DE Robert Quinn
If he's still available at No. 11 overall in Round 1, then the Texans have to take Robert Quinn.
Houston has spent a lot of high draft picks and thrown a lot of money at its defensive line the last few years, and while Mario Williams was unquestionably a home run at one of the end positions, fellow end Antonio Smith and tackle Amobi Okoye haven't proven to be worth the investment. Switching to the 3-4 scheme this coming season, the defense is desperate for another difference maker off the edge that can get after the passer and also give Williams room to operate. Inside linebacker should not be an issue with Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans manning those two spots, but some help is needed on the outside opposite Connor Barwin.
Quinn, a 6-4, 265-pounder out of North Carolina, is one of the Tar Heels that didn't play in 2010 because of questionable off-the-field activity involving extra benefits, but he's a freak of an athlete and doesn't seem to have any real character concerns.
OT Anthony Castonzo
Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
If he's still available at No. 22 overall in Round 1, then the Colts have to take Anthony Castonzo.
No matter how bad his offensive line is in front of him, quarterback Peyton Manning is just never going to get sacked very often because he makes quick decisions and gets rid of the ball in a flash -- he went down just 17 times last year. But that does not change the fact that Indianapolis was atrocious in the trenches, as evidenced by a rushing offense that was 29th in the league in yards per game (92.7) and tied for 25th in yards per carry (3.8). That's unacceptable because Manning's presence alone prohibits enemy defenses from creeping safeties down into the box, plus the tailback tandem of Joseph Addai and Donald Brown should be more productive since both were first-round picks.
Castonzo, a 6-7, 311-pounder out of Boston College, appears to be a sure thing and can start immediately at left tackle, where 2006 sixth rounder Charlie Johnson and 2010 undrafted free agent Jeff Linkenbach leave a lot to be desired.
DE Aldon Smith
Denny Medley/US Presswire
If he's still available at No. 16 overall in Round 1, then the Jaguars have to take Aldon Smith.
Just like the Texans, the Jaguars have also had problems year after year along the defensive line, specifically at the end position, where 2008 first-round pick Derrick Harvey can't even crack the starting lineup and free-agent signee Aaron Kampman played eight games before tearing his ACL. Jacksonville tied for 30th in sacks last season with 26, which helps explain why the pass defense was 28th (250.2 yards allowed per game) and surrendered 58 passing plays of 20-plus yards -- only the Broncos (62) and Seahawks (60) gave up more. Perhaps more than anything, this is a franchise that needs a star, someone other than running back Maurice Jones-Drew, to really generate some excitement.
Smith, a 6-4, 263-pounder out of Missouri, is an unfinished product but has limitless potential, and while many wonder if he can be an outside linebacker in a 3-4, a 4-3 team like the Jaguars would be wise to scoop him up and keep him at end.
DT Nick Fairley
If he's still available at No. 8 overall in Round 1, then the Titans have to take Nick Fairley.
Before Albert Haynesworth got his $100 million contract in Washington and seemingly retired the very same day, he was a destructive defensive tackle in Tennessee and probably the premier player in the league at his position. Consequently, the Titans had a pretty good defense from front to back since Haynesworth commanded so much attention from the opposition's offensive line -- the Pro Bowler made the rush defense and pass defense better by himself. His departure before the 2009 campaign left a hole that is yet to be plugged, and even though finding another Haynesworth doesn't happen overnight, it's not going to be Jason Jones or Sen'Derrick Marks.
Fairley, a 6-4, 291-pounder out of Auburn, was in contention for the No. 1 pick early in the evaluation process but seems to be sliding, in part because he is a bit of a one-year wonder, but turn on the tape of the BCS Championship Game against Oregon and try to take your eyes off No. 90 in navy blue and burnt orange.
|John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|