Cincinnati Bengals: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
I disagree with Walt a bit on this one. If Upshaw is on the board, which he is here since I don�t have the Jets taking him, the Bengals will not wait until No. 21 to grab him. Rushing the passer is the most important aspect of playing defense in the NFL. They need another impact defensive end for their rotation.
Pick change; previously Ryan Tannehill, QB
San Diego Chargers: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
It is painfully obvious the Chargers are not the same on defense lately, and their inability to sack the quarterback is a big reason why. All of a sudden the AFC West has gotten away from them, and to reel it back in, they need to improve their pass rush. It will be tempting to go after a cornerback here given the talent available, but addressing the front seven is more pressing.
For me, it�s either Mercilus or the pick I changed it from, USC�s Nick Perry. Who am I kidding? The Chargers are going to throw all the mocks for a loop by doing something random. I could actually see them taking Alabama�s Dont�a Hightower if he is on the board.
On a side note, it bummed me out a bit when NFL Network�s Rich Eisen said during the Combine his nickname should be �Ming� and the other guys on the set had no idea what he was talking about. Hopefully everyone reading this gets it.
Pick change; previously Nick Perry, DE/OLB
Chicago Bears: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
Acquiring Brandon Marshall relieves the pressure to take a wide receiver here and signing guard Chilo Rachal gives them another piece to work with on the offensive line. I see a serious run on pass rushers in the middle of round one, even with a talented defensive tackle like LSU�s Michael Brockers on the board. Chicago needs a bookend for Julius Peppers and simply can�t wait. Ability to sack the quarterback drives Jones way up the board.
Pick change; previously Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB
Tennessee Titans: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
If available, I can�t find a reason for the Titans to pass on Brockers. Defensive line is a strength of this draft and they should take advantage of it, even if their preference would be a defensive end. An inside presence always makes life easier on the outside.
Pick change; previously Stephon Gilmore, CB
Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
Surprise! Maybe Cincinnati still doesn�t take either cornerback here. It was a good rookie season for quarterback Andy Dalton, but if this team wants to take the next step, the interior of its offensive line could use a player like Glenn to blow open holes. If the Bengals can improve up front ,it will be easier to plug in a running back to help balance the offense.
Cleveland Browns: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
As Walt correctly points out regularly, teams drafting a franchise quarterback typically use their next pick to help out that player. In this case, it is a dream scenario to get a quality starter at right tackle here who in other drafts might go in the low teens. Clevelannd would have to pounce on Martin here and protect Tannehill as he develops if the team does pick him at No. 4.
Detroit Lions: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Aaron Rodgers is not going away any time soon. For that matter, neither is Eli Manning, and for the next couple of years, the Lions also have to deal with Drew Brees to reach the Super Bowl. Yes, I just mentioned this franchise and playing for a championship in the same sentence.
To get there, Detroit needs to cover someone and Kirkpatrick is a step in that direction. As Walt points out, two recent draft picks were arrested for marijuana-related incidents recently, but the charges against Kirkpatrick himself were dropped. The Lions might be willing to take the chance to fill the need.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
As much as the Steelers wanted to deny it, their defense got old in a hurry and it led to their premature playoff exit. Pittsburgh needs to reload, and the best way to do that is to select the best player available for the front seven. This is not a difficult pick for me to mock here or for the team to make on the first night of the draft.
Denver Broncos: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
The defense carried this team into the playoffs, and while the dynamic has changed with the addition of Peyton Manning, Denver's best chance to defend as the AFC West champion is on that side of the ball. As I repeat ad nauseam, it all starts up front, and even with improved play up the middle last year, the Broncos could still use another player for the rotation.
I know Manning needs more talent around him, but he never had a dominating defense with the Colts, even when they won it all, but his ability to carry a team is in doubt. It�s not a given the Broncos are going to just load him up with help like the Colts always did.
Poe drops because his production does not match his workout numbers.
Pick change; previously Devon Still, DE/DT
Houston Texans: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
Mock drafts are fun until the very end. Then, it becomes time to squeeze as many correct picks as possible and, as everyone knows, those are very hard to come by.
Most people realize that the Texans desperately need a receiver to draw attention away from Andre Johnson, but it�s not what they will do here. Instead, they jump on a third rush linebacker to team with Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. I am getting this strange feeling Houston might reach for offensive tackle Bobby Massie out of Ole Miss here. Maybe it�s just indigestion, but if some of the preferred linemen are off the board, it just might happen.
Pick change; previously Kendall Wright, WR/KR
New England Patriots: Devon Still, DE/DT, Penn State
I constantly work myself up trying to figure out what the Patriots will do in the draft even though I know I am going to be wrong. Guessing is the best I can do. I know they want to improve up front, and Still is a quality option to help them do it. Boise State�s Shea McClellin is an option, but I�m not sold on the pairing. I think it�s defensive line here.
Pick change; previously Mark Barron, SS
Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State
Ultimately, the need for another pass rusher seems destined to push the Packers towards McClellin. He has been the hot name late in this draft season, and, let�s face it, playing opposite of Clay Matthews is pretty much a dream scenario for anyone whose job it is to sack the quarterback.
Pick change; previously Peter Konz, C,
Baltimore Ravens: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
The Ravens like to steal sliding players in the draft and unlike my choice last time, Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, this is not a bad value. A big receiving target is needed on this roster, and another player to catch some passes period. Why waste the best quarterback in the NFL right?
On another note, it seemed like Wisconsin center Peter Konz was a logical choice here until someone with a similar name, Peter King, poured water on that fire. I think Baltimore could still take a guard here though and, ultimately, will find a way to draft Georgia�s Ben Jones later on.
Pick change; previously Harrison Smith, SS
San Francisco 49ers: Kendall Wright, WR/KR, Baylor
There are times to take a chance in a final mock draft, and this is one of them. I believe Wright goes in the first round, and, while I preferred giving them Hill as I did last time, he is off the board. General Manager Trent Baalke told the media he hoped a player would fall to them in this spot, which leads me away from other possibilities.
Again, I�m not sure why this pick is ringing true to me, but if Wright�s still on the board, I think they take him.
Pick change; previously Stephen Hill, WR
New England Patriots: Amini Silatolu, G/T, Midwestern State
Staring at this board, I think the Patriots would be willing to take just about any deal to move out of the first round, big or small. Staying put, I will give them a different hot name to sneak into the action on Thursday night than my previous mock. They are going to keep the offensive line loaded up until Tom Brady retires because, let�s face it, he isn�t going to get more mobility as he ages.
Pick change; previously Shea McLellin, DE/OLB
New York Giants: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
The Giants would be fairly easy to project if the board was known because they pretty much just select the best football player. In this case, I am having trouble. I know I had Jerel Worthy here last time, but if they can address a need with an equivalent talent, it makes more sense to me. I�m not in love with this pick though, and get the feeling I will only hit on about 27 of the players who go off the board Thursday night.