Mel Kiper's 2011 NFL Mock Draft 2.0: A Pick-by-Pick Critique of Latest Mock
With all the doom and gloom we've heard about the NFL and the labor dispute recently, it's hard to find any good news about the NFL.
Then along comes Mel Kiper, and all seems right again.
Kiper himself has become part of the phenomenon that is the NFL Draft, and his Mock Drafts are always a watermark towards the Draft and next year. And despite what the immediate future may bring for the league, the Draft will still go on as planned in April.
Which means more mock drafts for Kiper.
He's recently released his second mock draft, so I've taken the opportunity to add a critique of his draft. I'm also adding who I think each team will take with that pick.
1. Carolina Panthers
Mel's Pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
With no Andrew Luck in the Draft, the overall No. 1 pick has really been up in the air, but as the weeks have gone on, Fairley is becoming more and more the consensus No. 1. Kiper loves his ability as a run-stopper and pass-rusher, even bringing up the name of Ndamukong Suh when mentioning Fairley. I'm not sure I would compare the two just yet, but Fairley has all the tools to be that type of player.
My Pick: Fairley
2. Denver Broncos
Mel's Pick: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Kiper cites Bowers' ability to be a pass-rusher and the Broncos' possible switch in schemes as reasons for the Broncos' taking Bowers. To be fair, those are all great points and a pass-rusher is definitely a need for Denver, since there is uncertainty about whether Elvis Dumervil will be able to be as dynamic as he was before his injury.
But don't rule out the Broncos going with Patrick Peterson, the corner out of LSU, which Kiper also suggests. He would fit a need and make it a lot easier for the Broncos to part with Champ Bailey. It hasn't been talked about, but I wouldn't rule out A.J. Green sliding in here as well.
My Pick: Bowers
3. Buffalo Bills
Mel's Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Kiper writes the Bills can take their time developing Newton because of the emergence of Ryan Fitzpatrick last season, but Kiper makes it clear he really likes Newton because of what he can bring to the table. But I also haven't really seen any Drafts other than his that have Newton as a top-10 pick.
I'm not overly sold on this year's quarterback pool, although I feel Newton might be the best of that first bunch. I can see the Bills going with Newton and developing a quarterback, but taking him here might be a bit of a stretch.
My Pick: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
If the Bills don't go quarterback, the defensive front seven has to be the focus. Miller provides a speed rusher from the outside to compliment and eventually replace Shawne Merriman. He's not as complete an outside linebacker as Akeem Ayers, but the Bills need someone to get to the quarterback.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
Mel's Pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
This is one of the few picks that most of the Mock Drafts are in total agreement about. If Green doesn't get snatched up in the first three picks, he won't get passed the Bengals at No. 4. With T.O. heading out and possibly taking Chad (formerly Ochocinco) Johnson with him, Green becomes the impact receiver the Bengals need.
If he's gone, then perhaps the Bengals would take Bowers if he's available or look at another defensive lineman.
My Pick: Green
5. Arizona Cardinals
Mel's Pick: Von Miller
So far in these mock drafts, we've seen two levels of prospects on defense: The first level (Fairley, Bowers, Peterson) who we all assume will be gone in the first 10 picks. But that next level, which includes Miller and others, has been so hard to predict because they've all been all over the map. One draft'll have Miller going fifth, like Kiper does, and another might have him going in the 20s.
Although I can see why he'd take Miller here. His pass-rushing style would be a perfect fit in the 3-4 scheme.
My Pick: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
He played defensive end at college, but he'd probably be a outside linebacker in the pros, which makes him a good fit for a 3-4 scheme as a pass-rusher on the edge. If the Cardinals keep this pick (instead of sending it to Philadelphia for Kevin Kolb, perhaps), he'd be a good pickup.
6. Cleveland Browns
Mel's Pick: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
If A.J. Green isn't available, then the Browns will go defense. Watt is an interesting choice because he's part of that next level of front seven players who've been bouncing all over the first round. Kiper loves his versatility to play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme as a defensive end, which definitely makes him enticing to the Browns. And getting some type of playmaker is a big need for the Browns.
My Pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
While Watt would be a solid player, Jones would also be the wide receiver Colt McCoy desperately needs as a big target who can stretch the field. It would definitely be a reach to take him at No. 6, but this is a team that also needs to make a big splash.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Mel's Pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Kiper writes that cornerback isn't their biggest need, but the 49ers would be hard-pressed to pass up Peterson here. In that vein, I agree with him completely. Peterson is one of the best athletes in the draft, not to mention one of the best cover corners. Bringing him on gives the Niners a solid No. 2 alongside Nate Clements and eventually a No. 1.
Plus, I had San Francisco going with a cornerback in each of my two Mock Drafts anyway.
My Pick: Peterson
8. Tennessee Titans
Mel's Pick: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Dareus has been the hot named linked with the Titans in Mock Drafts. Kiper loves his versatility as a defensive end or a defensive tackle that can be disruptive, and he thinks he can be that player as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 system. He could be a player in the same mold as Albert Haynesworth, and we know how the Titans felt about him.
In other words, he's a Tennessee Titans-type pick, if that makes any sense. Although, I will say if owner Bud Adams becomes smitten with Cam Newton (that's the type of quarterback he likes), then all bets are off.
My Pick: Dareus
9. Dallas Cowboys
Mel's Pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Kiper sees the Cowboys going defense, and while the Cowboys have bigger needs than cornerback, he likes Amukamara as a cover corner and eventually to take the No. 1 spot over from Terence Newman. I can see the argument, and I can see why that would make sense, considering what he feels are the Cowboys' two biggest needs (offensive line and safety) would be major reaches at No. 9.
I just don't see Amukamara as a fit, though.
My Pick: J.J. Watt
I had the Cowboys taking Watt in my previous Drafts, and I still like him here as a fit with the Cowboys. They can use an upgrade at defensive end, and Watt can play in either the 3-4 or the 4-3, so he could fit in well here.
10. Washington Redskins
Mel's Pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
The Redskins could use help on the outside, either a pass-rusher to compliment Brian Orakpo or trying to inject some youth into the defensive front. But we all know how it's going to end. I haven't been impressed with Gabbert, but Kiper likes him and also likes that he's an accurate passer who's a safer choice than a Ryan Mallett. I'd be real shocked if he's not the pick here, unless someone swoops in and takes him.
My Pick: Gabbert
11. Houston Texans
Mel's Pick: Julio Jones
Many people would think Jones is a stretch even at No. 11, and the Texans haven't been linked to an offensive player. But he likes Jones as a compliment to Andre Johnson and a good receiver who could help spread the field, not to mention another weapon for Matt Schaub.
My Pick: Prince Amukamara
The Texans need help on defense, especially with the secondary. I thought either Miller or Akeem Ayers would be a great fit for the Texans as an outside linebacker with pass-rushing ability who can help the secondary. That being said, if Amukamara is there for the Texans at No. 11, it would be hard for Houston to pass him up. Especially since Amukamara would be a major upgrade at the corner position.
12. Minnesota Vikings
Mel's Pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
A lot of which direction the Vikings go in the offseason I think will depend on what they will do with defensive end Ray Edwards. If they're somehow able to keep him, then it changes their plans. But it seems like they're planning for life without him, which led to Kiper taking Quinn with this pick. He feels Quinn would make an immediate impact for the Vikings right away.
I've had the Vikings taking Newton in each of my Mock Drafts because of their need for a franchise quarterback, but Quinn would be hard to pass up.
My Pick: Cam Newton
That being said, I still like Newton here. Eventually the Vikings will have to bite the bullet and draft a franchise quarterback. And while Quinn makes a lot of sense, I still like Newton and think he could thrive in that offense.
13. Detroit Lions
Mel's Pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Smith is apparently a kid who's been moving up the draft boards and who Kiper really likes. The Lions have glaring needs at outside linebacker, but cornerback has been a problem as well. So that would make it very tough for them to decide between taking Smith, who, according to Kiper, has been gaining real momentum around the league recently, or a player like an Akeem Ayers.
My Pick: Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
Ayers still fills a need, provides a dangerous pass rush from the linebacker spot, helps with the run and also can be helpful in pass coverage. I still like him a lot here. I've had the Lions taking a linebacker in my Mock Drafts, but a cornerback makes a lot of sense here as well. The Lions would do well with either.
14. St. Louis Rams
Mel's Pick: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Almost every Mock Draft I've seen had the Rams taking Jones at this spot to give Sam Bradford a receiver here. But both Kiper and I have him off the board here. Kiper likes Liuget because he fills a need and would fit in well with the Rams' young core on defense.
If Jones would still be around, then he'd be the pick for sure. But Liuget makes sense as a pass rusher and a compliment in the middle for Chris Long on the edge. Stephen Paea, the defensive tackle from Oregon State, could be an option here too.
My Pick: Liuget
15. Miami Dolphins
Mel's Pick: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
This has been the one pick that every Mock Draft has agreed on from the start, and it makes the most sense. Ricky Williams is already out the door, and it's sounding more and more like Ronnie Brown might not be back. Kiper thinks Ingram will fill a hole left by Williams as a power back who also has a great deal of speed and strong vision.
In terms of draft picks, it's a no-brainer.
My Pick: Ingram
16. Jacksonville Jaguars
Mel's Pick: Aldon Smith
I can understand why Kiper would take Smith as a fit here. Smith could be an impact player for the Jaguars, but he'd also have to mold into a linebacker who can play the 4-3 scheme. He has the tools, as Kiper says, but I'm not sure he'd be a strong fit where he'd have to be overly developed. He'll need work, but going to a 3-4 might be a better transition for him.
My Pick: Robert Quinn
The Jaguars have improved on the defensive front, but they still need help at the ends. If Quinn is as talented as Kiper says he is, then he can be a great fit for the Jaguars and give the defense some much needed punch up front.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland)
Mel's Pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
The scouts have all fallen in love with Jordan, and Kiper is no different. He impressed a lot of scouts at the Senior Bowl and he has the potential to be a strong defensive end. Kiper makes a good point in noting that Jordan played defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, so he can fit right in.
With Bill Belichick, there's always the chance of him moving the pick or trading down, but in this case, I'd think that's more likely with the No. 28 pick than this one. Odds are he keeps it, and Jordan would be a strong player in a definite need area for New England.
My Pick: Jordan
18. San Diego Chargers
Mel's Pick: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Smith and Nate Solder have been flip-flopping the past couple of weeks as the top offensive linemen in the draft. Kiper makes sense putting Smith here, as he makes the argument Kiper is the more NFL-ready lineman with the broader skill set and experience protecting the Blind Side of quarterbacks.
My Pick: Smith
19. New York Giants
Mel's Pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Solder and Smith have gone back and forth as the first offensive linemen taken, but Kiper feels Smith is a more polished product than Solder is at this point with the same tools that Smith has. The Giants don't have a bunch of glaring needs, but offensive line and linebacker are two of them. And since there are no linebackers who would be a fit here at No. 19 and Solder can take the time to develop, he's the best choice here.
My Pick: Solder
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mel's Pick: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Another pick that I agree with and makes a lot of sense. Clayborn might have some character issues, but he's also a defensive end who can get to the quarterback. Kiper thinks he can start right away if Tampa takes him, which I agree with as well. He'd be a great fit with the other young lineman up front for the Bucs.
Of course, the question will be if someone takes him before that, which could definitely be a possibility.
My Pick: Clayborn
21. Kansas City Chiefs
Mel's Pick: Akeem Ayers
Kiper puts Ayers here as the other outside linebacker to be a pass-rusher alongside Tamba Hali, who had a breakout season. It makes sense.
But I just don't see Ayers lasting that long, especially with how volatile the first round could be with those middle 10 picks and that next level of defensive players. Outside linebacker is a definite need, but I don't think his player will be available here.
My Pick: Jimmy Smith
If they don't go outside linebacker, then defense or offensive line would be the pick. Kiper was singing Smith's praises as a cornerback before, and it would give the Chiefs a dependable corner to build that secondary around with Eric Berry.
22. Indianapolis Colts
Mel's Pick: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Castonzo would fill a definite need that Kiper addresses: protect Peyton at all costs. Kiper also states a need to open up the running game, and while Castonzo would definitely help, the Colts will actually need a running back to stay healthy as well. But Castonzo would be a solid blocker that would be versatile and stay healthy.
My Pick: Castonzo
23. Philadelphia Eagles
Mel's Pick: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Carimi has been settled into this position for a while now. Kiper wrote he has him here because of his skills in both run and pass-blocking, which makes him a great fit for the Eagles. Philadelphia needs to upgrade on the offensive line because they can't have Michael Vick get beat up the way he was last season, but I'm not going with Carimi here.
My Pick: Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
The real need is on the interior at guard and center, which was a mess last season. Pouncey could play either position and would definitely fill a need. He'd also automatically be a better option than hoping that a Nick Cole or Matt McGlynn will develop into a starter, which Pouncey would probably be right away.
24. New Orleans Saints
Mel's Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
Kiper identifies the biggest need for the Saints is on the defensive line and decides to take Wilkerson here with this pick. Kiper compares him to Dareus as someone who could either play the end in a 3-4 or inside in a 4-3, even saying he could've been a top 10 pick next year if he stayed in school. That's a pretty big compliment for a guy coming out of Temple.
Cameron Heyward would also be available here at this spot, so that could be a possible choice, as well as Ryan Kerrigan. But Wilkerson makes a lot of sense.
My Pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
That being said, Kerrigan also gives the Saints the ability create a fearsome duo on the edges with Will Smith. Kiper said about Kerrigan that he's the type of player offensive lines have to double-cover. If that means opening up Smith in single coverage, that's a big plus.
25. Seattle Seahawks
Mel's Pick: Mike Pouncey
If he's still on the board, it makes sense. He would automatically stabilize the interior and also be able to step in and be a starter right away. If he's anything like his brother, he'll be one heck of a player in this league. But if he's off the board, what will the Seahawks do?
My Pick: Gabe Carimi
Carimi is a tackle who's also been listed at guard, who is also strong as in run and pass protection, as mentioned previously. Carimi would automatically not only protect whoever the Seahawks' QB is, but also open up holes for the running game.
If they don't go Carimi, then cornerback could be a need as well, especially with Texas' Aaron Williams still on the board.
26. Baltimore Ravens
Mel's Pick: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Kiper really likes him because of his skill set as an aggressive corner. He doesn't bring up the name Asante Samuel, but he calls Williams a possible "turnover machine" with some work, and one could make the assumption Williams plays the same way. Kiper makes the important connection that in Baltimore's defense, Williams will be able to play like that. That's a great connection to make.
My Pick: Williams
27. Atlanta Falcons
Mel's Pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Kerrigan is another one of those defensive players who has bounced around the first round of the draft. As mentioned earlier, Kerrigan has the potential to be a dynamic pass-rusher off the edge, and he would become the heir apparent to John Abraham and also help push Troy Biermann's development.
My Pick: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
But Kiper also identified wide receiver as a need for the Falcons, and Smith could be a great compliment to Roddy White. Tall, athletic, decent hands. But most importantly, his lanky frame could allow him to really stretch the field and secondaries. That just creates more room for Roddy White and more options for Matt Ryan.
28. New England Patriots
Mel's Pick: Torrey Smith
Kiper liked the big-play ability that Smith would bring to the Patriots. And while Tom Brady has done pretty well with possession receivers, Kiper wrote Smith would be a deep-ball threat. The last time Brady had a deep-ball threat, it was Randy Moss in 2007. I think we remember what they did that season.
If he's around, a pick that makes a lot of sense.
My Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson
That being said, Bill Belichick's history tells us there's a chance he either trades this pick and moves down or takes an offensive lineman. But if he's impressed with Wilkerson and thinks he can play, he'll take him here, especially with two conference rivals who would have a big use for Wilkerson drafting behind him in the Jets and Steelers.
29. Chicago Bears
Mel's Pick: Ben Ijalana, OT, Villanova
The Bears should be focusing on the offensive line first in the draft, especially the way Jay Cutler was hit this season. Kiper brought that up when he was making this pick; he also brought up that Ijalana could step in quickly at a starting spot. If the Bears can improve the offensive line, they should by all means do it.
Don't be surprised to see Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod or Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski get a look here if the Bears keep the pick.
My Pick: Ijalana
30. New York Jets
Mel's Pick: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
Kiper took Moore here because of his playmaking ability at safety and his ballhawking style, which is a very convincing argument. Moore would also represent an upgrade at safety and he could be a type of Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu-style of safety that makes a defense like Ryan's so hard to play against.
My Pick: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
But defensive end is another need for the Jets, and they could live with Jim Leonhard at safety. Heyward could be a run-stopper and pass-rusher from the defensive end position, and he'd be a needed injection of youth on that front seven. Of course, the Jets might also have bad memories from the last time they took an Ohio State defender.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers
Mel's Pick: Cameron Heyward
I'm a little skeptical as to how Heyward would fit in a 3-4, because Vernon Gholston hasn't exactly been tearing up the league as a Jet in the same scheme. But Kiper feels Heyward would be a perfect fit in the system, and at least from a youth standpoint, it makes sense. Heyward could slide in and eventually replace the older defensive ends.
My Pick: Stefen Wisniewski, G/C, Penn State
But in my Draft, Heyward's off the board. So the Steelers could move down and try to find a young nose tackle to supplement Casey Hampton or perhaps Miami corner Brandon Harris, or they could take Wisniewski. He knows the region, knows the pressure, can play both guard and center and is mechanically and fundamentally sound.
32. Green Bay Packers
Mel's Pick: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
Houston would be moved to outside linebacker to fit in the 3-4, but this would be a great pick in Kiper's eyes. Houston would be a pass rusher on the outside who has speed and can compliment Clay Matthews very well. Kiper thinks Houston would be a great asset in Dom Capers' system, and as long as he stays aggressive, I tend to agree.
My Pick: Houston