2011 NFL Draft: Where the Best From The SEC Will End Up
The SEC has won the last five BCS Championships and is by all accounts the most dominant conference in college football. In three months, the NFL Draft will take place where 11 SEC players are expected to be taken in the first round. Here, we take a look at the first five players from the SEC that will hear their name called by Roger Goodell on April 28, 2011.
No. 1: Carolina Panthers, Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn)
The Carolina Panthers, who won at least seven games for eight straight seasons, only managed two wins in 2010, two less than any other team. With that in mind, what would be better than drafting a player from an undefeated Auburn championship team? Carolina has several needs, but perhaps none more than at the defensive tackle position, and Nick Fairley is absolutely the best DT available. At 6'5", 298 pounds, Nick Fairley isn't particularly big for a defensive tackle, but he is extremely athletic for the position. Fairley would probably be better suited for the 4-3 defense at this early stage of his career, but should bulk up in order to be more versatile and have the potential to be a 3-4 end.
No. 3: Buffalo Bills, Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU)
Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix recently told the media that he will likely pick the best player on the board, no matter what the position. With Nick Fairley and Da’Quan Bowers likely to be chosen one and two, Patrick Peterson should be the best player available for the Bills. Buffalo Cornerback Terrence McGhee has had trouble staying healthy, so picking Peterson seems like the logical choice.
Patrick Peterson has great size for a CB, while possessing excellent speed. He is best when utilized in single man coverage. Also of note, Peterson is related to Steelers CB Bryant McFadden and Redskins WR Santana Moss.
No. 4: Cincinnati Bengals, A.J. Green (WR, Georgia)
Perhaps the two most famous Wide Receivers in the NFL currently play for the Bengals, but that does not in any way make Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens the two most effective. Carson Palmer reportedly wants out of Cincinatti, stating the clown-like atmosphere as one of the key reasons. University of Georgia Wide Receiver A.J. Green is the most talented receiver on the board, possessing elite speed as well as great form for catching the football. If Cincinatti does in fact take Green, Palmer may decide to remain a Bengal after all.
No. 5: Cleveland Browns, Marcell Dareus (DT, Alabama)
Cleveland could really use a WR, but with A.J. Green likely chosen in the top 4, the Browns will probably take Defensive Tackle Marcell Dareus out of Alabama. Cleveland DT Shaun Rogers, 32, is owed $5.5 million in 2011, so the addition of a young DT seems like a natural move.
At 6'4", 302 pounds, Dareus is a very prototypical size for a DT. He has excellent speed for his size and could certainly play DE in many 3-4 schemes. Besides being a great athlete, Dareus is also a hard worker and was a very good teammate at Alabama.
No. 14: St. Louis Rams, Julio Jones (WR, Alabama)
Rookie QB Sam Bradford impressed critics in his first year, nearly leading St. Louis to an NFC West title after the Rams had won just six games in the three previous years combined. The most impressive thing about it was that Sam Bradford was throwing to a bunch of no-name guys after injuries to WR Mark Clayton and Laurent Robinson, as well as Tight Ends Billy Bajema, Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells. Similar to A.J. Green, Julio Jones is a big play receiver, possessing a quick first step along with good size at 6’4”, 211 pounds. The Rams are a virtual lock to take Jones, especially considering that he is the only elite receiver in the draft after Green.