2011 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Super Bowl XLV Edition
The Super Bowl is just about here, and while the whole country is getting ready for the biggest game of the year, 30 NFL franchises are focused on how to get themselves there next year.
The prospects for next year's NFL are becoming more well-known as the days go by, and there are more than a few scenarios that could play out for the No. 1 overall selection.
The NFL's labor negotiations may still play a big part in the drafting of players with an expected rookie wage scale that could affect some of the highest player selections.
We still have the NFL Scouting Combine to look forward to as well as pro day workouts to give us more insight on the NFL's future stars.
Here is a pre-Super Bowl mock draft to give us an idea of where these players are headed.
1. Carolina Panthers: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Why Fairley Is Special: The most disruptive defensive player in the country has everything you look for in a playmaking lineman. He has a serious nasty streak, violent, effective hands and incredible quickness inside.
Why Fairley Goes Here: He brings everything you look for in a playmaking tackle and is the type of player that can change a game with one play. His disruptive nature makes him more attractive at No. 1 than any other prospect.
Why Fairley Fits: The Panthers are desperately looking for a playmaking defensive lineman since the departure of Julius Peppers. He is a guy that can make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks from day one.
2. Denver Broncos: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Why Peterson Is Special: Speed, versatility and overall size (6'1", 211 pounds) make him a force to be reckoned with in the secondary. He is the top cover corner in the Draft and the No. 1 player on my board. He will be a shutdown corner in the NFL, and he also has return ability as well. Peterson could be the next Charles Woodson.
Why Peterson Goes Here: His abilities and potential make him a can't miss player, and the potential rookie wage skill will limit the amount of money they would have to spend to get a corner this high.
Why Peterson Fits: He fits every single team in the league, and Denver could use a defensive upgrade at almost every position on the field.
3. Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Why Dareus Is Special: Incredible athlete for a man his size. His lateral agility and top end speed is remarkable, and he can make plays both in the run game and as a pass rusher. Can chase down quarterbacks and diagnose plays on the move extremely well.
Why Dareus Goes Here: Best available defensive lineman on my board with a perfect fit in the 3-4 defense of Buffalo—has unlimited potential.
Why Dareus Fits: Will help fill holes in a defense that was atrocious against the run last season and could be an impact player from day one.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Why Green Is Special: He's 6’4", 207 pounds with elite quickness and athleticism. He can do everything asked of a receiver and then some. He has immediate starting potential and is the best receiving target since Calvin Johnson.
Why Green Goes Here: Is a possibility for the No. 1 overall pick and is the No. 2 player on my board. The Bengals should waste no time making this pick.
Why Green Fits: The Bengals' starting receivers are both unlikely to be wearing stripes next season with Terrell Owens hitting the open market and Chad Ochocinco unlikely to get optioned for $6 million. Green is their future.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Why Miller Is Special: Has everything you look for in linebacker and has incredible speed and power off the edge. Is an incredible pass rushing threat and continues to wow scouts with his ability in pass coverage and in space—the complete package and can only get better.
Why Miller Goes Here: Miller has moved up Draft boards since the Senior Bowl and has become the No. 1 hybrid player and outside linebacker on my board. The Cardinals need a pass rusher.
Why Miller Fits: Is a terror off the edge and is a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Arizona has really fallen since their back-to-back NFC West crowns, and Miller is the type of solid, playmaking linebacker they can build around for the future.
6. Cleveland Browns: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Why Bowers Is Special: A kid that finally put it all together in his senior season with size, speed and tenacity. Led the nations in sacks as senior and is a threat for the No. 1 overall selection. Knows how to get after the quarterback but can anchor down as well.
Why Bowers Goes Here: Best available player on the board for a team that needs to keep a consistent base in the Draft if it wants to truly become a winning franchise.
Why Bowers Fits: The departure of Eric Mangini likely means the Browns will switch back to a 4-3 defense, and Bowers is ideal for that system and excels early.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Why Gabbert Is Special: Became the No. 1 quarterback by default but has above average athleticism for the position, has all the intangibles you look for, can make all the throws and can still get a lot better. A fierce competitor that will not shy away from anything.
Why Gabbert Goes Here: Success in the NFL is predicated on elite quarterback play; the Niners have not had this for quite some time. Gabbert may not be elite yet but he is arguably the best in this class and San Francisco's major need is at quarterback.
Why Gabbert Fits: San Francisco has been a mess at the quarterback position, and with Jim Harbaugh coming in, they will find the right guy for them to go forward with and stick with.
8. Tennessee Titans: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Why Newton Is Special: He possesses the most upside of any player in this draft. His size, speed, athleticism and knack for making the big play are all unteachable things. His best skills are god-given and he will continue to progress as complete player if he truly wants to succeed.
Why Newton Goes Here: For a team that was terrible down the stretch last season, the Titans do not have many glaring needs. Quarterbacks are almost always over-drafted when there is any semblance of need, and Titans owner Bud Adams may very well find his new franchise signal caller in the Heisman Trophy winner; no offense to Kerry Collins, but it's time to call it buddy.
Why Newton Fits: Newton gives Adams his Vince Young without the head problems and a fresh start.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Why Amukamara Is Special: An experienced shutdown cornerback with all the necessary intangibles to succeed at the next level: a short memory, ball skills, tenacity and good feet.
Why Amukamara Goes Here: Some consider him a 1-A to Peterson, I disagree completely but really like him as a prospect. The Cowboys bring an opportunity for him to get his feet wet without having to start on day one.
Why Amukamara Fits: The Giants and Eagles' receiving corps are forces that Dallas has to play twice a season; Prince is the type of player that can develop, study and become a shutdown corner in this division if given time. He will eventually take over the starting role and be a player for this defense.
10. Washington Redskins: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Why Locker Is Special: Experience in a pro-style offense with an NFL-style head coach can only help Locker at the next level. He has all the unteachable things such as intangibles, elite athleticism and arm strength. He can make every throw and is a competitor.
Why Locker Goes Here: As I said earlier, quarterbacks are almost always over-drafted when they are a position of need and while top 10 is high for Locker, he still has almost as potential as Newton.
Why Locker Fits: Coach Shanahan needs a quarterback, and I cannot see him passing on one at the No. 10 pick. Locker and Mallett are the only two available signal callers in this scenario, and that is an easy call in my opinion; even if Newton is on the board, I think Washington still goes with Locker.
11. Houston Texans: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Why Quinn Is Special: High-energy pass rusher off the edge with incredible speed and quickness. Still tapping into the ability he has and will only get better.
Why Quinn Goes Here: Outside of Mario Williams, the Texans could not get anywhere near the quarterback and their secondary paid dearly. Quinn is the No. 2 pass rushing outside linebacker on the board.
Why Quinn Fits: He's ideal for the 3-4 outside rush end, and new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will likely bring in his 3-4 defense; Quinn's a perfect fit.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas
Why Mallett Is Special: A big time quarterback prospect that has an absolute rifle for an arm. Above average frame for the position at almost 6'7" and can make all the throws without question.
Why Mallett Goes Here: It is unlikely the Vikings open the 2011 season with Joe Webb or Tarvaris Jackson under center as the long-term solution, and as of now, the next opportunity they'll get at another player will be in the Draft. This is high for Mallett off my board, but quarterbacks are at a premium, and he is the last one with first round talent.
Why Mallett Fits: Last available quarterback that could really become a threat if he is taught the right way and given time. He's not ready yet, but his arm is very, very real.
13. Detroit Lions: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Why Ayers Is Special: This linebacker does everything extremely well. He can play the run, can play in space, can drop in coverage and can rush the passer; what more do you want?
Why Ayers Goes Here: Both cornerbacks off the board hurt the Lions a bit but getting another playmaker at the second level of the defense is also a priority; he's very high on my board.
Why Ayers Fits: Ndamukong Suh worked wonders on that defense last season, and everything could start clicking for Lions in the next few years. Ayers is a perfect player that simply can do anything to help the defense.
14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Why Jones Is Special: A player that has gotten better every year in one of the best programs in the country is a testament to the type of player he could still become. A solid route runner that is as physically dominant as any player we have seen on the outside. Strong, fast and powerful; he's a lot to stop for cornerbacks.
Why Jones Goes Here: The No. 2 receiver for a team that desperately needs one.
Why Jones Fits: Sam Bradford has almost no weapons on the outside, and Jones is the perfect, developing target Bradford can utilize early and often in his career.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Why Ingram Is Special: The kid is simply a tough running back prospect with tremendous leg drive, determination and heart. Does not have great top end speed but has incredible vision in the hole and is strong enough and quick enough to shed tacklers.
Why Ingram Goes Here: Not many teams in the market for a running back and this is the first and possibly only team looking for a starter.
Why Ingram Fits: The Dolphins are moving on from their old backfield, and Ingram is just the sort of running back they need to get it started; he can do anything they ask of him.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Why Jordan Is Special: A big defensive end prospect that showcased an array of puss rush moves that many were unsure he had. Plays with a chip and is a very disruptive player in opposing backfields.
Why Jordan Goes Here: Rose up Draft boards steadily during the Senior Bowl, but we'll cap his Draft ceiling here. If any team can use him, it is the Jags.
Why Jordan Fits: Last season, they shocked people with the selection of his former teammate, Tyson Alualu and No. 10; it worked out pretty well for them. Jordan can help him, and the Jags, get after the passer more this season.
17. New England Patriots (via Oak): Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue
Why Kerrigan Is Special: A tough, hard-working prospect that works for everything he has. Good speed and burst off the edge and gets good leverage underneath bigger prospects.
Why Kerrigan Goes Here: New England is need of some youth and playmaking ability on the edge of their 3-4 defense, and he is the best available on my board.
Why Kerrigan Fits: Played with his hand in the dirt a lot but will likely be standing up at the next level. Coach Belichick can use him to rush the passer from almost anywhere on the field.
18. San Diego Chargers: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
Why Smith Is Special: Supremely athletic prospect with a ton of upside. Can come at you off the edge and is still learning how good he can be; very raw though.
Why Smith Goes Here: A hybrid fit for a Chargers defense that needs it. His natural ability will push him higher than some of the more experienced and proven prospects in the class.
Why Smith Fits: San Diego is still looking for that playmaker at linebacker since Shawne Merriman got hurt and left.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Why Castonzo Is Special: Former tight end has a solid frame for the position, above average athleticism and is technically sound. Has developed into a solid prospect that can play multiple positions.
Why Castonzo Goes Here: Offensive tackle rankings are still trying to iron out but Castonzo is one of the consensus top three in my opinion.
Why Castonzo Fits: His versatility will be more attractive to the Giants than looking for simply a left tackle, and his Boston College roots will please Coach Coughlin very much.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Why Clayborn Is Special: Toughness, versatility, speed and size all play into Clayborn's game. He can make plays in run game as well as rushing the passer—also very instinctive.
Why Clayborn Goes Here: Clayborn's versatility will be attractive to the Buccaneers, and he is one of those defensive lineman that could fall almost anywhere between 12-32 on the board.
Why Clayborn Fits: The Bucs need help getting after the passer off the edges after addressing the interior of their defensive line last year.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Why Solder is Special: A ton of athletic ability for a player his size; Solder is still progressing as a tackle. He is smart and hard-working and has a mean streak in him at times.
Why Solder Goes Here: The second tackle off the board may very well be the highest graded and could be franchise tackle material.
Why Solder Fits: The Chiefs got better tackle play this season but could stand to bring in another talented player. If Solder develops the right way they could move Branden Albert over to the right side with ease.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Why Paea Is Special: One of the strongest players in the Draft; Paea can eat up blocks and is stout against the run. His strength and leverage inside make it very difficult for teams to run at him.
Why Paea Goes Here: One of several second-tier defensive tackle prospects that has the potential to go higher.
Why Paea Fits: Indianapolis is always in need of run-stopping help, and Paea can do exactly that.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Why Smith Is Special: Extremely raw but talented prospect with a lot to look forward to. Great athleticism with developing strength.
Why Smith Goes Here: He could test higher than this and move up Draft boards in the coming weeks. This is solid value here though.
Why Smith Fits: Debated on a lot of prospects for the Eagles, but Andy Reid likes to build through the trenches in the early rounds, and Smith could be a potential upgrade at tackle down the line.
24. New Orleans Saints: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Why Watt Is Special: Incredible motor, athleticism and speed accompanied with top-notch size. He's a hard worker that loves to get after it.
Why Watt Goes Here: Another defensive end with a lot going for him and provides solid value at this pick.
Why Watt Fits: The Saints are still searching for a consistent pass rushing threat opposite Will Smith, and Watt could be that guy.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Why Liuget Is Special: An every-down style defensive end with good penetrating ability and run stuffing chops to boot. Displays very good toughness and instincts coming out of the Big Ten.
Why Liuget Goes Here: Continues to fly up Draft boards and could very well be drafted higher than this; good value here though.
Why Liuget Fits: The Seahawks could use a force like him on the interior of their defensive front, and his value is something they will be happy with.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL)
Why Harris Is Special: He is simply a solid cornerback prospect with ideal size, speed, ball skills and instincts for the NFL; son of a coach. Has top-notch agility and is a willing tackler.
Why Harris Goes Here: Arguably is the top player in the second tier of defensive backs on the board, he is likely to be a first-round pick.
Why Harris Fits: The Ravens defense is getting older, and the secondary is the weakest link at this point. Harris would fit very nicely with a few of the major "U" players on the roster.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Why Williams Is Special: Excellent combination of size and speed for the cornerback position, has very good ball skills, is a willing tackler and is an highly-experienced special teamer.
Why Williams Goes Here: Another one of those second-tier cornerbacks with a lot of talent; it will come down to what the team wants more out of players like Harris and Williams.
Why Williams Fits: The Falcons still need help in the secondary despite better play this season, and Williams could be an ideal fit as a nickel back in their system; special teams players are fit for every team too.
28. New England Patriots: Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State
Why Heyward Is Special: He has great size and mobility along the defensive front, can get after the passer and anchor against the run and has direct NFL bloodlines.
Why Heyward Goes Here: Productive player out of a big program and is one of the best available on the board.
Why Heyward Fits: His versatility, tenacity and toughness make him a good fit for the Patriots defense. He could also be the future at the five-technique end for a long time.
29. Chicago Bears: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Why Carimi Is Special: Four-year starter with solid versatility, production, versatility and experience out of a great offensive line program. Has good size for the position as well.
Why Carimi Goes Here: May not be a left tackle prospect but can play almost anywhere and brings good value to a team that needs it.
Why Carimi Fits: The Bears need help on the offensive line, and they keep shuffling people around to find the best unit. Carimi can start for them it will just be a matter of where.
30. New York Jets: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
Why Taylor Is Special: This huge defensive tackle prospect is No. 1 at the nose tackle spot in the Draft. Carries his weight rather well for a man his size and shows pretty good agility as well. Can eat up lineman and get in the way of just about anything.
Why Taylor Goes Here: Taylor is a true 3-4 nose tackle and one of the only ones in the Draft.
Why Taylor Fits: Kris Jenkin's injury concerns will be too much for the Jets to go another season without addressing that position for the future.
31. Green Bay Packers: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Why Sherrod Is Special: A solid all-around prospect who does everything asked of him well but is not elite in anything. Great production out of the toughest conference in the country and has solid experience against top level talent. Is versatile enough to move around the line as well.
Why Sherrod Goes Here: Could be drafted higher depending on the board but none of the tackles really wow me this season.
Why Sherrod Fits: Depth at the offensive line is always tantamount to success, and the Packers can think of their future with a player like Sherrod this late in the round.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida
Why Pouncey Is Special: Has good awareness across the line, has versatility enough to play any position on the inside, displays toughness and is a hard working player. Also possesses direct NFL bloodlines.
Why Pouncey Goes Here: The No. 1 interior lineman on my board, and he could test higher than this and move way up, like his brother, in the coming weeks.
Why Pouncey Fits: Big Ben joked about trying to get Mike into his brother's uniform for the Super Bowl in light of the injury; what more needs to fit?