Big changes have happened to the middle part of the first round after the transactions of free agency.
There are a few newcomers to the crop. Pittsburgh’s Jeff Otah and Vanderbilt’s Chris Williams — both offensive tackles — make their way into the first round in the latest mock.
Several other players moved up or down this time around as well.
One notable move is Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart, who, despite recently having toe surgery which will keep him out of action for several months, moved up a couple spots to Detroit. For the rest of picks No. 11 – 20, hit the jump.
11. Buffalo Bills: Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma [previous: Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida]
MM: The Bills got defensive in free agency with the additions of linebacker Kawika Mitchell and defensive lineman Marcus Stroud, which could signal a move to upgrade some of the skill positions on offense via the draft. Grabbing Kelly, the top-rated wide receiver on most boards, would be a welcome addition to the offense to line up opposite Lee Evans.
12. Denver Broncos: Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC [previous: Ryan Clady, T, Boise State]
MM: The Broncos take the best player available approach, which is convenient given that Denver had one of the worst rushing defenses in the league last year. Ellis should be able to help the Broncos’ D in that regard going forward.
13. Carolina Panthers: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
MB: I know that Darren McFadden gets all the pub in this draft, but I believe that Mendenhall is the best runningback in the class. I was not sure about him until I saw him running away from the USC defense in the Rose Bowl. The Panthers offense was bad due to of a lack of playmakers. Jake Delhomme is going to be back next year and he will make them better, but DeAngelo Williams is not the answer in Carolina. Mendenhall is the steal of the draft to this point.
14. Chicago Bears: Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh [previous: Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma]
MM: Recent reports out of Chicago have the Bears looking to upgrade the offensive line via the draft. While the offense does have several holes — most notably quarterback and wide receiver — Otah at least will give some protection and help with run blocking.
15. Detroit Lions: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon [previous: Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina]
MM: Surely the Lions will not give the starting runningback job to Tatum Bell. After cutting Kevin Jones and letting T.J. Duckett walk, Detroit has tipped its hand. Unless the Lions are waiting for Shaun Alexander to hit the market, expect Matt Millen to address the position in the draft. Stewart may not be ready for the season opener after having toe surgery, however.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennesse State [previous: Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy]
MM: The Cards are drinking the DRC Kool-Aid with this pick. Handcuffed by the lingering Larry Fitzgerald contract renegotiation, Arizona missed out on landing any talent via free agency. Thus, the Cards will look to the draft to upgrade on defense, starting in the defensive backfield.
17. Minnesota Vikings: Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
MB: I know the Vikings biggest needs are on offense, but their really is not any player worth taking this early. Minnesota had one of the best run-stopping defenses in the NFL, but struggled against the passing game. Harvey came on strong this year for Florida and could contribute on this already stout defense his rookie season.
18. Houston Texans: Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt [previous: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon]
MM: Reach for a runningback or solidify the offensive line? With McFadden, Mendenhall and Stewart off the board, my gut says the Texas will opt for the latter. Williams is another top prospect in a deep, talented offensive line class.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
MM: There is a wide receiver slipping in this mock, but his name is not Sweed. The Texas product improved his draft stock at the NFL Scouting Combine by displaying some impressive speed. Now he needs to work on being more resilient.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas [previous: Reggie Smith, S, Oklahoma]
MM: The Bucs had the most money to spend in free agency but did not go too crazy with the cash. The offense could use some playmakers but Jon Gruden seems up to the challenge of squeezing talent out of the unlikeliest of players. Ronde Barber is not getting any younger and Brian Kelly is gone, which means help is needed at cornerback.
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