NFL Draft 2011: A Mock Draft of the Top 10 Picks

Dmitriy Ioselevich@dioselevSenior Analyst IIIDecember 3, 2010

NFL Draft 2011: A Mock Draft of the Top 10 Picks

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    There may still be five weeks left in the regular season, but we already know which teams will be picking at the top of the first round in the 2011 NFL Draft. We also know who are the top prospects in the draft.

    The one piece of information we don't know is which draft-eligible juniors will actually declare for the draft. But with an uncertain labor agreement set to expire after this season, it's a pretty safe bet that any hotshot junior will flee college football to cash in on a big payday while it's still possible within the current rookie pay scale.

    What that means is that it's time for a mock draft!

    Here's an early preview of the top 10 selections with teams ordered according to their current record.

10. Cleveland Browns: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

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    Eric Wright is a good corner, but Sheldon Brown is 31 years old and declining rapidly. The Browns could also use a wide receiver and pass rushing help, but no other impact players will be available at this slot.

    Prince is a fantastic player though. In 2009 he had 60 tackles and five interceptions. He doesn't have a pick yet in 2010, but that's most because teams figured out that they shouldn't throw in his discussion.

    With Prince in the fold, the Browns could be on their way to having one of the NFL's better secondaries.

9. Minnesota Vikings: QB Cam Newton, Auburn

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    Everyone's heard of Newton by now.

    The 6'6", 250-pound Auburn quarterback has wowed scouts and fans alike with his ability to dominate the game through both the air and the ground. He has 2,254 yards passing and 24 touchdowns, in addition to 1,336 yards rushing and 18 more touchdowns. 

    The Vikings need someone to take over for Favre when he retires in 1-20 years (unless anyone still thinks Tavaris Jackson is a good QB), and Newton is the perfect candidate. He may need a couple years to develop into an NFL-ready player, but the athletic ability is off the charts.

    Plus, you know Minnesota fans must miss the days of Daunte Culpepper. Could Newton be Culpepper 2.0?

8. San Francisco 49ers: QB Jake Locker, Washington

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    Neither Alex Smith nor Troy Smith are going to be a starting quarterback for the 49ers much longer. That's because San Francisco will almost certainly pursue a QB in the draft, and senior Jake Locker will be the best prospect on the board at this point.

    Locker has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. He's had a few forgettable performances and a disappointing season on the whole, but he still projects very well to the NFL.

    Arkansas QB Ryan Mallet is another option here, but Locker should be able to improve his draft stock at the Scouting Combine. 

7. Dallas Cowboys: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

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    The Cowboys collapse this season could be attributed to any number of factors. But when your defense gives up 27.4 points/game, it's pretty easy to know where to point the finger.

    Dallas has a solid group of outside linebackers in Anthony Spencer and Demarcus Ware, but inside linebacker Keith Brooking is 35 and left defensive end Stephen Bowen has 5.5 career sacks in five seasons.

    Quinn, easily the best linebacker in the nation at 6'5" and 270 pounds, would be an instant upgrade at either defensive end or outside linebacker. He missed the 2010 season because of a suspension but had 11 sacks in 2009.

6. Denver Broncos: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn

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    The Broncos have one of the worst defenses in the NFL and are surrendering a league-worst 29.4 points/game. They're also second to last in the league in sacks with 16, due in large part to a defensive line that lacks any semblance of a pass rusher.

    Fairley could help them with that. The 6'5", 298-pound junior has 10 sacks this season and was dominant against Alabama. He should be an instant force in Denver.

5. Arizona Cardinals: WR A.J. Green, Georgia

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    The Cardinals could probably use a quarterback since neither Derek Anderson or Max Hall looks like the answer, and rookie John Skelton is a few years away from making an impact.

    But coach Ken Whisenhunt will have a hard time passing up Green, without a doubt the best WR prospect in the draft. The junior has 771 yards receiving and nine touchdowns this season despite missing Georgia's first four game.

    Cardinals' fans may have fond memories of the days when Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald were bringing down Kurt Warner passes, and Green could be every bit as good as Boldin.

    Only problem is that Warner's not the quarterback anymore. How many Pro Bowl receivers does it take before a quarterback becomes good?

4. Buffalo Bills: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama

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    The Bills could really use a quarterback, but for some reason coach Chan Gailey seems committed to Ryan Fitzpatrick. 

    That means the choice will be a player like Dareus, a hulking defensive lineman capable of pushing around pretty much any offensive lineman and pressuring the quarterback.

    Buffalo could definitely use someone like Dareus to support their NFL-worst rush defense and solidify their 4-3 defense.

3. Cincinnati Bengals: DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson

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    The ACC Defensive Player of the Year leads the nation in sacks (15.5), is second in tackles for a loss (25) and has 61 tackles.

    The Bengals, meanwhile, are dead last in the NFL with only 11 sacks and have struggled to get pressure on the quarterback all season. Carlos Dunlap leads the team with three sacks, and he's a rookie.

    That's not a good sign.

    Bowers would be an immediate improvement for the Cincinnati defense and an early favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

2. Detroit Lions: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU

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    If the 45-24 thrashing at the hands of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots was any indication, then the Lions definitely need some help in their secondary.

    Chris Houston has been decent but is not a No. 1 corner. Alphonso Smith might need to go to rehab after what Deion Branch did to him last week. And Nathan Vasher has all of four tackles this season.

    Lucky for the Lions, Peterson is one of the best cornerback prospects in years. 

    The 6'1", 222-pound junior has 36 tackles and four interceptions this season in anchoring the nation's ninth ranked defense.

    The Lions need a lot of help but Peterson is the perfect player for them. Just imagine Calvin Johnson and Peterson going at each other in training camp.

1. Carolina Panthers: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford

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    Was there ever any doubt?

    Luck is far and away the best quarterback prospect in the country. The junior from Houston, TX has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns in leading the Cardinals to an 11-1 record and a No. 4 ranking in the nation. 

    Yes, the Carolina Panthers spent a 2010 second round pick to make Jimmy Clausen their quarterback. But Clausen just hasn't been good.

    He's thrown for 897 yards in seven games and has completed exactly half of his passes. He's thrown one touchdown and five interceptions, and is the leader of the NFL's worst passing offense.

    It's usually not a good idea to give up a rookie so quickly. But Clausen has shown nothing to prove that he deserves to be a starting QB in the NFL. Not yet, anyway.

    Luck has to be the pick here. Franchise quarterbacks come along only about once every decade, and this is Carolina's to finally grab one.