NFL Draft 2011: Nick Fairley and The Top 25 Best Overall Prospects
The 2011 NFL draft kicks off April 28th
This year's draft consists of 56 underclassman players that have declared themselves eligible, breaking a record for most eligible underclassman draft prospects. Many of these prospects have been dominating the college scene, and are featured in the slides that follow.
It looks to be shaping up to be yet another exciting draft.
25. J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt—The 6'5" defensive end from Wisconsin has decided to forgo his final year of NCAA eligibility and enter the draft.
Watt was named the 2010 Lott IMPACT Trophy winner, second-team All-America honors and was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection. He lead the Badgers with 21.0 tackles for loss in his last season.
Coming in as the No. 6 defensive end in the draft, Watt should be a early second round selection if he's not taken by New England or Tampa Bay in the late first-round.
24. Ryan Kerrigan
Coming in right before Watt as the No. 5 DE prospect is Ryan Kerrigan.
Kerrigan broke records left and right, such as recording 14 forced fumbles (Big Ten Record). He's tied for second all-time at Purdue with 33.5 sacks, and was fifth in Purdue history in tackles for loss with 57.
Nicknamed "Superman" by his coaches and teammates, Kerrigan shows incredible athletic ability with consistent all-out effort.
Throughout his days at Purdue, he showed mature DE strategies in the trench, meaning that there won't need to be that much adjusting done to Kerrigan's game.
23. Nate Solder
Coming into the draft as the No. 3 OT is Nate Solder.
A 6'7" Consensus All-American from Colorado, he became the first All-American at the position for the Buffaloes.
He played 2,540 out of a possible 2,542 plays on offense from his sophomore through senior seasons. Of those plays, 1,400 were called passing plays, and he allowed just five sacks those three years.
He's a probable pick up by the New York Giants mid-way through the first round.
22. Adrian Clayborn
Adrian Clayborn is listed as a DE, but also lines up at the DT position.
He has the ability to play inside, as well as rush the passer on the outside.
Clayborn is one of those players in which attitude overcomes athleticism. There is no doubt he is a great athlete, but his emotional leadership on the field adds to his effectiveness.
21. Marvin Austin
A part of one of the top collegiate defenses in the country, North Carolina's Marvin Austin was a superb football player.
That is, when he was on the field.
Along with many of his teammates, Austin was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for his senior season.
After the unfortunate events of his final season in North Carolina, Austin showed up big in the East-West Shrine Game by grabbing a late-game fumble recovery for a touchdown.
While his on the field achievements are impressive, his "selfish" off-the-field attitude could make his draft selection lower than projected.
20. Ryan Mallett
With a throwing arm like a rifle and record-breaking production against SEC defenses, Ryan Mallett has definitely proved he belongs in the NFL.
Mallett's 158.1 career passing efficiency ranking is the third-highest in SEC history, and he holds Arkansas' career records for 400-yard passing games (4) and 300-yard passing games (14).
While he is the No. 5 ranked QB going into the draft, this year's draft doesn't hold many high spots for QB's, so Mallett could go as late as the third round.
19. Tyron Smith
Tyron Smith comes in to the draft as the No. 2 OT.
As a unique OT, Smith comes with speed and agility that's not often found in an offensive lineman. His pass blocking, as well as rush blocking skills, are second to none, with his great initial quickness and initial push.
Smith comes into the draft as a 20-year-old, so look for a few years on the bench before seeing much action from him.
18. Anthony Castonzo
Anthony Castonzo is the No. 1 OT in the draft.
Experience has to be his best attribute. After starting in all 53 games of his career, Castonzo has shown consistency in both performance and health.
If Castonzo is not a first round pick, I will lose all faith in the NFL.
17. Bruce Carter
Bruce Carter's collegiate career was far less spectacular than it could have been, with various career injuries topped off by the North Carolina eligibility scam his senior year. But, Carter did make the most out of his time with the Tar Heels.
Carter's only flaw seems to be his injuries. Although his injuries have been relatively frequent, when he's on the field, Carter's awareness and ability to visualize the offensive play are outstanding.
16. Aldon Smith
After only two years on a collegiate field, Aldon Smith has declared his eligibility for the NFL draft.
In addition to his strength, he has great self-awareness and can maneuver himself efficiently using leverage to get the most out of his efforts. It's a truly rare ability.
Somewhat average numbers were recorded from Smith throughout his career, but the NFL scouts are banking on his potential; he has yet to reach it.
15. Cameron Jordan
Cameron Jordan is arguably the strongest DE in this year's draft.
With great strength in the lower-body and upper-body, Jordan can easily drive his opponent into the pocket, destroying the offensive rhythm quickly.
A diverse lineman, Jordan can be effective in both the 3-4 and 4-3, with experience in both systems.
14. Akeem Ayers
UCLA junior All-America linebacker Akeem Ayers has opted out of his senior season to apply for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Ayers comes in as the third overall OLB in the draft.
The pass rush/blitz is Ayers strength. With his initial speed, he can quickly fill the gaps or punch through the gaps in the offensive line.
13. Blaine Gabbert
The No. 1 QB in the draft, Blaine Gabbert is the best all-around QB from the BCS.
A true NFL QB, Gabbert has a solid NFL arm and throws a tight spiral, giving him the capability to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically.
The biggest transition for Gabbert, as with all incoming QB's, will be reading the NFL defenses.
Also, Gabbert has the attribute every team needs...an emotional leader.
12. Mark Ingram
It's not a surprise that Mark Ingram comes into the draft as the No. 1 RB.
The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner led the Crimson Tide to their first National Championship since 1992.
Ingram possesses the unique combination of both speed and power and is comparable to Reggie Bush in his career at USC.
Unlike Bush, though, look for Ingram to improve as he enters the NFL and adjust his game to become one of the dominate RB's in the league.
11. Prince Amukamara
Amukamara was a consensus All-American and first-team All-Big 12 pick. He made 59 tackles, 1 sack and 13 broken up passes in his final season.
He lacks stats in the interception category, as well as occasional droughts of performance, sometimes lasting a few weeks.
But, Amukamara is another prospect that scouts bank on because of the potential.
10. Robert Quinn
Robert Quinn comes in as the No. 2 DE.
Another North Carolina player suspended for his senior season, Quinn has been out of the game for a while. But talent isn't something that is lost with time and after being in the gym all season, Quinn has gained another 15 lbs and is in his best shape yet.
His best asset is his explosion. His persistent speed and agility breaks down an offensive line throughout the game, causing the offense to lose effectiveness.
9. Julio Jones
Julio Jones comes in as the No. 2 WR this year.
Battling through injuries, Jones managed to catch 43 passes for 596 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Being part of a rushing based offense with the Crimson Tide, Jones had sporadic remarkable plays that help him stand out from the competition.
With slight inconsistency with his hands, when Jones catches it, he poses a threat with after-catch yards.
8. Mike Pouncey
The No. 1 OG in this year's Draft, Mike Pouncey is one of the most promising NFL prospects.
Much like his brother Maurkice Pouncey, Mike is known for his size and versatility. It was Mike, not his brother, that impressed the coaches of the Florida Gators with his versatility between both the offensive and defensive line leading to his getting a lot of playing time at DT, as well as OG and C.
7. Marcell Dareus
The No. 2 DT in this year's NFL Draft is Marcell Dareus.
One of the three Alabama defensive players predicted to be a first round NFL selection, Dareus was the anchor of the National Champion Crimson Tide defense.
With his thick lower body, Dareus easily collapses rushing gaps, destroying offensive rhythms.
Despite being suspended for the first two games of his junior season, due to taking improper benefits from an agent, Dareus finished this season with 34 tackles, including 11 for loss and 4.5 sacks.
6. Cam Newton
A National Champion QB, and Heisman Trophy-winner, Cameron Newton is this years No. 2 QB in the 2011 NFL Draft.
With a consistently dominant performance throughout the 2010 season, Newton led the Tigers to an undefeated season, capped with a National Championship.
His ability to tuck and run the football is uncanny and poses another threat to opposing defenses on a weekly basis.
But the abilities Newton showed in his collegiate career could prove negative for his NFL value.
Newton's ability to run the ball caused him not to have to read defenses and running away the broken plays frankly isn't the same in the NFL.
Despite the talk of his functional flaws, Newton is still projected to go early in the first round. With training, he can overcome any bad habits with his true athletic ability.
5. Von Miller
Von Miller comes in as the No. 1 OLB from Texas A&M.
Being primarily a stand-up defensive end, Miller is effective in both the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. Dropping back into coverage when needed and providing good pass-rush is definitely the highlights of Miller's abilities.
Coming in as one of the select non-tarnished off-field records, Miller has never had any character issues or shady affiliations.
The ability to learn and progress is his greatest attribute.
4. A. J. Green
Coming in as the No. 1 WR, Green has decided to forgo his senior season with the Bulldogs, and enter the NFL Draft.
Despite missing games due to injuries and suspensions, Green was second in school history with 23 touchdown catches and third with 2,542 receiving yards.
As a Freshman SEC receiver, Green lead the Bulldogs with 56 receptions for 963 yards and 8 touchdowns, earning the conference's Freshman of the Year and second-team All-SEC.
Green is simply a talented receiver with good hands and a reliable WR is always valuable in the NFL.
3. Da'Quan Bowers
The No. 1 DE in the Draft.
Da'Quan Bowers possesses NFL quality strength and is ready for the next level. Looking to be one of the highest picks in this year's draft, Bowers combines his strength with his length, speed and agility to make plays up and down the field.
His tackling ability is second to none and his preparation to see playing time in the NFL is closer than any other prospect.
2. Patrick Peterson
Patrick Peterson comes in as the No. 1 CB,and is predicted by many to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's 2011 NFL Draft.
Peterson received the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in college football and he seemingly undoubtedly shares the No. 1 defensive player along with Nick Fairley in this year's Draft.
He possesses all NFL CB qualities such as short-term memory loss on the field, reliable open-field tackler and is extremely competitive.
Whatever team is lucky enough to land Peterson will acquire a defensive lock-in, as well as an emotional team leader.
1. Nick Fairley
Nick Fairley of the National Champion Auburn Tigers comes into the NFL Draft as the No. 1 DT.
While Cam Newton took most of the National Championship limelight, Fairley has evolved from under-the-radar as a dominate collegiate DT.
For his size, Fairley's speed is phenomenal. A former high school basketball player, Fairley's movement and explosion off of the snap is unexpected from offensive linemen.
Expected to be the No. 1 pick in any draft, this year's No. 1 pick from the Carolina Panthers will most likely be a QB. Look for Fairley to go early to the Denver Broncos at the No. 2 spot if not to Carolina.