2011 NFL Mock Draft: How Will The Draft Order Help Your Team?

David SolarCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: How Will The Draft Order Help Your Team?

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    2011 NFL Mock Draft: How Will The Draft Order Help Your Team?

    The playoffs have officially begun and most of the leagues 32 teams will be watching the post-season from the comfort of their own sofa. Still, with the season finished, the draft order is beginning to finally take form.

    The first 20 picks are set for the April 28th draft with the remaining 12 spots to be determined by each teams respective playoff performance. 

    With bowl season nearing it’s climax and the NFL season over for so many fans across the nation, now it the perfect opportunity to examine the top college football prospects and project the first round the 2011 NFL draft.

1. Carolina Panthers (2-14)

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    Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford


    What Makes Luck Special:

    With the worst ranked scoring offense in the NFL, the Panthers have to address their inability to move the ball. They may have drafted Jimmy Clausen in the second round last season, but he barely looks like an NFL player let alone a franchise quarterback.

    Why Luck Fits:

    Playing in Jim Harbaugh’s pro-style offense, Luck passed for 3,051 yards and 28 touchdowns while throwing just seven interceptions -- leading the Cardinals to a top ten ranking in the process. The 6’4 Junior is poised beyond his years and seems unflappable in the pocket. Luck has a strong arm, good mobility and throws exceptionally well when rolling out of the pocket.

2. Denver Broncos (4-12)

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    Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU


    What Makes Peterson Special:

    Peterson is a highly intelligent cover man with elite speed and good size. He’s already covered premier receivers like Georgia’s A.J. Green and Alabama’s Julio Jones meaning the transition to the NFL should be a snap for this ultra-talented cornerback.

    Why Peterson Fits:

    Champ Bailey is not getting any younger and this year, the Broncos passing defense ranked amongst the bottom ten in the league. Peterson is a potential shutdown corner that could help anchor the Broncos secondary for years to come.

3. Buffalo Bills (4-12)

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    Cam Newton, QB, Auburn


    What Makes Newton Special:

    If you’ve watched a game this season, it’s quite obvious what makes Cam Newton so special. The controversial quarterback is a one-of-a-kind type talent with excellent mobility and a raw yet underrated arm. This season the 6’6” 250 pound quarterback tallied nearly 4,000 total yards (2,589 passing and 1,409 rushing) and 49 touchdowns. Newton is a unique prospect that many feel will slip due to his unpolished passing game, but I fully believe some team will take a risk on this athletic freak.

    Why Newton Fits:

    Although Ryan Fitzpatrick performed admirably this season, he is not the answer at quarterback. While his production has been a welcome surprise, this offense is in need of a franchise QB. The team has swung and missed lately with the likes of Trent Edwards and J.P. Losman, but will hopefully find their man in Newton.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)

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    Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson


    What Makes Bowers Special:

    The 6’4 280 pound end has been an absolute nightmare for opposing quarterbacks using his incredible initial punch and strong bull rush to tally 16 sacks (which is more than half the total of the entire Bengals team). Bowers is an incredible athlete who may be the most consistent pass rusher in the nation.

    Why Bowers Fits:

    The Bengals rank fourth-to-last in the NFL in sacks, and have struggled to pressure the passer all season long. That makes the decision to draft Da’Quan Bowers almost too easy.

5. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

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    Ryan Mallett. QB, Arkansas


    What Makes Mallett Special:

    Mallett has all the physical tools to be a star including a rocket arm and great pocket presence. He has faced the best competition playing in the SEC and could start from week one next season. Many have compared the 6'7" gunslinger to Ben Roethlisberger, and the comparisons are not far off base.

    Why Mallett Fits:

    Derek Anderson. John Skelton. Max Hall. Richard Bartel. This is the assorted junk that lined up behind center for the Cardinals this past season. Combined they totaled just ten touchdowns versus 19 interceptions while taking 50 sacks. This team has talented receivers with Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston – they just need somebody capable of getting them the rock.

6. Cleveland Browns (5-11)

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    A.J. Green. WR, Georgia


    What Makes Green Special:

    In three seasons at Georgia, Green has hauled in 166 balls for 2,619 yards and 23 touchdowns despite sitting out the first four games of the season due to an NCAA violation. At 6’4, Green has a phenomenal ability to utilize his size and come down with a majority of jump balls. He has elite speed, sticky fingers and reminds many scouts of a young Randy Moss. Green could stand to add some muscle, but his big play ability is unparalleled.

    Why Green Fits:

    Last season, the Browns most productive wide receiver was Mohamed Massaquoi with 36 receptions for 483 yards – not exactly a stud receiver. As a rookie, Colt was the real McCoy and now the Browns need to find him some talented targets. While there are a handful of great receivers in this draft, Green stands above the rest.

7. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)

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    Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn


    What Makes Fairley Special:

    At 6’5 and 300 pounds, Fairley has been clocked as fast as 4.83 in the 40-yard dash. Fairley can play defensive tackle in a 3-4 defense of end in the 4-3, making him a valuable addition no matter what type of defense San Francisco’s new coach implements. Scouts worry about Fairley’s behavior, but nobody worries about his production.

    Why Fairley Fits:

    Although the Niners are in dire need of a franchise quarterback, I would be surprised to see them pull the trigger unless Newton or Mallett slips to them.  The 49ers have been terrific against the run, but a skilled lineman like Fairley that commands constant double teams could help improve a mediocre pass defense.

8. Tennessee Titans (6-10)

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    Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska


    What Makes Amukamara Special:

    As a converted running back, Prince has displayed great hip flexibility and has displayed outstanding balance and quickness. Prince is an excellent bump and run corner with ball skills to boot.  At 6’1” 205, Prince has the ideal size and speed to help sure up a struggling Titans secondary.

    Why Amukamara Fits:

    Amukamara is rated as my number two cornerback (behind Peterson) but some have him ranked first. Last season the Titans ranked fourth worst in passing defense and could use an elite cover man like Amukamara.

9. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)

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    Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina


    What Makes Quinn Special:

    Like fellow Tar Heel Julius Peppers, Quinn is a superb athlete who possesses all the skills needed to be an elite defensive end on the next level. At 6’5” 270, Quinn could play either end in a 4-3, or more likely, outside linebacker in the Cowboys 3-4 defense. He has a quick burst off the line and is a terror on opposing quarterbacks, but will need to improve his coverage skills if he hopes to succeed at his future NFL position.

    Why Quinn Fits:

    The Cowboys defense would love for either Peterson or Amukamara to slip to them at nine, but barring that, look for Dallas to add a pass rusher. The ‘Boys pass defense ranked amongst the bottom ten in the NFL against the pass as their sacks dropped off from 42 in 2009 to just 36 this season.

10. Washington Redskins (6-10)

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    Jake Locker, QB, Washington


    What Makes Locker Special:

    Coming into the season Jake Locker was the consensus number one overall pick, but his stock has fallen. After totaling 2800 passing yards as a junior, Locker saw his completion percentage drop and his yardage fall off by just over 800 yards (although he did sit out against Oregon). Locker is a plus athlete, but lacks the arm strength of either Stanford’s Andrew Luck or Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett.

    Why Locker Fits:

    Donovan McNabb looks to be on his way out and Rex Grossman is not the long-term answer for the Redskins. Both head coach Mike Shanahan and owner Daniel Snyder would likely love a franchise quarterback to mold and Locker could be the choice. If Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert declares early, he could be the selection ahead of Locker.

11. Houston Texans (6-10)

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    Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida


    What Makes Jenkins Special:

    At 5’11 190 Jenkins lacks ideal size, but with blazing top end speed, he more than makes up for it. Jenkins has terrific hands, but at times can be victimized due to his over aggressive nature. Jenkins has great ball skills and some team will be enamored with his ability to create turnovers.

    Why Jenkins Fits:

    Watching the Texans on defense was like watching a train wreck – as unsightly and mortifying as it is, you can’t seem to look away. The Texans allowed a league-worst 267.5 passing yards per game and could use an upgrade in their secondary.

12. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)

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    Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama


    What Makes Dareus Special:

    The 6’4 305 pound junior has a tremendous combination of speed, strength and power and versatility that allows him to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. He was the MVP of last season’s BCS title game and has recorded five sacks this year despite constant double teams. He’s a good pass rusher, but may be the best run-stuffer in this year’s draft.

    Why Dareus Fits:

    The Vikings would be ecstatic if Dareus could somehow slip to them at number 12. Dareus could replace Ray Edwards if Edwards leaves via free agency and could actually slide over to DT if/when Pat Williams retires. Dareus has off-field issues that could hurt his draft stock, but his talent will ensure he will be drafted in the top half of the first round. Minnesota could be in the market for a franchise quarterback, but my gut feeling is that Donovan McNabb will end up wearing purple and gold next season.

13. Detroit Lions (6-10)

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    Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue


    What Makes Kerrigan Special:

    In a draft loaded with pass rushers Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan is amongst the best. The 6’4 265 pounder can play OLB in a 3-4 or end in a 4-3, although his coverage skills are somewhat suspect. Kerrigan’s not an elite athlete, but he plays hard every down and by all accounts is very coachable. More importantly, Kerrigan simply produces results and has recorded 25 sacks over the past two seasons.

    Why Kerrigan Fits:

    Over the past few seasons the Lions have locked up future stars at QB (Matthew Stafford), RB (Jahvid Best) and WR (Calvin Johnson). Their young talent on the offensive side of the ball should give Lions fans hope for the future. Ndamukong Suh performance this season was beyond words this season as the rookie tallied ten sacks and made the Pro Bowl despite constant double teams. Pairing this destructive force with a high motor end could help the Lions improve their defense and become a force in the NFC for years to come. Still, don’t be surprised to see the Lions trade up for a shot at Peterson or Amukamara.

14. Miami Dolphins (7-9)

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    Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama


    What Makes Ingram Special:

    The 2009 Heisman winner is an absolute beast and a load to bring down. He’s been timed with a 4.42 40-yard dash and is a solid receiver out of the backfield. His knee injury is somewhat disconcerting, but a player this talented is worth the risk.

    Why Ingram Fits:

    Ricky Williams is on his last leg while Ronnie Brown looked to have regressed significantly this season (3.7 yards per carry and only 46 rushing yards per game). This is yet another team that needs a quarterback, but it would hardly be wise to reach for the likes of Arizona’s Nick Foles or Florida State’s Christian Ponder.

15. St. Louis Rams (7-9)

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    Julio Jones, WR, Alabama


    What Makes Jones Special:

    Jones is 6’4” 220 with excellent body control, high-level athleticism and the ability to pick up big yardage after the catch. He’s struggled from time to time with drops, but still puts up massive numbers. As a junior Jones hauled in 78 balls for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns while establishing himself as one of the nation’s top receivers.

    Why Jones Fits:

    Sam Bradford has been a revelation this season for the Rams and had the former cellar dwellers in the middle of a playoff push. The most impressive part? Bradford had been winning without top receivers Donnie Avery or Mark Clayton. Bradford needs a number one receiver and there’s no better option than Jones.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)

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    Brandon Harris, CB, Miami


    What Makes Harris Special:

    Speed, speed, speed. Harris has an explosive first step and elite top end speed. Harris has the speed to keep up with nearly any NFL receiver, although he does have a history of being burned for big plays due to his over aggressiveness.

    Why Harris Fits:

    The Jaguars could look to add a pass rusher after recording just 14 sacks all season but with the litany of talented pass rushers, Jacksonville can afford to add linemen in the later rounds. Derek Cox struggled this season and the Jags could look to sure up a secondary that ranked in the bottom five against the pass.

17. New England Patriots From Oakland Raiders (8-8)

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    Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa


    What Makes Clayborn Special:

    Clayborn has been an absolute force on one of the premier defenses in college football and would make an excellent addition to the Patriots. The Hawkeye standout has a great motor, a bountiful knowledge of the game and a nice array of moves. Clayborn recorded just 3.5 sacks this season but he remains one of the most talented pass rushers on the board,

    Why Clayborn Fits:

    As always, the Patriots could easily trade this pick but if they opt to stay look for Clayborn to be the selection. New England’s defense is still a work in progress and Clayborn could be an excellent addition as an outside linebacker in the Pats 3-4 defense.

18. San Diego Chargers (9-7)

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    Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

    What Makes Miller Special:

    Miller, the 2010 Butkus Award winner, excels as a pass rushing linebacker who utilizes his great speed to pressure the quarterback. The 6’3” 240 pound linebacker recorded 10 sacks as a senior after recording a staggering 17 just a season ago.

    Why Miller Fits:

    After losing Shawne Merriman, the Chargers are in need of a dynamic pass rushing linebacker off the edge. Miller fits the bill perfectly.

19. New York Giants (10-6)

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    Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma


    What Makes Lewis Special:

    Lewis is a well-rounded linebacker that recorded 109 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions as a junior at Oklahoma. Despite being somewhat undersized (listed at 6’2” 232), Lewis has unbelievable speed (reportedly a 4.4 to 4.5 40 yard dash time) that should allow him to excel at the next level.

    Why Lewis Fits:

    The Giants aging linebacking core could use an influx of youth. The team was great defensively in 2010 ranking eighth in rush defense and fifth in sacks, but with aging players like Keith Bulluck and Clint Sintim (second round pick in 2009) looking like a bust, Lewis could be the ideal fit.


20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)

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    Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State


    What Makes Blackmon Special:

    The Big 12 player of the year hauled in an incredible 111 passes this season for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. Blackmon has good size and speed and has all the makings of a future number one receiver.

    Why Blackmon Fits:

    Josh Freeman improved by leaps and bounds this season even without the most talented receiving core. Mike Williams was one of this season’s most pleasant surprises, but the teams other receivers (Sammie Stroughter and Michael Spurlock) are both sub par. Blackmon would provide a go-to target for last season's most improved team.

21. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

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    Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State


    What Makes Paea Special:

    Paea is a huge, gap-stuffing defensive tackle that also excels as a pass rusher. The 310 pound tackle recorded seven sacks and 11 tackles for a loss this past season.

    Why Paea Fits:

    Despite being playoff bound, the 7-9 Seahawks have a host of problems. Neither Matt Hasselbeck nor Charlie Whitehurst look like the answer at quarterback. Their wide receivers? Also dreadful. Still, Paea is too talented for Seattle to pass on. The Seahawks ranked amongst the bottom ten in almost every meaningful defensive statistic and could use a well-rounded (quite literally) tackle to anchor this young defense.

22. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

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    Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College


    What Makes Costanzo Special:

    Castonzo was a four-year starter at Boston College and helped lead a highly ranked Eagles rushing attack. At 6’7 305, Castonzo has NFL size, but might end up switching back to RT in the NFL after playing LT the past few years.

    Why Costanzo Fits:

    Although Peyton Manning only took 16 sacks this season, he was often hurried which resulted in 17 interceptions (his most since 2002). The Colts rush defense is still weak, but with starting left tackle Charlie Johnson hitting free agency this off-season, Indy would be wise to address their offensive line in the draft.

23. Green Bay Packers (10-6)

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    Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State


    What Makes Thomas Special:

    The 6’2” 228 pound back is a big and powerful back with enough speed to thrive in the NFL. Despite his size, he has a quick first step and always continues driving his legs to pick up extra yards. This past season Thomas ran for 1,585 yards and 19 touchdowns and should hear his name called out late in round one.

    Why Thomas Fits:

    With Ryan Grant’s status for next season uncertain after missing nearly the entire 2010 season with an ankle injury and the Packers backups struggling to produce, Green Bay could address their ground game in the draft. Thomas is a bruising back who can pick up tough yards and would fit perfectly in the Packers offense.

24. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

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    Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame


    What Makes Floyd Special:

    At 6’3 220, Floyd has the perfect NFL frame. While he lacks elite speed, Floyd has a great vertical and great ball skills that make him one of the best jump ball receivers out there.

    His hands look like they are coated in stickum and Floyd projects to be an All-Pro type receiver on the next level.

    Why Floyd Fits:

    Dwyane Bowe was exceptional this season, but the Chiefs struggled to find a competent number two receiver to pair him with. Kansas City led the league in rushing yards this past season but could use a dynamic receiver to provide more offensive balance.

25. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

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    Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida


    What Makes Pouncey Special:

    The brother of Steelers Pro-Bowl rookie center, Pouncey is a talented lineman that can play either guard or center. Pouncey has ideal size at 6’5” 320, but is currently a far superior run blocker than pass blocker. He lacks his brother’s quickness and athleticism, but remains one of the top offensive line prospects in the draft.

    Why Pouncey Fits:

    Between Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb the Eagles took 50 sacks this past season. The Eagles will need to lower that number if they hope to be a super bowl contender – or simply keep their quarterback healthy for that matter. Pouncey can play multiple positions on the offensive line and fits well into Andy Reid’s blocking scheme.

26. New York Jets (11-5)

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    Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State


    What Makes Heyward Special:

    Heyward is versatile enough to play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 and is able to easily overpower blockers on the college level. Heyward has a wonderful initial burst, and the fact that his father played in the NFL only boots his stock.

    Why Heyward Fits:

    The Jets defense is loaded with talent, but one possible deficiency is their pass rush. Tom Brady had all day in the pocket when he picked apart the Jets 45-3, and with Jason Taylor retiring soon, this is an area the Jets will likely address on draft day.

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5)

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    Drake Nevis, DT, LSU


    What Makes Nevis Special:

    The 6’2” 285 pound Nevis recorded 56 tackles this past season while adding six sacks, 13 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles while anchoring one of the nation’s premier defenses

    Why Nevis Fits:

    Remi Ayodele and Anthony Hargrove has been disappointing for the Saints, so don’t be surprised if New Orleans opts for an interior lineman come the April 28 draft.

28. Chicago Bears (11-5)

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    Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State


    What Makes Sherrod Special:

    Sherrod is one of the most experienced linemen in the nation, having started ever since his freshman year. The 6’5” 305 pound Sherrod showed amazing athleticism for a lineman (clocked at 5.08 in the 40), helping the Bulldogs establish one of the nation’s best rushing attacks (215.8 rushing yards per game).

    Why Sherrod Fits:

    In 2010 Jay Cutler spent more time on his back then all three Kardashian sisters combined. The gun slinging quarterbacks was brought down 52 times this past season including a record nine times against the Giants. Chicago needs to address their offensive line woes and drafting an established tackle to protect their franchise QB’s blind side would be a terrific start.

29. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)

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    J.J. Watt, DE/DT, Wisconsin


    What Makes Watt Special:

    The 6’6” 292 pound Watt is a versatile lineman that can play either on the inside of the outside. In just his second season, the Badgers star recorded seven sacks and 21 tackles for a loss while forcing two fumbles. Watt is explosive and athletic and plays with a high motor. His technique has been questioned, but his production has left little doubt in the minds of scouts and coaches.

    Why Watt Fits:

    Baltimore would do back flips if Watt miraculously made it to their selection late in the first round. Watt’s size makes him an ideal end in a 3-4 defense and would be a significant improvement over Corey Redding.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

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    Joseph Barksdale, OT, LSU


    What Makes Barksdale Special:

    Since stepping in as a freshman, Joseph Barksdale has been tremendous for the LSU Tigers. The 6’5 315 pound senior has experience at both left and right tackle and has ideal strength and athleticism for both positions. Although he’s more proficient in the pass game than the run game, he has the potential to be stellar in both areas. His technique has been questioned, but more time in the film room could help Barksdale evolve into a premier tackle.

    Why Barksdale Fits:

    Willie Colon is a free agent at the end of the season and could get big money elsewhere. Meanwhile, Max Starks is coming off of neck surgery and could be a question mark come training camp next summer. With that in mind, the Steelers would do well to select yet another offensive lineman with their first round pick. After all, it turned out exceptionally well last year when they selected Maurkice Pouncey.

31. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

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    Rahim Moore, S, UCLA


    What Makes Moore Special:

    Moore has great speed and strength as well as the ability to cover like a corner. Moore picked off ten passes a season ago and may be one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football.

    Why Moore Fits:

    The Falcons pass defense has been their Achilles heel all season even after the off-season addition of Dunta Robinson. Atlanta ranks near the bottom of the league in passing defense while ranking near the top in almost every other meaningful statistic. Many feel that the Falcons could take a tight end if Tony Gonzalez retired, but a playmaker like Moore could be too much to pass over – especially considering the dearth of quality tight ends.

32. New England Patriots (14-2)

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    Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA


    What Makes Ayers Special:

    At 6’4 255, Ayers can play on the inside or outside and defends the pass as well as the run. Over the last two seasons, Ayers has seven sacks and six interceptions -- including two that were returned for touchdowns. Ayers is a dynamic athlete and would make for a welcome addition to any defense. 

    Why Ayers Fits:

    It may seem strange to see Bill Belichick and Co. drafting two linebackers in the first round, but it wouldn’t be the first time the Patriots have double dipped. Last season the Pats hit a home run by drafting two tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez), and Belichick could always use additional pass rushers. Assuming again that the pick is not traded, New England could take the best player available, as they have no true needs.