The 2011 NFL Draft hype is officially underway. All over the web there are articles trying to predict where players will be selected based on team needs and ability.
At times all of these projections can be a lot of information to handle. Experts from all over have mock drafts with extreme variations from pick to pick.
Mel Kiper and Todd McShay recently released a mock draft for ESPN. Meanwhile Don Banks did the same for Sports Illustrated, and Nolan Nawrocki for Pro Football Weekly.
Here is a look at what these four experts predict for the upcoming draft with a final verdict for each pick.
Kiper: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
McShay: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Banks: Fairley, DT, Auburn
Nawrocki Bowers, DE, Clemson
Verdict: Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley seems to be the current clear cut top pick. The Panthers have needs at several positions but a defensive lineman with the ability to disrupt the run and attack the quarterback can be a franchise player on a defense.
Kiper: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
McShay: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Banks: Bowers, DE, Clemson
Nawrocki: Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama
Verdict: Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers is a candidate to go in the top overall spot, but if not the Broncos would be happy to select him. He is a versatile pass rusher, who could also provide insurance if Elvis Dumervil is not able to return to form.
Kiper: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
McShay: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Banks: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Nawrocki: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Verdict: Newton, QB, Auburn
Two of the experts had the Bills selecting a quarterback, and for good reason. The Bills are in dire need of a franchise quarterback who can provide stability at the position and a buzz in the city. Nobody fits that description better than the Heisman Trophy winner. The Bills have also been rumored to be considering Newton with their pick.
Kiper: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
McShay: Green, WR, Georgia
Banks: Green, WR, Georgia
Nawrocki: Green, WR, Georgia
Verdict: Green, WR, Georgia
The Bengals are in need at wide receiver following the departure of Terrell Owens. There is also doubt surrounding the return of Chad Ochocinco. Whether the Bengals have Carson Palmer back or not, they will still need weapons in the passing game to be successful. Green has been likened to Calvin Johnson by McShay.
Kiper: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
McShay: Blain Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Banks: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Nawrocki: Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Verdict: Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Miller might have one of the fastest rising draft stocks out there right now. McShay has him going even higher to the Bills. Many people might think that the Cardinals would look for a quarterback, but if they are not happy with the options they could look to trade for players like Kevin Kolb. Miller would bring a much needed boost to the Arizona linebacker core.
Kiper: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
McShay: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Banks: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Nawrocki: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Verdict: Dareus, DT, Alabama
Clearly everybody agrees that the Browns need to address the holes along their defensive line. With the recent release of Shaun Rogers it may be more likely that they select a defensive tackle. Dareus is polished and would be ready to help the Browns from day one.
Kiper: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
McShay: Peterson, CB, LSU
Banks: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Nawrocki: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Verdict: Peterson, CB, LSU
Clearly the 49ers need to address their secondary in this draft, and if Peterson is still available then he is the pick. Everybody knows how well Peterson plays as a cornerback. However, he also offers the 49ers a viable option in the return game.
Kiper: Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama
McShay: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Banks: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
Nawrocki: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Verdict: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Titans could look quarterback here after the end of the Vince Young era in Tennessee. However, there are many problems to fix on the defensive side of the ball. Watt would bring a boost to a pass rush that was lacking in 2010.
Kiper: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
McShay: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Banks: Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama
Nawrocki: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Verdict: Prince Amukamara, CB, Wisconsin
The Cowboys need to address the secondary issues and the top of this years draft is a great place to do just that. Patrick Peterson will likely be the top corner off the board so the Cowboys will have to settle for Amukamara. Some question his ability as a man to man corner, but the Cowboys could see him as a potential impact player against he great wide receivers in the NFC East.
Kiper: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
McShay: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Banks: Newton, QB, Alabama
Nawrocki: Newton, QB, Alabama
Verdict: Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Clearly the Redskins are going to look for a quarterback of the future with this upcoming pick. Newton will likely already be off the board so Gabbert will have to be Shanahan's guy. In the ideal situation he would learn for a year under the tutelage of Rex Grossman before becoming the full time starter.
Kiper: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
McShay: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Banks: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Nawrocki: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Verdict: Smith, CB, Colorado
The Texans pass defense was historically bad in 2010, so for the second straight year they could select a corner in the first round. While a wide receiver, such as Jones, would be another weapon it does not have the immediate need. Look for the Texans to try and get a play-making wideout in later rounds.
Kiper: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
McShay: Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Banks: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Nawrocki: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Verdict: Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Three out of the four experts have the Vikings selecting a defensive end to bring some youth to the line. With Ray Edwards set to hit free agency after next season, the Vikings could use an end as his replacement. For the upcoming season Quinn could learn from the more experienced Edwards and Jared Allen.
Kiper: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
McShay: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Banks: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Nawrocki: Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Verdict: Solder, OT, Colorado
The number one priority for the Detroit Lion in 2011 will be to protect Matthew Stafford. They already are set at skill positions with Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best. However, if they want to take the next step then they will need to keep Stafford on the field. The best way of doing that is by taking the top offensive lineman in this years draft.
Kiper: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
McShay: Julio, Jones, WR, Alabama
Banks: Jones, WR, Alabama
Nawrocki: Jones, WR, Alabama
Verdict: Jones, WR, Alabama
The Rams will be thrilled if Jones lasts all the way to their pick. The selection of a potential number one wide receiver will only aid in the development of Sam Bradford. Look for the Rams to try and strengthen the defensive line in the rounds to follow.
Kiper: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
McShay: Ingram, RB, Alabama
Banks: Ingram, RB, Alabama
Nawrocki: Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas
Verdict: Ingram, RB, Alabama
With the likely departure of both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams the Dolphins will be in the market for a running back. Ingram is a consistent runner who could step in and play immediately in Miami. If he is available look for Miami to make Ingram the first running back off the board.
Kiper: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
McShay: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Banks: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Nawrocki: Allen Bailey, DE, Miami
Verdict: Aldon Smith, Missouri
Three of the experts see the Jaguars using the draft to upgrade their pass rush. Smith is raw and is leaving college after his junior season. However once he starts to learn the nuances of the game he could be a potential steal at pick sixteen.
Kiper: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
McShay: Jordan, DE, California
Banks: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Nawrocki: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Verdict: Jordan, DE, California
Some people will call for the Patriots to select a running back to balance their already lethal passing attack. However last season they had to mix and match a number of players to create a formidable pass rush. Jordan is a versatile pass rusher that Bill Belichick longs for in his system.
Kiper: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
McShay: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
Banks: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Nawrocki: Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Purdue
Verdict: Kerrigan, OLB, Purdue
The Chargers lost Shawn Merriman this past season and could really use some help attacking the quarterback. Last seasons first round pick Larry English has not shown the skill set that made him a first round pick. Kerrigan's motor should help him get after opposing signal callers.
Kiper: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
McShay: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Banks: Smith, OT, USC
Nawrocki: Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
Verdict: Smith, OT, USC
Every expert draft has the Giants taking an offensive lineman to help keep Eli Manning standing in the pocket. Assuming Solder is off the board Smith would be the perfect fit in New York. As an offensive tackle he brings more to the table than an interior lineman such as Pouncey.
Kiper: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
McShay: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Banks: Clayborn, DE, Iowa,
Nawrocki: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Verdict: Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Buccaneers are a team on the rise and that is in large part due to the improved play of the defensive line. Clayborn could provide a pass rush to pair with run stuffer Gerald McCoy for years to come.
Kiper: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
McShay: Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Banks: Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Nawrocki: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Verdict: Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The Chiefs have a serious need at outside linebacker and that will almost certainly be the position they choose to address with their first round pick. Ayers is an athletic freak who will impress at the combine, and could learn for several years under years under veteran linebackers.
Kiper: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
McShay: Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Banks: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Nawrocki: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Verdict: Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Castonzo would provide help on an offensive line that needs to protect its quarterback. If Manning signs a long term deal with the Colts this off-season then Indianapolis will pay even more attention to protecting its investment.
Kiper: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
McShay: Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Banks: Mike Puncey, G/C, Florida
Nawrocki: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Verdict: Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
The Eagles will almost surely take an offensive tackle in this draft because of Michael Vick. As a scrambler Vick puts himself at constant risk, so the Eagles need to protect him as much as possible. There is also need to upgrade the secondary but that may be possible through free agency or later in the draft.
Kiper: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
McShay: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
Banks: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Nawrocki: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
Verdict: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
The Saints need to improve their pass rush if they want to return to their Super Bowl form. Houston is extremely fast for his size and could be an ideal blitz option for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Kiper: Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
McShay: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Banks: Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas
Nawrocki: Locker, QB, Washington
Verdict: Locker, QB, Washington
The Seahawks have said their number one off-season priority is to bring back quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Whether or not he is retained really should have no bearing on this pick. Pete Carrol needs a quarterback of the future and he has seen Locker's ability on display in the Pac-10.
Kiper: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
McShay: Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
Banks: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Nawrocki: Williams, CB, Texas
Verdict: Williams, CB, Texas
The Ravens need to do something to improve their secondary from a year ago. In order to compete with Pittsburgh and New England, both elite teams that can go four wide, they could use Williams' speed on elite wide receivers.
Kiper: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
McShay: Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida
Banks: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Nawrocki: Danny Watkins, G, Baylor
Verdict Pouncey, G/C, Florida
Puncey is a versatile lineman that could fill needs at several positions for the Falcons. They also need to address the defensive line, and complement Roddy White with a second receiver, but both of those additions could come later in the draft.
Kiper: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
McShay: Dan Watkins, G, Baylor
Banks: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
Nawrocki: Clint Boling, G, Georgia
Verdict: Watkins, G, Baylor
The Patriots have franchised Logan Mankins but his future with the team is still in doubt. They also will be seeking a replacement for Matt Light. The Patritos could try and get a receiver or running back, but Belichick will likely wait until later rounds.
Kiper: Ben Ijalana, OT, Villanova
McShay: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Banks: Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Nawrocki: Liuget, DT, Illinois
Verdict: Liuget, DT, Illinois
Drafting Liuget will simply turn the defensive line into a major strength for the Bears. The offensive line actually came together nicely as the season progressed so the need there is not nearly as significant.
Kiper: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
McShay: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
Banks: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Nawrocki: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Verdict: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
If Hewyard is available then the Jets will be forced to consider him with this pick. The pass rush will need to be revamped in the near future as Trevor Pryce and Jason Taylor move on from the game. Heyward is an over-sized end who could play sparingly in the short term.
Kiper: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
McShay: Benjamin Ijalana, OT, Villanova
Banks: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Nawrocki: Derrick Sherrod, OT, Misssissippi
Verdict: Ijalana, OT, Villanova
The Steelers were decimated by injuries to the offensive line in 2010 so a selection for that position is expected. Ijalana is a polished player who could play immediately and help protect Ben Roethlisberger.
Kiper: Justin Houston, OLB, Houston
McShay: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple
Banks: Benjamin Ijalana, OT, Villanova
Nawrocki: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Verdict: Wilkerson, DE, Temple
The Packers could use some help in their front seven defense and Wilkerson could be just the fit. He is athletic, though somewhat raw, and could help attack the quarterback. There is still some development to be made as a pass rusher, but the likes of Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji could speed up this process.