It's getting closer every day. The 2011 NFL Draft is less than two months away.
The Senior Bowl and NFL Combine have come and gone, with the highest viewer ratings of all time. It's clear that amidst the current labor issues, people have continued to become more interested in the draft.
Now in mid March, things are beginning to take shape near the top. The following slide show takes an in-depth look at the first three rounds.
Cameron Newton – Quarterback – Auburn
The decision-making process behind the first overall pick could last up to the day of the draft for Carolina. The list of needs for the Panthers is a long one that includes several key positions such as: Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Cornerback, and Wide Receiver.
The team’s Achilles heel last season, however, was the play at the Quarterback position. Jimmy Clausen did not prove himself enough to deter the Panthers from taking the top QB on their board.
Even after a disappointing Combine performance, Cameron Newton has the upside to be a franchise signal-caller. His college resume is a small but highly decorated one and his physical tools are unparalleled. He’ll need some time to develop, but Newton offers the franchise a true face and unique talent moving forward.
Carolina may decide that Cam is too risky to warrant such a lofty selection and may instead target Clemson Defensive End Da’Quan Bowers, LSU Cornerback Patrick Peterson, or Alabama Defensive Tackle Marcell Dareus.
Marcell Dareus—Defensive Tackle—Alabama
There is no doubt that the Broncos will target a defensive player with their first pick at second overall. The team is in dire need of help in the front seven and starters will need to be added on the interior defensive line. With Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil penciled in as starters on the edge, drafting a Defensive Tackle early will be a top priority.
Marcell Dareus is a very big, stout, defensive lineman with incredible athleticism and light feet for his size. He projects as an instant starter at Defensive Tackle in 4-3 schemes and could be a disruptive force in the backfield for years.
The team could also look at Auburn Defensive Tackle Nick Fairley, Cornerback Patrick Peterson, or Texas A&M Outside Linebacker Von Miller with this pick.
Without potential franchise Quarterback Cam Newton on the board, the Bills will look at defense with their first round pick. While a front seven player would fill Buffalo’s most glaring need, Patrick Peterson may prove to be too good a value to pass up for a Cornerback-needy team.
Peterson is an incredible athlete with the look of a future shut-down corner. He has excellent cover skills and is a sure tackler in run-support. Early in his career, he also adds significant value as a game-breaking punt returner.
The Bills could also look at Defensive End prospects such as Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, or California’s Cameron Jordan. Also tempting could be Von Miller or USC Left Tackle Tyron Smith.
A.J. Green—Wide Receiver—Georgia
It’s no secret that Marvin Lewis’ Bengals will be targeting offense early in the NFL Draft after a disappointing 2010 campaign. They’d surely take a long look at Newton were he available, but the next best offensive move would be to take a true No. 1 Wide Receiver such as A.J. Green.
With the the loss of Terrell Owens, a void has been created at the position. The team is in dire need of a young primary receiver to complement Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham, two impact rookies for this past season.
Green is an extremely gifted and fluid athlete with excellent size, speed, and a huge catching radius. He could step into the Bengals new West Coast Offense right away and provide an instant upgrade to start the Jay Gruden era.
Other options for Cincinnati’s fourth pick include Missouri Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Alabama Wide Receiver Julio Jones, and Defensive End Da’Quan Bowers.
Von Miller—Outside Linebacker—Texas A&M
Everything indicates that 2010 free agent Joey Porter didn’t provide the pass-rush that the Cardinals were looking for when they signed him. His exit leaves a hole in the depth chart and an important role behind.
Despite a huge need for a franchise Quarterback, Von Miller is too good a value here for Arizona to pass on. Instantly, Miller gives the team an explosive pass-rusher off the edge that could develop into a difference-maker early. He plays with tremendous speed and is at his best turning loose and getting after the passer.
If not Miller, the Cardinals could target Baline Gabbert, Nebraska Cornerback Prince Amukamara, or even Tyron Smith.
Da’Quan Bowers—Defensive End—Clemson
With the exit of coach Eric Mangini also comes the abandonment of the Browns largely unsuccessful 3-4 defensive scheme. A front seven player will more than likely be Cleveland’s top priority early in the NFL Draft.
Da’Quan Bowers is a bargain at sixth overall for a team severely lacking a gifted pass-rusher. His injuries may scare some teams off, but when healthy Bowers is a dominant player with size, elite closing speed, and three-down ability. He instantly gives Cleveland a new building block along the defensive line for their new 4-3 scheme.
The team could target a different Defensive Lineman in Nick Fairley, J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan, or North Carolina’s Robert Quinn. Additional options for the Browns could be Julio Jones and Prince Amukamara.
It will be a tough choice at seventh overall with rookie head coach John Harbaugh. The most obvious and glaring hole for the 49ers is their lack of a franchise Quarterback on the roster. If possible, Harbaugh would like to groom and develop a young player.
Though I’m not completely sold on him, it looks as if Blaine Gabbert will go very early on April 28. He gives San Francisco a young signal-caller with all the physical ability you can ask for and enough mental capacity to excel in a pro-style offense.
If the team passes on a QB, the pick could be a Defensive Lineman such as J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan or Nick Fairley. The 49ers could also potentially take a long look at a Cornerback in Prince Amukamara.
Nick Fairley—Defensive Tackle—Auburn
The Titans are another team that would love to add a young franchise Quarterback more than anything. Still, without Newton and Gabbert off the board, Tennessee will look to address one of their holes on defense with the eighth overall pick.
Nick Fairley was the most dominant defensive player in college football a year ago and would be a perfect pick to start the Mike Munchak era in Tennessee. Fairley is quick, very explosive, and plays with a rare mean streak.
Other potential selections with the pick are Prince Amukamara and Defensive Linemen Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt. A real dark-horse could be Georgia Defensive End Justin Houston.
Cameron Jordan—Defensive End—California
There are already rumors that the Cowboys covet Patrick Peterson in the NFL Draft, but at this point it does not look like that they have the assets to make a move and trade up. If Dallas and Jerry Jones stay put, however, it’s likely that they’ll target a Defensive Lineman with their first selection.
Cameron Jordan has been the story of the pre-draft process. After looking like a man amongst boys at the Senior Bowl, Jordan shocked fans and scouts alike by running a 4.71 at 287 pounds at the recent NFL Combine. He fits Dallas’ defense as a 5-Tech and would step into a starting role immediately.
The Cowboys may also look at Tyron Smith, Prince Amukamara or J.J. Watt with this pick. They'd ideally like to land Texas A&M's Von Miller or Peterson, as mentioned early, but it is unlikely that those players fall.
J.J. Watt—Defensive End—Wisconsin
The Redskins are yet another team that would ideally like to add a young signal-caller with their first pick. It’s unlikely that Mike Shanahan will be reaching to get his guy here with so much defensive talent to be had early in this draft.
J.J. Watt was the talk of the Defensive Line group in Indianapolis after showcasing surprising athleticism and feet for a 290-pound end. He burst onto the scene originally this year in the Big Ten where he recorded 21.5 tackles for loss.
Watt would fill an enormous void at 5-Tech for the Washington defense and projects as an early contributor. Other possibilities with the 10th pick include: Julio Jones, Linebacker Robert Quinn, Washington Quarterback Jake Locker and Baylor Nose Tackle Phil Taylor.
Ideally, Houston would like to add a talented 5-Tech prospect with this top pick; however, with Watt, Jordan and Dareus all off the board, the Texans could look to address another problem area on defense. Despite having spent a first round pick on Alabama Cornerback Kareem Jackson a year, the team could absolutely target the position high in the draft again in 2011.
Prince Amukamara is the consensus No. 2 corner in the class behind Peterson, but the two may not be as far apart as players as some think. Prince has some very impressive tape and is the complete package with excellent size and athletic ability.
He instantly upgrades the Texans pass-defense in a division where Peyton Manning has ruled through the air for years. Additional options for the Texans include Defensive End/Linebacker Robert Quinn, Ohio State Defensive End Cameron Heyward, or even potentially a game-breaker such as Wide Receiver Julio Jones.
Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier (No picture on Smith)
Tyron Smith—Offensive Tackle—USC
At the start of the season few would have suspected the Vikings would hold a top 15 pick in April’s NFL Draft. A rookie Head Coach, Leslie Frazier, will be counted on to quickly turn Minnesota around and lead the team back into the playoffs. Quarterback is the team’s most pressing need but they may be unwilling to reach to get their man with so much talent on the board.
Tyron Smith was a college Right Tackle that will most likely be moved to the left side in the NFL. Physically, Smith has everything you look for: extremely long arms, an excellent frame (currently 307), and shocking athletic ability. The sky is the limit for his potential and the Vikings could use his help immediately in pass-protection.
Also possible with the 12th pick are players such as: Robert Quinn, Justin Houston, Illinois Outside Linebacker Martez Wilson and Boston College Left Tackle Anthony Castonzo.
Robert Quinn—Defensive End—North Carolina
It looks certain that the Lions will target a defensive player with their first round pick in the upcoming draft. Detroit has several holes in the depth chart on that side of the ball and the team desperately will look to add a Cornerback or Linebacker.
The value of Robert Quinn would ultimately be too much for the organization to pass on as they continue building a scary front four. A young, dynamic pass-rusher would take double-teams away from 2010 second overall pick Ndamukong Suh. Quinn flies off the edge, is very athletic, and lives in the backfield. He could be a big part of future Lions playoff efforts.
It would not be a shock to see Detroit go after a Linebacker such as Martez Wilson here. If they were to go with another pass-rusher, it'd likely be Justin Houston. The dark horse pick could be an Offensive Tackle such as Anthony Castonzo or Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi.
Julio Jones—Wide Receiver—Alabama
Realistically, it’s not likely that the Rams could be so lucky to have a terrific Wide Receiver prospect fall into their laps here at 14th overall. If Julio Jones were to fall past Washington’s 10th pick, phones would be ringing off the hook with teams trying to move up for the Alabama product.
Jones was the talk of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, proving himself as a rare athlete for his size. He’d be a perfect addition to for Sam Bradford in St. Louis and has the potential to be a star in the league. The broken foot he sustained in Indy is not likely to affect his draft stock.
The Rams would be crazy to pass on this slam-dunk pick, but if they were to look another direction it could be Linebacker Martez Wilson, Miami Cornerback Brandon Harris or a pass-rushing Defensive End such as Georgia’s Justin Houston.
Mark Ingram—Running Back—Alabama
Without a second round pick, it looks likely that the Dolphins will be willing to part with this pick to add more later on. If they must keep the pick, Miami’s pressing needs are on the offensive side of the ball. The team is in the market for a Quarterback capable of getting the ball down-field to Brandon Marshall, but a new Running Back may be the best value with this pick.
Mark Ingram is a former Heisman Trophy winner and brings a rare blend of balance, vision, burst, and power. He appears very capable of carrying a load early on and looks to have a bright future in the NFL.
The Dolphins could also target a Quarterback such as Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker. Although unlikely, the team could fall in love with Notre Dame Tight End Kyle Rudolph in the first round.
Martez Wilson—Outside Linebacker—Illinois
This past season, the Jaguars were able to make things very interesting in the AFC South as they challenged Indianapolis for a playoff spot. Though they were outlasted by the Colts, Jacksonville appears a tweak or two away from again pushing to play in January next season.
The team has a gaping hole at Linebacker, where Martez Wilson could make an instant impact. At 6’4, 250, Wilson is an extremely gifted athlete who can contribute as a blitzer and take over a starting job either in the middle or on the strong-side.
If they don’t target a Linebacker early, they could go after a Cornerback such as Colorado’s Jimmy Smith or Brandon Harris. Another attractive option for Jacksonville would be a pass-rushing Defensive End like Justin Houston, Missouri's Aldon Smith or Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan.
Justin Houston—Outside Linebacker —Georgia
Ironically, the Patriots win 14 games during the regular season but wind up with more draft picks in the first three rounds than any team. Bill Belichick has built his Super Bowl-caliber teams almost entirely through the draft, where he’s largely unpredictable.
We can accurately assume that he’ll move at least a couple of the picks he currently holds in order to stock some for next season when he may need them more. If New England stays put here, a pass-rusher looks to be the primary need.
Justin Houston in an experienced rush-backer from the SEC who possesses tremendous size, power, and ability in pursuit. He lacks elite fluidity but appears athletic enough to gradually develop into a great 3-4 Outside Linebacker.
If they choose to go with another linebacker, Ryan Kerrigan may fit the Patriots mold. It’s hard to put anything past this team and they are always a threat to move up for another Linebacker or perhaps Wide Receiver.
Cameron Heyward—Defensive End—Ohio State
A slow start and the lack of star receiver, Vincent Jackson, for most of the season ultimately doomed the Chargers in 2010, as they failed to win the AFC West and make the playoffs. With three picks in the draft’s first two rounds, San Diego will be aiming to return to the playoffs next season with some new faces.
The team is in need of front seven help and Cameron Heyward fills a gaping hole opposite Luis Castillo at 5-Tech. Heyward is a prototypical two-gap end with excellent size, power, and good quickness.
The Chargers could instead target an Offensive Tackle such as Anthony Castonzo or Gabe Carimi. Another position the team could go after is Outside Linebacker, with UCLA’s Akeem Ayers or Ryan Kerrigan both on the board.
Anthony Castonzo—Offensive Tackle —Boston College
For a team that failed to make the playoffs in 2010, the Giants have few holes that need to be filled for the team to contend next season. Adding youth along the offensive line and improving pass-protection figure to be priorities for New York moving forward.
Anthony Castonzo is this class’ most NFL-ready pass protector at Left Tackle. He has great size, feet, technique, and experience on the left side.
If not the Boston College product, the Giants could still go Offensive Tackle with Gabe Carimi, Colorado’s Nate Solder, or Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod. On defense, the team would like to add a Linebacker but value may not match up. A surprise pick could be Defensive Tackle Phil Taylor or Illinois Running Back Mikel LeShoure.
Aldon Smith—Defensive End—Missouri
The Buccaneers were perhaps the most surprising team in the 2010 season, with young franchise Quarterback Josh Freeman quickly coming into his own. The team has done a nice job putting pieces together on the offensive side of the ball and has already begun to overhaul their defense with 2010 second overall pick Gerald McCoy at Defensive Tackle. For McCoy to do as much damage as he’s capable of, Tampa Bay must add an edge-rusher to take attention from him.
Aldon Smith is a good fit in the team's Tampa 2 defense and has the versatility to move around in that front. He’s athletic with great size and vines for arms.
The Bucs could look to add another end such as Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn or Ryan Kerrigan. Like New York, they’d love to go Linebacker but value does not really match up here.
Phil Taylor—Nose Tackle—Baylor
No playoff team in the AFC faced tougher odds than the Chiefs, who went from picking in the top five a year ago to the AFC West champions this season. For years Kansas City’s 3-4 scheme has been held back by the lack of a big, space-eating Nose Tackle in the middle.
In Phil Taylor, the team gets the big two-gap plugger they need. He’s huge, athletic, and plays with a high motor. Immediately, Taylor would step into a starting spot and fill the team’s greatest need.
The Chiefs could also look at a Right Tackle such as Gabe Carimi, a Wide Receiver like Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin, or an Outside Linebacker a la Akeem Ayers or Ryan Kerrigan.
Derek Sherrod—Offensive Tackle—Mississippi State
There’s little doubt as to where the Colts would like to go with their early draft picks in April. Pass-protection will be the top priority for Indianapolis as they plan to preserve Peyton Manning for years to come. The team has used a variety of interior linemen that have been largely unsuccessful, but their largest need seems to be outside at the Offensive Tackle spots.
Derek Sherrod is the most NFL-ready Left Tackle prospect remaining on the board for the pass-heavy Colts. He has an excellent frame for the position, decent feet, and is a decent technician. He may not be a star in the NFL, but Sherrod would surely be an upgrade.
Other Offensive Linemen that could be considered with this pick are Gabe Carimi, Nate Solder and Georgia’s Clint Boling.
Gabe Carimi—Offensive Tackle—Wisconsin
The Eagles got a great surprise last year after Kevin Kolb left with an injury in the first game of the season. Michael Vick came back better than ever and carried the Philadelphia team into the playoffs on his back. The team’s future depends now on Vick’s arm; they’ll be building around him.
Gabe Carimi screams Andy Reid lineman, standing 6’7, 315 with long arms and a history of tossing around Big Ten linemen. He is this class’ premier run blocker and has the feet and athleticism to make it in pass-protection. The Eagles could find a starting spot for Carimi right away if they make him their first round pick.
Another position the team could target is Cornerback, with Jimmy Smith and Brandon Harris still on the board. With some injury concerns at Linebacker, Philadelphia could also go that way early.
Adrian Clayborn—Defensive End—Iowa
There may not be a team in the NFL with fewer holes than New Orleans. The team’s lone glaring hole seems to be Outside Linebacker, where a starting spot may be up for grabs immediately. If value is not there, the Saints may look to address the thin defensive line.
Adrian Clayborn has the look of a tremendous Left End at the next level with impressive quickness and power. Not only is he one of this draft class’ best run-stopping ends, he also does a nice job getting after the Quarterback. Clayborn could find a spot in New Orleans’ rotation and contribute immediately.
The team could also aggressively target a Linebacker such as Akeem Ayers or Washington’s Mason Foster.
No team has ever entered the playoffs in the manner the Seahawks did, with a sub .500 record of 7-9 in the regular season. If Seattle would like to be playing in January again next year it all starts at the Quarterback position. Charlie Whitehurst is not the answer for Pete Carroll, and there’s little doubt that he’ll seek a young successor in this NFL Draft.
Jake Locker may very well be the top signal-caller on the board here and the guy Seattle chooses as their new franchise QB. He possesses a big league arm, excellent mobility, and top intangibles. Additionally, the local fans would likely get behind the move as Locker is seen as an icon in the Pacific Northwest.
The team could be tempted to add a Cornerback here, such as Jimmy Smith or Brandon Harris. A Defensive Lineman could also interest the Seahawks; Ryan Kerrigan, Illinois’ Corey Liuget, and Oregon State’s Stephen Paea are all available.
It all seems to be coming together for the Ravens, with great young offensive pieces in Quarterback Joe Flacco and Running Back Ray Rice.
The defense in Baltimore is still a team strength, but they’d like to add youth and talent on that side of the ball early in this draft. It’s hard to ignore the need for several good Cornerbacks in an increasingly pass-happy league.
Jimmy Smith is a tremendous talent with rare size for the position and terrific athleticism. He may fall to them here based on attitude concerns, but it would be hard for the Ravens to turn down such an instant upgrade.
The team may also look at an Inside Linebacker like Mason Foster here. Wide Receiver is another need for Baltimore and there is some talent here in Jonathan Baldwin and Miami’s Leonard Hankerson.
Ryan Kerrigan—Defensive End—Purdue
The Falcons entered the playoffs as the top dogs in the competitive NFC, but fizzled out at home in their match-up with Green Bay, the future Super Bowl champs. It’s clear that while Atlanta has a very talented core, improvements can and need to be made.
Ryan Kerrigan gives the team a much-needed second pass-rushing option opposite John Abraham. He’s a talented, high-motor player and a frustrating matchup for Offensive Tackles of any caliber.
The Falcons could also target an offensive playmaker such as Wide Receivers like Boise State’s Titus Young, Leonard Hankerson or Tight End Kyle Rudolph. Additional possibilities for the team include Offensive Linemen Nate Solder and Clint Boling.
Leonard Hankerson—Wide Receive—Miami
The only team with two picks in the first round may be the team that needs them the least. Realistically, this pick won’t be made by New England but rather likely sold to the highest bidder. That’s not to say the Patriots could not use the pick to improve their team.
Since trading away Randy Moss, the team has lacked a big Wide Receiver who could threaten downfield.
Leonard Hankerson has had a great showing in the pre-draft process after a productive Senior season. He possesses good size for the position and helped to put some speed questions to rest at the NFL Combine where he ran a 4.43. Hankerson could improve the already scary Patriots passing attack immediately.
Other positions of interest for the team could be Running Back, Nose Tackle or an Offensive Lineman such as Clint Boling.
Clint Boling—Offensive Guard/Tackle—Georgia
During Chicago’s deep playoff run it became painfully obvious that the team has serious issues up front, especially in pass-protection. The Bears first round pick is almost sure to be an Offensive Lineman in the 2011 NFL Draft.
With a number of quality linemen already off the board, the team opts for the versatile Clint Boling. He projects as a starter at potentially any position along the line and instantly offers an upgrade over their current situation.
Other Offensive Linemen the team could consider include Nate Solder and TCU’s Marcus Cannon. The Bears could opt to help Jay Cutler in another way by selecting a Wide Receiver such as Jonathan Baldwin, Titus Young or Maryland’s Torrey Smith.
Brooks Reed—Outside Linebacker—Arizona
Rex Ryan has officially guaranteed his Jets will win the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season. To do that, New York must add additional pieces on both sides of the ball.
An impact pass-rusher would allow Ryan to be even more successful with his blitz packages and Outside Linebacker is a spot on the depth chart in need of an upgrade.
After showing surprising fluidity and athleticism at the Senior Bowl, Brooks Reed went to the Combine and turned in an impressive 4.68 40 and a strong workout overall. He seems to have the ability to make a quick transition from college end to NFL Linebacker and could develop into an impact starter in time.
The Jets could instead go after a 5-Tech such as Iowa’s Christian Ballard or Temple’s Muhammed Wilkerson. Another potential fit at Outside Linebacker would be Akeem Ayers.
It did not take long for the Steelers to bounce back after missing the playoffs a year ago. Despite not being perfect, Pittsburgh clawed their way back to another Super Bowl with health issues lingering all the way.
An Offensive Lineman may again be the top priority for the team, but if there’s value at the Cornerback position, youth and talent is needed.
Brandon Harris lacks great size, but makes up for his physical shortcomings with exceptional feed, closing speed and coverage skills. He projects an instant impact man-corner that could help Pittsburgh right away.
If the team does go offensive line, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, and Villanova’s Ben Ijalana all potentially fit their mold.
Akeem Ayers—Outside Linebacker—UCLA
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers became the player that we all thought he could this past season for Green Bay. What was more surprising was the resurgent Packers defense that consistently made big plays.
The roster appears to be young and for the most part, complete as far as starting positions are concerned. One starting spot that may be up for grabs is at Outside Linebacker opposite All-Pro Clay Matthews.
A talented edge-rusher falls to them here in Akeem Ayers. He may not have fully lived up to his athletic billing at the NFL Combine, but he still possesses the size, fluidity, and pass-rushing potential to warrant a late first round selection.
Green Bay could also go with an Offensive Lineman for the second year in a row with Tackle Nate Solder or Baylor Guard Danny Watkins.
Ryan Mallett (35th Overall)
33. New England Patriots (f/CAR)—Mikel LeShoure—Running Back—Illinois
With a full night to weigh trade options, I think it’s almost a given that the Patriots will move this pick judging by their track record. If they keep it, LeShoure adds talent, youth, and depth at Running Back. He’s a big, powerful runner with surprising agility and he’ll contribute early.
34. Buffalo Bills—Christian Ponder—Quarterback—Florida State
After passing on a potential franchise signal-caller in the first round, the Bills get their guy here at the top of the second. Ponder is an excellent fit in Chan Gailey’s offense, possessing the feet and intangibles to be very successful down the road.
35. Cincinnati Bengals—Ryan Mallett—Quarterback—Arkansas
The Bengals chose to bypass a Quarterback in the first round, but they find a solution early in the second. It’s unlikely that Ryan Mallett’s character concerns will turn away Cincinnati, who will be looking for an instant replacement for Carson Palmer. Mallett would start immediately with an array of young weapons.
Titus Young (37th Overall)
36. Denver Broncos—Kyle Rudolph—Tight End—Notre Dame
It would be hard to turn down an offensive talent like Kyle Rudolph here, even with the Broncos’ array of needs on the other side of the ball. The former Irish Tight End has excellent size, hands, and athletic ability. He’d start right away and contribute both in the passing and rushing game as a rookie.
37. Cleveland Browns—Titus Young—Wide Receiver - Boise State
The Browns are another team that must target front seven defenders over all else. Cleveland would have a hard time turning down Titus Young’s speed on the outside. Colt McCoy can only be expected to be successful with competent weapons around him. Young adds the perfect downfield threat to the Browns offense.
38. Arizona Cardinals—Nate Solder—Offensive Tackle—Colorado
Yards did not come easily for the Cardinals a year ago and it was clear the team suffered, in part due to a shaky offensive line. Nate Solder is too good a value to pass up here with prototypical size and athleticism. He has the potential to be an anchor at Left Tackle.
Mike Pouncey (41st Overall)
39. Tennessee Titans—Mason Foster—Outside Linebacker—Washington
After Keith Bulluck departed from Tennessee, the team instantly felt the drop-off at Outside Linebacker. Mason Foster is an underrated prospect that could be a very solid starter for the Titans for a long time. He’s an excellent tackler that plays with great range.
40. Dallas Cowboys—Danny Watkins—Offensive Guard—Baylor
The most pressing need for Jerry Jones & Co. to address is on the offensive line. The pass-protection for the Cowboys was not great by any means, but the run-blocking was absolutely pathetic. Danny Watkins is a big, nasty lineman that will likely move inside to Guard at the next level. He gives Dallas’ line the physicality they desperately need.
41. Washington Redskins—Mike Pouncey—Offensive Guard—Florida
The Redkins are another team desperate for help along the offensive line. Washington was beaten up in the trenches last year and will look to add an athletic interior lineman to fit Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. Pouncey is an excellent fit and would be a major upgrade anywhere on the Redskins line.
Christian Ballard (42nd Overall)
42. Houston Texans—Christian Ballard—Defensive EndvIowa
After striking out in the first round, Houston gets their Defensive End here in the second. Christian Ballard is a great fit at end for the Texans and is capable of moving up and down the line in a variety of schemes. He has the size, power, and athleticism to make an impact early.
43. Minnesota Vikings—Ras-I Dowling—Cornerback—Virginia
Unable to land the franchise Quarterback they desired, the Vikings turn to defense and upgrade their defensive backfield. Dowling was hurt during the 2010 season, but has the size, range, and speed to contribute at either Cornerback or Free Safety.
44. Detroit Lions—Colin McCarthy—Linebacker—Miami
There haven’t been many players that have made the most out of the pre-draft process the way Colin McCarthy has. He’s a smart player with range, good athleticism, and is a secure tackler. Detroit could use his help immediately in the middle or on the weak-side.
Quan Sturdivant (46th Overall)
45. San Francisco 49ers—Muhammed Wilkerson—Defensive End—Temple
In the first round, rookie Head Coach John Harbaugh got his franchise passer. After addressing Quarterback, the 49ers will turn to defense. Wilkerson is a 5-Tech prospect with prototypical size and good athleticism. He could fight for a starting spot right away in San Francisco.
46. Denver Broncos (f/MIA)—Quan Sturdivant—Middle Linebacker—North Carolina
In transitioning to their new 4-3 scheme, the Broncos will need to add at least one starting Linebacker. Sturdivant is an underrated prospect with great instincts, range, and is a very secure tackler. Upon arriving in Denver, he could push D.J. Williams back to his more natural spot on the weak-side.
47. St. Louis Rams—Corey Liuget—Defensive Tackle—Illinois
The Rams got lucky in the first round when a top receiver prospect fell right into their laps. The team still needs help on the other side of the ball and Liuget offers great value here. He is a quick, powerful Defensive Tackle that would give St. Louis another young building block on defense.
Colin Kaepernick (49th Overall)
48. Oakland Raiders—Marcus Cannon—Offensive Guard/Tackle – TCU
With recent news that Robert Gallery is leaving the Raiders, their first pick could now be used to address the offensive line. Cannon is an enormous physical wonder capable of playing inside at Guard or at Right Tackle. He’d start right away in Oakland and fits the Al Davis draftee mold.
49. Jacksonville Jaguars—Colin Kaepernick—Quarterback – Nevada
It appears as if the Jaguars have gone about as far as they can go with David Garrard. Though Garrard has a couple decent years in him as a starter, it’s time they added a young Quarterback to develop and eventually push the incumbent starter. Kaepernick has great size, a rocket arm, and excellent mobility, but he’ll need time to be groomed.
50. San Diego Chargers—Jonathan Baldwin—Wide Receiver—Pittsburgh
Quarterback Philip Rivers is among the league’s elite, but the receiver position in San Diego has been plagued by injuries and a high-profile hold out. Baldwin is an extremely gifted athlete with excellent size, speed, and leaping ability. He fits right in for the Chargers as a dangerous vertical option.
Stephen Paea (53rd Overall)
51. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Ben Ijalana—Offensive Tackle/GuardvVillanova
It’s crucial for the Buccaneers to protect their franchise passer in Josh Freeman. Though a small-school guy, Ijalana has the size, length, and agility to start immediately at Guard or perhaps Tackle. He’s a good run-blocker and pass-blocker that upgrades Tampa Bay’s line immediately.
52. New York Giants—Ryan Williams—Running Back—Virginia Tech
With little certainty about the future of the position, the Giants could target a Running Back in the second round. Williams is a tremendous slashing back that runs with burst and power. He’ll fall on draft day due to injuries that hampered him during the 2010 college football season.
53. Indianapolis Colts—Stephen Paea—Defensive Tackle—Oregon State
After the Colts get their help along the offensive line, they’ll turn their attention to the defensive line. Paea would likely be a higher pick were he able to fully workout at the Combine, but he’s a great value due to exceptional power, strength, and quickness. He would start right away in the trenches in Indianapolis.
Greg Little (55th Overall)
54. Philadelphia Eagles—Chykie Brown—Cornerback—Texas
Andy Reid will be looking to add some size to the Cornerback position during the draft weekend. Brown gives the Eagles a player with all the physical tools to be a very successful pro. If healthy, he could turn into one of this class’ pleasant surprises at the position.
55. Kansas City Chiefs—Greg Little—Wide Receiver—North Carolina
The Chiefs filled a gaping hole in the first by landing a Nose Tackle, so the next order of business is surrounding Matt Cassel with more weapons. Little did not play in 2010, but he re-asserted himself at the NFL Combine. He’s flying under the radar right now and has the ability to start and flourish alongside Dwayne Bowe.
56. New Orleans Saints—K.J. Wright—Outside Linebacker—Mississippi State
One of the most complete teams in football has perhaps only one starting spot up for grabs, and that’s at Outside Linebacker. Wright has the size, fluidity, and athletic ability teams look for in this range. This durable, reliable backer could solve some of the Saints’ most current problems.
Randall Cobb (59th Overall)
57. Seattle Seahawks—Curtis Brown—Cornerback—Texas
In the first round, Seattle made a decisive move for their future by adding Jake Locker. In the second, they’ll likely turn their focus to the other side of the ball, or more particularly, the defensive backfield. Brown is the second Texas corner off the board this round and perhaps the more NFL-ready. He has excellent feet and man-cover skills.
58. Baltimore Ravens—Kelvin Sheppard—Inside Linebacker—LSU
For the Ravens, no defensive position is due for an improvement as much as the inside backer spot next to Ray Lewis. Sheppard has great size, instincts, and enough range to make it as a starter early in the NFL. He’s a terrific fit for the Ravens and could not ask for a better mentor to learn from.
59. Atlanta Falcons—Randall Cobb—Wide Receiver—Kentucky
While gearing up for future Super Bowl runs, the Falcons must give Matt Ryan additional weapons to keep defenses off balance. Cobb is an extremely versatile, explosive offensive weapon that could develop into a very effective Wide Receiver in Atlanta. Additionally, he offers return value.
Rahim Moore (62nd Overall)
60. New England Patriots—Stefan Wisniewski—Center/Guard—Penn State
Is there any other young player that can help New England this coming year? Wisniewski is a versatile interior lineman that will be ready to start right away at Guard or Center for the Patriots. He's a pick that will help them solidify their line for the future.
61. Chicago Bears—Torrey Smith—Wide Receiver—Maryland
After helping Jay Cutler out in the form of an Offensive Lineman in the first round, Chicago adds another young, dynamic weapon for him to throw to. Smith has big-league speed along with good size and kick return ability. The Bears plan to make the most of the trade that brought them a franchise Quarterback and more talent at Wide Receiver is helpful.
62. San Diego Chargers (f/NYJ)—Rahim Moore—Free Safety—UCLA
There’s no denying that the Chargers would welcome a ball-hawk Free Safety to their defense. San Diego’s “D” must find a way to force more turnovers in the future and Moore may be just the guy to help him. Although mistake-prone, he’s very athletic with good feet and excellent ball skills.
Orlando Franklin (63rd Overall)
63. Pittsburgh Steelers—Orlando Franklin—Offensive Guard/Tackle—Miami
Young talent along the offensive line has been needed in Pittsburgh for years. 2010 first round pick Maurkice Pouncey was a revelation a year ago for the team. Franklin offers a potential starter inside at Guard or potentially at Tackle for the Steelers.
64. Green Bay Packers—Jerel Jernigan—Wide Receiver – Troy
Without much value here along the offensive line, the Packers may make this second round pick one for luxury. Jerel Jernigan gives the team a young, versatile, and speedy slot receiver capable of handling return duties from day one. Though he does not fill a pressing need, Jernigan could contribute for this team.
Andy Dalton (69th Overall)
65. Carolina Panthers—Drake Nevis—Defensive Tackle—LSU
66. Cincinnati Bengals—Bruce Carter—Outside Linebacker—North Carolina
67. Denver Broncos—Aaron Williams—Free Safety/Cornerback—Texas
68. Buffalo Bills—Sam Acho —Outside Linebacker—Texas
69. Arizona Cardinals—Andy Dalton—Quarterback—TCU
70. Cleveland Browns—Marvin Austin—Defensive Tackle—North Carolina
71. Dallas Cowboys—Quinton Carter—Free Safety—Oklahoma
72. New Orleans Saints (f/WAS)—Edmond Gates—Wide Receiver—Abilene Christian
73. Houston Texans—Shane Vereen—Running Back—California
74. New England Patriots (f/MIN)—Kenrick Ellis—Nose Tackle—Hampton
75. Detroit Lions—Davon House—Cornerback—New Mexico State
Lance Kendricks (79th Overall)
76. San Francisco 49ers—John Moffitt—Offensive Guard—Wisconsin
77. Tennessee Titans—Luke Stocker—Tight End—Tennessee
78. St. Louis Rams—DeMarco Murray—Running Back—Oklahoma
79. Miami Dolphins—Lance Kendricks—Tight End—Wisconsin
80. Jacksonville Jaguars—Jabaal Sheard—Defensive End—Pittsburgh
81. Oakland Raiders—Curtis Marsh—Cornerback—Utah State
82. San Diego Chargers—Chris Carter—Outside Linebacker—Fresno State
83. New York Giants—Nate Irving—Linebacker—North Carolina State
84. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Lawrence Wilson—Outside Linebacker—Connecticut
85. Philadelphia Eagles—Delone Carter— Running Back—Syracuse
86. Kansas City Chiefs—James Carpenter—Offensive Tackle/Guard—Alabama
Tyler Sash (92nd Overall)
87. Indianapolis Colts—Will Rackley—Offensive Guard/Tackle—Lehigh
88. New Orleans Saints—Jarvis Jenkins—Defensive Tackle—Clemson
89. San Diego (f/SEA)—Marcus Gilbert—Offensive Tackle—Florida
90. Baltimore Ravens—Ronald Johnson—Wide Receiver—USC
91. Atlanta Falcons—Jordan Todma—Running Back—Connecticut
92. New England Patriots—Tyler Sash—Strong Safety—Iowa
93. Chicago Bears—Marcus Gilchrist—Safety/Cornerback—Clemson
94. New York Jets—Lawrence Guy—Defensive End—Arizona State
95. Pittsburgh Steelers—Jerrell Powe—Nose Tackle—Mississippi
96. Green Bay Packers—Rodney Hudson—Center/Offensive Guard—Florida State