2011 NFL First Round Mock Draft: Where Will Auburn Heisman Winner Cam Newton Go?
With the playoffs upon us, more than half of the league is gearing up for the 2011 offseason. The NFL Draft is always one of the most exciting events of the offseason.
Which teams will hit the lottery and draft the next superstar?
Which teams will ruin their Super Bowl chances by drafting a first round bust?
Which hidden gem will be found late in the draft?
For now, it’s all about the coveted first round. What should your favorite team to achieve success in 2011 for an opportunity to win the Super Bowl next season?
Now that quarterback Andrew Luck has decided to stay at Stanford for his senior season, all bets are off for Carolina and its No. 1 overall pick. Will the new regime think about one of the other quarterbacks in this fantastic draft class?
Did the Auburn Tigers’ Heisman winning quarterback Cam Newton impress enough NFL team scouts to go in the first round?
Which other players are moving up and down the NFL team draft boards?
1. Carolina Panthers: Nick Fairley, Auburn DT
Carolina lost out on the jackpot when Stanford QB Andrew Luck decided to stay in school.
The new regime may just give Jimmy Clausen a chance to redeem himself in 2011. It won’t be the smartest move since this is a quality quarterback class, but the Panthers may very well be able to draft Luck next year if they’re lucky enough.
Defense wins championships, and it starts with the defensive line.
Nick Fairley is a can’t miss, ferocious defensive lineman. The Panthers desperately need to revamp their defense and Fairley is the top option.
2. Denver Broncos: Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson DE
The Broncos have two choices to make here: Defensive lineman or cornerback.
The Broncos could use more help on the line since they appear to have the upper hand with free agent corner Champ Bailey, who seems ready to end his career in Denver.
With Elvis Dumervil set to return from injury, the addition of Da’Quan Bowers in front of him would create a fantastic pass rushing combination. This will greatly assist the weakened secondary and bide the Broncos another year before drafting a corner in the first round.
3. Buffalo Bills: Patrick Peterson, LSU CB
The Bills performed rather well this for a team with limited talent. They actually played most of their games tough throughout the season as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson led the way for the offense.
The Bills' main concern is fixing their inadequate defense and a lockdown corner will go a long way towards achieving success. Peterson is just about as can’t miss as a corner in this entire draft.
A top-five pick, the Bills finally have a shutdown cornerback again in Peterson.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, Georgia WR
A.J. Green is arguably the most talented receiver in this draft. Many are calling him a can’t miss. It has been rumored that the Bengals are thrilled with Green and his potential.
With Terrell Owens not likely to return and Chad Ochocinco aging rapidly, the Bengals need to begin to look towards the future with their offense.
They can still afford to wait on drafting a quarterback with veteran Carson Palmer on board for another season.
The Bengals would be setting up their receiving core nicely by drafting A.J. Green this year after drafting Jordan Shipley last year.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Robert Quinn, North Carolina DE
Many are predicting that the Cardinals will draft a quarterback in the first round, but their defense is where they need most help, most notably on the defensive line. They drafted two quarterbacks last year, Max Hall and John Skelton, so they will most likely opt to see if they can progress next year.
The Cardinals defense actually contains a bunch of playmakers, such as Joey Porter, Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie, Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson. Unfortunately, they all underachieved greatly.
The Cardinals need to continue to build the defense as they have the core pieces on offense with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back Beanie Wells.
By drafting a defensive lineman, especially a defensive end, the Cardinals defense will be able to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which will greatly assist their fantastic secondary which underwhelmed.
6. Cleveland Browns: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue DL
The Browns actually had a successful season despite what their record says. They played most of their games tough throughout the year although they waned in the last month of the season.
Eric Mangini was unjustly fired, but he was fired nonetheless.
Whoever the new head coach is has some pieces to work with. Although they desperately need a receiver for Colt McCoy and another option besides breakout running back Peyton Hillis, the Browns need to continue to build their defense.
They have made some strides in the past year.
Ryan Kerrigan will be a great fit alongside Shaun Rogers on the defensive line.
The two of them will create a ton of pressure on opposing offensive lines and assist the secondary in their coverage.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert, Missouri QB
Gabbert is quickly moving up draft boards and there are rumors he could even go No. 1 to Carolina. Gabbert is a strong kid with high intelligence, good accuracy and a strong arm to boot. The more you hear about Gabbert, the more you’re leaning towards a franchise quarterback.
New 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh needs a franchise quarterback on board and it’s looking like it’ll be between Gabbert and Ryan Mallet.
Either way, Harbaugh is setting up the 49ers to win the NFC West in 2011 with one of these quarterbacks on the roster.
8. Tennessee Titans: Cam Newton, Auburn QB
Vince Young is out in Tennessee.
The Titans will try to go this route once again by taking almost the identical player to replace him in Cam Newton.
Newton is a physical freak who possesses same winning tangibles that Vince Young displayed in college.
The Titans make a fantastic choice with Newton, who really doesn’t need much said about him after this season.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Marcell Dareus, Alabama DL
The Dallas Cowboys are set on offense once Tony Romo (collarbone) and Dez Bryant (ankle) return healthy to form one of the better offenses in the league with a quality offensive, running back Felix Jones, wide receiver Miles Austin and tight end Jason Witten.
It was their defense that disappointed far more than anything else this season.
They were constantly lit up throughout the year and desperately need to create pressure in both run and pass defense.
Marcell Dareus is one of the top defensive lineman in the draft and would make a great fit for this Cowboys team.
Although the Cowboys could definitely use help as safety, Dareus will be too difficult for the Cowboys to pass up.
10. Washington Redskins: Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB
After the failed Donovan McNabb experiment, Mike Shanahan and the Redskins need to evaluate their future and see where this team is heading.
They actually have playmakers on defense, but their offense needs to be upgraded. The No. 1 position is at quarterback, as Rex Grossman really is not the answer for the Redskins in the future.
Shanahan drafts one of the top quarterbacks in this league and has his organization’s future in great position.
11. Houston Texans: Stephen Paea, Oregon St. DT
The Texans have so many needs on defense it’s not even funny. They put on one of the worst defenses in recent years each and every week. They desperately need a cornerback, but the defensive line is so close to being dominant across the line led by Mario Williams. Injuries on defense really set the unit back, but they can still create much better pressure up front. Stephen Paea would be a great fit working alongside Williams and Amobi Okoye.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Jake Locker, Washington QB
Now that Brett Favre has retired, the Vikings can look towards their future at quarterback. That future is not Tarvaris Jackson.
The Vikings most likely will only have the last of the top remaining quarterbacks to pick from.
Not a bad consolation prize in Jake Locker, who would have been one of the top overall picks last season if he entered the draft.
The Vikings make out like bandits on this year and will most likely receive top grades for their draft this year.
13. Detroit Lions: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska CB
The Detroit Lions had a fantastic season, playing most of their games tough all season. They snapped their historic 26-game road losing streak and finished the season on a four-game win streak.
The young players are starting to gel together and are building great chemistry for the future, which looks like it will lead them into the playoffs sooner than later. The Lions defense desperately needs a shutdown corner now that they have a top defensive line led by Ndamukong Suh.
14. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St. WR
The Rams desperately need to put playmakers around Sam Bradford. Bradford did a fantastic job working with his limited supporting cast, but the Rams need a top-notch receiver they can rely on in crunch time instead of wearing out running back Steven Jackson.
Aside from A.J. Green, Justin Blackmon is the next premier wide receiver.
Bradford and Blackmon could instantly become one of the top quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the game in 2011.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, Alabama RB
Ricky Williams is not expected to return and Ronnie Brown will be a free agent. Really, the Dolphins shouldn’t even waste their time with Brown, who can rarely stay healthy.
Mark Ingram is the top running back in this draft. He is the definition of a workhorse back with good speed, vision and power.
Ingram would become an instant threat the Dolphins could rely on throughout the season behind their powerful offensive line.
Miami and Ingram are a perfect match and one the Dolphins should take advantage of if available.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Adrian Clayborn, Iowa DL
Surprisingly, the Jaguars offense seems to be in full motion with David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marcedes Lewis, Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas.
They need to focus on building their defense in order to compete with the high-powered AFC South offenses.
In order to do so, the Jaguars need to put pressure on Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub and whichever quarterback lines up behind center in Tennessee.
Adrian Clayborn would instantly bolster the Jaguars defensive line, which will go a long way in their pursuit of an AFC South division title.
17. New England Patriots (via Oakland Raiders): Drake Nevis, LSU DT
It seems each year the Patriots suffer a major injury on their defensive line.
Bill Belichick always does well with his defense no matter who is on the roster, but this team needs depth on its defensive line.
The offense is just fine for now. The secondary is going to be fantastic and they already boast one of the best young linebacking corps in the game.
All the Patriots need to do is secure their defensive line, and this defense is set for just about a decade.
18. San Diego Chargers: Julio Jones, Alabama WR
Vincent Jackson will likely be tendered, but the Chargers need to prepare for the future. They need to upgrade their receiving core even though Philip Rivers performed admirably with what he had to work with all season.
With Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson on board, Julio Jones would be able to light up the league working on single coverage and in open space.
This would be the ideal situation for Jones and would give Rivers a fantastic threat to work with.
19. New York Giants: Nate Solder, Colorado OT
The Giants offensive line performed better this year than last, but the Giants need to get younger on the line and add depth before it turns around to sabotage another season.
Nate Solder is one of the top offensive lineman in this draft class and would be a great addition for the Giants' depth on the line. He will be able to learn from quality veterans and would be able to step in if the Giants suffer an injury in 2011.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Akeem Ayers, UCLA LB
The Buccaneers were one of the best surprises of 2010, just missing out of the playoffs with a 10-6 record. The Bucs are set on offense with Josh Freeman, Kellen Winslow, Mike Williams, LeGarrette Blount and Arrelious Benn.
The Bucs need to continue to get younger on their improved defense. They have a great building block led by Geno Hayes and Gerald McCoy.
Akeem Ayers would be an instant impact player for the Bucs working behind McCoy and alongside Hayes. The Bucs need another quality linebacker and Ayers is that player.
21. Seattle Seahawks: J.J. Watt, Wisconsin DL
So, how many people can name a defensive player on the Seattle Seahawks?
The Seahawks needs to find playmakers for their defense in this year’s draft. J.J. Watt is their man. He will should be a force to be reckon with in the NFL and a player the Seahawks desperately need to bring them back to the top of the NFC West.
22. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh WR
The Chiefs had arguably the best draft last year, drafting playmaker after playmaker.
An AFC West division title.
Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe formed one of the best quarterback-wide receiver combinations in the game. Dexter McCluster was hurt for most of the season and should be a force next year, but the Chiefs are one wide receiver opposite Dwayne Bowe away from controlling the AFC West for years. With Jonathan Baldwin working outside with Bowe, Cassel would have two great options on the outside and one of the best threats in the slot in Dexter McCluster. The Chiefs could have one of the top offenses in the league.
23. Indianapolis Colts: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin OL
For the first time in years, Peyton Manning was getting pummeled behind his offensive line. Injuries did the unit in and thus they need to prepare for the future and preserve their Hall of Famer.
Carimi is one of the top offensive linemen prospects and Peyton Manning would love to have someone with his talent ready to step in and protect.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: Janoris Jenkins, Florida CB
The Eagles defense did a fine job this season but needs far more playmakers in the secondary. The Eagles suffered several injuries on defense and are set for years on offense.
This entire draft should be dedicated to finding defensive playmakers and bolstering the offensive line. They start by selecting Janoris Jenkins to make noise in the secondary.
25. Green Bay Packers: Brandon Harris, Miami CB
Green Bay management needs to look to getting younger in the secondary for the future after losing veteran Al Harris and with Charles Woodson getting up there in age despite still playing at a high level. Although the Packers could use a running back to replace Ryan Grant, I believe they could be eying DeAngelo Williams in free agency this offseason. The Packers have a great defense led by Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, but could use depth after suffering a ton of injuries this season.
26. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Heyward, Ohio St. DL
The Saints are loaded on offense and need to make sure their defense is up to par to counter the improving offenses of the NFC South. The NFC South has three quality running backs and two fantastic quarterbacks outside of New Orleans. In order to keep them in check, the Saints need a powerful offensive lineman like Cameron Heyward to get the job done.
27. New York Jets: Allen Bailey, Miami DL
The Jets could take a cornerback here depending on whether or not they choose to bring back Antonio Cromartie. Despite a great defense, the Jets really need help on their defensive line. Rex Ryan would be able to shift Bailey around the defensive line to create mismatches.
Rex Ryan needs his defensive linemen to create pressure so his relentless blitzes can impose their will quickly. Allen Bailey will help him achieve his diabolical defensive schemes.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Ras-I Dowling, Virginia DB
As evidenced by the Monday Night Football game against the Houston Texans, the Baltimore Ravens secondary can be severely exploited.
Ed Reed is one of the game’s best ball hawks, but he will not be around much longer.
The Ravens have a great front seven, but if they revamp their secondary, they will be in prime Super Bowl contention for years to come.
At this point in the draft, Dowling makes the most sense for Baltimore.
29. Chicago Bears: Anthony Castonzo, Boston College OL
Although the Bears have a great core to work with, especially on defense, they have areas of need. They could use secondary help and definitely need another quality wide receiver for Jay Cutler.
The Bears most importantly need to upgrade their offensive line for both the rushing and passing attacks. Matt Forte could use more running room and Jay Cutler needs to be protected better because he has taken a ton of hits this past season. He already suffered a concussion in Mike Martz’s all or nothing offense.
Since Martz sends everyone out there and has Cutler drop so far back, the offensive line needs to protect their signal caller.
Anthony Castonzo would greatly bolster the Bears offensive line and would be an excellent pick for Chicago.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Pouncey, Florida OL
The Steelers have needed to upgrade their offensive line for years now.
With Ben Roethlisberger’s style of play, he constantly takes a beating, but defenders can often get past the Steelers offensive line.
It seems each year they suffer an injury to at least one lineman, so at the very least, the Steelers could use depth with a potential superstar lineman like Mike Pouncey.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Aaron Williams, Texas CB
The Falcons defense has been suspect all season. Although they were a “bend-but-don’t-break” defense, they could have easily been broken several times. They have the defensive line but could use help in the secondary. Aaron Williams would be a fantastic pick to work as the No. 2 corner for the unit.
32. New England Patriots: Cameron Jordan, California DE
The Patriots finish the round by continuing to revamp their defensive line. The Patriots could very well draft an offensive lineman, but Bill Belichick generally believes he can find one later in a draft. Cameron Jordan would join Drake Nevis on the line and create havoc as a rookie tandem.