It is important to note, this is a mock draft suggesting the picks that I would make if I were the general manager of each team. I took into consideration the team needs, scheme, medical and/or character concerns, etc., and coupled that with my best available board.
There are differing approaches that clubs utilize to prepare for and during the NFL draft. For the Colts, General Manager Bill Polian has the final say. In New England, it’s Coach Bill Belichick.
For Baltimore, General Manager Ozzie Newsome uses a more collective approach. Because each approach has yielded excellent results, it is very difficult to argue that each style is any better than the next. No matter who has the final say during the draft process, there is always one thing in common each year. It never goes exactly as planned …
1. Carolina Panthers: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU — He has been the best player on my board since before the combine and nothing has dissuaded me of that. Carolina has a need at virtually every position, so why not start with the best player in the draft? | Watch highlights
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama — Dareus provides instant improvement for the second-worst rush defense in the league. They automatically improve the pass rush with the return of Elvis Dumervil. | Watch highlights
3. Buffalo Bills: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri — He is a potential franchise quarterback who can learn from Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he won’t help them win right away. | Watch highlights
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia — With Green, both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco are expendable, and Green is a future star. Maybe this will be enough to convince Carson Palmer to play. If not, the Bengals can address the quarterback vacancy through free agency. | Watch highlights
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M — The Cardinals would covet Gabbert here, but with him off the board, they will upgrade their pass rush with Miller off the edge.
6. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama — Cleveland may have the worst receiving corps in the league, and Jones gives it an immediate upgrade. Jones runs the best intermediate routes in the draft and will be a tough over-the-middle option for Colt McCoy. | Watch highlights
7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska — With Nate Clements and the addition of Amukamara, the 49ers will have bookend press cover corners.
8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn — If they question his work ethic, Fairley’s former defensive line coach from Auburn is right down the hall. If Tracy Rocker gives the thumbs-up, this will be the obvious pick. | Watch highlights
9. Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College — Tyron Smith’s potential may have a higher ceiling, but Castonzo gives them a consistent presence from Day 1.
10. Washington Redskins: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn — Newton gives them instant playmaking ability and probably will win them some games with his legs. Three years from now they’ll realize they have no consistency and are back to where they started.
11. Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin — With Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ transition to the 3-4 defense, either Cam Jordan or Watt make sense here. I give them the bigger, stronger Watt.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina — He is the best pass-rushing defensive end in the draft, and Minnesota’s scheme will allow him to play his natural position. Cornerback also is a need, but as a cover-2 team, the Vikings find value in the later rounds of the draft.
13. Detroit Lions: Tyron Smith, OT, USC — Whether it’s Smith or Castonzo, Detroit needs to protect its franchise quarterback. Whomever Dallas leaves on the board will be the pick in Detroit. | Watch highlights
14. St. Louis Rams: Aldon Smith, DE/LB, Missouri — St. Louis would love to see Julio Jones drop to its pick. Instead, it will upgrade the pass rush with Smith. The Rams will have to address the wide receiver position in the second round.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama — All three running backs in Miami are free agents, and Ingram is the best back in the draft. Interior offensive line is an option, but I like the 2009 Heisman winner.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue — Kerrigan is able to play multiple schemes, and Jacksonville has played both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense in the past two seasons.
17. New England Patriots: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin — Carimi could start immediately at right tackle but also could be kicked inside to guard. New England loves this type of versatility along the offensive line.
18. San Diego Chargers: Cameron Jordan, DE, California — Jordan is the most experienced five-technique player in the draft. This card gets turned in quickly.
19. New York Giants: Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida — He can play guard immediately and provide the versatility to play center if needed.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa — Da’Quan Bowers could be an option here, but his physical concerns are greater than those of Clayborn.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado — Kansas City also could go with a defensive lineman or a pass rusher opposite Tamba Hali, but Solder gives the Chiefs better value with this pick.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State — Sherrod has the best finesse game of all the tackles in this draft. He will be protecting Peyton Manning’s blind side for the remainder of his career.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois — The value of Liuget here outweighs the need along the offensive line.
24. New Orleans Saints: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson — How does New Orleans justify taking the gamble with Bowers? The same way it did with Drew Brees when few other clubs were willing.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple — With free agency looming, Seattle will shore up its defensive line with the versatile Wilkerson.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado — Reminiscent of the Chris McAlister era in Baltimore, John Harbaugh will rely on his senior leadership in the locker room to help Smith transition as a professional.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Houston, DE/LB, Georgia — The hometown kid will provide a pass rush opposite the aging John Abraham, and then he’ll eventually replace him.
28. New England Patriots: Cam Heyward, DE, Ohio State — Trading back is an obvious option here, but if the Pats stay in this position, Heyward provides them with depth along the front line.
29. Chicago Bears: Danny Watkins, G/OT, Baylor — Before they look to replace defensive tackle Tommy Harris, Chicago needs to upgrade its offensive line. To do so, it must take the best available offensive lineman, no matter if he’s a guard or tackle, and that leaves the Bears with Watkins.
30. New York Jets: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor — Rex Ryan loves space-eating defensive tackles and will draft one in Taylor, who replaces the aging and oft-injured Kris Jenkins.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB/S, Texas — Williams will be a better safety in the NFL, but he will play nickel immediately in Pittsburgh and give the Steelers instant depth in the secondary and push for a starting role.
32. Green Bay Packers: Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois — Outside linebacker is a real possibility here, but I grade Leshoure higher than UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers. The Packers finally get a stable backfield with a healthy Ryan Grant and the addition of Leshoure.