So the plan is to just keep one constant thread and update it as time progresses (I'm a fan of less clutter; I know how that's hard to imagine given how long-winded I am, but it's true). Just because the combine hasn't happened yet doesn't mean that I won't be projecting some expectations of what I figure will happen at the combine into how things pan out. After the combine I'll adjust according to what actually occurred at the event and take my lumps where deserved. 1st Round, Pick 18: OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama This is me trying to give AJ credit for taking the high-floor player in a year when he needs to get the most he can early out of his draft prospects. There's just as good a chance that the combine now has him enamored with someone like Andre Branch, Chandler Jones, or Vinny Curry (my money would be on Curry) who would all be fair options if we could trade back to the mid 20's and still stay ahead of teams like New England, Green Bay, and Baltimore (possibly even ahead of Detroit if they lose Avril). I'm of the opinion that Upshaw's lackluster combine came at not surprise to most scouts, he's always been a better-on-tape type player who doesn't have the massively freak athlete ceiling that most would have expected someone being projected by draftnik's to be a Top 10 pick should have. The LaMarr Woodley comparison is very accurate. He'll be good to above average but probably never great as a stand-alone pass-rusher, but he's versatile enough to cover, be effective versus the run, and contribute as a 8-sack/yr rusher so long as there's a equal or better caliber rusher playing on the opposite side from him. Rome wasn't built in a day though and he's the exact type of player that can give you the flexibility down the road to take a shot on a guy like an Aldon Smith or JPP who doesn't necessarily project to be much in a 3-4 other than a constant rusher (i.e. a guy who won't often be asked to drop into coverage like Tamba Hali, Cam Wake, or Terrell Suggs) and allow that player to see more snaps earlier thus reaping ROI much sooner. I have Upshaw rated as my #22 prospect right now, so this is a reach, but one that's a smart one to make because of value filling a need and him being pro-ready, especially if he's working in a rotation with Barnes for the first third/half of the season. Rd. 2, Pick 17: WR AJ Jenkins, Illinois If Hardwick retires, I'd lay money on this pick being Ben Jones out of Georgia. That withstanding, as is always the case in the NFL draft and particularly this year, you pay a premium for speed. If we do allow VJ to walk, I can see AJ feeling the need to invest in a WR early - particularly with how weak this TE class has looked (I still think Dwayne Allen can flat out play, but his poor combine may have well moved him down to low 2nd, early 3rd stock guy now. Ironically, the guy I figured who would lower his stock if he ran is now at the top of the class... because he elected NOT to run). I went back and watched more tape on Jenkins after he turned in the 40 he did. There is a raw version of Greg Jennings there and Joiner's got the tools to get it out of him if given the time. He has some rough edges that need to be refined out of his release off the line to keep from getting easily jammed, and despite his speed he doesn't do a ton after the catch, but he's a legit deep threat, fearless over the middle, and the kind of polished route-runner that Joiner loves and that Rivers flourishes with. BTW, Ant, you still questioning that Mike Martin call on my part. He's a Burroughs-Phillips NT in the mold of Kelly Gregg or Tim Goad. He's not the massive, wide-load that has become popular, but he's roughly the same size that Casey Hampton was coming into the league, he's a wrestler with a tremendous motor that knows how to work the leverage game against much larger linemen and double-teams, and he'll be a guy that can collapse the pocket form within if not ever actually being the guy cleaning up with the sack (see Kelly Gregg). Rd. 3, Pick 16: C/G Phillip Blake, Baylor You could realistically interchange my Round 3 and 4 projections as both are more late 3rd, early 4th value guys who could fall as low late 4th but I wouldn't expect that. Either way, these are the more necessitated mid-round "need-based" picks that AJ is notorious for. Given my choice of pure centers that would likely be available I'd actually prefer the slightly more undersized Garth Gerhart from ASU. However, I' ma firm believer in trends and AJ just constantly drafts our OL from the Big 10 and Big 12 with incredible regularity. Blake has a solid floor and not a stellar ceiling, but a good one none the less. He's capable of contributing at guard while also backing up at center. This is one of those instances where I'm willing to bet that AJ will reach for comfort level. Rd. 4, Pick 15: CB Omar Bolden, Arizona State Out of left-field, huh? This has standard fare AJ Smith "boom or bust" pick written all over it. However, I think this one could boom big is Bolden's knee recovers as I expect it to. I equate him to the cornerback version of Bruce Carter from last year's draft; he may not contribute heavily in the first 1/3 of games his rookie year, but he'll make the active roster and contribute on ST in the mean time, and will be pushing for legit playing time by season's end and starting by Year 2. Where he's limited is that he's much, much more comfortable as a boundary corner than a sub-package guy. That said, he plays bigger than he is, is tough as nails with clean technique, and had he not suffered the knee injury he did his floor would have been the 2nd round. He's honest to God, future #1 CB potential if he's healthy. Rd. 5, Pick 14: TE Ladarius Green, UL Lafayette I think it's only about a 50:50 chance he actually falls this far considering he has certain physical tools that will likely cause teams to overlook how raw he is (i.e. BIG hands, good height and arm length, good speed for a TE) and he has the built-in excuse of having played with a truly bad QB at ULL for most of the past season. I'd be elated to get him here as at minimum he'd contribute as much if not more right out the gate than Sperry would as a receiver. He needs to add bulk so that he can become a more effective blocker, but once he adds strength he has the tools to be effective (long arms and quick feet to wall off defenders). If Green's gone, I'd be watching for Beau Reliford from Florida State sometime between the 6th round and UDFA. Rd. 6, Pick 13: S Christian Thompson, South Carolina State I know there will be some that look at this and scoff at him being a small school prospect. What's your point? DeMarcus Ware was a small school prospect. Jerry Rice was a small school prospect. I'm not saying Thompson is on their level at his position, but quality players come out of small schools with some decent regularity. Fact is, this year is a horrid safety class. I'd be open to rolling the dice on someone with upside, but ultimately I feel as though our long-term solution at a backfield mate for Weddle lies in the 2013 draft. Thompson at the very least has the athleticism and size to hang in coverage with the larger, athletic TE's and he can bring the wood as well. He's not a guy that's going to net you a ton of INT's, his hands are good enough to work in and swat away balls, but they aren't natural (or large) enough that he's going to pluck many out of the air (think another guy similar to what we had in Kevin Ellison). To be honest I'm not even sure he makes it this far, as he's the kind of guy someone could easily fall in love with his potential and select him as early as the 3rd or 4th round. For those watching the combine, he was the one they talked about being nicknamed "CT-Scan" by his teammates because that's what guys needed after getting hit by him. Rd. 7, Pick 18: WR/KR Chris Owusu, Stanford Risk/reward type pick. His greatest value is as a returner and given his history with concussion (which is what's going to set his ceiling no higher than the 5th round at best, particularly given Jahvid Best's continued concussions causing him to miss time and the league rules involving concussion analysis) it would likely be best to limit his touches as an actual receiver to ensure keeping him available as a returner. That said, the kid can one-cut and flat out fly! I wanted to put Devon Wylie here, but something in my gut just tells me someone's going to drop a 5th or 6th round pick on him and I'm not sure we have that luxury.