Cam Newton stiff-arms 2011 NFL Draft prospect Justin Houston.
Preseason 2011 NFL Mock Drafts all had Jake Locker and Robert Quinn battling it out for the top spot. We aren't to the post season yet but those names have since been replaced with Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, and Patrick Peterson.
It's never too early for a mock draft but with NCAA headed to the bowl season we have a pretty good idea of how the prospects stack-up, clearing up the NFL Draft's crystal ball.
Here's my first mock draft of the year, don't be surprised if a few big names are absent!
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He's being billed as The Next Peyton Manning. Unfortunately for Carolina, or whoever ends up with the top pick, that could mean Andrew Luck will return to Stanford and continue to refine his game.
If Luck does come out the Panthers have to take him or trade the pick. The franchise would be much better off building around Luck than Jimmy Clausen though.
Not only is Luck the complete physical package, he is also an extremely intelligent person on and off the field. Groomed by his father Oliver--a former NFL QB & NCAA Academic All-American--and now Jim Harbaugh, what's not to like?
Most big boards have Patrick Peterson narrowly slated as the top corner over Prince Amukamara but all it takes is one team to have the two swapped.
There is a Nebraska pipeline in Detroit now and the Lions desperately need a 6'0, 200-pound corner who is ready to start in 2011.
Amukamara is great at making plays on the ball and is willing to get his nose dirty against the run. If Detroit isn't looking for a return man in their top corner, Amukamara could be the pick.
The Bengals are last in the NFL with 14 sacks this season. Some would rather see the team scrap their current offense and start fresh by drafting a QB but that doesn't seem likely in the land of second, third, and fourth chances. There is a better chance of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos being picked than Carson Palmer axed.
After being the top rated prep in the nation back in 2008, Bowers had failed to show first round value entering the season—partially due a knee injury.
As a junior he has been unstoppable, leading the Bowl Subdivision with 15.5 sacks and ranking second in tackles for loss with 25.
After a season of heart wrenching losses, the Bills need a player who can give them the edge in close games.
Current QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been serviceable but he's failed to complete 60 percent of his passes (58.3) and he can't make plays on his feet like Newton.
There has been a lot of focus on Newton's running ability this season but his ability to freeze the defense has helped him complete 67.1 percent of his passes. His TD-to-INT ratio is 28-6 and he didn't throw an interception against LSU, Arkansas, Alabama, or South Carolina.
An attention grabbing QB like Newton will also open things up for rookie C.J. Spiller, and the two would give Bills' fans a very promising future.
As a team Arizona has a passer rating of 60.5 and they've thrown twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.
Mallett isn't a perfect prospect—he can appear careless at times and his size prevents him from being nimble in the pocket.
The positives are overwhelming though. Mallet has an amazing arm, it looks like a bullwhip and he has been making NFL caliber throws for the past two seasons. He also has experience in a pro-style offense which is an attribute that is becoming harder to find in QB prospects.
He possesses the talent to start from day one and no rookie QB could have a better option than Larry Fitzgerald.
A tried and tested SEC corner back, the Broncos would love to get their hands on Patrick Peterson. If Detroit takes him they would be equally happy with Amukamara.
Denver has several needs on their defense. Their front seven needs help but in the middle of the top 10 you don't pass on talent like Peterson.
The Broncos have solid kick and punt returners but Peterson is special in that phase of the game as well. He is more than a corner--like Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson before him--he is a football player.
Does a team with no quarterback answers really need two top 10 receivers? It can't hurt whoever is in the pocket.
Green is being called the best prospect since Calvin Johnson and there is a chance a team like Cleveland or St. Louis will do anything they can to trade up and get him for their developing QBs.
Michael Crabtree is very talented but he hasn't shined like a legit #1 receiver this season. He's had inexcusable drops and is afraid to take hits over the middle.
Bay Area fans respect good receiver play and it’s tough to pass up on a puzzle piece like this when he's staring you in the face.
Dallas' biggest needs are in the defensive backfield and with the top two prospects gone I don't expect Jerry Jones to reach here.
His first choice may be to trade down, assuming they don't lower their pick with more wins. If Dallas does keep the pick they will take the best player that can help their D and that's the imposing Nick Fairley.
Auburn’s undefeated season hasn't been a one man show. Fairley is 8th in the nation with 21 tackles for loss and tied for 10th with 10.5 sacks--impressive production for a DT.
At 6'5" and 300 pounds Fairley has the size Jones loves and he is an asset in any scheme.
Although Tennessee could keep tapping the Texas pipeline and go with corner Aaron Williams, that would be a small reach. Instead I see them helping their defense with the best DT on the board, Marcell Dareus.
The Bama bigman is battle tested but there are some concerns he's looked so good because of all the talent Tide's defensive unit.
In a division with Arian Foster and Maurice Jones-Drew (331 rushing yards in the last two weeks), you just can't take stopping the run lightly.
At 6'4 and a chiseled 210 pounds Julio Jones is the total package.
He has strong hands and can extend above most corners. Jones is also an effective runner after the catch.
It's been some time since the Redskins' top receiver wasn't a hit-or-miss speed guy and Jones will give Donovan McNabb an easy target down field.
Robert Quinn entered the season as the top non-QB prospect in the draft but a suspension has put his draft stock into question.
Houston would love an end who can take advantage of one-on-one matchups. Although Quinn hasn't played in a year, he could be the guy their defense needs to get over the hump.
Learning from Mario Williams would be huge for the inexperienced rookie and potentially having the best DE combo in the NFL could be worst the risk for a team who desperately needs a playoff appearance.
There should be some decent change in Minnesota on both sides of the ball this offseason, including the retirement of stud DT Pat Williams.
Replacing one of the best all-time run-stuffers won't be easy but drafting the stout and strong Stephen Paea will help prevent the Vikings run D from falling out of the top 10.
Many haven't seen Paea play but he has been productive all year despite being the primary focus for most offensive lines. His four forced fumbles and six sacks this season are a good example of his production.
Some feel the Vikings should take Jake Locker here but they need a QB who is ready to guide this team through the playoffs, not a developmental rookie.
The Brows would be lucky if one of the top two WRs fall to them, and there is a chance they would take a Justin Blackmon or Jon Baldwin, but this blue-collar team could use an impact edge rusher.
Von Miller is the purest 3-4 OLB prospect in the draft. He has 26.5 sacks over the past two seasons, seven forced fumbles, and an interception.
Miller's sack totals haven't been against patsy opponents either, after a slow start in non-conference play he has finished the season with sacks in his last five games--all Big XII opponents.
Some feel the Chargers are going to go for an OLB with Shawne Merriman out of town but the team isn't ready to pull the plug on Larry English yet.
Instead, with several defensive linemen hitting free agency this year SD can use the pick to get one of the most well-rounded end prospects in the draft.
Adrian Clayborn has the size (6'4", 285+) to play the five-tech or three-tech in a the Chargers' 3-4 scheme. He is great against the run and pass because of his high motor and play recognition skills.
Going back to 2008 most mocks have had the Patriots taking a running back but with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead giving Tom Brady's backfield a great 1-2 punch RB isn't as big a need as suggested.
LT Matt Light will be a 33-year-old free agent this summer and if the team has to pick between he and the younger G Logan Mankins it seems they would go the path of youth, especially with Light one year removed from a serious knee injury.
About once every five or six years the top OT in the draft will fall out of the top 10 and that looks to be the case this year. Anthony Castonzo isn't the consensus top tackle but with a nice combo of size and grit he looks like a good one. Fans should appreciate the Boston College connection as well.
The Pats would also like to add some pass rushers to their roster but they can achieve that later, especially if Miller is off the board.
Pete Carroll would love if a projected top 10 guy slips to the middle of the first round but Aaron Williams is no consolation prize.
If Williams stays at Texas he could be the top corner picked in the 2012 draft. He's listed over 6'0 and 200 pounds, and is a legit playmaker like current Seahawk and former Longhorn, Earl Thomas.
Williams broke on the scene last season in the Red River Shootout. Not only did he knock Sam Bradford out of the game but he also registered a sack on the day.
Seattle's pass D really needs help. They have young D-linemen who need to get healthy but they simply need to replace their corners.
In a move that mimics the Patriots first pick the Colts will address offensive line needs by snagging a very good tackle in Nate Solder.
A converted tight end, Solder is a very good athlete and he should be able to protect Peyton Manning's blind side if they choose not to bring Charlie Johnson back.
Solder is also a very bright young man, he has already earned a degree in Biology and scouts rave about his football IQ.
If the Colts want a guard they could draft Mike Pouncey here, but there are always good guards in later rounds.
Miami's backfield will have an interesting off-season. Both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will be free-agents and over 30. Brown is often injured and Williams could call it quits at any time.
Additionally Miami likes to use their backs more than any team in the league.
Similar to Ryan Mathews last year, many casual fans aren't familiar with Daniel Thomas but he seems like a great fit for Miami's power rushing attack.
Over the past two years at K-State the JUCO All-American has 2,760 rushing yards and 27 rushing TDs. The former H.S. QB also has Wildcat ability with two passing TDs.
Last draft the Bucs bolstered their interior defensive line but with only 18 sacks and the 26th ranked rush D, obviously the additions weren't enough.
Tampa will have several DE options here but Kerrigan is the best pass-rusher of the remaining ends. Playing the run is no problem from the 6'4, 260-pound end either.
Where Bowers was first in the nation in sacks and second in tackles for loss, Kerrigan is vice versa. The senior has registered 12 sacks each of the past two seasons.
Tampa will be lucky to get their hands on him.
The New York Giants love big players and Janoris Jenkins is a corner with size. He is also one of the top players on the board at this point in the mock.
Jenkins is a future starter in the NFL and can impact the Giants instantly as a nickel.
Every year a countless amount of teams run out of corners due to injuries, planning ahead prevents putting your team in a bind come December.
If NY wants to go real big at corner Ras-I Dowling from Virginia is an option but a bit of a reach.
The Rams need receivers. They don't just need good receivers, but it seems every week they are scrambling to find guys who can lineup wide.
Picking Justin Blackmon would solve many of the Rams' receiver problems.
Registering 102 catches in just 11 games, the redshirt sophomore is a player you can go to early and often. Those catches have translated into 1,665 yards and 18 touchdowns—scoring in every game he's played.
If Blackmon is gone the Rams could go big with Jon Baldwin but don't rule out Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles here either.
It's no secret the Jags defense needs help, and lots of it. There are two players from UCLA who can help, one of them being Akeem Ayers.
Some would like to see Ayers as an OLB in the 3-4 but there is no doubt he has Pro Bowl potential in the 4-3 as well.
In three seasons Ayers has racked up eye-popping stats. 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles, six interceptions, and three TDs gives you an idea of his big play potential.
The other Bruin who could be picked is safety Rahim Moore, it doesn't look like JAX would be going wrong with either guy.
At this point in the draft process Mark Herzlich has been getting a 2nd-3rd round grade but I expect the former ACC DPOY's stock to rise rapidly through the draft process.
With four interceptions the Ewing's sarcoma survivor has shown flashes of that 2008 season.
Mike Vrable can't play forever, Herzlich shares Vrable’s versatility on the field and KC needs a legit OLD to play opposite stud Tamba Hali
He will be one to watch at the Kraft Bowl and Senior Bowl.
The Ravens' offensive line is incurring many free-agency obstacles over the next two seasons and the versatile Mike Pouncey can help solve a lot of those problems.
With the ability to play guard or center he will be ready to start from day one.
The Ravens could also go after a corner here, potentially tapping the Miami pipeline with Brandon Harris.
If Pouncey is there when Pittsburgh is picking there is a good chance they will reunite him with his brother, something the Ravens don't want to see in the AFC North.
Since Brian Dwakins' departure the Eagles have had a revolving door at safety. Quintin Mikell looks like a keeper but there is no sure thing at the other safety position.
Andy Reid isn't one to sit around and wait for players to develop. He would rather stockpile a position and let the cream rise.
Rahim Moore is the cream of 2011's safety crop. In 2009 he recorded 10 interceptions, which has prevented him from being tested as much this season.
Last year the Packers drafted Brian Bulaga as a player they could groom as a future starting tackle. He has seen action in 12 games and started eight of them, now at right tackle.
Chad Clifton's days are numbered and the Packers will need another tackle soon.
Gabe Carimi is the leader of the nation's best offensive line. He is the meanest tackle in the draft and stout in pass protection.
Drafting a running back would be nice for the Packers' hurting rushing attack but a road grader who will also protect the franchise would be a better selection.
October 3, 2010. The day Jay Cutler almost died.
Chicago has given up more sacks than any other team this season. 10 of those 45 sacks were against the New York Giants, a punishment that almost sunk the Bears' season.
The Bears' rushing attack has been mighty sad as well, and Matt Forte isn't entirely to blame.
Derek Sherrod is the top remaining tackle at this point in the draft. The Bears would rather have the cold weather acclimated Carimi but Sherrod would be an instant impact in Mike Martz's finesse offense.
Two years in a row now the Steelers D-line has had health issues and aside from Ziggy Hood everyone is over 30.
The Steelers aren't going to reach on offensive lineman with a player like Drake Nevis on the board.
Smaller in stature than your typical first rounder at the position, Nevis is the type of player who will slide only to have a very productive career.
He is a run-stopper first and foremost and already plays Pittsburgh football. Over the past two seasons Nevis has 10 sacks, 28 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles.
Allen Bailey just looks like he belongs in that Saints black-on-black uniform which brings up the question--is he all looks?
Bailey could be the next Brian Orakpo or Vernon Gholston, the jury is still out. His production hasn't been overwhelming but Bailey has posted at least five sacks in each of the past three seasons, 20 total over the period.
With there are some other good ends on the board including J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan but all three look more like 3-4 ends than true 4-3 guys. That being said anyone who can add to NO's pass rush will be welcomed.
A year ago this seemed like a monumental slide for Mark Ingram but after a questionable junior year he is positioned in the mid-first to early-second round.
The Jets want to win with great defense and a controlling rushing attack. NY has been able to move the ball on the ground but not in a dominant fashion, having scored only nine rushing TDs and limited big gains.
Ingram is a complete back and he would provide the Jets with a mix of what Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson gives them.
The pick would be a valuable future play and institute some healthy competition in the backfield.
The Falcons have the most lopsided group of receivers in the NFL. Roddy White has been unstoppable this year but his production almost doubles Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, and Brian FInneran combined.
Jonathan Baldwin doesn't project to be a 100 catch guy in the NFL but he can be a devastating downfield target, especially drawing single coverage opposite White.
The Falcons could always take a DE or CB here, adding to their already strong D but this would be the perfect situation for Baldwin to succeed.
New England has already helped their OL with the Raiders' pick and with their own they can address their pass rushing needs.
Justin Houston is an under the radar prospect but a first round talent no doubt. He has recorded 17.5 sacks over the past two seasons and at 6'3" 260 has plenty of size to be a force off the edge.
New England could always trade picks, draft a guard, or get creative with a skill player but Houston is a good blend of need and BPA.