We did this last year, remember? Out of the 32 picks in 2010, I cruised to a dominant, prescient...7 picks within one spot of their actual selection. Only four were correct, and they were four of the top five.
The good news is that this year's draft should be unpredictable. The bad news is...well, yeah, since we're trying to predict here, it should be obvious.
But let's try it again anyway, shall we?
1. Carolina Panthers--QB Cam Newton, Auburn
Is he going to be Big Pussy Russell? Most likely not. But he's already a guy who gives every indication that he's not prepared to do the grinding that has made guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady great, or even the dirty work that Mike Vick has been allegedly doing since taking over in Philly.
Of course, this isn't about who the Panthers should take, it's about who we think they will take. And this team wants a big name with a sizeable highlight reel to shake off their vanilla, lunchpail, John Fox-induced reputation. Having someone who can keep Steve Smith excited will also help.
Is Cam going to be a star? Most likely not. But he may put butts in seats.
2. Denver Broncos--DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
Congratulations, Denver fans, now you've inherited Mr. Vanilla Lunchpail himself. John Fox got sold to this team on the promise that he could do something about a defense whose one solid season in 2009 gave way to a unit that rolled over like basset hounds looking for a belly rub. (Either that or he's got photos involving John Elway, a group of hookers, and three tons of Jell-O. Not sure which.)
John Elway's talk about trying to snag a quarterback may come to fruition, but it'd be a real head-scratcher if he's willing to pay two QB's first-round money simultaneously. Dareus offers the promise of defensive impact, and the fan base isn't as quick to renounce Timmy Christ as Elway seems to be.
3. Buffalo Bills--QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
Defense is undoubtedly a bigger need, but the Bills want to put that third Triplet in place with Steve Johnson and C.J. Spiller. It's a good situation for Gabbert, since Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the worst stopgap measure for Gabbert to wait behind.
After reading this article making Gabbert sound like Rain Man in shoulder pads, the Bills should be interested enough to let him commit their offense to memory. Should take him all of 45 minutes.
4. Cincinnati Bengals--WR A.J. Green, Alabama
Green's not likely to ever even meet Carson Palmer, but whoever ends up calling the signals in Cincy (Kolb, McNabb, some rookie, maybe Ken Anderson ponders comeback), Green's the kind of guy who can make any passer look good.
Well, okay, within reason. I mean, even Larry Fitz (to whom Green gets compared every now and then) looked mortal when he had John Skelton and Max Hall throwing at him.
5. Arizona Cardinals--LB Von Miller, Texas A&M
The Cards will have a hard choice here between Miller and Nick Fairley. It all depends on whether they think the interior line or the aging linebacker group is a bigger area of need. With Miller providing pass rush from the edge, it could lead to more hurried ducks floating toward the dangerous Kerry Rhodes and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
6. Cleveland Browns--WR Julio Jones, Alabama
Colt McCoy wasn't a complete embarrassment last season, but it's hard for a QB to contribute positively when half his passing game runs through the Mack truck with legs that we call Peyton Hillis. Chansi Stuckey and Mohamed Massaquoi aren't going to cut it as primary receiving options. Jones should be the first receiver to bring serious noise in Cleveland since Braylon Edwards (who was the first since...who, Webster Slaughter?).
7. San Francisco 49ers--CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
The Niners should do a dance of joy that would make Balki and Larry blush if Peterson slides. Personally, I'd be pushing hard for him if I were in Cleveland, because a Joe Haden/Peterson duo would be killer.
As it is, San Francisco is dying to get secondary help. The good news for them is that if Peterson's already gone, Prince Amukamara will likely still be available. Either would work just fine. Still, Peterson's probably the best overall player in this draft, and getting him at seven is a great deal.
8. Tennessee Titans--DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
This is the team that employed Albert Haynesworth and watched him play well enough to hold up some poor sucker for $100 mil. Fairley's considered to have similar upside, and also a similar flaky streak.
The difference is that Fairley's more of a goofball than a goon, and with his college line coach and a surly trench veteran like Mike Munchak guiding his development, he should avoid the worst developments that derailed Haynesworth...well, at least until some poor sucker comes offering $100 mil. Guy gets paid like that and all bets are off.
9. Dallas Cowboys--OT Tyron Smith, USC
If Jerry hangs around and actually makes this pick, I'll be shocked. The Cowboys were built off the back of hoarding picks and Jerry likes his selections to be sexy. An offensive tackle at number nine isn't setting anyone's shorts ablaze in Big D.
That said, the line is what they seriously need if they want to keep Tony Romo pretty and walking, not to mention salvage what's left of Marion Barber and maximize Felix Jones. We all know Jerry likes his offense explosive, but the skill positions aren't a problem anymore.
10. Washington Redskins--DE/OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
Rolling the dice on a guy who didn't play a college down last season is risky, but this is the team that decided Rex Grossman was a worthwhile quarterback. Risky is what they do. Put Quinn opposite Brian Orakpo and it might help put some beer goggles on the Skins' dog-ugly secondary.
11. Houston Texans--CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
Oh, and speaking of dog-ugly secondaries...
The Texans simply can't keep any kind of nucleus around Mario Williams, and it's holding back both him and a highly entertaining offense. Prince could be an improved do-over after letting Dunta Robinson walk.
12. Minnesota Vikings--DE Cameron Jordan, California
Da'Quan Bowers is still on the board, but the last time the Vikings used a first-rounder on a defensive end with injury concerns, it turned into 30 tackles and five sacks in three years of Erasmus James. Jordan's a legacy pick, since his dad Steve was a longtime Vikings TE. A team that had to endure two years of Childress-Favre soap operas (and unseemly stories about Favre's special purpose) could use a little PR.
And he can play a bit, as well. That always helps.
13. Detroit Lions--OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
Speaking of quarterbacks who need to be kept upright (see Dallas), Matt Stafford is cultivating a rep as this generation's Chris Chandler, a guy who's solid when healthy but is not often healthy. The Lions currently have the ancient Jeff Backus and the brittle Gosder Cherilus at the tackle positions, and some help would allow Stafford to sleep better at night. (Those hospital beds aren't very comfortable, you know.) Castonzo has the added bonus of being able to play guard until Backus hangs it up or if Cherilus gets an adamantium skeleton implanted.
14. St. Louis Rams--DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
Steve Spagnuolo made his name with a Giants defense that seemed to rotate 20 defensive linemen in and out. The Rams have Chris Long beginning to establish himself and got a solid season from 33-year-old James Hall in 2010. Bowers' knee is a prevailing concern, otherwise this guy would have been gone 10 picks ago. In St. Louis, Bowers has a place where he can rotate in and out and prove that the knee is sound before replacing Hall in a year or two.
15. Miami Dolphins--C/G Mike Pouncey, Florida
Most experts have Mark Ingram here, but using a first on a running back who's struggled with recent knee injuries sounds like a recipe for heartache, especially when the second round may yield other, lower-profile runners with less baggage (or even Ingram himself for less money, if the Fins decide to make an aggressive deal).
To aid a running back's shelf life, the Dolphins could stand to help their line keep bodies off the backs in the first place. Mike could step right in and be the kind of rock that his brother Maurkice has been in Pittsburgh. In the process, he could make some second-or-third-round back look like a first-rounder.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars--DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
The Jags will probably be hoping Cameron Jordan shows up here so he can be slotted right in next to college teammate Tyson Alualu. No dice here, but Kerrigan's a nice fall-back plan. He'll put some heat on opposing quarterbacks while serving an apprenticeship under Aaron Kampman. (Of course, that was probably also the plan with Derrick Harvey, and we saw how well that worked out.)
17. New England Patriots--DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
The Pats have been so intent on getting the back seven back in shape that they've neglected the line, trying to plug in guys like Gerard Warren to fill holes. With recent picks like Mayo, Meriweather, Chung, and McCourty panning out well, it's time to replenish the unit that used to boast names like Richard Seymour and Ty Warren alongside the last man standing, Vince Wilfork.
Watt's one of the few guys on the board being given credit for being able to play 3-4 end from day one. On this team, he'll have to be, since the Patriots aren't given to keeping guys around for sentimental reasons.
18. San Diego Chargers--OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
The Chargers could use help all over the front seven, but it seems like all the defensive linemen available (Aldon Smith, Muhammad Wilkerson) would have a little transitioning to do. Wilkerson's an interesting pick, but the Chargers are still shaking their heads over the low production from their last Mid-American Conference first-round pick, Larry English.
Ayers is known to California fans, he's played solid college comp, and he was productive in doing so. Add the fact that A.J. Smith isn't keen on drafting projects with early picks and it puts Ayers in a very strong position here.
19. New York Giants--OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
With Castonzo gone, there are some solid O-linemen who seem like they could use a year or two of seasoning. Then, there's Carimi. He could start immediately and let the Giants slide David Diehl back to guard. He's got contract escalators for each season he plays tackle, so Carimi could pay for himself pretty quickly.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers--DE Aldon Smith, Missouri
Last year, the Bucs went D-line early twice. Gerald McCoy was decent, but Brian Price's injury issues leave him on the bubble. Either way, a team led in sacks by the immortal Stylez G. White needs help on the rush. Smith has been getting looked at by teams who would convert him to a 3-4 OLB, but in Tampa, he could keep a hand down and devote himself to hunting quarterbacks.
21. Kansas City Chiefs--G Danny Watkins, Baylor
He can play guard and take over for aging Brian Waters or kick out to tackle. As long as the Chiefs' line holds up, their offense could be very strong for years to come.
22. Indianapolis Colts--OT Nate Solder, Colorado
Hopefully, the Colts can finally get an offensive line pick right. Mike Pollak's been inconsistent, Tony Ugoh's already washed out. The ones that they get right (Jake Scott, Ryan Diem) are usually mid-round picks, but there's usually limited ceilings for those guys.
Solder's a giant who'll require a $20 cab ride for pass rushers to get to Peyton Manning. Plus, he's got the sheer bulk (6'8", 320, with a frame to add more) to finally allow Joseph Addai and Donald Brown to see what daylight looks like. Last year, I told the Colts they needed Rodger Saffold. They took Jerry Hughes. Saffold was a good LT for the Rams, protecting Sam Bradford's blind side. Hughes racked six tackles and left Bill Polian muttering that he should have taken Saffold. Just saying.
23. Philadelphia Eagles--CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
Back-to-back Buffaloes here. Off-field concerns appear to be scaring a lot of teams off of Smith, but the Eagles are the franchise that took a shot at a convicted felon at quarterback. At 6'2" and 211, he's monstrous for a corner and can run with most receivers. Put him opposite Asante Samuel, and he'll get tested early and often. At least if a number-two corner is going to wash out, you get shown his flaws quickly, eh?
24. New Orleans Saints--RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
The Saints could go with Corey Liuget to pump up the run defense, but last season, the run D was middle of the pack. The run O was fifth-worst. Pierre Thomas is having issues making it through a season, Reggie Bush might be let go, and Chris Ivory could use some heavy competition to stay motivated. There may be interesting DT's like Stephen Paea, Marvin Austin, or Drake Nevis available on Friday.
25. Seattle Seahawks--QB Jake Locker, Washington
He's local, Pete Carroll's seen him first-hand, and Matt Hasselbeck's just a week or two younger than dirt. Their playoff run may actually do them more harm than good, as picking this low isn't all that good for a team coming off a 7-9 season, one that has this many needs.
26. Baltimore Ravens--DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple
Liuget or Wilkerson? It depends on: 1) whether the Ravens want a straight-up tackle to succeed Kelly Gregg and hedge their bet on Terrence "The Black Bob Paulson" Cody; or b) a player with the potential to line up at the end opposite Haloti Ngata. Wilkerson has that extra versatility that could give him the edge here.
27. Atlanta Falcons--DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
There are some medical concerns about Clayborn, just like there are about Bowers. This is another situation where the rookie gets some time to prove that he's in good health and capable of playing in the league before having to step in and start. Clayborn could eventually be a good successor to John Abraham.
28. New England Patriots--OLB Justin Houston, Georgia
He could be a dangerous pass rusher in Bill Belichick's defense. Between him and Watt, the Pats have opportunities to make their defense a lot fiercer... or they could peddle this pick to someone chasing a quarterback.
29. Chicago Bears--DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
If Liuget gets this far, the Bears will be dancing a jig all over their war room. He'll make a natural replacement for the released Tommie Harris. He could go anywhere from 14th to here, but there's no way he makes it past the Bears.
30. New York Jets--DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
The Jets need a pass rusher on their front three, someone who can actually pressure a quarterback without having to blitz extensively. Heyward shouldn't embarrass himself against the run, either.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers--CB Aaron Williams, Texas
Scouts are split as to whether Williams can be a corner or a free safety in the League. Ike Taylor's about to be a free agent and Ryan Clark could tear himself up at anytime smashing a receiver over the middle. If Williams can fill either spot, he's a fine pick here.
32. Green Bay Packers--OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona
The Pack had to get yeoman contributions from guys like Erik Walden, Frank Zombo, and Brad Jones once Nick Barnett got hurt last season. Reed could offer one more pass-rushing threat on a defense that already knows how to generate a little pressure.
This draft is going to draw a lot of "wow"s and probably a few "huh?"s. Let's see if El Profesor can make a power move on his draft prognostications. Eight picks within one spot is probably not all that far off from what Kiper and McShay manage, anyway.