1) Carolina Panthers: Andrew Luck, QB – Stanford
Analysis: Although the Panthers took Jimmy Clausen in the second round last season, that shouldn’t stop them from taking the much higher prospect in Andrew Luck.
Clausen didn’t show much as a starter this year, but maybe the Panthers could find a taker for him and even get something in return.
Another good option for the Panthers would be to trade down to someone else that wants Luck and acquire some more picks.
2) Denver Broncos: Patrick Peterson, DB – LSU
Analysis: It looks like the Broncos are going to be locked into the Tim Tebow experiment, so that should allow them to shore up their defense. With Champ Bailey becoming a free agent and aging, the Broncos could really use an influx of youth in their secondary. Peterson is the highest rated corner and will also be valuable in the return game.
3) Buffalo Bills: Nick Fairley, DT – Auburn
Analysis: The Bills have desperately needed help along their defensive line to shore up their horrible run defense. Fairley is one of those impact defensive tackles that can not only command a double team and free up linebackers to make plays, but get after the quarterback as well. This pick should virtually be a no-brainer, I think.
4) Cincinnati Bengals: Da’Quan Bowers, DE – Clemson
Analysis: A lot of this pick will depend on the futures of Carson Palmer, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. However, regardless of the changes on the offense, the defense needs to add a pass rush to a unit that was held in check nearly all season long. Bowers looks like a dominant prospect who could provide an immediate impact in the Bengals' 4-3 defense.
5) Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Mallett, QB – Arkansas
Analysis: This pick is as much for Larry Fitzgerald as it is for the Cardinals. After what he had to endure this year with the Derek Anderson/Max Hall/John Skelton trio, they owe him some help. I think the Cardinals will fall in love with Mallett’s physical tools and accuracy. Drafting a quarterback who has a similar style to former Cardinal great Kurt Warner, with whom Fitzgerald starred, should be a big factor in the decision.
6) Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR – Georgia
Analysis: It’ll be interesting to see which way the Browns go with this pick. Now that they’ve fired Eric Mangini, it seems likely that Mike Holmgren will take over the team. Given that he was the one that drafted Colt McCoy last year, I think it’s unlikely that he’d take another QB. I think the most important upgrade the team could make would be at the wide receiver position, especially if a stud like A.J. Green is on the board.
7) San Francisco 49ers: Cam Newton, QB – Auburn
Analysis: The 49ers fired Mike Singletary, and it appears likely that they will cut ties with former No. 1 overall pick, Alex Smith. If that’s the case, the new coach will likely want a young QB to build the team around.
After watching him dominate the collegiate level this year, it seems like Newton would be the ideal pick for the 49ers. With young promising skill position players like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, adding the mobile and talented Newton would help tremendously.
8) Tennessee Titans: Marcell Dareus, DT – Alabama
Analysis: The Titans have been looking for someone to replace Albert Haynesworth since he left two seasons ago. While, given the current situation, it seems very likely the Titans could get him again (likely for a third-round pick) it’s too hard to assume at this point. Marcell Dareus has many of the same qualities as Haynesworth and is younger and likely easier to work with.
9) Dallas Cowboys: Prince Amukamara, CB – Nebraska
Analysis: Dallas had a very strange season this year in which it drastically underachieved yet still had five Pro Bowlers. Tony Romo will be back next year, along with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Jason Witten and some combination of Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice will round out a very talented skill position set.
The Cowboys' most notable hole this season was in their secondary. Getting to draft someone as talented as Prince Amukamara with the ninth pick should make the Cowboys very happy.
10) Washington Redskins: Jake Locker, QB – Washington
Analysis: This pick will be very interesting for the Washington Redskins because it will set the course of the future for this team. As a Redskins fan I am 99 percent certain that Donovan McNabb will not be with the team next year. Rex Grossman showed some promise during the last three games, but only enough to garner the mentor or backup role to a younger, more promising QB.
Jake Locker would give the Redskins a young, talented QB to rebuild the franchise around. His mobility will also be a welcome addition to an offense that features a very pedestrian offensive line.
11) Houston Texans: Adrian Clayborn, DE – Iowa
Analysis: The Texans defense this year was the team’s Achilles heel. The offense is loaded with weapons and appears to only get better with the emergence of the NFL’s leading rusher Arian Foster.
Getting someone to help take the pressure off DE Mario Williams should help the defense add a new level of intensity. As we’ve also learned over the past half-dozen years, a defense with two stud DEs can make up for deficiencies in other areas (Colts).
Behind Andrew Luck, who is the top QB prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft?
12) Minnesota Vikings: Blaine Gabbert, QB – Missouri
Analysis: Regardless of what the Vikings decide to do this offseason, it seems apparent that they need a young signal caller to build around. With a great ground game and solid offensive and defensive lines, ensuring a good quarterback is under center should be their top priority.
13) Detroit Lions: Robert Quinn, DE – North Carolina
Analysis: The Lions certainly hit a home run last year picking Ndamukong Suh, who went on to make the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. Adding some talent around him would help mold the Lions defense into something ferocious. Lions coach Jim Schwartz was one of the reasons Albert Haynesworth was so dominant back in Tennessee, but he also played a hand in the dominance of DEs Jevon Kearse, Kevin Carter and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Quinn has major talent but was forced to sit out the 2010 season due to off the field issues, so there are some concerns surrounding him.
14) St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR – Oklahoma State
Analysis: The Rams surpassed most everyone’s expectations this season and have an opportunity to actually establish themselves as a perennial playoff contender. Quarterback Sam Bradford is the new face of the franchise, and Steven Jackson refuses to slow down.
The receiving targets on this team, however, are all young and more complementary than primary. Because of that, adding a dominant, physical receiver like Blackmon would help everyone out. I like this pick a lot for them.
15) Miami Dolphins: Stephen Paea, DT – Oregon State
Analysis: The Dolphins could look to take a quarterback here depending on how disenfranchised they’ve become with incumbent starter Chad Henne. It will also be interesting to see if Chad Pennington decides to come back and make another run at a starting gig. All that said, the Dolphins could really use a run stuffer to help their defense and eat up blockers for Karlos Dansby and co.
16) Jacksonville Jaguars: Janoris Jenkins, CB – Florida
Analysis: The Jaguars have battled secondary trouble for years now. In a division where you play Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub four times a season, it seems like adding some talent in the defensive backfield would be a good idea.
17) New England Patriots (via Oakland Raiders): Ryan Kerrigan, DE – Purdue
Analysis: The fact that the Patriots have three of the first 33 picks is just not fair. I don’t know how this keeps happening.
Anyway, the Patriots offense has been nothing short of incredible this season, so it seems that the first of these picks would be on the defensive side of the ball. A defensive end like Ryan Kerrigan could provide another talented, athletic body to a defense that was already the league's youngest.
18) San Diego Chargers: Julio Jones, WR – Alabama
Analysis: The Chargers had a characteristic slow start this season but, unlike past years, were unable to recover in time to make the playoffs. One of the reasons they struggled was injuries and a suspension to their wide receiving corps. Philip Rivers still managed to have a phenomenal season, but I’m sure he would have appreciated a little more talent around him.
Taking a WR in the first round to complement Vincent Jackson could make the Chargers offense terrifying.
19) New York Giants: Von Miller, OLB – Texas A&M
Analysis: The Giants have to be one of the most disappointed teams at the end of the regular season. They saw their receiving corps decimated by injuries and just faded down the stretch, blowing a seemingly certain playoff berth.
I think the Giants have missed the leadership and talent of Antonio Pierce the last few years, so drafting another tackle monster could help their defense regain their dominance of past years.
20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cameron Jordan, DE – California
Analysis: The Bucs have to be thrilled with the future of their team. With virtually every position filled with a rookie or second-year player, the sky looks to be the limit for the 10-6 Bucs.
In order to start overtaking some of the more established teams, though, they need to add more talent on both sides of the ball. One area would be receiver, and another would be defensive end in my mind. Adding a major pass rusher would be a big upgrade for the team.
21) Seattle Seahawks: Mark Ingram, RB – Alabama
Analysis: While the Seahawks can boast the label of “playoff team,” they are far from being ready to actually challenge for a title. In order to get to that point, they are going to need more offensive firepower.
The receiving corps with Mike Williams, Deon Butler and Golden Tate looks pretty decent, and the Seahawks seem pretty committed to Charlie Whitehurst. The ground game has barely been getting by with the Marshawn Lynch-Justin Forsett-Leon Washington trio, but adding former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram would give them a feature back who could be a game-breaker.
22) Kansas City Chiefs: Nate Solder, OT – Colorado
Analysis: The Chiefs' rise to AFC West champs is a direct result of upgrading certain major positions on their roster over the last few years (QB, RB, OL, DL). If they are able to grab another young, uber talented offensive lineman here to help protect Matt Cassel and block for Jamaal Charles with this pick, I’m sure they’ll be very pleased.
23) Indianapolis Colts: Gabe Carimi, OT – Wisconsin
Analysis: This pick seems like a no-brainer for the Colts. If you give Peyton Manning time, he wins games. Grabbing a dominant young lineman should be a top priority for the Colts.
24) Philadelphia Eagles: Anthony Castonzo, OT – Boston College
Analysis: While the Eagles could use some help defensively, I think grabbing someone to solidify their O-line will be one of Andy Reid’s biggest desires. The Eagles have done great through the draft the last few years and could be one or two more bullseye picks away from being contenders for the next few years.
25) Green Bay Packers: Daniel Thomas, RB – Kansas State
Analysis: This pick may seem a little bit high, but in watching the Packers this year, it became obvious how valuable Ryan Grant was to this team. Once he was injured, the Packers offense lacked the same explosion behind backup Brandon Jackson.
Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley will keep the passing game sharp, but adding a young, talented backup to Grant would give much-needed depth to the Packers.
26) New Orleans Saints: Ras-I Dowling, CB – Virginia
Analysis: The Saints suffered through a number of injuries this season but recovered in time for a late push into the playoffs. Watching them play, it seems that secondary depth should be one of the most focused-on issues for them this offseason. Adding a corner like Dowling will give them more options in coverages and overall depth.
27) Chicago Bears: Rodney Hudson, OG – Florida State
Analysis: Once the Bears switched up their offensive mentality and started adding blockers to keep Jay Cutler upright, they realized how important doing so was. As a result, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them use this pick on a lineman to protect Cutler.
28) New York Jets: Ryan Broyles, WR - Oklahoma
Analysis: It is looking like this will be more of a need pick for the Jets, as both Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes enter this offseason as free agents, and it is unlikely the Jets will be able to keep them both. The Jets need to keep weapons around Mark Sanchez to keep the passing game effective. This helps them do what they really want to do and run the ball.
Broyles had a fantastic season for Oklahoma and has the kind of toughness and explosiveness that Rex Ryan appears to covet.
29) Baltimore Ravens: Derek Sherrod, OT – Mississippi State
Analysis: The Ravens drafted the subject of a major motion picture a few years ago, and that has worked out pretty well. Adding another talented body will help keep the Ravens offense flowing. The Ravens always hit a home run on draft day, so I expect them to make the right choice here.
30) Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Pouncey, C – Florida
Analysis: The Steelers desperately need help on their offensive line after numerous injuries have really taken their toll on the team. The Steelers took Mike’s brother Maurkice last year in the first round, and he made the Pro Bowl, so there’s another reason to look to the Florida product.
31) Atlanta Falcons: Drake Nevis, DT – LSU
Analysis: The Atlanta Falcons don’t appear to have too many holes after finishing this season 13-3. However, I think they could improve a few positions, and one of them is the defensive line. Getting a good young DT will help them stop the run and free up their DEs to rush the passer better. I think they could look to getting a fast, young running back to spell Michael Turner too, but probably not with this pick.
32) New England Patriots: Jon Baldwin, WR – Pittsburgh
Analysis: The Patriots with this pick will look to fill the big, athletic receiver void that was left when the team traded Randy Moss. The fact that they get to grab a talent like Baldwin without actually needing him to step up right away is a luxury that is afforded to few.
33) New England Patriots (from Carolina Panthers): Akeem Ayers, OLB – UCLA
Analysis: Oh, here we go. Somehow the Patriots get an immensely talented player about 15 picks later than could be expected. Ayers is very talented and would definitely help the Patriots defense.
34) Buffalo Bills: Michael Floyd, WR – Notre Dame
Analysis: The Bills' search for a true No. 1 receiver could finally come to an end if they are able to land the dynamic Floyd. Although he didn’t put up quite as many good plays without Jimmy Clausen this season, he should still be considered a major threat.
35) Cincinnati Bengals: Cordy Glenn, OG – Georgia
Analysis: The Bengals are going to need to upgrade their offensive line no matter who is under center next season. Plus, Cedric Benson isn’t getting any younger and will need all the help he can get to keep being effective.
36) Denver Broncos: Marvin Austin, DT – North Carolina
Analysis: The Broncos should be ecstatic if they can secure Peterson and then a DT with the talent of Marvin Austin. Getting these two players and really focusing on the defense could allow the Broncos to make a huge jump next season.
37) Cleveland Browns: Greg Jones, MLB – Michigan State
Analysis: The Cleveland Browns defense had some major lapses this season and could really use a physical linebacker who is going to make plays. Greg Jones has played at a consistently high level at Michigan State for years now and should adjust to the pro game very well.
38) Arizona Cardinals: Allen Bailey, DE – Miami
Analysis: The Cardinals were hit very hard by free agency and retirements last season. One of the areas they need to improve again now is their defensive line. Taking a pass rusher like Allen Bailey would allow the Cardinals to get back to their level of a few years ago, where they were making plays and forcing turnovers.
39) Tennessee Titans: Ricky Stanzi, QB – Iowa
Analysis: The Titans are going to have to address the quarterback situation this offseason. It will be interesting to see if Vince Young winds up back with the team, and the same is true for Kerry Collins. Either way, I think Titans fans know that they can’t really go anywhere with either of those quarterbacks. Stanzi has a lot of talent and tools and plays well in big games.
40) Dallas Cowboys: Quan Sturdivant, MLB – North Carolina
Analysis: The Cowboys should use this pick to shore up their defense as well. Outside of DeMarcus Ware, this group often lacked punch this year. Quan Sturdivant is an athletic, physical player who would seriously upgrade the Cowboys' linebacking corps.
41) Washington Redskins: Leonard Hankerson, WR – Miami
Analysis: The Redskins absolutely need to address the wide receiver position this offseason. Once again, as a fan, I’d love to see us do it through the draft. Hopefully someone like Julio Jones or Ryan Broyles falls through the cracks to us, but if we stay put, already having Locker on board, I think we look to a college that has provided us with some great football players recently.
Hankerson is a big, physical target, which is something the Redskins have lacked for years and years. Lining him up next to fellow University of Miami alum Santana Moss would absolutely help whoever is under center move the ball through the air.