and Gonzalez turns 35 this year to boot. His days are numbered. Transitioning Rudolph in behind him, adding the flexibility to run double tight sets, and having a back-up receiving TE to take snaps away and/or fill-in in case of injury -- in what is a staple of their offense -- would be a wise addition.
28. New England (Mike Reiss) -- DE/OLB Jabaal Sheard (Pittsburgh) -- This could be the ideal scenario for the Patriots if they're looking to trade. Only two quarterbacks are off the board and perhaps a team looking to get back in to the first round for Jake Locker or another signal-caller would be willing to give up a 2012 first-rounder and a 2011 mid-round pick. But let's assume the Patriots make this pick -- the two choices I was debating were Sheard and Miami cornerback Brandon Harris. I think Sheard is a top outside linebacker candidate for 3-4 teams, and with the Jets, Steelers and Packers (3-4 teams) all picking before New England's next selection at 33, it's too risky to wait. I think Harris would have a better chance of being there at 33 in this scenario. So Sheard, assuming the Patriots are comfortable with him on and off the field, gets the nod as the Patriots take two decisive steps toward improving their pass rush in this draft.
29. Chicago (401PATSFAN) -- CB/FS Aaron Williams (Texas) -- Texas sure knows how to turn out players on defense. This pick gives Chicago the center fielder they've been searching for since Mike Brown fell off the planet. He'd give them value early on special teams as well as compete early for time at either cornerback or safety. Reminds me of Patrick Chung in his ability to cover outside receivers, inside slot guys or drop back and cover the deep third. The more can you do, as Bill Belichick would say.
30. NY Jets (PatsFanTRichter) -- DE Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple) -- The Jets need some quality up front on their defense. They have solid rotational players, but Kris Jenkins looks unlikely to return, and Shaun Ellis is going to be 34 when the season starts. Wilkerson isn't quite the same caliber of athlete as some of the more highly touted prospects, but he has a good-sized frame, and carries 315 pounds well, while delivering solid college production (albeit against a lower level of competition). Phil Taylor could be another option, to shore up the nose tackle position, and they could look at a receiver or safety, as one or both of Holmes and Edwards could depart.
31. Pittsburgh (Mr. Scratch) -- DT Phil Taylor (Baylor) -- Casey Hampton turns 34 this year, his backup is 35. The defensive line is quickly heading into decline-years all-around and this creates a great opportunity to transition-in a potential future nose tackle to build around. If the Steelers don't believe they can re-sign Ike Taylor, defensive back may be a bit more pressing need and they could go Brandon Harris or Aaron Williams (if he is available). But, there are other routes/options available at DB. True 3-4 NT are hard to find and I don't see how they pass on Taylor if he falls here.
32. Green Bay (410PATSFAN) -- DE/OLB Clay Matthews Jr. Jr. ... I mean OLB Brooks Reed (Arizona) -- Need pick for Green Bay here. No need to talk up this selection. Not only does he look like Matthews with his long, blonde hair, he models his game after him. Even adopted Matthew's spin move. Non-stop motor. Blah Blah Blah. They should be selecting No. 31 and the Pats should be selecting No. 32, but whatever.