Now that Super Bowl XLV is in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for football junkies to turn to their next fix.
The 2011 NFL Draft is just over two months away.
However, a looming lockout makes the weeks leading up to this highly anticipated, annual event at Radio City Music Hall much different.
One, 2011 NFL Draft speculation may be the last actual football talk we have for a while—labor discussions will surely dominate afterwards.
Two, a potential work stoppage will force NFL GMs to approach this draft a lot differently. Without a CBA, teams can't sign free agents or make any trades in the off-season and will have to look to the draft to fill immediate needs.
For example, teams like the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings may have to draft quarterbacks instead of acquiring experienced ones like Donovan McNabb and Carson Palmer.
With all that being said, here is a complete 2011 NFL Mock Draft. Oh, and full disclosure, this is from the perspective of a New York Jets fan.
The Carolina Panthers were dreadful in 2010 on both sides of the ball.
However, new head coach Ron Rivera was a defensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers. So it is likely Carolina will be looking to initially shore up the defense.
The top four prospects in the draft are defensive studs and the debate will be intense in the Panthers' war room.
When the debate ends, the Panthers will select Da'Quan Bowers with the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Bowers, who led the nation with 16 sacks, would immediately fill a pass rush void that resulted when Julius Peppers departed for Chicago before the 2010 season.
It has already been quite an offseason for the Denver Broncos and as with any transitional period, questions are plentiful.
Can new head coach John Fox recapture the magical years he once enjoyed at Carolina?
Will Tim Tebow be anointed as the QB of the future?
Will John Elway's success on the field translate to success in the Broncos' front office?
One thing that is without question however, Denver must take LSU's Patrick Peterson with their first round selection in 2011.
Peterson, one of the best shut down cornerback prospects in many years, would become the heir apparent to Champ Bailey in the Mile-High City.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick entrenched at QB and Steve Johnson and C.J. Spiller installed as the play makers, the Buffalo Bills will be looking for help on the defensive side of the ball.
Buffalo was last in the league against the run and gave up almost 170 yards per game. The debate—which will be as intense as the Iron Bowl itself—will come down to Alabama's Marcel Dareus and Auburn's Nick Fairley.
Dareus is a better edge pass rusher and a better fit in a 3-4 defense. He will get the nod over Fairley as the Bills' first 2011 pick.
The Cincinnati Bengals would love to draft A.J. Green in this spot and relieve themselves of the headcase duo comprising Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens...but they can't pass up Nick Fairley.
The Bengals finished with only 27 sacks last year and opponents averaged 4.4 yards per rush. Fairley has a nasty streak and will definitely help in both areas.
Simply stated, the Arizona Cardinals have to address the QB position this offseason. Rumors have it they are interested in Donovan McNabb and Carson Palmer. If I were leading a franchise, I wouldn't touch either of them and instead focus on a younger signal caller who has the potential to be a franchise quarterback.
Blaine Gabbert is one such quarterback, and the best option for the Cardinals in this draft.
Gabbert has the physical tools and the arm strength that NFL teams love and he also played in Gary Pinkel's pro style offense at Missouri.
And trust me, Gabbert will quickly make fans in the desert forget the Matt Leinart draft pick.
The Cleveland Browns finished 28th in the league, averaging just under 300 yards per game of total offense. They found their RB of the future in Peyton Hillis, but they still need to provide QB Colt McCoy with some weapons.
Browns fans should jump for joy if A.J. Green falls to Cleveland at six. The Georgia WR is a 6'4" game-breaker who possesses great hands and exceptional athleticism. Green will become the next Calvin Johnson, no exaggeration, he is that big of a stud.
The 2010 San Francisco 49ers were one of the most underachieving teams in the league. They will not be a contender until there is significant improvement at quarterback.
They will try to bring in an established veteran player (such as Carson Palmer) in the offseason. If they are unsuccessful in free agency, look for the 49ers to address this vital need with their first pick in 2011.
If Gabbert is available, they may pull the trigger on him. There aren't any other QBs worthy of this pick in the draft.
However if Gabbert is taken earlier, they will draft the best defensive player and that will be Von Miller, who is a pass rushing specialist.
The Tennessee Titans are another team that is looking for a franchise QB.
The Vince Young experiment is over.
If Blaine Gabbert should somehow slip to Tennessee they will certainly take him, but I do not see that happening. Considering they finished 30th in the league in pass defense yards allowed, look for the Titans to instead draft the best defensive player on the board
A shut down corner to play opposite Cortland Finnegan would be ideal. On draft day, Tennessee goes to Cornhusker land and selects Prince Amukamara.
The Dallas Cowboys suffered through a miserable season in 2010, but the future looks bright. Tony Romo will be back at the helm and he has plenty of play makers surrounding him.
The defense gave up 27 points per game and needs a boost.
Jerry Jones loves to make a splash on draft day, just like when he draft Dez Bryant and his baggage. Dallas will take another chance and draft arguably the most talented DE in the draft, but one who also comes with baggage.
Robert Quinn is their man.
The Washington Redskins are another of the many teams that are looking for a franchise QB. The odds are that Donovan McNabb will be released this offseason.
Of course, the Redskins would be crazy to head into 2011 with Rex Grossman as their starting QB.
True, Washington needs help on the defensive side as they finished 2010 next to last in yards allowed.
Despite that, at this spot in the draft they will set their sights on a signal caller.
The only question is, which one will they choose? Daniel Snyder will take a flyer on 2010 Heisman winner, Cam Newton.
The Houston Texans had the worst secondary in the league last year—and arguably the worst in the last decade. Unfortunately, this draft is not a deep one for defensive backs.
If Prince Amukamara falls here they will pluck him in a second. If not they will have to look for a pass rusher to help improve their 30 sack figure from 2010.
New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has stated that he will install a 3-4 and the best fit in that system will be Cal's Cameron Jordan.
Jordan had a great Senior Bowl week and his stock is on the rise.
Hopefully, finally, the Brett Favre era is over in Minnesota. And even if that saga is over, the Vikings handling of the situation still set the franchise back a couple of years.
Minnesota's franchise QB is not currently on the roster—neither Tarvaris Jackson nor Joe Webb are the answer—and they must address this issue in the offseason.
Going into his final year at the University of Washington, Jake Locker was viewed as the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. But after a shaky senior campaign, his stock plummeted.
Locker is still the most talented field general in this draft and the Vikings will take another chance with a QB. Hopefully for them, this one works.
Despite the injuries to Matthew Stafford, the Detroit Lions were one of the most surprising teams in the league during 2010. Their defense made great strides last season and DT Ndamukong Suh quickly emerged as one of the best DL in the league.
Stafford has some weapons on offense with WR Calvin Johnson and TE Brandon Pettigrew. The one area where they need immediate assistance is on the offensive line. Stafford needs some protection and Anthony Castonzo will be coming to the rescue.
Sam Bradford had a great rookie year in 2010 and the future is bright for the St. Louis Rams. Stephen Jackson has a couple of years left running the rock. But the receiving corp needs a major upgrade.
Danny Amendola will not scare any defenses, they need an impact receiver that will help to open lanes for the running game.
After A.J. Green, the next best receiver in the 2011 NFL Draft is Alabama's Julio Jones. Jones has as much talent as Green, but he does not play with as much intensity throughout the course of a game.
The Miami Dolphins head into the 2011 NFL draft as a franchise in total disarray.
The Dolphins have no confidence in coach Tony Sparano—as evidenced by their public recruitment of Jim Harbaugh even though Sparano was under contract. Their QB, Chad Henne, was benched for Chad "Geritol" Pennington.
Obviously, a franchise in disarray has many needs. But first and foremost, the Dolphins need some game breakers on offense. The running tandem of Ronny Brown and Ricky Williams will probably come to an end and the Dolphins will look to Alabama RB Mark Ingram to bring some life and stability to a floundering franchise.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were one of the luckiest teams in the league in 2010. Looking at their team stats they should have won only five or six games.
The defense, which gave up 26 points per game, let them down on many occasions. The Jaguars only registered 26 sacks last year and must improve those numbers to compete with the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South.
Adrian Clayborn is a high energy DE who fits perfectly in their 4-3 alignment.
Editorial note: I detest Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots and hope that they bomb with this pick. (Remember, I'm a Jets fan.)
However I must give credit where due. The Patriots stole this pick from the Raiders in the Richard Seymour trade. The last thing the Patriots need are gifts when it comes to draft picks. This organization has done a great job of selecting and developing talent during the Belichick era.
New England will continue to revamp their defense by drafting Mizzou's Aldon Smith. In the process, the Patriots will also add to their stock of linebackers.
The San Diego Chargers were the league's most puzzling team in 2010. They ranked first in the NFL in both offense and defense, but only finished 8-8.
How could that be possible? Coaching.
Norv Turner should have been fired years ago...who knows what GM A.J. Smith is thinking.
Meanwhile, three of the Chargers' linebackers—Brandon Siler, Kevin Burnett and Stephen Cooper—are free agents and they must look to fill those spots.
San Diego will stay on the West Coast and choose UCLA's Akeem Ayers.
Like the Chargers, the New York Giants are a very hard team to analyze. On many occasions during 2010, they were prone to silly mental errors and even seemed to quit at times.
The word out of the Giants' camp is that they want to add depth to their aging offensive line. There are several possible picks, but none are without flaws.
Tyron Smith from USC has the most upside but he needs to add some bulk—he is weighing less than 300lbs. The safer pick for Tom Coughlin and the Giants is Colorado's Nate Solder.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the league's most surprising team in 2010.
QB Josh Freeman proved to everyone that he is a leader both on and off the field. The Bucs did benefit from one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, so they can't rest on their laurels.
Tampa Bay would love to get another playmaker for Freeman, but this draft is very weak in skill players. The Bucs, like many teams, will look to improve their pass rush as they only generated 26 sack last year.
The best pass rusher likely to be on the board at this pick is Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue.
The Chiefs were the second most surprising team in the league last year. It was the year of breakthrough for both Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe.
Kansas City led the league in rushing last season and in 2011 will continue to build a running and defensive minded team.
The Chiefs will draft Georgia LB/DE Justin Houston so as to add a bookend DE with Tamba Hali.
The Indianapolis Colts began to show some age last year, even Peyton Manning looked worn down at times. Injuries again left their defense crippled at times so the Colts will have to add some depth in this draft.
However, their No. 1 concern is still protecting No. 18. The Colts like athletic, quick trapping offensive lineman and they will find the perfect fit in Tyron Smith from USC.
The Philadelphia Eagles hit the jackpot when they signed Michael Vick. Not only did Philly benefit from Vick's production in terms of an NFC East title, but his play now allows the Eagles to use Kevin Kolb as trade bait...a trade that may net them a first round draft pick. If that is the case, it would definitely change their philosophy for the 2011 draft.
But first thing's first. Andy Reid has a history of drafting offensive and defensive lineman in the first round. The best one that will be left on the board is Derek Sherrod from Mississippi State.
The New Orleans Saints suffered an embarrassing melt down in the 2010 playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks. The defense surprisingly finished fourth in yards allowed, but they only had nine interceptions.
They need some play makers in the secondary and an eventual replacement for Darren Sharper. UCLA's Rahim Moore will be their answer.
The QB position is still a question mark for the Seattle Seahawks. They aren't sure if Matt Hasselbeck will be back, and they haven't come to a conclusion on Charlie Whitehurst.
This may lead them to drafting a QB such as Arkansas' Ryan Mallet.
The other big concern for the Seahawks is that they finished next to last in rushing last year. They traded for RB Marshawn Lynch last year and will look to add some talent on the offensive line.
Seattle will take Mike Pouncey with their first round pick in 2011...then they will pray he is half the player that his brother Maurkice is with Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Baltimore Ravens defense only allowed 17 points per game in 2010...but they could not make crucial defensive stops on several fourth quarter drives. The Ravens' cornerbacks were exposed on blitzes many times last season since their pass rush—that registered only 27 sacks—was invisible.
The Ravens love to draft players from "The U" and the trend will continue in 2011 as they select a solid cover corner in Brandon Harris.
The Atlanta Falcons finished 13-3 but were kicked in the teeth by the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. Their secondary was picked apart consistently by Aaron Rodgers.
Atlanta must improve their secondary if they want to get to the next level. They will not be able to beat the likes of Green Bay, Philadelphia and New Orleans in the playoffs if they don't.
The best corner that will be on the board is Jimmy Smith from Colorado.
My nemesis is back on the clock.
Trying to read into Belichicks' mind is difficult. But it doesn't take a mind reader to understand that he'd be happy coming away from this draft with two impact players. It may be time to draft a DE since he hasn't really replaced Richard Seymour.
J.J. Watt from Wisconsin is a high energy guy that seems like a Belichick player.
The Chicago Bears were lucky to win 11 games last year. They lead the league with 44 takeaways and will be hard pressed to do that in consecutive years.
Their offense finished 30th in the league and their running game was non-existent. I am not sure that Forte is the answer, but the Bears will look to improve their offensive line to help the running game.
Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin is their man.
Another editorial note: As a huge Jets fan, I feel that Rex Ryan walks on water. The Jets' concerns going into the offseason are the following: the impending free agency of wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, the impending free agency of Antonio Cromartie, aging outside linebackers and the lack of a pass rush.
I would rather draft a pass rushing specialist but the top ones will most likely be of the board. Look for Gang Green to draft a deep threat receiver and provide QB Mark Sanchez with another weapon.
Torrey Smith of Maryland will be the next Jets' superstar.
The 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers were the most balanced team in the league. They didn't walk away with the Lombardi Trophy because their only weakness came back to haunt them: inefficient cornerback play.
Luckily for Pittsburgh, the last CB worthy of being taken in the first round will still be available. The Steelers go down to Longhorn country and pluck Aaron Williams.
The Pack is back. The 2010 Super Bowl Champions were one of the youngest teams in the league last year and have no major weaknesses. The only concern that they may have is the depth and some age on the offensive line.
Aaron Rogers, not Tom Brady, is the best QB in the league. Green Bay must protect him at all costs so look for the Packers to draft an offensive lineman.
Baylor's Danny Watkins—the best lineman that will be left on the board at 32—will protect Rogers for years to come.