2011 NFL Mock Draft: Can Adrian Clayborn Climb Into the Top 10?
Sadly, the NFL season is coming to a close. However, that means the NFL Draft is just a few short months away.
Teams can start addressing needs and star building for next year. After all, draft night is the first step towards winning a Super Bowl.
Despite the fact there are still a few months until draft night, there are plenty of questions to answer before we get to Radio City Music Hall.
Adrian Clayborn is one of the best players coming out of the Big Ten in this draft, but can he climb into the top-10? Will Jake Locker still be a high pick? Will the last two Heisman winners both be first rounders?
Read on to find out and be sure to let us know what you think.
While I still think Da'Quan Bowers is the best player in this draft, I think Nick Fairley's performance in the BCS National Championship game cannot be understated. In a word, he was dominant.
Fairley is an extremely disruptive force from the defensive tackle position. He does have a bit of a mean streak which can backfire if he does something stupid.
The Panthers have a ton of needs with quarterback the most glaring, however with Andrew Luck out of the draft I think Fairley ends up being the pick.
With John Fox coming to Denver to be the head coach, the Broncos are likely headed back to a 4-3 defense instead of the 3-4 that they had been running the past few years.
However, that means the Broncos need to address the scheme change in the draft.
Da'Quan Bowers would be the perfect fit for a 4-3 defensive end. He is an explosive pass rusher and he could end up being the best player in the draft when all is said and done.
This pick seems like a slam dunk to me, and if Bowers doesn't go first I would be shocked if he isn't the pick here. If Bowers does get picked first I could see the Broncos grabbing Patrick Peterson.
The Bills are in need of help on many different levels, but because they changed schemes from a 4-3 to a 3-4 last offseason, they still need pieces to continue that transition.
Marcell Dareus is a perfect 3-4 defensive end. He has size to match up with an interior lineman, but the speed to rush the passer. If Dareus goes to a team that runs a 4-3 he could be a great pass rushing defensive tackle.
Many think the Bills need a quarterback here, but I think Ryan Fitzpatrick is a legit NFL quarterback. If they didn't take Dareus here I could see Patrick Peterson also being the pick.
A.J. Green is probably the best offensive playmaker in the draft this year. He is an unbelievably athletic wide receiver that can step in and immediately demand double teams.
The Bengals could be losing both Chad Ochocinco (soon to be Chad Johnson again) and Terrell Owens this offseason and that might be a good thing, especially if they nab Green with their first pick.
The Bengals seem to be a very inconsistent team year to year, but they don't have a ton of glaring needs. They could target a quarterback if Carson Palmer is really adamant about a trade.
No player has had a more meteoric rise in this draft than Blaine Gabbert. He seemingly went from a second rounder to suddenly challenging for the top sport in the draft.
Gabbert is the best pro-style quarterback in this draft and he could step in and help immediately in the right situation.
Since Kurt Warner retired, the Cardinals have been without a franchise quarterback that can lead the team. They have plenty of offensive weapons but they need a quarterback in order to win.
Patrick Peterson is the most explosive defensive skill player in the draft. He has safety size at 6-foot-1 and 222 pounds, and elite cornerback speed.
Not only can Peterson cover any receiver, he is also a fantastic kick returner.
Peterson would give the Browns a great defensive playmaker and another talented player.
I wouldn't be surprised if Peterson was off the board here, and if he is I could see the Browns targeting a defensive lineman. The Browns have a few positions of need and Peterson would help fill one of those positions.
Robert Quinn was part of the North Carolina contingent of players that was suspended for the season for improper benefits.
Quinn could play a 3-4 outside linebacker under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and the 49ers. Quinn also will be fresh and really ready to play after his suspension.
While I think Jim Harbaugh has a strong desire to win, I think he really wants Andrew Luck next year so I don't think the 49ers target a quarterback this year.
The Vince Young experiment is over in Tennessee and Kerry Collins is not the answer to replace him. The Titans need to target a quarterback if they have any hopes of getting back into the playoff hunt next year.
Cam Newton seems to be a perfect fit.
Newton has the arm that Young never did and he is just as mobile. He could be the next evolutionary step for quarterbacks and he could be exactly what the Titans thought they were getting with Young.
The Titans could also target a wide receiver here, but Julio Jones would be a reach.
While Prince Amukamara might not have the impressive measurables of Patrick Peterson, he is probably a better cover man than the LSU corner. Amukamara will be an immediate addition to any team that adds him.
The Cowboys have to be happy with their position following a disappointing 2010 campaign. They have a new coach, a high draft pick, and still a ton of skill on the roster. I expect big things from them next year.
Amukamara would come in and start from day one for the Cowboys and he would help them in the secondary greatly.
Ryan Mallett has dropped a little bit after a tough Sugar Bowl loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, I still think Mallett is going to make some team very happy at the next level.
The Redskins need a quarterback after the failed Donovan McNabb experiment and while they would love to have Cam Newton come in, if he is off the board I think they target Mallett.
If the Redskins don't draft a quarterback they would likely target a wide receiver or maybe a running back.
Von Miller is one of the best pass rushers in college football coming into the draft and he does it from a pass rushing outside linebacker position.
Ideally he would be drafted by a 3-4 team where he could just rush the quarterback, but he has the smarts and skills to become a balanced outside backer.
Houston needs to figure out how to stop people on the defensive side of the ball and Miller would help add a playmaker on the defense.
The Texans could also target a defensive tackle or a defensive back to help the defense.
If Jake Locker had come out of college last year he would have been a top-5 pick and he probably would have been considered a bust.
Many people view Locker as someone who made a mistake coming back to school, however I think he made the right choice.
Locker is still a great quarterback, he just has tried to do too much with not a ton of talent at UW.
Going to Minnesota, Locker could come in and have enough weapons around him that he wouldn't be forced to win games on his own.
Jimmy Smith is the best cornerback that no one is talking about. He is a legit cover corner with a ton of ball skills. He will be a steal in the draft if he goes any lower than this.
The Lions have done a great job in the draft the last few years but they need to start putting it all together if they hope to start contending in a great NFC North.
Smith would fill a position of great need for the Lions. They could also target a linebacker like Akeem Ayers, but I think Smith is the guy they go with.
Julio Jones is a fantastic receiver that can help most teams today. He has an NFL body and he is a very polished route runner. He doesn't have the elite speed but he is very athletic.
The Rams changed the course of their franchise when they picked Sam Bradford last year, now they need to give Bradford some weapons to help take them to the playoffs.
Jones and Bradford could be a great combination in St. Louis for the next decade.
If the Rams don't take a receiver I could see them taking an offensive lineman or maybe someone to help the secondary.
Worst-case scenario, with Mark Ingram you are getting a solid complimentary running back along the lines of Johnathan Stewart.
Best-case scenario you are getting Emmitt Smith 2.0.
Ingram was the Heisman winner as a sophomore and he has the chance to break any run for a touchdown. Which ever Ingram ends up being, he will help any team he goes to.
The Dolphins need to get younger at running back and Ingram would be a great addition in Miami. The could also take a quarterback if someone drops to them.
So Adrian Clayborn doesn't jump to the top-10, but he is still a great pick here for the Jaguars. He could end up putting on some more weight and moving inside to defensive tackle, but I think he is good enough to stick at end.
The Jaguars need help on defense and Clayborn is one of the best available guys for them at this spot.
If the Jags didn't take a defensive player they would likely need to target a quarterback or an offensive lineman.
The Patriots are in need of someone who can get to the quarterback and take pressure off their young secondary. Ryan Kerrigan isn't a perfect 3-4 guy but he has too much skill to dismiss here.
Kerrigan is one of the more underrated defensive ends in the draft and he will make an impact somewhere.
The Patriots could also target an outside linebacker or a corner if they look at the defense.
Akeem Ayers is one of the most versatile defensive playmakers in the draft this year. He has the size to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 and the speed and motor to compare to Clay Matthews.
Ayers could also put his hand on the ground and play defensive end in some schemes.
Ayers does have a tendency to play poorly when the team goes in the tank, but when things are going well, he can be the most dominant player imaginable.
Just re-watch the game between UCLA and Texas. Ayers was the best player on the field during that game.
The Chargers need depth at key positions that would help with special teams. Ayers could help provide that depth.
After seeing the impact that Mike Pouncey's brother Maurkice has had on the Pittsburgh Steelers it is easy to see Mike getting overrated a little bit. I don't think he is a bad player by any means, in fact I think he is the best interior offensive lineman in the draft, but I think this is a little high for him.
Pouncey will be a first rounder whether he is drafted here or later by the Eagles or ever the Steelers.
The Giants could use a linebacker but I think they target the offensive line.
I think the Rose Bowl performance by the Badgers hurts J.J. Watt's draft stock. While I think he is a good pass rushing defensive end that possesses good size, I am not sure he is going to have the impact that many expect from him.
The Buccaneers made a leap this year but they still have a ways to go in a talented NFC South. Watt could help them have one of the best young defensive fronts in football.
If Tampa Bay doesn't take Watt they could also target linebacker or start looking for the heir apparent for Ronde Barber.
Aldon Smith is another fast riser in the draft stock race. He could play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme but he would need to learn how to drop back in pass coverage.
The Chiefs are an up and coming team and anyone they add would help bring more talent to keep them on top. Smith might not make a huge impact, but he could be a surprising player.
The Chiefs could also target an offensive lineman.
The Colts are in desperate need of some help on the offensive line. If they were to add an offensive lineman it could help the running game that has struggled this season.
Solder is one of the best offensive tackles in the draft. He has great size and a perfect build to be a great offensive lineman in the NFL.
If the Colts don't target an offensive lineman, they are doomed to mediocrity.
The Philadelphia Eagles started to struggle down the stretch. Michael Vick had some difficulty when he faces pressure.
Adding Anthony Castonzo would help shore up some of the offensive line problems.
Castonzo is one of the best offensive line prospects in the draft this year.
If the Eagles don't target Castonzo, they could look at getting younger in the secondary or even adding depth to the front seven.
At times this season Cameron Jordan has been unblockable. He could put on some weight and shift to the inside, but he is the perfect fit outside in a 3-4 scheme.
The Saints don't run a 3-4 but Jordan could help a shaky defensive front.
If the Saints don't target the defensive front they could also try to add a running back or even someone in the secondary.
Stephen Paea drops a little on the draft board because of a knee injury but if he comes back healthy, he could be the steal of the draft.
Paea was the Pac-10 defensive player of the year this season.
He is a rare talent that can rush the passer from the inside. He could end up as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme but he is best suited to stay inside.
The Seahawks, despite making the playoffs, have quite a few holes to fill. With no quarterback available here I think they look to the defensive side of the ball.
Brandon Harris might not be ready for the immediate impact that some of the other cornerbacks in this draft but he could end up developing into a great cover corner.
Harris is not on the level of other former University of Miami guys but he still warrants a first round pick.
The Ravens have a glaring need to address the secondary and Harris appears to be their best option at this pick. They could also look at someone like Rahim Moore who could be the heir apparent for Ed Reed.
Gabe Carimi won the Outland Trophy as the best offensive lineman in college football this year. He has unbelievable size and footwork.
He could be an ideal Pro Bowl level tackle in the NFL.
The Falcons showed a need to better protect Matt Ryan when they played the Packers in the playoffs. Carimi would start from day one and would help greatly in pass protection.
If the Falcons don't target the offensive line, I think they could go after a front seven player.
Mikel Leshoure had a great year for the Fighting Illini and he has earned the right for some first round consideration. He compares well to other former Illinois runningback Rashard Mendenhall.
Leshoure would be a great addition to the Patriots who have two first round picks. The Pats need help on offense and they need someone who can pick up short yardage. Leshoure would be great as a short yardage back.
If the Patriots don't target short yardage they could look to add a receiver who could stretch the field like Johnathan Baldwin from Pitt.
Tyron Smith is a very athletic right tackle that could end up progressing into a Pro Bowler. He doesn't have a ton weight but he has good strength and uses his body well.
The Bears are at their best when Jay Cutler has time to throw. Adding Smith would help give them some offensive line relief.
If the Bears didn't target an offensive lineman, they could add another receiver or some defensive line depth.
Allen Bailey is a great defensive tackle for a 4-3 scheme but he could also play outside in a 3-4 scheme. He can stop the run and is explosive enough to chase mobile quarterbacks on the outside.
Rex Ryan likes versatile defenders, and Bailey is that type of player.
The Jets could also target receivers to supplement the possible free agent departures of Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. They could also target a corner to replace Antonio Cromartie who is also a free agent.
The Steelers need an offensive lineman more than anything else.
They have had moments where the offensive line has really killed their team and despite having a line decimated by injuries they are in the Super Bowl.
Derek Sherrod might be a bit of a stretch here but that just goes to show how much the Steelers need an offensive lineman.
If the Steelers don't target the offensive line, their GM deserves to be fired.
Rahim Moore was unable to match his impressive 2009 numbers, however that has more to do with the fact that teams weren't targeting UCLA deep than Moore's skills.
Moore is a prototypical ball-hawking free safety and he would help give Green Bay depth at safety. He might not help much in run support, but the Packers don't need that as much as they could use help against the pass.
If the Packers don't go after secondary help they could also look at an offensive lineman or runningback.