2011 NFL Mock Draft: Every Team's First-Round Focus
The 2011 NFL draft is just 50 days away, and with the NFL combine in the rearview mirror, it is time to examine the possibilities in the draft from the vantage point of teams' needs and preferences. For each pick of the first round, we need to look at what the team needs most and what they can reasonably find at their slot. And here we...go.
The Packers have very few weaknesses, and although they might have liked to get some help for the offensive line here, the next best lineman is a way down the board and the team would more likely take a linebacker to give them depth at the position.
After Nick Barnett went down last season, Green Bay had a revolving door at inside linebacker. Wilson has size and great lateral quickness to get sideline-to-sideline. Green Bay could do much worse than getting an insurance policy against another Barnett injury in the person of Wilson.
Sherrod has fallen down draft boards due to his inability to demonstrate the killer instinct and sheer power scouts originally hoped he would develop. He does move exceptionally well, but right now he is not a good run blocker and he will struggle against more powerful ends.
The good news is that if that aggression and raw power are still there, the crucible of playing in Pittsburgh and against James Harrison and company in practice will draw it out. The Steelers desperately need help on the edges of their offensive line, so Sherrod is a worthy risk.
The Jets' defensive line is quite good, but they are starting to age noticeably. Stephen Paea could help Rex Ryan deal with that reality.
Paea has all kinds of athletic gifts. He may be the strongest guy in the draft, and is certainly the strongest defensive lineman. He also has tremendous quickness, and if he puts on even ten or 15 pounds over the next year, he could fit as a dangerous nose tackle. In the meantime, he fits as a flex guy with the ability to play a 3-4 end for Ryan and disrupt offenses who dare not to double-team him.
There is no doubt that the Bears need offensive line help. They need it badly. The only question, then, is which guy they will get.
Tyron Smith is long, lean, flexible and quick. He plays with an almost angry aggression that makes him a great run blocker. The only problem is that he weighs a very thin 285 pounds. The Bears will be delighted if they can land Smith, even though he is at least a year away from playing left tackle. With a little more weight behind his push at the line, Smith can be an elite tackle.
One Pouncey brother has already played in the Super Bowl, and the Patriots could well make it two if they pick up Florida's center with their second pick of the first round. Their offensive line has so efficiently kept opponents away from Tom Brady that they seem ageless, but in fact, they are beginning to age and Pouncey would be a great way for the team to insure itself against decay on the interior of the line.
Atlanta's corners, especially Brent Grimes, are underrated, but the safety spot gave the team fits last season. Moore listened to knocks on his physicality and run-stopping potential, and showed up at the scouting combine ripped and ready to go. He figures to take the ball away semi-regularly and has the quickness to cover in space.
Speed is not in the arsenal for Dowling, but he does everything else well. He stands six-foot-two with all kinds of rangy athleticism and he hawks for big-play opportunities. This guy probably does not stick at corner, but he can be a great turnover-conscious safety alongside (and then in lieu of) Ed Reed. Baltimore's secondary was unusually porous in 2010 so this pick would help them a lot.
Harris is perhaps a Darrelle Revis lite, with little in the way of a nose for the ball but the ability to stick to his man like glue. He is average in size but very strong for an edge player, so he helps out in run prevention, too. Seattle's corners are aging and they need Harris to provide some defensive upside.
Kerrigan defines the high-motor pass rusher. He has the complete package and never quits, running down backs all the way across the field at times. His size works against him, but he is freakishly strong and gets into the backfield seemingly every down. New Orleans runs a 4-3 scheme, which is crucial to Kerrigan: He is too small to play end in a 3-4 but too slow to play linebacker. He fits very nicely in New Orleans.
Jordan is not a speed rusher in league with some of those above him, but he brings a very balanced package. He can play end in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme and can get good push against the run while beating the average lineman off the corner on passing downs. Philadelphia will love the well-rounded skill set Jordan brings to the table.
The push that has been missing from Indy's defensive front the past two years has made them vulnerable against the run. Liuget brings that back, using massive power and good leverage. He does fine as a pass rusher and fits perfectly into the Colts' defensive system, but his real strength is penetration and disruption in the ground game.
Matt Cassel took a beating in 2010, despite showing surprising mobility in scrambling away from the rush. That demonstrates Kansas City's need for an upgrade along their offensive line. Castonzo rates as roughly as good a prospect as Carimi or Solder, so the Chiefs will be thrilled to get him in the final third of the first round.
Clayborn is the perfect size for a 4-3 end, but he actually spent a not-insignificant amount of time on the inside of the line in college at Iowa. He should move outside for Tampa, and there he becomes a terrific option for containing and choking off running plays headed for the edge. If he gets stronger in his legs and can get a bit quicker as a pass rusher, he has all the makings of a true superstar.
The Giants are masters of bringing pressure, but their secondary must get better at capitalizing on the mistakes forced by the talented defensive front. New York had only 16 interceptions as a team last year. Williams is a good ball hawk with length and good speed. He should become a comfortable second corner for the G-Men and make some critical plays. He forced three fumbles at Texas last season so this guy can tackle and play the run effectively.
Watt is tall and all kinds of a raw athlete. He has the strength to shut down edge runs and will force opposing lines to double him, opening roads to the quarterback for San Diego's blitzing linebackers. Watt isn't a speed or explosion guy but his spider-like coverage of the lateral line is well worth grabbing in the middle of the first round.