With all the uncertainty of the Collective Bargaining Agreement ahead for football fans, it is good to have one thing for certain: The 2011 NFL Draft.
Despite the on-going labor negotiations and the potential for a lock out next month, the draft will go on as scheduled regardless of the CBA. That is a good thing for football fans, who just watched the last football game of the year with the Super Bowl this past Sunday.
Without a new CBA, there will be no free agency. If it continues until the summer, there will be no mini-camps or training camp. And if, God forbid, it lasts until next fall … Well we won’t think about that.
Thank God for the NFL Draft!
1. The Carolina Panthers select … Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
2. The Denver Broncos select … Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Champ Bailey a’int getting any younger. Peterson should be a starter week one and can help contribute in the return game as well.
3. The Buffalo Bills select … Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers could be off the board at No. 1 if the Panthers are looking for Julius Peppers‘ replacement. If not, the Bills could use the help on defense after a few failed defensive picks in recent drafts (read: Aaron Maybin).
4. The Cincinnati Bengals select … A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
No T.O., no Ocho Cinco, no problem. A.J. Green is the most NFL-ready offensive player in this draft. Easily a starter next year.
5. The Arizona Cardinals select … Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Word on the street is that the Cardinals are interested in Marc Bulger. Clearly he is not the long-term solution to the huge QB problem in the desert.
6. The Cleveland Browns select … Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
The Browns need play-makers on offense. Their options at WR are deplorable. Jones makes sense here and should be a week one starter.
7. The San Francisco 49ers select … Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
The defense under-performed last season. Dareus could bolster the D-Line to help get that high-potential unit back on track.
8. The Tennessee Titans select … Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
9. The Dallas Cowboys select … Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Gotta protect Tony Romo, the face of the franchise. O-Line has been a big issue for the ‘Boys recently.
10. The Washington Redskins select … Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
There are many needs—like a quarterback for the future—but defense never hurts, especially a top-10 prospect. Mike Shanahan should be able to work with the parts on offense, right?
11. The Houston Texans select … Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Miller’s stock is on the rise and the Texans desperately need defense. Seems like a good fit, especially since he is local.
12. The Minnesota Vikings select … Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Will the Vikings take this risk? They already have a running quarterback on the roster in Tarvaris Jackson. It would be an interesting risk.
13. The Detroit Lions select … AlDon Smith, LB, Missouri
Keep rebuilding that defense because the offense clearly is there, minus some help on the offensive line to better protect Matthew Stafford.
14. The St. Louis Rams select … Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
15. The Miami Dolphins select … Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
16. The Jacksonville Jaguars select … Cameron Jordan, DE, California
17. The New England Patriots select … Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The Jets exposed some protection issues for the Pats during the AFC playoffs. Time to bolster the group that protects the franchise, Tom Brady.
18. The San Diego Chargers select … Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
It is a deep draft for defensive end talent. And there are a lot of teams in the market, including the Chargers.
19. The New York Giants select … Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
The Giants have some pressing needs and with a defensive-minded coach and front office, I expect a defensive pick.
20. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers select … Justin Houston, LB, Georgia
The youngest team in the league was able to have a surprise season in 2010 by doing well in the draft. If you get drafted by the Bucs, expect to see some immediate playing time.
21. The Kansas City Chiefs select … TyRon Smith, OT, USC
The offensive philosophy in KC was simple: Run, run, play-pass and run some more. They are going to need some depth in the trenches.
22. The Indianapolis Colts select … Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
The offense will be there as long as No. 18 is under center. It is the defense with all the question marks.
23. The Philadelphia Eagles select … Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
The other Pouncey (Maurkice) worked out well for the Steelers. Mike, who played center for Florida this year, is a much better fit at guard.
24. The New Orleans Saints select … Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
25. The Seattle Seahawks select … Jake Locker, QB, Washington
I see the whole feel-good story here: Local product staying home to play pro ball. It would be a reach, though, with the way Locker’s stock has dropped.
26. The Baltimore Ravens select … BranDon Harris, CB, Miami
The Ravens, like the Titans, had trouble in the secondary this year. They could use some help at quarterback and already have several players from the U on the roster to mentor Harris.
27. The Atlanta Falcons select … Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
28. The New England Patriots select … Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
Two picks in the first round, two offensive lineman. The draft is a great place to rebuild that unit.
29. The Chicago Bears select … Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Jay Cutler, God bless him, needs some protection. You can call him a wuss all you want, but the man got rocked in 2010. It was a miracle he survived to the NFC Championship game.
30. The New York Jets select … J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
It could be a lot of attrition for the Jets on the defensive side of the ball. With a deep class of defensive ends, it seems like a natural pick for Rex Ryan.
31. The Pittsburgh Steelers select … Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Is there a more obvious need than this? Well, maybe offensive guard. The O-Line seems like a perennial problem these days for the Steelers.
32. The Green Bay Packers select … Mikel LeShoure, RB, Illinois