I’m back to give you the second half of my draft. These picks represent not only what I think teams will do, but what they should do. It’s always interesting to look back and see how I did with my picks. So with that here we go with picks 17-32…
17. New England Patriots: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. He is the best running back in the draft. The New England Patriots have constantly struggled running the ball ever since they had Corey Dillon. The Pats need a rushing threat to help spread out the defense for Tom Brady. Ingram, the former Heisman winner and national champion, would be a great addition to the deadly New England offense.
18. San Diego Chargers: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri. Smith missed some action this year, which would explain why he had only 10 TFL and 4.5 sacks. However, he’s a freak of nature and pretty much a lock for the top 15. He has drawn comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul in terms of raw athleticism. Some may think this is a bit too early for Smith, but I couldn’t disagree more. It’s never too early to draft a potential double-digit sack artist. Pass-rushing defensive ends often go earlier than projected.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College. Castonzo would fill the hole in the Giants’ aging offensive front five and aid in protecting Eli. After an impressive offseason, it’d be very surprising to see Castonzo falling past 19th overall in the first round. Head coach Tom Coughlin loves Boston College, which is a factory for NFL linemen. Anthony Castonzo is the latest player to come off their assembly line, and I like the fit.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. Similar to DT Nick Fairley, just a couple of months ago, Bowers was projected to either be the first overall pick to Carolina or second overall to Denver. Bowers saw his draft stock drop drastically after more knee concerns that were brought up due to his poor pro day performance. However, even though Bowers is one of the riskiest picks in the draft, Tampa Bay will gladly take him 20th overall just due to his great potential. If he remains healthy he will be a double digit sack artist off the edge.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado. Solder improved the past two seasons after moving from tight end to offensive tackle. He possesses the athleticism to be used on the blind side and offers the size and growth potential to eventually be starting at right tackle in the NFL. He comes with great upside but will need time to develop his game before he’ll be ready to break into a starting lineup on the NFL level.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin. Carimi was a force on the Wisconsin line since his freshman season and a terrific college tackle. He’s flashed skill the past four years. He has the size to be a right tackle and occasionally displays the skill to handle duties on the blind side. Carimi has the ability to start in the NFL for a long time if he continues to elevate his game.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado Smith comes off two productive seasons on the college level and is an athletic prospect with good upside. Smith has great size (6-2, 211 pounds), great speed (4.37), long reach (77 inches) and thrives on playing physical, press coverage. The red flags are his maturity, as he had some off field issues at Colorado. I think this will be a great pick for Philly.
24. New Orleans Saints: J.J. Watt, DE/DT, Wisconsin. The Saints will be very happy if they can get Watt here. Watt has been a dominant force the past two years and is a prospect whose best football lies ahead of him. He offers potential at a number of spots on the defensive line and will only get better with experience as he physically matures. He’s a terrific prospect who could end up being one of the best defensive players in this draft three years down the road.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina. Austin is a prospect who passes the eyeball test and flashes the ability to dominate opponents. He has top 10 talent, but needs to stay focused. His athletic ability makes him the pick here.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Temple Wilkerson has shown tremendous improvement in his game the past two seasons and comes with a great amount of potential. He has the ability to be used at several spots on the line of scrimmage and can line up as a three-technique tackle or two-gap end. He should only get better as he physically matures and improves the details of his game.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame Rudolph has great hands and is an excellent route runner, and Tony Gonzalez is definitely entering the final year of his career. But what if there’s no season? Gonzalez said he would retire if the lockout lasts a long time. Never mind the fact that Gonzalez was completely ineffective in 2010; this alone has to be a huge concern for the Falcons. Atlanta has a ton options at No. 27, but Kyle Rudolph could be the top player on its board.
28. New England Patriots: Akeem Ayers, DE/OLB, UCLA. Once again, the Patriots could easily trade out of this selection, making this pick hard to predict. If they stay put, Akeem Ayers is a strong option. They really need some help at rush linebacker, and Ayers would be a good fit in Bill Belichick’s defense.
29. Chicago Bears: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State The Bears are in desperate need of help along the offensive line. Sherrod has been a consistent player at Mississippi State and possesses all the skills necessary to develop into a left tackle at the next level. He’ll need time to physically mature and add strength to his frame, but he is one of the better blind side tackle prospects in this draft.
30. New York Jets: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor. The Jets reportedly really like Phil Taylor. I had him ranked lower in a previous version of my 2011 NFL Mock Draft because of his inoperable foot condition. However, the general consensus seems to be that it’s not much of an issue. Taylor wasn’t even asked to come back to Indianapolis for the medical re-check. They need a nose tackle, and Kris Jenkins can’t be counted on due to injury concerns. If the New York doctors give the front office the green light, I’m sure the Jets won’t hesitate to grab this year’s top nose tackle.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB/FS, Texas. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who came so close to being Super Bowl champions, are really only in need of upgrading in two spots: offensive line and secondary. They’ll likely look to improve their secondary with Aaron Williams if he’s still available. Williams is versatile, with the ability to play not only cornerback, but safety as well, and could be extremely valuable to the Steelers defense.
32. Green Bay Packers: Cameron Heyward DE/DT Ohio State. Heyward has been a forceful defender since stepping into the starting lineup as a junior. He is a defensive line prospect who offers tremendous potential for the next level and has the ability to start at several positions up front. The underrated Heyward is someone who should quickly produce at the next level.
Well there you have it!!! It should be interesting to see how things develop. See you all tomorrow with my draft grades.