- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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As the ESPN Blog Network mock draft unfolded, I kept hoping there would be some tumbling defensive ends. That’s largely because I was picking for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, and my opinion is that’s the biggest position of need for all three teams.
I didn’t get my wish as Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan and Clemson’s Da'Quan Bowers were gone by the time we even began the run for the three NFC teams who aren’t picking No. 1 overall. In my eyes, Georgia’s Justin Houston was the best pass-rusher available when I made Tampa Bay’s pick at No. 20 and I put him there. When New Orleans came up at No. 24, I went with Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn because I viewed him as the most complete defensive end remaining.
When it came time for Atlanta’s pick at No. 27, I looked at the board and really didn’t see a defensive end I liked. Although a loyal reader has been trying to sell me on the merits of Arizona’s Brooks Reed as a pure pass-rusher, I just don’t see him as a first-round pick, so I went in another direction.
I chose Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin. I’ve heard his name and Maryland receiver Torrey Smith tied to the Falcons in recent days, and I keep thinking back to a conversation with an important person in Atlanta who mentioned need for a "big receiver." I may be reaching here, but I saw nothing else I really liked.
I also considered Smith, but went with Baldwin because he’s bigger. I gave a little consideration to offensive tackle Nate Solder because I’m not convinced Sam Baker is the answer at left tackle, and this offensive line could be going through some other changes. I also gave a little thought to UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers because Mike Peterson’s getting older and I suspect Stephen Nicholas will probably land elsewhere as a free agent.
In a perfect world, I would have traded down. But we didn’t have that luxury in our mock draft.
You’re welcome to put yourself into my shoes and the shoes GM Thomas Dimitroff could be in Thursday night. Take a look at the Call It poll to the right. You can cast your vote for Baldwin or go in another direction.