Three Round Mock Draft – March 13th

Written by Ryan Lownes on March 13, 2011

17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) New England Patriots

Justin Houston – OLB – Georgia

Justin HoustonIronically the Patriots win 14 games during the regular season but wind up with more draft picks in the first three rounds than any team. Bill Belichick has built his Super Bowl-caliber teams almost entirely through the draft, where he’s largely unpredictable. We can accurately assume that he’ll move at least a couple of the picks he currently holds in order to stock some for next season when he may need them more. If New England stays put here, a pass-rusher looks to be the primary need. Justin Houston in an experienced rush-backer from the SEC who possesses tremendous size, power, and ability in pursuit. He lacks elite fluidity but appears athletic enough to gradually develop into a great 3-4 Outside Linebacker. If they choose to go with another linebacker, Ryan Kerrigan may fit the Patriots mold. It’s hard to put anything past this team and they are always a threat to move up for another backer or perhaps Wide Receiver.

18. San Diego Chargers San Diego Chargers

Cameron Heyward – DE – Ohio State

Cameron HeywardA slow start and the lack of star receiver Vincent Jackson for most of the season ultimately doomed the Chargers in 2010, as they failed to win the AFC West and make the playoffs. With three picks in the draft’s first two rounds, San Diego will be aiming to return to the playoffs next season with some new faces. The team is in need of front seven help and Cameron Heyward fills a gaping hole opposite Luis Castillo at 5-Tech. Heyward is a prototypical two-gap end with excellent size, power, and good quickness. The Chargers could instead target an Offensive Tackle such as Anthony Castonzo or Gabe Carimi. Another position the team could go after is Outside Linebacker, with UCLA’s Akeem Ayers or Ryan Kerrigan both on the board.

19. New York Giants New York Giants

Anthony Castonzo – OT – Boston College

Anthony CastonzoFor a team that failed to make the playoffs in 2010, the Giants have few holes that need to be filled for the team to contend next season. Adding youth along the offensive line and improving pass-protection figure to be priorities for New York moving forward. Anthony Castonzo is this class’ most NFL-ready pass protector at Left Tackle. He has great size, feet, technique, and experience on the left side. If not the Boston College product, the Giants could still go Offensive Tackle with Gabe Carimi, Colorado’s Nate Solder, or Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod. On defense, the team would like to add a Linebacker but value may not match up. A surprise pick could be Defensive Tackle Phil Taylor or Illionis Running Back Mikel LeShoure.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Aldon Smith – DE – Missouri

Aldon SmithThe Buccaneers were perhaps the most surprising team in the 2010 season, with young franchise Quarterback Josh Freeman quickly coming into his own. The team has done a nice job putting pieces together on the offensive side of the ball and has already begun to overhaul their defense with 2010 second overall pick Gerald McCoy at Defensive Tackle. For McCoy to do as much damage as he’s capable of, Tampa Bay must add an edge-rusher to take attention from him. Aldon Smith is a prototypical Tampa-2 end with great burst. He’s very long, athletic, and he has one of this class’ most lethal first steps. The Bucs could look to add another end such as Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn or Ryan Kerrigan. Like New York, they’d love to go Linebacker but value doesn’t really match up here.

21. Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City Chiefs

Phil Taylor – DT – Baylor

Phil TaylorNo playoff team in the AFC faced tougher odds than the Chiefs, who went from picking in the top 5 a year ago to the AFC West champions this season. For years Kansas City’s 3-4 scheme has been held back by the lack of a big, space-eating Nose Tackle in the middle. In Phil Taylor, the team gets the big two-gap plugger they need. He’s huge, athletic, and plays with a high motor. Immediately, Taylor would step into a starting spot and fill the team’s greatest need. The Chiefs could also look at a Right Tackle such as Gabe Carimi, a Wide Receiver like Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin, or an Outside Linebacker a la Akeem Ayers or Ryan Kerrigan.

22. Indianapolis Colts Indianapolis Colts

Derek Sherrod – OT – Mississippi State

Derek SherrodThere’s little doubt as to where the Colts would like to go with their early draft picks in April. Pass-protection will be the top priority for Indianapolis as they plan to preserve Peyton Manning for years to come. The team has used a variety of interior linemen that have been largely unsuccessful, but their largest need seems to be outside at the Offensive Tackle spots. Derek Sherrod is the most NFL-ready Left Tackle prospect remaining on the board the pass-heavy Colts. He has an excellent frame for the position, decent feet, and is a decent technician. He may not be a star in the NFL, but Sherrod would surely be an upgrade. Other Offensive Linemen that could be considered with this pick are Gabe Carimi, Nate Solder, and Georgia’s Clint Boling.

23. Philadelphia Eagles Philadelphia Eagles

Gabe Carimi – OT – Wisconsin

Gabe CarimiThe Eagles got a great surprise last year after Kevin Kolb left with an injury in the first game of the season. Michael Vick came back better than ever and carried the Philadelphia team into the playoffs on his back.  The team’s future depends now on Vick’s arm and they’ll be building around him. Gabe Carimi screams Andy Reid lineman, standing 6’7 315 with long arms and a history of tossing around Big Ten linemen. He is this class’ premier run blocker and has the feet & athleticism to make it in pass-protection. The Eagles could find a starting spot for Carimi right away if they make him their first round pick. Another position the team could target is Cornerback, with Jimmy Smith and Brandon Harris still on the board.  With some injury concerns at Linebacker, Philadelphia could also go that way early.

24. New Orleans Saints New Orleans Saints

Adrian Clayborn – DE – Iowa

Adrian ClaybornThere may not be a team in the NFL with fewer holes than New Orleans. The team’s lone glaring hole seems to be Outside Linebacker, where a starting spot may be up for grabs immediately. If value isn’t there, the Saints may look to address the thin defensive line. Adrian Clayborn has the look of a tremendous Left End at the next level with impressive quickness and power. Not only is he one of this draft class’ best run-stopping ends, he also does a nice job getting after the Quarterback. Clayborn could find a spot in New Orleans’ rotation and contribute immediately. The team could also aggressively target a Linebacker such as Akeem Ayers or Washington’s Mason Foster.

25. Seattle Seahawks Seattle Seahawks

Jake Locker – QB – Washington

Jake LockerNo team has ever entered the playoffs in the manner the Seahawks did, with a sub .500 record of 7-9 in the regular season. If Seattle would like to be playing in January again next year it all starts at the Quarterback position. Charlie Whitehurst is not the answer for Pete Carroll, and there’s little doubt that he’ll seek a young successor in this NFL Draft. Jake Locker may very well be the top signal-caller on the board here and the guy Seattle chooses as their new franchise QB. He possesses a big league arm, excellent mobility, and top intangibles. Additionally, the local fans would likely get behind the move as Locker is seen as an icon in the Pacific Northwest. The team could be tempted to add a Cornerback here, such as Jimmy Smith or Brandon Harris. A Defensive Lineman could also interest the Seahawks; Ryan Kerrigan, Illinois’ Corey Liuget, and Oregon State’s Stephen Paea are all available.

26. Baltimore Ravens Baltimore Ravens

Jimmy Smith – CB – Colorado

Jimmy SmithIt all seems to be coming together for the Ravens, with great young offensive pieces in Quarterback Joe Flacco and Running Back Ray Rice. The defense in Baltimore is still a team strength, but they’d like to add youth and talent on that side of the ball early in this draft. It’s hard to ignore the need for several good Cornerbacks in an increasingly pass-happy league. Jimmy Smith is a tremendous talent with rare size for the position and terrific athleticism. He may fall to them here based on attitude concerns, but it would be hard for the Ravens to turn down such an instant upgrade. The team may also look at an Inside Linebacker like Mason Foster here. Wide Receiver is another need for Baltimore and there is some talent here in Jonathan Baldwin and Miami’s Leonard Hankerson.

27. Atlanta Falcons Atlanta Falcons

Ryan Kerrigan – DE – Purdue

Ryan KerriganThe Falcons entered the playoffs as the top dogs in the competitive NFC, but fizzled out at home in their match-up with Green Bay, the future Super Bowl champs. It’s clear that while Atlanta has a very talented core, improvements can and need to be made. Ryan Kerrigan gives the team a much-needed second pass-rushing option opposite John Abraham. He’s a talented, high-motor player and a frustrating matchup for Offensive Tackles of any caliber. The Falcons could also target an offensive playmaker such as Wide Receivers like Boise State’s Titus Young, Leonard Hankerson, or Tight End Kyle Rudolph. Additional possibilities for the team include Offensive Linemen Nate Solder and Clint Boling.

28. New England Patriots New England Patriots

Leonard Hankerson – WR – Miami

Leonard HankersonThe only team with two picks in the first round may be the team that needs them the least. Realistically, this pick won’t be made by New England but rather likely sold to the highest bidder. That’s not to say the Patriots couldn’t use the pick to improve their team. Since trading away Randy Moss, the team lacked a big Wide Receiver who could threaten downfield. Leonard Hankerson has had a great showing in the pre-draft process after a productive Senior season. He possesses good size for the position and helped to put some speed questions to rest at the NFL Combine where he ran a 4.43. Hankerson could improve the already scary Patriots passing attack immediately. Other positions of interest for the team could be Running Back, Nose Tackle, or an Offensive Lineman such as Clint Boling.

29. Chicago Bears Chicago Bears

Clint Boling – OL – Georgia

Clint BolingDuring Chicago’s deep playoff run in became painfully obvious that the team has serious issues up front, especially in pass-protection. The Bears first round pick is almost sure to be an Offensive Lineman in the 2011 NFL Draft. With a number of quality linemen already off the board, the team opts for the versatile Clint Boling. He projects as a starter at potentially any position along the line and instantly offers an upgrade over their current situation. Other Offensive Linemen the team could consider include Nate Solder and TCU’s Marcus Cannon. The Bears could opt to help Jay Cutler in another way by selecting a Wide Receiver such as Jonathan Baldwin, Titus Young, or Maryland’s Torrey Smith.

30. New York Jets New York Jets

Brooks Reed – DE – Arizona

Brooks ReedRex Ryan has officially guaranteed his Jets will win the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season. To do that, New York must add additional pieces on both sides of the ball. An impact pass-rusher would allow Ryan to be even more successful with his blitz packages and Outside Linebacker is a spot on the depth chart in need of an upgrade. After showing surprising fluidity and athleticism at the Senior Bowl, Brooks Reed went to the Combine and turned in an impressive 4.68 40 and a strong workout overall. He seems to have the ability to make a quick transition from college end to NFL Linebacker and could develop into an impact starter in time. The Jets could, instead, go after a 5-Tech such as Iowa’s Christian Ballard or Temple’s Muhammed Wilkerson. Another potential fit at Outside Linebacker would be Akeem Ayers.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers

Brandon Harris – CB – Miami

Brandon HarrisIt didn’t take long for the Steelers to bounce back after missing the playoffs a year ago. Despite not being perfect, Pittsburgh clawed their way back to another Super Bowl with health issues lingering all the way. An Offensive Lineman may again be the top priority for the team, but if there’s value at the Cornerback position, youth and talent is needed. Brandon Harris lacks great size, but makes up for his physical shortcomings with exceptional feed, closing speed, and coverage skills. He projects an instant impact man-corner that could help Pittsburgh right away. If the team does go offensive line, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, and Villanova’s Ben Ijalana all potentially fit their mold.

32. Green Bay Packers Green Bay Packers

Akeem Ayers – OLB – UCLA

Akeem AyersQuarterback Aaron Rodgers became the player that we all thought he could this past season for Green Bay. What was more surprising was the resurgent Packers defense that consistently made big plays. The roster appears to be young and for the most part, complete as far as starting positions are concerned. One starting spot that may be up for grabs is at Outside Linebacker opposite All-Pro Clay Matthews. A talented edge-rusher falls to them here in Akeem Ayers. He may not have fully lived up to his athletic billing at the NFL Combine, but he still possesses the size, fluidity, and pass-rushing potential to warrant a late first round selection. Green Bay could also go with an Offensive Lineman for the second year in a row with Tackle Nate Solder or Baylor Guard Danny Watkins.

Ryan Lownes

Ryan is currently an undergraduate student at Ohio University pursuing a degree in Sport Management. He has been attending the NFL Draft in New York City since 2005 and has aspirations of a career in scouting. He is currently a draft writer and analyst on the Draft Breakdown team, posting his latest rankings, mock drafts, scouting reports, and more. Be sure to follow Ryan on twitter for year-round NFL Draft analysis.

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