2011 NFL Mock Draft: Jake Locker Headlines Offense-Dominated Round One
Less than a week removed from the 2010 NFL draft, much of the focus turns towards rookie minicamps, a fresh batch of veteran free agents, and the anticipation of the upcoming season.
But it's never too early to have one eye on the distant future and the promise of yet another Draft.
Unlike this year, round one of the 2011 NFL Draft is shaping out to be dominated by offensive skill positions. There are handfuls of quality quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers that will be the early stories of what should be an exciting draft class.
Offensive-starved franchises will have the opportunity to give their teams the shot in the arm that just wasn't available in round one this year. And unlike Sam Bradford and the rest at quarterback, the competition for the top spot in 2011 will be an ongoing battle all year long.
Right now, it's Jake Locker's to lose.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jake Locker, Washington
Tampa Bay invested a first-round pick in Josh Freeman in 2009, but if they find themselves in the top spot next season and Jake Locker plays anything like he did a year ago, they'll either have to select him here or trade their pick.
Locker could have been a top-10 selection in 2010 and will no doubt offer more upside than Freeman.
2. Seattle Seahawks: WR A.J. Green, Georgia
The Seahawks did a lot to improve themselves in the 2010 draft, but they still lack that true No. 1 receiver.
If Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst fail to get it done at quarterback next season, Seattle could go the route of Ryan Mallet, but A.J. Green is the top wide-out in the draft and has the potential to be the next superstar receiver in the NFL.
3. Saint Louis Rams: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
The Rams got their franchise quarterback in 2010, and they'll get their franchise defensive end in Adrian Clayborn.
They need defensive help badly, and there aren't any difference-makers on defense that will deliver more than Clayborn. He has the potential to be an All-Pro end who will cause havoc in opposing backfields for years.
4. New England Patriots (From Oakland): RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
It's scary to think of the Patriots having the opportunity to draft so high; you can thank the Oakland Raiders for that.
Randy Moss isn't getting any younger, so don't be surprised if they go wide-out here. With Mark Ingram available, however, New England won't be able to pass on the Heisman Trophy winner to become the workhorse back of their backfield.
5. Detroit Lions: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
The Lions secondary is horrendous, and no matter how many points Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson manage to put up, they aren't going to win many games without better corner play.
Detroit did a lot to bolster their defensive line this season, especially with the addition of Ndamukong Suh, but now it's time to address the skill positions. Patrick Peterson is the best cornerback in the draft.
6. Buffalo Bills: QB Ryan Mallet, Arkansas
The Bills will come to realize next season that they aren't going anywhere without a legitimate quarterback. Well, Ryan Mallet is hard to miss at 6'7", 235 lbs, and he might be the best quarterback in the draft when it's all said and done.
Drafting C.J. Spiller was nice, but he won't do much good if opposing defenses don't respect the pass.
7. Cleveland Browns: DT/DE Marcell Dareus, Alabama
Marcell Dareus didn't get the chance to really show his stuff last season, but you can bet we will hear his name a lot more this time around. Alabama's hybrid 3-4 end/tackle has an endless motor and off-the-charts strength. He had 6.5 sacks in four starts in 2009 and might triple that number his junior year.
Shawn Rogers isn't getting any younger. The Browns will be thrilled to add Dareus here.
8. Kansas City Chiefs: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
Matt Cassel has one more year to prove to the Chiefs that they haven't wasted a ton of money investing in him. Chances are he won't do that, though, which is exactly why they'll target their new franchise quarterback here.
There are a lot of great options, and they'll be happy to walk away with Luck. He's got to prove he can survive in the pocket first, though.
9. Arizona Cardinals: OT Joseph Barksdale, LSU
The Cardinals didn't select an offensive tackle in this year's draft, but they will have the opportunity to select a great one here. Barksdale is taking over duties on the left side of LSU's line this year, and the athletic tackle should see his stock go through the roof as a result.
It could be Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin here, but Barksdale will overtake him by the end of the season as the top tackle prospect in the class.
10. Carolina Panthers: WR Julio Jones, Alabama
The Panthers' offense has become a bit stagnant over the last couple years for several reasons, but a good amount of the blame can be put on Steve Smith. He isn't the player he used to be, and Carolina will have to address that in the draft.
Julio Jones in an underrated prospect playing in a system that favors the run. Still, he has the talent to dominate on the next level and will be a great pick at this point in round one.
11. Denver Broncos: S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson
The Broncos have other needs, but Brian Dawkins will be 37 next season and probably only has a year left in the tank. DeAndre McDaniel played incredibly last season and should only be better his senior year.
He's hands down the top safety of the 2011 draft and would provide Denver with the upgrade they'll be sorely needing in the event Dawkins retires.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
The Jaguars already have Mike Sims-Walker, so receiver isn't really a need, but matching their budding star with anther big and physical wide-out could turn the offense into a potent attack.
At 6'3", Floyd is a strong and athletic receiver with a knack for play-making. He'll be a serious upgrade for Jacksonville here.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Chris Owusu, Stanford
The Steelers traded away Santonio Holmes and won't get much more out of Hines Ward. They need new blood at receiver and will find it in Chris Owusu. He's a jack-of-all-trades who can lineup at running back or receiver and will contribute in the return game, as well.
He's the type of playmaker Pittsburgh needs. Give this guy the ball, and he'll make it happen.
14. Chicago Bears: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
Gabe Carimi might be the top-rated offensive tackle in the draft by the end of the season, so don't be surprised if he's off the board by this point in round one. If he's available, the Bears will have to select him here.
Chicago's offensive line couldn't provide room for anyone to run through last season, and that isn't going to change unless they address it in the 2011 draft. Carimi is a great all-around tackle prospect.
15. Washington Redskins: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina
The Redskins' pass-rush wasn't very impressive last season, but they'll find the solution in Robert Quinn. He had 11 sacks as a sophomore, and if he's able to match that this season, expect the young man to bypass his senior year of eligibility to come out early.
Quinn is a quarterback hunter who will thrive playing alongside a guy like Albert Haynesworth.
16. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia
The Eagles' secondary needs help, and they'll come to realize that after the Cowboys light them up a couple times next season. They addressed the issue this year but not until the later rounds; that won't be enough.
Ras-I Dowling is a future star at cornerback and could be a solid season away from a top-10 selection.
17. San Francisco 49ers: DE Allen Bailey, Miami
Allen Bailey led the Canes' defense last season with seven sacks and should be in line for an even more successful campaign this time around. He's strong, athletic, and plays well against the pass and the run.
That's exactly the type of production the 49ers are lacking along their defensive line.
18. New York Giants: RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw struggled to stay healthy last season, and it's only a matter of time before they break down even more. It might be a good time for a changing-of-the-guard in New York.
Ryan Williams is a versatile back who should be near or at the top of draft boards at this point in round one.
19. New England Patriots: DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
New England needs more out of their defensive ends and probably should have addressed the issue sooner. Cameron Heyward is a great candidate for end in a 3-4 and fits the bill nicely for the Patriots.
They're a team that loves to collect draft picks though, so don't be surprised to see them trade down as they so often do.
20. Tennessee Titans: CB Aaron Williams, Texas
The Titans' secondary was one of the team's biggest weaknesses last season, and they didn't do much to address it this offseason. Aaron Williams is a great option here that should solve their need nicely.
He's a playmaker with great instincts and smooth hands.
21. Houston Texans: RB Noel Devine, West Virginia
The Steve Slaton, Chris Brown, Ryan Moats experiment was a disaster last season, and although the Texans have done a little bit to add talent to their backfield, they need a true No. 1 back.
Noel Devine is exactly that. He may be a little undersized, but he's also never had injury concerns.
22. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Terrance Toliver, LSU
Cincinnati has other areas of need, but their receiver core could really use a shot in the arm. Chad Ochocinco doesn't have a whole lot left in the tank, and Antonio Bryant and Dezmon Briscoe don't inspire a whole lot of confidence.
They got their tight end of the future this year and will get their wide receiver next year in the form of Terrance Toliver.
23. Miami Dolphins: FS Rahim Moore, UCLA
The Dolphins missed out on a talented group of safeties this year, selecting Reshad Jones in the fifth round as a consolation price. Jones comes with a lot of question marks, which gives the impression that Miami will be in the market for another free safety in 2011.
Rahim Moore led the nation with 10 interceptions last season, and if he's available here, the Dolphins will jump all over him.
24. Atlanta Falcons: DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina
Atlanta needs help on the defensive line and would get a steal of an athlete in Marvin Austin if he's available here. The North Carolina product is a 305-pound wrecking ball with a superb skill set.
He might be a bit undersized to man the middle, but he has the natural strength to make up for that.
25. Green Bay Packers: C Kristopher O' Dowd, USC
Centers don't often go off the board in round one, but when they do, there is usually a good reason for it. O'Dowd will be one of those players, and if he isn't selected by the Packers, someone else will step up to the plate and make sure it happens.
He's a powerful run-blocker with excellent hands and strong footing; he'll earn the big bucks taking nose tackles on one-on-one.
26. Minnesota Vikings: DT Jared Crick, Nebraska
The foundation in the Williams Wall is cracking, and it's time for some new bricks. Jared Crick is a great fit here as the three-technique defensive tackle.
Pat Williams is on his last leg and will likely retire after the season. Minnesota will need a replacement if they want to remain among the best run-stopping teams in the league.
27. New York Jets: OLB Bruce Carter, North Carolina
Rex Ryan is always looking for versatile linebackers with a knack for rushing the quarterback and will be thrilled to come across a player like Bruce Carter this late in round one.
He's extremely athletic and will play all over the field. Carter is a special-teams demon, to add.
28. San Diego Chargers: DT/DE Christian Ballard, Iowa
The Chargers are in need of young blood at defensive end, and Christian Ballard presents a great opportunity to fill that need early in the 2011 draft.
At 6'5", 285 pounds, the athletic and powerful Iowa defensive tackle is a prime candidate to thrive as 3-4 end. He'll make a quick impact in San Diego.
29. Indianapolis Colts: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
Indy's offensive line is starting to get up there in age, and it is more than time to add a young tackle to the mix. Castonzo is a leader with great character and a guy that fits the mold of player the Colts tend to covet.
Don't be surprised to see them go defense here, but that just isn't their style in round one.
30. Dallas Cowboys: OT Marcus Cannon, TCU
Marcus Cannon is a huge, athletic tackle that many experts project as a right tackle in the NFL, but if he can work on his footing and technique that may not be the case.
Either way, the Cowboys' offensive line needs a lot of work, and they didn't do a whole lot to fix that issue this offseason. They'll almost certainly go after a tackle in round one next year if the right candidate is on the board.
31. Baltimore Ravens: ILB Chris Galippo, USC
Ray Lewis might be playing the last year or two of his career, and it's time for the Ravens to find their mike linebacker of the future. Chris Galippo is the best inside linebacker in the draft and would be a real steal at this point of round one.
An intelligent player with great instincts and closing speed, Galippo is a sure tackler and a future star in the inside.
32. New Orleans Saints: LB Greg Jones, Michigan State
It was surprising to see the Saints bypass the opportunity to take a linebacker early in round one, especially after the loss of Scott Fujita. Greg Jones is a great pick up with a solid all-around skill set.
He never misses a tackle and has jaw-dropping closing speed.