2011 NFL Mock Draft: Could Playoff Scenarios Change Up the Draft Order?
I've kept saying it since I did my first draft: This will keep changing.
This latest draft will include even more changes due to the latest changes among teams marching into the playoffs.
After Monday night's game, does anyone still think Atlanta stands so far above Philadelphia and New Orleans? With its loss to Arizona, will Dallas now climb a few spots higher and be positioned for a higher pick? What happens now if the New York Giants miss the playoffs?
There's plenty to consider, but here are some other thoughts as we get closer to the playoffs: Watch and see if some potential first round picks decide to stay for their senior years due to an impending lockout. Pay attention, too, to the quarterback rankings and players like Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) and Pat Devlin (Delaware), who could each move up many draft boards.
I do have to give credit to you wannabe Mel Kipers out there who put me on blast for my last draft, when I had St. Louis taking A.J. Green with the 21st pick in the first round. They threw every imaginable stat and prognosticator's pick at me, but let me continue the discussion: When you examine different positions, you'll often find coaches who may notice similar strengths but be impressed for different reasons with a player.
Since we're talking wide receivers, you could find some who prefer Julio Jones more because of his size (6'4"), or Justin Blackmon for his ability on special teams. Some may also like that Notre Dame's Michael Floyd still averaged 12.5 yards per catch despite his team's quarterback issues this year. Don't get caught up in rankings, and remember that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
On to predictions for the first round.
32. New England Patriots: DE Allen Bailey, Miami
Why Bailey Is Special: He's a freak who's got the size (6'4", 285), speed (4.65 40-yard dash) and athleticism. As a junior, he finished with 11 tackles for a loss and seven sacks.
Why Bailey Goes Here: The draft has a lot of talented defensive ends, and Bailey is ranked around the third or fourth best. Scouts Inc. has him 27th among its overall top 32 players.
Why Bailey Fits: The young Patriots defense has continued to grow and mature throughout the year. This would be a huge piece in that building process.
31. Philadelphia Eagles: OG/C Mike Pouncey, Florida
Why Pouncey Is Special: He's a natural guard but can also switch to center and displays great strength and athleticism.
Why Pouncey Goes Here: The Eagles' future is bright with players like DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. Take the best player on the board and get another building block.
Why Pouncey Fits: The Eagles have allowed a few too many sacks this year. Time to address that problem.
30. New Orleans Saints: DT Drake Nevis, LSU
Why Nevis Is Special: Former teammate Glenn Dorsey, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, predicted Nevis would be the next great defensive lineman to come out of LSU. He could be right: In 12 games, Nevis has 56 total tackles (30 solo), 13 tackles for loss, six sacks for 41 yards, four quarterback hurries and one interception.
Why Nevis Goes Here: He's had a spectacular season and many are saying he's one of those players who is making his way into the first round.
Why Nevis Fits: The Saints need to bolster their line and Nevis would be a great fit alongside Sedrick Ellis.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Joseph Barksdale, LSU
Why Barksdale Is Special: He's extremely athletic, is solid in pass protection and has tremendous hand use.
Why Barksdale Goes Here: This could be a conservative estimate since some drafts predict that Barksdale could rocket up the board and be the first left tackle taken.
Why Barksdale Fits: He's played both tackle spots and could be great for a Steelers line that is getting old and showing plenty of wear.
28. Atlanta Falcons: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
Why Floyd Is Special: He doesn't have great speed but is a big physical receiver that's much like a Larry Fitzgerald. Floyd finished the year with 73 catches for 916 yards (12.5 avg.) and 10 touchdowns.
Why Floyd Goes Here: He's got the talent, but it's just unrealistic to picture him going any higher.
Why Floyd Fits: Atlanta doesn't have enormous gaping holes it needs to fill. The Falcons could have to address tight end if Tony Gonzalez decides to retire, but we'll stick with Floyd for now. Dallas showed last year with Dez Bryant that it doesn't hurt to draft this way and give your quarterback a big, physical receiver to throw to. At 6'3", Floyd would qualify.
27. Baltimore Ravens: CB Aaron Williams, Texas
Why Williams Is Special: Texas has produced plenty of talented defensive backs that have gone on to the NFL, and Williams will definitely provide a team with a shutdown corner.
Why Williams Goes Here: The draft is stacked at cornerback and this is right about where Williams should fall.
Why Williams Fits: Baltimore could add some youth at receiver as well but needs it even more at corner because it will lose three players to free agency.
26. New York Jets: DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
Why Heyward Is Special: In 12 games, he has 42 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss (31 yards), 2.5 sacks (18 yards) and one interception for 80 yards.
Why Heyward Goes Here: It will be interesting to see if he moves up depending on his pro day and if he attends the combine.
Why Heyward Fits: If he's still here, the Jets would be foolish to not improve their pass rush and take someone of Heyward's caliber.
25. Chicago Bears: OT Anthony Costanzo, Boston College
Why Costanzo Is Special: He's a four-year starter and could start immediately according to some experts.
Why Costanzo Goes Here: It's still unsure whether he could play left tackle and he would need to gain additional weight.
Why Costanzo Fits: Protecting Jay Cutler has been an issue and Costanzo could be a quick solution to this problem.
24. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh
Why Baldwin Is Special: He has 42 catches for 677 yards (16.1 avg.) this season and five touchdowns. He's also been compared to former Panther Larry Fitzgerald.
Why Baldwin Goes Here: After the top four receivers, you could flip-flop Baldwin and Michael Floyd. They're among the next bunch who could get looks at the position.
Why Baldwin Fits: Who's the other threat opposite Dwayne Bowe? Still thinking? That's my point. Go grab another receiver. Baldwin would be a nice pick.
23. Indianapolis Colts: OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
Why Sherrod Is Special: He's a great fit at left tackle and is a good pass protector with great range, footwork and lateral movement.
Why Sherrod Goes Here: Some mock drafts have him going a spot earlier and he's ranked second among offensive tackles, trailing Boston College's Anthony Costanzo.
Why Sherrod Fits: Peyton Manning needs all the help he can get with his blind side. The team could also go with running back at this spot.
22. St. Louis Rams: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Why Blackmon Is Special: If you want a playmaker, that's what you'll get with Blackmon, whom many say is even better than his predecessor Dez Bryant. Blackmon finished as the nation's second-best receiver this year with 102 catches for 1,665 yards (16.3 avg.) and 18 touchdowns.
Why Blackmon Goes Here: I suppose you could argue that he's better than A.J. Green or Julio Jones, but for now we'll put him here and slide him even below Ryan Broyles.
Why Blackmon Fits: Sam Bradford gets a playmaker to throw to and the Rams also address another need by strengthening their special teams, since Blackmon is also a talented return man.
21. Green Bay Packers: DE/OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
Why Miller Is Special: He's battled an ankle injury this year, but when healthy, he's clearly dominant, as he showed last season with 21.5 tackles for a loss and 16.5 sacks.
Why Miller Goes Here: Some websites have him listed as the second-best rush linebacker in the draft behind North Carolina's Robert Quinn. He could also give the Packers a boost in rushing the passer.
Why Miller Fits: He's great off the edge and could form a great pass-rushing tandem with Clay Matthews.
20. New York Giants: OLB Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
Why Lewis Is Special: Oklahoma has produced tons of great defensive players during Bob Stoops' tenure and Lewis is just the latest.
Why Lewis Goes Here: It's about linemen and quarterbacks in this draft, but Lewis is among the top linebacker prospects available.
Why Lewis Fits: Take the best player on the board. That strategy certainly can't hurt if you do your homework.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
Why Clayborn Is Special: The man has an engine and could help with the pass rush and stopping the run.
Why Clayborn Goes Here: He could've been a first-rounder last year and is considered one of this year's top senior prospects.
Why Clayborn Fits: Put him opposite Gerald McCoy and your pass rush would improve even more.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Janoris Jenkins, Florida
Why Jenkins Is Special: He's not the biggest player, but his skill would help him match up with some of the NFL's fastest receivers.
Why Jenkins Goes Here: He doesn't have quite the same athleticism as other corners in the draft, but he has held his own in the SEC.
Why Jenkins Fits: Jacksonville plays in a division with some talented quarterbacks, so this couldn't hurt them. Watch and see if Jack Del Rio keeps his job, though. A new coach could have a whole different idea of who to draft.
17. San Diego Chargers: OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
Why Ayers Is Special: He's got the ability to drop back in coverage or play the run and can play both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes.
Why Ayers Goes Here: Some may question his ability as a pass rusher.
Why Ayers Fits: The Chargers technically haven't had anyone take over since they parted ways with Shawne Merriman. Maybe Ayers could be the guy.
16. Miami Dolphins: RB Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
Why Thomas Is Special: He's the nation's ninth-leading rusher with 276 carries for 1,495 yards (5.4 average) and 16 touchdowns. He has seven games with over 100 yards rushing, including two 200-yard games. He had a career-high 269 yards rushing in the team's season finale at UNT.
Why Thomas Goes Here: After Mark Ingram, you have to expect Thomas will be the likely next best running back available.
Why Thomas Fits: Miami really doesn't have that dominant back and Thomas could fulfill that role.
15. New England Patriots: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
Why Ingram Is Special: If you watched him at all during his Heisman Trophy season in 2009, then you saw what a bruising, hard runner he is.
Why Ingram Goes Here: He is the top running back in the draft and could be coveted by Seattle and Indianapolis as well.
Why Ingram Fits: The Patriots really haven't had a dominant running threat since Corey Dillon left.
14. Tennessee Titans: WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
Why Broyles Is Special: He's been a tremendous playmaker throughout his career at Oklahoma and will leave with virtually every school receiving record. He finished this year with 118 catches for 1,452 yards (12.3 avg.) and 13 touchdowns.
Why Broyles Goes Here: A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Justin Blackmon are the stars at this position in the draft, but Broyles follows right behind them.
Why Broyles Fits: Tennessee needs a shot of adrenaline in its passing game, and Randy Moss isn't the answer.
13. Seattle Seahawks: QB Jake Locker, Washington
Why Locker Is Special: He's got great athleticism, is a great passer and has continued to improve over his collegiate career.
Why Locker Goes Here: The debate will rage on about whether he or Ryan Mallett is the second best quarterback in the draft.
Why Locker Fits: He played college ball nearby and Pete Carroll should be quite familiar with him from when he faced him at USC.
12. Cleveland Browns: WR Julio Jones, Alabama
Why Jones Is Special: He's started ever since his freshman year and has proven to be one of the most dominant players in the game.
Why Jones Goes Here: For now, we'll leave him here. But expect him and A.J. Green to flip spots in many mock drafts.
Why Jones Fits: The Browns have Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis and now add Jones in as the third piece to a bright future on offense.
11. Minnesota Vikings: QB Cam Newton, Auburn
Why Newton Is Special: If you've watched any college football at all this season, you should know.
Why Newton Goes Here: He may fall based on the controversy that's surrounded him, but on talent alone, you have to say he is first round material.
Why Newton Fits: Brett Favre is on his way out and now the Vikings stay in the spotlight by landing the Heisman Trophy winner.
10. Houston Texans: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
Why Kerrigan Is Special: He's quick off the ball and it's obvious to spot his competitiveness and the motor he runs on.
Why Kerrigan Goes Here: Some claim he's a bit overrated, so it's hard to tell just where he fits.
Why Kerrigan Fits: Houston would improve immediately by adding another pass rusher to go along with Mario Williams.
9. Washington Redskins: DE Marcell Dareus, Alabama
Why Dareus Is Special: He dominated in last year's national championship game, can stuff the run and is a great pass rusher who can play defensive tackle in a 4-3 or defensive end in a 3-4.
Why Dareus Goes Here: He's put up big numbers for one of the nation's top defenses and in the most physical conference in the country.
Why Dareus Fits: This pick is a questionable one, especially since coach Mike Shanahan covets a franchise quarterback. But will they have enough pieces to be able to move up?
8. Dallas Cowboys: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina
Why Quinn Is Special: He has great size and is a great pass rusher who has drawn comparisons to former Tar Heel Julius Peppers.
Why Quinn Goes Here: Many mock drafts have him way higher, while some have him right here. At this point, it's guesswork.
Why Quinn Fits: Time for Anthony Spencer to produce and return to his 2009 levels with rushing the passer. If not, then the Cowboys have another option in Quinn.
7. San Francisco 49ers: DT/DE Nick Fairley, Auburn
Why Fairley Is Special: He's got great size and speed and has been perhaps one of the most dominant defensive players in the SEC.
Why Fairley Goes Here: With the other talent still out there, this is a good spot.
Why Fairley Fits: The 49ers have a myriad of issues to fix. This is a good start.
6. Buffalo Bills: WR A.J. Green, Georgia
Why Green Is Special: Like Jones, he played as a freshman, and like his Alabama counterpart, he's dominated ever since.
Why Green Goes Here: See previous comments about Jones.
Why Green Fits: Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown himself to be a capable quarterback. What would happen if he had a threat like this to throw to?
5. Detroit Lions: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
Why Amukamara Is Special: His size, speed and physical nature are everything you want in a legit shutdown corner.
Why Amukamara Goes Here: Keep an eye on whether he possibly slips past fellow cornerback Patrick Peterson. That will be an interesting development.
Why Amukamara Fits: Alphonso Smith and Chris Houston certainly haven't given the team much confidence at this position, have they?
4. Arizona Cardinals: QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
Why Mallett Is Special: His talent and ability have been obvious ever since he was one of the top high school recruits in the nation. He faced off against Jimmy Clausen in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and many coaches thought Mallett was more polished and had better pro potential.
Why Mallett Goes Here: You could perhaps make an argument that Cincinnati could nab him, but he definitely is one of the top three quarterbacks in the draft.
Why Mallett Fits: Because Arizona desperately needs to find its future quarterback. Imagine if Donovan McNabb decides to head there and winds up also grooming Mallett in the process.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
Why Bowers Is Special: Does 15.5 sacks on the season say enough?
Why Bowers Goes Here: Because this is where dominant pass rushers usually wind up every year around draft time.
Why Bowers Fits: Cincinnati has a multitude of problems to address. Might as well begin here.
2. Denver Broncos: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
Why Peterson Is Special: He is your prototypical shutdown corner who can also hit hard and could be used on special teams and possibly offense.
Why Peterson Goes Here: There's no way he falls out of the top five.
Why Peterson Fits: There is talk Champ Bailey may want out of town. If I'm Denver, I wish him the best and grab his replacement right here.
1. Carolina Panthers: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
Why Luck is Special: He's a smart, talented quarterback who knows how to win and led Stanford's resurgence.
Why Luck Goes Here: He is a little more polished than Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker and should be the first quarterback off the board.
Why Luck Fits: Passing up a franchise quarterback of Luck's caliber would be tough to do. Pay attention, though: There is a theory floating around that Luck may not leave because of the lockout.