We pretty much all predicted Cam Newton to the Panthers, but raise your hand if you had a first round run on quarterbacks including Locker, Ponder, and a Jaguars trade-up to steal Blaine Gabbert. That’s why we have the NFL Draft, because surprises always happen. Naturally, heading into the second day of the festivities, there are a few guys on the board many thought would be gone by now. Need a fix to get you by until we have the real thing? Here are the guys who I think are the 5 best remaining with updated predictions for the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
TOP FIVE AVAILABLE:
1. Da’quan Bowers, defensive end, Clemson: Bowers was supposed to be an early first round pick and one of the most explosive pass rushers in this draft. A degenerative knee condition made his draft stock plummet, but whoever drafts Bowers should probably get a couple good years of production out of him before his knees give out. While teams can certainly live with this, it’s certainly not worth a first round pick, and he’ll probably keep falling through round 2.
- NEW PREDICTION: To Arizona 38th overall. The Cardinals are in dire need of pass rushing, and because I can’t see him going to the Patriots, Bills, Bengals, Broncos or Browns, Arizona gets a gift. His knees are a big concern but the Cards are so desperate for a sack artist that Bowers is worth the risk. Original prediction: to St. Louis 14th overall.
2. Brooks Reed, defensive end/rush linebacker, Arizona: Reed is going to be a bit of a project for whatever team drafts him, but he has a ton of upside and if all goes well he could end up like Clay Matthews. Like Matthews he’s weak defending against the run but his pass rushing skills are off the charts. If a 3-4 team drafts him, he’ll need time to adjust to outside linebacker, hence the project status.
- NEW PREDICTION: To Cincinnati 35th overall. Da’quan Bowers was once a popular projection to be Cincy’s first round pick, but now that he’s fallen they’ll have a chance to get him in round two. He might still be their guy, but because the Bengals really need another pass rusher, I’ve got them taking Brooks Reed, a fierce rush linebacker with no long term health concerns. Original prediction: to Cleveland 37th overall.
- NEW PREDICTION: To New England 56th overall. As a Patriots fan I don’t think the Patriots are in need of a running back, but it is true that you can never have too much talent. Williams has every-down potential and is a very good runner, and since the Pats are expected to look at this position I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Belichick go with the VT standout with one of his three second rounders. Original prediction: to NY Giants 52nd overall.
4. Justin Houston, defensive end, Georgia: There’s a bunch of defensive line talent in this draft, and considering health concerns surrounding Da’quan Bowers and Akeem Ayers, Houston will probably become the best player out of all the pass rushers left on the board. A failed drug test could be a concern but shouldn’t affect his status too much. I think there are quite a few teams who regret passing on Aaron Hernandez because of a failed drug test, but that’s just me.
- NEW PREDICTION: To New England 33rd overall. Surprisingly, the Patriots have yet to address their anemic pass rush. Although it wouldn’t be a shocker to see this pick traded, the Pats absolutely have to use one of their next two picks on a defensive end. I know it’s Belichick’s philosophy to trade down for the best value possible (and to get free draft picks), but this is a very deep draft for defensive linemen and for New England this is an area of need. They need to tap into this depth and get a five technique end to replace Gerard Warren. The team can live with Ninkovich at outside linebacker if they have to, but an upgrade there would also be desirable. Original prediction: to New Orleans 24th overall.
5. Aaron Williams, cornerback, Texas: Williams has the versatility to contribute at corner and safety. He is very athletic, has a high football IQ, and can contribute on special teams, and while he probably lacks the speed or sheer talent to be a true number one cornerback, Williams can and should blossom into a good corner. If he goes to a team with a good secondary in place he’ll look even better than he is, but regardless he’ll be a serviceable player.
- NEW PREDICTION: to Cleveland 37th overall. Joe Haden needs help in the Cleveland secondary and Williams is the best guy they can go with after missing out on Patrick Peterson. I would have taken Prince Amukamara sixth, but with what the Falcons offered them you can’t fault the Browns for trading out. To make the Browns defense harder to gain yards on, they have to take Williams even if they need some depth at end and linebacker. Additionally, they could use a receiver to help out Colt McCoy, but this can still be addressed later. Also, with two aging corners, the Broncos could be a wildcard to take Williams with the 36th pick. Original prediction: 38th overall to Arizona.