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Post-combine mock draft

03.07.11 at 4:50 am ET
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After getting back from the combine last week with a plenty of impressions and takes on this year’s crop, it’s time we revisit the mock draft. As could probably expected, things are drastically different, including a big slide for Nick Fairley and the removal of Ryan Mallett.

The top pick remains the same (barely), but seven of the top 10 picks are different from what they were in the pre-combine mock draft.

1. Carolina (2-14) Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson If there’s one thing I came out of the combine thinking, it’s that this draft doesn’t have a sure-fire first overall pick – yet – and that the widely assumed 1 and 1a of Da’Quan Bowers and Fairley (in no particular order) will not necessarily represent this draft’s first two picks. As a result, I really wrestled at length in this spot between Bowers and UNC’s Robert Quinn. It will remain Bowers for now, or until he works out at his Pro Day, but Quinn was very impressive at the combine and despite not playing last season due to a suspension may be the best pass-rusher in this draft. The coolest thing about the possibility of Quinn going in the top slot? If he becomes the guy, the last two first overall picks (Sam Bradford, 2010) will have combined for just three games in their draft years.

LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson impressed at the combine. (AP)

2. Denver (4-12) Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU Another thing I learned (or became convinced of after initially suspecting it), is that there is a clear-cut best player in this draft, and by a decent margin. That player is Patrick Peterson. Broncos fans have long been treated to having an elite corner in Champ Bailey, and Peterson is the best cornerback prospect to come out in years. He absolutely crushed it at the combine, running a 4.34 40 and looking fantastic in positional drills. I repeat: Patrick Peterson is the best player in this draft.

3. Buffalo (4-12) Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M Miller is the real deal and would give the Bills the help at outside linebacker they so desperately need after two seasons of confirmation that Aaron Maybin is not the answer to their pass-rush woes. An experienced outside linebacker, he holds a real edge over tweeners for teams looking for more of a sure thing. His 4.53 40-yard dash time was second only to Dontay Moch for the best among the outside linebacker prospects.

4. Cincinnati (4-12) ) Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri Boy, that Carson Palmer sure doesn’t like the Bengals, huh? Palmer hasn’t spoken on the record since demanding a trade from the organization, and the recent news that he’s banked $80 million and is ready to retire might mean the Bengals should start looking for their next quarterback. This might be a little high for Gabbert, but he’s the best signal-caller in this draft and is far less of a project than Cam Newton.

5. Arizona (5-11) Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina He came off as intelligent and – to a degree – accountable for his actions (accepting jewelry from an agent) that led to his season-long suspension, and that realistically is the only thing that could have kept Quinn from being considered a top prospect in this draft. Though he hasn’t played since his 11-sack sophomore season, he shouldn’t fall out of the top five as he continues to help teams cross out character concerns.

6. Cleveland (5-11) Nick Fairley, DL, Auburn This might not be the farthest Fairley ends up falling. He showed up at the combine shorter and slimmer than many had him as being, so 3-4 teams won’t have a place for the 6-foot-3, 291-pound defensive lineman. He would, however, be perfect for a team like the Browns, who are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Fairley made a good impression on the media folk, but there are still big questions about his motor.

7. San Francisco (6-10) Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama Dareus is the best five-technique prospect in the draft, and he did nothing to make anyone think otherwise at the combine. He’s experienced in Nick Saban’s 3-4, so if he’s available, the 49ers would be wise to snatch him up. They have a couple of questions on their defensive line, and this would answer one of them.

8. Tennessee (6-10) Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska If the chips were to fall this way, I could see the Titans trading down. Their biggest need is at quarterback, and with Gabbert off the board, there is no signal-caller available worthy of such a high pick. They could also use a defensive tackle, and if Fairley is gone, they may be forced to address a position that would provide an upgrade rather than filling a hole. That is exactly what the selection of Amukamara would be.

9. Dallas (6-10) Cameron Jordan, DE, California Dareus was the pick in earlier editions of this mock, and despite him being off the board here, the Cowboys shouldn’t fret. Jordan’s stock has been on the rise for quite some time, and he should be able to step in and make a bigger impact than someone like Stephen Bowen, who is a free agent anyway after starting nine games for Dallas last season.

10. Washington (6-10) A.J. Green, WR, Georgia Santana Moss is a free agent, and despite the uncertainty over who’s throwing these guys the ball, the Redskins need help at receiver. Julio Jones may have stolen the show at the combine, but Green remains this draft’s top receiver.

11. Texans (6-10) Brandon Harris, CB, Miami Harris solidified himself as first-round prospect at the combine. Is he worthy of the 11th selection of the entire draft? Probably not, but their need at cornerback is that significant. Kareem Jackson should be better in one spot with a year under his belt. A dark horse candidate in this spot is Missouri pass-rusher Aldon Smith.

12. Minnesota (6-10) Cam Newton, QB, Auburn I went into the combine pretty high on Newton. My line of thinking was that his eventual impact as a project quarterback could be pretty significant. In Indianapolis, we all learned just how much of a project he is. If I’m a team that needs a franchise quarterback, I’m looking elsewhere unless Newton can be had with a second or third rounder, and we all know that’s not happening. This quarterback class is so weak that a team is bound to pull the trigger on Newton’s selection in the first round. That team will likely come to find that he’s a ways away from having a major impact.

13. Detroit (6-10) Tyron Smith, OT, USC Smith isn’t the tallest guy in the world at 6-foot-5, but his 29 reps were impressive, and there’s a good chance he could be the first offensive lineman to come off the board. Smith’s 307-pound weigh-in answered a big question about his perceived inability to gain weight. If the Lions opt to make Jeff Backus a right tackle, Smith or BC’s Anthony Castonzo would be a wise choice.

14. St. Louis (7-9) Julio Jones, WR, Alabama Jones killed it at the combine, running a sub-4.4 40 and impressing in both the long jump and vertical jump. It has since come out that he did all of that with a broken foot and will spend as many as eight weeks recovering from surgery. Even if he comes to the podium on crutches, it’s hard to see the Rams not loving the idea of uniting Jones with Sam Bradford.

15. Miami (7-9) Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama The pre-combine mock noted that Ingram probably wouldn’t impress at the combine, and for all intents and purposes, he didn’t. His 4.62 40-yard dash was underwhelming but his 1.53 10-yard split was very good. Ingram didn’t need to do anything special to solidify his status as the draft’s top running back prospect, and he remains a logical choice for a team that is set to lose both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

16. Jacksonville (8-8) Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue Kerrigan has a lot of Aaron Kampman in him, and considering Kampman’s injury woes, the Jaguars would be wise to grab someone with both the relentless motor and the ability to stay on the field. Kerrigan had 12.5 sacks last season to go with five forced fumbles.

17. New England (from Oakland (8-8)) J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin This would be a dream scenario for the Patriots, but a nightmare of a decision to make. Watt is considered one of the best five-technique prospects in years, but if they don’t use the 17th pick on Aldon Smith, they likely blow their chance at landing him. Watt will be the pick for now, as it doesn’t get more tantalizing than a defensive line of Watt, Vince Wilfork and a healthy Ty Warren.

18. San Diego (9-7) Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri If the Patriots do end up with their choice of Watt or Smith and opt for Watt, this is seriously how long Smith would last. While his size makes him projectable as an outside linebacker for the Pats, he would stay on the line in San Diego, filling a hole for a team that may lose Jacques Cesaire and Travis Johnson to free agency.

19. New York Giants (10-6) Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College While there still isn’t absolute clarity regarding this draft’s offensive tackles, it’s safe to say that Castonzo has solidified that he will be one of the first taken. He didn’t disappoint in any areas workout-wise, and he comes off as a real character guy. He would take the place of fellow Big East alum William Beatty (second round in 2009 out of UConn).

20. Tampa Bay (10-6) Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa Clayborn put on a show at the combine, but it was of the stand-up comedy variety. Clayborn is clearly an entertainer, but he is not a versatile defensive lineman. There’s virtually no spot for him in a 3-4, and that’s something that could cause him to fall. That shouldn’t be an issue for the Buccaneers, as they could stick him next to Gerald McCoy and really strengthen their defensive line. Cornerback is also an option.

21. Kansas City (10-6) Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida Current starter Casey Wiegmann is 37 and will be 38 at the start of next season. He is reportedly considering retirement, and there is no better replacement in this draft than Pouncey, who said at the combine that he would rather play center at the next level.

22. Indianapolis (10-6) Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin Carimi had no problem declaring that he is the best tackle in this draft, so he might be disappointed if two or three go before him. Either way, this would be a solid pick for the Colts, who desperately need an upgrade over free agent Charlie Johnson.

23. Philadelphia (10-6)Nate Solder, OT, Colorado Solder is raw and somewhat of a project, but if he reaches his potential, he’ll be a 6-foot-8, 319-poind chore for defenders. The Eagles could stick him at right tackle to protect Michael Vick’s blind side.

24. New Orleans (11-5) Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois Wilson makes his debut in the WEEI.com mock draft as a result of both positional versatility and the Saints’ need for an inside linebacker. Wilson, 6-foot-3 6/8 and 250 pounds, ran a sub-4.5 40, making him projectable to play either inside or outside. That could make him attractive to a Saints team that needs more stability from its group of linebackers.

25. Seattle (7-9) Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado We had Mallett as the pick here in weeks past, but he sure would be a tough sell from an owner to the fans as a first-round pick based on his personality. The comparisons to Ryan Leaf are very unfair unless Mallett does indeed have a drug problem, but based on what we seen, the bad vibe he gives off is enough to scare teams away. Instead, the Seahawks can opt for another highly skilled player with character concerns in Smith. Why would they go for Smith after ruling out Mallett you ask? Because unlike Mallett, Smith’s talent and size/speed combination make him one of top 12 or 13 players in this draft.

26. Baltimore (12-4) Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State Heyward, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, was cleared to run just prior to the combine and therefore did not work out. All eyes will be on his March 30 Pro Day. Should he prove he belongs in the first round, the Ravens could eventually give him Cory Redding’s job.

27. Atlanta (13-3) Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State Is 2008 first-round pick (the other one) Sam Baker the team’s long-term answer at left tackle? That’s the biggest question that surrounds this pick, because if the Falcons decide to move Baker to the right, Sherrod (or the best tackle available) becomes the easy choice.
28. New England (14-2) Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia The Pats have passed on talented outside linebackers in the past based on size, but you have to remember that they broke from their line of thinking when they drafted Jermaine Cunningham. At 6-foot-2 7/8, 270 pounds, Houston is very similar in build to Cunningham, though his upside as a pass-rusher is far greater. Many have expected the Patriots to land a pass-rusher in the first round for the last several years. Will it finally happen?

29. Chicago (11-5) Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois Would a team that already has Matt Forte invest another high pick in a running back? Leshoure is a couple inches shorter than Forte but is more bruising of a runner. He solidified himself as the draft’s second-best running back prospect, running a sub-4.6 40 despite being nearly 230 pounds.

30. New York Jets (11-5) Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor People liked him at the combine when he weighed in at 334 pounds, and after reportedly impressing at his Pro Day, Taylor going in the first round is no longer the stretch it may have once seemed. He’d be a perfect fit at nose tackle for the Jets.

31. Pittsburgh (12-4) Benjamin Ijalana, OT, Villanova Ijalana might require future development before he reaches his full potential, but he would help shore up an offensive line that dealt with both injuries and inconsistent play last season. Willie Colon could depart as a free agent.

32. Green Bay (10-6) Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA Ayers had a dreadful combine, and after he entered Indianapolis with a shot at catapulting himself into top-15 consideration, he might be lucky to be a first-round pick when all is said and done. Known as a poor tackler with speed, Ayers didn’t show much speed in his 4.88 40, so teams may end up going back to the tape to see what differentiated his game speed in college from his speed at the combine.

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33. New England [from Carolina (2-14)] Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Aaron Williams, Akeem Ayers, Aldon Smith Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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