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Post pro day mock draft

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Adam Caplan

Adam Caplan is our newest NFL reporter/insider at FOXSports.com. He has spent the past 10 seasons covering the league, specializing in player personnel, injuries and contracts.

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You always remember your first time.

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Whether it's mock drafts, analysis or player breakdowns . . . we have it here.

I remember mine.

I was just about 15 or so.

I was alone.

I was watching television.

I was mesmerized.

I was in ninth or 10th grade and continued to be glued to the NFL draft.

Ever since then, I, like so many of you, try to predict who will go where in the first few rounds.

Doing a mock draft might be an exercise in futility, but it’s all about what might happen, not what will happen.

There is simply no way to know for sure what a team will do, but how they’ll arrive at making their top selection is always interesting.

Here’s my first crack at the top-32 selections.

1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton/QB/Auburn

Analysis: By selecting Newton, the team would be basically taking a big risk on a player who has only one year of starting experience at the Division I level. However, his upside is tremendous. And by selecting him with the first pick overall in the 2011 NFL draft, they would be admitting the selection of quarterback Jimmy Clausen last year in the second round was a mistake. Also keep in mind that the Panthers don’t own a second-round pick.

Needs: DT, QB, DT, DE, CB

Other possibilities: Marcell Dareus/DT/Alabama

2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus/DT/Alabama

Analysis: With the decision to go to a 4-3 scheme on defense, the need for interior defensive linemen like Dareus has taken on an increased importance in recent months. He would come right in and start. Bowers also could come right in and play.

Needs: DT, DE, TE, MLB, CB

Other possibilities: Da’Quan Bowers/DE/Clemson

3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller/OLB/Texas A&M

Analysis: The Bills have a terrible pass rush, so selecting Miller with their first pick makes a whole lot of sense. They also could look at Cameron Jordan here to fill a need or Blaine Gabbert, who would fill the need for a developmental quarterback.

Needs: OLB, ORT, DE, OLT, QB

Other possibilities: Cameron Jordan/DE/California

4. Cincinnati Bengals: Patrick Peterson/CB/LSU

Analysis: Green will be a strong consideration here, but the Bengals’ defense is pretty bad on the back end. And don’t forget that starting CB Johnathan Joseph is unsigned for next season.

Needs: WR, QB, G, C, SS, CB

Other possibilities: A.J. Green/WR/Georgia

5. Arizona Cardinals: Prince Amukamara/CB/Nebraska

Analysis: Had Von Miller or Patrick Peterson dropped to them, they would get stronger consideration over Amukamara. But, with both off the board, they’ll go with the best player at a position of need. CB Greg Toler then could move to the nickel role.

Needs: OLB, QB, C, G, ORT, CB

Other possibilities: Blaine Gabbert/QB/Missouri

6. Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green/WR/Georgia

Analysis: The Browns have many needs, but Green could fill perhaps their biggest one. He would come right in and start. Bowers has to be a consideration here since they are moving to a 4-3 scheme on defense and the Browns have no pass rushers at defensive end.

Needs: WR, DE, DT, ORT, CB

Other possibilities: Da’Quan Bowers/DE/Clemson

7. San Francisco 49ers: Robert Quinn/DE-OLB/North Carolina

Analysis: The 49ers obviously need a developmental quarterback badly, but they also need help on defense. While he didn’t play OLB at North Carolina, Quinn has the athleticism to play the position.

Needs: QB, OLB, CB, WR, C

Other possibilities: Blaine Gabbert/QB/Missouri

8. Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert/QB/Missouri

Analysis: The Titans would get their starting quarterback of the future and would further seal Vince Young’s fate with the team. Bowers would also fill a need.

Needs: QB, DE, MLB

Other possibilities: Da’Quan Bowers/DE/Clemson

9. Dallas Cowboys: Cameron Jordan/DE/California

Analysis: There are no safeties worth taking anywhere close to this early, which is the same story with guards, so selecting Jordan here would fill a need.

Needs: G, FS, SS, DE, CB, OT

Other possibilities: Tyron Smith/OT/USC

10. Washington Redskins: Julio Jones/WR/Alabama

Analysis: The Redskins have numerous needs, so they could go for a variety of ways with this selection. Even so, Jones would come in and start right away. Tyron Smith also would be a consideration to play right tackle.

Needs: WR, QB, ORT, G, OLB, CB, DE

Other possibilities: Tyron Smith/OT/USC

11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith/DE-OLB/Missouri

Analysis: The Texans badly need a few pass rushers, so Smith could be into their rotation at OLB right away. If Smith surprisingly goes off the board before they select, the Texans could look to trade down.

Needs: OLB, NT, CB, SS, FS, DE

Other possibilities: None.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Da’Quan Bowers/DE/Clemson

Analysis: With the likelihood that veteran DE Ray Edwards has played his last down for the Vikings, the team could use depth at the position. In fact, Bowers, who would be a great value at this spot, could fill a role as the team’s No. 3 end next season, then eventually develop into a starter.

Needs: QB, DT, DE, WR, SLB, C, G, FS, SS

Other possibilities: Nick Fairley/DT/Auburn

13. Detroit Lions: Tyron Smith/OT/USC

Analysis: Keep in mind durable starting LT Jeff Backus is on the final year of his deal, so selecting Smith here makes a lot of sense. Kerrigan, based on their need for another pass rusher, is also a consideration.

Needs: CB, DE, OLB, OLT

Other possibilities: Ryan Kerrigan/DE/Purdue

14. St. Louis Rams: Nick Fairley/DT/Auburn

Analysis: They could seriously consider Kerrigan here, but Fairley fills a need and he’s a solid value, as well.

Needs: WR, DE, DT, RB, S, CB

Other possibilities: Ryan Kerrigan/DE/Purdue

15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram/RB/Alabama

Analysis: This is really the only team with a big need at running back in the first round, so if Ingram doesn’t go off the board here, he could fall much farther. The Dolphins could get the speed they’re looking for at wide receiver later on.

Needs: RB, WR, G

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Other possibilities: Mike Pouncey/G-C/Florida

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan/DE/Purdue

Analysis: The Jaguars have a poor pass rush, so selecting Kerrigan would fill a need. In fact, he could come right in and get significant playing time as a rookie.

Needs: DE, WR, FS, SS

Other possibilities: None.

17. New England Patriots (from Oakland Raiders): Anthony Costanzo/OT/Boston College

Analysis: The Patriots have a major pass-rushing need, but getting a left tackle is also a need of note considering starting LT Matt Light is unsigned. They’ll still be able to get at least one solid developmental pass rusher later on, since that position is pretty deep in this draft.

Needs: OLB, OT, G, DE, WR, RB

Other possibilities: J.J. Watt/DE/Wisconsin

18. San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt/DE/Wisconsin

Analysis: With veteran DE Jacques Cesaire unsigned, the selection of Watt would pretty much signify that he won’t be re-signed.

Needs: DE, WR, ILB

Other possibilities: Cameron Heyward/DE/Ohio St.

19. New York Giants: Derek Sherrod/OT/Mississippi St.

Analysis: Veteran OL David Diehl has done a yeoman’s job at left tackle the past few seasons, but he’s probably better off at guard. Selecting Sherrod here to play left tackle makes a lot of sense.

Needs: OLT, WR, MLB, G

Other possibilities: Gabe Carimi/OT/Wisconsin

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn/DE/Iowa

Analysis: The Buccaneers have an anemic pass rush, so Clayborn could come in and play right away. They have no other need that is even close to this one.

Needs: DE, WR, S, LB, CB, G

Other possibilities: Akeem Ayers/DE-OLB/UCLA

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Gabe Carimi/OT/Wisconsin

Analysis: The Chiefs could use an upgrade at right tackle, so Carimi would fill that need. Should DE J.J. Watt drop to this spot, he would also be a strong consideration.

Needs: ORT, WR, OLB, NT, DE

Other possibilities: Nate Solder/OT/Colorado

22. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Solder/OT/Colorado

Analysis: The Colts would like to move LT Charlie Johnson over to guard, so the selection of Solder, who is scheduled to make a pre-draft visit with the team, makes sense.

Needs: LT, S, DT

Other possibilities: Muhammad Wilkerson/DT/Temple

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith/CB/Colorado

Analysis: Smith, who visited the Eagles last week, would be a perfect fit for the way the coaches use their cornerbacks in the secondary — a lot of man coverage. And they would like to be more physical at that position. Pouncey would also make a lot of sense since they need competition at center and have an opening at right guard.

Needs: CB, RG, OLB, SS

Other possibilities: Mike Pouncey/G-C/Florida

24. New Orleans Saints: Muhammad Wilkerson/DT/Temple

Analysis: Muhammad, one of the highest-moving players up draft boards in recent months, would fill a major need on the interior of their defensive line.

Needs: DT, DE, OLB, C

Other possibilities: Akeem Ayers/DE-OLB/UCLA

25. Seattle Seahawks: Mike Pouncey/G-C/Florida

Analysis: The Seahawks need to select any worthy offensive lineman here. They simply have at least three starting jobs on their offensive line to fill, so Pouncey could at least fill one of them.

Needs: G, ORT, C, QB, WR, CB, DE, DT

Other possibilities: Akeem Ayers/DE-OLB/UCLA

26. Baltimore Ravens: Cameron Heyward/DE/Ohio St.

Analysis: Heyward is a solid value here and fills a need. Selecting DT Phil Taylor wouldn’t be a surprise, either, because he has a huge upside.

Needs: CB, WR, DE, OT, OLB

Other possibilities: Phil Taylor/DE/Baylor

27. Atlanta Falcons: Akeem Ayers/DE-OLB/UCLA

Analysis: The Falcons badly need another pass rusher to play opposite veteran DE John Abraham. Ayers also could line up as a joker/SLB.

Needs: DE, OLB, CB

Other possibilities: Jabaal Sheard/DE/Pittsburgh

28. New England Patriots: Phil Taylor/DT/Baylor

Analysis: You won’t find many athletic defensive linemen of his size, so Taylor would be hard for the Patriots to pass up here. They badly need depth at defensive end. Brooks Reed, who would fill a pass-rushing need, is also a consideration.

Needs: OLB, OT, G, DE, WR, RB

Other possibilities: Brooks Reed/DE-OLB/Arizona

29. Chicago Bears: Corey Liuget/DT/Illinois

Analysis: The Bears have a major need on the offensive line, but they also have a big one on the interior of their defensive line. Liuget could come in and play significant minutes as a rookie.

Needs: G, OT, DT, SLB, DE

Other possibilities: Danny Watkins/G/Baylor

30. New York Jets: Brooks Reed/DE-OLB/Arizona

Analysis: I’ve been hearing since his Senior Bowl week performance that he could go late in the first round to a team that runs a 3-4 scheme, so Reed’s selection here shouldn’t come as much of a shock.

Needs: DE, WR, DL, OLB

Other possibilities: Jabaal Sheard/DE/Pittsburgh

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams/CB/Texas

Analysis: The Steelers, with veteran CB Ike Taylor unsigned for next season, are in need of a young cornerback like Williams, who could come in and play right away.

Needs: ORT, CB, RG, DE

Other possibilities: Marvin Austin/DT/North Carolina

32. Green Bay Packers: Justin Houston/OLB/Georgia

Analysis: The Packers have two big needs, so Houston would fit one of them. Austin would also fill a need.

Needs: OLB, DE, G

Other possibilities: Marvin Austin/DT/North Carolina

Tagged: Falcons, Bengals, Titans, Colts, Vikings, Patriots, Panthers, Steelers, John Abraham, Ike Taylor

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