Mock Draft 4.0 (Post-Combine Edition, 3 Rounds): Steelers Select ILB Dont'a Hightower, NT Alameda Ta'amu, OG/OT Brandon Washington

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54. Detroit Lions: Chase Minnifield CB (Virginia)

As I stated during my breakdown of the Lions’ 1st Round selection, Detroit is in desperate need of help in their Secondary if they wish to compete against the juggernaut Offenses in the N.F.C..  If the Lions are smart, it would not surprise me in the least if they decided to double-dip on picks to upgrade their Secondary in Rounds 1 and 2.

Chase Minnifield, whose Dad was Pro Bowler Frank Minnifield from the Browns of the late 80’s and early 90’s, had a stellar career at the University of Virginia and played with two other 2nd Round CB’s in the form of Ras-I Dowling (Patriots) and Chris Cook (Vikings).  At 6′ 185 lbs., Minnifield is a solid all-around Corner who does not have many issues when it comes to bringing down a ball carrier either.  A 2-Time All-ACC performer, Minnifield could start Day 1 in Detroit and help out the Lions and their issues in the Secondary in 2012.

(Previous Selection: Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State)


55. Atlanta Falcons: Cam Johnson DE (Virginia)

Atlanta will likely need to upgrade the Defensive End position in the 2012 Draft.  John Abraham is entering his mid-30’s, and Ray Edwards was a bit of a disappointment last season after notching only 3.5 Sacks after a lucrative Free Agent contract was presented to him last offseason.

Cam Johnson (6’4″ 270 lbs.) would be a nice choice for the Falcons at #55 because of his ability to not only rush the passer from a 4-3 set, but also his experience playing as a 3-4 OLB under Al Groh during his early collegiate career.  Mike Nolan’s Defense should have a few 3-4 elements (even though it is staying a 4-3), so Johnson’s positional flexibility could be of interest to a team like the Falcons which run different schemes.


56. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alameda Ta’amu NT (Washington)

Pittsburgh must find a Nose Tackle of the future in the coming months, and thankfully for them this is a pretty deep Draft Class when it comes to that position.  Luckily, a player of Ta’amu’s caliber (after a down season) could be available at the end of the 2nd Round which would delight many in “Steeler Nation” including myself.

Standing at 6’3″ 348 lbs., Ta’amu is the classic 0-Technique Nose Tackle which can eat space and man multiple blockers.  He can create pressure up the gut a bit with a bull-rush, but Ta’amu’s “Bread and Butter” is against the run game.  Ta’amu’s stock has been hurt a bit after an up-and-down 2011 season, offseason workouts, and his performance at The Senior Bowl and the practices.  Nevertheless, Ta’amu played well during his 3.5 seasons as a starter at Washington, is definitely worth a late 2nd Round selection, and has the potential to be a terrific Nose Tackle in Pittsburgh if given the chance and some time to develop.

(Previous Selection: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin)

57. Denver Broncos: Doug Martin RB (Boise State)

With Willis McGahee entering his mid 30’s, Knowshon Moreno in trouble with the law, and the rest of the Broncos’ RB’s being Practice Squad material, Denver should look to upgrade its RB position in the 2012 Draft.  That being said, there are quite a bit of solid RB prospects available in Rounds 2-5 for the Broncos to choose from.

Boise State’s Doug Martin is one player that should be on the Broncos radars’ because of his skill set.  Martin is a tough inside runner that has a bowling-ball frame of 5’9 223 lbs. that ran for 1,299 Yards last season.  In addition to his running prowess, Martin is an adept pass catcher, and in the Broncos Offense, the Backs need to be able to be adequate pass receivers as well.

(Previous Selection: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech)

58. Houston Texans: Billy Winn DE/DT (Boise State)

With Mario Williams leaving in Free Agency, Houston should be looking to upgrade the 5-Technique Defensive End position.  One guy Houston could be targeting early this April is Boise State’s Billy Winn.

At 6’4″ 294 lbs. Winn tore apart the Mountain West during his career and has the perfect size and frame to translate to the N.F.L..  While his competition may have been a bit sub-par at times, he did do well in big spots and in big games and had his way with Cordy Glenn in last season’s matchup.  A year of spot duty could be in order so Winn can adjust to the speed of the professional game.  But Winn most importantly has the right tools to develop into a solid player.

(Previous Selection: Michael Brewster, C/OG, Ohio State)


59. New Orleans Saints: Brandon Thompson DT (Clemson)

I’m being nice here, but that performance by New Orleans’ Defense in the closing minutes of the N.F.C. Divisional Playoff was terrible.  I don’t care how good Drew Brees is, if that Defense cannot force turnovers it’s the Achilles Heel of the entire franchise.

The Saints will be looking to upgrade their Defensive Line under new Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Brandon Thompson could be the choice for the Saints at #59.  In the event Brandon Thompson (6’2″ 310) falls, the Saints could find themselves quite the versatile and havoc wreaking Defender.  Thompson has the ability to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 set, and his frame could allow him to be the pass-rushing Interior Lineman which the Saints are in desperate need of at this point.

(Previous Selection: Mike Martin, DT, Michigan)


60. Green Bay Packers: Josh Norman CB (Coastal Carolina)

Green Bay is in need of help at the Cornerback position, and they are going to need it sooner rather than later.  Charles Woodson is not going to play forever and Tramon Williams if promoted to the #1 position in the future would be absolutely torched on a consistent basis.  The Packers like big physical CB’s, and Coastal Carolina’s Josh Norman is one guy that should be available to them at the bottom of Round 2.

Norman is a big CB at (6’0 197 lbs.) and a bit raw after playing at Coastal Carolina for college.  However, Norman did a terrific job at The East-West Game and reminds me a little bit of Ike Taylor coming out of school.  Green Bay likes their Cornerbacks big and physical, and with some time to develop, Norman could fit in nicely.

(Previous Selection: Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson)


61. Baltimore Ravens: Ronnell Lewis OLB (Oklahoma)

Baltimore is in need of some other pass-rushers not named Terrell Suggs.  Sergio Kindle has been an absolute ghost during his two year career in Baltimore due to injuries, and the Ravens need to start thinking about getting younger on the Defensive side of the ball.  One guy that they should be targeting this April is the versatile Ronnell Lewis who has loads pass-rushing ability.

A “Swiss-Army Knife” player like Lewis could really help Baltimore’s Pass Rush in 2012 and beyond.  At 6’2″ 244 lbs., Lewis made his mark at Oklahoma by playing all over the field as an OLB and a Defensive End, and in 2011 earned 1st Team All-Big XII honors by recording 13 Tackles For Loss and 5.5 Sacks for the Sooners.  Extremely quick off the snap, Lewis could step in Day 1 and help the Ravens in passing situations before bulking up a tad and settling in to a starting role.

(Previous Selection: Brandon Washington, OG/OT, Miami FL)


62. San Francisco 49ers: Leonard Johnson CB (Iowa State)

Outside of Wide Receiver, Cornerback is another big need which San Francisco must remedy this offseason.  In the event San Francisco cannot re-sign Pro Bowler Carlos Rodgers, the CB position could use a bit of depth with Terrell Brown and Chris Culliver being the likely starters if Rodgers departs elsewhere.

Leonard Johnson fits the mold of what the 49ers want in a CB.  He’s scrappy (5’10 202 lbs.), he’s physical, and he can tackle well.  In fact, one of Johnson’s best games last season came against Justin Blackmon in the Cyclone’s upset win over Oklahoma State.  A tough specimen, Johnson will fit right in with San Francisco’s aggressive Defense scheme.

(Previous Selection: Rueben Randle, WR, Louisiana State)


63. New England Patriots: Josh Robinson CB/KR (Central Florida)

Josh Robinson (5’10 199 lbs.) really emerged at The Combine which has in turn helped his draft stock rise in the recent weeks.  Running the fastest time in Indianapolis helped (4.33), but Robinson does possess skills which make him worthy of at least a late 2nd/early 3rd Round selection.

A starter during all three years of his career at Central Florida, Robinson could instantly help the Patriots’ Secondary which was torched all season long.  Furthermore, Robinson has terrific skills in the return game, and he could instantly upgrade New England’s Special Teams units while learning the Defensive schemes as a Rookie and early in his career.

(Previous Selection: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech)


64. New York Giants: Bobby Wagner ILB/OLB (Utah State)

New York does not have a whole heck of a lot of holes to fill on Defense, but one area that could use an upgrade is the Linebacking corps.  Bobby Wagner is a guy which can fit in either a 4-3 or 3-4 Scheme, and would be a great asset to Perry Fewell and the Giants’ Defense as a whole.

Wagner established himself as a tackling machine during his career at Utah State and tore up the W.A.C. as a collegiate player.  Wagner might be short 6′, but he is built like a vending machine at 240 lbs., and put his tackling prowess on display at The Senior Bowl.

(Previous Selection: Audie Cole, ILB/OLB, North Carolina State)

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