There are tons of analysts and experts chiming in on who they think will go first in the 2011 NFL Draft, who the top prospect is at each position and each specific team's needs entering the biggest day of the NFL offseason.
Here's my take on the first round, in accordance to where each team stands with their teams needs, how they may view the prospects and where certain players could fall. Feel free to leave comments and compare to all of our other mock drafts. We'll be churning out draft coverage and more mocks all the way up until the day of the draft, so feel free to read and get into the action.
I don't think there's any real question at the top spot. Andrew Luck isn't here, and Carolina won't reach for a different quarterback. They badly need an impact player in the middle of their defensive line, and Fairley is the best this class has to offer.
John Fox is coming in with his same defensive-minded approach and that's exactly what this Denver defense (and team) needs. They'll consider upgrading at defensive tackle and defensive end (as they could be switching to Fox's 4-3), but with Champ Bailey at 33 and possibly gone from the roster, they have to go after an elite corner. Peterson is their man.
Who should be the number one pick?
Buffalo has issues on offense and will strongly consider Blaine Gabbert here, but they still were able to compete throughout last year. What they need is a dominant defensive lineman who can force his will upon the opposition. Their defense is lacking a real beast up front and that's exactly what they'd be getting with Dareus. There's a lot of talk about Von Miller here, but the battle begins up front, so Dareus is the pick.
And this is where Keet Bailey and I go our separate ways. I agree the Bengals will consider A.J. Green, but ultimately, I think they like the young receivers they have, they may hold onto Chad Johnson and could still address the position later in the draft. What they really need is an elite pass rusher, which is something they've been lacking for a while. Bowers is the perfect cure.
Gabbert is arguably the top quarterback prospect in this class and is much more refined than any of the other passers. He could be ready to play on day one and after what Arizona went through at the position in 2010, there's no question that they grab the best available passer when they have the opportunity.
There's been talk that Green may not necessarily be the right fit for a West Coast Offense, but considering how talented he is, that conversation needs to be thrown out the window. Mike Holmgren would love to land an elite defensive end or linebacker, but you can't pass up on Green, who could immediately assist in Colt McCoy's growth into a solid starting quarterback.
I'm sure new offensive-minded head coach Jim Harbaugh will be tempted to grab a passer or the stud receiver that he likes at this pick, but he has to be smart and make the best pick for his team. Amukamara is that pick, as the 49ers have a pretty weak secondary, anchored by an aging and regressing Nate Clements. The addition of Amukamara could inject life into that secondary, while giving the guys up front more time to put pressure on the quarterback.
I think the Titans would really like Blaine Gabbert to fall here, but it's not going to happen. Jordan makes a lot of sense, as Jason Babin could be gone in free agency, and they'll need the extra help on the line. The Titans aren't really hurting on offense outside of quarterback, so adding to a previous strength is a good, smart call here.
It's not sexy and it goes against Jerry Jones and his history, but its something the Cowboys have to bite down and just do. Tony Romo got knocked out for the season with a broken collarbone and that pretty much killed the season. They need to make sure he's better protected this time around. They have some areas on defense they can address, but with so much overall talent, protecting their star quarterback has to trump all other areas with this first pick.
Keet has the Redskins nabbing Locker in the second round, but despite his accuracy issues, I really don't see him getting that far. Plus, once Mike Shanahan chooses his guy at quarterback, he makes sure he gets him. Washington needs help in plenty of areas, but they're nothing without a face at the quarterback position. Locker has a lot of work to do, but with Shanahan's help, he can be a great NFL quarterback.
Houston clearly needs help in the secondary as well, but getting an elite pass rusher should do them a lot of good. Wade Phillips gets a welcoming present as defensive coordinator, as Miller can make an immediate impact on a defense that was atrocious in 2010.
Brett Favre is gone and Joe Webb is not the answer. That's not to say that Newton is, but rumors have swirled that the Vikings like him and he certainly has the talent and potential to be a good NFL quarterback. Defensive tackle and corner are huge issues, but Minnesota needs a passer to start grooming, asap.
I agree with Keet here 100 percent. Detroit struggled mightily in coverage last season and while it wasn't completely on the cornerbacks, they certainly didn't help. Harris is an elite corner with great athleticism and should be a big piece of the ongoing turnaround in Detroit.
Sam Bradford needs a real weapon at receiver. Even with a healthy Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton, he still has one of the worst receiving corps in the league. If the Rams are going to be successful, they need to leave defense for the middle rounds and get Bradford some elite weapons. Jones is a heck of a start.
Ingram is far and way the best running back in this draft, and while there's a slight chance he goes higher, if he falls to Miami, they can't let him slip by. They could consider grabbing a passer if the right one falls as well, but with both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams likely on their way out, Ingram needs to be the future at the running back position.
Many experts have Jacksonville beefing up their pass rush here and while that's entirely possible, I just can't see them passing on a potential franchise passer for what seems like the eighth year in a row. Mallet has his issues, but he has all the tools to be an elite quarterback. Jack Del Rio has said repeatedly that David Garrard isn't an elite quarterback, so maybe putting some stock in a new passer will buy him an extra year in Jacksonville.
Vince Wilfork is a beast, but its time for the Patriots to think of the future. While Liguet won't replace him anytime soon, he can be rotated in and can be groomed as the future replacement.
Clayborn's dramatic fall ends here, as the Chargers desperately need help up front. Clayborn should give them an immediate boost in the pass rush, and could have a nice chip on his shoulder after falling this far.
I like the tackle pick here. Eli Manning led the league in picks in 2010 and that was largely due to increased pressure and his offensive line not playing up to its talent level. At the very least, Castonzo brings youth and competition and will eventually be a stud tackle down the road.
Tampa Bay needs some help up front with rushing the passer and it's probably going to be between Quinn and Ryan Kerrigan. Quinn is stronger and a little more explosive on the line, so he looks to be the pick here.
Kansas City could probably use some help on the offensive line, but they also need to keep improving on defense. Adding an elite pass rusher is crucial to keep progress going on the defensive side of the ball and Houston brings great athleticism and versatility to the table.
Peyton Manning was under pressure more than usual in 2010 and with his age climbing, the Colts need to make sure he can stay on his feet for the remainder of his career. Sherrod could be a big part of helping to make that a reality going forward.
Again, I can't argue with Keet here. Philadelphia is very strong offensively, but Michael Vick took a beating against elite defenses in 2010. Guard isn't normally the area of concern in pass protection, but beefing up their line with Cannon will still help a ton and it surely wouldn't hurt the ground game, either.
The Saints could get younger and more athletic at defensive tackle, but I think there's a bigger need for another big guy on the outside on the defensive line. Kerrigan should be gone by now, so the Saints will be extremely happy to get a big, physical end that never quits.
I think Seattle will contemplate taking a playmaking receiver here, but if they're smart, they'll address the defensive side of the ball. Depending on just how confident they are in Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst, quarterback could also be an option. Still, they need to get better at stopping the run, and Ballard actually brings solid versatility in both run-stopping and rushing the passer.
I might be a little more high on Ayers' athleticism and potential than most, but if there's one thing the Ravens know, it's defense. Baltimore should be able to make great use of Ayers, despite his raw ability. He'll be able to learn and grow in a system that can make the best of his talent.
Atlanta needs major help in their secondary and could use another pass rusher, but they also really need an injection of youth and talent at receiver. Roddy White is really going it alone and the aging Tony Gonzalez is currently Atlanta's second-best option in the passing game. The electric Young would change that immediately.
New England is in good shape across the board, so I think they get another big guy that can run block and pass protect at a high level. Pouncey has the talent to go a little earlier, so Bill Belichick and co. will be glad to see him here. There's a lot of talk about them adding a running back, but I don't see them reaching in the first round, unless Mark Ingram somehow falls this far. The Patriots could also use an explosive receiver, but adding some talent to their offensive line is the best move here.
There are a few receivers I like more than Smith, but his ability to make big plays has to be enticing to Mike Martz. The Bears need to get more explosive in their passing attack, and Smith brings great speed and athleticism to a starving offense.
I think Baldwin could also go to Chicago, but he could easily fall here, where the Jets need to make up for the loss of either (or both) Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. Baldwin is a big target with good potential. He still has to refine some skills, but he's a great talent for Mark Sanchez to grow with.
Who will be the final pick of the first round?
The Steelers badly need help on the offensive line, but that hasn't prevented them in past years from over-looking one of their biggest flaws. What's stopping them now? Black gives them a solid upgrade at strong safety, where Ryan Clark is solid, but not elite.
Smith could have gone a lot earlier, but due to necessity, he may fall this far. He's a great fit in Green Bay's scheme as an edge rusher, and could be the perfect complement to Clay Matthews on the other side. Green Bay has solid talent there already, but nothing like what Smith has to offer.
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