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Pushing to the finish


The legs ache and the chest hurts.

We are nearing the end of the 2011 reader mock draft, and even with a weekend break, this is feeling like the end of a marathon. The senses are blurring and collectively, perhaps, we wonder, "Will this ever end? Will we make it?"

Fear not. It will and we will.

We just wonder if it will happen before the muscles give out.

That admittedly weak lead-in aside, we are finally indeed well within range of the tape, because with the New York Jets on the clock at No. 30, we have only this pick and the selections of the two Super Bowl participants remaining.

So, what did the readers do Monday?

Did they give the senior writer an easy day to prepare for the kick to the line?

Certainly not. Instead they opted to punish him for an easy day with the Chicago Bears this past Friday at No. 29 to hand him perhaps the toughest decision of the 30 selections to date.

As far as the readers were concerned, this one ended in a flat-out tie.

Because it was the Jets on the clock, it should surprise no one that the choice came down to two defensive players, and because the '11 reader mock draft has been a time for well-thought-out debate, it's even less surprising that the logic for each side made a lot of sense.

It's also not surprising that while there were two players who received the majority of reader support, there was at least one other player who seemed to make sense at the spot.

"I&39;m hearing a lot of pundits throw Brooks Reed&39;s name around for the Jets, and I think that move would make a lot of sense," J-School Corby wrote, adding, "Vernon Gholston is officially a Mike Mamula-level bust up there, and they need a strong outside pass rush. Akeem Ayers is a good all-around player, but Reed is the better pass-rusher. GM Mike Tannenbaum has shown a tendency to draft for need, so even though Ayers may be the better all-around linebacker (and probably the BAP at this point), Reed&39;s quickness and burst, along with his ideal fit as a 3-4 outside &39;backer, should make him the pick here."

Good points, but it seems Reed is perhaps destined to be an early second-round selection, because on Monday, just about all of the conversation came down to two other oft-mentioned players in the '11 mock draft:

One is UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers.

The other is Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor.

If it seems to regular followers of the '11 reader mock that these two guys have been being mentioned for – well, basically, forever – it's because they have. At least for several weeks.

Ayers has been mentioned pretty consistently since we got outside the Top 10, and has slid mainly because conventional wisdom is downgrading linebackers in the first round these days. Taylor has been mentioned throughout the latter half of the draft, but in a year loaded with big-time defensive tackles, he has slipped to this spot.

Kevin Grab seemed convinced Taylor sliding days have ended.

"Phil Taylor to the New York Jets at pick 30," Grab wrote, adding, "This seems like a perfect fit for Rex and Mr. Tannenbaum. They get one of the last quality first-round 'big guys' in the former Baylor tackle and a guy who seems to have been one of the BAP&39;s in our reader mock draft for a little while now. Current Jets nose tackle Sione Pouha finds himself sweating a tad bit when he hears the news of his new competition on the nose of that nasty base 3-4 defense."

Ric Barrow, meanwhile, has had his fill of Ayers' slide.

"Akeem Ayers," Barrow wrote, adding, "I've had him as the pick by 4 or 5 teams up until here and I think the Jets will take BPA – plus, Rex Ryan is a defensive guy. Gotta be Ayers."

Back and forth it went, and by day's end it was a tie, which put the tiring senior writer in a position to make the pick. He thought of flipping a coin, and while he'd like to say ethics pushed him in a different direction, it had a lot more to do with not being able to find said coin.

In the end, it was philosophical. When in doubt and choosing between linebacker and tackle, go with the big guy. Call it a gut feeling, but that's how it went.

So, with the No. 30 overall selection in the 2011 reader mock draft, the Jets select Taylor, which makes the board look like:

No. 1 | Carolina | Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

No. 2 | Denver | Patrick Peterson, CB, Louisiana State

No. 3 | Buffalo | Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

No. 4 | Cincinnati | Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

No. 5 | Arizona | Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

No. 6 | Cleveland | A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

No. 7 | San Francisco | Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

No. 8 | Tennessee | Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

No. 9 | Dallas | Tyron Smith, OT, Southern California

No. 10 | Washington | Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

No. 11 | Houston | Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

No. 12 | Minnesota | Jake Locker, QB, Washington

No. 13 | Detroit | Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

No. 14 | St. Louis | Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

No. 15 | Miami | Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

No. 16 | Jacksonville | Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

No. 17 | New England | J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

No. 18 | San Diego | Cameron Jordan, DE, California

No. 19 | New York Giants | Mike Pouncey, G, Florida

No. 20 | Tampa Bay | Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri

No. 21 | Kansas City | Adrian Clayborn, OLB, Iowa

No. 22 | Indianapolis | Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

No. 23 | Philadelphia | Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

No. 24 | New Orleans | Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

No. 25 | Seattle | Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

No. 26 | Baltimore | Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland

No. 27 | Atlanta | Justin Houston, LB, Georgia

No. 28 | New England | Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

No. 29 | Chicago | Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

No. 30 | New York Jets | Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

That brings us to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 31, and means we have just two more selections remaining. We'll offer up Aaron Williams of Texas because cornerback isn't a bad spot here. We're just about there. Two more days.

Have at it. 

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