Pick-by-pick analysis: Round Three

Posted April 29, 2011 @ 11:44 p.m.
Posted By Nolan Nawrocki

1 (65)  Carolina Panthers: DT Terrell McClain, South Florida

The Panthers decided to pass on Marcell Dareus with their first selection but needed to address this strong position of need. McClain had an outstanding pro day, performing as well as any defensive tackle. However, questions about his toughness and work habits kept him in the third round.

2 (66)  Cincinnati Bengals: DE Dontay Moch, Nevada

Moch has the raw physical skill set that continually appeals to president Mike Brown. He could line up in multiple spots for defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and is best with his hand on the ground moving forward. He's loaded with upside and could turn out to be a solid pro if the light comes on.

3 (67)  Denver Broncos: LB Nate Irving, North Carolina State

The Broncos have made upgrading their LB corps a priority and add Irving to a unit that already added Von Miller. Irving made a heartwarming comeback from a nearly tragic accident. Although he still has a rod in his leg and does not play as fast as he once did, he has very good instincts and could play both inside or outside. John Fox seeks interchangeable linebackers who can play all three spots and Irving's versatility played in his favor and allowed him to be drafted earlier than he graded out on tape given the weakness of the ILB class.

4 (68)  Buffalo Bills: ILB Kelvin Sheppard, LSU

The Bills have made their defense a priority early in the draft, getting talent at every level, with Marcell Dareus, Aaron Williams and now Sheppard. With injuries crippling the Bills' LB corps last season, Sheppard could bring much-needed depth and help contribute on first and second downs.

5 (69)  Arizona Cardinals: TE Rob Housler, Florida Atlantic

The Cardinals lack a true No. 1 starting-caliber tight end and do not have an explosive, up-the-field seam-stretcher. Housler can scream up the field and open up the offense. He will bring little to the blocking game and at times appears to think too much, but he has the potential to postively impact the passing game.

6 (70)  Kansas City Chiefs (from Cleveland): OLB Justin Houston, Georgia

The Chiefs needed a replacement for Mike Vrabel and landed a first-round athletic talent in the third round. Houston slid this far because of questions about his character and competitiveness. However, he has the power, strength and explosion to ring up double-digit sacks in Romeo Crennel's defense if he can stay focused. Franchised player Tamba Hali could be operating on a one-year deal and Houston might become his replacement.

7 (71)  Dallas Cowboys: RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma

Jerry Jones likes to stockpile running backs and clearly saw too much value here. Murray has explosive speed to factor in the return game and has very good hands to contribute on third down. He struggled to stay healthy every season he played in college and his biggest concern in the pros will be staying out of the training room.

8 (72)  New Orleans Saints (from Washington): ILB Martez Wilson, Illinois

The Saints' LB unit lacks starpower on the flanks on each side of Jonathan Vilma. Wilson looks like a first-round talent on the hoof and tested like a phenom at the Combine. However, he's still very much a developmental prospect and will need structure and guidance to maximize his potential.

9 (73)  New England Patriots (from Houston): RB Stevan Ridley, LSU

The Patriots are overhauling their backfield, drafting two runners back to back. Ridley could compete for a job as a slashing inside runner. He played in an overcrowded backfield at LSU and produced only one year. He brings limited value as a banger but could fill that niche role well for the Patriots.

10 (74)  New England Patriots (from Minnesota): QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas

Bill Belichick struck gold with the selection of Tom Brady in the sixth round and takes a crack at a Michigan transfer in Mallett. He is tall, rocket-armed pocket passer who could be controlled in a veteran locker room and highly benefit from the tutelage of Brady. He is too tall and too slow-footed to buy time in the pocket and must mature and prove that he's committed to the game to reach his potential. He gives the Patriots a solid backup option behind Brady.

11 (75)  Seattle Seahawks (from Detroit): OG John Moffitt, Wisconsin

The key to keeping QB Matt Hasselbeck healthy, if they can re-sign him as they hope, is by fortifying the offensive line, which the Seahawks have now done with the selections of OT James Carpenter and Moffitt, both of whom potentially could plug in as starters. Moffitt is similar to Mark Tauscher — he might not look pretty but he consistently gets the job done.

12 (76)  Jacksonville Jaguars (from San Francisco): OG Will Rackley, Lehigh

With the selection of a potential franchise quarterback in the first round, the importance of protection increased. The Jaguars' offensive line was a sore spot last season and Rackley potentially could help inside or outside, having played left tackle at the Division I-AA level. He really stood out at the East-West Shrine Game and answered questions about how he would fare against better competition.

13 (77)  Tennessee Titans: DT Jurrell Casey, USC

The Titans passed on Nick Fairley for a potential franchise quarterback with their first selection but still needed to add help to the interior of their defense. Casey is a solid run defender but he must stay focused and commit himself to the game. Demanding DL coach Tracy Rocker should be able to get the most out of him.

14 (78)  St. Louis Rams: WR Austin Pettis, Boise State

The Rams' most pressing need might have been at the receiver position and in Pettis they landed a very reliable-handed target for Josh McDaniels' offense. He will fill the "Z" receiver position. It's not a flashy pick but it is very sound and he should help the offense immediately.

15 (79)  Washington Redskins (from Miami): WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami (Fla.)

The Redskins lack a starting-caliber receiver on their roster with Santana Moss being a free agent. Hankerson has the size, body control and work ethic that Mike Shanahan desires in his offense. He still must continue improving his inconsistent hands.

16 (80)  San Francisco (from Jacksonville): CB Chris Culliver, South Carolina

He tested extremely well at the Combine and has intriguing size at more than 6 feet, 200 pounds. He also possesses versatility, having played both cornerback and safety in college. His history of shoulder injuries and shaky football character could keep him from reaching his potential, but he has upside and potentially could help in the return game.

17 (81)  Oakland Raiders: CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, Miami (Fla.)

A very thin-framed speed merchant who ran as fast as any player at this year's Combine and impressed Al Davis with his raw speed. Was benched as a senior and shies from contact as a tackler but potentially could help in nickel and dime packages.

18 (82)  San Diego Chargers: WR Vincent Brown, San Diego State

Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee could be free agents, depending on the rules. Brown is very aggressive attacking the ball in the air and plays bigger than his size. He fits Norv Turner's offense well and is a good, solid football player who fills a position of need.

19 (83)  New York Giants: WR Jerrel Jernigan, Troy

The Giants could be confronted with the loss of Steve Smith and Derek Hagan, both of whom could depart in free agency. Jernigan could fill the slot role where Smith has been so effective while also bringing a spark to the return game.

20 (84)  Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OLB Mason Foster, Washington

Quincy Black could be gone in free agency, and Foster could be groomed to take over. He was very opportunistic as a senior and has the ability to play all three LB positions and help on special teams. He fits well in Raheem Morris' defense.

21 (85)  Baltimore Ravens (from Philadelphia): OT Jah Reid, UCF

Reid lacks great strength but made a mint at the East-West Shrine Game and has the football temperament to compete for the job at right tackle with Jared Gaither.

22 (86)  Kansas City Chiefs: DE Allen Bailey, Miami (Fla.)

Shaun Smith and Wallace Gilberry both are unsigned, leaving the Chiefs lacking depth at the DE position. Bailey has fence-post strength and is country-strong with a reputation for wrestling alligators and exceptional football character. He could become a pillar in the Chiefs' locker room and be programmed by defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to excel in Kansas City.

23 (87)  Indianapolis Colts: DT Drake Nevis, LSU

The Colts lack a quick, penetrating up-the-field threat in the middle of their defense. Nevis does not have the size or functional strength to hold up as an every-down player. He can be a threat as an inside nickel rusher and adds much-needed explosion to the middle of Larry Coyer's defense.

24 (88)  New Orleans Saints: CB Johnny Patrick, Louisville

With Malcolm Jenkins converting to safety last season and Patrick Robinson really struggling, the Saints needed more help at cornerback. Patrick has very good cover skills, plays the run aggressively and could readily help as a gunner on special teams.

25 (89)  San Diego Chargers (from Seattle): CB Shareece Wright, USC

The Chargers have made defense a high priority in the first three rounds. With a number of holes resulting from free agency, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has to be happy. Wright fits the defense well as a press-cover-2 corner. His injury history knocked him off some draft boards. He's tight-hipped and straight-linish yet functional for the way Manusky likes to play his corners rolled up.

26 (90)  Philadelphia Eagles (from Baltimore): CB Curtis Marsh, Utah State

Marsh is a converted running back who possesses the size the Eagles have been seeking in their cornerbacks. He's still very raw, lacks a feel for the game but he has the size-speed combination to be molded. He should help out as a gunner on special teams.

27 (91)  Atlanta Falcons: ILB Akeem Dent, Georgia

With Stephen Nicholas potentially in need of being replaced, the Falcons took a shot on a local product who's very capable of playing over the tight end. He's tough, physical and can play all three LB positions.

28 (92) Oakland Raiders (from New England): OT Joseph Barksdale, LSU

ORT Mario Henderson might not be back next season and Robert Gallery is very likely gone, creating a need on the Raiders' O-line. Barksdale combines with Stefen Wisniewski to give the Raiders a very youthful offensive line. Barksdale has outstanding mass and was a four-year starter in the SEC. For playing as much as he has, however, he's still raw and must learn how to use his hands.

29 (93)  Chicago Bears: S Chris Conte, California

With the high amount of collisions required at the safety position in Lovie Smith's preferred defense, GM Jerry Angelo seemingly must address the position every year. There's a chance Danieal Manning could depart, as well. Conte was a late riser who really impressed secondary coaches in the evaluation process. He plays like a poor man's John Lynch and elevated on draftboards in a weak safety class.

30 (94)  New York Jets: NT Kenrick Ellis, Hampton

With Kris Jenkins unsigned and potentially not coming back, the Jets needed to add a big body to the middle of their defense. Ellis has rare size and arm length and could occupy space and keep David Harris and Bart Scott free. If it were not for concerns about his character, he could have been drafted even higher.

31 (95)  Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Curtis Brown, Texas

William Gay and Ike Taylor might need to be replaced because of free agency. Brown possesses the length and press skills desired in Pittsburgh. He lacks ideal ball skills and could play more physically against the run but he has developmental potential and could help on special teams.

32 (96)  Green Bay Packers: RB Alex Green, Hawaii

With Ryan Grant coming off an injury-shortened season and Brandon Jackson likely to depart, Mike McCarthy could benefit from another big back in the RB rotation. The Packers' ground game was fairly stagnant last season. Green is a finesse, stretch-zone runner ideally suited for the Packers' zone running game. He must learn how to hold on to the ball to stay on the field and earn the confidence of his coaches.

33 (97)  Carolina Panthers (compensatory selection): NT Sione Fua, Stanford

The interior of the D-line has consistently troubled the Panthers' defense the past few years. Fua was pegged to hold up the middle. He's a hardworking, competitive anchor who should help elevate the play of his teammates.


Nolan Nawrocki will provide observations on the picks in the final four rounds Saturday, and he'll have grades for each team's draft late Sunday.