Updated mock draft: 30th March

Will Nick Fairley still be smiling on April 28th?


To see the updated projection click here or select ‘MOCK DRAFT’ from the title bar 

There aren’t a cluster of changes this week but there’s one significant fall and one other issue I want to discuss. First let’s talk about Nick Fairley dropping to San Diego at #18. 

Without doubt Fairley was one of the most impressive performers during the 2010 college season. He consistently got to the passer, he’s electric off the snap and he’s got perfect size for the three-technique position. Fairley’s production was unmatched (13 sacks) and thanks to Oregon’s offensive line scheme he was too often left unblocked and able to dominate the BCS Championship game. 

It was around that time that many people considered Fairley an option to go first overall. He could still be a very high pick because the talent is there yet if one of the big names is going to fall, I’m putting my money on either Fairley or Von Miller. 

A lot of people have started to voice concerns. Mike Mayock has often stated his view that you either buy into Fairley or he’s not even on your draft board. There’s the one-year-wonder aspect, considering he was a complete non-factor in 2009. At the same time that one year of production was admittedly sensational. His attitude has been questioned and perhaps highlighted by his decision to reject the opportunity to work out for the Miami Dolphins (who own the #15 pick). 

ESPN’s Todd McShay has highlighted the high bust rate at the defensive tackle position which could be a factor, stating: “The more you watch Fairley on tape, the more worried you get he’ll be a bust.” 

Maybe this is just the latest edition of scaremongering? There’s nothing quite like a nice dose of negativity when discussing a big name prospect. Coincidentally, prospects like Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder have been elevated to star status with seemingly little justification. That is the way the draft rolls this time of year. 

Even so I wouldn’t rule out a drop for Auburn’s defensive compliment to Heisman winner and probable #1 pick Cam Newton. 

I first projected a drop for Fairley a month ago, pinning him at #14 to St. Louis. There are teams in the top-ten that could easily consider drafting a three technique (Denver, Cincinnati, Cleveland or Tennessee) but all four will be given extremely viable alternatives. A lot of people have Tennessee taking Fairley, yet this is a team with giant holes at quarterback (Locker or Mallett?) and cornerback (Amukamara or Smith?) and could still make a surprise pick (I have them taking Julio Jones). 

Once Fairleydrops past #8 you’re either banking on a 3-4 team making the choice and using him as a five technique or you’re preparing for a fall. Minnesota and St. Louis are logical homes, yet like the teams picking in the top ten will be presented with alternatives. In the Rams’ case that could be another defensive tackle – Corey Liuget is another talented player but has none of the character issues that come with Fairley. 

Eventually someone is going to take that chance. I’m happy to admit that it could be a top-ten team rather than someone in the #12-18 range. If he keeps falling, it increases the likelihood that a 3-4 team will take a punt on his ability to work as a five-technique. It wouldn’t surprise me if San Diego moved down in such a scenario, potentially trading with a team like New Orleans that has a big need on the defensive line. Perhaps we should discuss the possibility of Seattle trading up from that position? Would you surrender the #25 and the #57 for a shot at Nick Fairley? 

The second issue I wanted to address was the number of quarterbacks I have going in the top #15 picks. I hear the argument about how long it’s been since that number were taken early. This isn’t a normal year though, is it? Teams haven’t had the opportunity to make veteran additions due to the lack of free agency. If the court case on April 6th fails to prevent the lockout from continuing, we could be facing the prospect of a shoe-horned free-agency a fortnight before the season begins. 

Will that increase the possibility of quarterbacks going early in the draft? I think for the top four prospects that will prove true and we may also see other quarterbacks over drafted. 

I don’t think it’s optimistic to suggest the top-four will all be gone by Miami at #15. There are so many teams in the first half of round one that need a quarterback. Not all will go in that direction, for example I think given the option of Patrick Peterson or Locker/Mallett, Arizona will go with the cornerback. In my latest mock I also have Tennessee and Minnesota going in different directions. But I actually think it’s more unrealistic to expect only Gabbert and Newton to go early and then have this long drop off into the late first round or early second round. 

I understand the issues with Locker and Mallett but I still think two teams will roll the dice. I can’t see Locker getting past Washington and Mike Shanahan at #10. If we do see three quarterbacks go in the top ten, that is only going to increase the value of Ryan Mallett. His issues are well publicised but Miami are a team that has added Joey Porter and Brandon Marshall to their roster in recent years. They have a huge hole at quarterback, yet many people presume they will draft another running back in Mark Ingram. Why? 

If Mallett did go early, the question would then become – will we see the next tier of quarterbacks over drafted? After Locker and Mallett the next QB I have on the board is Ricky Stanzi with a R3/4 grade. I have Kaepernick in 3/4, Ponder in R4/5 and Dalton in 5/6. I suspect at least one of these guys is going to be a second round pick.


  1. kevin mullen


    Curious on what your thoughts of Clausen (knowing what you know now) and comparing him to these other QB’s. As polarizing as he was last year, I can’t imagine that his talents and skills fell off as soon as he arrived in Carolina. I know that he struggled at times but his OLine (pass protection wise) was horrid and pile on a lame duck coach, it’s not hard to figure out that their offense was going nowhere for 2010.

    Here’s some speculation: Why doesn’t PC target Clausen now? If everyone’s mocking Carolina to go for QB with the #1pick, and it seems (from the media) that Carolina completely gave up on Clausen, why not target him and aim low with an offer? (I believe they still have Matt Moore under contract as well)

    I just can’t fathom the Panthers spending two early round picks in consecutive years at the QB position when they’re terrible everywhere else. It seems like they’d be jumping ship too early for a guy like Clausen, rumored to be Top15 pick last year. Carolina got rave reviews for their draft last year, including the Clausen pick.

    • Ben

      Rob was pretty down on Clausen from the start. He had him out of the 1st round for months leading up to the draft.

    • Rob

      I think Clausen’s value is probably zero right now. I graded him in round two last year and in hindsight, that was too high. I always saw him as a really limited prospect physically and kind of got swayed because of the great numbers at Notre Dame, even though I also acknowledged he played in a system which completely inflated not only his stats, but also the two WR’s Floyd and Tate.

      It’s not unrealistic to suggest Carolina didn’t really do their homework on Clausen. They didn’t own a R1 pick and perhaps didn’t expect him to fall. When he did, they though they were getting a steal and a chance to come out of a draft with a big name that they didn’t expect to grab. He really was awful last year and if they were sticking with him, we’d know about it by now. Everyone expects the Panthers to draft a QB and for Clausen, I’m not sure it’ll ever work out. Carolina needs to draft a rookie at #1 this year and then start Clausen to try and rescue his stock before a trade next off season.

  2. Michael

    Well being a seahawk fan I expected some insanity and I know you cant guess trades but how can you have seattle taking this DE? The next two on your list are way more matched to the seahawks scheme. I cant see them standing pat as you have stated they will go get a qb or a cb. Whichever they deem harder to get in free agency. But I dont agree with cincy going qb even without Palmer they will stand pat to force his hand or get the pick to replace him next year. Dallas wont stay so that pick falls cause someone will jump to get Locker before Shanahan does. I could see them Rams going Cb but they couldnt get to the qb without a blitz why go dt when a de or lb miller would fill huge holes and steal him from the niners? Newton is gone first then locker and then titans get gabbert and them vikes go finish of the qb round with mallet.

    • Rob

      I think Wilkerson is actually a much better fit than Clayborn, Michael. For starters, it’s public knowledge now that Clayborn has a very serious health issue which means he lacks strength on one side of his body. Iowa kept him permanently on the right side because of this. He can’t play the LEO if that remains the case in the pro’s. Quite aside from this, he isn’t a good enough option at 5-technique for me. I’ve wondered whether 3-4 teams and Seattle would look at him for that role but after further film study I have him firmly as an orthodox 4-3 DE.

      Wilkerson could play the 5 because he’s got that size and he does hold up well against the run. He can rush the passer, at he did at Temple and from the edge. They may look to convert him inside to a three technique. There are options there and he does fit.

      Cincy – I think they’ve made the decision to let Palmer retire. I’ve made the point in the past that I think it was the worst decision Palmer ever made to threaten to retire, he lost leverage because Cincy are willing to let it happen. They need to move on and will draft a QB in the first two rounds. The Rams will consider a DT especially if the options at CB and LB aren’t great. They will love Liuget.

      • Michael

        Well as far as options seattle would see at de I can say Clayborn is a slow de in the make of wilkerson. You can talk all about a Wilkerson de at 6’5 305lbs having ten sacks in his junior year and still tell me seattle would reach for a 2nd round talent at 25? Im still on the cb smiths bandwagon, but why, would seattle not covet and accual pro prospect like shreard or kerrigan vs. a jack of all master of none over reach with wilkerson? Who is a better 3-4 fit.

        At this point you are still calling second tier plyers at any position but safety none first round material or needed this high, te not needed, guard ohh and a team need, or wr wow a playmaker with speed.

        There are several steals available but just playing bpa at position needs like that thay may as well draft a qb and waste then pick that way. I digress, my thought is that honesty if seattle just stands pat there will not be a quality player that fits this team or need and seattle doesnt have enough depth for luxury let alone waste one of few choices this year.

  3. PatrickH


    If the Panthers selects a QB, I think it is more likely to be Gabbert. He is a safer prospect in that he comes from a pass-oriented spread offense vs the run-oriented one at Auburn, and he has less of character concerns compared to Newton.

    If, for whatever reason, Cam Newton falls to 10, between him and Jake Locker who do you think Shanahan will pick? They both seem to fit Shanahan’s scheme.

    Detroit could be a place for Nick Fairley’s slide to stop. Pairing him with Suh could create a formidable d-line for the Lions. Alternatively, Detroit could also be a place for Mark Ingram. He could be the ball-control RB, complementing the big-play threat from the speedy, smaller Jahvid Best.

    • Rob

      I think Shanahan would go with Locker, but then I don’t think there’s anyway Newton gets out of the top three picks. I can’t see the Panthers passing on Newton and a consensus is starting to emerge with CN at #1.

      • woofu

        I saw Billick say Mayock was the NFL’s best talent evaluator and Lombardi nod yes to it. That said, Mayock has Locker rated as the #2 Qb behind Gabby and ahead of Newton yet Lombardi thinks Locker is out of the first round.

        We’ll know in a week or so if FA plays a roll in all of this but if not, then Qb’s will be a hot item in the draft imho. The CBA takes the draft projections into uncharted territory.

        • Rob

          Mayock, McShay, Kiper – they’re all entertaining whether you disagree with them or not. They are all great at their jobs. Essentially though they’re like anyone else – they get somethings right and some things wrong. Talent evaluation is really a lottery and it’s about opinions. All you can do is put your opinion out there, accept when you’re wrong and not milk it too much when you’re right. Mayock and Lombardi both make very accurate points on Locker, but I think both accept that he could still go early.

  4. Charlie

    I loved watching the
    Lions d with suh, I’d be drooling to have
    Both fairly and suh in the same lineup, competing for sacks

    • Rob

      That would be a fun defense.

    • Alex

      that said, Fairley is nowhere near the prospect Suh is. No one in this class is. Fairley and Dareus are closer along the lines of Gerald McCoy than a Suh who I thought was a once in a decade prospect at DT.

      • Charlie

        While I completely agree, fairly is still a talented player, based on 2010 tape that is

  5. Charlie

    I was recently looking through Dexter davis’ stats and he had pretty decent production at a PAC-10 school, have you watched college tape on him since the hawks drafted him and if do what did you come away with?

  6. Al

    I think Mallett (or other available QB) to the Dolphins has just been nailed on now that Pennington’s done.

    • Rob

      I think a lot of people presume they still have faith in Henne, but he was given the chance to start and failed. Miami can get good quickly with a prospect like Mallett throwing to Brandon Marshall. They need a center (Spencer?) but have a solid defense. They can contend quickly and Mallett can start in year one. It’s a great fit.

      • woofu

        I would’nt wish Marshall on anyone but Mallet.

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