With the college football season ending Monday night with a thrilling Auburn victory over Oregon in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, it's time to look where the college football stars could head in the 2011 NFL Draft this April. The Carolina Panthers are first on the board and need help in basically every phase of the game, starting with the quarterback and should take a quarterback in the first round.
The Panthers' offense could use a boost at QB as the Jimmy Clausen project isn't going to work out and Cam Newton can be that guy. Coming off a national championship, Newton might not have had a typical Newton day at the office in that game but all season long he proved he can be dangerous in the passing game. Newton still is deciding to turn pro or to come back for his junior season, but the Panthers should take him as he could step in right away to help a team that only completed 52.9 percent of its passes this season. Newton is a pure passer that can also beat a team with his legs and would be a valuable asset to a Panthers offense that is searching for answers.
Could the first two picks really be from the defending national champion Auburn Tigers? Yes, it could happen, Fairley will be a high draft pick on every draft board as evidenced by his superb play against Oregon in the BCS titile game. He has the speed, size, and strength that pro scouts are looking for and could make a difference in the Broncos defense right away that was last in total defense in 2010.
The Bills' defense certainly could use help in the secondary and Patrick Peterson could help in a big way. Peterson is a 6'1" 211 lbs cornerback and is a master at covering receivers with his big, phyiscal play and the Bills could use that as they were 24th in total defense in 2010, giving up 361.6 passing yards.
What a difference a year makes, the Bengals win and sweep the AFC North last season, thanks in large part for a difference that was fourth overall. The Bengals were considered a favorite to win the division again in 2010 but finished 4-12 due in large part to a lack of defensive production. Well, Marcell Dareus is a guy the Bengals should get in the draft as he is a fast, physical player that is force in run defense that the Bengals desperately need help in as they gave up 115.2 yards/game on the ground.
The Cardinals desperately need help offensively as the team has fallen off in offensive production ever since Kurt Warner retired and Anquan Boldin went to the Baltimore Ravens. Well, A.J. Green could help an offense that was 31st in total offense and Green along with star receiver Larry Fitzgerald could help a team get back in track that went to the playoffs after the 2008 and 2009 seasons and is only two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Green is a gifted, physical and fast receiver and should contribute to the team right away.
The Browns showed signs of improvement this season offensively but defensively they had a myriad of problems. With Eric Mangini fired and the organization still looking for a new coach, GM Mike Holmgren is still looking to rebuild and getting Da'Quan Bowers with the Browns' first pick in the draft would be a start. Bowers is a big-time defensive end and can got off blocks with rapid speed. He should be an impact right away as the Browns are searching for answers defensively as they were 22nd in total defense in 2010, but did beat the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints covincingly and that could give reason for Browns fans to be happy in 2011.
The 49ers need a quarterback and need one badly and that is why they should get Blaine Gabbert. I mean lets face it, the Alex Smith show is over and turned out to be a bust as the first overall pick back in 2004. But with Jim Harbaugh leading the way now as the 49ers new head coach, he could mold Gabbart into a good NFL quarterback, as he was able to with Andrew Luck at Stanford. Gabbert still needs to improve in the passing game, with accuracy and making better decisions with the football. But, with the right attitude and coaching, there is no reason he can't be a difference maker at the next level.
The Titans' defensive line has needed some reworking ever since Albert Haynesworth left for Washington. Well, Robert Quinn is the guy that could step in right away and be a force for the Titans. Although he was in the middle of an academic scandal and was suspended earlier in the season for UNC, he is still a top 10 pick due to his strenghth. He is a good pass-rusher but still needs work in that area and needs a little more size for the next level. This would be a great find for Jeff Fisher's team if he can get him.
The Cowboys had a very disappointing season, to say the least, as they were a heavy favorite to win the Super Bowl this season. What happened, well a 1-6 start with Tony Romo going down early in the season for the year, Wade Phillips is fired and Jason Garrett is now the new head coach. Well, Prince Amukamara could help a Cowboys defense that was 23rd overall and 26th in pass defense this season. Amukamara, the Big 12 defensive player of the year in 2010, he is best suited for bump and run man to man coverage and has great size and speed, but needs work on straight line speed to cover deep routes. But, he could be a very good cornerback at the NFL level if he improves in that area.
The Redskins need help in so many areas and the quarterback position is one of them. Rex Grossman is not the answer, even if they like him. Dan Snyder and Mike Shanahan need to think about getting Jake Locker who is a tremendously gifted quarterback with all the tools pro scouts like and could help a Redskins offense that ranked 18th in total offense in 2010. Locker might not have had an impressive senior season after deciding to come back but he still is a first-round pick with his passing ability.
Improving a pass defense that was last in the NFL starts with a good pass rush and the Texans, with Wade Phillips' new 3-4 defense, getting Von Miller is a start. Miller is a great 3-4 outside linebacker with excellent speed and great intensity and should be an immediate impact for the Texans.
The Vikings look to rebuild for the future as the Brett Favre show is over and Ryan Mallet is the guy for the Vikings. He has a great arm but needs work in accuracy and accuracy at the NFL level if he wants to be successful but I think he can succeed at the next level if he has the right attitue as the Vikings need to look for a leader because Joe Webb and Tavaris Jackson are not the answers.
The Lions certainly need help on the defensive line and Stephen Paea is someone that could help the Lions' defensive front. Paea is someone who can get off multiple blocks and be a force in pass-rushing. He has a "rugby" style quickness and strength that causes chaos for the opponent's backfield and that is something the 24th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL could use, with him and Ndamukong Suh coming off the edge.
The Rams just missed the playoffs playing in the awful NFC West but they still had an impressive season after years of terrible seasons. Sam Bradford had a sensational rookie season at quarterback but now needs the pieces to help him, starting at receiver and Julio Jones could be that guy. Jones was a star receiver at Alabama and has the size (6-4, 211) and speed to be a successful NFL receiver. He is also a dangerous deep-threat downfield.
The Dolphins need improvement on the offensive line and Nate Solder is the guy to help with pass protection. Solder is a very quick and physical blocker that is very effective against both the pass and the run and that should bode well for whoever is the quarterback next season for the Dolphins.
The Jaguars, another team that barely missed the playoffs in the down AFC South this year, needs to retool at the receiving corps. While David Garrard might have had a good year throwing the ball, he needs a big-time receiver and Justin Blackmon can be that receiver. Blackmon had a fantastic year at Oklahoma State as he had at least 100 yards receiving in every game. Blackmon is a very fast and physical receiver.
The Patriots are in the midst of another Super Bowl run and get two first-round picks in April, that is good news for Patriots fans. The Patriots, however, need get back to playing better defense as they are 25th in total defense and Adrian Clayborn is someone that could be a huge factor anchoring that very young defense next season. Clayborn has great speed and explosiveness to help in pass rush situations but needs to improve his strength. Clayborn would be a big time asset to a team that contends for Super Bowls every year and be an important part on improving the defense for next season.
The Chargers had a disappointing 2010 season as they missed the playoffs after being a preseason Super Bowl favorite, even though the offensive and defensive statistics show you that they would be a playoff team. However, the Chargers struggled in AFC West play and lost the heart and soul of their defense, Shawn Merriman. Ryan Kerrigan is the answer in replacing Merriman at defensive end as Kerrigan is a big, physical player that went through the battles in the rough and tumble Big Ten. Kerrigan is an explosive pass rusher and a great run defender.
Usually a perennial playoff team, the Giants just missed the playoffs this year as Eli Manning struggled this year. The Giants need to a little work on the defensive line and that is why they should draft Cameron Jordan. Jordan has all the physical tools to be a great pass rusher at the NFL level.
Mike Pouncey is a great pick here for the Bucs who could do away with eight-year center Jeff Faine and start with the powerful, younger Pouncey. Josh Freeman, who almost led the Bucs to the playoffs, would have a great QB/center combination in Pouncey if they get him. Pouncey is experienced at guard as well, so he can play on the offensive line, which is a great asset for the Bucs.
The Chiefs had a huge turnaround season, going from four wins in 2009 to a playoff berth this past season with Matt Cassel putting up good numbers, but defensively the Chiefs have a lot of work to do and getting Akeem Ayers in the first round would help. Ayers, a physical pass-rusher, would be an instant impact to help a defense that was the 17th-ranked passing defense in the NFL in 2010.
The Colts' offensive line had big time struggles in 2010 and protecting Peyton Manning will be key for the Colts in 2011. Gabe Carimi should be the Colts' pick in the first round
The Eagles undoing against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs was their inability to stop drives in the red-zone as the Eagles' red-zone defense all season was atrocious. Getting help at the cornerback spot will help them in 2011 and that is why they should get Brandon Harris. Harris had 44 tackles in 2010 for the Hurricanes and has very good size and speed that should help in hte Eagles' secondary.
The Saints' defense of their Super Bowl championship ended in historic fashion as they lost to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks in the biggest upset in playoff history. The defense fell apart which was a defense that really had problems all season long due to bad secondary play and a bad pass-rush. Cameron Heyward could fill that void on the defensive line to help get the Saints' defense back to championship-caliber. Heyward is a relentless pass rusher and presents matchup problems for any offensive linemen.
The Seahawks have a shocking upset of the defending champion New Orleans Saints, but should think about getting some offensive linemen for 2011. Anthony Castonzo, a big and quick blocker, should be on the Seahawks' mind as they need to do a better job of protecting Matt Hasselbeck who is not getting any younger.
The Packers' defense has been suspect this season and in their first playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles and stopping the run is an area of weakness. Well, Justin Houston could solve this problem as he is a very fast and athletic outside linebacker that could be a huge complement to A.J. Hawk in 2011.
The Bears have been offensively challenged at points in the season and the running game and is ranked 22nd in the NFL. Mark Ingram, Alabama's 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, could help turn the fortunes and be a nice complement to Matt Forte. Injuries did set back his offensive production in 2010 but still is a very gifted and fast running back that could be a force in the NFL.
A big-time physical defensive end, J.J. Watt is a pass-rushing machine that should bolster the Jets' defensive line that is still looking how to compete with the likes of the Patriots. He is an extremely good tackler that can get off blocks really fast and that should make Rex Ryan very happy and that is why this is a good pick for the Jets.
The Ravens' defense is always tough and always up there with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North with Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs clogging up the middle. But, even if those are star defensive players, they're not going any younger and some stability in the pass rush would help with getting Allen Bailey in the first round. Bailey gets quickly off the edge in pass-rush situations and a very good tackler.
Yes, the Steelers still need work on the offensive line as Max Starks keeps getting injured and older each season. Protecting Ben Roethlisberger has been a major problem for the past couple of years now, even with his scrambling abilities, he still needs to be protected. Tyron Smith is a very fast and athletic offensive lineman, maybe undersized, but is still a force when it comes to pass and run blocking, which the Steelers are looking for.
The Falcons definitely need help in passing defense next season, even if they win the Super Bowl this season, but due to their 22nd-ranked pass defense, getting to the Super Bowl against pass-oriented offenses will be a challenge. Getting Rahim Moore in the first round would help out a secondary that has given up big plays this season. Moore is capable of playing in the NFL with his size and strength but lacks in pass rush. He has practiced at cornerback as well and that could help out the Falcons be a Super Bowl-contending team next year as well.
Although Vince Wilfork is the leader of the defensive line on the Patriots, I think it could still use some work and getting the strength and size of Cory Liuget. Standing at 6'3" and 300 pounds, Liuget is good in pass-rushing and is very fast, however, his pass rush still needs a little improvement to be successful in the NFL.