With over three months left until the 2011 NFL Draft, the networks have started to ramp up their speculation, the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl are right around the corner, and teams have sent out their personnel scouts to begin evaluating the latest class of potential NFL starters.
Drafting is a notoriously fickle process, and though teams will try their best to evaluate people, through the Combine and doing extensive research, it's still a mostly hit or miss process. You could end up drafting a Ryan Leaf while completely skipping out on a Tom Brady.
That being said, it's more fun to speculate than it is to sit around and wait for the draft, while also dreading the ever-looming lockout. Why wait for the so-called "experts" to give their opinions, when we can create our own?
With that said, let's take a look at who will get where in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
...A.J Green, wide receiver from the University of Georgia.
The Panthers are probably a better football team than their 2-14 record indicates. With a solid offensive line and a defense that can also be solid (especially with the addition of a new defensive minded coach), the Panthers still have everything it takes to be a solid and competitive football team.
The one part of the Panthers team that seems to need the most work is their receiving core. Steve Smith has been the guy in Carolina for a very, very long time, but he's not getting any younger, and is not being helped by being double covered.
Brandon Lefell and David Gettis have shown they can be solid possession receivers, but aren't likely to be breakout receivers without help.
Regardless of if the Panthers resign quarterback Matt Moore or decide to continue on with Jimmy Clausen (or hold out hope they can draft Andrew Luck next year), the Panthers could use a breakaway wide receiver that could stop opposing defenses from crowding the box on Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson (and DeAngelo Williams, should he be extended) and open up the dynamic Steve Smith once again.
Green is that guy. Big, fast, physical and athletic, Green is likely the wide receiver to have in the 2011 NFL Draft.
With some work on his route running, Green could become a big-time weapon for whomever is throwing him the ball, and can provide a spark to an offense that previously produced two 1,000-yard rushers.
...Nick Fairley, defensive tackle from Auburn University.
The Broncos have a bit of work to do to restore their team back to their Super Bowl greatness, but arguably, defense will be the focus of their draft.
John Fox is a defensive-minded coach, and regardless of if it's Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton who starts under center, with the right direction, the offensive side of the ball will be fine.
Denver has boasted a strong defense in a long time, but Nick Fairley can have an immediate impact on the football team.
Whether they chose to stay in Denver's current 3-4 defense or switch to the more familiar (to John Fox) 4-3 defense, Fairley has put together a beastly season, punctuated with an impressive performance in the BCS National Championship game.
If the Broncos can retain Champ Bailey, they'll be looking to fortify their defensive line, and Fairley is the best player to make a difference on defense. A powerful defensive tackle, Fairley can help the Broncos defense right away, as Fox looks to rebuild it back to glory.
Derek Sherrod, offensive tackle from Mississippi State University.
The Bills have quite a few holes to fill on their football team. But, having found, at the very least, a stop gap (if not a long-time solution) to their woes at quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, they will choose to go offensive tackle in an attempt to keep Fitzpatrick upright and help along their running game and their first round draft pick from last year, C.J Spiller.
The Bills ranked middle of the pack in terms of sacks allowed (18th overall) but ranked sixth in quarterback hits. That's a recipe for disaster no matter who the quarterback is.
Demetrius Bell has not panned out well at the left tackle position, and if the Bills want to have any sort of success (even if they do eventually draft a quarterback), they need to shore up their offensive lline.
Derek Sherod can at least start to provide the team with more stability at the position. Sherod provides an immediate upgrade for the Buffalo Bills at left tackle.
Sherod's athleticism will help the Bills a bunch in a division that hosts two teams with big-time pass rushers and another who will likely be looking to add a pass rusher to their team.
When Fitzpatrick has time to make his reads, he appears to be a solid, starting caliber quarterback. Sherrod could help bring some stability to the offensive line as the team seeks to improve.
...Da'Quan Bowers, defensive end from Clemson University.
After a year of experimenting with T.O and throwing the ball a lot more, the Bengals will go back to what won them the AFC North in 2009; running the ball and strong defense. Rebuilding that defense starts with bringing in a pass rusher, and that pass rush starts with defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.
The Bengals were tied at 27 in terms of sacks, and their starting to age a bit on the defensive side of the ball. Bowers has recorded a monstrous season at Clemson, tallying 16 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.
The Bengals need that kind of talent on the defensive side of the ball, especially when one considers the reigning kings of the division (the Steelers and the Ravens) boast the best and most impressive defenses in the league.
A solid defense backed up by a offense that doesn't make mistakes can win the Bengals the AFC North again, and Bowers could provide the Bengals with a crucial piece that they need.
...Jake Locker, quarterback from the University of Washington.
A year after being considered a potential first pick overall, Jake Locker will be the first quarterback taken off the board, and will be seen as being the most "NFL-ready" of all the quarterbacks on the board.
The Cardinals quarterback situation was a mess this season, with Matt Leinart originally being slated as the started, before getting traded away before the season started.
Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton all saw snaps under center, but none of them earned the starting job, leaving the Cards with the worst quarterback situation in the NFL, and even if they trade to bring in veteran quarterback, they need a young guy in the wings so they don't end up in another situation like the one they find themselves in.
Locker has all the intangibles you want in a quarterback, and with proper development could be a long time starter. His senior campaign has damaged his draft value in a lot of eyes, but he is full of potential and upside, and after the season Ken Whisenhunt has had, he will want a guy with those things.
With a big arm, good mobility and solid leadership qualities, Locker could help the Cards get back to the top of the NFC West...not that that'd be too hard.
...Julio Jones, wide receiver from the University of Alabama.
The Browns should some signs of life midway through the season, knocking off the former Super Bowl champions and the New England Patriots in the process.
Though they faded down the stretch, the Browns showed they have the potential to be a solid football team, not to mention they found one hell of a running back in former seventh-round draft pick (this is why drafting isn't an exact science...) Peyton Hillis.
With Pat Shumer coming in as an offensive-minded head coach, and with a second-year quarterback in Colt McCoy, the team will set about further improving their offensive weapons.
The Browns boast one of the league's most lackluster group of receivers in the league. Comprised mainly of a lot of solid possession receivers, and with Josh Cribbs as the defacto No. 1 guy just because, the Browns will look to draft a true No. 1 receiver in Julio Jones.
Julio Jones is finishing another solid season playing for the Crimson Tide, with a 48 reception, 1,133 yard, 7 touchdown performance. Jones only concerns are his route running and his occasional bouts of the dropsies, but he'd still be a wide improvement over anything the the Browns currently have.
The Browns appear to be on the upswing, and Jones provides a physical, tall, deep threat receiver that the Browns are lacking.
...Blaine Gabbert, quarterback from the University of Missouri.
The 49ers have been an organization in flux for a long, long time, particularly at the quarterback position. After drafting Alex Smith first overall in the 2005 NFL Draft, the 49ers have had eight quarterbacks start under center.
Numerous offensive coordinators and head coaches were bought in, but none seemed to have success. Perhaps the biggest victim in all this was Smith himself, who was named the starter, then not the starter, then injured, and so on and so on.
With Smith unlikely to return, and with Troy Smith, David Carr and Nate Davis not being considerable improvements over him, new Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh will look to draft his own quarterback, and that quarterback will be Blaine Gabbert.
Though Gabbert comes from a spread offense (which scares any Niners fans who will have memories of Alex Smith), Harbaugh is as good as anyone in molding a quarterback.
Had his Stanford quarterback declared for the NFL Draft, he likely would've been taken first overall in the draft. Harbaugh has the know how it takes to mold and shape a quarterback.
Gabbert is accurate, mobile, and has a pretty decent arm, all of which are necessary in what will be the newly installed West Coast offense that Harbaugh will install.
Gabbert may not be great right away, but with time (and one offensive coordinator and concept), he could become the most viable starter the Niners have had in a long time.
...Stephen Paea, defensive tackle from Oregon State.
The Titans may need a quarterback, but maybe the more shocking thing about the Titans has been the fact that their defense has fallen off a cliff in recent years. After ranking in the top ten for two straight seasons, the defense fell off a cliff in 2009 and 2010.
This coincides with the departure of Albert Haynesworth, who, while a raging, lazy jerk (not that I'm bitter), is a pretty good player when he wants to be.
The Titans front has to get nasty once again, and it starts with Stephen Paea. He racked up 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 45 tackles at Oregon State.
He's not Albert Haynesworth (which is good and bad), but he's a strong and quick defensive tackle who can get into the back field and wreck havoc, while also being a good tackler. With a bit of work getting off his blocks, he could be a force on the Titans defensive line.
The Titans will see that the best quarterbacks (theoretically) are off the board at this point and choice to try to further improve their defense. Paea gives them a good shot at doing so.
...Patrick Peterson, cornerback from LSU.
The Dallas Cowboys usually like to be flashy with their first-round picks, and they may not come flashier than Peterson. His name has often been mentioned in the same phrase as "shutdown corner," as he racked up 4 interceptions and 45 tackles.
The Cowboys' play in the secondary at corner was pretty miserable this season, as they ranked 26th versus the pass this season.
The story of the Cowboys' season (up until Jason Garrett became head coach) was when cornerback Michael Jenkins blatantly avoided making a tackle on a play that went for a touchdown, leaving former Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders to say that Jenkins was making "business decisions" instead of playing football.
Peterson presents flash, but he also presents ability and an immediate upgrade at corner. In a division that includes wide receivers like DeSean Jackson and Hakeem Nicks, you need a corner than can effectively shut them down. Peterson has the potential to be that guy.
And wouldn't Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan just love to have his own personal Darrelle Revis, just to rub it in his twin brother Rex's face?
...Mike Pouncey, offensive guard from the University of Florida.
Shocking THE ENTIRE WORLD, the Redskins will choose to continue improving their offensive line instead of drafting Cam Newton, Ryan Mallet or Robert Quinn.
Ultimately, it wouldn't matter who was under center for the Redskins--their offensive line play, while generally better than it was in 2009, was still pretty bad. The Redskins gave up the fifth most sacks in the league, and the second most quarterback hits, with 110.
Most of these hits didn't come from the tackle positions of Trent Williams and Jammal Brown, but from interior pressure. Their center is old, while one guard is supposed to be playing center (and is better at the position) and the other is only a serviceable back-up, not an every down starter.
The Redskins will seek to rectify this situation by drafting Mike Pouncey with the 10th pick overall. Pouncey played his senior campaign at his twin brother's position of center, but he is best suited to play guard.
The 'Skins will put him back in his natural position, where he can become a force in Shanahan's zone blocking scheme.
He's still got the big name value of a Dan Snyder signing, while filling a need the team desperately needs. With their best quarterback options taken early, the 'Skins will choose to upgrade one of their positions of need, which has been ignored since the 'Skins drafted Derrick Dockery in 2003 in the third round.
...Ryan Mallett, quarterback from the University of Arkansas.
New head coach Leslie Frazier has expressed his desire to bring a franchise quarterback to the Minnesota Vikings. Whether that means they'll pursue a free agent or that they're looking at a starter from Day One, the Vikings will take a shot on Mallett.
Mallett is a bit raw as far as the quarterbacks in the draft go, but he still brings a little more good to the table than bad. He's got a big time arm and experience in a pro-style offense.
He threw for 3,869 yards and 32 touchdowns this season, while increasing his completion percentage to 64.7%. He's got some lingering accuracy issues that are worrisome, and his perceived lack of mobility will hurt him as well, but for the most part, given time---Mallett could be a viable starter.
He'd be best served learning the Vikings system behind a veteran quarterback of some sort, but if he was forced to start, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin aren't bad guys to hand off and throw the ball to, and he could potentially have more success than some would think.
...Prince Amukamara, cornerback from the University of Nebraska
It all appeared to be going well for the Houston Texans when they absolutely exploded on the Indianapolis Colts in their first game of the 2010 NFL Season. Unfortunately, the wheels came off, and the Texans finished with a 6-10 record and failed to make the playoffs again.
The Texans have all the pieces on offense to make a deep playoff run playoffs. They have the offensive line. They have the quarterback, and the wide receiver, and they found the league's leading rusher.
The one thing that's missing is the defense. With former Dallas head coach Wade Phillips staying in Texas as Houston's new defensive coordinator, the defense may get better, and they do have some solid pieces up front.
But if they don't fix their secondary, they will continue to get burned and turned away by reigning division kings, the Indianapolis Colts.
Prince Amukamara would provide the with the first of many pieces needed to get the defense up to speed. Amukamara is the other corner in the draft who has been given the talk of being a shutdown corner, while also being a physical guy who isn't afraid to tackle and you can also send after the quarterback.
In a division that includes weapons like Reggie Wayne, a shutdown corner is a potentially great thing for the Texans. If the Texans fix their defense, they will be able to compete with any team in the league.
Look for them to start that trend of with Amukamara.
...Anthony Castonzo, offensive tackle from Boston College.
I am sorry, Lions fans. I know you think you need a cornerback, but you don't.
You need an offensive line. Matthew Stafford seems to have all the skills and talent to be a viable starting quarterback who can bring the Lions out of the dark ages, but this is the second straight year where he had his season cut short by shoulder injuries.
You play in a division that houses two of the best defenses in the league, and the other team just hired a defensive minded head coach that will be looking to improve his defense as well.
You cannot count on Shaun Hill and Drew "Teach Me How To Dougie (No, Really, Teach Me How To Dougie, I Don't Know What I'm Doing)" Stanton for the rest of your lives. Shaun Hill broke a bone in his arm, didn't he? That should tell you something about your offensive line.
You were ranked 16th versus the pass. That puts you squarely in the middle of the pack. Not great, but not bad. And with your defensive front, most quarterbacks would be lucky to even get a pass off.
You have Suh. He is a friggin' monstrous, scary mountain of a man. Remember how he tried to rip off Delhomme's head? Yeah, your defense will be fine, and you can get a cornerback in the later rounds.
I like you, Lions. I really do. I want to see you succeed and be competitive again. But times have changed. You don't have Barry Sanders back there, creating something out of nothing behind a broken offensive line. You have a quarterback that is fragile, a field that is apparently pretty unforgiving, and a left tackle that is aging.
Castonzo is a great, athletic prospect. With some work on his strength in the run game to get Jahvid Best, you can at least begin to piece together a season in which the words "Matthew Stafford suffered a shoulder injury" are not spoken.
...Jonathan Baldwin, wide receiver from the University of Pittsburgh.
The St. Louis drafted one of the most NFL-ready quarterbacks in recent history when they drafted Sam Bradford with the first pick overall a year ago. With Bradford under center, the Rams came within a one game of making it to the NFL Playoffs.
However, if there was one thing that was highlighted in that game against the Seahawks, it was the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. Several times, Bradford needed his receivers to make a play, but no one could come up with one when it was needed most, as the Rams fell to the Seahawks at the end of the day.
While Denario Alexander and Danny Amendola are both solid possession receivers, the Rams need a tall, number one guy. And with Josh McDaniels coming in to be the offensive coordinator, the Rams will be looking to stretch the field early and often.
Baldwin will be the best available receiver in the draft, but don't think because he's drafted in the middle of the first round that he's not as viable as the receivers taken above him.
He put together a solid junior campaign with 53 receptions for 822 yards and five touchdown. He's as viable a No. 1 receiver as anyone else, and has the size and jump ball ability the Rams are currently lacking.
"Bradford to Baldwin"...has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
...Cam Newton, quarterback from Auburn University.
Newton will undoubtedly be the most talked about quarterback on draft day, but his abilities on the next level are completely unknown, which will hamper his draft value.
However, the Miami Dolphins (and more importantly, their new owner) have been trying to add a little bit more of that LA Lakers star power appeal to their franchise, adding minority owners like Jennifer Lopez, and actively pursuing Jim Harbaugh while Tony Sporano was still under contract.
No one brings more star power to the table in the draft than Cam Newton, who will likely have endorsement deals the minute he's drafted, without ever taking a snap for the team.
Provided Newton can learn how to read coverages, he does have a ton of upside, more so than current starter Chad Henne has.
With Chad Pennington likely retiring, the Dolphins might reach out and try to acquire another veteran quarterback, such as a Donovan McNabb.
If that comes to be, then Newton would be able to learn under a veteran and learn the things he needs so he can become an eventual starter and star.
The Dolphins are in the hunt for a new offensive coordinator, but if that coordinator doesn't completely abandon the Wildcat, expect Newton to get his own Tebow-esque package to get him on the field.
Newton brings star power and upside, and with the right coaches assisting him, he could provide the Dolphins with a franchise quarterback.
...Brandon Harris, cornerback from the University of Miami.
To be perfectly honest, this is kind of hard to figure out exactly what the wholes are on their football team. The whole team is so mediocre and hot and cold, there's no real telling where they need help.
One week the defense has a great game. The next it earns it's 28th overall defensive ranking. They seem to be okay at coming up with takeaways, and okay at getting sacks. They're okay at everything.
The only outstanding players they is Maurice Jones-Drew, which almost made me want to pick a running back to replace him, until I realized the Jags already have a running back to replace him.
That said, the Jags will go safe, and draft a cornerback to help shore up their 28th-ranked pass defense. Harris is a solid corner who can succeed at the next level, given the right coaching.
I'm just not sure Jack Del Rio is the best coach.
...Mark Ingram, running back from the University of Alabama.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead were one of the more pleasant surprises for the Patriots, and Green-Ellis finished the season with over 1,000 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns scored.
That being said, the Pats could still use a little more youth in their backfield...Fred Taylor isn't getting any younger, nor is Kevin Faulk, and as the Patriots continue to develop into a younger, better football team.
A one-two punch of Green-Ellis and Alabama running back Mark Ingram would be a more than suitable answer to the division rival Jets' "ground and pound" philosophy.
Ingram won the Heisman trophy in 2009, and will be one of the best skill player positions on the board. A physical runner who isn't taken down after first contact, Ingram nearly ran for 2,000 yards in 12 games his sophomore season.
Looking at his stats, he may not of come close to that mark this season, but when one considers he missed two games at the beginning of the season, it's likely he could've at least broken 1,000 yards rushing.
Ingram will be the best available skill position player on offense, and as the Pats look to reinvigorate their football team for deeper playoff runs in the future, it doesn't get much better than Ingram.
...Robert Quinn, defensive end from the University of North Carolina.
It may shock some people that Quinn would fall this far in the draft, but it also has to be remembered that Quinn has missed an entire season of football, and even though he had a monstrous sophomore season, that's all of one year worth the evidence that he deserves to be a top 15 or top 10 pick.
That said, the San Diego Chargers, already boasting the league's best defense, will take a chance on Quinn. Shawn Merriman was one of the best outside linebackers in the game at a point, but his inability to stay healthy and his contract holdout ultimately sealed his fate in San Diego.
While Shaun Phillips recorded what should've been a Pro Bowl season at outside linebacker with 11 sacks, the outside linebackers opposite him both only combined for three sacks a piece.
The Chargers will seek to rectify that by keeping drafting Quinn, provided he has a strong showing in the days leading up to the draft.
Quinn has all the intangibles and athleticism to be successful at the next level, provided he kept himself in football shape in his year off from football. There will be some lingering character issues, but the Chargers will still take the chance, and will likely be rewarded.
...DeAndre McDaniel, strong safety from Clemson University.
The Giants sport one of the most aggressive defensive fronts in the National Football League. Every defensive linemen they have can wreak havoc on any team in the NFL, and they're all capable of causing all sorts of turnovers no matter who has the ball. Likewise, their corners are underestimated as well, combining for nine tackles.
If there's one place where the Giants defense can be exploited, it's in their safety play. The Giants bought in Antrel Rolle in the offseason to shore that part of the secondary up, but his impact hasn't really been felt...he's only contributed one interception and one forced fumble to the team, though he's recovered three.
Strong safety Kenny Phillips contributed one interception. He also had three recovered fumbles, but forced none himself. Both safeties could be exploited in the passing game; if you have a receiver who's fast enough to split the safeties, there isn't a whole lot the Giants safeties can do to disrupt them.
The Giants will seek to rectify this situation by drafting DeAndre McDaniel. McDaniel has all the potential to be a ball hawk in the secondary; he recorded 8 interceptions in 2009 and four in 2010.
McDaniel is a stud that matches the aggression of the defense front, which could re-elevate the Giants defense to dominating, elite form.
...Ryan Kerrigan, defensive end from Purdue University.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the most surprising teams in the NFL, finishing with a 10-6 record, including a win over the former Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
Offensively, they drafted two very talented wide receivers, signed a very talented running back, and Josh Freeman has shown himself to be one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the league.
Defensively, the Bucs were middle of the packs in most categories, except for one; sacks. The Bucs came in dead last in the NFL in sacks. While Gerald McCoy started to come on a little bit before he was injured, the Bucs will have to continue to improve defensively if they want to continue to be competitive in the NFC South.
With that in mind, and all the truly worthwhile corners not commanding a first round value, the Bucs will continue to fortify their defensive line by adding defensive in Ryan Kerrigan. He is coming off a very solid football, finishing his senior season at Purdue with 13 sacks.
The Bucs defense may never be as great as it was during their Super Bowl run, but if they continue to draft as well as they have been, the Bucs will be in much better shape to make a real run towards the playoffs in the years to come.
...Austin Pettis, wide receiver from Boise State.
The Kansas City Chiefs just completed a miraculous one-season turn around, finishing with a 10-6 record and winning the AFC West, which had long been in the stranglehold of the San Diego Chiefs.
The Chiefs got that far with a solid defense and the league's No. 1 rushing attack. But the Chiefs were exposed numerous times during the season, including vs. the Ravens.
The Chiefs boasted the 30th-ranked passing offense. Dwayne Bowe finished with a Pro Bowl caliber season with 72 receptions for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns. Their next leading wide receiver only tallied 22 receptions for 213 yards and one touchdown.
Austin Pettis isn't the fastest guy in the world, but he's a solid route runner with reliable hands that provides another, more reliable target for Matt Cassel other than just Dwayne Bowe.
The Chiefs are very much a team on the rise, and with Bowe, Pettis, Tony Moeaki as targets, the Chiefs could continue to be productive when another team shuts down their running game.
...Drake Nevis, defensive tackle from LSU.
The Colts defense has long been viewed as the weakness of the football team, appearing tight and focused at times while looking plain bad at others. The Colts defense seems to play at it's best when they're playing with a lead, and when you have Peyton Manning as a quarterback, it's hard not to play with the lead.
However, the team doesn't do quite the same job when they're playing from behind. The Colts ranked 20th in total defense and 25th in run defense. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney both had Pro Bowl caliber seasons, but their defensive tackles only recorded half a sack between them.
The Colts will be seeking to improve that and their run defense, in a division that includes the of the top running backs in the league in Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Arian Foster.
Drake Nevis is a disruptive tackle that can work his way in the backfield and cause havoc. He's fresh of a six-sack season, with an interception and two force fumbles to add to his resume. He's a solid tackler who's good at getting off blocks and wrapping people up, which would be a big plus.
The other three teams in the AFC South are on the rise thanks to their running games. The Colts will look to shut that down and continue to be the kings of the division.
...Nate Solder, offensive tackle from Colorado University.
The Eagles and Michael Vick soared higher than anyone expected them to this season, but at the end of the season, the problems with their offensive line became more and more obvious.
Vick will be back with the Eagles at least one more season, but they will have to do a better job protecting him.
Both of their right tackles were exposed towards the end of the season, and with Vick being left-handed, it's important they fix that and fix that in a hurry.
Solder's position is usually lining up at the left tackle position, but he should be able to make the adjustment and protect Vick from the leagues premiere pass rushers. Solder is one of the top tackle options in the draft, and it would be silly for the Eagles not to pick him up.
If the Eagles can sure up their offensive line, Vick has proven he can be as good a quarterback as any of the elite guys in the NFL. That starts with drafting Solder.
...Ahmad Black, strong safety from the University of Florida.
The Saints defense actually greatly improved from a stastical standpoint...they ranked fourth overall in total defense in their second year under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, a far cry from their 25th overall ranking last year.
However, one of the more suprising things this season was seeing the lack of takeaways that dominated the defense last year; the Saints finished the season at the bottom of the charts in interceptions.
And then there was the Seahawks game. The New Orleans secondary was exposed all day, in particular strong safety Roman Harper.
The Seahawks shocked the Saints in large part thanks to Matt Hasselbeck constitently making Harper look completely and utterly foolish. Harper's time in New Orleans has been mostly ho-hum, and the Saints will look to rectify that by drafting Ahmad Black.
Black is a little undersized, but he's still a hard hitter and solid tackler, who has recorded 5 interceptions for 171 yard and a touchdown.
If the Saints continue to improve defensively and get back in the business of creating turnovers, Black could be a solid component in a defense that could New Orleans back to the Super Bowl.
...Rahim Moore, free safety from UCLA.
The Seahawks will likely be feeling the full effect of getting into the playoffs in this draft. Going into the draft, it would be easy to suggest they would be taking a quarterback, but by winning the NFC West and beating the Saints, they did more to hurt their draft position than save it. (Though winning the division and beating the Super Bowl champs will provide some consolation.)
With holes to fill pretty much everywhere, the Seahawks will choose to continue shoring up the secondary and their passing defense that was ranked in the bottom half of the league. Current free safety Lawyer Milloy is aging and his contract is up after this season, meaning the Seahawk will turn to the draft to get a new one.
Rahim Moore went insane in 2009 when he recorded 10 interceptions. His junior season he tapered off a bit, but that was likely because teams were doing everything they could to avoid him. He's still the best free safety available in the draft, and pairing him with Earl Thomas, the strong safety they drafted last year, could give them a very disruptive backfield at the safety possession.
They could be even more disruptive when you consider the three other teams in their division will all have young quarterbacks to prey on.
...Aaron Williams, cornerback from the University of Texas.
It's kind of hard to believe it, but the Ravens pass defense was ranked 21st in the league this year. The normally stout Ravens D had a tiny bit of trouble getting to the quarterback, which left their defense to be exploited on their back half.
The Ravens defense isn't getting much younger, and the Ravens will start seeking to replenish their talent.
It starts with their secondary and Aaron Williams. Williams didn't set the world on fire with a lot of interceptions, but he's a solid cornerback and athletic.
With some time and development, Williams could become a good option in the Ravens secondary. With a teacher like Ed Reed, he could turn into a very good prospect.
...Kyle Rudolph, tight end from Notre Dame.
As a football team, the Atlanta Falcons are poised and primed to be in a position to win for a long time. But current Falcons tight end Tony Gonzales has been non-committal about whether he'll come back next season or not. Either way, the Falcons would do well to draft his replacement, and they will find that in Kyle Rudolph.
Rudolph is a tight end that runs routes like a wide receivers and has great hands. He probably could work on his blocking, but those things could be worked on at the next level. Kyle Rudolph provides Matt Ryan with another reliable weapon as they continue to try and improve his football team.
...Benjamin Ijalana, offensive guard from Villanova.
Logan Mankins spent a lot of the 2010 season holding out for a new contract. If Mankins wants to leave town for more money, Belichick will mostly let him, which means they'll need to replace the Pro Bowl left guard.
Ijalana isn't the most well known player in the draft, but he's a good prospect at guard. He gets good push in the run game and doesn't allow himself to get pushed around by defensive tackles. If Mankins really is on his way out, the Pats could do worst than Ijalana.
...Christian Ballard, defensive linemen from the University of Iowa.
The Packers are altogether one of the best built teams in the NFL. They found a great nose tackle in B.J Raji, but their defensive line only has one sack between them, and B.J. Raji scored that one.
They have one of the best secondaries in the NFL and a monster outside linebacker in Clay Matthews. Adding a penetrating tackle that can be converted to an end and help shore up the Packers 18th ranked run defense.
With a little bit of work on his strength, Ballard could help the defensive line of the Packers become as feared as their secondary.
...Muhammed Wilkerson, defensive tackle from Temple University.
The Jets aren't a football team that have a whole lot of holes. That being said, after a couple of season ending injuries, nose tackle Kris Jenkins has said that he isn't sure if he will return next season.
If that's the case, the Jets will be looking to find a suitable replacement, and while Sione Pouha is no slouch, having depth at the position wouldn't hurt.
Wilkerson is coming off a monster season playing for temple in which he had ten sacks. Even if he doesn't play nose, he can be put at defensive end in the 3-4 as well. The Jets had some trouble getting pressure with just their defensive front without bringing someone on a blitz.
If Wilkerson can display the kind of talent he displayed at Temple in the NFL, the Jets defense will become even more dominant than it already is.
...Gabe Carimi, offensive tackle from the University of Wisconsin.
The Bears may have gelled as an offensive line as the season went on, but they'd be kidding themselves if they think they can make it through another season without upgrading their offensive line. The Bears o-line finished the season with the most sacks allowed in the league and the eighth-most hits on the quarterback.
When given time in the pocket, Cutler is as deadly a quarterback as anyone else in the NFL. But if the Bears want to keep Cutler healthy, they need to protect him, and it starts with Gabe Carimi.
Carimi is coming off a solid season playing for the Wisconsin Badgers. He's still something of a project, but if Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice can take the motley crew of offensive linemen the Bears currently have and turn them into something decent, Carimi can succeed at the next level with no problem.
...Stefen Wisniewski, center/guard from Penn State University.
It's only fitting that someone who comes from such a great football family would end up on one of the most storied teams in NFL history.
The Steelers are lucky to have Ben Roethlisberger as their quarterback, as their offensive line, while decent (at times), still needs to be upgraded.
The Steelers could really use a right tackle to replace the aging Flozell Adams, but Stefen Wisniewski will definitely be the best offensive linemen on the board at this point, and with Mike Pouncey off the table, the Steelers will choose to put Wisniewski next to their other first round draft pick, Maurkice Pouncey.
Wisniewski would likely declare as a center, but he has played well at guard in his time at Penn State, and is more than good enough to fill in the at the role.
The Steelers seem to be on the verge of another dynasty, and with Wisniewski added to their offensive line, they could only add to their case of Lombardi trophies.