The Senior Bowl is finished, and now the Combine looms large for those who did not impress this week. It's never too early, to predict what the NFL Draft will look like. It's harder to predict, at this point without the workouts these players will go through, over the coming weeks. However, I'll try my best to rank who I think goes where for the upcoming season. I'll try to list out the, pros and cons of each athlete listed for round 1. That having been said, the Panthers are on the clock, and with the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, they select....
Did Jake Locker do enough to keep his draft stock high? Not likely...
(Continued from the last slide)...Nick Fairley, defensive tackle Auburn University. A lot of people didn't even know who Fairley was up until last season. Now he's likely to be taken first in the 2011 NFL Draft. Though he didn't participate in the Senior Bowl, it certainly isn't going to affect his draft status.
The Carolina Panthers were terrible on both sides of the ball last season. So they could take a quarterback with the first pick, but I don't see any reason why they would pass on arguably the best player the draft has to offer.
Fairley is a special talent. He combines huge size with incredible athleticism and speed, which will cause many opposing linemen, to have to double-team him, opening up rush lanes for his teammates. Even double-teamed Fairley will probably keep offensive line coaches, up late at night because of his incredible football ability.
When he does get into one on one battles, Fairley will be at his best. Opposing quarterbacks better be on the move when he penetrates behind the line of scrimage. Fairley will be able to use his bull rush and other moves to get to these quarterbacks and bring them down. He will also be a huge plug in the opposing running game.
The one weakness I've seen in Fairley's game is that he lets his temper get the better of him. The best thing opponents can do is try to get him so riled up that he makes mental errors, which they can try to capitalize on.
Another, weakness that could come with being the No. 1 pick is the money that he is going to be getting. However, I don't expect that to have an effect on him; Fairley has a strong work ethic that will translate to big things on the field.
Our first Senior Bowl participant goes at No. 2 in 2011. Many people do not have Kerrigan going this high, which surprises me because of what he brings to the table.
Kerrigan put together an incredible senior season for Purdue. He's an impressive, physical specimen at 6'4'', and 255 pounds. Beyond that, however, he has an incredible work ethic and intensity on the field. He had 70 tackles on the season, and 13 sacks.
He always seems to be in on every play, and when there's a big play to be made, he's usually the one that makes it. He can put his hand down in the dirt, or go from the stand-up position, making him a versatile asset for the Broncos.
His one glarring weakness is the fact that he's seems a little slow off the snap. Unlike many other players, Kerrigan lacks the initial burst off the line, which could hurt him during his time in the NFL.
Denver's new coach John Fox has an affinity ford defensive ends, and Kerrigan seems to fit his style of player.
The Bills are a franchise, in need of more help than just a defensive end. However, with the putrid defense that they ran out there last season, it's likely the front office will want to improve, and quickly.
Bowers makes sense in Buffalo; he had 15.5 sacks this season and 26 tackles for loss. He has a quick first step off the line, great strength, good pursuit instincts, and his physical hits on ball carriers can cause fumbles, which would give his team a major boost at any time.
The one problem with Bowers is he seems to get a little too high when he comes off the line. He was able to get away with that in college but if he does that in the NFL, he'll be getting manhandled all game. Luckily, that's a habit that's easy to correct, and I'm sure the Bills coaching staff will work hard to do so.
Carson Palmer wants out of Cincinnati. We'll see how much he wants out if the Bengals are smart enough to take Castanzo with the fourth pick in the draft. Castonzo was impressive in the Senior Bowl in 2011, so his draft stock may be on the rise. The Bengals have had problems protecting Carson Palmer
Castanzo is widely considered the best offesnive lineman in the 2011 NFL Draft. He's got good quickness off the snap, and is able to keep opposing defenders off his quarterback. He has good footwork, and is able to keep himself in position to fend off pass rushers.
However, Castanzo seems to lack a little lower body strength, and at times can get lazy off the snap. This leads to defenders being able to beat him around the edge and cause his QB to take a hit from time to time.
If GM Mike Brown wants to keep Palmer on his team, he has to show Carson that he's willing to protect him. So Castanzo is the pick.
The Cardinals pass rush was abysmal last season (is anyone noticing a pattern? It seems that these teams at the top of the draft need defensive help the most). They ranked near the bottom of the league in sacks, and need a lot of help in that area. Many experts are predicting them to take a quarterback with the fifth pick, but I find that unlikely.
Von Miller is going to be the best player on the board at this point in 2011. Which is why he'll be sporting a lighter shade of red in the 2011 NFL season. Miller has great speed off the edge, and can cause offensive lineman to get a little jumpy before the snap. He also is considered a strong presence in the clubhouse, which is a big factor for any coach.
One big factor that may deter the Cardinals from taking Miller are his struggles in pass coverage. He did improve on that during the 2010 season, but still it's a glaring weakness in his game.
However, I find it hard to believe the Cardinals will pass up on a chance to draft a true game-changer like Von Miller.
The Browns seem to like Colt McCoy a lot at the quarterback position, and are looking for him to take over starting duties in 2011. However, even though they have a solid running game with Peyton Hillis, they lack a strong passing attack. This is where getting a No. 1 target for Colt McCoy will become crucial.
In steps A.J. Green, probably the best Wide Receiver on the board in 2011. Green has great potential: great hands, great burst off the line, body control which helps him adjust to balls in the air, and vertical leaping ability that would make some NBA players jealous. So picking him should be a no-brainer for the Browns.
Green does have one glaring weakness in his game. He really doesn't possess good route running skills, which could present a problem for NFL playbooks. This could be the reason he falls down to No. 6 in the 2011 NFL Draft. Team President Mike Holmgren is an offensive genius and A.J. Green seems to fit his style just fine.
Armed with a new coach in Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers are looking to recapture the glory they once knew. They've had quarterback issues since drafting Alex Smith in 2005, and Harbaugh might be looking to start fresh.
Enter Blaine Gabbert, who had an outstanding season with Missouri in 2010. Gabbert, at 6'5'' and 235 pounds, has a big arm that would fit Harbaugh's style (Harbaugh himself was a gunslinger if memory serves). His release is incredibly quick, and he has a Harbaugh mentality about him, with an ability to put off pain from nagging injuries.
There are questions that arise when it comes Gabbert as well. His footwork is sloppy at best, and he has not worked in an NFL-style offense, as Missouri ran the spread throughout his collegiate career. Smith, a spread quarterback himself, has not panned out for San Francisco, so they might be hesitant to take another spread QB.
However, I think Harbaugh will work day and night with Gabbert to mold him into a fine NFL quarterback, so he is the pick in San Francisco. Bye bye, Alex Smith.
Tennessee finds itself as a team in transition. After 16 seasons, Jeff Fisher is on his way out of the head coaching position. To compound that, Vince Young is out as Quarterback, so many fans may want the Titans to go for a Quarterback.
However, the Titans need a solid shutdown cornerback since Cortland Finnegan seems more interested in getting into fights than covering receivers. Hello, Patrick Peterson.
Peterson has great size and speed for a cornerback. At 6'1'', 220, he should be able to run with some of the best receivers in the NFL. He can also lay big hits on receivers, separating them from the ball. Peterson has great closing speed on the ball, which allows him to take more chances than other corners might.
His biggest weakness is that, despite being so physical, opposing receivers have been known to beat him on double moves (i.e. Sluggo, and fade routes). If he can work on this, he should be a dominant corner in the NFL for years to come.
Jerry Jones has never been known to take offensive linemen with his first-round pick. However, this year probably will be different. The Cowboys have all the tools they need, at least in skill positions, to make big noise in 2011.
This is why Solder is the pick at No. 9. Romo got hit way too many times over just five games last year, and ended up on the IR with a broken clavicle. Solder can protect Romo's blindside, which will be crucial for Dallas' success in 2011.
Solder has an incredible combination of size and athleticism, which make him ideal for protecting against the blindside rush. Even though he checks in at 300+ pounds already, Solder can still gain muscle and become a real force on the offensive line.
However, despite his athleticism, Solder's footwork can be shoddy. He may be able to handle speed pass rushers, but has shown against bigger linemen he can struggle in keeping them out of the backfield. He has also shown to have problems with his hand technique, in his pass blocking.
I rate him below Castanzo (at No. 4) because he does have technical problems that need to be fixed. If he works hard enough in the offseason, he will be a major force on the Cowboys line in 2011.
The Donovan McNabb experiment failed miserably in Washington. It looked "good" for about four games, and then fizzled out. Now McNabb is likely on his way out of Washington, so coach Mike Shanahan will be looking to fill that position.
Reports are that he really likes Jake Locker, so I would not be surprised if he took him at #10. Does it seem a little high for Locker? Maybe, especially after his struggles in 2010, and his poor performance at the Senior Bowl.
However, Locker is a dynamic player. He can move outside the pocket very well, and has the ability to make defenders miss. He has experienced a pro-style offense and has a strong arm, with an ability to make a lot of NFL throws.
The biggest weakness in Locker's game is his accuracy. He can get a really wild at times, leading to high throws, and leaving his receivers out to dry for big hits from defensive backs.
If reports hold true, Locker is likely going to be trading Huskies for Redskins in 2011...well that, and 3,000 miles of territory.
The Texans put up yet another disappointing campaign in 2010. Six wins was not the total Texans fans had in mind when the season began with such promise. In 2010, much of the blame fell on the putrid defense Houston ran out every week. With some of the best defensive names already off the board, Houston will have some searching to do.
This is where Prince Amukamara comes in. He is exactly the kind of player that fits the Texans system. A physical, competitive player, Amukamara has all the tools necessary to make a big name for himself in the NFL.
The problem is that, even with a good physique and competitive spirit, Amukamara's catching ability has been suspect. He is very good at making aggressive decisions, but when he does he seems to have a problem turning them into big plays. Amukamara has also been known to take too many chances leading to big plays for opposing receivers, since he doesn't have great recovery speed.
However, despite these weaknesses, he will probably be the best player available, at least defensively, so the Texans should try to take him here.
Many people thought Newton would be a top-five pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. That was before he struggled in the BCS Championship game. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has a lot of controversy surrounding him as he enters the 2011 draft. His issues are well known, so we'll just skip over those stories.
Newton probably hasn't done enough yet to find his way into the top 10 in the draft. He does posses great playmaking ability, and an amazing ability to throw on the run. He reads defenses like a pro already and makes plenty of good decisions with the ball.
However, he does have a tendency to stare down his receivers, making it easy for defensive backs to pick up on his tendencies. Even with a strong arm, Newton has been known to under-throw his targets, making them have to break stride to make catches.
The Vikings are in desperate need of a quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson is not the answer, neither is Joe Webb, and with Newton still likely on the board, they'll pounce quickly.
Detroit must be feeling better, not having a pick in the first 10. They've been steadily improving after the disaster of 2008. Their offense is looking good, and if Stafford can stay healthy they should continue to grow and improve as the years move along.
Now is the time for Detroit to concentrate on their defense. Julian Peterson busted big-time in Detroit, and the Lions need to find his replacement. Robert Quinn will be the best choice for the job.
Quinn is quick off the edge, and can make the "lookout" block a habit for opposing offenses. On top of that, his quickness makes it so that running backs will have a hard time getting around him, thus limiting big plays.
However, because of his small size, Quinn may have some trouble adapting to massive NFL linemen. He can struggle in coverage, letting tight ends and running backs make easy catches.
One of the biggest issues with Quinn is his character. Quinn and several other teammates were suspended in 2010 for accepting improper benefits. This is probably going to cause him to slip all the way down to No. 13.
He will have his work cut out for him when the NFL combine begins.
The Rams showed amazing improvement in 2010. They landed just one win shy of a playoff birth and an NFC West title. Superb play from rookie Sam Bradford, and Steven Jackson gave the Rams, the best chance they've had in years.
Now heading into 2011, the Rams will look to shape up their passing attack. Julio Jones, is a great fit for St. Louis. His combination, of size, speed, and athleticism make him a great No. 1 target for Bradford. Jones also makes it difficult, if not impossible, for defenders to make a play on the ball, since he always seems to get the ball at its highest point.
The biggest flaw for Julio are the drops. During his time at Alabama, Julio dropped far too many catchable passes, which has affected where he sits on teams' draft boards. He also doesn't have a great first step off the line, which makes jamming him easier for defenders.
However, if the Rams are looking to re-establish "The Greatest Show on Turf," then Julio will be their man.
The Dolphins are fed up with Chad Henne. Their future stud has become a major dud, and now they have to move on. It must be tiring to have had so many quarterbacks since the departure of Dan Marino. Mallett might just be the one they've been waiting for.
Mallett probably has the best deep ball of all the quarterbacks in the draft. At 6'7'', Mallet is an ideal quarterback physically, and could be hard to bring down for smaller players on the blitz. He's good, not great, at reading defenses, and making quick decisions based off of said reads.
Mallett's biggest problems stem from his lack of mobility. He is a pocket passer, and he sacrifices accuracy on his throws when he tries to move outside the pocket. Where Mallett runs into trouble is in his mechanics; he's fine so long as he keeps his composure, but once rattled he can look as erratic as a drunk driver.
Mallett may be a stretch for the Dolphins, but it's hard to find another prospect that fits what they need at this pick.
Finishing out the first half of Round 1, the Jaguars will look to improve on their bad pass rush from 2010. With only three sacks in their final five games, the Jags will look for defensive line help to get more pressure on opposing QB's.
Marcell Dareus may just fall right into their laps. Dareus has a great makeup for a defensive lineman, and can play both the pass and run well. Being so highly touted, it's hard to figure how he could fall down to this point. However, with the teams needing defensive linemen already gone, Dareus may just have to play the waiting game.
Dareus doesn't have a lot of experience, playing only one season with Alabama. In that time, he did show some signs of trouble by letting his pads level get too high, and being able to be handled by offensive linemen. If he can work out some of the kinks in his game during the combine, he might not be here and the Jags will have to look elsewhere.
For now, the Jags might just get the steal of the draft.
Another Senior Bowl participant, Cameron Jordan will likely go to the Patriots. Jordan is one of the better defensive ends in the 2011 NFL Draft, and could go as high as No. 9. However, with more pressing needs by top-15 teams, Jordan might just fall down the Patriots at No. 17.
Jordan explodes off the line of scrimmage, and is able to get around the corner with amazing agility. To go along with that explosive first step, he combines a strong set of pass rushing moves which make it difficult for opponents to game plan for. One part of his game that many NFL scouts really seem to like as well is the fact that he helps out very well in run support, and plays a good contain when the situation calls for it.
All this sounds good, but there is one big problem in Jordan's game. Jordan from time to time will forget good tackling technique, and forget to wrap up opposing players, thus giving them a chance to get away from him. However, if he goes to the Pats, don't expect Bill Belichick to let that be a weakness for him very long.
Yet another defensive pass rusher falls off the board at No. 18. As highly touted as Smith is, it's hard to figure how he could fall all the way down to No. 18. However, the Chargers will be ready to scoop up Smith with this pick in the draft.
The Chargers desperately need to upgrade a pass rush that was near the bottom of the league all year in 2010. So Smith is the pick that makes sense here. He's a combination of good speed and athleticism coming off the corner, and can either go from a stand-up or three-point stance, which is a great skill to have.
Despite his smaller frame, Smith has very good strength, and might be able to push around running backs when he comes off the edge on a blitz.
The one glaring weakness is that Smith has limited experience on the job, which make his learning curve in the NFL difficult to figure. He is small, but hitting the weights in the offseason should help him get more bulky and make him an even deadlier force come April.
At No. 19 in the 2011 draft, the Giants will be looking to upgrade a position that let them down late in 2010. The Giants offensive line was in shambles at the end of last season, which in turn made the offense sputter when they needed it to come through.
Derek Sherrod, paging Derek Sherrod. Here's a guy I'm sure Eli Manning would love to have added to his line. Sherrod is a big, strong and athletic left tackle, which makes him a good candidate for protecting Eli's blindside.
Sherrod has great technique, coming out of his stance low, making it hard for defenders to get good leverage on him. One big part of his game that makes all line coaches happy is the fact he never stops going, and finishes off his blocks well.
Sherrod might need to work a bit on his lower body strength, because that's one big area where he has struggled. He tends to get pushed around a little bit by bigger defensive linemen, which I'm sure head coach Tom Couglin will work tirelessly on to improve.
The Buccaneers a few years ago might have gone a different direction with the 20th pick. They were heavily criticized for taking Josh Freeman so high a few years ago, and he turned in a good season in 2010. Now the Bucs feel they are set at quarterback for years to come, and will probably continue to let Freeman grow in that job.
Now that the offense is taken care of, the Bucs will look to shore up their once-strong defense. This might be another steal for the Bucs, in the 2011 NFL Draft. Clayborn is a solid player, and putting personal issues aside, would be a great addition for the Bucs' weak outside pass rush.
Clayborn posses a powerful push off the line, which can wreak havoc throughout the NFL. He's good at closing in on Running Backs, and helping out on rush support, so the Buccaneers would be wise to scoop him up.
The Chiefs put together a surprise season in 2010. They combined a pretty good defense with an offense that was able to control the clock, and walked away AFC West champions. With improvement all around the once-weak AFC West, the Chiefs will likely go defense with this pick.
Tamba Hali is a free agent, so should he sign elsewhere (I highly doubt it), Heyward is a solid pick at 21. However, should the Chiefs re-sign Hali, Heyward will give a nice complement to an already strong pass rush. Heyward, is a big man and as strong as an ox coming off the edge. His tackling form is second to none, and he has a knack for breaking double team blocks.
With Heyward's size and speed coming off the edge, and Hali on the other side, AFC coordinators will be quaking in their boots come Sundays in September.
The Colts struggled with injuries all year in 2010. Manning was sacked more times last season than I can ever recall in the past. The once-strong pass protection of the Colts was a weak point last season. Enter Tyron Smith, who could fall down here should the Giants take Sherrod at No. 19.
Smith is an amazing athlete, and will turn some heads his in his first season in the NFL. He's incredibly agile, and his long arms along with quick hands will be make him a force on the line.
However, Smith has had his struggles as a run blocker. This could lead to why the Giants, pass on him and he falls to #22. The Colts will be happy to scoop him up at that point.
2011 really seems to be the year of the lineman. The Eagles struggled this season protecting their quarterback, and had Michael Vick not played like he did before he was shipped off to prison, they may have had a worse year.
Carimi is the pick here, and for the Eagles he couldn't have come soon enough. Carimi will set a good example, for the younger players in the Eagle organization since his work ethic is considered to be top notch. He might be, the best run blocker in the 2011 NFL Draft so that should be a good sign for LeSean McCoy, as holes might be a little wider in 2011.
Carimi is the pick at No. 23, because the Eagles are in dire need of someone who can shore up a shoddy offensive line. Carimi is a big, strong lineman who can help out in both the running and passing games. However, he's not incredibly athletic (unlike some of the other lineman in this draft), so that's why he falls to No. 23.
Ingram is a physical runner, and probably the best running back in the 2011 draft.
The Saints were hurt this season by their inability to control the clock, so Ingram is the pick that makes sense here. He was hurt for a lot of this season, but the former Heisman Trophy winner has an uncanny ability to hold onto the football and put games away for his team.
He hits the line of scrimage hard, and will punish undersized defensive backs and safeties alike. Ingram is a guy that once he gets going becomes very difficult to stop in the secondary.
However, he lacks the breakaway speed that many NFL scouts would like to see, and his pass protection isn't very good either, so that could be a deterrent for NFL teams looking to take him. These two factors may be the reason he falls to the late first round of 2011.
Talk about a physical specimen, Jonathan Baldwin certainly fits that bill.
At 6'5", 230, many people are predicting him to go higher than this. However, I think he might fall to this pick, simply because not a lot of teams need him and there are better options out there for those who do.
Seattle doesn't have a No. 1 target for Matt Hassleback, and it's hard to figure if Mike Williams will be able to repeat his bounce-back performance from last season. Baldwin is the pick here, combining good size and speed with great hands and leaping ability.
Baldwin needs to learn how to separate defenders from his body. If he can do that, he'll be just what Seattle needs to put a respectable team together in 2011.
Explosive and versatile—two words that describe the Ravens' pick in Titus Young. If the Seahawks go with Baldwin, the Ravens, also in need of a playmaker at wide receiver, will likely scoop up Young with the next pick.
Young is great at, creating separation between him and opposing defensive backs. What sets him apart, from other speed Receivers is that he has incredibly soft hands, and catches pretty much everything thrown his way.
His small size, will be a detriment to his draft stock, but I think once he breaks out, many teams will be kicking themselves between their eyes for not pouncing on him.
He's a great complement to Anquan Boldin, which could give the Ravens the missing piece they need to make it to Super Bowl XLVI.
Make it three wide receivers, in a row. Torrey Smith will give a nice complement to Roddy White and Matt Ryan in 2011.
Smith has an ability to stretch the field, and his first step is so quick that Defensive backs will have to think twice before coming up on him to play bump and run coverage. Smith also is a magician with the ball in space, and can make defenders look silly when trying to tackle him.
The one major negative though, and what will really make his draft stock fall. Smith makes too many catches, with his chest, and arms instead of using his hands like many Receivers are taught to. Smith must work on, using his hands more, or risk falling out of the first round all together.
He's the style of wide receiver Atlanta needs to draw some coverage away from White, because Tony Gonzalez is starting to fade out of relevance from defensive schemes.
The Pats need to establish some sort of running game in 2011. Even with BenJarvis Green-Ellis, having a good year in 2010 the Pats need to shore up their backfield. With Ingram off the board, Williams is their best bet to do just that.
He's a smooth, fluid runner, and can catch the ball out of the backfield, which will fit the Pats just fine. Williams is a solid combination of, speed and athleticism which could pay major dividends in 2011.
The biggest flaw with Williams, is his inability to protect the ball. Williams lets the ball, pull away from his body too often, and makes himself an easy turnover target for defenders.
However, given the chance Williams can be a big steal in this years draft class.
The Bears had a great season in 2010. However, one big problem they faced was protecting Jay Culter, and he suffered for it, being knocked out of two games this season. If Cutler keeps dropping back, and continues to get hit, two games might turn into five, and even more in the future.
Love, could be the best Lineman left on the board when it comes Chicago's turn to pick. He has great size, and speed, with good lateral movement that can stretch out defensive ends rush patterns. He is quick off the snap, which will be a big factor when trying to beat defenders.
One big reason he may be the last, Offensive Lineman taken is his lackadaisical approach to the game. He seems to take plays off, which could be a bad thing as the NFL demands focus on every play.
As stated before, DeMarcus Love is the best on the board at this point, so he's the pick.
A big presence for the Badgers pass rush, J.J. Watt should still be available at No. 30. The Jets need a little more help off the edge, and should Shaun Ellis leave for another team in free agency, Watt is a good replacement.
Watt is a big body, that will cause havoc in opposing backfields. He has an enormous frame, that makes it hard for lineman to hault coming around the edge. His two strongest moves, are his rip and bull rush moves, which makes him an ideal pass rusher.
Even with those moves, he lacks the speed many others taken before him have. He is inexperienced, and still learning what playing Defensive End is all about, which could be a red flag for NFL teams looking at him.
Even with Ellis returning Watt, is the man the Jets should take. They need to pressure, Tom Brady more and Watt will get them to that point.
The Packers need a solid running game to offset some of the pressure that Aaron Rodgers faces. Many people may look at this pick, and laugh. Some may think, "how can a team who's in the Super Bowl have a weakness in their running game?" Well the fact is, that they've been able to piece together a decent running game, but need a solid back for 2011.
LeShoure is a name, not too many people are familiar with, but should get to know quite quickly. He has a rare skill set, of power and pretty good speed. On top of that, LeShoure is a good Receiver out of the backfield, which could spell trouble for defenses on passing downs.
Even with his skill set, LeShoure does lack breakaway speed. He seems to let defenses catch up to him, at the end of runs, and only had one big season (2010) in College.
Pouncey rounds out Round 1. The Steelers need a big force on the interior of their line and Pouncey should fit right into that mold.
He's big man that will open up holes all over the place for running backs. He is a fundamentally sound, Lineman and protected Tim Tebow for a few seasons. His versatility makes him, a big target for NFL franchises since, he can play both interior line positions.
Pouncey can be manhandled, by Defensive Lineman which could prove to be a problem in his adjustment period in the NFL. He might take a year, or so to adjust to being beaten up every once in a while, but when he does, he'll be a fine NFL Lineman.