2011 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Emergence of Truly Bad Teams Give the Draft Some Shape
We've got about 40 percent of the 2010 NFL season behind us now, and if you think that means squat about the 2011 NFL draft, take a look back at the 2009 NFL standings through Week 7.
The top 10, or shall I say bottom 10, teams in the NFL through Week 7 in 2009 looked like this:
When the 2010 NFL Draft rolled around nearly six months later, eight of those teams would be picking in the Top 10.
That doesn't bode too well for Brett Favre and the Vikings, Phil Rivers and the Chargers or Tony Romo and the Cowboys.
So, without too much more mumbo-jumbo, let's take a look at who the bottom 10 are this year and whom they could use to plug some major leaks.
1. Buffalo Bills: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The Bills are currently 0-6. Their latest loss—to the Ravens 37-34 in overtime on Sunday—must have Chan Gailey wishing he would have stayed the heck out of Buffalo.
Not all hope is lost for the Bills, however. Wideout Steve Johnson looked like an absolute steal as a seventh-rounder back in 2008 and he's currently on pace for over 750 yards and 14 touchdowns on a pretty bad team. Lee Evans has seemingly been rejuvenated by consistent QB play, and rookie C.J. Spiller and veteran Fred Jackson look like they could develop into a solid running-back rotation.
On defense, the Bills have been pretty bad, especially against the run. Before Sunday's game versus the Ravens, the Bills had surrendered, on average, 182.4 yards per game on the ground. The Ravens gained only 135, but missed out on some running opportunities when they fell in a 24-10 hole.
Seemingly the Bills greatest weakness, and therefore greatest need, looks to be a run-stuffer on defense. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards has been the gem of the Bills D-line, leading the unit in tackles and notching his first sack of the season on Sunday. Playing alongside Edwards are Kyle Williams, who has been hampered by some injuries this season, Marcus Stroud and Spencer Johnson.
No real superstars there.
With all that in mind, the Bills would be wise to take on one of the most explosive defensive linemen in next year's draft—Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers. Bowers is a freakish athlete who currently leads the nation in tackles-for-loss and has a great motor. He reminds some of Mario Williams who, while it was debated at the time, has proven to be a pretty solid No. 1 pick.
Bowers would add some instant legitimacy to Buffalo's pass rush and would obviously aid the Bills poor run defense.
That being taken into consideration, the Bills are the Bills and the NFL is a quarterback league. So it would only make sense for them to bypass the player they probably should take for Stanford's Andrew Luck. Luck is in the midst of a very fine season for the Cardinal and looks poised to lead Stanford to its first Rose Bowl appearance since 2000.
Luck has good size (6'4", 235 lbs.), a very good arm, can make all the throws and you know he's smart. He would be an excellent find for any team. The Bills, who haven't had a franchise QB since Jim Kelly retired, could finally have a solid piece to build their team around.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Just when they thought they had righted the ship, Alex Smith goes and gets injured, the 49ers lose to the Carolina Panthers (really??) and San Francisco is staring another top-five pick in the eyes.
Alex Smith has had his chance(s) and David Carr certainly isn't the answer in San Fran. So it's finally time for the organization to admit the failure of the Smith pick and start to move forward again.
Jake Locker could have been a top-three pick had he come out last year. While his team's performance hasn't been pretty, he's been about as solid as last season. His accuracy has diminished somewhat. But with all the pressure of the world on him to lead the Huskies to a winning record and keep his draft stock high, that's to be expected.
Locker has, at times, looked like a much better passer than he showed in 2009, and he's only going to get better as the season progresses. He built some confidence with Washington's win over USC and he looked great in a victory over Oregon State. And losses versus Arizona State and at Arizona should only provide him with greater motivation, which may spur Washington into its first bowl appearance since 2002.
As a pro, Locker should be able to use his above-average speed to make up for his shortcomings as a passer, at least during his first year.
San Fran could use help all over the field, not just at QB, so they could easily go just about any way with this pick. The 49ers could use another presence on the D-line as well as some more depth on the O-line. And they could certainly use another big-play presence to team with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.
But quarterback is by far their most glaring need and, luckily, this draft provides at least three first-round talents.
3. Carolina Panthers: Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama
If there's one team that's as much of a mess as Buffalo, it's Carolina.
The Panthers have a rookie and an inefficient young veteran fighting over the QB spot. They have a ton of rookie wideouts behind the ever-injured Steve Smith. And they can't seem to get any production out of one of the most effective running-back tandems in the league.
In addition, the Panthers' defense against the run has been terrible, and despite their big-name talent on defense, they haven't been able to shut anyone down this season. And, oh yeah, they'll probably be looking for a new head coach come January.
They're already set at QB for the long term (hopefully) with Jimmy Clausen and there's at least one star between DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. They've got some solid pieces along the O-line to build with. And they should be able to get at least one productive receiver out of David Gettis and Brandon LaFell.
The defensive line is where the Panthers could use some help. Removing Julius Peppers and Maake Kemoeatu from your roster certainly doesn't make your team any better.
So, while A.J. Green and Julio Jones could be appealing targets for young Clausen, the Panthers almost have to go with Marcel Dareus, a defensive tackle/end hybrid from Alabama.
Dareus is huge (6'3", 306 lbs.), but he can move and has an explosive motor. He has been a major disruptive force for the Tide this season and NFL scouts are already drooling over him. His upside is about as enormous as Dareus himself.
He would give Carolina's D-line instant credibility. No doubt, the prospect of getting to mold and groom him would be ample motivation for Bill Cowher to take the helm.
4. Detroit Lions: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Despite having a 1-5 record, Detroit has a ton of talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
They have arguably the best starter/backup tandem at QB outside of Philadelphia. Shaun Hill is out for the considerable future but Matt Stafford should be returning to the lineup any week now. Jahvid Best has been an eye-opener in the backfield when healthy. Calvin Johnson has been well...Calvin Johnson. And Brandon Pettigrew has emerged as the Lions' No. 1 target (four more receptions than Johnson).
What the Lions need is some help on the O-line. Left tackle Jeff Backus is 33 years old and the Lions have passed up drafting a franchise cornerstone at LT two years in a row now. You can clearly see, since neither Stafford or Hill can stay upright for very long, that this should be an immediate concern for Detroit.
Whereas there isn't really a consensus top 10 offensive tackle right now, I fully expect one or more to emerge the closer we get to next April.
That said, I think the Lions will bite the bullet, bypassing some other talented position players in favor of locking down an offensive tackle to protect Stafford's blindside for the next decade.
Derek Sherrod is a beast at 6'6" and 305 pounds, and he's really come on this year, even making his debut on Mel Kiper's "Big Board" this past week. He plays in the SEC, so you know he has to be on his game each week. His performance for the surprising Mississippi State Bulldogs, now 6-2, has been solid.
This may look like a hair-brained pick now, but you just wait a few more months.
5. Dallas Cowboys: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
If you think an organization like Dallas would shy away from season-long ineligible players, think again.
The team's 2009 first-round pick, Dez Bryant, hardly played his final season at Oklahoma State due to a suspension for lying about contact with Deion Sanders, and potentially with a representative.
So, taking that into consideration, what would make more sense than the Cowboys snatching up UNC's Robert Quinn, also the recipient of a season-long suspension for having discussions with a sports agent?
Dallas thrives off its violent, disruptive defensive play. DeMarcus Ware is the lifeblood of this defense and adding Quinn would give the 'Boys another like-minded, similarly-built player. Pairing the two almost seems unfair. Quinn could work at D-end but could also slide back and play some 3-4 linebacker, assuming the Cowboys are still running that type of defense after Wade Phillips inevitably gets run off.
Dallas has talent all over the field and there's no reason why they can't be a contending team each year. They have two talented running backs, a stable of impressive receivers, a great-when-level-headed QB and a fast, lethal defense.
But something is missing. Maybe getting rid of Phillips can be addition by subtraction.
Either way, adding Quinn is a win-win.
6. Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Browns have tried numerous ways to bolster their receiving corps over the past few years.
Braylon Edwards worked, but only for a little while. Donte Stallworth was a walking (or driving) disaster. And while Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi have been nice additions, the Browns still lack that true No. 1 receiver.
A.J. Green can be that and a whole lot more. There are scouts who like Green more than any wideout coming out of college since Calvin Johnson, and there's no doubt he's a player who can make an immediate impact.
Which is exactly what the Browns are going to need when they turn the reins of this franchise over to Colt McCoy in the next two seasons. McCoy always thrived with a big-time receiver at Texas and struggled immensely when he was without one.
The Browns could also use some help in the running game: Peyton Hillis isn't a long-term solution at running back and Cleveland traded away its 200-yard man, Jerome Harrison, for Mike Bell. Gale Sayers, he ain't.
Mark Ingram wouldn't be a bad choice, but these are the Browns. They require a running back willing to run people over and inflict as much punishment as a defense would try to.
Green makes this team instantly better and McCoy infinitely happier.
7. Denver Broncos: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Wouldn't it make sense for the team that employs Champ Bailey, possibly the best cornerback of the 2000s, to draft and groom a replacement while Bailey is still in uniform?
The Broncos have that chance with LSU's insanely talented Patrick Peterson.
Peterson does it all. He essentially shuts down an entire side of the field and he's a Percy Harvin-type threat on punt returns and kickoffs. And he has even shown some considerable offensive ability.
It's on defense that Peterson will make his coin though. He has all the skills to succeed Bailey as one of the top defensive backs in the league. And pairing him with Bailey while Champ still has some legs under him would give the Broncos the added edge of having the youngster learn a few things about the finer points of playing corner in the NFL.
The Broncos essentially wasted one of last year's first-round picks on Tim Tebow. And you know management would be keen on getting a player who could make an immediate impact.
8. San Diego Chargers: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The Chargers made huge headlines a few weeks ago, announcing they had placed Shawne Merriman on the injured reserve list, effectively ending his career as a San Diego Charger.
Merriman was great for San Diego, at least on the field. He was a terror, a menace and one heck of a player. So, it only makes sense that the Chargers would go back to the ACC to find his replacement.
Da'Quan Bowers has had a huge year. He currently leads the nation in tackles-for-loss and he's a big play just waiting to happen. He's going to put on a show at the combine.
He's fast, moves well and has a huge motor, words that scouts love to hear.
There's absolutely no way he doesn't end up in the top 15 and it would truly be fitting for him to end up in San Diego. Without Merriman, the Chargers lack a true disruptive force on defense. Don't get me wrong. So far this season their unit has been solid, ranking first in pass defense and fourth against the run. But Merriman needs to be replaced.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Bengals have tried multiple times in the past five years to try and shore up their secondary. And somehow they're still bleeding like a stuck pig.
After a game in which they gave up 300 passing yards and three scores, and notched zero sacks against Atlanta's Matt Ryan, the solution is clear. Get a pass-rusher who can disrupt and eventually force some bad throws.
Cincinnati, unfortunately, will miss out on Bowers, Quinn and Dareus. But Clayborn was widely considered one of the most consistent pass rushers before the others burst onto the stage.
Clayborn had a slow start to the season but has really heated up as of late. He's the anchor of Iowa's staunch defense and would make an instant impact at the next level.
The Bengals also could use an eventual replacement for Carson Palmer, as well as a true No. 1 wideout to eventually replace the "T.Ocho Show." However, A.J. Green will be off the board and the next-best QB is Ryan Mallett who, at least right now, isn't garnering top 10 helium.
10. Minnesota Vikings: Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas
Ah, the Vikings. Where to begin? With the quarterback position of course!
Brett Favre might not even make it through this entire season. Tarvaris Jackson is Tarvaris Jackson and there's no more Todd Bouman in Minnesota to keep Vikes fans sleeping soundly at night.
They do have Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin though. All they need is a guy to get them the ball consistently.
Ryan Mallett is the third-best QB available in this draft. But aside from a big arm, he doesn't offer too much. He tends to suffer from an ailment that plagues most huge-arm guys: inaccuracy. He also doesn't appear to be as devoted to the study of the game as Luck or Locker. And at 6'7", he certainly doesn't offer much mobility.
But he can get those deep balls to Moss and he can put some extra mustard on some balls to squeeze them into Harvin. And he's more than capable of handing the ball off 25-plus times a game to Peterson.
Let's face it—the Vikings have been in need of a long-term QB for a decade now.
Do something about it, Zygi!
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