Here is my final mock draft which includes mock trades.
1. Panthers: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama - I am adamantly opposed to drafting a defensive lineman with the top pick, in large part because it has never worked. In my second mock draft, I said:
Since the NFL Draft came into existence in 1967, five defensive tackles have been selected first overall: Walt Patulski, Kenneth Sims, Russell Maryland, Steve Emtman, and Dan Wilkinson. Combined, these five made one Pro Bowl.
However, with their new head coach - the defensive-minded Ron Rivera - running the show, I think this is the direction Carolina will ultimately go.
If they really wanted Cam Newton, everyone would know already (no need to be coy when you have the top pick), but we don't which means the Panthers have doubts about him. Dareus has climbed the ranks since the season ended for a few reasons, namely impressive workouts and interviews (especially when compared to Nick Fairley).
He's safe, although not exciting.
2. Broncos: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU - Denver, and new head coach John Fox, have been linked to Dareus for some time, but I think this scenario works out great for them. Peterson might be the most talented player in this class, and they can grab a defensive lineman early in the second round as there is plenty of depth at the position.
3. Bills: DE Von Miller, Texas A&M - Talent meets needs. The Bills defensive line porous to put it kindly. Miller was a workout warrior that worked his way up draft boards late in this process (red flag). Hopefully, he makes the loyal fans of Buffalo forget about bust Aaron Maybin. Newton would also be tempting here.
4. Bengals: WR AJ Green, Georgia - The. Best. Player. In. The. Draft. He also plays a position of need, and he has some character concerns so he'll fit right in.
5. Cardinals: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri - Larry Fitzgerald might not want a rookie quarterback throwing him the rock, but Gabbert would be the best fit for this franchise. He reminds me a lot of Mark Sanchez, the fifth pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, in that he is solid but not spectacular. He can be successful; just don't expect Kurt Warner.
6. Browns: WR Julio Jones, Alabama - From Mock Two:
The Browns haven’t had a 1000-yard receiver since 2007. This season, they finished 30th in passing yards per game, had no wide receiver eclipse 500 yards receiving, and were one of seven teams league-wide to throw more interceptions than touchdown passes. If they truly believe in Colt McCoy at quarterback and want to give him an honest evaluation, Mike Holmgren and Co. will surround him with some desperately-needed playmakers. Jones fits the bill. After being the top recruit in the country coming out of high school, he led the Crimson Tide in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in each of his three seasons in Tuscaloosa.
7. 49ers: QB Cam Newton, Auburn - I haven't seen any other mock drafts drop Newton this far, but I don't slipping past seven despite the fact he really isn't a great fit for new head coach Jim Harbaugh's offense.
8. Titans: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn - The comparisons to Albery Haynesworth are shallow and off-base. They have similar builds, play the same position, and can both be dominant, but the character issues are way overstated on Fairley.
9. Cowboys: DE JJ Watt, Wisconsin - A bookend for DeMarcus Ware.
10. Redskins: DE Aldon Smith, Missouri - A bookend for Brian Orakpo.
11. Texans: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska - Back to Mock One:
At one point this year, Houston's secondary was called "the worst ever." I'm not sure if I would go that far, but they did allow the most passing yards per game by any team since 2005. In my mind, they should make a run at newly-minted free agent CB Nnamdi Asomugha and take Amukamara (and not only to drive the Texans' beat writers crazy trying to type these names every day). The two of them wouldn't cure all of Houston's ills, but it would help.
12. Vikings: QB Jake Locker, Washington - Joe Webb is not the answer. Had Locker declared for the draft in 2010, he would have been a consideration for the top pick. He's a freak athlete that was working with subpar skill position players. He'll be just fine throwing to NFL receivers.
13. Lions: OT Tyron Smith, USC - Mock One:
Priority #1 in Detroit has to be keeping QB Matthew Stafford healthy. Protecting him would be a good idea.
14. Rams: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois - With AJ and Julio off the board, the value is on the defensive linemen.
15. Ravens*: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina - The Ravens are great at identifying talent. Mock Two:
Surprisingly, the Ravens struggled to get to the quarterback this season. They recorded only 27 sacks, tied for fourth-worst in the league....Since character issues are not an issue on the Ravens (Ray Lewis / Donte Stallworth: murder or Terrell Suggs: domestic abuse, just to name three), they won’t mind that he punches people as long as he can rush the passer. Doesn’t it seem like every year a very good defensive player falls to the Ravens? In 2007, it was Haloti Ngata (11th overall); in 2009, it was Paul Kruger (57th); in 2010, it was Sergio Kindle (43rd) and Terrence Cody (57th).
I was descring Adrian Clayborn, but the same premise applies. Quinn won't fall all the way to 26 so Ozzie Newsome jumps up to grab this top-10 talent.
16. Steelers+: G Mike Pouncey, Florida - Here is one rumor I do believe - Pittsburgh would love to pair the Pouncey twins on their offensive line. Makes a lot of sense to me.
17. Patriots (via Oakland): OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College - New England grabs the local product to solidify the O-Line.
18. Chargers: DE Cameron Jordan, California
19. Giants: DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State - Back to back Camerons.
20. Falcons%: DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson - John Abraham cannot play forever. Once Atlanta sees Bowers slipping, they'll jump up to grab him.
21. Jets&: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa - A potential top-5 pick coming into the season, he underperformed a bit at Iowa this year. However, he seems like a Rex Ryan-type player to me and all Jets fans want to forget about Vernon Gholston as quickly as possible.
22. Colts: OT Nate Solder, Colorado - Protect Peyton in any way possible. I also could see Mark Ingram going here.
23. Eagles: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
24. Saints: CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado - Two Buffaloes sandwich a Badger. KFC, take notice.
25. Bills^: QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas - He's slipped a bit, but there is no doubting his arm - a necessary tool in the Buffalo cold.
26. Dolphins*: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama - Miami gets their man despite dropping down 11 spots.
27. Bucs%: CB Brandon Harris, Miami - The quicker they get a replacement in, the quicker everyone forgets about Aqib Talib.
28. Patriots: LB Brooks Reed, Arizona
29. Bears: DT Phil Taylor, Baylor
30. Chiefs&: LB Akeem Ayers, UCLA - Kansas City gets their man despite dropping eight slots.
31. Jaguars+: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue - Jacksonville geths their man despite dropping 15 slots.
32. Packers: WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh - Donald Driver's replacement.
33. Patriots (via Carolina): RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
34. Seahawks^: OT Derrek Sherrod, Mississippi State
35. Bengals: QB Andy Dalton, TCU
36. Broncos: DT Muhammad Wilkerson, DT Temple
37. Browns: TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
38. Cardinals: OT Ben Ijalana, Villanova
39. Titans: QB Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
40. Cowboys: G Danny Watkins, Baylor
* = Trade: Miami trades 15 to Baltimore for 26 and others
+ = Trade: Jacksonville trades 16 to Pittsburgh for 31 and others
% = Trade: Tampa Bay trades 20 to Atlanta for 27 and others
& = Trade: Kansas City trades 21 to New York for 29 and others
^ = Trade: Seattle trades 25 to Buffalo for 34 and others
*Forget the "draft pick value chart." If I am Carolina, I trade down with Houston at number 11 and pick up an extra 2nd rounder this year and some picks next year. The Texans would take Peterson, and the Panthers could take the best player on the board at 11.
*Many of the mock drafts I have seen are very similar. In a year with no clear cut top choice, let alone consensus first rounders, most will be waaaay wrong (this one not excluded).
*Top Ten in Ten (Looking back ten years from now, these will be the best players):
1. AJ Green
2. Patrick Peterson
3. Mark Ingram
4. Julio Jones
5. Da'Quan Bowers
6. Brooks Reed
7. Rahim Moore (S, UCLA)
8. Ryan Mallett
9. Von Miller
10. Ryan Williams (RB Virginia Tech)
*I found it very interesting that The National Football Post ranked Cam Newton as the third best prospect in the draft... with the first name of Cam. They had Cam Jordan and Cam Heyward ranked (significantly) higher. I tend to agree that Newton will be picked too high, but NFP grossly underrates him (49th overall prospect).
*Ten of the top 11 picks come from the SEC or Big 12 (I'm lumping Nebraska here since they are technically still part of the conference).
*Biggest Movers from my first Mock draft in January:
A. Smith - up 20 spots
Liuget - up 19
Bowers - down 18
Watt - up 17
Mallett - down 17
Miller - up 14
Rahim Moore - out of top 40
Stephen Paea - out of top 40
*Monkeywrench players (I could be off by 20 or more spots): Locker, Taylor, Kerrigan, Dalton
*Potential Surprise First Rounders (of those not in my top 40): Christian Ponder, Drake Nevis