What fun is the NFL Draft if you can't embarrass yourself with predictions that are sure to be wrong?
In that spirit, I've put together my best crack at a mock draft. This is a combination of watching these guys play, culling scouting reports, figuring out team needs and hazarding some pretty wild guesses about where the team might be inclined to go. As such, you shouldn't take is as a definitive mock. Not that you would.
I'll have one more mock in the week leading up to the draft. For now, though, hit the jump with me and see who I've selected.
2nd round: DT Brandon Thompson: I know many of you aren't sold on Thompson, but I think the Falcons will be awfully intrigued by him. He's got enough size to play a classic 4-3 nose tackle role and play it well, freeing up everyone around him to rush the passer. He has enough strength and straight line speed to bull rush the passer on occasion, too. Even if he tops out as a 3-4 sack per season guy in the NFL, his ability to jailbreak the team's growing, talented ends and whatever tackle lucky enough to play next to him makes him a worthy selection, as does his borderline elite run-stopping ability. The team will have to be satisfied that his ankles are healthy after a post-season surgery.
3rd round: TE Ladarius Green: Enormous upside and athleticism make Green a worthy selection for a Falcons team that's going to need a tight end after Tony Gonzalez hangs it up. He's a little raw and has the dropsy, but he'll have a year of limited snaps behind Gonzo and can then seize the starting job a year out. I like his upside as much as anybody in the draft, particularly if he works on his blocking. I'm convinced the Falcons will get a tight end in this year's draft, whether it's Dwayne Allen a round earlier or Green here.
5th round: CB Ryan Steed: Yes, the dreaded cornerback pick. I'm gambling on Steed falling to the Falcons in the fifth round, but I think they'll find him hard to pass up if he does. He's a consistent threat to pick a pass and has the speed and big-play ability to help out at returner, if needed. The upside for the 5'11" Furman product is considerable, with only coaching and time standing in the way of his becoming, at minimum, a valuable nickel corner.
6th round: OT Andrew Datko: A physically imposing lineman at 6'6", 315, Datko is a pure projection pick for a team in desperate need of upside at tackle. He has the size to stick at left tackle and is the only prospect I'd be comfortable saying that about this late. His shoulder surgery in 2011 is a major concern, I'll acknowledge, but if healthy he's an athletic blocker who neutralizes speed rushers extremely well. Fantastic work ethic and head on his shoulders, which makes him a classic Falcons prospect.
7th round: S Brandon Hardin: The Falcons will wait because Hardin's upside is so intriguing. At 6'2" he has quality size, size and excellent instincts. He'll fall this far because his college stats weren't eye-popping and he missed all of 2011 with a shoulder injury, but Hardin's a worthwhile flier for a team in need of a backup safety and special teams help.
7th round, compensatory pick: RB Jewel Hampton: The small school, lack of competition thing is a concern. So is his height, which is about 5'8" on a good day. Heck, the guy got in a bar fight back in 2010. But I don't care, because Jewel Hampton could be an absolute home run this late in the draft.
Last year, Hampton ran for over 1,000 yards, averaged 4.9 yards and scored 17 times. In workouts for scouts, he had a blazing 4.47 40 yard dash, showed classic strength with 26 bench press reps and flashed his bowling ball ability for scouts. He's a homeless man's Maurice Jones-Drew who will need to work on his hands, but he runs with a rare blend of power and speed for a back his size and could someday take the majority of snaps in a timeshare with Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. This late in the draft, picking a guy with this much potential isn't even really a gamble, just a shot on a dude who could do good things.
Your thoughts on my mock?