Is there anything better than writing something sports-related, which involves blind speculation solely because people will read it?
Ah, nothing like selling one's soul for the sake of circulation.
Clearly, making a mock draft before a season has even begun is going to involve a lot of predictions.
Where will a team draft?
If the team drafts high, clearly something went wrong, so what do they need?
Which players will even declare for the draft?
So on and so forth.
As far as the 2011 NFL draft is concerned, a huge factor is whether or not redshirt sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck out of Stanford declares for the draft. Luck is not the best quarterback in the draft and he comes from a well-off family, so he most likely won't, but let's make it fun and say he does.
Now that we've gotten through that part, we just need to guess where each NFL team will finish, what their biggest need will be and which college players will have the best years.
Let's go to work.
I will try to keep draft terms like "lengthy," "long," "a football player," "quick," "leader," "character," "toughness," "Tim Tebow" and others out when describing these NFL prospects.
With the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, the St. Louis Rams select...
A.J. Green, wide receiver from the University of Georgia.
You can flip a coin when it comes to deciding between defensive end Robert Quinn out of North Carolina and Green based on the pass rush of the Rams, but with so much invested in Sam Bradford, the Rams need weapons.
Neither Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson or Mardy Gilyard are No. 1 receivers.
He's a fully-formed wideout with reliable hands and comparisons to Calvin Johnson.
And the Rams would finally be able to open up the defense for Stephen Jackson.
The Rams also have Steve Spagnuolo at the helm. He's created a pass rush with far less, so look toward offensive help in 2011.
Green ended the 2009 regular season with 47 catches for 751 yards and six touchdowns, despite being injured the last three games of the season. Green was able to return for the 2009 Independence Bowl and made six catches for 57 yards.
With the second pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills select...
Jake Locker, quarterback from the University of Washington.
Locker should have declared for the 2010 because a lot can go wrong in a college football season. See Matt Leinart, Brady Quinn and Brian Brohm for reasons to declare when your stock is highest.
On the other side of things, this gives Locker another year to prove he is a pure passer.
Locker has already proved he is mobile and can scramble for a large amount of yards.
As for the Bills, Trent Edwards has not stayed healthy and no one sees Brian Brohm, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Levi Brown taking over the team.
Locker is just 9-28 at Washington, but has wins in 2009 over third-ranked USC, which put the Huskies in the top 25 for the first time since 2003, and No. 19 California on the last game of the season.
If Locker goes No. 1 overall, he would be the only No. 1 pick to go through a winless season in his college career. In 2008 the Huskies went 0-12.
Unless Edwards stays healthy and effective and the 3-4 defense changes something for the Bills, they will be in the top five for the draft and will be taking a quarterback.
Lucky for them, 2011 has a solid quarterback class.
With the third pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select...
Robert Quinn, defensive end from the University of North Carolina.
It was tempting to have the Browns draft Andrew Luck, but Mike Holmgren has never drafted quarterbacks in the first round.
Not only that, Holmgren went out of his way to draft Colt McCoy. He is not going to give up on him, especially seeing as he most likely won't play this year.
Shaun Rogers will turn 32 a month before the draft and is owed $6.9 million this year and $5.5 million next year. If the Browns get rid of him, they will need a replacement.
Quinn is being called the second-coming of Julius Peppers. You don't get that attached with your name without acts of being a beast.
While overcoming a brain tumor in high school is a great story, it could also make teams nervous about Quinn.
He does have the potential to be a No. 1 pick.
As a sophomore in 2009 Quinn recorded 52 tackles, 19 for losses and 11 sacks.
And I apologize for not somehow including LeBron James in this.
With the fourth pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select...
Andrew Luck, quarterback from Stanford University.
As I stated before, Luck is not a guarantee possibility for the 2011 draft, but if Jim Harbaugh takes an NFL coaching job or he is still projected this high, he will be.
On the other side, this is a risky selection by myself based on the fact a lot of things have to happen.
If the Kansas City Chiefs are selecting this high then clearly Matt Cassel and the $7.5 million option bonus he is due will need to be released because the Chiefs aren't winning with him.
If Cassel gets it done this year, the Chiefs will be looking for an offensive tackle in the later rounds.
Luck is projected by many as the best quarterback in this draft.
Luck set a Stanford freshman passing record with 2,575 yards. He also threw 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for 354 yards on 61 carries.
With the fifth pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Seattle Seahawks select...
Ryan Mallett, quarterback from the University of Arkansas.
A former Michigan quarterback, Mallett has NFL-desirable skills. He's a strong-armed pocket passer who would have been a first-rounder in the 2010 draft. He threw 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first year at Arkansas, after transferring from Michigan.
Questions about Mallett's intelligence and accuracy, however, could push him down, meaning the Seahawks could go with a defensive pick in the forms of Da'Quan Bowers out of Clemson or Cameron Heyward out of Ohio State.
Seahawks are in a tough spot if the draft falls this way because the top two quarterbacks are off the board and Mallett is a bit risky. In March of 2009, Mallett was charged for public intoxication.
Mallett currently owns sixteen school records, including most passing yards in a season (3,627), most consecutive passes without an INT, most passing yards in a game (408), most passing touchdowns in a game (5), only quarterback to pass for over 400 yards in a game (twice), most pass plays of 25 or more yards in a season and most passing TD in a single season (30).
With the sixth pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select...
Cameron Heyward, defensive end from Ohio State.
The Buccaneers need a pass rusher and considering head coach Raheem Morris focused on the offensive line already and he would be smart to look at the other side of the ball in 2011.
Heyward could have been a top 10 pick in the 2010 draft, but opted to stay for another season with the Buckeyes.
Heyard had 10 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown last season.
With the seventh pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select...
Marcell Dareus, defensive end/tackle from the University of Alabama.
As a sophomore last season, Dareus had 33 tackles, nine for losses and 6.5 sacks in just four starts in the 3-4/4-3 Alabama defense. He also knocked Colt McCoy out of the national championship game and intercepted a shovel pass, returning it 29 yards for a touchdown via a nice spin move. His performance earned him the MVP of the game.
A lot of hype is around the 300+ pounder taking over the SEC and if he has a big year, this could be his reward.
However, the Jaguars being the team to pick him is not the greatest hypothesis.
If David Garrard can't put together anything offensively with Mike Sims-Walker and Maurice Jones-Drew this season, the Jaguars may be looking for a quarterback. If Garrard is their man, they may be looking to get him another receiver.
If the Jaguars offense does what I think it can do, the team will notice the holes in their defense as being the reason for picking top 10 in 2011.
Have to mention that, during the summer, Dareus was under an investigation by the University of Alabama in conjunction with the NCAA into whether Dareus paid his own expenses when attending a party in Miami, Florida hosted by a sports agent, and whether the circumstances constitute an NCAA violation.
With the eighth pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Denver Broncos select...
Prince Amukamara, cornerback from the University of Nebraska.
In a draft with a lot of cornerback talent, Amukamara is easily one of the best. He has the size NFL teams want in the secondary, while still having the talent to be a shutdown corner.
As a junior in 2009 he was a first-team All-Big 12 selection after recording 60 tackles, two sacks, and five interceptions.
Nebraska may even work him into the offense this season.
Broncos have a relatively old secondary that could use some help.
With the ninth pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals select...
Patrick Peterson, cornerback from Louisiana State University.
Selecting a cornerback for the Cardinals is solely based on the performance of Greg Toler. He was solid in his limited action, but the jury is still out on him as of now.
If Toler struggles, the Cardinals will need to find a Robin for Dominque Rogers-Cromartie's Batman and Peterson is arguably the best cornerback option.
Peterson held A.J. Green to just four catches and limited Julio Jones to just three receptions last season as a sophomore. Green and Jones are two of the top three receivers in the draft.
Peterson started all 13 games at cornerback for the Tigers, finishing with 52 tackles, 43 of which were solo.
With the 10th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the New England Patriots select...
Julio Jones, wide receiver from the University of Alabama.
Patriots were able to get this pick from the Raiders in the trade for Richard Seymour and getting Jones would be a huge steal.
Between A.J. Green, Jones and Michael Floyd from Notre Dame, there is going to be a battle this season for top receiver in college football.
With Randy Moss turning 34, the Patriots will need a playmaker.
In two seasons with Alabama, Jones caught 101 balls for 1,520 yards and eight touchdowns. He can make plays.
Jones did, however, have a sophomore slump going from 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman to 43 catches for 596 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore.
With the 11th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions select...
Gabe Carimi, offensive tackle from the University of Wisconsin.
If the Lions have a higher pick, they will go with a defensive end because Carimi is not worth a high pick, but the further the Lions drop, meaning the better they do in 2010, the more chances of them getting an offensive tackle.
At a position with few talented prospects, Carimi wasn't overwhelming last year, but can be a beast and will need a good season to stay on the radar.
With the 12th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers select...
Marvin Austin, defensive tackle from the University of North Carolina.
Austin's potential became known lastyear. With a good year, surrounded by a solid UNC defense, Austin's value could rise drastically.
Austin finished 2009 with 42 tackles, 6.0 tackles for losses, four sacks, three pass breakups, six quarterback pressures, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery
Questions about Austin's work ethic may drop him however.
In 2010, Austin became the center of a NCAA probe involving himself, other UNC football players, Weslye Saunders of South Carolina, and Maurkice Pouncey of Florida receiving benefits from agents.
On July 19, 2010 National Football Post reported that Marvin Austin is expected to be suspended for his entire Senior season. This report is dubious however, and shows very little basis in verifiable facts.
With the 13th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Tennessee Titans select...
Greg Romeus, defensive end from the University of Pittsburgh.
Romeus was a prime basketball prospect in high school, who didn't pick up the sport until his senior year of high school. He's clearly athletic.
Romeus finished the 2009 regular season playing 12 games, making 40 tackles (10.5 for losses) and eight sacks. He also intercepted a pass, forced two fumbles, recovered one, broke up four passes, had 11 hurries and blocked a kick.
With the 14th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears select...
Joseph Barksdale, offensive tackle from Louisiana State University.
If the Chicago Bears are set on Frank Omiyale playing tackle then they will be searching for another tackle come 2011. In Mike Martz's system, there is no room for error at the offensive tackle position.
Depending on how the Bears do offensively, they could take a wide receiver with this pick, but the clear problem for the Bears last season was the protection of Jay Cutler and with no real changes, it looks like that will be a problem once again.
With the 15th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Washington Redskins select...
Michael Floyd, wide receiver from the University of Notre Dame.
Another tough team to pick because they could go with a quarterback for the future, but if Donovan McNabb has a healthy and solid season, they will need to provide him with weapons.
Floyd in the teens would be a solid pick for any team, let alone one that has McNabb to throw to him.
Floyd began his sophomore season (2009) in shocking fashion with three touchdowns and 189 yards receiving on only four receptions. Later in the season, Floyd suffered a shoulder injury, which would leave him sidelined for five of Notre Dame's 12 games.
He would return from that injury and record a total of nine receiving touchdowns and almost 800 receiving yards in just seven games of action
With the 16th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...
Aaron Williams, cornerback from the University of Texas.
Steelers need some help in the secondary.
Yes, Troy Polamalu was hurt, but the cornerbacks simply did not get it done for the Steelers. Unless youngsters like Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis step up, the Steelers will be looking for a cornerback.
Williams should step into the spotlight this season, considering he has been overshadowed by a great secondary for Texas.
As a sophomore in 2009 Williams played in 13 games, missing one due to an injury, and recorded 31 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions.
With the 17th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select...
Ras-I Dowling, cornerback from the University of Virginia.
Eagles are not set on cornerback Ellis Hobbs and even if he is to surprise people, the Eagles need some help in nickel and dime packages.
In steps Dowling.
Dowling helped anchor the nation's No. 21 ranked pass defense last season. He had 11 passes defended and three interceptions as well.
He can even play safety if need be.
With the 18th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the New York Giants select...
Bruce Carter, outside linebacker from the University of North Carolina.
Carter fits into a 4-3 defense perfectly and Tom Coughlin is going to have to fix the defensive mess the Giants are facing.
As long as Carter proves to be more consistent than last season, he should fit in Perry Fewell's defense nicely.
Carter finished his 2009 junior season with 65 tackles, 7.5 tackles for losses, two sacks, one interception return for a touchdown, two pass breakups and four quarterback pressures.
With the 19th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Dolphins select...
Deunta Williams, free safety from the University of North Carolina.
Miami tried to upgrade at the free safety spot this offseason, but did not. If Chris Clemons and Reshed Jones don't cut it for the Dolphins, Williams can step in.
Miami can't win with the secondary as is.
Williams finished his 2009 junior season with 47 tackles, 1.5 tackles for losses, six interceptions for 114 yards and eight pass breakups.
With the 20th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Houston Texans select...
DeAndre McDaniel, safety from Clemson University.
Pass defense will most likely be what kills the Texans this season and they will answer by drafting a safety. Eugene Wilson has missed 29 games in the last four seasons for the Texans.
In steps McDaniel.
As a sophomore in 2008 the Tigers moved him to linebacker. He finished the season with 77 tackles and an interception.
In 2009, McDaniel was moved back to safety, where he recorded eight interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown.
In 2008, however, McDaniel was arrested for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature after an argument with his girlfriend. McDaniel reportedly punched his girlfriend in the head and then pushed her down a flight of stairs.
With the 21st pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the New England Patriots select...
Adrian Clayborn, defensive end from the University of Iowa.
Clayborn could be in the top five if he hadn't punched a cab driver in the face in January of 2009. Not sure if teams would be willing to take the risk on him, but the Patriots desperately need help on the defensive line.
Patriots could use him, but he could drop to the Cincinnati Bengals or New York Jets, who have handled players with off the field issues more than New England.
In 2009, Clayborn had a breakout year with 20 tackles for loss and was named Orange Bowl MVP. After the season, he was named 2009 Defensive Performer of the Year by the College Football Performance Awards for the strongest performance by a defender in FBS football.
With the 22nd pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the San Diego Chargers select...
Nate Potter, offensive tackle from Boise State University.
Marus McNeil and Vincent Jackson holdouts are looking pretty bad. It is looking as if both players are going to sit out big portions of the 2010 season and leave for free agency.
If this is the case, the Chargers will need to find a left tackle for Phillip Rivers. If Michael Floyd falls to the Chargers, they may re-think this, but otherwise Potter is their man.
With the 23rd pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers select...
Christian Ponder, quarterback from Florida State University.
The 49ers are on their way, but they won't be going anywhere deep with Alex Smith. Look for the 49ers to go quarterback searching when it comes draft time.
In 2009, Ponder was on his way to a career season when he suffered a season ending shoulder injury.
Through the first eight games of the season, he led the ACC in passing average per game and was one of the top in yards and passing efficiency. He threw for over 2,700 yards and 14 touchdowns as he considered jumping to the NFL a year early.
However, a hit by Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel separated Ponder's shoulder and forced him to miss the rest of the season.
With the 24th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons select...
Jared Crick, defensive tackle from the University of Nebraska.
Unless Jamaal Anderson, Lawrence Sidbury and Kroy Bierdman can get to the quarterback, the Falcons will be looking for a pass rusher. Crick needs to prove this season he can work without relying on Ndamukong Suh to draw the attention of the offensive line.
As a sophomore in 2009 Crick had 73 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Crick also had 16 quarterback hurries, four breakups and forced a pair of fumbles.
With the 25th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select...
Mark Ingram, running back from the University of Alabama.
Cedric Benson is yet to sign an extension, so if he is hit with the injury bug or leaves, what better than the 2009 Heisman trophy winner to replace him.
Ingram is a power runner and the best running back in the draft. Dropping late in the first round will leave a lot of teams making some last-minute decisions.
A team like the Buccaneers, who has Cadillac Williams leaving and 31-year-old Derrick Ward, or a running team like the Dolphins could grab him earlier.
As a sophomore in 2009, Ingram rushed for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also had 334 receiving yards with three touchdowns.
Ingram earned Offensive MVP honors after rushing for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries in the national championship.
With the 26th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers select...
Von Miller, defensive end/outside linebacker from Texas A&M University.
Packers need an outside linebacker to compliment Clay Matthews. Miller is your man. After a 17-sack season to lead the nation in 2009, Miller is considered one of the best pass rushers in the draft, if not the best.
Scouts say he is going to make the move to outside linebacker and he is a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense.
With the 27th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the New York Jets select...
Da'Quan Bowers, defensive end from Clemson University.
Bowers was the No. 1 high school football prospect in 2008 according to ESPN. In his high school senior season, Bowers had 97 tackles on defense, including 33 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. On offense, he rushed for 1,219 yards and 19 touchdowns and also caught two touchdown passes. He also averaged 40 yards per kickoff return and blocked seven kicks.
He's as athletic as you can imagine.
Bowers was named MVP against Nebraska in the 2009 Gator Bowl when he had six tackles and three tackles for loss.
Bowers has the ability to be a top 10 pick and if he falls this far, you better believe someone was lucky to grab him. In order for the Jets to win, they are going to have to get to Peyton Manning.
Bowers can do that, but he has to prove he can be a scheme-versatile pass rusher because that is what the 3-4 is all about.
If he does not, look for the Jets to go after Miami's Allen Bailey.
With the 28th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys select...
Anthony Castonzo, offensive tackle from Boston College.
Cowboys need to look for a long-term tackle, seeing as Doug Free is unproven at left tackle and a free agent after 2011. Castonzo looks like Marc Columbo, but more athletic, which the Cowboys would take in a heartbeat.
With the 29th pick in the NFL draft, the New Orleans Saints select...
Travis Lewis, outside linebacker from the University of Oklahoma.
New Orleans will need help at weakside linebacker if Jonathan Casillas doesn't pan out. Lewis leveled out last season, so he will need to have a good full season to show he's ready for an NFL season.
After breaking Brian Bosworth's freshman tackle record with 144 tackles as a freshman in 2008, including 11.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks, to go along with four interceptions, Lewis had 109 tackles, including 9.5 for loss and one sack, to go along with one interception as a sophomore.
Lewis became human in his sophomore season. If he goes back to being a creature like he did in 2008, his stock will rise.
With the 30th pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts select...
Allen Bailey, defensive end from the University of Miami.
Colts need to get bigger up front to stop the run and did not address that in the 2010 draft. Bailey can help fix that.
Bailey started in 10 games last year and finished with 34 tackles, 11 for loss and seven sacks. What is impressive is in his last four games, Bailey wrapped up 19 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks and a forced fumble.
With the 31st pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings select...
Brett Favre?...just kidding. I had to mention him somehow.
Pat Devlin, quarterback from the University of Delaware.
Shh, don't tell Brett Favre, but the Vikings really need a Plan B for when he actually retires.
And don't roll your eyes at the fact Devlin is playing for Delaware. He split time with Daryll Clark in 2008, including leading Penn State on a go-ahead drive against Ohio State late in the fourth quarter after Clark left with a concussion.
Devlin appeared in 10 games for Penn State, passed for 459 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He decided to transfer to Delaware before the 2009 Rose Bowl.
Devlin started all eleven games for the Blue Hens, passing for 2,664 yards, sixteen touchdowns and nine interceptions.
With the 32nd pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens select...
Mike Pouncey, offensive guard/tackle from the University of Florida.
Baltimore can get through this season with the current offensive line, but come draft time they have to think about the fact right tackle Jared Gaither could be gone, right guard Marshal Yanda, who is a few years removed from a torn ACL, MCL and PCL, will be a free agent and 35-year-old Matt Birk will be entering his contract year.
The Ravens need an offensive lineman and Pouncey is a little less talented than twin brother Maurkice, who was a mid-first-rounder.