Part I found here
The Patriots defense never quite recovered from the loss of Richard Seymour, and matters weren’t helped when Ty Warren went on the injured reserve early this season. Even if he comes back, he’s an aging player and the Patriots have made a concerted effort the past several drafts to get younger throughout their defense. Cameron Heyward is a New England prototype lineman; big, strong, smart, and he plays with a tremendous motor. Of all the great five techniques in this year’s class, Heyward is the most natural fit for New England’s hunt and pound style of play. Heyward joins a bright young New England defense alongside Jermaine Cunningham, Jerrod Mayo, Devin McCourty, and Brandon Spikes, giving them a fiercely physical group.
The Chargers have a good defense, but with Larry English developing at a snail’s pace and Shaun Phillips getting older, they have a need for a premier outside rusher. Houston is a remarkable passrushing talent that’s somehow managed to remain underrated despite being one of the best defenders in his conference playing for a traditional SEC power. He played outside linebacker in Georgia’s 3-4 defense this past year so he’s already proven he’s a smooth enough athlete to play standing up in the NFL. At 17, he’s a significantly better value than English was two years ago.
The Giants’ offensive line went from being one of the better units in the league to being an outright mess in a short span. There is some young talent buried in the depth chart, but David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie have both proven old and unreliable and Shawn Andrews is nothing more than a desperation band-aid on the LT position. William Beatty might still develop into a solid starter, but that only solves one of your questions at tackle. Derrek Sherrod is a premier value this late in the class since offensive linemen with his skillset and background (think Michael Oher or Russell Okung) tend to be taken pretty early. Sherrod is capable of starting as a rookie on either side.
The Bucs have completely nailed the past few drafts and made rapid strides as a team accordingly. They’ve found strong solutions to their needs on the offensive side of the ball, added young playmaking stars to their secondary, and added premier prospects at their base end and three technique positions in last year’s first two rounds. Now it’s time to finish building their defensive line by getting a premier edge rusher. I thought Aldon Smith was on track to become a top five pick in 2012. Instead he broke his leg at the beginning of the season and came out a year ahead of schedule. Needless to say, getting him all of the way at 20 is quite a steal for Tampa Bay. Smith, Price, and McCoy give Tampa Bay one of the most talented young defensive lines in the league, capable of recapturing their form from earlier in the decade.
The Chiefs are a rapidly improving organization with a lot of promising young talent on both offense and defense. The secondary is stacked with quality young players; Wallace Gilberry, Glenn Dorsey, and Tyson Jackson are an impressive young group of defensive linemen; Tamba Hali is a star; and Derrick Johnson is a physical leader for the defense as as a whole. It’s certainly a unit on the rise, but they could use another playmaking OLB/ILB to cover for the decline of Mike Vrabel. Akeem Ayers is a nice, versatile fit. A left tackle that could kick Brandon Albert inside to guard could also be a strong option at this choice, but Ayers is the BPA.
The Colts have fallen markedly behind the top tier AFC teams because of their inability to control the line of scrimmage. Charlie Johnson is a subpar starting left tackle and could stand to be upgraded. Castonzo is ranked by many as the premier left tackle in this class. I don’t share that assessment, but he’s got the physical profile of a quality left tackle and Boston College linemen tend to make exceptional pros. More importantly, he fits Indy’s zone running scheme well and has the natural range and mammoth frame to develop into a strong pass protector once he adds strength to his base. This is probably Bill Polian’s best opportunity to get a quality left tackle while Peyton Manning’s window is still open, he would be remiss not to take it.
The Eagles are in pretty good shape as an organization and don’t have many pressing roster needs. But if they have one anywhere, it’s on their offensive line. Winston Justice has always been a shaky tackle and Philly could do a lot better at the position. Carimi had a dominant junior season where he was arguably the finest lineman in the Big Ten. He followed that effort up with an All-American Senior campaign where he took home the Outland Trophy and was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. He’s been my favorite offensive lineman in this class since the start of the season, and I believe he’s only a hair less talented than Tyron Smith. The Eagles get a fine player to anchor either the right or left side of their line.
A dominant half back prospect could be a valuable option here, but the consensus seems to be that New Orleans will be looking for a playmaking defensive lineman in the first. In that case, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is a great fit as the right end in the Saints defense. Will Smith will be 30 this season, Charles Grant 33. Defensive end is a need position and Kerrigan is one of the top 4-3 defensive ends in the class.
Locker is one of the most polarizing players in the class after he experienced a statistical dip in 2010. I think he’s the second best quarterback in the class one of the best Senior prospects overall. However, if top quarterbacks make it out of the top ten, they often slip into the twenties before they find a home. If Locker isn’t selected by Washington at 10, there’s a good chance he’ll suffer this fate. I doubt he makes it past Seattle at 25. Matt Hasselbeck is getting old in a hurry and the Charlie Whitehurst trade, perplexing as it was, shouldn’t be considered a strong long term solution at the position. Locker is the state’s favored son. Pete Carroll once called him the greatest QB he had faced. There are just too many connections here for this pick not to be made.
The Ravens have an aging secondary and could use a blue chip defensive back to compliment all of the work they’ve done in upgrading the talent level of their front seven. Aaron Williams came into the season with a comparable talent level to Patrick Peterson, and when all is said and done, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s the best defensive back in the class. He’s a physical, outside player who is comfortable playing both off coverage as well as at the line of scrimmage. Williams excels in man coverage because of his speed, burst from his breaks, and very long frame. This is a good fit.
The Falcons have remarkably few needs and are pretty strong at each of their key positions with few aging starters. The only areas on their roster that could use an upgrade are at wide receiver, under tackle (Peria Jerry has not lived up to expectations), and tight end. To that end, Torrey Smith could be a strong option here and he seems to fit the profile for the types of smart, high character players the Falcons like. But I think Kyle Rudolph is the superior talent and so he gets the nod as the BPA at a position of need. Tony Gonzalez’s rapid decline leaves the door open for Rudolph to contribute early. For his part, Rudolph shouldn’t disappoint. He’s a Jason Witten clone who profiles as an impact player and one of the best tight ends to come out in years. The only reason he’s fallen this far was his hamstring injury this season.
The Patriots have an embarrassment of early draft selections this year, and having addressed their defensive line earlier, they’re in good shape to go BPA here or flip this pick for a future selection as is their custom. Rather than predict a trade, let’s have them take one of the few remaining blue chippers left in this class. Pound for pound, Ingram is probably the best player in this draft class as he has essentially no weaknesses. He profiles as an immediate difference maker who is in a class with the other great halfback prospects of the decade (Thomlinson, Moreno, Peterson, McFadden). He should rapidly become one of the best running backs in the league. The Patriots have had a hodgepodge of middling talent at the halfback position since the mid-decade decline of Corey Dillon. Ingram gives that unit a face and an identity.
Lots of draftniks rank Solder as the top offensive tackle in the class… I’m not one of them. Carimi and Smith each turned in dominant showings against great defensive linemen like Adrian Clayborn and Cameron Jordan. On the other hand, Solder has had mediocre or poor showings like the one where Aldon Smith ate his lunch. Nevertheless, Solder has an undeniably excellent set of tools; a gigantic frame, excellent straight line speed, and lots of natural flexibility. The Bears also have an absolutely desperate need for quality offensive tackles. The nadir of Chicago’s season came during a 10 sack debacle against the Giants early in the year. And the lasting image of their offensive line involves the humiliating sequence of Albert Haynesworth using Chris Williams to sack Jay Cutler. They need help in the worst possible way.
Liuget is the first of the impressive Illinois triumvirate to come off the board. Liuget was one of Ron Zook’s highly touted initial recruits and he certainly lived up to his expectations. He’s coming off an impressive season where he turned in dominant performances against Indiana, Michigan St., Missouri, and Baylor. Liuget has a mauling, scrappy style that screams Rex Ryan. He’s a nice fit as a five technique, a position where the Jets are aging. Shaun Ellis is currently 33 and Trevor Pryce is 35. Liuget will be able to step in for them when they decline.
This is a nifty pick. Mike gets reunited with his twin brother on a Steelers offensive line that, outside of Maurkice, is pretty substandard. It’s actually a wonder and testament to how good Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall are that they played so well last season behind such a mediocre unit. The Steelers also have an aging defense and they’re eventually going to have to find ways to replace the production they get from Brett Keisel, James Harrison, Casey Hampton, Ryan Clark, and James Farrior. Lawrence Timmons, Ziggy Hood, and Jason Worilds are a good start. Extending Lamarr Woodley is also essential. But with the choice defenders already off the board, Pittsburgh’s best bet here is to take the immediate impact talent (Pouncey) while it’s available to them and look to the later rounds to fill their defensive needs with developmental prospects.
The Packers boast extraordinary levels of talent and depth throughout their roster. From top to bottom, their wide receivers and tight ends are the best in the league. Their group of quarterbacks is excellent. The offensive line has a great mix of veteran and younger starting talent as well as depth. Their defensive line and secondary are absolutely loaded. Finally, their linebackers will get even better next year with the return of Nick Barnett. Perhaps the most remarkable and disheartening aspect of all is that the Packers are this stacked while simultaneously being among the youngest rosters in the league. Like the Falcons, Jets, and Bucs, this is a team set to contend for a long time. So who do you mock to the franchise that has everything? How about a brilliant running back? If Ryan Grant doesn’t come back strong from his injury, he has the look of a cap casualty. The rest of Green Bay’s stable is a bunch of mediocre names who might string together a couple of strong performances here and there, but none offer firm long term solutions. A Leshoure pick adds a difference maker who is a strong fit in their zone running system. Ben Ijalana could be a great alternative option here as he would groom nicely behind Chad Clifton. But I think Leshoure is the pick because he’s the bigger overall talent.