QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
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.
Could Green be the first receiver since Keyshawn Johnson to be drafted No. 1 overall?
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.
Ndamukong Suh's success paves the way for Fairley
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.
Is Miller a future combine freak?
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.
Dareus adds needed toughness to the Bengals
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.
The next Revis island?
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.
Former No. 1 overall recruit Bowers
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.
Peterson and Amukamara are two of the best prospects at corner in years
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.
Athletic and strong armed Gabbert
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.
Will Jordan follow in Tyson Alualu's steps?
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.
Locker hopes to show scouts that staying college was a good decision
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.
Quinn missed all of 2010 because of off the field issues
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.
Can the Heisman Trophy winner make an impact in the NFL?
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.
Ayers' versatility will fill many needs in Detroit
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.
Staying healthy will be priority No. 1 for the talented Jones
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.
Ingram would play a big role for the Dolphins in 2011
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.
Kerrigan's work ethic and raw talent make him a can't miss prospect
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.
Smith's athleticism makes him a perfect fit for the Pat's defense
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.
Houston and Shaun Phillips would make it a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks
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.
Solder has the build to be an elite lineman in the NFL
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.
Could Clayborn free-fall to even later in the draft?
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.
Baldwin will benefit from the scouting combine
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.
Carimi has the size to succeed in the Colts' offense
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.
Castonzo could replace the struggling Winston Justice day one
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.
Watt provides versatility and toughness on a depleted Saints' d-line
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.
Williams would join former Longhorn Earl Thomas in Seattle
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.
Harris would give the Ravens a true "shutdown" corner
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.
Young would give Matt Ryan a much needed deep threat
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.
Bailey and nose tackle, Vince Wilfork, would create a wall up front
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.
Hudson's versatility make him a need in Chicago
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.
With an aging d-line, the Jets pick one of the biggest and versatile players in the 2011 draft
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.
Opponents would be seeing double in 2011 if Pouncey joins brother Maurkice in Pittsburgh
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.
Beal would make an already great defense even better
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.