I've gone with Penn State's Aaron Maybin in some previous mocks, but Ayers is on the move up everyone's boards. Mayock, for one, believes he'll be viewed within a span of three years as the best defensive player to come out of this year's draft. Must admit I don't know how the Bills feel about Ayers, but he's got less boom-bust potential than Maybin.
The Broncos are the team everyone is watching to see if they try to make a move up in pursuit of a quarterback, probably Sanchez. Quick question: Will that wind up hurting Kyle Orton's feelings, prompting him to demand a trade? But if Denver sits tight and takes its two first-rounders at 12 and 18, the defensive line likely gets attention first. Jackson is the draft's best 3-4 end.
The Redskins will feel fortunate if Oher lasts this long, given their need at right offensive tackle. If he's gone, that could push one of the two defensive ends who went right before -- Ayers and Jackson -- into their laps. Either way they should get a major need addressed.
Chris "Beanie" Wells has been the popular pick of late for the Saints, but an offensively-loaded team in need of this much help on defense shouldn't lose sight of where improvement needs to be made. Jenkins might wind up at safety in the NFL, but the Saints secondary can use the upgrade there too.
Even with the Texans' recent free-agent additions at linebacker, Cushing upgrades the entire unit and is the first of three USC 'backers off the board. Mississippi defensive tackle Peria Jerry is another solid option.
Chris "Beanie" Wells
The Chargers don't really have a prospect available here who would both fill a top need and carry the value of a mid-round pick. In that scenario, San Diego general manager A.J. Smith often will take the highest-rated player, regardless of position. Darren Sproles doesn't have the size to be a No. 1 back, and the clock is at least running on the end of the LaDainian Tomlinson era in San Diego.
The Broncos could very well be interested in the draft's No. 3 quarterback at No. 18, and if so, it'd be intriguing to question if they'd take him at No. 12. The Jets may really be comfortable with the notion of Brett Ratliff as their starter in 2009, but I guess I'll only believe it when they pass on Freeman.
The Broncos would probably have to show some patience with Maybin, letting him develop into a 3-4 outside linebacker with some great edge rush potential. If the Broncos don't take a defensive lineman, linebackers such as Clay Matthews Jr. and Rey Maualuga might be next in line.
The Bucs need a defensive tackle, but Mississippi's Peria Jerry doesn't really fit the wide-body type they're looking for. That might elevate outside linebacker to the top of the list, and Matthews is the top-rated one remaining.
Having gone offense with their No. 1 pick, the Lions will then address a defensive need with their second first-rounder. Jerry is a run-stuffer, and the defense that Lions head coach Jim Schwartz brought with him from Tennessee requires one or two of those in the middle.
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.