With Media Day in the books and Super Bowl XLV less than a week away, you can take a couple minutes out of your busy day to look ahead to the 2011 NFL Draft, cant you?
There will be many changes throughout my latest mock draft due to performances at the Senior Bowl, as well as new team needs. As always, please make sure to leave your thoughts and comments!
Player rankings, projections, and descriptions are collaborations of scout's thoughts and insights, as well as my own amateur scouting opinions.
A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
This pick is honestly driving me insane. On one hand, Green will help out a struggling Panther offense that is desperately in need of a playmaker. On the other hand, Nick Fairley is an absolute force on the line, and could begin to lift the Panthers defense into the upper echelon of the NFL.
This pick will come down to Green, Fairley, or a trade out (which is unlikely). For now, my gut feeling is A.J. Green, just as it has been all along. Yet, I cannot help but see Fairley in the rearview mirror. Remember, "objects are closer than they appear."
Either way, A.J. Green is incredible. He is a combination of: Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, Chad Johnson, Keyshawn Johnson, Steve Johnson, Bryant Johnson, Andre Johnson, and Berry Melrose all rolled into one explosive bundle. That Melrose part was a joke if you didn't catch on...
Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Mind-bending pick number two! The Broncos lack talent on their defense, and could really use a guy like Fairley if they switch back to the 4-3 (or hybrid). He is extremely versatile and is just a beast, plain and simple. Just like the A.J. Green situation before, guys like Patrick Peterson and Da'Quan Bowers are right behind Fairley.
I am not high on Fairley or Bowers just to clear this up, I think they both have enormous bust potential (more so Bowers). Nick Fairley may have character concerns and is known as a dirty player (see his numerous late hits), while Da'Quan Bowers has only had one outstanding year at Clemson. Yet, with all of the hype around Bowers, (amateur) scouts the general public seems to think he is God's greatest gift to the defensive line. From what I have gathered; Bowers is an extremely lazy, opportunistic pass-rusher, who is most effective when he walks into the backfield due to a missed block or something of that sort.
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
How I long for this pick to be Von Miller. The Bills have a talented young pass-rusher in Arthur Moats, as well as former all-pro linebacker Shawne Merriman, not to mention the $24 million they have invested in the mediocre Chris Kelsay. They are also eager to get a look at 2010 6th Round pick Danny Batten, who landed on IR during training camp.
With that, Miller would be a great asset to the Bills defense, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. Patrick Peterson makes just as much sense, seeing as though the Bills pass-defense is extremely overrated. If the team retains Drayton Florance I may change my mind, but for now this pick has to be Peterson-island.
Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Ah, we arrive at the ever-heralded Da'Quan Bowers. It's no doubt the Bengals need help rushing the passer, but Bowers is the next Aaron Maybin; a supposedly "gifted and natural pass-rusher with great speed."
Sorry Bengals fans, Robert Quinn should be your man...
Von Miller, 3-4 OLB, Texas A&M
Congratulations Cardinals fans, you have just received the most dynamic pass-rushing prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft, but I still hate you. I just hope and pray that the Cardinals take Blaine Gabbert and tarnish their franchise for the next five years or so, because that's what you get when you don't have a backup for your 74 year-old QB.
All kidding aside, Von Miller is fantastic. He showed at the Senior Bowl that he is ready for the NFL, and in a big way. Even though he's a bit small at only 6'2"/240 he is as explosive as they come these days. He played some linebacker at Texas A&M, so he has experience in coverage and pass-rush, making him the complete package this year.
Robert Quinn, DE, N.Carolina
I originally had Marcell Dareus slotted here, but the Browns will be switching back to the 4-3 defense. Specifically it's Dick Jauron's defense, meaning if you're bigger then 6'0" at a non-defensive line position you can kiss your ass goodbye.
Robert Quinn is the next best pass-rusher behind Von Miller, and will make an immediate impact in the NFL (unlike that Bowers clown). He is a DE/OLB tweener, so Dick Jauron will just have a dandy of a time moving him around and playing with opposing offenses.
Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The 49'ers are in desperate need of help at corner, and Prince Amukamara is the next best thing behind Patrick Peterson. Nate Clements isn't playing the way he used to, and with Taylor Mays presumably holding down the middle of the field, the 49'ers need someone to shutdown the edges.
The only other options I could see here are Marcell Dareus or possibly Blaine Gabbert.
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
I know, I hate this pick too. Blaine Gabbert is extremely overrated due to his size and arm strength, he fits a Ben Roethlisberger and/or David Garrard type of mold; meaning he can heave the ball and run when needed, but struggles with accuracy.
Another option here is Marcell Dareus, but I think the new Head Coach in Tennessee will want a new guy to groom into the offense.
Marcell Dareus, 3-4 DE, Alabama
Dareus could, should, and probably will be picked a bit higher then he is here, but for now he lands in Dallas. The Cowgirls could use an upgrade next to Jay Ratliff, and Dareus would definitely help out their run-defense (which as middle of the road this year).
Guys like Nate Solder, Cam Jordan, and Derek Sherrod (I believe he will fly up boards before Draft day) are also options here or in a trade down scenario.
Cameron Jordan, 3-4 DE, California
Jordan was a wrecking ball during the Senior Bowl and has really been shooting up Draft boards. He isn't far behind Marcell Dareus as the second or third best 3-4 DE in the 2011 NFL Draft.
I would usually have a guy like Cam Newton or Jake Locker here, but they are both highly overrated, at this point at least. If Albert Haynesworth parts ways with the Redskins, the team will definitely need an upgrade on their defensive line, a la Cam Jordan.
Akeem Ayers, 3-4 OLB, UCLA
I have Akeem Ayers ahead of Aldon Smith and Justin Houston here because he has the most experience at OLB and is adept in coverage. He may not be the best pass-rusher from his position, but with guys like Brian Cushing and Mario Williams I think he'll be fine.
Other considerations here would be: Aldon Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, or Julio Jones.
Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
Aldon Smith is a great fit for the Vikings if Ray Edwards hits free agency (which looks to be the case). Smith is a physical freak and can really find his way into the backfield, which will only benefit Jared Allen.
Other options here would be: Cam Newton, Adrian Clayborn, or Ryan Kerrigan.
Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
I'm not a huge fan of Solder at this point, but the guy has outstanding potential. With Jeff Backus giving up both of the sacks that separated Matthew Stafford's shoulder, the team MUST look for a replacement. I mean seriously, Backus has been publicly ridiculed for his dismal play for the past three years now, it has to end.
Other options include Ryan Kerrigan and Adrian Clayborn.
Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
The Rams need to find a #1 receiver for Sam Bradford. The NFC West is the worst division in the NFL, but it can only stay that way for so long, they must take advantage of this as soon as they can.
Other options for the Rams include: NONE
Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Who are the Dolphins kidding? They have totally given up on Chad Henne, and with a good enough reason. The guy has Brandon Marshall, Ronnie Brown, Devone Bess, and Rickey Williams at his disposal and he only wins one game at home. Newton will need some grooming, so Chad Henne will enter into a Drew Brees-like situation when the Chargers drafted Phillip Rivers.
Alabama's Mark Ingram is an option here as well.
Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
This year's Draft isn't particularly deep at corner, so the Jags could reach a bit here for a guy like Brandon Harris. Ryan Kerrigan makes sense here too, but the Jaguars pass-defense was atrocious. They also need to upgrade at safety, so a guy like Rahim Moore or Duenta Williams could be targeted in a trade down scenario, or in the next round.
In my opinion, the guy who makes the most sense is Ras-I Dowling (seeing as though he is a corner/safety tweener), but this is about 15 picks too high for him. Yet, the Jags proved last year they aren't afraid to "reach."
Gabe Carimi, OT/G, Wisconsin
Carimi had a pretty solid Senior Bowl, and I think he warrants a mid-first round pick. The Patriots need help at tackle due to Matt Light's sub-par play this year, and may even need a new guard if Logan Mankins leaves via free agency.
Carimi fits best here because he can play both tackle and guard, but guys like: Cameron Heyward, Corey Liuget, and Mark Ingram are also contenders.
Cameron Heyward, 3-4 DE, Ohio State
We know Cameron Heyward best for his freakish athleticism, and constant inconsistency. The Chargers need to upgrade their defensive line, and Heyward fits the bill perfectly.
The Chargers could go in a couple different directions here, but the only other viable options I see are: Jonathan Baldwin, Titus Young, Anthony Castonzo, or Derek Sherrod. Heyward is just too explosive to pass up though.
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
With Brandon Jacobs essentially buying his own ticket out of New York, and Ahmad Bradshaw not capable of being a #1 runningback, the team will look to replace them with a durable and explosive player in Mark Ingram. Already a household name, Ingram will help take pressure off of Eli Manning and the rest of the Giants offense that seems to struggle through the 2010 season.
Other options for the Giants include: Anthony Castonzo, Derek Sherrod, and Tyron Smith.
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Although he had a down year, Adrian Clayborn is still a great pass-rusher. With a guy like Gerald McCoy being focused on in the middle, Clayborn should have no trouble finding himself in one-on-one scenarios.
The Bucs could go for a guy like J.J. Watt instead of Clayborn, or they could address an issue on their offensive line with a guy like Anthony Castonzo, Derek Sherrod, or even Mike Pouncey.
Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
This pick will come down to Phil Taylor and Justin Houston. I had Houston here for my past three mocks, but with Taylor's performance at the Senior Bowl - he's the pick.
Ron Edwards is likely on his way out of Kansas City, but if Tamba Hali leaves this pick will become Justin Houston without hesitation.
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
I had Corey Liuget here because he makes the most sense, seeing as though the Colts run defense is atrocious. Yet, the Colts have way too much money invested in their defensive ends to field another first round lineman. Sherrod gets the nod over Liuget because the Colts stupidly took Jerry Hughes as a rotational pass-rusher in the first round.
Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
I'm not a fan of Castonzo, but it seems as though the "experts" are. I think he is this year's Bryan Bulaga (whom I despised last year), meaning he'll be an overhyped LT prospect who will end up being an average RT or guard.
Mike Pouncey makes sense here too.
Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
The Saints need an upgrade on their defensive line in a bad way. Whether it's J.J. Watt, Corey Liuget, or Justin Houston, the team needs help. I think this pick comes down to Liuget and Houston, with Liuget winning the battle due to the lack of talent next to Sedrick Ellis.
Jake Locker, QB, Washington
This pick is probably the trickiest in the 2011 Draft. The Seahawks need help at corner, safety, defensive end (depending on the team's plans for Raheem Brock), and on the offensive line.
This pick will be between Locker and Mike Pouncey in my opinion, and depending on the Matt Hasselbeck situation this pick could still end up being Locker. The team was reportedly high on Locker last year (he's a hometown guy), and he could sit behind Whitehurst or Hasselbeck for a year or two. This situation is very similar to the Aaron Rodgers - Brett Favre one a few years ago.
Titus Young, WR, Boise State
Derrick Mason is old and TJ Houshmandzadeh is washed up. Titus Young will give the Ravens a downfield threat, and take some of the pressure off of Anquan Boldin. Ras-I Dowling and Tyron Smith are options here as well.
Justin Houston, DE, Georgia
I love Justin Houston, and I think he will be one of the best players taken in 2011 when we look back on it a few short years from now. The Falcons don't have much in terms of pass-rushing aside from John Abraham, and he isn't getting any younger.
Titus Young is an option as well, but this year's wide receiver class is pretty deep.
J.J. Watt, 3-4 DE, Wisconsin
Watt is a tweener between DE and 3-4 DE. He has great size and is solid against the run, making him an ideal candidate for the Patriots in this spot. Although, the Patriots could look at a guy like Titus Young or Mikel Leshoure to bolster their offense.
Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Jonathan Baldwin might be the safer/better pick here, but the Bears offensive line sucks. Chris Williams was moved to guard, where he was still mediocre, and the team gave up more than 50 sacks... enough said.
Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
The Jets will likely re-sign Santonio Holmes, letting Braylon Edwards walk away. The team still has Jerricho Cotchery, but he isn't a quality #1 in my opinion. Jonathan Baldwin is a huge vertical threat, and will really open up the Jets offense... if Mark Sanchez can handle it, that is.
Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
I love the idea of the Pouncey brothers playing next to each other on the Steelers. Maurkice has seen quiet a bit of success with the Steelers already, and the team needs help at just about every spot on the offensive line. The Steelers will not pass on him here, and may even trade up for him.
Muhammad Wilkerson, 3-4 DE, Temple
Wilkerson has jumped into first round consideration as of late, and his play back it up. With Cullen Jenkins likely leaving via free agency, and Johnny Jolly's future uncertain, the team could use another big man up front. Ryan Kerrigan is an option as well, but I see him taking a big fall much like Everson Griffen did last year.
Sorry for the lack of picture.
Hope everyone enjoys Super Bowl XLV! Make sure you check back for my next mock draft, which will be up some time within the next three weeks or so. Don't forget to leave comments, thoughts, or concerns!