Monday, January 18, 2010

Pucci's NFL Mock Draft, Version 1.0: Picks 11-20

Returning is Senior NFL Draft analyst Michael Pucci, who brings us the second of a continuing series of posts previewing the 2010 NFL draft class. In this mock, Pucci tells us who will be drafted with picks 11-20.

11. Denver Broncos (from Chicago) – Dan Williams, NT
This may seem as a little bit of a reach here and many believe Alabama’s Rolando McClain is going to be the Broncos' pick come April. Last season the Broncos made the switch to a 3-4 defense. They started off playing very well in the trenches but as the season went on their group of underachievers faltered, leading to their 26th overall ranked rush defense. Take a look at the Ponies' starting defensive line from a season ago; defensive ends Ryan McBeam and Kenny Peterson (combined 1 sack, 1 FF, 65 tackles) along with veteran nose tackle Ron Fields who added 37 tackles but was consistently pushed back in the run game down the stretch. Coach McDaniels couldn’t help but notice the effect a dominate NT can have on a game when he was in New England and don’t be surprised if he makes the push to bring in either Williams or Alabama’s Mt. Cody. At 6’3 and 320 pounds Williams is a high effort player who possesses the strength and mean streak needed to become a premium nose tackle in the NFL. While Williams does need to work on his quickness, his ability to gobble up blockers on the inside will be coveted this spring. With teams like the Steelers, Chargers and Jets all in the market for a nose tackle, Dan Williams stock will rise considerably.

12. Miami Dolphins – CJ Spiller, RB
A pass rusher is also a strong possibility here as Bill Parcells has taken six linebackers in the first round since 1993, but the Fins won't be impressed by Michigan’s Brandon Graham or USF’s Jason Pierre-Paul enough to use their 12th overall pick on either prospect. Ricky Williams is going to be 33 and Ronnie Brown is in a contract year after another season ending injury, thus opening the door for the elusive Clemson product, CJ Spiller. The Dolphins run the ball more than any other team in football and I foresee them using this pick to land this drafts most explosive playmaker at the running back position. Spiller is dynamite with the ball in his hands and can break off a huge play from anywhere on the field. CJ has excellent speed and pass catching abilities which will set him apart from Miami’s other backs. Even if they choose to bring back Ronnie Brown I don’t see the Fins passing up on the Clemson speedster.

Fantasy Impact – CJ spiller will be coming into a good situation with a run heavy scheme and a top notch offensive line, and will contribute in PPR formats no matter what the Dolphins do with Ricky and Ronnie. If the Fins bring back Ronnie Brown I wouldn’t put much stock into Spiller in 2010, but he would be a must own player for anyone who uses a 3rd or 4th round pick on Brown. Look for him to go around pick 120 in standard formats. If they don’t re-sign Ronnie Brown, CJ jumps into the 5th or 6th round and can be expected to produce 800-1,000 yards from scrimmage and 5-7 touchdowns. For Dynasty leaguers expect Spiller to go around pick 40 in all league formats.

13. San Francisco 49ers – Brandon Graham, DE/OLB
Last year the 49ers made great strides on the defensive side of the ball under Coach Singletary but they did rank 21st against the pass, so look for the 49ers to land a top pass rusher here. Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson played very well but only managed to record 11.5 sacks combined in 2009; Michigan’s Brandon Graham will immediately increase sack production from the OLB position. Graham was a relentless pass rusher at Michigan, and consistently beat double teams to record 10.5 sacks for the Wolverines last season while forcing two fumbles. Graham has a powerful burst off the snap and fights until the play is called dead which will appeal to defensive minded Coach Singletary. At 6’2 and 265 pounds, Graham has shown the athleticism needed to succeed as an OLB in a 3-4 set or as a DE in a traditional 4-3. Brandon Graham should contribute right away as an edge pass rusher. Concerns about his lack of height may hurt his draft stock, but he has the talent to be a top 5 pick. As a result the 49ers will pass over an offensive tackle with this selection for the explosive Graham. Also, if Dan Williams is still available here he’ll end up in the city by the bay.

14. Seattle Seahawks – Bruce Campbell, OT
In 2009 the Seahawks' offensive line was unable to protect their quarterbacks; I believe Matt Hasselbeck is still having nightmares about the beating he took. They allowed 41 sacks and that number needs to decrease if they plan on having a successful passing attack. Bruce Campbell is extremely athletic at the tackle position with excellent footwork. While he does need to increase his body mass he has the prototypical frame too do so at 6’6, 310. Campbell is a natural pass protector and his draft stock could rise with a stellar combine making him a possible top 10 pick. A long list of injury concerns and lack of experience should allow the Seahawks to snag their anchor LT with the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft. If the Seahawks aren’t convinced Campbell can stay healthy I still believe this pick will be used on the offensive. Look for Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga to go here or uber talented wide receiver Dez Bryant.

15. New York Giants – Rolando McClain, MLB
When Steve Spagnuolo left the Giants prior to the 2009 season there was talk of a fall off in the G-Men’s production. That subsided when Jerry Reese brought in free agents DL Chris Canty, WLB Michael Boley, DT Rocky Benard and 2nd round draft pick OLB Clint Sintim. So what happened to the Giants defense that led to a ranking of 30th in defensive scoring giving up just shy of 27 points per game in 2009? It doesn’t matter who is at fault now but many issues must be addressed for the Giants to contend in the cut-throat NFC East. Choosing Alabama’s Rolando McClain with their first round pick is a start in the right direction. As a three year starter for the Crimson Tide this junior middle linebacker firmly entrenched himself as the nation’s most dominant presence in the middle. McClain is highly instinctual and can play sideline to sideline, matched with his rare blend of size and speed (6’4 253 and a projected 4.5 40 yard dash) McClain projects as the replacement for Antonio Pierce even though he can play all linebacker spots. While he must work on his pass coverage and block shedding, McClain has great study habits and is highly cerebral, easily making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Tom Coughlin will be ecstatic to land his future defensive field general in Rolando McClain, and he would be a starter for the Giants defense from day one. There is a good chance McClain will increases his draft stock leading up to the 2010 draft and he may end up in Denver or Miami. If so, look for the G-men to target Florida MLB Brandon Spikes or UCLA DT Brian Price with this pick.

16. Tennessee Titans – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE
The Titans are getting very old and losing production from the DE position. Kyle Vanden Bosch is 31 and is coming off a season where he recorded only three sacks and William Hayes is not the answer. As a team the Titans only produced 32 quarterback sacks and ranked 31st in pass defense a year ago, so look for the Titans to address the DE position with this pick in April. Jason Pierre-Paul has some room to grow at 6’6, 260 pounds, and has more upside than anyone at his position in this year’s draft which will cause the Titans to skip over Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan. Pierre-Paul is a natural pass rusher with an explosive first step and makes good reads at the line of scrimmage making him a constant disturbance in opposing teams passing and running attacks. At times Pierre-Paul struggles with double teams and needs to work on his pass rushing moves, but defensive line coach Jim Washburn will help to develop those particular skills. While Pierre-Paul only played one season at USF (after a stellar junior college career) his potential will catapult him into the mid-1st round and he should make an immediate impact on the Titans' front seven.

17. San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina) – Bryan Bulaga, OT
In my eyes Joe Staley is the only notable lineman on the 49ers squad, and they struggled mightily when he went down last season. By addressing the pass rush with the 13th overall pick the 49ers can find their bookend tackle to pair with Staley. Bryan Bulaga would have been the second tackle taken in this year’s draft if not for his thyroid condition that plagued him for the first couple games of the Hawkeye’s 2009 season. At 6’5, 315 pounds, Bulaga has shown great footwork, leverage and reach from the left tackle position, easily manhandling defenders in the pass game. While Bulaga must improve on his run blocking, he has a serious nasty streak and his game should easily translate into the NFL. Bulaga played LT at Iowa and projects as a LT in the NFL but the 49ers would use him on the right side of their offensive line which may take some time getting used too. If the 49ers stick with their spread offense, Bulaga will be a perfect fit as he is light on his feet. He moves well laterally, so expect him to start right away at the RT position for Coach Singletary’s offense.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers – Terrence Cody, NT
Casey Hampton will be a free agent this offseason and has shown signs of age recently. This being said, the Steelers will be targeting a replacement at the nose tackle position with this pick. Hampton will be leaving a huge hole in the steel curtain; at 6’5, 360, Alabama’s Terrence Cody should fill that void rather easily. Mt. Cody is dominating at stopping the run; he consistently takes on double teams and has shown the ability to make lateral adjustments to make the tackle. While Cody can push back an offensive line, don’t expect him to record many sacks or play on 3rd down. At this point he will be most effective in Pittsburgh’s base 3-4 scheme and find playing time on running downs and on the goal line. Nose tackles with Mt. Cody's size and strength don’t come along very often but they do carry risk; many players of Cody’s stature have had problems staying healthy and contributing in passing situations, and the impressive Mt. Cody will be no exception. He has had issues with his weight in the past and will need to work harder with his conditioning to reach his full potential. All in all this is a great pick for the Steelers; they get a proven winner with great potential who fits their defensive scheme perfectly.

19. Atlanta Falcons – Brian Price, DT
The Falcons took a step back last year, they need to improve on the defensive side of the ball and UCLA’s Brian Price is the best defensive player available at this point in the draft. While secondary help is the dirty birds' most glaring need, there will be an ample amount of solid corners available in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of this year’s draft, making this choice quite easy for GM Thomas Dimitroff. At 6’2, 300 pounds, Brian Price is very much like current Falcons defensive tackle Jordan Babineaux and together they will wreak havoc on the interiors of opposing offensive lines. Price has very good agility for his size, displaying excellent footwork and a very high motor. While Price has a powerful initial burst which generates ample leverage he can get caught up on blocks and will need to improve his strength to become a dominate defensive tackle in the NFL. Price fits the Falcons defense very well and will be plugged into the starting line up early in 2010, if not right out of training camp. If Texas’s Earl Thomas impresses at the combine he is a strong possibility here.

20. Houston Texans – Earl Thomas, DB
The Texans' offense has become a juggernaut and should be a top five unit next season, but to get over 10 wins and reach the playoffs they will need to improve their defense, and secondary is a glaring need. Houston gave up too many big plays last season and Bernard Pollard is their only playmaker back there, seeing that Dunta Robinson forgot how to play football while he was holding out for more cash. Earl Thomas is a perfect fit for Houston; he’ll be an instant fan favorite as he is a former Longhorn and has the ability to be a playmaker at both cornerback and safety. From the strong safety position last season Thomas recorded 71 tackles with five of them being of the yards lost variety. He also snagged eight interceptions while defending 24 passes, making himself a finalist for the Thorpe Award. Thomas combines great speed and change of direction skills with above average hands to be a constant disturbance in offense’s aerial attacks. He has solid tackling technique but may struggle in the NFL tackling larger backs and tight ends and can get lost in the crowd when playing by the line of scrimmage. For these reasons I foresee Thomas making the switch to cornerback (he certainly has the skills too) or playing at the free safety position. With a strong combine and pro day Thomas may find himself going in the top 15. If so, look for Houston to trade down to a team salivating over Dez Bryant.

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