2011 NFL Mock Draft: How Many Underclassmen Go in the First Round?

Vincent MoraContributor IJanuary 25, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: How Many Underclassmen Go in the First Round?

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    These NFL prospects have made the decision to take their talents to the next level, but not all of them will get chosen in the First Round. 

    For some of these guys, the decision was easy, some might regret turning pro. Other underclassmen might regret not going now, (cough..Andrew Luck) oh and Jake Locker.

    This is not a complete mock draft, we will be analyzing underclassmen that have the opportunity to go in the first round depending on the needs of each NFL team.

Carolina Panthers: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

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    Can you say beast? The first pick is a toss up between Fairley and AJ Green, but the way the Fairley dominated in the BCS National Championship says a lot and can go a long way into determining the first pick. 

    Fairley has shown us a lot, from bull rushing to the quarterback, to stuffing runners in the backfield. His burst off the line is also very impressive.

    I give the edge to Fairley in being chosen first.

Denver Broncos: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

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    To say the Denver Broncos need help with their pass rush is an understatement. They only got 23 sacks in 2010, and even though they have needs in a lot of other areas, Bowers seems to fit their needs the best.

    Bowers seems to be getting better with age and is also blessed with a lot of natural talent. His burst off the line is also very quick; he seems to have a good balance of size, strength and speed.

    The Broncos will address a colossal need with this pick.

Buffalo Bills: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

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    The Bills have a need, and Peterson will fit this need very well. Their best corner, Terrence McGee, is 30 years old and injury-prone.

    Peterson is simply the best shutdown corner in college football. He has it all—speed, size and the physical tools as well. He can change directions very quickly and can swat a lot of balls down with his long arms.

    Fairley would have been a good choice as well, but he will not be there once we get to pick three. The Bills take the best player available, and that is Peterson.

Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

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    It looks like the end of the Ochocinco era in Cincinnati and the beginning of the A.J. Green era. The Bengals already have a good core of receivers beginning with Shipley and that tight end Gresham, but Green is a different type of talent.

    A.J. Green is a receiver quarterbacks would love to throw too because of his leaping ability; he will make his QB look good by catching a lot of balls that have no business being caught. He has great quickness and hands.

    He is listed at 6'4", 205, so he could bulk up a bit, but the Bengals can't mess this up, can they?

Arizona Cardinals: Robert Quinn, DE/OLD, North Carolina

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    A lot of people expect a quarterback pick here, but I do not. The Cardinals will sign a veteran QB (Whisenhunt has to save his job), making this pick a bit easier on them.

    Quinn is one of those hybrid players; he can be a good rushing linebacker in a 3-4 defense due to this incredible speed but also has to ability to play DE.

    Quinn of course did not play in 2010 due to his NCAA infractions which can hurt him in the draft, but it looks like he will get picked in this spot.

Cleveland Browns: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

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    This simply comes down to the best player left on the board. The Brownies can use another weapon on their defense and with a new defensive coordinator coming in, they will be shifting to a 4-3 defense.

    Dareus is an excellent run stuffer and is very quick off the snap. I also saw that, when double-teamed, he can break right through, but there is a weakness.

    He only started one full season at Bama. I still have to say the Browns take this pick.

Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Mizzou

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    The Titans are now going to have a huge hold at the QB spot, either they will try to get a free agent or address this need through the draft. I say they pick up Gabbert. 

    A lot of experts have him going to the 49ers, but I believe the 49ers address their needs in the corner position with the upperclassmen Amukamara from Nebraska.

    Gabbert has tremendous upside, but some question his work ethic. Some also say the gimmick offense has made him look better than he really is. Quarterbacks are extremely difficult to analyze, but I believe with Young out, Gabbert is in.

Houston Texans: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

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    To say the Texans are in need of defensive backs is an understatement. Brandon Harris offers them a lot in return. Yes, it might be a stretch for him to go in the first round, but this guy has a lot of talent.

    Harris needs to work on tackling, but his man-coverage skills are exceptional. His speed makes up for a lot. He also has excellent range. At this point in the draft, the Texans might choose an upperclassmen as their corner of choice, but I think Harris would be the best available.

    I would also suggest the Texans look for free agents; they have a lot of holes in that secondary.

Detroit Lions: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA

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    It seems odd to say, but the Lions are improving. They have an anchor in Suh in their defensive line, but that second level is a question mark at the moment. 

    Julian Peterson is gone, hence they will need a linebacker. Ayers offers them a lot because he will be able to play in a lot of spots on the field.

    Ayers can get off the ball extremely quick but sometimes has a hard time shedding blocks. He is definitely a project, but everything seems to headed in the right direction in Detroit.

St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

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    The Rams are also another one of those teams headed in the right direction, and by providing their quarterback with another weapon, they just might push them over the top.

    Jones is a bit of a stretch for the Rams because they are choosing 14th, but I believe he will be available for the Rams.

    Julio Jones is the complete package—size, speed, strength and a lot of talent. He has the ability to take one all the way at any given time with his after-the-catch skills. One weakness I have seen is he might drop a ball or two, but the Rams take Jones.

Miami Dolphins: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

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    The decision for Newton to come out this year pays off by going in the first round. Now, there are a lot more teams that might possibly take Newton, but I believe he falls to the Dolphins. Chad Henne is very inconsistent, and while I think he will be the starter, Newton will be there in case he falters.

    The Dolphins have shown great creativity with their offense and just might be able to incorporate Newton similar to what the Broncos did with Tebow this past year but don't take that as if Newton can't be a good quarterback. He definitely has the assets required to be a good quarterback in the league.

    His main asset is his ability to throw on the run, but he also has a lot of doubters. While people might agree he is talented, some people judge his character. I still believe Newton goes to the Dolphins.

San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

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    The Chargers are either going to choose Watt or go with the more experienced Hayward. I do not believe Hayward will be available so they will go with Watt. The Chargers need to bolster the defensive line and Watt will fit them perfectly. 

    Watt does have the experience of playing in the physical Big Ten and will be able to help right away. He is able to consistently get through the gaps and does a great job shedding blocks.

    With that said, he is not the fastest guy on the field but makes up for it with athletic ability. 

New York Giants: Tyron Smith, OT, USC

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    The Giants will be looking for ways to protect Eli Manning, and Tyron Smith offers them that opportunity with the 19th pick. Manning was constantly pressured all year long, so if they can bolster the line even a bit, maybe, they won't run out gas like in 2010.

    The only problem I see with Smith is his size. The Giants would need to bulk him up a bit, but other than that, this guy is a player.

Kansas City Chiefs: Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Georgia

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    The Chiefs surprised a lot of people with their fantastic season in 2010, and I can see them going in a a lot of different ways in the draft, but I say Justin Houston.

    Houston is one of those hybrid players you can put in a DE position as well as an OLB. He is a force in the trenches and has excellent mobility. His size makes him very unique, hence you can put in either position.

    The Chiefs would add a lot with this pick.

New England Patriots (28th Pick), Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

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    We see it year after year—the Patriots turning regular players into star players. The difference here is Ingram is an elite talent.

    The decorated running back has a Heisman to his name as well as a National Championship. Now, I know the Pats already have Woodhead and Green-Ellis, but Ingram would be a mistake to pass up on. 

    The only thing Ingram is lacking is the speed, but other than that, he is a sure thing.

Green Bay Packers: Corey Liuget, DE, Illinois

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    The Packers do not have a lot needs at the moment (check Super Bowl matchup), but they can use some help on the line. Their line is getting old and adding young, raw talent cannot hurt.

    Liuget is also a unique player because you can stick him at DT and DE. Some say he lacks the speed to play on the ends, but he has great explosiveness, and he can definitely wrap up a runner.

    The Packers take Liuget at pick 29.

New York Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

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    We all saw the Jets in the AFC Championship game and we also saw how the Steelers ran all over them. Adding Wilkerson would go a long way in addressing this issue. 

    Of course there are other options, but Wilkerson has the great run-stuffing ability, which is something the Jets desperately need for next season. This is not without some help from the coaches, Wilkerson is a young man that still needs a lot of coaching, but we can't deny his natural abilities. 

    The Jets take him at pick 30.

17 Underclassmen Taken

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    Now, things may change from here to April, but after looking at the needs of every team, these are the teams I chose as most likely to take an underclassmen. There is no denying the talents of any of these prospects, but we all know some will falter.