2011 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Super Bowl Edition
Hello Bleacher Report readers, sports fans and anyone else who may come across my writing. I am officially back.
That, of course, being my poor attempt at a Manny Ramirez-esque entrance, which clearly did not have the same annoyance and effect.
However, I am back writing for Bleacher Report for this 2011 NFL draft season, and I am very excited to start.
I think there is no place better to start than with my preliminary 2011 mock draft.
Obviously many things will happen between this mock draft and the actual draft—the combine, trades and failed drug tests—but this should be a good indication of where players will fall in the first round.
As many readers remember, I love competitive banter from readers, so be sure to comment with anything desired.
No. 1: Carolina Panthers: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
If possible, the Panthers will try to trade down in this draft due to so many needs.
However, with an aging Steve Smith and not much talent anywhere else at receiver, Green will become the first overall pick.
No. 2: Denver Broncos: Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn
Fairley will go somewhere in the top three, and with Denver's porous pass rush and run stop, this makes the most sense.
Fairley will bring versatility and big play potential to a Denver defense that will also return 2009 standout Elvis Dumervil.
No. 3: Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
Miller will be drafted before Da'Quan Bowers. He is a much harder worker who has many fewer flaws on his tape than the physically menacing Bowers.
Miller would be the perfect kind of player for the Bills' 3-4 defense, and with the recent success of players like Clay Matthews, James Harrison and DeMarcus Ware, Miller's stock will only rise.
No. 4: Cincinnati Bengals: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Dareus gets nabbed in the top five because the Bengals need a run stopper to complement Domata Peko in the middle.
Dareus should be able to start day one and will make a big impact on the rest of the AFC North.
No. 5: Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The Cardinals pass defense ranked in the bottom 10 in the NFL in 2010. However, Peterson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would instantly become one of the best tandems in the NFL.
Peterson could also make an already good special teams unit great.
No. 6: Cleveland Browns: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers finally gets off the board at No. 6.
The Browns desperately need an elite pass rusher, and Bowers could be that guy. If he lives up to his hype and continues to work hard, Bowers will surely be a steal outside the top five.
No. 7: San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Despite having a top 10 run defense and top 15 overall defense, the 49ers were also in the bottom 10 in pass defense.
Amukamara could immediately step and be an elite cornerback. The only question about him is that teams did not ever throw against him in college. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues in the NFL.
No. 8: Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
With Vince Young and Jeff Fisher both out of Tennessee, it appears to be rebuilding time.
This means Tennessee will go after a quarterback. Gabbert seems to fit the pro build, and he could see himself starting sooner rather than later.
No. 9: Dallas Cowboys: Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California
With an aging defensive line and 3-4 ends finally getting their deserved respect, Jordan makes perfect sense at No. 9 for the Cowboys.
Jordan will provide needed depth for a Cowboys defensive line that has many filing for free agency. Still, do not be surprised to see Jerry Jones try to trade this pick away.
No. 10: Washington Redskins: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Former guaranteed No. 1 overall pick Jake Locker will go to the Redskins. Reports say that Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was very interested in Locker last year.
Locker has the raw tools to be great but only flashed signs of brilliance in college.
No. 11: Houston Texans: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Despite Houston's major problems in the secondary, I see them going with the hybrid 3-4 linebacker/end that has become so important in the NFL.
Quinn has the athleticism and raw talent to be that type of player. Look for Quinn to have a great combine and possibly be selected earlier.
No. 12: Minnesota Vikings: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Though Brett Favre's future is still uncertain (I refuse to jump to conclusions with him), first-year head coach Leslie Frazier needs to make an immediate impact.
This could be done by drafting the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner. Newton could develop behind Tarvaris Jackson for a year or two and make an impact as a wildcat/goal-line back.
No. 13: Detroit Lions: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The Lions are a team on the rise but are still in search of some secondary defensive stars behind Ndamukong Suh.
Ayers fits that mold perfectly. The versatile linebacker could move all over the field similarly to former Lion Ernie Sims.
No. 14: St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Despite not ever having a legitimate No. 1 receiver, Sam Bradford still managed to have a rookie campaign for the ages.
Adding Julio Jones would not only make Bradford a better quarterback, but in 10 years, the duo could also have similar meaning to Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice and Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce.
No. 15: Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
With the potential departures of current running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, the run-heavy Dolphins could be in trouble.
Insert 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, and the problems should be solved. Ingram has the body type to carry an NFL load, and judging by the potential depth chart, he should be prepared.
No. 16: Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue
With former top 10 pick Derrick Harvey's uncertain future, the Jaguars need to improve on their pass rush.
Kerrigan has the size, athleticism and superior work ethic to succeed in the NFL. He also has the personality that Jaguars GM Gene Smith loves.
No. 17: New England Patriots: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Patriots always seem to draft the most athletic players who can play the most positions and that always seem to have the most upside.
Therefore, Aldon Smith fits their required mold perfectly. He is a young player that would be able to sit for a season or two and take in the NFL pace.
No. 18: San Diego Chargers: Justin Houston, OLB/DE, Georgia
The Chargers are a team that relies heavily on the outside pass rush. It has been a staple of the program since Shawne Merriman was drafted.
However, Merriman is gone, Shaun Phillips is not getting any younger and Larry English has not developed into what they anticipated. Justin Houston has the size and speed to dominate in the NFL, but his lack of experience and big numbers in college has some scouts worried.
No. 19: New York Giants: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Nate Solder brings a tight end's athleticism and footwork with a WWE wrestler's size and frame.
The gigantic 6'8" tackle has the potential to run in the 4.8s at the combine. This size and speed will have GMs drooling, so Solder falling to No. 19 may be pushing it.
No. 20: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Adrian Clayborn was once considered a lock to be drafted in the top five.
Now, Clayborn will struggle to make it into the first round. He really needs to have a good combine and pro day to even earn this high of a draft pick.
Still, the Bucs need a solid pass rusher to complement Gerald McCoy, and Clayborn has shown signs of brilliance at times.
No. 21: Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Jonathan Baldwin has the opportunity to be drafted whenever he wants to. He could sneak into the top 10 if he indeed runs at his reported 4.3 speed.
However, Baldwin could also fall to the mid to late second round. Still, he would be a great addition to the Chiefs, who could use another big target next to Dwayne Bowe.
No. 22: Indianapolis Colts: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Gabe Carimi has the potential as the most complete tackle in this year's draft.
He is much more polished in run blocking than the others in this class, yet some question his athleticism and ability to stop elite pass rushers.
Carimi would be a good fit in Indianapolis, which has not had a legitimate run blocker in some time.
No. 23: Philadelphia Eagles: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
The Eagles are just one or two pieces away from becoming a Super Bowl-winning team.
Replacing Winston Justice would be a good start.
Castonzo has the ability to play either left or right tackle, and he would probably get a chance to start day one. Again, quick feet and long arms make Castonzo a can't-miss prospect.
No. 24: New Orleans Saints: J.J. Watt, DE/DT, Wisconsin
Depth on a defensive line has never hurt any team.
Watt would be able to play both inside and out, and he could develop into a solid option opposite Will Smith.
No. 25: Seattle Seahawks: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Texas has produced just about more first-round defensive backs in the past five years than any other college in the nation.
Williams has quietly emerged as one of the best shutdown corners in the draft. Look for Pete Carroll to stay with major conference schools and improve a suspect secondary.
No. 26: Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL)
The Ravens cornerbacks reek of old age and mediocrity.
Harris could be groomed by former Hurricane Ed Reed and could finally bring back some needed swagger and skill to the corner position in Baltimore.
No. 27: Atlanta Falcons: Titus Young, WR, Boise State
With the emergence of smaller, faster receivers like Greg Jennings, DeSean Jackson and Mike Wallace, every NFL team is out looking for the next one.
That player could be Titus Young. Young tore up the Senior Bowl and appears to have it all. Boise State has produced some very good NFL players recently, and Young could be the next great one.
No. 28: New England Patriots: Allen Bailey, DT/DE, Miami (FL)
Again, cue athleticism, size, speed, versatility and potential. What do you get?
A New England Patriots draft pick. Bailey presents matchup problems anywhere he is placed on the field. He has the speed to outside and the power to rush the middle. Look for the Patriots to grab one of the many players in this mold in this year's draft.
No. 29: Chicago Bears: Rodney Hudson, OG/C, Florida State
For anyone who has watched at least one Bears game this season, it is extremely evident that Roberto Garza may be the worst starting offensive lineman in the league.
Hudson would start immediately in Chicago and has the potential to reach many Pro Bowls. His quick feet and intelligence would bolster the interior line and help pave the way for running back Matt Forte.
No. 30: New York Jets: Cameron Heyward, DE/DT, Ohio State
With Shaun Ellis most likely leaving for free agency, the Jets defensive line is becoming thinner and older by the minute.
However, Ohio State's Cameron Heyward could provide the Jets with a spark. He has the athleticism to line up outside and the strength to stop the run inside. Despite some inconsistencies in 2010, Heyward should develop into a future NFL starter.
No. 31: Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida
This is one of the most important draft picks in Pittsburgh Steelers history.
Most likely Pouncey will not make it to this late in the first round, so I see the Steelers trading up no matter what to land the Pro Bowl center's twin brother.
No. 32: Green Bay Packers: Jeremy Beal, OLB/DE, Oklahoma
One of the only things lacking on the Packers' already stout defense is a pass rusher opposite of Clay Matthews.
Beal would be a stretch at the end of the first round, but he would be the perfect type of player for the Packers: a hard worker with a lot of upside.