NFL Mock Draft 2011: Entire 1st Round Team-by-Team Predictions and Analysis
We’re getting closer!
My favorite formerly self-contained weekend which has now spilled over to Thursday is only 49 days away.
In recognition of that, and in faux-honor of the first piece I ever wrote for B/R (a ridiculously overwritten and appallingly detailed mock draft)...
I hereby present Ryan Braun Mock Draft 2.0.
It has become self-aware.
1. Carolina Panthers – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Where a few months ago Nick Fairley seemed like a safe bet for number one pick honors, Da’Quan Bowers has of late looked more likely to fit the bill.
The Panthers would be seeking in Bowers an impact defensive player in the mold of Julius Peppers, and while DQ isn’t quite the athlete that Peppers was coming out of college (who is?), he is a force.
Nick Fairley, former consensus number one, has lost some of his luster amid character questions and weight issues.
Some have predicted Bowers sliding as well on account of a partially torn meniscus, an injury that kept him from working out at the combine and will now force the DE to miss Clemson’s pro day.
From CBSsports’ Clark Judge:
“Bowers was flagged by a physician at the NFL scouting combine for a knee that had the doctor concerned – something that an AFC coach later confirmed and something that almost certainly will be re-examined.”
Bowers hopes to hold a workout prior to the draft on April 1st, at which time he’ll be able to address the aforementioned.
2. Denver Broncos – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
I should preface my argument with this: The Broncos have cut ties with DTs Jamal Williams and Justin Bannan, while resigning Champ Bailey to a four year deal.
Now for my argument: Denver employed the league’s worst defense in 2010, and adding the best defensive player in the draft would seem to be the most prudent way to remedy that ineptitude.
I’m aware that Mel Kiper thinks corners don’t go this high, regardless of their grade…but that used to be the case with defensive tackles. It only takes one to break the mold.
Peterson is testing off the charts. He ran a blistering 4.34 at the combine (4.31 on one run) while weighing in at 219 pounds. He is an insanely talented player, who will be capable of matching up with any receiver in the league for the next ten years. His footwork will need to be improved, but there won’t be a more physically gifted corner on the field next season.
Champ Bailey will be 33 when training camp opens and won’t be around forever.
Peterson will again try to bolster his argument for the first overall pick on March 14th, LSU's pro day.
Jeff Legwold, of the Denver Post, shares my Petersonian regards.
3. Buffalo Bills – Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama
With the Bills presumably reentering a 4-3 scheme for the 2011 season, Alabama star Marcell Dareus – a Seymour-esque combination of strength and mobility – represents perhaps the ideal building block from which Buffalo can launch a transition.
Dareus, 6-3, 318, did not run at his pro day (4.93 at the combine), but performed well in the broad jump and looked very athletic in his position drills.
At present, Dareus is the hottest name in the draft. He is considered a lesser talent than Nick Fairley by just the smallest of margins, while being billed as the safer pick by most.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
How about this?
With Carson Palmer (among others) imploring the Bengals to take his trade request seriously, I think a QB becomes an increasingly real possibility here.
Gabbert’s pro day is March 17th, and a strong performance could go a long way toward solidifying the Tiger as a top five pick. (Top five pick; he is not a top five prospect.)
And just because this is too good not to include:
How does Chad Johnson know that Carson Palmer is not bluffing?
Johnson, via ESPN’s Adena Andrews:
“There’s one thing you have to understand: When someone goes out of character, which this is out of character for him, and a guy that grows a random beard and is really quiet, when they speak, you listen. Seriously. Trust me. He is not playing.”
You heard it from Chad Johnson: If a guy has a beard, he’s not f’ing around.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Just under 6-3 and 244 pounds, Von Miller went a long way toward cementing his status as a top five pick with his performance at the Texas A&M pro day.
“Butkus Award winner and Texas A&M LB Von Miller reportedly ran a 4.49 40-yard dash in front of scouts at the Aggies’ pro day on Wednesday.
Miller ran a 4.53 at the Combine in Indianapolis.”
Newly acquired defensive coordinator Ray Horton will be looking to upgrade the pass-rush (Joey Porter and Clark Haggans combined for only 10 sacks last year), and Miller would be the most sensible place to look.
Miller led the country with 17 sacks as a junior, and had 10.5 last year while playing the “Joker” LB position.
6. Cleveland Browns – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
I see it now. I actually see it now. A.J. Green could actually, reasonably end up in Cleveland and proceed to make Colt McCoy’s maturation oh so much easier. So that’s lovely.
In a classic case of ‘grass is always greener,’ I now find myself pining after the very potentially unavailable Patrick Peterson and the late rising Marcell Dareus, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
A.J. Green is an amazing fit for a team stocked to the hilt with inadequate number one receivers.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Now things get interesting.
Newton, by most accounts, was very impressive at his pro day and at least physically looked to be a man among boys at the combine.
His accuracy continues to be something of an issue, but he was able to throw through a not inconsiderable wind without any problems whatsoever during his March 8th workout.
From CNNSI draft analyst Tony Pauline:
“His throws were crisp and he showed much better rhythm and timing, compared to his combine workout. The further down the field Newtown threw the ball, he more on target his passes were. He also displayed nice touch on throws, softly placing the ball in the hands of intended targets when necessary. He had no problem firing the ball to receivers on the occasions he wanted to show off his arm strength.”
Newton weighed in at 244 pounds, four pounds lighter than his Combine weight.
Jim Harbaugh here will have the opportunity to mold a prospect with elite physical tools. I’m guessing he takes it.
8. Tennessee Titans – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
After a decade of face stomping and making it rain, the Titans find themselves staring at Amukamara, possessor of a climate equally talented but far more temperate.
The biggest question marks surrounding the Nebraska corner regarded his speed, but at the combine Amukamara ran a 4.42 on his second attempt (and many scouts clocked him even faster on his first).
According to Sporting News’ Russ Lande, Amukamara looked very smooth during his pro day, setting himself apart from the other corners “with his rare ability to run and find the ball deep over his shoulder.” He also displayed particularly soft hands for a DB.
Amukamara’s been nothing but steady, and has been rumored for selection as high as the number four spot.
9. Dallas Cowboys – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
This is the part of the mock where I try to look like a genius.
While not at the Cowboys’ position of direst need, Fairley would represent the steal of the draft anywhere outside the top three. And the Cowboys are perhaps the foremost team in jumping on such highly talented sliders.
I have Fairley at nine for several reasons.
The first is the most prescient. Of all the guys listed 1-8, who would you usurp? Fairley is so talented that you could make a case for him at any of those spots, but not one of picks 1-8 is ludicrous. All the aforementioned draftees are talented, and all project as safer character picks than Fairley.
The second reason for Fairley’s descent is that the further into the evaluation process we get, the more loudly concerns about his character seem to be getting voiced.
From Rob Rang, on March 6th:
“Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley was described as a ‘JUCO kid to the core’ by one longtime personnel man, speaking on the condition of anonymity.“
The same scout continued:
“’Everyone is coming down hard on the quarterback, but [Fairley] is the one to worry about.’”
Coming from the same article and highlighting my third concern, is a scout dealing with Fairley’s alleged mental shortcomings. The following is referencing NF at the combine:
“Fairley ‘looked soft,’ according to the source. This first impression of Fairley’s conditioning was only reinforced by his ‘limited’ understanding of defensive schemes during team interviews. The source also referred to the fact that Fairley doesn’t use his hands well and has been able to be successful largely due to his natural talent.
‘Oh, I’m not saying he’s not talented. Hell, he might be the most talented player in the whole damn thing. But, he’s no slam dunk at this level. Not the slam dunk people who watched him tear up the SEC or in the big game [BCS National Championship] might think.’”
The last time we saw Fairley was at his March 8th pro day, where weighed in at 297 (6 pounds above his combine weight), and showed great quickness and agility in drills.
The talent is there, it’s the rest of the package that’s in question.
One last tidbit from Todd McShay:
“One scout put it perfectly when he turned to me at one point and said: “You can’t tell me [Newton and Fairley] aren’t two of the three best players in the draft, but you also can’t tell me you’d be totally comfortable taking either at No. 1 overall if your job were on the line.”
10. Washington Redskins – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Redskins could use some help on their defensive front, and J.J. Watt is one of the most likely prospects to provide it.
Watt would start from day one over either Adam Carriker or Vonnie Holliday, and his strength and versatility make him an ideal fit as a 3-4 DE.
As a pass rusher Watt is not overly athletic, but he has a relentless motor that seems never to wane throughout the course of a game.
11. Houston Texans – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
The Texan defense is in dire need of a corner, and Jimmy Smith is the fastest rising player in the draft.
6-2, 210, with 4.46 speed, I remember being dumbfounded when researching him for my last mock and finding the following:
“He’s allowed 11 completions over the past two years.”
Response to his pro day was lukewarm at best, but in terms of pure talent Smith is not too far off Amukamara and Peterson in a very talented corner class.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
This was the big surprise pick in my last mock, and I’m sticking with it for at least another month.
He clocked a 5.37 in the 40-yard dash, and was underwhelming in interviews at the combine, but God love him, the kid can throw a football.
Officially measuring in at 6-6, 247 pounds, Mallett has a rifle of an arm, and is capable of great accuracy when his mechanics are sharp.
I continue to believe he’d be a great fit in Minnesota, where a big arm would be a boon to Adrian Peterson by backing safeties off the line.
13. Detroit Lions – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Detroit signal caller Matthew Stafford has never finished a season healthy, and I have to think Detroit will be focused on upgrading his protection.
Solder is a 6-8, 319 pound (though only 307 at his pro day) former tight end who has retained much of his agility. He has begun to emerge as not only the top OT in the class, but the one with the highest upside (with the possible exception of Tyron Smith).
A great and sensible pick at 13.
14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
I didn’t think it was possible a month ago, but under this scenario, top dawg of the combine and current stress fracture recuper-ee Julio Jones falls to the team most in need of his services.
Josh McDaniels will be on the lookout all summer for playmakers to pair with precocious QB Sam Bradford, and none will be more able to fill the Rams' receiver void then Jones.
The Alabama product is just under 6-3, 220 pounds, and is probably the most physically imposing receiver to enter the league since Andre Johnson. (AJ because CJ is too lanky.) He ran a 4.39 at the combine and subsequently implied disappointment.
The Rams could do no better than this.
15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
A sensible landing spot for both parties.
According to the AP, Ingram ran “anywhere from 4.47 to 4.53 seconds” at his pro day. That’s a substantial improvement over a 4.61 combine time that didn’t really seem to negatively affect him anyway.
Moreover, I like his sensibility on the importance of 40-times:
“’Sometimes you have to turn on the tape,’ Ingram said, [then, holding] his thumb and index finger a couple of inches apart. ‘The difference between 4.4 and 4.6 is like that.’”
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Cam Jordan, DE, California
Adrian Clayborn is an option here as well, but with the steadier, safer Jordan still on the board, I think the Jaguars choose to minimize their risk.
According again to CNNSI's Tony Pauline (re: CJ’s 3/9 pro day):
“Jordan looked terrific. Even in shorts he looked forceful, explosive and displayed a great burst in his movement skills.”
Pauline continues that Jordan projects as a top-10 pick, with the bottom line being “he’s a terrific athlete on the defensive line – a combination that’s always sought out in the early part of the draft.”
The Jaguars would be thrilled to grab him here.
17. New England Patriots – Aldon Smith, DE/LB, Missouri
New England could use some help on their defensive line, and Aldon Smith is the type of versatile athlete that fits the mold of your traditional Belichick-ian defenders.
The Missouri product has registered a combined 17 sacks in the past two years while facing substantial offensive attention, and despite playing in his first competitive football game as a high school junior he is making great strides in his recognition and awareness.
Smith has room to grow both in stature and knowledge of the game, but he is a remarkable athlete and provides exactly the type of canvas Belichick likes to work with.
18. San Diego Chargers – Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
ILB Stephen Cooper does not expect to be back in San Diego, and the Chargers have still, years later, yet to replicate Shawne Merriman’s steroid-induced edge rush.
Enter Akeem Ayers.
The UCLA product is, at 6-3, 254 pounds, perhaps the ideal frame for a 3-4 OLB. He’s a good tackler, solid (though not spectacular) in all phases of the game, and has the ability to get to the quarterback from the outside.
He ran a 4.80 at the combine, but Ayers has always been more quick then fast, and he has the versatility to line up all over the field.
19. New York Giants – Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Potentially a major steal at a major position of need for the Giants.
I had him as the number nine pick in my last mock, and I still don’t think it’s out of the question he goes that high.
Interesting tidbit from drafttek.com:
“Old Long Ball has it on good authority from 2 different sources that the Cowboys have requested more game film from USC on Mr. Smith than any other team.”
I have no idea who Old Long Ball is (Al Davis?), but if he’s correct and Dallas does select Smith number nine, I will be thoroughly chastise-able for ignoring my instincts.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Now trusting my instincts (which means there's a 99.9% chance this pick is inaccurate), we come to the ever so rare Ryan Braun repeat pick.
The Buccaneer resurgence was limited to all position groups not rushing the passer last season, as 10-6 Tampa Bay recorded only 26 sacks.
Clayborn is a legitimate game changer at defensive end, with the size (6-4, 285) to stop the run, and enough speed (4.83 40 at the combine) to get to the quarterback.
21. Kansas City Chiefs – Justin Houston, LB, Georgia
The Chiefs defense was significantly improved in 2010 (11th in the league by way of points allowed as compared to 28th in 2009), but sack leader Tamba Hali is currently in franchise-tag limbo, and regardless of how that plays out the Chiefs will be looking to upgrade over Mike Vrabel.
Houston would seem to be the ideal candidate for either upgrade, supplement, or insurance.
At the combine, the Georgia star was second among linebackers with 30 reps in the bench press, and was seventh in the 40-yard dash (4.68) despite weighing in at 270 well allocated pounds. He finished second in the broad jump, and fourth in the vertical.
He can produce wherever needed, and would an excellent addition to an up and coming Kansas City defense.
22. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
It’s been 13 years since the Colts selected an offensive lineman in the first round, and this would be a great opportunity to start reinforcing their foundation.
Peyton Manning was battered last year, and the Colts struggled to run the ball with even moderate success.
Castonzo is not overly athletic, but he’s extremely smart and well versed in the nuances of the game. He’ll fit in perfectly protecting Peyton Manning’s blindside.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Days after making assurances that he was, in fact, the draft’s best tackle, Carimi went further on Tuesday.
From the AP, via CBSsports:
“’I think drafting me, you’d already be way ahead of the curve,’ Carimi said. ‘Any o-lineman that’s come through this program has a better grasp than, basically, other teams, just (with) the kind of style of offense we run. I do the white board (play diagrams) with coaches, and there’s really nothing you can throw at me that I don’t know.’”
So there’s that.
Despite his assertions, I’m not sure Carimi is exactly what the Eagles need to make Vick’s life easier (I don’t think anyone would argue he’s a premiere pass protector), but he is the best option available at this point in the draft.
24. New Orleans Saints – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
The Saints desperately need to give Will Smith some help at DE, and in terms of talent, it is beyond rare that a prospect of Quinn’s caliber is available at the 24 pick.
Robert Quinn hasn’t played football in a year, but he looked great at the combine.
Quinn’s pro day is March 31st. If he is able to substantially better his Indianapolis-posted 4.7, he will not be a Saint.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Jake Locker, QB, Washington
The Seahawks pick will be greatly affected by their sentiments on Kevin Kolb. If the CBA weren’t set to expire within hours of my writing this, I’d think Seattle would be trying to consummate a Kolb deal pre-draft so as to bypass the risk in selecting Locker.
As it stands, the Seahawks are at odds with Matt Hasselbeck and have only unproven talent behind him.
Locker beat Pete Carroll’s teams twice while at Washington. Perhaps PC will be looking to recruit him harder this time around.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
The Ravens need a corner in the worst way, and Brandon Harris is the top CB left on the board.
Harris is tough, physical, and shows great instincts when playing the ball in the air.
He ran a solid, though not spectacular 4.53 at the combine, and he plays much faster then that.
Harris would be a starter from day one in Baltimore.
27. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
A recurring theme of my B/R football work has been that the Falcons should draft Kyle Rudolph.
Rudolph is big, fast, and displayed excellent hands at Notre Dame. The only substantial negatives on him are his blocking technique and his mediocre route running, both of which flaws figure to be correctable in the long term, and mitigated in the short term by his athleticism.
Tony Gonzalez, good as he is, has been tailing off the past few years and will not be around forever. Rudolph would represent both an excellent complement to Roddy White and a welcome safety valve for Matt Ryan.
28. New England Patriots – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Chances are, one of the two NE selections will either be traded or reallocated to address the loss of Logan Mankins. But as things stand, this could very well be the pick.
Belichick is not afraid to load up on the defensive line, and Kerrigan would be a steal at this point in the draft. This past year, the 6-4, 263 pound Purdue star recorded 70 tackles, 13 sacks, and 26 TFL.
Kerrigan is a football junkie, who along with Aldon Smith, has the versatility and pass rushing acumen to significantly bolster the New England defense in both the long term and the immediate.
29. Chicago Bears – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
To play some sort of devil’s advocate, I was looking for a way to justify Marvin Austin here…but I couldn’t quite do it.
Liuget is safer, and a welcome addition along an aging defensive front. He is a superior athlete for a 6-3, 300-pounder, and he complements his natural gifts with impressive footwork.
His technique needs improvement, but CL is without question a first round talent.
30. New York Jets – Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
The Jets here replace Kris Jenkins with one of the few players in the draft of similar stature.
Phil Taylor is a load. He plays with good balance, a strong base, and excels at anchoring against the run.
He’s not particularly mobile, but he did manage to post a 5.14 40 at the combine. Not that that’s particularly impressive, but at least they know he can travel 40 yards.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
The Steelers still need a lot of help at both tackle and guard, and the brother of their prized rookie center happens to be available to fill the void.
The younger Pouncey has been solid at center for Florida, and dominant at the guard position.
He would be playing the latter in Pittsburgh.
32. Green Bay Packers – Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
Is Jonathan Baldwin worth a look here?
Maybe, but ultimately I think Ted Thompson maintains the same philosophy he always has:
“We feel very strongly that our best policy is to draft the best player. This isn’t fantasy football.”
So the best player then!
Muhammad Wilkerson is an athletic DT who’s been the consistently productive MVP of the Owl defense for the past two seasons.
Last year he registered 70 tackles, 9.5 sacks, and 13 TFL.
Wilkerson is a tenacious run defender and fully capable of getting to the quarterback in the NFL.
He would be an impressive get for an ever-improving Green Bay defense.