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A look into mock drafts around the web: Part one

04.25.11 at 1:36 pm ET
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Several mock drafts have connected Wisconsin defensive lineman J.J. Watt to the Patriots in the first round. (AP)

With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, we’re now less than four days away from the pinnacle of the football offseason. And what we’ve learned and know for sure about the selections so far is this: it is an absolute toss-up among the first 10 players and where they will land come Thursday night.

So what we’ve done is take a list of some mock draft sites on the web and compare and dissect them, and try to best understand what might happen at 8 p.m. when Rodger Goodell takes the Radio City Music Hall stage.

The first player that needs to be mentioned is Cam Newton. Mock draft elitists have Newton in a range of different places, from first overall to mid-to-late first round. The most recent draft issued by WalterFootball.com has Newton going to the Panthers at the top spot, perhaps as a way to best market the franchise and make an impact at one of the skill positions. Carolina took two rookie quarterbacks in the 2010 draft – one of them with the team’s first picks in Jimmy Clausen. The former Notre Dame standout had a rough start to his career, to say the least. Tony Pike, the Cincinnati senior, didn’t see much game action.

It’s fair to say that, by drafting Newton, the Panthers would be issuing a statement noting that last year’s draft was a flop, and that mistakes were made, unless they were to move Newton to a position other than quarterback. But that’s a completely different conversation.

At pick 17, Walter Football has the Patriots taking Cal defensive end Cam Jordan – a not very surprising choice. But what stands out beyond that point is this: the site has the Chargers selecting Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt at pick No. 18, directly following New England’s pick. If Watt was still available at that time in the draft, it would make sense for the Patriots to go with the versatile defensive end/outside linebacker over Jordan. Watt has potentially the best explosiveness off of the line, which is something the Patriots need. Whether Watt would play outside linebacker or on the defensive line would be dictated by his camp; but if a player of Watt’s caliber and value is still available at No. 17, then the Patriots should be eager to snatch him away from San Diego.

At pick 28, this mock draft has New England taking Alabama’s Mark Ingram. Not many people would be overly upset with the pick, since the Patriots haven’t had a franchise running back since Corey Dillon. But after the success last season of Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a first-round pick used on a running back doesn’t seem like a sensible decision with other, greater needs to fill.

One other quick observation about Walter Football’s mock draft is that they have Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers going 24th to the Saints. Despite how Bowers has fallen in the past few months, the Saints would count themselves lucky if the former longtime No. 1-rated player was still on the board at their selection.

Rob Rang from CBS Sportsline does in fact have the Patriots selecting Watt with their first draft pick, making the point that Bill Belichick has invested 10 selections in the top 100 on the back seven of his defense, yet only one pick on the defensive line since 2007. At 6-foot-6, 290 pounds, Watt makes a lot of sense as the pass-rushing presence the Patriots have lacked in recent seasons.

At pick 28, however, Rang goes a different route than Walter Football by addressing the aging offensive line with the selection of Danny Watkins, an offensive guard from Baylor. With the uncertainty of any 2011 season, most experienced offensive linemen for the Pats would return well into their 30s come 2012, with the exception of Dan Connolly.

A few notable names that slipped into Rang’s second round include Illinois running back Mikel LeShoure, Miami cornerback Brandon Harris, Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston, and Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward.

A team to watch come Thursday’s draft is the Dolphins, who hold pick No. 15. With the status of running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams unknown, CBS’s Rang has Miami taking Ingram as the first back selected in 2011. The Dolphins can go that route to fill the offensive void, but could also use a quarterback with Chad Henne garnering the first position on the depth chart. If Newton were to fall as far as pick 15 to Miami, then the Dolphins have a difficult decision to make; running back or quarterback. Which need is greater?

These are just two of many mock drafts out there on the web, and the first several looks we’ll take into them. Ultimately, it all comes down to Thursday. Let draft week commence.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Cam Newton, j.j. watt, New England Patriots
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