Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

The 2012 NFL Draft is less than a month away, and things have changed quite a bit since my previous mock that was posted just before free agency began. Team needs have changed quite a bit due to player movement, which in turn affects how I mock.

As an add-on to the third version of this mock draft, I've expanded things to cover the full first two rounds of the draft. The first 63 picks of the draft (the Saints lost their second-rounder due to the bounty scandal)

For reference, you can check out my Jan. 15 mock here and my March 13 mock here.


1. Indianapolis Colts — QB Andrew Luck, Stanford

This might not be the foregone conclusion it once was thanks to Robert Griffin III's outstanding offseason, but Luck remains the safest prototypical quarterback prospect in the draft and I'd be surprised if he's not the Colts' pick.


2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) — QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor

The Redskins traded up with the obvious intention of landing one of the top two quarterback prospects in this draft. If Luck goes to Indianapolis as expected, Washington will "settle" for a sweet consolation prize in Griffin.


3. Minnesota Vikings — OT Matt Kalil, USC

It's possible the Vikings could trade out of this spot, but I don't expect that and I don't project trades anyway. Kalil is the obvious choice as the lone franchise left tackle prospect in this draft, as this is something the Vikings have been lacking for years now.


4. Cleveland Browns — RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

I'm steadfastly against running backs going this high, but that doesn't mean everyone agrees with me. The Browns are potentially torn between Richardson and Ryan Tannehill, in which case I expect them to go with a workhorse running back.


5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — CB Morris Claiborne, LSU

Word is the Bucs love Trent Richardson, but he might not make it this long. If that happens, the Buccaneers might be saved from themselves and could take a bigger/harder-to-fill need in cornerback. Claiborne would be a great addition for a secondary that includes an elderly Ronde Barber and criminal Aqib Talib.


6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) — WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

The Rams may have traded down a little to far to get some much needed secondary help, but the addition of Blackmon would give Sam Bradford a great No. 1 receiver to target for years to come.


7. Jacksonville Jaguars — DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

The Jaguars have swung and missed on pass rushers in the draft time and time again, so they go back to the drawing board once more. Some people are down on Coples, but I think his effort issues are overplayed and I love his physical tools and versatility. He'd be a great addition for the Jags.


8. Miami Dolphins — QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

I am not in the school of thinking that the Dolphins must draft a quarterback early here after failing to add a long-term solution in free agency. That being said, some of the draft's best experts are very high on Tannehill and the Dolphins have inside knowledge due to the presence of former Aggies' head coach Mike Sherman on the staff, so they may very well pull the trigger if he's still on the board.


9. Carolina Panthers — DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State

Carolina mixed and matched it's defensive tackle last year with sub-par results, so it might be time to add some legitimate talent. Cox is a fast-rising prospect and could be an anchor in the middle of the Panthers' defensive line.


10. Buffalo Bills — OT Riley Reiff, Iowa

With the additions of pass rushers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free agency, offensive tackle moves to the front of the Bills' list of needs. Demetrius Bell still looks likely to sign elsewhere and Reiff is easily the No. 2 prospect in the draft at his position.


11. Kansas City Chiefs — NT Dontari Poe, Memphis

The Chiefs could go linebacker or offensive line here, but nose tackle stopgaps like Ron Edwards and Kelly Gregg have failed. Former Patriots' executive Scott Pioli would be wise to try and land his own Vince Wilfork-type prospect here.


12. Seattle Seahawks — LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

David Hawthorne is a free agent and offers limited upside, so the addition of an intelligent, rangy linebacker would be beneficial. Kuechly is arguably the best linebacker prospect since Patrick Willis in 2007.


13. Arizona Cardinals — OG David DeCastro, Stanford

Both guard and tackle are needs for the Cardinals and tackle is the harder position to fill, but DeCastro has the potential to be an elite guard for the next decade and is probably a safer pick than any of the outside protectors left on the board.


14. Dallas Cowboys — OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia

Tackle Doug Free failed miserably in 2011 and the Cowboys have parted ways with a few guards in recent years, so there are needs on the line. Glenn is an athletic freak at 6-foot-6 and 346 pounds and could project either inside or out.


15. Philadelphia Eagles — DT Michael Brockers, LSU

The Eagles have addressed the linebacker position a bit with the trade of DeMeco Ryans, and I already have Luke Kuechly off the board. In that event, the Eagles might opt to add some bulk to the defensive tackle position that Andy Reid loves so much.


16. New York Jets — LB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

Ingram's height (6-foot-1) is a concern for many, but his pre-draft workouts and interviews have been phenomenal and there's no reason to think he can't excel in the NFL with his physical "limitations." The Jets could use some youth and talent at outside linebacker and Ingram fits the bill.


17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) — S Mark Barron, Alabama

Chris Crocker is the lone strong safety on the Bengals' roster and is a mediocre starter at best. Barron is the best prospect at his position in this draft class and could be a starter in the Bengals' secondary as a rookie.


18. San Diego Chargers — OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford

The Chargers' offensive line has been decimated by injuries over the past few seasons and could use more help even with the re-signing of inconsistent tackle Jared Gaither. Martin is a bit of a scary prospect but has starting upside and could fit in nicely at right tackle.


19. Chicago Bears — CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

The Bears have already lost two cornerbacks in free agency and Charles Tillman, 31, remains a fairly average starter. Kirkpatrick's stock has fallen a bit due to an arrest for marijuana in the offseason, but he'd be an excellent value here.


20. Tennessee Titans — CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina

Tennessee is tasked with replacing No. 1 corner Cortland Finnegan, who left with free agency. Gilmore is a near-lock to go in the first round thanks to his combination of length and athleticism, so the Titans would certainly consider him here.


21. Cincinnati Bengals — DE Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

The Bengals ranked fifth in the NFL with 45 sacks in 2011, but their individual leader was an interior lineman with just 7.5 quarterback takedowns. Upshaw is concerning because of his height and forty times, but the talent to excel as a pass rusher is certainly there.


22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) — WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

Greg Little struggled as a rookie and the Browns lack a true No. 1 receiver. Floyd is the complete package and could solve the Browns' problems in that department.


23. Detroit Lions — OT Mike Adams, Ohio State

The Lions brought back veteran Jeff Backus on a one-year deal, but he's been a sub-par starter for years now and youth is certainly needed. Adams has all the tools to be an NFL left tackle and would be a nice addition to Detroit's budding offense.


24. Pittsburgh Steelers — LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama

James Farrior and Larry Foote aren't getting any younger, so it's time the Steelers start thinking about a long-term inside linebacker next to Lawrence Timmons. Hightower fits the mold and the scheme perfectly.


25. Denver Broncos — DT Devon Still, Penn State

With Peyton Manning settling things on the offensive side of the ball, the defense still has some holes and some talent at defensive tackle would be a great addition. Still is a legitimate top-10 talent and would be a great pick for the Broncos here.


26. Houston Texans — WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

I seriously question whether or not Wright falls this far, because he's a legitimate Top-20 pick and most NFL teams aren't concerned with his 4.6 forty times. If he is on the board at No. 26, however, the Texans would be crazy not to pick him as a burner alongside Andre Johnson.


27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) — LB Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

The Patriots' pass rush is lacking with Mark Anderson moving on and free agent Andre Carter still banged up. Mercilus projects well into whatever scheme the Patriots choose to employ and could be a serious force.


28. Green Bay Packers — LB Nick Perry, USC

The Packers have sorely lacked a second pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews III for a few years ago. Perry works out like a top-10 talent and could put up sick numbers on an already-talented defense.


29. Baltimore Ravens — C Peter Konz, Wisconsin

Veteran Matt Birk might be returning for another season at age 35, but there's no guarantee how long he'll keep playing and Konz would be a nice replacement to develop behind the former Pro Bowler.


30. San Francisco 49ers — TE Coby Fleener, Stanford

The Niners already have an elite tight end in Vernon Davis, but as the Patriots have showed there is plenty of room for two at the position. Former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh loves Fleener and he'd be another great weapon for Alex Smith.


31. New England Patriots — CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

The Patriots' defense is seriously lacking right now and Bill Belichick has hit on former Florida Gators with character concerns in the past. Jenkins is a top-10 talent and would be an incredible value here.


32. New York Giants — OG Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State

A small-school prospect rising fast up draft board, Silatolu compares to former first-rounder Mike Iupati and could help solidify the Giants' offensive line.


33. St. Louis Rams — CB Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska

The Rams finally address the secondary here with the addition of first-round talent Dennard.


34. Indianapolis Colts — NT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington

Ta'amu is the best 3-4 nose tackle on the board and is a must for Chuck Pagano's new scheme.


35. Minnesota Vikings — WR Rueben Randle, LSU

A potential first-round pick, Randle would be a nice complement to Percy Harvin.


36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — S Harrison Smith, Notre Dame

The Bucs already went secondary in the first round, but they have no talent at safety so Smith would make sense.


37. Cleveland Browns — QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

Some don't think the Browns will go quarterback here, but Weeden has infinitely more upside than Colt McCoy.


38. Jacksonville Jaguars — WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech

Like Demaryius Thomas before him, Hill has made a name for himself despite playing in a run-oriented offense in college.


39. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) — OT James Brown, Troy

Concussions have derailed Jason Smith's career, so the Rams might need some protection help.


40. Carolina Panthers — WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

Jeffery has had a rocky pre-draft period, but he's got first-round talent would be a nice red-zone target for Cam Newton.


41. Buffalo Bills — LB Zach Brown, North Carolina

The Bills are switching back to the 4-3 and Brown has superior athleticism for the outside linebacker spot.


42. Miami Dolphins — DE Vinny Curry, Marshall

The Dolphins need another pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake and Curry would be a truly excellent addition after they went quarterback in the first.


43. Seattle Seahawks — OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin

The Seahawks have struggled to rebuild the offensive line for years and Zeitler is a very sound guard prospect.


44. Kansas City Chiefs — OG Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State

Tackle and center are fairly set, but guard is still an issue and Osemele could be a nice future starter.


45. Dallas Cowboys — DE Jerel Worthy, Michigan State

A potential first-round pick, Worthy would fit in nicely at defensive end in the Cowboys' 3-4.


46. Philadelphia Eagles — CB Trumaine Johnson, Montana

The Eagles are likely to part ways with Asante Samuel and will need a new third corner.


47. New York Jets — WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers

The local prospect impressed with his forty time and could be a nice target when Santonio Holmes complains his way out of town.


48. New England Patriots (from Oakland) — DE Andre Branch, Clemson

The Patriots already addressed the pass rush with Mercilus in the first round, but they need more than one guy at the position. Branch could team with Mercilus to give the Pats two long-term rushers.


49. San Diego Chargers —DE Kendall Reyes, Connecticut

Defensive end isn't a huge need, but Reyes is a nice value here and could be a strong rotational lineman.


50. Chicago Bears — DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson

The Bears remain iffy at defensive tackle and Thompson could solve a lot of those problems.


51. Philadelphia Eagles (from Arizona) — LB Lavonte David, Nebraska

David is undersized but is an athletic tackling machine that could boost the Eagles' depth.


52. Tennessee Titans — RB Lamar Miller, Miami (Fla.)

Miller is a bit of a luxury pick, but he's a great athlete and could be a nice complementary back to Chris Johnson.


53. Cincinnati Bengals — RB Doug Martin, Boise State

Bernard Scott is entering a contract year and free-agent acquisition BenJarvus Green-Ellis is an average talent. Martin is a strong runner and could eventually be a starter in Cincinnati.


54. Detroit Lions — CB Brandon Boykin, Georgia

Boykin might not immediately address the Lions' secondary needs, but he has upside there and is a versatile athlete that could help elsewhere in the meantime.


55. Atlanta Falcons — C Ben Jones, Georgia

The Falcons re-signed veteran Todd McClure to a one-year deal, but local prospect Jones could be groomed as his eventual replacement.


56. Pittsburgh Steelers — OT Zebrie Sanders, Florida State

Tackle injuries have killed the Steelers over the past few years and Sanders could develop into a starter on the right side.


57. Denver Broncos — QB Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

The Broncos have no immediate need at quarterback, but Cousins would be an excellent project to develop behind Peyton Manning.


58. Houston Texans — NT Josh Chapman, Alabama

Chapman goes a little shorter than preferred, but he's a great 3-4 nose tackle.


59. New Orleans Saints (forfeited)


60. Green Bay Packers — DE Jared Crick, Nebraska

Crick projects as a possible starter at end in the Packers' 3-4 scheme and would be a nice addition.


61. Baltimore Ravens — RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech

The Ravens could use a long-term backup behind Ray Rice and Wilson is the best on the board.


62. San Francisco 49ers —S George Iloka, Boise State

Colin Jones and Mark LeGree don't profile as starters, so adding a talent like Iloka would be huge for the Niners' secondary.


63. New England Patriots — CB Josh Robinson, Central Florida

The Patriots look for more secondary help here with a blazing prospect in Robinson.


64. New York Giants — LB Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma

Lewis is a versatile player that could play end for the Giants or move to linebacker like Mathias Kiwanuka and Clint Sintim before him.


Discuss this article on the comments below and share your own mock draft on the forum here!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Full 2012 NFL Draft order revealed; Dolphins receive no compensatory picks

The entire 2012 NFL Draft order has been revealed by the league, and as a result we now know exactly where each of the Miami Dolphins' picks falls among the 253 selections on the weekend of April 26-28.

Round 1, Pick 8
Round 2, Pick 10 (42nd)
Round 3, Pick 9 (72nd)
Round 3, Pick 10 (73rd)
Round 4, Pick 8 (103rd)
Round 5, Pick 10 (145th)
Round 6, Pick 27 (196th)
Round 7, Pick 8 (215th)

Six of these picks are the Dolphins' own, while the 73rd overall pick comes from Chicago when the Bears acquired wide receiver Brandon Marshall earlier this month, and the sixth-round pick is from a swap with the Saints for running back Reggie Bush. Essentially, the Dolphins acquired the 1,000-yard rusher for the price of moving down 17 sots in the sixth round. Not too shabby.

There's also the luxury of having consecutive picks in the third round of the draft at No. 72 and 73 thanks to the trade with the Bears. As Ben Volin points out, some exceptional talent has been found by other teams in the third round of the draft.

However, all eyes are certainly on the Dolphins' No. 8 overall pick, which was landed in a coin flip with the Carolina Panthers at February's NFL Scouting Combine.

Most of the Dolphins' needs entering the offseason remain partially or entirely, and the team is expected to consider positions like quarterback, offensive tackle, and defensive end.

A trade down is also a possibility, especially if a blue chip prospect like Alabama running back Trent Richardson or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon remains on the board. Moving down from No. 8 would potentially give the Dolphins more ammo to move up in the 2013 first round, when the quarterback class is expected to be loaded with talent.

Meanwhile, the NFL announced Monday its annual allotment of compensatory picks awarded for the upcoming NFL Draft, given to teams for the net loss in free agency the offseason prior. As expected, the Dolphins received no compensatory picks and remain with just their eight draft choices.

It's certainly no surprise to see the Dolphins fail to even net a 2012 seventh-round selection, as their departed free agents from 2011 combined to do next to nothing with their new teams:
  • RB Ronnie Brown (Eagles) — 42 carries, 136 yards (3.2 avg.), one touchdown
  • OL Pat McQuistan (Saints) — Appeared in 10 games as a backup and played 164 offensive snaps
  • QB Tyler Thigpen (Bills) — Spent season as backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick; played 22 offensive snaps and went 3-for-8 with an interception
  • RB Ricky Williams (Ravens) — working as Ray Rice's backup, averaged 4.1 yards per carry with 444 yards and two touchdowns on the ground
As you can see, Williams was basically the only departed free agent that did anything for his new team and that was in a backup role. Combine that with the fact that the Dolphins got quality production out of free-agent additions Kevin Burnett (106 tackles, 2.5 sacks, forced fumble, touchdown) and Matt Moore (2,497 yards, 16 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 87.1 passer rating)—plus 16 starts out of right tackle Marc Colombo (even if it was as a horrible level)—there was never any way the Dolphins were going to come out ahead in the compensatory picks department.

On a somewhat related note, if you want to see how the team's future free agents project, you can check out the Year-by-Year Free Agents page here. Also available through the Dolphins Info section of the drop-down menu, this page is constantly updated to reflect players currently under contract, showing when they will be free agents and what their classifications will be.


Discuss this article in the comments below or on the forum here!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dolphins hosting free agent LB Philip Wheeler

In wake of fan outrage over the lack of a big-name quarterback signing, the Miami Dolphins continue to explore options in other areas of the roster and will host free agent linebacker Philip Wheeler on Saturday, according to Jason La Canfora.

A third-round pick out of Georgia Tech by the Indianapolis Colts in 2008, Wheeler has missed just three games in four pro seasons and has 24 career starts under his belt, including a career-high 11 in 2011. Despite missing three games this past season, Wheeler set or tied personal bests with 84 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble.

Wheeler graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 12 outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme in 2011, earning his best marks as a run stuffer while missing only five tackles on the season. Although he graded out slightly below average in coverage, he allowed just 17 receptions for 138 yards and no touchdowns.

Although he primarily played the weak outside linebacker position with the Colts in 2011, Wheeler spent the previous two seasons seeing extensive playing time on the strong side.

The Dolphins likely have a vacancy at a starting linebacker spot with a shift to the 4-3 defensive scheme. Pass rusher Cameron Wake will move to defensive end, while 2009 second-rounder Koa Misi is looking less and less like a starting talent.

Although Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett both have experience on the weak side in a 4-3 scheme, I expect a Wheeler signing would allow the Dolphins to keep either Dansby or Burnett (likely Dansby) in the middle linebacker spot as the "quarterback" of the defense.

There has been talk this offseason of working Misi in the middle given his inability to rush the passer over his first two pro seasons, but I'm skeptical of his ability to start in any scheme and Wheeler would present a clear upgrade. He also should come fairly cheap, as a comparable player like Erin Henderson (PFF's No. 4 outside linebacker in 2011) just re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings on a one-year, $2 million deal.

The addition of Wheeler would also further solidify a very strong Miami front-seven. The entire linebacker corps would be more than solid, and three-fourths of the defensive line is already set as well. Another pass rusher would remain the Dolphins' biggest need and would be under strong consideration at the team's No. 8 pick in April's draft.

The Dolphins currently have roughly $7.4 million in cap space with 58 players on their offseason roster and three restricted/exclusive-rights free agents still needing to be re-signed. They could create more cap room by trimming some salaries (such as that of Tony McDaniel) or by extending the contract of offensive tackle Jake Long.


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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dolphins host QBs David Garrard, Alex Smith

As the Miami Dolphins' pursuit of a quarterback continues, the two newest names added to the list include a guy that played in the NFC Championship a few months ago and someone that spent the entire 2011 season out of the league entirely.

Former San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Alex Smith is reportedly visiting the Dolphins on Sunday, while long-time Jacksonville Jaguars' signal-caller David Garrard is slated to arrive in Miami on Monday.

The Dolphins were officially ruled out in the Peyton Manning race earlier this week (and reports indicate they were never really in it), while former Packers' backup Matt Flynn visited the team Saturday. Flynn, who has also met with the Seattle Seahawks, has been linked to the Dolphins since the hiring of former Packers' offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as head coach.

Taken by the 49ers with the first-overall pick in 2005 (one pick ahead of Ronnie Brown), Smith's career got off to a rocky start and he was merely average between 2009-10 before having his career resurrected by new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Although Smith can hardly be given the most credit for the 49ers' run to the NFC Championship Game (which included an "upset" over the high-powered Saints), his season numbers (17 touchdowns, five interceptions, 3,144 yards and a 90.7 passer rating) are nothing to sneer at.

The 49ers had been interested in retaining smith on a three-year, $24 million contract, but Manning's availability has put those plans on hold and it might be burning bridges with Smith in the process. Smith has the same representation as Manning and it's obvious that Smith's agent is working for Manning right now rather than Smith.

Understandably, Smith is seeking new representation and might be willing to move on from the 49ers rather than be their "backup plan" if they fail to land Manning. In that event, Miami could be a nice landing spot and potentially an even better addition than the unproven Flynn would be.

As for Garrard, he was obviously a solid quarterback at times for the Jaguars in years past, but it remains to be seen if the 33-year-old who was injured all of last year possesses the talent to be a better stopgap than Matt Moore or anyone else the Dolphins could find.

It's actually interesting that Garrard and the Dolphins are meeting now, because he worked out for the team last October and got into a mini battle of words with the team in the media, saying he just didn't feel like signing with the 0-4 Dolphins and there were reports he was unhappy the team wouldn't guarantee his salary. In reality, he needed further surgery on a herniated disc and never signed with anyone.

Unlike Smith or Flynn, Garrard would not be a lock to start for the Dolphins and might be a potential veteran backup instead. He simply doesn't have the youth or upside to be the team's long-term starter and the Dolphins would certainly not put their search for a franchise quarterback on pause.

In the end, I don't know who the Dolphins' starter will be in 2011, but I'm growing increasingly certain the long-term, franchise guy won't be found this offseason. Moore and Garrard would be clear stopgaps, while Smith and Flynn might be solid starters but have questionable upside as well. I'm not sold on Flynn and I would expect any contract of his with the Dolphins to have an "out" within the first two years if he doesn't pan out.

If the Dolphins don't see Ryan Tannehill as a talent worth the No. 8 overall pick, it's quite possible the team will not add it's "quarterback of the future" and the team might have to wait until 2013 at the earliest to explore a new crop of candidates.


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Friday, March 16, 2012

Dolphins add free agents Artis Hicks, Jamaal Westerman

As the high-profile free agents scatter across the NFL landscape, the Miami Dolphins continue to add to their roster's depth with the additions of offensive lineman Artis Hicks and linebacker/defensive end Jamaal Westerman.

A 10-year NFL veteran, Hicks has 71 career starts under his belt during stints with the Eagles, Vikings, Redskins and Browns. He will receive a one-year, $2 million contract from the Dolphins with an additional $500,000 available via incentives.

Westerman joins the Dolphins after three seasons with the New York Jets, having signed with the team as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers in 2009. He was non-tendered as a restricted free agent before the 2012 offseason began.

The two signings give the Dolphins 60 players on the active roster, meaning their still have 20 spots to work with heading into training camp.


Artis Hicks

A Jackson, Tenn. native, Hicks attended the University of Memphis before going undrafted in 2002 and signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent four seasons with his first pro team, starting 31 games including 27 over his final two seasons.

In 2006, Hicks was traded to the Minnesota Vikings where he reunited with head coach Brad Childress, who was his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. After starting 14 games in his first season in Minnesota, he opened just 13 contests over the next three seasons before becoming a free agent.

Hicks spent the 2010 season with the Washington Redskins, starting 10 of 15 games at right guard. Released just before the 2011 season, Hicks landed in Cleveland and opened three games at right tackle.


Jamaal Westerman

A two-time All-Big East selection at Rutgers, Westerman finished his collegiate career with 141 tackles, 45 tackles for a loss, and sack total of 26 that ranked him third all-time in school history. He was undrafted in 2009 and signed a free agent contract with the New York Jets.

Westerman appeared in 14 games as a rookie, notching a sack in his NFL debut against the Texans while finishing the seasons with 10 tackles. He totaled seven tackles in just six games in 2010, seeing only 32 defensive snaps all season.

In what is his best season to date, Westerman played 411 defensive snaps in 2011 and set career highs with 3.5 sacks and nine pressures. He missed just one tackle all season and graded out positively in two of his three starts on the season.

A restricted free agent in the 2012 offseason, Westerman was non-tendered by the Jets and underwent surgery to repair a torn groin in early February. He arrives with a few ties to the Dolphins' organization, having played with Jason Taylor in 2010 and current Dolphins' defensive end Jonathan Freeny (a 2011 undrafted free agent) for two seasons at Rutgers.


Analysis

The Hicks signing is a curious one, and one that concerns me a bit given how much money the Dolphins are spending on him for the 2011 season. Hicks is going to make at least $2 million this season if he makes the team, but in reality he is not a starting talent and shouldn't even be viewed as a short-term option in that capacity.

The 33-year-old has started games at every offensive line position except center, but he hasn't fared well at guard or tackle in recent years. He'd hardly be an upgrade over Marc Colombo, which is why I hope the team doesn't view him as the fix there. At this point in his career, there'd be no reason to start him over Nate Garner or Lydon Murtha.

In short, Hicks is a guy that can play most every position but can't play any of them well. And if that's the case, why are we paying $2 million for backup and spot starter when there are cheaper, comparable alternatives to be had?

As for Westerman, he likely comes cheap and is a quality special-teamer. He's coming off his best pro season when he did flash a bit on the defensive side of the ball, but he's far from a lock to be a consistent contributor in that area.

As the Dolphins' roster currently stands, Westerman would be competing to start at right defensive end fellow special-teamer with Jason Trusnik. (Actually, they'd probably start Jared Odrick there right now due to lack of options.) However, one would expect the Dolphins to explore better options for a quality starter opposite Cameron Wake in the team's new 4-3 scheme, potentially with the No. 8 overall pick in April's draft.

As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dolphins add cornerback Richard Marshall, re-sign Paul Soliai

The Miami Dolphins remain in wait-and-see mode in the Peyton Manning derby, but they did add two key pieces to the defense Wednesday with the re-signing of nose tackle Paul Soliai and the addition of free agent cornerback Richard Marshall.

Soliai returns on a two-year, $12 million contract with a third-year option after playing under the franchise tag in 2011 and earning just under $12.5 million last season. According to Ben Volin, Soliai's cap hit in 2012 will be just over $4 million.

Meanwhile, Marshall received a three-year, $16 million contract with $6 million in guaranteed money. He reportedly gave his former team—the Arizona Cardinals—a chance to match the offer, but they apparently declined.

The Dolphins, who have also re-signed exclusive-rights free agents Jeron Mastrud and Austin Spitler as well as restricted free agents Phillip Merling and Lydon Murtha, now have 57 players on the 80-man offseason roster.


Richard Marshall

Before entering the 2006 NFL Draft following his junior season, Marshall started 28 of 37 games at Fresno State and was a two-time All-WAC selection. He finished his collegiate career with nine interceptions and became the 11th player in NCAA Division I history to total more than 300 interception return yards.

Selected by the Panthers in the second round, Marshall started 14 of 32 games over his first two seasons and recorded three interceptions in each of those years. He was relegated to a reserve role in 2008, starting none of the 16 games in which he played and recording just one interception.

Marshall started all 32 games for the Panthers from 2009-10 and set a career-high with four interceptions in 2009. However, Marshall graded out poorly in 2010 by allowing passes thrown his way to be caught 75.3 percent of the time—fourth-worst in the NFL among qualifying cornerbacks.

As a free agent in 2011, Marshall signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals and started nine of 16 games opposite rookie first-rounder Patrick Peterson. On the season, Marshall totaled three interceptions to lead the team and tied a career-high with 11 pass deflections. He also significantly improved his catch-against rate to 51.9 percent and was anointed the defense's MVP by coordinator Ray Horton.


Analysis

Addressing the Soliai re-signing first, I have to say that I'm very shocked that he's back in Miami after all the talk of a scheme change, and I'm surprised he wasn't able to get more money and years on the open market.While Soliai can absolutely play in a 4-3 scheme, his rare size is more valuable as a 3-4 nose tackle so I expected a pure 3-4 team to break the bank for him.

The Dolphins did well to get Soliai for a very manageable amount of money and it makes the defense tackle spot (in the 4-3) extremely deep with Randy Starks and Jared Odrick still under contract. I've also been told that free agent Kendall Langford's market is pretty soft and that he could be back in Miami on the cheap. (Langford is, however, visiting the Bengals today.)

The Marshall addition might not address one of the more obvious needs like quarterback, right tackle, or pass rusher, but it's a nice depth and insurance signing. He's coming off a strong year and gives the Dolphins a legitimate third cornerback in a league that's as pass-happy as ever.

There is some talk that Marshall worked at safety some in 2011 with the Cardinals, and that's obviously an area need with the slow development of Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones. However, Marshall is not a great tackler and corner remains a need as well.

Sean Smith is entering the final year of his rookie contract and has been inconsistent to say the least. He had a strong 2010 campaign (minus the dropped interceptions) but struggled as a rookie as well as in 2011. If his contract demands are too high, he could be on the block this offseason or allowed to walk in 2013, at which time Marshall would be the perfect guy to start opposite Vontae Davis at corner.

The reality is that Marshall could beat out Smith for the starting job in 2011, and at the very least provides an adequate third corner. The signing is a good one for the Dolphins as it beefs up the secondary a bit more, which is always good considering the Dolphins' lack of pass rush or long-term safeties in place.

As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My 2012 Offseason Plan

The offseason is officially underway, and already my prepared offseason plan has undergone numerous changes thanks to a wave of free-agent signings around the league and a major, surprising move by the Miami Dolphins.

What follows is my 2012 offseason plan, which picks up right now with the trading of wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears, as well as the re-signing of restricted free agents Phillip Merling and Lydon Murtha.

Feel free to share your own thoughts about the Dolphins' offseason and comment below!


Initial roster count: 53
Offseason roster limit: 80
Open roster spots: 27


Re-sign...
  • DT Ryan Baker (UFA) — Baker has been on and off the team for a few years now since being signed as an undrafted rookie in 2009, playing sparsely on defense. He was non-tendered as an RFA but could be brought back at a lower salary to compete again in 2012.
  • FB Lex Hilliard (UFA) — Hilliard didn't show much of anything in three seasons as a tailback and was moved to a fullback/short-yardage back role in 2012. He was non-tendered like Baker, but could return on the cheap.
  • DT Kendall Langford (UFA) — Along with nose tackle Paul Soliai, Langford is one of the Dolphins' priority free agents. Reports Tuesday have the Dolphins showing a renewed interest in re-signing him, which would be great for the Dolphins' interior defensive line as he could continue to team with Randy Starks and Jared Odrick against the run.
  • TE Jeron Mastrud (ERFA) — Mastrud has shown next to nothing as a backup tight end, but he's worth bringing back to compete as there's no depth behind him.
  • LB Marvin Mitchell (UFA) — Though he's not a real starting talent, Mitchell held his own as a fill-in linebacker and is useful on special teams. He's worth bringing back if the money is reasonable.
  • LB Austin Spitler (ERFA) — I don't think Spitler has much upside on defense, but he's proved to be a solid special-teamer and should be allowed to compete for a roster spot in camp.
  • New count: 59 players

Don't re-sign...
  • DE Ikaika Alama-Francis — IAF showed promise with a switch to outside linebacker a few years ago, but nothing ever materialized. He could be brought back to provide depth at end in the switch to the 4-3, but I don't really see the point.
  • CB Will Allen — Allen was an obvious cut after the preseason last year (to me at least) and was brought back due to some injuries and struggles. He's a nice veteran presence but doesn't have much in the tank at this point.
  • OG Vernon Carey — The move inside limited Carey's exposure as a liability, but he was still sub-par. Carey plays older than he is and continues to lose athleticism, so I'd say it's time to move on.
  • OT Marc Colombo — There are really no words to describe how bad of an offensive tackle Colombo was in 2011, but he was easily one of the worst in the league. I can't imagine any NFL team signing him at this point and he's obviously not a solution for the Dolphins.
  • QB Chad Henne — I've supported Henne as much as anyone and I still believe in his potential to start, but a split is best for both parties here. Henne will go somewhere and be a quality backup that could end up starting down the line, but it won't be in Miami.
  • QB J. P. Losman — Losman was signed as a veteran backup after injuries to Henne and Sage Rosenfels, but he doesn't have any upside. He'll have trouble being signed before the 2012 season begins.
  • RB Steve Slaton — Reports have the Dolphins interested in re-signing Slaton, but I don't see the point. Two teams have now failed to give him the ball in the past few years and I'd look for cheaper options as a No. 3 back.
  • NT Paul Soliai — Soliai has been a huge asset for the Dolphins over the past two years, but he's a goner. The switch to the 4-3 alleviates the need for a monster nose tackle and there will be other teams willing to pay him serious money.
  • OLB Jason Taylor — The long-time Dolphin and future Hall of Famer has decided to call it quits, so the team will need to look elsewhere for some long-term pass rush help.

Extend the contracts of...
  • OT Jake Long — The first overall pick in 2008, Long is entering his final season coming off the worst year of his career, as he was never 100% healthy. Although he remains one of the elite left tackles in the game, it's a bit risky to extend him because of durability concerns, but it's probably worth biting the bullet and reducing his cap number in 2012.
  • DE Cameron Wake — Signed to a four-year, $4.9 million contract out of the CFL in 2009, Wake has been vastly underpaid for a few years. His pressure numbers in 2011 were among the best in the league and the 30-year-old deserves on big pay day.

 Waive or release...
  • OT Will Barker Barker has done little to get on the field since being plucked off Tampa Bay's practice squad in 2011. There's little upside here and it's time to clear room for new blood.
  • SS Yeremiah Bell — A fan favorite among many, the reality is that Bell is horrific in coverage and can no longer run well enough to start even as an in-the-box safety because he's a liability elsewhere. The Dolphins could save a bunch of money by releasing him and it seems like an obvious choice.
  • DT Tony McDaniel — McDaniel has been a solid rotational lineman over the past few years, but he's coming off a down year and is due $3 million in 2012. I'd much rather put that money toward keeping Langford among the big three.
  •  New count: 56 players

 Sign free agents...

  • TE John Carlson (Seahawks) — Carlson is attracting quite a bit of attention in free agency despite missing last season, but I hope the Dolphins get in on the action. He's still young with upside and would make a great No. 2 tight end or even potentially replace Anthony Fasano down the line.
  • QB Peyton Manning (Colts) — Obviously the Dolphins appear to be a long shot for Peyton at this point, but I'm hoping they can make it happen. He'd be an incredible stopgap that would allow the Dolphins to contend while they look for a long-term quarterback over the next few years.
  • CB/FS Richard Marshall (Cardinals) — Marshall hasn't been all that great for the Panthers and Cardinals since being taken in the second round, but he still has upside. Marshall tweeted Tuesday that he's visiting the Dolphins and would provide great depth and insurance for Sean Smith, who is a free agent next year.
  • DE Frostee Rucker (Bengals) — Rucker isn't starter material, but is a solid backup defensive end that new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle should know well from his time in Cincinnati.
  • OT Eric Winston (Texans) — One of the best right tackles in the game, Winston was a cap casualty by the Texans and visited the Dolphins on Tuesday. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has experience with him from their time in Houston and his brother is a regional scout for Dolphins. The former Hurricanes standout would be an excellent addition that would give the team a ridiculous pair of tackles.
  • New count: 61 players

Draft...
  • 1st round: DE Nick Perry (USC) — One of the Dolphins' biggest needs heading into the offseason is a pass rusher, and the market's best names will all come with significant price tags. Perry has been rising up draft boards with strong workouts and would be a much cheaper alternative. He could bookend Wake and finally give the team the second rusher they've been lacking for a few years now.
  • 2nd round: SS Harrison Smith (Notre Dame) — With Yeremiah Bell cut in my plan, a new strong safety is needed. Smith is the best in his class at the position and could be a starter as a rookie and for years to come.
  • 3rd round: OG Brandon Washington (Miami-FL) — The Dolphins' right guard spot is still unsettled despite John Jerry's promising performance late in 2011. Local prospect Washington is a worthy developmental candidate inside.
  • 3rd round (from Chicago): WR Marvin McNutt (Iowa) — The need for receiver depth was created when Marshall was traded and the free agent market has dried up quickly. New wide receivers coach Ken O'Keefe spent the past few years running Iowa's offense and should be familiar with McNutt's abilities.
  • 4th round: LB Audie Cole (NC State) — The switch to the 3-4 likely puts both of the Dolphins' starting inside linebackers outside, so a long-term middle linebacker would be a good addition. Cole has significant upside as a hard-hitter with the athleticism to drop back in coverage.
  • 5th round: OT Andrew Datko (Florida State) — Datko is a much better prospect than this round would indicate, but his stock has taken a hit with a lingering shoulder injury. He'd be great insurance behind Long and Winston.
  • 6th round (from New Orleans): WR Jeff Fuller (Texas A&M) — An inconsistent senior season coupled with some lingering injuries has damaged Fuller's stock, but he's a prospect with some upside that former Aggies' head coach and new Dolphins' offensive coordinator Mike Sherman knows well.
  • 7th round: DE Donte Paige-Moss (North Carolina) — A former top prep prospect that saw his collegiate career marred by maturity issues, Paige-Moss is worth a gamble in the draft's final round solely based on physical tools.
  • New count:  69 players

Sign undrafted free agents...
  • QB Aaron Corp (Richmond) — A former USC Trojan, Corp put together a strong senior season at FCS Richmond and has the physical tools to develop into an NFL backup. He'd be a worthy challenger for Pat Devlin's roster spot as the Dolphins' No. 3 quarterback, likely on the practice squad.
  • RB Jewel Hampton (Southern Illinois) — Hampton is coming off a 17-touchdown performance as a junior in 2011 and is an intriguing developmental prospect. He's had two significant knee injuries thus far, but he has upside and originally played under for Dolphins' receivers coach and former Hawkeyes' coordinator Ken O'Keefe at Iowa.
  • WR Aldarius Johnson (Miami-FL) — A former top-10 prep receiver prospect, Johnson was suspended for his entire senior season for a violation of team rules and never quite produced at the college level. If he can get his head on straight, he has the physical tools to potentially develop.
  • TE Garrett Celek (Michigan State) — The brother of Eagles' tight end Brent Celek, Garrett Celek only caught 14 passes in college but is a solid athlete and good blocker with a history on the offensive line in high school. He's worth bringing to camp due to his NFL pedigree.
  • OT Jeff Adams (Columbia) — A three-time All-Ivy League selection at left tackle, Adams looks the part and is an intriguing developmental lineman that could become a useful backup down the line.
  • OG Adam Gettis (Iowa) — Gettis is fairly undersized at 280 pounds, but he's a solid technician and a little room to grow. He might be worth bringing in as a camp body considering Joe Philbin's ties to the Iowa program.
  • DE Jamie Blatnick (Oklahoma State) — Blatnick finished his collegiate career with 16 sacks and a first-team All-Big 12 selection. He lacks physical tools to be a stud pass rusher, but he could be a good backup on the strong side.
  • MLB Garrick Williams (Texas A&M) — Another member of Mike Sherman's Aggies team, Williams racked up 260 tackles at the college level and could be a quality special-teamer.
  • OLB Nathan Stupar (Penn State) — The brother of a former Bills tight end, Stupar comes from Linebacker U where he was an ace special-teams player and totaled 80 tackles as a senior. He'd fill that same role in Miami.
  • OLB Eltoro Freeman (Auburn) — I had the pleasure of watching Freeman play at Auburn, and I can say he is a pretty good athlete that never really lived up to his potential. An on-and-off starter in college, Freeman might be undersized as a linebacker but oversized for safety, though he's worth a look on special teams.
  • FS Trent Hunter (Texas A&M) — A fairly borderline NFL prospect, Hunter arrives with familiarity due to Mike Sherman's ties to the Aggies and would serve as a camp body and special-teamer.
  • New count: 80 players

Wrap-up

There aren't many huge changes to the offense here, as the backfield remains the same and Marshall's only replacement is a third-round rookie. I did add a capable No. 2 tight end which is something that's been lacking for a while now, and landing right tackle Eric Winston would be absolutely huge.

On defense, Langford, Odrick and Starks continue to man the Dolphins' run defense and first-round end Nick Perry would finally give the Dolphins a young pass rusher. Depth on the outside is a bit of a concern, but Rucker would provide some experience on the bench and hopefully they'd hit on one of the rookies.

Linebacker is two-thirds set with Dansby and Burnett, but one spot remains open and that's ideally the middle spot as both of the veterans project outside in the 4-3 scheme. Cole would be a huge pickup and would solidify the unit for the immediate future.

In the secondary, replacing Bell with Harrison Smith and adding Marshall would finally solidify the backend of the secondary. Marshall would also provide insurance with Sean Smith's inconsistent start to his career.

All in all, there aren't many huge splashes here and an immediate No. 1 receiver to replace Marshall isn't added. But the reality is quarterback is a key and signing Manning would solve all the teams problems for the immediate future while making them instant contenders.


Discuss this article in the comments below or on the forum here!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

 NFL free agency will officially be underway this afternoon, so I thought it'd be a good time to update my first-round mock draft once more before team needs change drastically as needs are filled by veteran players.

This is also the first mock draft since the Rams dealt the No. 2 pick to the Redskins for a tremendous haul, giving Washington a clear chance at what will likely be Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III (assuming the Colts take Andrew Luck, as expected.)

You can view my previous mock draft (from Jan. 15) here, and be sure to stay tuned for future NFL draft coverage as well as Dolphins free agency updates!


1. Indianapolis Colts — QB Andrew Luck, Stanford

This pick has been assumed for months, and with Peyton Manning officially on the market it's as sure as ever. Luck is the safest quarterback prospect in the draft and is a natural choice for the rebuilding Colts.


2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) — QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor

The Heisman Trophy winner's stock has been on the rise since the college football season ended and it created a natural bidding war for this pick with Cleveland lurking at No. 4. The Redskins won out by giving up three first-round picks and a second-round pick, but they'll certainly get an impressive prospect that could be a franchise quarterback.


3. Minnesota Vikings — OT Matt Kalil, USC

With Luck and Griffin going 1-2, that frees up Kalil for the Vikings. He's a major upgrade over Charlie Johnson at tackle and should do well to protect Christian Ponder.


4. Cleveland Browns — QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

This might seem a bit of a reach, but the Browns will miss out on Griffin and don't seem interested in Matt Flynn, so a move has to be made. Tannehill is a much better prospect than Colt McCoy ever was and should develop into a strong pro.


5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — CB Morris Claiborne, LSU

Ronde Barber can no longer run and is hardly effective in coverage, while likely-psychotic Aqib Talib can't seem to go a season without getting into some kind of trouble. Claiborne would be a great pick that could solidify the Bucs' secondary for years to come.


6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) — WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

Trading down to No. 6 could cost the Rams a chance at Claiborne, but at least they'll be able to grab a nice weapon for Sam Bradford on offense. Blackmon is a stud receiver that plays bigger than his size and has all the makings of a No. 1 threat.


7. Jacksonville Jaguars — DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

The Jaguars keep swinging and missing in the pass rusher department and might lose the emerging Jeremy Mincey to free agency, so it's time to go back to the well once more. Coples has some concerns about him, but his talent and physical tools are undeniable.


8. Miami Dolphins — DE Nick Perry, USC

This is a little higher than many have Perry going, but he's had as strong an offseason as anyone and appears to be a worthy prospect to bookend Cameron Wake at defensive end in the Dolphins' new 4-3 scheme.


9. Carolina Panthers — DT Devon Still, Penn State

The Panthers used a jumbled mess at defensive tackle last year, so it's time they brought in some big-time talent. Still is a sound prospect that should be able to start and produce from Day 1.


10. Buffalo Bills — DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

The Bills are shifting back to the 4-3 scheme and are still in desperate need of some pass rush help. Ingram lacks ideal size, but he's got a great motor and has ridiculous athleticism for his size.


11. Kansas City Chiefs — NT Dontari Poe, Memphis

Kelly Gregg failed as a short-term fix for the Chiefs last season, so it's time they found a real solution at the position. Poe had an incredible Combine and certainly boosted his stock, so he's a logical choice for the Chiefs here.


12. Seattle Seahawks — OG David DeCastro, Stanford

The Seahawks have used a handful of draft picks on the offensive line in recent years, but holes remain. DeCastro is about as safe as it gets and could be an All-Pro guard very quickly, so he'd be a nice pickup here.


13. Arizona Cardinals — OT Riley Reiff, Iowa

Former first-round bust Levi Brown is now officially a former Arizona Cardinal, which means the team will need to focus its efforts on fixing its pass protection issues. Reiff isn't an elite left tackle prospect, but he's solid and could start on either side for a long time.


14. Dallas Cowboys — OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia

Dallas might need to end up replacing Doug Free and has some issues inside. Glenn has incredible athleticism for his size and projects at both tackle or guard, so the fast-rising Georgia prospect should be high on the Cowboys' wish list.


15. Philadelphia Eagles — LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

The Eagles' lack of talent at linebacker killed them this year, but the instinctive and talent Kuechly would go a long way in shoring up the unit. He's a safe prospect in the same way Patrick Willis was a few years back and would be an instant producer in Philly.


16. New York Jets — LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

The Jets could use an upgraded pass rush, and they might be hoping to land the next LaMarr Woodley with the talented by slightly height-deficient Upshaw here.


17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) — RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

Many have Richardson much higher than this, but I firmly believe that most running backs simply aren't worth top-10 picks in this day and age. Richardon is of course a talented back, however, and would be a huge upgrade over plodding free agent Cedric Benson.


18. San Diego Chargers — OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford

The Chargers' offensive line has been decimated by injuries in recent years and they need to shore it up through the draft. Local prospect Martin is a legitimate first-round tackle that could contribute as a rookie.


19. Chicago Bears — CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

Most of the Bears' cornerbacks are free agents and Charles Tillman is solid but lacking athleticism. Kirkpatrick's stock took a hit with an offseason marijuana incident, but he's a talent player and a nice value here.


20. Tennessee Titans — CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina

Gilmore's stock has been on the rise since his 4.4 forty at the Combine, and he'd be a nice addition to the Titans' secondary if they lose Cortland Finnegan to free agency, as most expect.


21. Cincinnati Bengals — S Mark Barron, Alabama

Reggie Nelson is a free agent and Chris Crocker just doesn't cut it as a starter, so adding a quality young safety like Barron would be a nice move for the Bengals here.


22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) — WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

The Browns struck out in the RG3 sweepstakes, but they'll surround their quarterback (whoever it ends up being) with some more toys. Floyd is a well-round receiver prospect with the upside of a No. 1.


23. Detroit Lions — OT Mike Adams, Ohio State

The Lions have settled for Jeff Backus at left tackle for far too long and they didn't really hit on Gosder Cherilus, so it's time they go back to the draft for a potential long-term left tackle.


24. Pittsburgh Steelers — LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama

The Steelers could use some youth at linebacker where James Farrior and Larry Foote have been holding down the fort. Hightower is a great 3-4 prospect and could be fantastic teamed with Lawrence Timmons inside.


25. Denver Broncos — DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State

Cox has been rising up the draft boards and may end up going much higher than this, but for now he's an obvious pick here. The Cowboys missed with the Ty Warren acquisition and have little talent at the position, so Cox would be a huge addition.


26. Houston Texans — WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

Houston honestly doesn't have many holes now that their defense has been turned around, but a true No. 2 receiver to team with Andre Johnson would be a nice luxury. In-state prospect Wright would be a perfect fit and brings legitimate 4.4 speed (despite his Combine time) to the NFL.


27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) — DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

The Patriots got along just fine with Mark Anderson and Andre Carter in 2011, but some more youth and talent is needed in the pass rush department. Mercilus is a fantastic prospect that could go much higher, so he'd be an excellent value here.


28. Green Bay Packers — LB Vinny Curry, Marshall

Many see Curry as a second- or third-round prospect, but I love his motor and potential either as a 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker. The Packers have no talent opposite Clay Matthews III and Curry could change that quickly.


29. Baltimore Ravens — C Peter Konz, Wisconsin

Matt Birk might be returning for another season, but he'll eventually need replacing and Konz is the best center prospect in the draft. He'd be a great understudy to Birk in the meantime.


30. San Francisco 49ers —WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech

They might have signed Randy Moss on Monday, but that's not a long-term solution. Like Demaryius Thomas before him, Hill comes from the Georgia Tech triple option but is shooting up draft board with his workout numbers. He could develop into a legitimate No. 1 receiver if Michael Crabtree continues to underachieve.


31. New England Patriots — CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

Jenkins certainly has a checkered past, but he's a better talent than this draft spot and Bill Belichick has hit on former Florida Gators with character concerns in the past like Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes. If the Patriots can get Jenkins to keep his head on straight, he could be a huge addition to a weak secondary.


32. New York Giants — TE Coby Fleener, Stanford

The Giants lost two tight ends to torn ACLs in the Super Bowl, so it's suddenly a position of need. Fleener is a great athlete and could be a tremendous target for Eli Manning as a rookie.


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