In recent chats and mailbag notes, a lot of you have asked if I, or the ESPN.com Blog Network as a whole, will be doing a mock draft.
You’ll be happy to know that I just received news from Bristol that we, indeed, will be doing a mock draft in which each of the division bloggers make the picks for the teams they cover. We will roll out this mock draft on April 25.
That means, barring trades, I’ll be picking for Carolina at No. 1, Tampa Bay at No. 20, New Orleans at No. 24 and Atlanta at No. 27.
There’s a lot of time between now and the draft and lots of things can change. But I’ll share with you what I’m thinking right now.
Carolina -- No decision has been made, but the vibes I’m getting are the Panthers just might pull the plug and take Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. As I pointed out last week, the climate has changed in Carolina and I can see the Panthers taking a chance -- for the first time in a long time.
Tampa Bay -- I’m going with Georgia’s Justin Houston. I’m also going on the assumption that Clemson’s Da'Quan Bowers, North Carolina’s Robert Quinn, Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, Missouri’s Aldon Smith, Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan and California’s Cameron Jordan will be gone by then. If they’re not, they become possibilities for this pick. However it shakes out, the Bucs need to get a pass-rusher early.
New Orleans -- Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn is my pick here as the division’s run on defensive ends continue. Like I said above, I’m basing this largely on what I expect to happen earlier in the draft and the Saints could be very happy if another defensive end slips. But I think they’d be happy with Clayborn.
Atlanta -- I’m sticking with defensive ends and taking Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward. He’s got name recognition in the NFC South because his father, Craig “Ironhead’’ Heyward, played for the Falcons and Saints.