With the college season entering the final weeks before bowl pairings are announced and the NFL bye weeks complete (allowing some semblance of a draft order), it is time to update the 2011 NFL mock draft. A second round has been included.
(Best guess at the draft order as of 11/24/10)
Despite holes at other positions and drafting Jimmy Clausen a year ago, the Panthers would be hard-pressed to pass on Luck. Luck comes out of a pro-style offense and displays all the physical and mental tools you look for in a franchise signal-caller. Ultimately, Jimmy Clausen controls his own Panthers quarterback destiny. Win a few games and the Panthers won't be in position to draft Luck. If they lose out, the Panthers organization and likely new regime will want to pick their own franchise building block.
2. Cincinnati Bengals: WR AJ Green, Georgia
A dynamic pass rusher such as Da'Quan Bowers would be tempting, but watching the Bengals' aging collection of skill position players—Ocho is 32 years old, TO 36 (and a free agent), Palmer 30 and Benson 27 (free agent)—means Mike Brown will likely take the best skill player on the board. AJ Green is the best receiver prospect to come out since Calvin Johnson. He would be an immediate upgrade over the knuckleheads who alternate bad routes and possibly rejuvenate a worn-down Carson Palmer.
3. Detroit Lions: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
The Lions have done an excellent job at upgrading their talent base the past two years and would fill a major need for a cover corner with Peterson. A playmaker with size, speed and tremendous instincts, Peterson would be just what the doctor ordered. With DE Kyle VandenBosch getting up in years, DE Da'Quan Bowers would also be a consideration.
4. Buffalo Bills: DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
Thanks to the team's late season surge, the Bills are winning themselves out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. With no offensive linemen worthy of the No. 4 overall pick, the Bills switch to the defensive side of the ball and the pass rusher they sorely need. The team has wanted to move to a 3-4, but getting a pass rusher of Bowers' skill may change their mind.
Fifth overall is a bit high for Mallett, but the Cardinals front office has to find a replacement for Derek Anderson/Max Hall. Mallett has all the physical tools you look for, including great size and tremendous arm strength, but needs to improve his ability to read defenses and improve his fundamentals. Mallett is a boom or bust pick.
6. San Francisco 49ers: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
The cornerback position has long been a problem for the 49ers defense and Nate Clements is unlikely to be brought back. In Amukarmara, they would get a big, physical corner to strengthen the secondary. Patrick Peterson is getting the bulk of the buzz, but Amukamara is a similar talent.
7. Cleveland Browns: DE/OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
The Browns defense has played with tenacity this season, but continues to lack a pass-rushing threat. Quinn is the draft's most physically gifted pass rusher and possesses the athleticism to move outside in the 3-4. With a pass rusher on board, a hardworking defense may become a dangerous one, too.
8. Dallas Cowboys: DE/DT Marcel Dareus, Alabama
The Cowboys front three have disappointed this season, and face several free agency questions as well. Drafting a five technique in the Top 10 is not a sexy pick, but for the Cowboys it is a necessity this offseason if their defense is to bounce back next season. Dareus' experience playing in a 3-4 will ease the adjustment and risk of this selection.
9. Denver Broncos: DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
The Broncos have tried to overpay marginal free agents to fix their problems along the defensive front, to no avail. Enter Heyward—a big, long, run-stuffing defensive end whose skills set should translate well to the five technique.
10. Minnesota Vikings: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
Fairley is the polar opposite of Pat Williams, but the Williams wall is showing its age this season. The ability to bring pressure with the front four is the key to the team's Tampa 2 defense and Fairley has been disruptive up the middle all season. You can argue that no player in the country has improved their stock more this season than the 6'5", 298-lb Fairley. Quarterback Cameron Newton was a consideration for this pick.
Poor quarterback play has slowed Baldwin this season, but the talent is still there as 6'5" 230-lb receivers with speed don't grow on trees. Finding a receiver to groom alongside franchise signal-caller Sam Bradford is a priority after watching the Rams mix and match this season.
12. Houston Texans: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
Conventional wisdom says the Texans need to upgrade their secondary, but the Texans defensive woes go beyond just poor coverage. Clayborn is having a disappointing season, but is the best defensive player on the board. He's the type of two-way defensive end who can stop the run while possessing the pass-rush ability to take advantage of Mario Williams' double teams.
13. San Diego Chargers: WR Julio Jones, Alabama
Vincent Jackson will likely leave as a free agent and Jones fits the mold of the tall, injury-prone wide receiver the Chargers like. Jones has battled injuries and inconsistency throughout his career, but he has all the tools you look for in a wideout. Finding an outside pass rusher and help along offensive and defensive lines would also receive consideration.
If Baldwin or Jones are still on the board, the Patriots would likely go in that direction to add the big-play back into the Patriots offense. While the combination of Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have worked fairly well this season, the Patriots will take a hard look at Ingram and his between-the-tackle skills. Ingram is also used to being in a running back by committee system, and Belichick's ties to Nick Saban don't hurt, either.
15. Tennessee Titans: OLB Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
Lewis is the sideline-to-sideline outside linebacker the Titans like and would fill the void left by Keith Bullock. Cornerback or defensive tackle are two other positions the Titans would consider here.
16. Washington Redskins: DE/OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
With the top three receivers off the board, the Redskins opt to take a pass rusher to play opposite Brian Orakpo. Ayers is still raw as a pass rusher, but the physical tools to both get after the quarterback and drop into coverage are there.
17. Miami Dolphins: QB Cameron Newton, Auburn
The Dolphins appear to have soured on Chad Henne, and Newton could be the ideal triggerman for an offense looking to take the wildcat to the next level. Newton will need to improve as a passer, especially his ability to read the defense, but the physical tools are there. The key for whomever drafts Newton will be patience.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Brandon Harris, Miami (FL)
The Jaguars have overachieved this season despite porous coverage in the secondary. Harris thrives in man-to-man coverage and would make an excellent complement opposite Rashean Mathis in a division featuring Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Kenny Britt (notice no mention of Randy Moss).
Kerrigan is a tenacious defensive end who gets after the quarterback while attacking the run. He has 25 TFL and 12.5 sacks so far this season despite being the focus of opposing offenses. His pass-rushing skill and nonstop motor would be an excellent addition alongside the interior combination of 2010 draftees Gerald McCoy and Brian Price.
If there is one given in Round 1 of the 2011 NFL draft, it is that the Bears will draft an offensive lineman. The good news in this mock draft is that no offensive linemen are off the board. The bad news is that is because there is not one worthy of being selected prior to now. Sherrod is still developing as a pass blocker, but is a dominant run blocker with the athleticism to play on the left side.
21. Seattle Seahawks: DE Allen Bailey, Miami (FL)
QB Jake Locker is intriguing, but Pete Carroll's defense needs an infusion of talent at defensive end. Bailey is not a dynamic pass rusher but has the size and athleticism to develop into one.
22. Kansas City Chiefs: DE/OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
The Chiefs defense has made great strides this season, but to take it to the next level they need to find a pass rusher to play opposite Tamba Hali. Von Miller started slowly this season, but has re-established himself as one of the draft's top rush linebackers with a tremendous second half (5.5 sacks in his last four games). Miller has a nose for the quarterback and experience in the 3-4, which should allow him to see the field early in his career.
The Giants could look to upgrade the offensive line with this pick, but they also need to find a good young inside and outside linebacker. While Jones can't play both spots at the same time, he would fill a need at one spot or the other. Jones is a good, not great, athlete, with tremendous instincts and a knack for big plays. His underrated pass-rushing skill would also be a nice fit in the Giants' attacking defense.
The Ravens ground attack has struggled this season in large part due to struggling to replace OT Jared Gaither. Carimi is a throwback mauler who would be a nice fit at right tackle for a run-oriented attack.
25. Indianapolis Colts: OT Anthony Costanzo, Boston College
Costanzo has not elevated his game as many had expected, but he is a four-year starter with excellent fundamentals and intangibles. Fits the mold of a Colts lineman.
26. New Orleans Saints: OLB Bruce Carter, North Carolina
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has done a good job of mixing and matching with his Saints linebackers, but the team needs to add a playmaker to its front seven and Carter fits the bill. Carter would fill the team's longtime need for an athletic linebacker who can make plays sideline to sideline.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Nate Solder, Colorado
The Steelers have battled injuries along the offensive line all season, further demonstrating their need to upgrade along the offensive front. Solder is a converted tight end who is still learning the position, but has the upside to be the best left tackle in this year's class.
28. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Janoris Jordan, Florida
The Eagles have always made the cornerback position a priority as the NFC East is a pass-heavy division and plays an aggressive blitz-heavy scheme. Jenkins lacks ideal measurables, but is instinctive in coverage with good ball skills.
29. Green Bay Packers: ILB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina
A bit of a reach, but the Packers may lose AJ Hawk this offseason. Sturdivant is not a big body but has good anticipation and is equally adept against the run and pass. A running back also remains a possibility, considering Ryan Grant's age and the team's struggles to replace him this season.
30. New York Jets: DE/OLB Justin Houston, Georgia
The Jets defense has been among the league's stingiest this season, but the lack of a pass rush has been a problem. Enter Houston—a fast riser and relentless pass rusher who has 18 TFL and 11.5 sacks this season.
31. New England Patriots: DE Cameron Jordan, California
Not a sexy pick, but the Patriots know the key to their success is in the trenches. Jordan has NFL bloodlines and is a high-motored run stuffer and underrated pass rusher who would fill a need as a five technique.
32. Atlanta Falcons: S Deunta Williams, North Carolina
The Falcons could go a variety of directions, including safety, defensive end and tight end. Williams is a ball-hawking cover safety who could anchor the back of the Falcons defense.