NFL Draft 2011: Nick Fairley and The Top 25 Best Overall Prospects

Gary SuggContributor IIFebruary 15, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: Nick Fairley and The Top 25 Best Overall Prospects

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    AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 16:  Defensive lineman Nick Fairley #90 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates a play during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    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

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    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

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    WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - SEPTEMBER 20:  Quarterback Dan LeFevour #13 of the Central Michigan Chippewas is tackled by Ryan Kerrigan #94 of the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on September 20, 2008 in West Lafayette, Indiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    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

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    BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 04:  Brian Orakpo #98 of the Texas Longhorns rushes against Nate Solder #78 the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on October 4, 2008 in Boulder, Colorado. Texas defeated Colorado 38-14.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    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

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    IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 20:  Defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn #94 and Karly Klug #95 of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes celebrate a quarterback sack against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half of play at Kinnick Stadium on November 20, 2010 in
    David Purdy/Getty Images

    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

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 4:  Marvin Austin #9 of the North Carolina Tar Heels returns an interception for a touchdown during the game against the Connecticut Huskies at Kenan Stadium on October 4, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C.
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks looks to pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    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

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    MINNEAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans, flanked by Tyron Smith #70 and Ronald Johnson #83, runs off the field after the Trojans scored a touchdown during the first half of the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    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

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    CHESTNUT HILL, MA - OCTOBER 03:  Anthony Castonzo #74 of the Boston College Eagles congratulates teammate Montel Harris #2 after Harris scored a touchdown in the first quarter against the Florida State Seminoles on October 3, 2009 at Alumni Stadium in Che
    Elsa/Getty Images

    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

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 08:  Linebacker Bruce Carter #54 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a defensive stop against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the game at Kenan Stadium on November 8, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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

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    COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 23: Aldon Smith #85 of the Missouri Tigers in action against the Oklahoma Sooners at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Columbia, Missouri.  The Tigers beat the Sooners 36-27.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Image
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    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

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    MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 29:Defensive lineman Cameron Jordan #97 of the North Team during  the Under Armour Senior Bowl on January 29, 2011 at Ladd-Pebbles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for Under Armour)
    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    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

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    PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Akeem Ayers #10 of the UCLA Bruins is tackled by James Dockery #4 of the Oregon State Beavers during the first quarter at the Rose Bowl on November 6, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    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

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    TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Missouri Tigers drops back to pass during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes  at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 27-24.  (P
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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 emotional leader.  

12. Mark Ingram

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 26:  Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes for a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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

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    LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 30: Cornerback Prince Amukamara #21 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver T.J. Moe #28 of the Missouri Tigers during first half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Lincoln
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    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

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 07:  Thaddeus Lewis #9 of the Duke Blue Devils is sacked by Robert Quinn #42 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    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

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 26:  Julio Jones #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide is tackled by Neiko Thorpe #15 and Eltoro Freeman #21 of the Auburn Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 30:  Jordan Reed #11 and Mike Pouncey #55 of the Florida Gators celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field on October 30, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Im
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    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

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    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 07:  Lineman Marcell Dareus #57 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs with the ball after an interception as guard Michael Huey #63 of the Texas Longhorns attempts to tackle during the second quarter of the Citi BCS National Championship
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    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

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Cameron Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers runs down field against John Boyett #20 of the Oregon Ducks during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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

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    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

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    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

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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Da'Quan Bowers #93 of the Clemson Tigers against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 13:  Patrick Peterson #7 of the Louisiana State University Tigers runs back an interception against the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks at Tiger Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty I
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    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

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10: Nick Fairley #90 of the Auburn Tigers sacks Darron Thomas #1 of the Oregon Ducks in the fourth quarter of the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Ph
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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.

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