2011 NFL Mock Draft: Skill Positions Rule Round One
Much was made of the lack of offensive skill position players in this year's draft. It wasn't a particularly deep quarterback field. Running back and wide receiver were lacking as well.
There were only seven players drafted from those three positions the first round.
Next year, however, there will many to choose from. Quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers will be there for the taking the entire first night.
There will be some excellent defensive players as well, but the needs of the many NFL cellar-dwellers will dictate who will be picked at what spot.
With only seven of the 32 picks this season going to those skill positions, next year will be quite the opposite. The way I see it, there will be 16 skill players selected in 2011.
Check 'em out.
1. Buffalo Bills - Jake Locker, Washington, QB
Say what you will about him, the bottom line is that Locker would have gone No. 1 this season had he not decided to return for his senior year at Washington.
Locker is strong, athletic, and has long been one of the better pro prospects in college football.
So instead of coming out and going to a bad team in a decent stadium (the Rams), Locker waits a year to head east and play for a terrible team in the worst outdoor stadium conditions in the NFL.
2. Tampa Bay Bucs - A.J. Green, Georgia, WR
Green will be a junior in 2010, but he'll be one of the first (of many) underclassmen to declare for the 2011 draft.
Green is a physical freak and has been an integral piece to Georgia's offense since his freshman season.
Truth be told, he was ready, and likely would have been the first wide receiver taken in this year's draft. That only makes his prospects for 2010 skyrocket even more.
3. St. Louis Rams - Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin, OT
After getting drilled for 16 games, Rookie QB Sam Bradford will be begging the front office for some protection.
Carimi has had a stellar career in Madison, and will likely cash-in big time as Bradford's blind-side protector.
4. Seattle Seahawks - Andrew Luck, Stanford, QB
Would Pete Carroll really take the kid that drove the 50-plus point dagger into his Trojans in 2009? Good thing time heals all wounds, and good quarterbacks heal terrible football.
Luck will likely be one of the more sought after QBs coming out early in 2011.
5. Detroit Lions - Joseph Barksdale, LSU, OT
Matt Stafford and Co. will battle in 2010. The Lions may even win more than two games, but the punishment he will most certainly endure will be enough for the Lions to realize they must protect their investment.
Barksdale will get plenty of publicity as LSU's top O-Lineman. If he can keep LSU QB Jordan Jefferson off the ground in 2010, Stafford will be his next charge.
6. Patriots (from Raiders)* - Greg Romeus, Pitt, DE
In yet another manifestation of Bill Belichick's genius, the Patriots picked up this pick in the Richard Seymour trade from the '09 offseason.
One would expect the Pats to trade this pick since they seem to thrive on late first round talent. And that could definitely happen, but for purposes of this mock draft, they aren't trading it.
In fact, they are going to replace Seymour, albeit two full seasons later, with Greg Romeus. If there were not so many great offensive prospects ahead of Romeus he would be taken higher than this pick.
7. Washington Redskins - Julio Jones, Alabama, WR
Mike Shanahan and Donavan McNabb makes the 'Skins better in 2010, but not that much better.
After drafting their franchise offensive tackle in 2010, the focus needs to shift to the skill positions.
Julio Jones will be coming off yet another national championship season at 'Bama and will be the third underclassman taken in the top seven.
8. Denver Broncos - Marvin Austin, North Carolina, DT
Denver will fall hard in 2010. The young offense will start to develop well, but the Broncos are thin on the D-Line.
Marvin Austin is just the huge body to fill that gaping hole. If things bounce just right the talented DT could go even higher than this.
Austin is easily the top defensive tackle in this draft.
9. Cleveland Browns - Ryan Mallett, Arkansas, QB
Does Mike Holmgren really believe that Colt McCoy, whom he took in the third round, will be the franchise quarterback? Somehow I doubt that.
Mallett is ready. Mallett is the prototypical QB prospect and if not for a stellar year by Andrew Luck at Stanford in 2010, Mallett would be the second quarterback taken in this draft. Lucky for Holmgren and the Browns, he's waiting right here.
10. Kansas City Chiefs - Evan Royster, Penn State, RB
After becoming Penn State's all-time leading rusher, Royster will be a top NFL prospect.
I know the Chiefs have a good running back in Jamaal Charles, but since when did successful NFL teams have only one good running back? Exactly.
11. Jacksonville Jaguars - Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, WR
Technically, I should refer to the Jags as the, "Los Angeles Jaguars" after the team is forced to move following another disastrous season in Jacksonville.
For a team in transition, Michael Floyd could be just what the doctor ordered. A tremendous talent in South Bend, it might be a stretch thinking Floyd falls this far.
12. Arizona Cardinals - Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M, QB
After the Derek Anderson/Matt Leinart experiment fails miserably in 2010, the Cards will be praying for this draft to be deep in quarterbacks. Sitting here, one year away from the 2011 draft, it appears that will be the case.
Johnson doesn't get nearly enough publicity because he plays for a struggling A&M program, but a mild uptick for the Aggies in 2010 will be enough for the best QB you have never heard of to become a hot commodity at draft time.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers - Cameron Heyward, Ohio State, DL
The Steelers are old on defense. Provided Ben Roethlisberger can keep his, ahem, life straight for the next 12 months or so, the defensive side of the ball is where the Steelers should look in this draft.
Heyward fits their 3-4 perfectly—speedy end, with a nose for the quarterback.
14. Carolina Panthers - Patrick Peterson, LSU, CB
Although the Panthers issues on the Defensive Line are many, they simply cannot pass up Peterson at this slot.
DBs like Peterson don't come along that often, and some early projections have Peterson going in the top 10. The needs are too vast among the top 10 in this draft to take a DB, however. Carolina reaps the benefits of the top 13's futility.
15. New England Patriots - Mark Ingram, Alabama, RB
The decline of the dynasty in New England has officially begun. But with two of the top 15 picks in the draft, the Pats will immediately begin to rebuild.
Picking up the '09 Heisman winner mid-way through the first round will be a welcome surprise for Belichick. The genius loves big, bruising RB's, and there will be none better than Ingram in the 2011 draft.
16. Chicago Bears - Mike Pouncey, Florida, OL
Will this be the first time that twins have gone in the first round of the NFL Draft in consecutive seasons? I'm thinking, yes.
If you haven't noticed how dreadful the Bears O-Line is, just ask QB Jay Cutler. As iffy as he is a quarterback, the last thing he needs is a sub-par line. Pouncey will go a long way towards fixing that.
17. New York Giants - Greg Jones, Michigan State, LB
Greg Jones could have been a first round pick in the 2010 draft. Lucky for the Giants he decided to come back for his senior season.
Jones could be taken before No. 17 overall, but likely won't be since LB is not a position of need for most clubs in front of the Giants.
18. Miami Dolphins - Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech, RB
With Ronnie Brown apparently on his way out soon and Ricky Williams not getting any younger, the Dolphins would have a glaring need in the backfield.
What better way to fill it than with a top three Heisman candidate from the Hokies. Ryan Williams had an unbelievable '09 season and at times looked untackleable. This is what you call a steal in the middle of the first round.
19. Philadelphia Eagles - DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma, RB
Le'Sean McCoy is the man in Philly now. But as I've already brought up in this story, a two-RB system is now a necessary part of competing in the NFL.
Enter DeMarco Murray.
In all truth, the Eagles should have drafted a running back in the 2010 draft, but good things come to those who wait. Murray is definitely a good thing.
20. Houston Texans - Mark Herzlich, Boston College, LB
How lucky would the Texans be to have the top linebacker prospect fall in their laps at the 20th overall pick?
Herzlich has been through so much in the last two years, seeing him picked in the first round would be the story of the draft's first day in 2011.
21. Baltimore Ravens - Jonathan Baldwin, Pitt, WR
Is he a wide receiver or a tight end?
What if I told you it doesn't matter what position plays, he's going to be a franchise skill player either way.
Baldwin has that combination of size and speed that makes an elite player. He is a perfect fit for a Ravens offense that has been underwhelming in the wide receiver department for a few years now.
22. Atlanta Falcons - Jarriel King, South Carolina, OT
At 6'5", 310-pounds, King is a hoss. Exactly what Matt Ryan needs to continue the Falcons recent success in the NFC South.
King had a rap sheet coming out of high school, but the big man has stayed out of trouble for the most part at South Carolina. As we saw in this year's draft, that cannot be underestimated.
23. Cincinnati Bengals - Rahim Moore, UCLA, Safety
With 10 interceptions in his sophomore season, Moore could become an even hotter commodity in 2011 should he build on that with another stellar campaign in 2010.
24. San Francisco 49ers - Adrian Clayborn, Iowa, DE
Most experts have Clayborn in the top 10, but with the offensive skill talent in this draft, and the apparent need above him, expect a drop for the talented D-end in 2011.
I'm sure Mike Singletary will be just fine with that.
25. Tennessee Titans - Robert Quinn, North Carolina, DE
The Titans almost always go after defense in the first round of the draft. 2011 will be no different. Quinn is an immediate difference maker on the line and would be the steal of all steals this late.
26. Minnesota Vikings - Nick Foles, Arizona, QB
After an unbelievable junior year Foles has drastically improved his draft stock. If Arizona can win a wide open Pac 10 for the 'Cats in 2010 his stock should go up even more.
After living with the Brett Favre traveling road show for two years, the Vikings will be ready for stability at the quarterback position.
27. San Diego Chargers - Luke Stocker, Tennessee, TE
The Vols have been gifted in Tight End's for a few years now. Stocker has the potential to be even better than Jason Witten if for nothing more than his size.
Antonio Gates is getting older and is injury prone. Perfect time to replace the one-time top TE in the NFL.
28. Green Bay Packers - John Clay, Wisconsin, RB
Everybody loves it when you draft the hometown, or in this case, the home-state guy.
The Packers need another running back to help Ryan Grant. Combining the bruiser with the athlete will put Green Bay's running game near the top of the league.
29. Indianapolis Colts - Matt Reynolds, BYU, OT
Many thought, and still think, that the Colts should have addressed their aging O-Line in this draft. Instead they addressed their aging, injury-depleted defensive line.
Reynolds could end up being the top OT taken in this draft, but for the Colts sake, let's hope not.
30. Dallas Cowboys - Marcell Dareus, Alabama, DE
After finishing his SEC QB-terrorizing campaign, Marcell Dareus will be ready to continue his amazing path of destruction in the NFL.
Dareus has quite a reputation, among SEC O-Linemen, for being nearly impossible to block. Will NFL O-Linemen agree?
31. New Orleans Saints - Kyle Randolph, Notre Dame, TE
Jeremy Shockey has been around a while. It's time for the Saints to go young at this position.
Randolph will be a prime target for the Saints as the first round nears its end. Under Brian Kelly in 2010, Randolph should become a go-to guy in the Irish offense, thus increasing his value in the draft.
32. New York Jets - Mark Barron, Alabama, SS
No offense to James Ihedigbo, but if Mark Barron is available at the end of this draft, the reigning Super Bowl champs should scoop him up without a second thought.
Barron is a premier DB at the college level and the Jets would further their impenetrable defense with his presence.