2011 NFL Mock Draft, Championship Game Edition: Who Will Go No. 1?

Mihir BhagatSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 20, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft, Championship Game Edition: Who Will Go No. 1?

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    The 2011 NFL Mock Drafts are beginning to heat up as the big day is just over three months away. 

    As most are aware, the NFL Draft is an opportunity for teams all around the league to improve their rosters in order to give them the best possible opportunity for the upcoming season.

    In fact, the event is so monumental that scouting squads dedicate the entire year to researching players, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and determining whether or not they'd be a good fit for their team. 

    At the same time, draft experts and fans all around the league analyze the draft pool and plot various scenarios as to where certain players will be selected, thus forming a mock draft. 

    To honor the festivities, I've decided to give a crack at it as well. 

    Be prepared for a few surprises along with some bold moves. We could be in for a really intense NFL Draft come April.

    So here it is; my 2011 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 with an in-depth analysis for all 32 first-round selections.

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1. Carolina Panthers: Auburn DT Nick Fairley

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    In my opinion Andrew Luck made a foolish decision, and I won't say much more on the issue other than I'm certain that the Carolina Panthers organization is very disappointed. 

    The Carolina Panthers are in complete disarray and have several voids to fill.

    However, based on recent history it's been proven that the most effective method of kick-starting a franchise is by bringing in a quarterback for the future. 

    Sure, they took Jimmy Clausen in the 2nd round last year, but a man with only one touchdown and a 58.4 passer rating isn't exactly promising.

    However, with no quarterback worthy of the top spot they should just go on the next best available prospect.

    That is why I have them taking defensive lineman Nick Fairley, who was simply unblockable in the BCS National Championship Game. 

    He's a dominant force and is jumping up draft boards because of it. 

    And if you don't believe me, just ask Alabama running back Mark Ingram who was limited to just 36 yards on the ground when the two faced off.

    Nick Fairley (Jr.) Stats: 83 Tackles, 12 Sacks, 1 Interception

    Other Possibilities: Georgia WR A.J. GreenClemson DE Da'Quan Bowers

    Pick Changed; Previously Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers

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2. Denver Broncos: Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers

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    With a new regime installed in the Denver Broncos organization, virtually anything could happen with this selection.

    If I were in charge though my focus would be, defense, defense, and more defense.

    Allowing 28.9 points (NFL-worst) and 377.2 yards per game is simply unacceptable.

    That is why I believe they should take Da'Quan Bowers, who's registered 16 sacks for the Clemson Tigers this season.  

    That would certainly bolster a pass rush that's managed a league-low 23 sacks this season.

    Moreover, head coach John Fox's first ever selection was Julius Peppers with coincidentally the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. Peppers and Bowers are fairly comparable in skill set. 

    Da'Quan Bowers (Jr.) Stats: 144 Tackles, 20 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Interception

    Other Possibilities: LSU CB Patrick Peterson, Alabama DT Marcell Dareus

    Pick Changed; Previously Auburn DT Nick Fairley

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3. Buffalo Bills: North Carolina DE/OLB Robert Quinn

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    The Buffalo Bills are in a tough position because none of the top players available match their needs. That is why I feel this could be a popular trading spot for teams trying to acquire A.J. Green or Patrick Peterson. 

    However, since I'm not including trades in this mock I'll go ahead and employ a strategy that would fill a huge void.

    Generating an effective pass rush has proven to be an integral key to success, and the Bills ranked 27th in the NFL with only 27 sacks this season.

    That is why I have them drafting Robert Quinn, who's a hybrid pass rusher who will immediately improve their unit at linebacker

    Robert Quinn (Jr.***) Stats: 86 Tackles, 13 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles 

    Other Possibilities: LSU CB Patrick Peterson, Auburn QB Cam Newton

    ***Note Quinn was suspended for his entire junior year, so he's only played two years at the collegiate level.

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4. Cincinnati Bengals: Alabama DT Marcell Dareus

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    The Cincinnati Bengals have been a huge disappointment this season, especially considering that they won the AFC North last year.

    However, their inconsistent offense and weak front four have caught up with them, and they don't seem to be improving anytime soon unless they upgrade.

    There are a number of directions they can go and I personally feel they should replace Carson Palmer with a fresh face.

    However, since head coach Marvin Lewis is sticking around with his job security hanging by a thread, its unlikely that they will want to take on a young signal-caller.

    Instead, they'll have to target one of their other needs, primarily on the defensive side of the ball

    That is why I have them selecting defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who will be a force in the middle of their unit. 

    Marcell Dareus Stats: 63 Tackles, 10 Sacks

    Other Possibilities: Auburn QB Cam Newton, Georgia WR A.J. Green

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5. Arizona Cardinals: Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert

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    Apparently the offseason losses hurt this team much more than people thought they would.

    Well, I guess we shouldn't have expected anyone to fill the shoes of future Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner. 

    Not Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, Max Hall or John Skelton—and, yeah, you get the picture. The Cardinals have been battling a terrible quarterback situation, and they must fix it immediately. 

    That is why I have them taking Baine Gabbert, who has great physical tools and with the absence of Luck is beginning to establish himself as the top quarterback in the draft class.

    Blaine Gabbert (Jr.) Stats: 6,822 Yards, 40 Touchdowns, 18 Interceptions

    Other Possibilities: Auburn QB Cam Newton, LSU CB Patrick Peterson

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6. Cleveland Browns: Georgia WR A.J. Green

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    The Cleveland Browns have had a relatively good year. The addition of quarterback Colt McCoy and running back Peyton Hillis will surely play an integral role moving forward.

    Of course, to truly bring out their potential, I believe they desperately need to add a playmaker for their young, emerging quarterback.

    That is why I have them drafting A.J. Green, who's arguably the best wide receiver to come out in the draft since Calvin Johnson.

    With the teams drafting ahead of them having more pressing needs, there is a possibility that Green slips down to them here. If so, there's no way I see them passing him up. 

    A.J. Green (Jr.) Stats: 158  Receptions, 2,452 Yards, and 23 Touchdowns

    Other Possibilities: LSU CB Patrick Peterson, Texas A&M OLB Von Miller

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7. San Francisco 49ers: LSU CB Patrick Peterson

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    The San Francisco 49ers face an interesting scenario here since they could go in a number of directions.

    Now that they've started a new regime by hiring Jim Harbaugh as head coach, they may go ahead and pick up a new franchise quarterback because neither Alex or Troy Smith seem to be the solution.

    However, despite their needs to bring in a new signal-caller, I don't think they can reject an opportunity to draft one of the premier talents.

    That is why I have them taking Patrick Peterson, who's established himself as a shutdown corner, one of the best to enter the draft in quite a while.

    Patrick Peterson (Jr.) 129 Tackles, 7 Interceptions, 1 Forced Fumble

    Other Possibilities: Auburn QB Cam Newton, Texas A&M OLB Von Miller

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8. Tennessee Titans: Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara

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    Since the Vince Young era is officially over, the Tennessee Titans may very well decide to draft a new quarterback. However, I feel that the organization is fed up with dealing with young quarterbacks.

    I feel that they're more inclined to acquire a veteran, either through a trade or free agency. 

    Instead, they will go ahead and fix their pass defense, which ranked 29th in the league allowing 252 yards per game. 

    That's why I have them taking Prince Amukamara, who has the potential to be a shutdown corner in the NFL.

    Prince Amukamara (Sr.) Stats: 154 Tackles, 5 Interceptions, 3 Forced Fumbles

    Other Possibilities: Auburn QB Cam Newton, Arkansas QB Ryan Mallet

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9. Dallas Cowboys: Texas A&M OLB Von Miller

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    The Dallas Cowboys will miss out on the top two cornerback prospects whom they would have taken in a hearbeat.

    Instead, they'll have to find another way to improve their ability to defend the pass as they allowed a 64.4 completion percentage.

    In my opinion, the best way of improving their pass defense is by bolstering their pass rush.

    They could certainly use an upgrade opposite DeMarcus Ware because Anthony Spencer, who manned the position last year, registered just five sacks. 

    That is why I have them taking Von Miller, who has really demonstrated that he can be serviceable at both getting after the quarterback and in coverage.

    I could also see the Cowboys trading down in order to package more picks. 

    Von Miller (Sr.) Stats: 178 Tackles, 33 Sacks, 1 Interception

    Other Possibilities: Purdue OLB Ryan Kerrigan, UCLA OLB Akeem Ayers

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10. Washington Redskins: Missouri OLB Aldon Smith

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    The Washington Redskins lackluster defense is in search of a much-needed boost as they surrendered the second-most total yards in the NFL this season.

    Sure, the Washington Redskins have issues at quarterback after Donovan McNabb was benched, but is that overshadowing their conflict with Albert Haynesworth?

    That, to me, is the much more concerning problem and it must be addressed immediately. 

    However, since there are no defensive tackles worth taking I feel they will go ahead and take the best defensive player available.

    That is why I have them taking Aldon Smith, who's a raw pass rusher. , who's been virtually unstoppable at times.

    Ryan Kerrigan (Sr.) Stats: 108 Tackles, 17 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble

    Other Possibilities: Auburn QB Cam Newton, Alabama WR Julio Jones

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11. Houston Texans: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn

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    The Houston Texans are in complete disarray on defense, and I personally don't think its fair to their prolific offense.

    Wade Phillips has been hired as the defensive coordinator and I'm sure he'll want to build from the trenches. Therefore, I have them improving a defensive line that struggled all season long. 

    That is why I have them taking Adrian Clayborn, whose high motor should translate into tremendous production at the pro level. 

    Adrian Clayborn (Sr.) Stats: 184 Tackles, 19 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble

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12. Minnesota Vikings: Auburn QB Cam Newton

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    The Minnesota Vikings have the potential to bounce back from this season and become a contender once again. 

    In order to do so, they will have to part ways with Brett Favre, regardless if he actually retires or not, and draft a new quarterback.

    That is why I have them taking Cam Newton, who has the tools and leadership skills to help catapult this team back to dominance. 

    They could go with Ryan Mallet, but at the moment I think Newton has established himself as the superior 

    Cam Newton (Jr.) Stats: 2,643 Yards, 28 Touchdowns, 6 Interceptions (only threw 14 pass attempts in Fr. and So. year)

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13. Detroit Lions: UCLA OLB Akeem Ayers

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    The Detroit Lions ended the season on a high note, riding a four-game winning streak. At the same time, they put themselves in a position where they wouldn't be drafting in the top five. Nevertheless, they'll have to make do. 

    Their biggest problem lies in their secondary, but as we all know, the Lions don't draft for need.

    That is why I have them taking Akeem Ayers ,who possesses all-around talent at the outside linebacker position.

    Akeem Ayers (Jr.) Stats: 215 Tackles, 15 Sacks, 6 Interceptions

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14. St. Louis Rams: Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon

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    Frankly, the St. Louis Rams would have beat the Seattle Seahawks and been in the playoffs had it not been for their lack of a quality receiving corps. The injury bug bit them hard last season and they simply couldn't overcome.

    That being said, adding a top-flight target for Sam Bradford will be a priority this offseason.

    I think its really a toss-up between Julio Jones and Justin Blackmon. I give Blackmon the slight edge because he doesn't come with the inconsistency and history of injury which were the Rams' issues in the first place. 

    Justin Blackmon (So.) Stats: 131 Receptions, 2,042 Yards, 22 Touchdowns

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15. Miami Dolphins: Arkansas QB Ryan Mallet

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    Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has stated that he wants a more "pass-oriented" offense. If that is, in fact, true, then I think it's a telling sign that Chad Henne could be on his way out.

    Henne finished the season throwing 15 touchdowns and 19 interceptions while posting a poor 75.4 passer rating.

    That is why I have them taking Ryan Mallet, who's gradually improved his accuracy from 43.3 percent in his freshman campaign to 66.5 percent this season, and finally seems ready to take on the responsibilities of being an NFL quarterback.

    Ryan Mallet (Jr.) Stats: 8,111 Yards, 67 Touchdowns, 23 Interceptions

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16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Florida CB Janoris Jenkins

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    Do you remember the Jacksonville Jaguars 1st round pick last year? Tyson Alualu. Sure, he finished with a decent 38 tackles and 3.5 sacks but it was undoubtedly a huge reach.

    While I'm not sure whether they'll utilize the same 'strategy' this time as well, I think its going to be a huge mystery up until draft day.

    Of course, they do have a need on defense which may give a bit of a clue.

    That is why I have them taking Janoris Jenkins who's had a rough season yet clearly possesses talent.

    Janoris Jenkins (Jr.) Stats: 106 Tackles, 8 Interceptions, 2 Forced Fumbles

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17. New England Patriots: Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt

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    The New England Patriots acquired this pick as part of the trade that sent defensive lineman Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders. While it's not a Top 10 like they would have hoped, it still gives them tremendous flexibility to make some moves in the draft.

    However, if they stay put, then I have them working towards rebuilding their defense.

    The Patriots, despite a consistently strong offense, haven't been able to win a Super Bowl since 2004 primarily because I don't think their defense is on par.

    This year, they were 25th in the NFL in terms of total yards allowed. That, to me, is unacceptable.

    That is why I have them taking J.J. Watt who will provide stability along their defensive front. 

    Moreover, he brings that versatility that the Patriots organization simply adore.

    J.J. Watt (Jr.) Stats: 106 Tackles, 11 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbled

    Note: Watt redshirted his freshmen season, so he's only played two years at the collegiate level. 

    Pick Changed; Previously Ohio State DE Cameron Hayward

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18. San Diego Chargers: Colorado OT Nate Solder

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    Despite their record, the San Diego Chargers were amongst the best in the league in virtually every statistical category. Except, they struggled in the pass blocking department as their offensive line allowed 38 sacks.

    Even though they still led the 2nd best passing game in the NFL, that's undoubtedly an area where they can improve.

    That is why I have them taking Nate Solder who's very physically talented which really helps him separate from the pack. 

    Note that since he's been skyrocketing up draft boards (currently 11th on ESPN), I wouldn't be surprised to see him long gone by now.

    As we've seen on previous occasions, due to the high demand, scarcity of true talent, and importance of the position, offensive tackles are usually one of the first to be swooped up. 

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19. New York Giants: Cal DT Cameron Jordan

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    The New York Giants truly have no holes to fill, so they're best off just going with the best available player. 

    In their Super Bowl run a couple years ago, they learned that getting after the quarterback can do wonders for a team and that one can never have too many pass rushers.

    That is why I have them taking Cameron Jordan who will provide additional depth to their defensive line. 

    Cameron Jordan (Sr.) Stats: 161 Tackles, 17 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble

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20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should address no other than their pathetic pass rush that amassed just 26 sacks this season which is the 2nd fewest in the NFL. 

    That is why I have them taking Ryan Kerrigan who's been sheerly unstoppable at times. 

    Considering that Kerrigan led the nation with 26 tackles for a loss, you would think that he'd be drafted higher. However, I question what system he will fit in and that may affect his stock.  

    Ryan Kerrigan (Sr.) Stats: 210 Tackles, 33 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles

    Pick Changed; Previously Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt

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21. Kansas City Chiefs: Wisconsin T/G Gabe Carimi

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    The Chiefs don't necessarily need help at offensive line but it doesn't hurt and it would surely be helpful for quarterback Matt Cassel. 

    That is why I have them taking Carimi who will be able to fit in at any position along the line, possibly being the eventual successor to 5-time Pro Bowler Brian Waters.

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22. Indianapolis Colts: Boston College OT Anthony Castanzo

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    The offensive line may only have surrendered 16 sacks last season, but that's a bit misleading because the primary reason behind it is the sharp decision making and quick release from quarterback Peyton Manning.

    So, that's not to say they can't use an upgrade in the unit. 

    Moreover, with Charlie Johnson set to become a free agency this offseason he may be let go and they would thus need a replacement. 

    That is why I have them taking Anthony Castanzo who has the consistency that will match their team philosophy nicely. 

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23. Philadelphia Eagles: Florida G/C Mike Pouncey

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    Typically, the run on offensive lineman goes earlier in the draft. However, since there's a lack of elite talent it's a bit delayed. Nevertheless, teams will be jumping on the opportunity to add players at arguably the second most important position in the NFL.

    The Philadelphia Eagles most glaring weakness, unfortunately, lies along the offensive line. 

    They allowed a whopping 49 sacks during the regular season and if it wasn't for the athleticism of Michael Vick then they may have reached over 65. 

    That said, there's honestly no way I can see this pick being anything other than the best offensive lineman on the board.

    That is why I have them taking Mike Pouncey who demonstrates promise to be great at the pro game. 

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24. New Orleans Saints: Oregon State DT Stephen Paea

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    The New Orleans Saints will most likely look to add to their defense in order to make it on part with their offense.

    That is why I have them taking Stephen Paea who will form a formidable duo alongside former 1st round pick Sedrick Ellis

    Don't be surprised if they go for Mark Ingram here, though.

    Stephen Paea (Sr.): 127 Tackles, 13 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles

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25. Seattle Seahawks: Alabama WR Julio Jones

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    After Matt Hasselbeck finished the season strong, got them into the playoffs, and led them to an upset victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints I have to believe that they'll stick with him a while longer.

    Therefore, it's best that they target a different need. We've seen the Seahawks actively pursue top-tier wideouts in the past, and this is their opportunity to grab one here.

    That is why I have them taking Julio Jones who, at times, can be fllat-out dominant. 

    The only reason a big-time talent like Jones falls this far is due to his inconsistency and injury issues. Look at history, and that factor has been like poison for a receiver's draft stock. 

    Julio Jones (Jr.) Stats: 179 Receptions for 2,653 Yards and 15 Touchdowns

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26. Baltimore Ravens: Miami CB Brandon Harris

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    The Baltimore Ravens were exposed by big plays in their devastating playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    In fact, during the regular season they allowed 52 plays of 20+ yards which is the 10th most in the league. While their front seven is strong, their back end has been the Achilees Heel.

    That is why I have them taking Brandon Harris who is one of those rare cornerbacks who isn't shy of contact which is ideal for the Ravens aggressive and physical defensive approach. 

    Brandon Harris (Jr.); 129 Tackles, 4 Interceptions, 3 Forced Fumbles

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27. Atlanta Falcons: UCLA FS Rahim Moore

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    The Atlanta Falcons were humiliated at home in the Divisional Round playoff game because of their porous pass defense as Aaron Rodgers shredded them for one of the best outings for a quarterback in postseason history.

    Through the year, as well, they ranked 22nd defending the pass. 

    That is why I have them taking Rahim Moore who will can become an enforcer down the middle of the field. 

    He's also been well documented as a ballhawk, and someone who possesses remarkable instincts.

    Rahim Moore (Jr.) Stats: 180 Tackles, 14 Interceptions

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28. New England Patriots: USC OT Tyron Smith

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    Tyron Smith is leaping up the draft boards due to his remarkable athleticism and frankly, I wouldn't be shocked to see him be one of the top offensive tackle off the board come April.

    At least for now, if he falls to them then the New England Patriots should be ecstatic. 

    They were beat by the New York Jets primarily due to the five sacks that they registered on Brady. Throughout the game, the offensive line simply couldn't hold up and will need to address that concern.

    Recall, it was the offensive line that played such a detrimental role to their loss in Super Bowl XLIV.  

    That is why I have them taking Smith who can play tackle on either side and has the potential to be phenomenal. 

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Picks 29-32

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    The order of picks 25-32 are yet to be determined because all of these teams are still participating in the 2011 NFL Playoffs.

    29. Green Bay Packers: Alabama RB Mark Ingram

    30. New York Jets: Miami DE Allen Bailey

    31. Chicago Bears: Maryland WR Torey Smith

    32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Texas CB Aaron Williams

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