First Look at the 2011 NFL Draft: Can a Wide Receiver Really Go Number 1?
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The first six weeks of football is behind us. We have so far seen the good (Steelers), the bad (Panthers), and the ugly (Cowboys). Each team has at least one loss, and the only thing we know for certain is that linebackers and safeties can no longer lay an offensive player out.
(Wait a minute, if they lead with their shoulder pad, then is it OK? Well, I guess we don't even know what a devastating hit means either.)
We can, however, bet that Feb. 6, 2011, somebody will be crowned Super Bowl Champions. We can also bet that Jan. 2, 2011, some team will be on the clock for April's NFL Draft.
The only thing more exciting than watching the BCS scramble to find two one-loss teams to play against each other in the National Championship, so they don't have to send those two unbeatens from Idaho and Texas to the game, is watching NFL teams over-value, over-scout, and put stock into players' 40-yard dashes (whether good or bad.)
You'll end up with an Arian Foster getting undrafted and Darrius Heyward-Bey going top 10. You'll see some guy like Dimitrius Underwood going in round one and Priest Holmes a free agent. It will be no different in 2011. Teams will hit, teams will miss. You'll see many mock drafts, and hundreds of people debating on who is good and who needs work.
It starts now. Here is a preview of where teams might go and who they might pick up come April.
1. Carolina Panthers - A.J. Green, WR, Georgia - This team needs a weapon. Who better than Green? Six-foot-4 and with great speed after catching the ball, Green could be the first wideout going number one in 15 years.
2. Buffalo Bills - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford - A redshirt sophomore, Luck has the brain and the size that will make him the top quarterback draft pick in 2011.
3. Cleveland Browns - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State - His size is making scouts drool. He can be an effective pass rusher at an end, or run stopper in a 4-3. Adrian Clayborn may have more of an upside, but the Browns will stick with the Buckeye.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas - This will be a huge reach and a huge risk. Mallett has the tools and size that make many believe he can be the next Ben Roethlisberger, so the Jaguars won't care taking him with the fifth pick.
6. New England Patriots (from Oak) - Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn St. - Wisniewski can play guard or center, and with six picks in the first three rounds, New England has plenty of flexibility to play with and it is never afraid to draft a player higher than projected.
7. Dallas Cowboys - DeMarcus Love, OT, Arkansas - Pass blocking is key to a team that seems to not want to run the ball. Love is a great pass blocker and at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, he will provide great strength and physicality to a team that needs it.
8. Cincinnati Bengals - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa - This team needs a quarterback. With none worthy of the eighth pick, the Bengals will have to go for value. Clayborn can be a pass rushing freak (11 sacks in 2009), and that is one area the Bengals also need.
10. Denver Broncos - Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M - Miller is not the best tackler (and for a linebacker, that isn't good) but he can get after the quarterback. Denver is lacking production with the loss of Elvis Dumervil. Miller can improve Denver's defense his rookie year.
11. San Francisco 49ers - Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA - Perhaps he has the biggest upside of all players in this draft. Put Ayers on a defense with Patrick Willis and coach Mike Singletary, and Ayers is set up instantly for success.
12. St. Louis Rams - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska - The offense is finally clicking, and when Mark Clayton and Donnie Avery get back next year it will be even better, so defense is key. Amukamara serves as a need and value as he is the top xonerback in college football.
13. Miami Dolphins - Mike Pouncey, C, Florida - The team with the wildcat offense could use a versatile player who can play inside or outside on the offensive line.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma - Tampa Bay needs offensive help. Josh Freeman can not win every game throwing the football. Murray is the best running back in college football as of right now, and he will instantly help the offense out.
15. Chicago Bears - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama - This will be a dream come true if the Bears can snag this playmaker in the draft. Jones is tall and has impressive speed, and if Jay Cutler is your quarterback, he will always throw downfield.
16. Washington Redskins - Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia - Dowling is a big cornerback, but can run a 4.45 40, which got a lot of scouts talking first or second round. He'll go here because the Redskins skipped on helping the secondary last draft and he can also play the safety position.
17. San Diego Chargers - Kelvin Sheppard, LB, LSU - The Chargers like to draft LSU players and need a linebacker. Merriman will be out of town and Larry English might not work out. Sheppard can tackle very well and is good in pass coverage, too.
19. Tennessee Titans - Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State - A bit of a reach, and Travis Lewis from Oklahoma might be better here, but Jones is what the Titans are looking for. He is the tackles leader for the Spartans the past two seasons, and is a tremendous pass defender.
21. Seattle Seahawks - Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina - Robert Quinn has top five talent. He will not see the field, however, in 2010, so look for him to drop. The Seahawks should take a gamble on him because he is, without a doubt, the best player on the board at pick 21.
23. New England Patriots - Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska - Since their first pick was on the O-Line, look for them to attack the D-Line with the next pick. Crick might move to defensive end, perfect for the Patriots defense.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri - The shocker of the draft! He can give this team a long term answer, a quality back-up, or possibly great trade bait if Big Ben gets back on track. They can handle this like Aaron Rogers or Matt Shaub situations, either way.
25. Minnesota Vikings - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado - Teams behind them will be looking for a quality tackle to draft, but Minnesota better take him if they have the chance this late in the draft. This area has been very weak lately for this team.
26. Kansas City Chiefs - Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College - Solder is the best offensive tackle in this draft, but Castonzo is right there with him. Kansas City would probably prefer Castonzo over Solder anyways, since he has experience at right tackle where they need help.
27. Green Bay Packers - LaMichael James, RB, Oregon - Potential Heisman Trophy winner this year, James is consistently making plays well enough where he will move up into the first round.
28. New York Jets - Austin Pettis, WR, Boise St. - All he does is catch touchdowns. The Jets would like to get a player capable of that so they can help Sanchez. Holmes and Edwards both are free agents so maybe this will be a need area at the time of the draft as well.
29. Indianapolis Colts - Deunta Williams, S, North Carolina - They lost Bob Sanders, again, and probably won't bring him back next year. They have all kinds of injuries in the secondary as well, so drafting a player right here will be great insurance. Williams is a solid pick as well.
30. New Orleans Saints - Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech - At times, Williams seems to have carried Virginia Tech on his back. He is an every down back, if that is possible nowadays, but is also a great complimentary back the Saints are looking for.
31. Atlanta Falcons - Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame - The best tight end in this draft will go to the team with the best tight end in NFL history. Gonzalez can play another three years, but just in case he doesn't, if Rudolph falls to pick 31 Atlanta has to jump on him.
32. Baltimore Ravens - Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson - Put the young guy on a team with a lot of veteran leaders, and he will have a great future. Some think Bowers will be drafted as high as number one overall come April.
The spots here are solely based off of predictions on where these teams will end up at the end of the year. The draft picks are based on team needs and player values. Some players are better than other players at their position, but like all drafts, that is not always the player that is chosen first. The next mock draft will come after two-thirds of the season is over with.
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