2011 NFL Draft Order: Final Order Set, Who's Going No. 1?
The 2011 NFL Draft order is finally set.
It took 17 weeks of regular season action, four rounds of postseason action and a Super Bowl for the ages, but the blasted thing is finally set in stone.
Of course, the only loose end in the last two weeks has been the order in which the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers would pick in the back end of the first round. With the Packers coming away with the victory at Super Bowl XLV, that question has been answered.
In other words, it's time for football pundits around the country to channel their inner Mel Kiper (you heard me, McShay) and to get to work mocking the 2011 NFL Draft.
To find out who might go No. 1 overall, as well as where the other 31 first-round picks might be, you must read on...
1. Carolina Panthers: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Why He's Special: Bowers is a monster of a man at 6'4" and 277 pounds. He also led the nation in sacks in 2010 and is by far the best pass rusher in this year's draft class. He should be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks for years to come. In other words, he probably has a lot of fines in his future.
Why He Goes Here: This is a very good year for defensive ends, and Bowers is by far the best of the bunch. If he doesn't go No. 1 overall, he won't slip outside the Top Five.
Why He Fits: The Panthers would obviously prefer to have Andrew Luck right here, but I'm sure they'll be fine with settling for Bowers. The other option would be Auburn's Nick Fairley, but you could say that Bowers is the safer pick, not to mention the kind of player you can build a defense around.
2. Denver Broncos: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Why He's Special: At 6'1" and upwards of 210 pounds, Peterson is pretty big for a corner. As such, he's very effective in press coverage and also has a great nose for the ball. He also boasts top-end speed, and it makes him a huge threat in the return game.
Why He Goes Here: One way or another, Peterson will be the first corner off the board. Prince Amukamara is very good, but he isn't quite at Peterson's level.
Why He Fits: Just about every draft pundit on the planet has Peterson going to the Broncos and for good reason. Champ Bailey is a free agent, and Peterson is the kind of player who can step in and fill the void right away.
3. Buffalo Bills: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Why He's Special: For those who saw the BCS National Championship, it should be obvious. Auburn's 6'5" defensive tackle dominated the line of scrimmage in that game, and every other game he played in during the 2010 regular season. For his efforts, he was given the Lombardi Award.
Why He Goes Here: Like I said, Fairley could very well go No. 1 overall. But for all Fairley's immense talent, he still only had one good year, and that might scare the Panthers off. If so, he falls to No. 3.
Why He Fits: The Bills had more trouble stopping the run than any other team in 2010. Enter Fairley. Problem more or less solved.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Why He's Special: Thanks in large part to the fact that he missed all of the 2010 season, Quinn is still a little raw. But he's 6'5" and 270 pounds with a reputable motor, so it goes without saying that his potential alone make him worth a high draft pick.
Why He Goes Here: This might look a little high for Quinn, but he's the kind of player who will be over-drafted by a team that needs his services.
Why He Fits: And that's why the Bengals will take him. Marvin Lewis' club has holes up and down the roster, but the one thing they need more than anything else is a formidable presence on the defensive line. Thus, Quinn.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Why He's Special: The general consensus regarding Miller is that he's still a little raw as an outside linebacker. Considering the fact that he's already very good in both pass coverage and in the pass rush, this is actually a little scary. If you want to see some Miller highlights, go watch this year's Senior Bowl.
Why He Goes Here: This is yet another player who might be going too high. However, Miller's stock is as hot as anybody's right now, and it wouldn't be surprising at all if he is a lock for the top five after the combine.
Why He Fits: Everybody else has the Cardinals picking a quarterback right here. But with the recent stories about the team asking Larry Fitzgerald which veteran they should go out and acquire, it would appear that drafting a QB is not their plan. As such, they'll look to fill another need, and they could definitely use some youth at outside linebacker.
6. Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Why He's Special: Green went and got himself suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season and still ended up with 848 yards receiving and nine TDs. He's got very good speed, a big frame and exceptional hands. What more do you want in a receiver?
Why He Goes Here: It's a pretty weak class at the wide receiver position for the most part, but the first two off the board are very good. Green will be the first to go one way or another.
Why He Fits: The Browns have plenty of holes, but a trio of Green, Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis could end up making them a nightmare for opposing defenses.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Why He's Special: Amukamara may not be as physically gifted as Peterson, but he probably has better instincts and route recognition skills than Peterson. He did not record a single interception in 2010, which is indicative of how often teams avoided him altogether.
Why He Goes Here: Amukamara won't fall outside the Top 10, and it's actually going to be pretty interesting to see where he goes. The Cardinals, 49ers and Cowboys could all conceivably use him.
Why He Fits: The 49ers could take a quarterback here, but I think it's a better bet that they'll go out and acquire a veteran. Some have ventured that they could go after Nnamdi Asomugha to fill their need for cornerback depth, but that would give them two high-priced corners (the other being Nate Clements). In other words, Amukamara is cheaper and certainly adequate.
8. Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Why He's Special: Gabbert is still pretty raw as a quarterback, but he has all the tools you look for in a good NFL QB. He's the right size at 6'5," and he's got a strong arm with a quick release. The rest will come with time.
Why He Goes Here: When Luck decided to go back to Stanford, Gabbert became the top overall quarterback by default. There are a couple teams in the Top 10 that could use him, but I like the first seven to fill other needs.
Why He Fits: The Titans are going to enter full-on rebuilding mode, and it will start at the quarterback position. For the longest time, I thought the best they were going to be able to do would be Cam Newton, but that's obviously no longer the case (I'm smarter now, you see).
9. Dallas Cowboys: Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama
Why He's Special: Dareus has been accused of not always giving 100 percent, and he underachieves as a run stuffer. However, he excels as a pass rusher, as he can get through the line of scrimmage as well as anybody.
Why He Goes Here: Dareus is a perfect 3-4 defensive end at the pro level, so he'll go to a team that needs one.
Why He Fits: With Marcus Spears and Stephen Bowen both about to test the free-agency waters, the Cowboys are going to need at least one defensive end, and it just so happens that Dareus would be a great fit for their 3-4.
10. Washington Redskins: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Why He's Special: Newton was pretty much unstoppable in 2010. He scored 49 total touchdowns, won the Heisman Trophy, and led the Tigers to the BCS National Championship. He's one of the best pure athletes anybody's seen in a long time, yet he still has room to grow.
Why He Goes Here: Newton probably has no business going in the Top 10, but this is Dan Snyder and the Redskins we're talking here.
Why He Fits: Indeed, the Redskins never do anything that makes sense. But one thing we can count on is that Donovan McNabb will be run out of town on a rail, and that they're not going to be so stupid as to think that Rex Grossman is actually good enough to be their starting quarterback. So they'll go for Newton, and we will laugh at them for doing so.
11. Houston Texans: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Why He's Special: Ayers was probably the only real threat that the Bruins had on their front seven the past two seasons, so they used him pretty much any way they could, including lining him up at defensive end. At the next level, he's perfect for a 3-4 scheme, and his freakish athleticism and perfect build could make him a steal in the not-so-distant future.
Why He Goes Here: Ayers could very well fall to the latter end of the first round depending on how the Texans aim to fix their defense. But one of the things they need is a linebacker to build around, and that could be Ayers.
Why He Fits: The Texans could also stand to patch their secondary, but they would have to over-draft in order to do so. Instead, Wade Philips should look to draft Ayers to give his new defense an enforcer.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
Why He's Special: His twin brother, Maurkice, was a Pro Bowler in his rookie season for the Steelers. Because they're twins, they're basically the same player, right? If so, that's a good thing.
Why He Goes Here: The other Pouncey is far and away the best interior line prospect in this year's draft, and there's a good chance that he'll land inside the Top 15 one way or another.
Why He Fits: The Vikings have needs all over the place, but their offensive line is sorely in need of an upgrade. Pouncey projects as a center, obviously, but he could probably also cut it as a guard. Because of John Sullivan's relative struggles, the Vikings could use both.
13. Detroit Lions: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Why He's Special: Kerrigan led the nation in tackles for loss in 2010 and established a reputation as a pretty much unblockable player. At the pro level, he projects as the kind of defensive end that could develop into one of the best sack artists in the game.
Why He Goes Here: The middle to the end of the first round is going to see quite a few defensive ends start to come off the board. Kerrigan could end up being upstaged by Cameron Jordan, but that was probably a much bigger possibility before Jordan underperformed at the Super Bowl.
Why He Fits: The Lions could use a guard, secondary help and an outside linebacker, but they also need help at defensive end. Adding Kerrigan to a D-line that already includes Rookie of the Year defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will make the Lions a terror for opposing quarterbacks.
14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Why He's Special: Like Green, Jones is also a 6'4" wide receiver with good speed and great hands. I watched quite a few Tide games in 2010, and it seemed like Jones made a great catch in every single one of them. The dude has a knack for such things.
Why He Goes Here: Whenever he goes, Jones will be the second receiver off the board. Not a bad pick considering he's not that far off from being on Green's level.
Why He Fits: Give Sam Bradford a big-play receiver, and the Rams could go places. Hence, Jones.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Why He's Special: Ingram boasts elite vision, not to mention incredible lateral quickness for a man of his size (5'10", 210). He's obviously a very good runner, but he is also equally dangerous in the passing game. To boot, he's the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.
Why He Goes Here: He's definitely the top running back in this year's draft class, and where he goes will depend on who needs him the most.
Why He Fits: With the Dolphins losing both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to free agency, they need Ingram the most. Case closed.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Why He's Special: Jordan may have failed to live up to the hype at the Senior Bowl, but he's still a hot prospect. He has an array of moves to get through opposing blockers and could end up being the kind of player who could terrorize offensive lines for years to come.
Why He Goes Here: Jordan's stock is down somewhat at the moment, but you can expect it to rise at the combine in the same way it rose during the Senior Bowl practices.
Why He Fits: The Jaguars had one of the worst pass rushes in the league in 2010, and Jordan should be able to help fix that. He's coming from a 3-4 at Cal, but he projects as a fine fit on the edge of a 4-3.
17. New England Patriots (via Oakland Raiders): Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Why He's Special: He's 6'9" and upwards of 310 pounds, but the thinking is that he could add even more bulk to his frame. Factor in the fact that he has great footwork and awareness, and you have yourself a great anchor for your offensive line.
Why He Goes Here: There are plenty of options at offensive tackle in this year's draft class, and exactly who's the best depends on who you ask. But everyone seems to agree that Solder is as solid as they come, so it's hard to see him falling too far.
Why He Goes Here: It's obviously too early to tell right now, but it's a good bet that the Patriots will finally cut ties with Matt Light. They could also end up losing Logan Mankins as well, so they're going to need to patch either the guard or tackle position in the draft. Because there are no guards worth taking this high, they'll take Solder.
18. San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Why He's Special: Watt really came into his own in his junior season. He's got an insane motor, and he's as good as anybody at getting into the backfield. However, he also demands extra blocks, which should come in handy in a 3-4 at the next level.
Why He Goes Here: Watt could very well end up going higher than No. 18, but he's not the best fit for some of the teams picking ahead of the Chargers. If he does fall to them, they won't hesitate.
Why He Fits: The Chargers would probably love to have a stud wide receiver here, but that's not going to happen. Instead, they could use a defensive end, and Watt is a good one.
19. New York Giants: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Why He's Special: At 6'5" and 290 pounds, Smith is a little shorter than Solder and players like Gabe Carimi and Anthony Castonzo. But he could be the strongest of the bunch, as he has sneaky strength, and gets great leverage.
Why He Goes Here: Smith could very well end up being the first tackle off the board when April rolls around. But for now, concerns about his size will keep him behind Solder on the big board.
Why He Fits: The Giants have some patchwork to do on their offensive line. That will depend on whether or not they decide to move David Diehl inside. But they could always draft Solder first, and then make that decision later.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
Why He's Special: For a guy who's 6'4" and more than 260 pounds, Smith moves pretty well. He's a bit of 'tweener, but he is already a great pass rusher. He could end up being a steal if he establishes himself at a single position at the pro level.
Why He Goes Here: Because Smith is a 'tweener, it's difficult to determine where Smith will go in the draft. As a defensive end, he doesn't quite stack up to all of the other great prospects. As an outside linebacker, he's not quite on the level of Miller or Ayers. Regardless, he's still too good to pass up.
Why He Fits: The Buccaneers need both a defensive end and an outside linebacker, and they sure as heck need a pass rusher. Come to think of it, it sounds like they need Smith.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Why He's Special: Carimi anchored what many thought was the best offensive line in the country in 2010, and he was particularly useful creating holes for the Badgers' trio of stud running backs. Obviously, he's a big son of a gun, but his footwork is pretty nimble.
Why He Goes Here: If Smith is indeed the next lineman off the board after Solder, expect Carimi to follow soon after.
Why He Fits: The Chiefs need an offensive tackle, and Carimi is perfect for their run-first style of offense.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Why He's Special: For a guy who's 6'7", Castonzo could stand to add some bulk to his 290-pound frame. But he's very smart, and he's got great footwork, which more than helped him make up for his lack of girth at the college level.
Why He Goes Here: If Castonzo puts on more weight, he could be the second or third tackle off the board. If things stay as they are, he will fall here or beyond.
Why He Fits: The Colts have some holes in their offensive line, and this obviously doesn't bode well as long as they have Peyton Manning under center. You have to think they'll like Castonzo's smarts, so I'm sure they'll take him.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Why He's Special: Williams is similar in height to Peterson at 6'1", but he doesn't quite boast Peterson's thickness. Nevertheless, he has very good speed, and he excels at attacking the ball.
Why He Goes Here: This year's cornerback class obviously gets shaky after Peterson and Amukamara, but there are several that could go in the latter end of the first round, and Williams is the surest bet of the bunch.
Why He Fits: The Eagles need offensive line help, but they could also use a solid presence opposite Asante Samuel, especially with Ellis Hobbs likely to walk in free agency. Williams will do just fine.
24. New Orleans Saints: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple
Why He's Special: Wilkerson was largely overlooked thanks to the fact that he played for Temple, but he was one of the better sack artists in the country in 2010. Plus, he's the kind of player that could play any position on any defensive line.
Why He Goes Here: Wilkerson's stock could end up picking up steam as we get closer and closer to draft day. Right now, he's a good late-round pick.
Why He Fits: The Saints have needs up and down their defensive line, and Wilkerson could fit each of them. Sounds like a good pick.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Why He's Special: He's big, he's mobile, he's got a great arm and a quick release. All he needs is some accuracy and some smarts.
Why He Goes Here: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Nonetheless, I still think Locker is a better prospect than the living statue known as Ryan Mallett.
Why He Fits: Matt Hasselbeck ain't coming back, folks, so it's time to look to the future. Because Locker played his college ball in Washington, the fit is almost too perfect. Plus, let's not forget that Pete Carroll is a Pac-10 guy.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
Why He's Special: Moor led the nation with 10 picks in 2009. That number dropped in 2010, but Moore did improve on his tackling. Regardless, still outstanding in coverage.
Why He Goes Here: He's the only safety worth taking in the first round, and late in the first round sounds like a good fit.
Why He Fits: The Ravens had their issues in pass defense in 2010, especially late in games. Plus, Ed Reed isn't getting any younger. Maybe it's time for them to start looking for an heir apparent.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
Why He's Special: Rudolph still has some work to do as far as his blocking is concerned, but he's the only tight end in this year's draft class that is a legitimate big-play threat.
Why He Goes Here: It's questionable whether or not Rudolph is good enough to crack the first round, but I think he's a good fit for the Falcons. Because...
Why He Fits: Tony Gonzalez is coming back for one more year. If I were the Falcons, I think it would be pretty advantageous to draft Rudolph and give him a full year under the wing of the best tight end in NFL history.
28. New England Patriots: Shane Vereen, RB, California
Why He's Special: Vereen spent a good portion of his Cal career in Jahvid Best's shadow. But when he got his chance, it turned out that he was probably a better all-around back than Best, which is a considerable compliment. He may be a little short at 5'9" and change, but he's good, great speed and deceptive power.
Why He Goes Here: Partially because I'm a shameless Cal homer, but also because I think the Pats might be smart enough to take Vereen.
Why He Fits: Fred Taylor is probably done, and Kevin Faulk is also nearing the end of his career. The Pats are going to need another running back, and there's just something about Vereen that makes him a good fit for Bill Belichick. Maybe it's the fact that he's an underrated athlete who could do wonders in the right system. But heck, I don't know...
29. Chicago Bears: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Why He's Special: Sherrod isn't as tall or as wide as some of the other tackles that are going to come off the board ahead of him, but he makes up for it by being quick on his feet, and he has a knack for creating running lanes.
Why He Goes Here: Sherrod was being heralded as quite possibly the best tackle in the draft not too long ago, but he's hurt himself with a series of bad games and workouts. Here's hoping he's been scared straight.
Why He Fits: The Bears offensive line didn't necessarily suck by the end of the year, but it still wasn't very good. They'll jump on any help they can get.
30. New York Jets: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Why He's Special: Clayborn had a down year for the Hawkeyes in 2010, but that's because he faced a lot of extra attention. He still has the tools and the size, though, so the hope is that he learned from the experience.
Why He Goes Here: He could potentially go a little higher than this, but he's not a very hot prospect in the moment. Nonetheless, he projects as a good 3-4 defensive end prospect, so the Jets could jump on him.
Why He Fits: Shaun Ellis could end up leaving, so the Jets might actually end up needing Clayborn.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Orlando Franklin, OG, Miami
Why He's Special: Franklin has the kind of size and quickness that make him a great run blocker. He's not all that quick if he needs to move, but he's great in the trenches.
Why He Goes Here: Outside of Pouncey, it's not a great year for interior lineman. Nevertheless, Franklin is the best guard available, and the Steelers need one.
Why He Fits: The Steelers could use help at guard and tackle, but the best tackles are all going to be off the board. As such, they'll have to settle for Franklin and hope that he develops.
32. Green Bay Packers: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Why He's Special: Paea is a bit of a weight room prodigy and should probably be a better pass rusher than he's shown. Nonetheless, he's a very good run stuffer and could fit anywhere on any defensive line.
Why He Goes Here: If Paea has a good showing at the combine, it's likely he'll go much higher. If he does fall to the Packers, they'll take him.
Why He Fits: The Packers have a couple defensive lineman coming off the books in Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly, and drafting Paea would be a good way for them to make up whatever they might lose.