2011 NFL Mock Draft: First Four Rounds and Analysis
Ah, spring is in the air. Birds are chirping. The sun is shining. The cold is receding. And the best part of it all? The NFL draft is only a month away.
This year, the draft is even more meaningful than anytime in recent history due to the labor situation.
Until the situation is resolved, there will be no further changes to any roster. All the trade and free agency rumors will be hollow and pointless until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place.
The draft may be the only real news about any of our favorite teams for some time, so we had better relish every chicken-flippin' second of it.
It's been a little while since my last multiple round full mock draft, so I figured it was about time to post one. I've done the first four rounds.
Let me know what you think.
1. Carolina Panthers: Patrick Peterson, CB LSU
Andrew Luck sure did make this whole thing into a great big mess, didn't he?
It seems that every time a new mock draft comes out, there's someone different going No. 1.
There's been a lot of speculation that Carolina might still draft a quarterback here, but I don't see them spending the No. 1 pick on a quarterback they aren't sure of.
I think they'd feel just as good giving Jimmy Clausen another year before drafting another quarterback. If it doesn't work out, they may still be able to get another shot at Andrew Luck next year.
Patrick Peterson is clearly the best player in this draft.
He's an athletic freak of nature and a once-in-a-decade kind of prospect.
I don't care what BS Todd McShay is trying to feed everyone about a cornerback never having been drafted first. Carolina can't afford to miss with this pick.
They need someone who can change the game for them, and Peterson can do it on several different levels, both in the secondary and on special teams.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama
Workout season has been very kind to Marcell Dareus and his draft stock.
Some crazies are even projecting him to be the No. 1 overall pick. I won't name any names (cough cough, Todd McShay), but I just don't see it.
The Broncos do have a big-time need at defensive tackle. I personally would take Nick Fairley here, but I'm not projecting who I'd pick, but who I think these teams will pick.
I'm making this my big bust prediction for the draft this year. I think Dareus will end up being the next Glenn Dorsey.
3. Buffalo Bills: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn
Fairley's stock has been taking a hit recently because of character concerns, but I think when it comes time to draft, the way he played last year won't let him fall too far.
Buffalo needs a defensive end for its three-man front. Fairley played defensive tackle in college, but weighed in at only 291 pounds at the combine.
He's versatile enough that he could slide out and play the five-technique.
This guy makes a living in the backfield and is the best pure pass rusher in the draft.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Cam Newton, QB Auburn
This pick will have more to do with selling tickets than with making a smart football move.
Carson Palmer has publicly said that he won't play another down in Cincinnati. The team has been trying to wait him out, but I don't think he's bluffing.
For a team that has been so bad for so long, they can't afford to lose the face of their franchise.
Blaine Gabbert, or hell, even Ryan Mallett would probably be a better choice, but those names aren't gonna put butts in the seats.
Mike Brown's gonna want a big, shiny, flashy name to draw a crowd, and I can think of no one flashier, or bigger for that matter.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, LB Texas A&M
This is the one pick in the top 10 that has stayed pretty consistent in most mock drafts this offseason, so I see no reason to switch it up.
Arizona really needs a pass-rush presence from the outside linebacker position, and Miller is a perfect fit.
Miller is an athletic phenom and, in my opinion, is the safest pick in this draft other than Patrick Peterson.
6. Cleveland Browns: Da'Quan Bowers, DE Clemson
This is a dream scenario for the the Browns.
Bowers had been projected as a top three pick for most of the offseason, but a longer than expected recovery from knee surgery has affected his stock recently.
Recent reports are that Bowers has completely recovered and his stock may yet recover, but other players have seen their stock rise, while his has been stagnant.
Bowers is the prototypical 4-3 defensive end and led all of college football in sacks last season.
The Browns are switching to a 4-3 front and are in desperate need of defensive ends who fit the scheme. If Bowers is still available, I don't see any way that he won't be the pick here.
7. San Francisco 49ers: A.J. Green, WR Georgia
I haven't seen any other mock drafts that project the 49ers to pick Green here, but it makes perfect sense to me.
Michael Crabtree was largely disappointing last season, and selecting Green here would give them what might be the best group of offensive weapons in the league with running back Frank Gore and tight end Vernon Davis.
They addressed their offensive line last year, so this move would put them a quarterback away from having a dominant offense.
Green would also be the best player available at this point.
8. Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri
The Titans recently parted ways with Vince Young and head coach Jeff Fisher. There are a lot of really good pieces in place here, but they're gonna need a good young quarterback if they wanna get over the top.
For my money, Gabbert has been overrated by most draft experts this offseason, but he would be the highest-rated quarterback remaining at this point.
Tennessee has a very good running game with Chris Johnson, and veteran quarterback Kerry Collins could teach Gabbert a lot about being a pro.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska
The Cowboys are coming off an extremely disappointing season that saw their secondary routinely shredded.
Amukamara is considered by some to be the most polished cover corner in this class.
He has an excellent combination of speed and size, and he plays with excellent technique.
If Peterson were to get past the first couple spots, I could see the Cowboys possibly trying to trade up to get him.
10. Washington Redskins: Julio Jones, WR Alabama
The Redskins are a team and an organization in a complete state of disarray. Mike Shanahan was brought in to fix the problem, but he seemed to only make matters worse last season.
Leading receiver Santana Moss is a free agent and getting on in years, so it's time to bring in some fresh talent at the position.
Jones absolutely dominated the combine and some have speculated that he could be drafted above A.J Green, but I don't see that happening.
The Redskins will get a stud receiver here, but now they have to find someone to throw him the ball.
11. Houston Texans: Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina
The Texans brought in Wade Phillips to install a hybrid 3-4 defense and need someone to bring pressure off the edge.
Quinn is a tenacious pass rusher, but he is slightly undersized to play defensive end in the NFL. He might be a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4.
Phillips' defense is built off of bringing pressure from the edge. He had DeMarcus Ware in Dallas, and Quinn could be the same kind of player for the Texans.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Corey Liuget, DT Illinois
This pick could go in a few different directions.
The Vikings have had an ideal situation at defensive tackle for several years with the Williams Wall, but that is changing this season.
Issues with the league and age have combined to bring down the wall, leaving Minnesota with a hole in the middle of their defensive line.
Liuget might be a considered a reach by some here, but he's one of the most underrated prospects in this draft.
He's big, powerful and plays with a mean streak. This pick would be a big step toward rebuilding this once-dominant defensive line.
13. Detroit Lions: Tyron Smith, OT USC
The Lions are probably hoping that one of the top two cornerbacks will fall to them here, but no such luck.
The Lions have also had a huge problem keeping their franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford upright. They have an obvious need to upgrade their offensive line.
Smith has the most upside of any of the other offensive tackles in this class. He's long and athletic and can anchor the Lions' offensive line for the next decade.
14. St. Louis Rams: Akeem Ayers, LB UCLA
The Rams are picking in an awkward position for their needs. Their biggest need is at wide receiver, but at this point, Jones and Green are gone.
Their next biggest need is at defensive tackle, but all the top tackles are gone, too.
Ayers' draft stock has plummeted and this may be a bit of a reach, but if you watch his game film, you see that he's a playmaker who plays much faster than his 40 time would indicate.
The Rams do need a playmaking outside linebacker, and Ayers would fit their defense nicely.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
This is another one of the few seemingly consensus picks in this year's draft.
The Dolphins' once formidable running game has been lacking the past two seasons, and it's time to bring in some fresh legs.
Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in his sophomore season and runs with the sort of punishing style that fits what the Dolphins are trying to do on offense.
Now all the Dolphins will need to do is fix the line that will be blocking for him.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB Missouri
The Jaguars' biggest need is at safety, but there are none worthy of being drafted this high this year.
The Jaguars made moves to bolster the interior of their defensive line in last year's draft. This year, they get a defensive end with big pass-rushing upside.
Aaron Kampman's best days are past, but he can teach Smith the finer points of playing the position at the NFL level.
17. New England Patriots: J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin
Watt is one of the safest picks in this year's draft. He's a blue-collar player with a constant motor and a strong work ethic.
Bill Belichick would love to get his hands on this guy.
The Patriots have a plethora of picks in the first three rounds this year, which gives them the freedom to take the best player available, which in this instance would be Watt.
Watt would make an excellent 5-technique in the Patriots' 3-4 defense.
18. San Diego Chargers: Cameron Jordan, DE California
San Diego is looking to beef up their defensive line, and Jordan is the best player available at this point.
Jordan played in a 3-4 defense in college, which will make him easy for the Chargers to plug into their line.
19. New York Giants: Mike Pouncey, C/G Florida
The Giants don't really have any major glaring needs this offseason, but they are starting to get a little long in the tooth along the offensive line.
Pouncey will help to bolster the middle of their line and would give them some versatility as well.
When the Giants' offensive line is opening up holes for the running game, this team is really hard to defend.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa
The Buccaneers are a team on the rise, but they could use some help on the edge of their defensive line.
Clayborn didn't have a great season this year, but you could see his impact in the play of guys like Christian Ballard and Karl Klug, who benefited from offenses having to contend with Clayborn on the edge.
Paired with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, this could become one of the better defensive lines in the NFL.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Phil Taylor, DT Baylor
This pick will be called a reach here, but any pick Kansas City makes that would meet a need would be a reach here.
Phil Taylor is easily the best nose-tackle prospect in the draft, and it would be worth it for the Chiefs to reach here for a player who can plug the middle of their defense.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Solder, OT Colorado
The window is getting smaller for the Colts. Peyton Manning is getting older and they need to win soon if they're gonna do it.
Indy had a lot of trouble running the ball and protecting the quarterback last season.
Solder is a huge, long and athletic tackle who could be an instant upgrade for the Colts at tackle.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin
The Eagles are pretty much set at the skill positions on offense, but they could use a little retooling in the trenches.
Gabe Carimi might be the most NFL-ready tackle in the draft.
He's somewhat limited athletically and might not have as high of an upside as Nate Solder and Tyron Smith, but he's ready to step in at right tackle on Day One.
He would give the the Eagles an instant upgrade, both in run blocking and pass protection.
24. New Orleans Saints: Muhammad Wilkerson, DL Temple
The Saints' biggest need is to improve their run defense.
Wilkerson played defensive end at Temple, but has the size to line up at tackle in a 4-3 defense in the NFL.
Wilkerson can shed blocks and has a little bit of upside as a pass rusher.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado
A lot of people have Seattle taking Jake Locker here, but I see him falling to at least the second round.
The Seahawks will have a lot of options with this pick.
I have them taking Smith because their pass defense was atrocious last year, despite the quality efforts of rookie safety Earl Thomas.
Smith's stock has been hurt by off-field issues, but I think Seattle won't be able to pass up a potential lock-down corner here.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Aaron Williams, CB Texas
Baltimore needs a lot of help in the secondary.
Ed Reed is almost done, and a couple of their corners are free agents.
Aaron Williams might be a reach here. Some think he may be better suited to play safety in the NFL, but that's why I think he's a safe pick for the Ravens.
The Ravens have needs both at corner and safety, so the worst-case scenario would be for Williams to shift over to safety to take over for Ed Reed when he retires.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Leonard Hankerson, WR Miami
Hankerson has been one of the biggest risers since the end of the season.
He shined at the Senior Bowl and then followed that up by running an excellent 40 at the combine.
The Falcons have one of the best receivers in the game in Roddy White, but they have little else at the position.
Hankerson has proven he's more than a possession receiver with his speed and has done a lot to alleviate concerns about his hands.
This pick will take pressure off White and give Matt Ryan more options in the passing game.
28. New England Patriots: Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue
Kerrigan was a complete stud in college, but his tweener status will make it hard to find a defense he'll be a fit with.
He may not be athletic enough to play outside linebacker in a lot of 3-4 defenses, but Bill Belichick has a history of using players like him very effectively, such as Mike Vrabel.
At this point in the first round, Kerrigan will be a steal and fills a need for the Patriots of a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
29. Chicago Bears: Anthony Costanzo, OT Boston College
The Bears offensive line was a joke for most of last season, yet they still found a way to go to the NFC championship game. Imagine if Jay Cutler actually had time to throw the ball.
Costanzo could be plugged in right away and improve their patchwork line. They catch a break here with him still be being on the board.
30. New York Jets: Justin Houston, DE/OLB Georgia
The Jets pass-rush regressed a bit last season. The problem is that the entire pass-rush is being generated by the scheme, but they don't have players who can generate that rush on their own without some kind of "mad scientist" blitz package.
Justin Houston showed up at the combine weighing 270, causing most experts to start projecting him as a 4-3 defensive end, but I think Rex Ryan might ask him to drop a couple pounds to play outside linebacker.
If he's still available here, I don't see the Jets passing on him.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Derek Sherrod, OT Mississippi State
There aren't any really good choices here for Pittsburgh that wouldn't be reaching, so it's hard to predict which direction they'll go in.
The offensive line was decimated by injuries last season, and now starting left tackle Willie Colon may be leaving via free agency.
Sherrod was the anchor of Mississippi State's offensive line and would give Pittsburgh some versatility with his ability to move over to guard.
32. Green Bay Packers: Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State
The defending Super Bowl champs will be needing some help on the defensive line and should be thrilled to have Heyward fall to them here.
Heyward's size and power make him an ideal 3-4 defensive end.
Offseason Tommy John surgery has dropped his stock a little, but he should be ready to go and make an immediate impact for the Packers.
Round Two, Picks 33-48
33. New England Patriots: Jon Baldwin, WR Pitt
The Patriots have plenty of possession receivers but need a guy to stretch the field. They won't be able to pass on Baldwin's combination of size and ball skills.
34. Buffalo Bills: Benjamin Ijalana, OT Villanova
The Bills need to start establishing some strength in the trenches. Ijalana would give them versatility, being able to play tackle and guard.
35. Cincinnati Bengals: Stephen Paea, DT Oregon State
The Bengals need a defensive tackle, and Paea is a beast. He put up 49 reps on the bench press at the combine.
36. Denver Broncos: Kyle Rudolph, TE Notre Dame
If Denver is serious about Tim Tebow, they should know that he loves throwing to tight ends.
37. Cleveland Browns: Marvin Austin, DT North Carolina
The Browns continue to build their new four-man defensive line after cutting Shaun Rogers.
38. Arizona Cardinals: Jake Locker, QB Washington
The Cardinals can't afford to not draft a quarterback if they want to keep Larry Fitzgerald around.
39. Tennessee Titans: Danny Watkins, G Baylor
Chris Johnson can't do it all by himself. Even he needs some blocking. Watkins is a stud but is already 27 years old.
40. Dallas Cowboys: Christian Ballard, DL Iowa
The Cowboys improve their defensive line with a versatile and beastly player in Ballard.
41. Washington Redskins: Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas
Washington got their stud wide receiver in the first round. Here they get someone to throw him the ball. Mallett has a huge arm.
42. Houston Texans: Brandon Harris, CB Miami
The Texans need all kinds of help in the secondary. Harris could make a good corner opposite Kareem Jackson.
43. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder, QB Florida State
Ponder fought through injuries in his senior season, but he has impressed in his work-outs. Minnesota needs a cure for the Brett Favre hangover.
44. Detroit Lions: Martez Wilson, LB Illinois
Detroit needs help at LB and gets it here from a very athletic player in Wilson.
45. San Francisco 49ers: Andy Dalton, QB TCU
It's pretty obvious that Jim Harbaugh is interested in Andy Dalton. Dalton is a winner who knows how to play the position the right way.
46. Denver Broncos: Rahim Moore, S UCLA
The Broncos need help at safety and luck out, getting the best one in the draft here.
47. St. Louis Rams: Tandon Doss, WR Indiana
This pick will surprise some, but Doss is a very complete receiver. He runs great routes and has great hands. He's vastly underrated as a prospect.
48. Oakland Raiders: Curtis Brown, CB Texas
With Nnamdi Asomugha becoming a free agent, the Raiders will desperately need a corner. Brown won't make you forget about Nnamdi, but he's the best corner available at this point.
Round Two, Picks 49-64
49. Jacksonville Jaguars: Quenton Carter, S Oklahoma
The Jaguars have a huge need at safety and have to reach a little here for the second-best one in the draft.
50. San Diego Chargers: Brooks Reed, DE Arizona
The Chargers need a pass-rushing outside linebacker. Reed looks like a Clay Matthews clone and should have no trouble converting.
51. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech
LeGarrette Blount was impressive last year, but the Bucs need a faster every down back.
52. New York Giants: Mikel Leshoure, RB Illinois
Leshoure is a bigger back who would make Brandon Jacobs expendable. In my opinion, he's the best running back in the draft.
53. Indianapolis Colts: Jurrell Casey, DT USC
The Colts' run defense has been pathetic for a while. Casey is a stout gap-clogger who should help to improve their defense in the trenches.
54. Philadelphia Eagles: Orlando Franklin, G Miami
The Eagles continue to rebuild their offensive line with the best player available here.
55. Kansas City Chiefs: Randall Cobb, WR Kentucky
The Chiefs need someone to throw to other than Dwayne Bowe. Cobb did everything for Kentucky's offense and is a serious play-maker.
56. New Orleans Saints: Mason Foster, LB Washington
The Saints need help at outside linebacker, and Foster is ready to start on Day One on the weak side.
57. Seattle Seahawks: Rodney Hudson, C/G Florida State
The Seahawks started building their line last year and continue that by bringing in some versatility on the interior.
58. Baltimore Ravens: Torrey Smith, WR Maryland
Baltimore has a lot of possession receivers but no one who can stretch the field. Smith is super-fast and could be scary paired with Anquan Boldin.
59. Atlanta Falcons: Jabal Sheard, DE Pitt
John Abraham will be 33 and Atlanta needs to bring in someone to keep him fresh. Sheard is a perfect fit here.
60. New England Patriots: Marcus Cannon, OT/G TCU
Matt Light is a free agent, and Logan Mankins has been problematic. Cannon has some versatility and is a huge body on the front line.
61. San Diego Chargers: Quan Sturdivant, LB North Carolina
The Chargers need help at middle linebacker, too. Sturdivant is strong and instinctive and a good fit for the 3-4 defense.
62. Chicago Bears: Terrell McClain, DT South Florida
With the departure of Tommie Harris, the Bears are gonna need another defensive tackle to keep guards off their linebackers. McClain is the best one remaining.
63. Pittsburgh Steelers: Greg Little, WR North Carolina
Hines Ward is probably on his last season, and he'll be hard to replace. Little is the kind of receiver who can make the big third-down catch and throw a big block on the edge.
64. Green Bay Packers: Dontay Moch, OLB Nevada
This is a big reach, but I think the Packers will fall in love with his speed and upside lining up across from Clay Matthews. That could be scary.
65. Carolina Panthers: Drake Nevis, DT LSU
66. Cincinnati Bengals: Bruce Carter, LB North Carolina
67. Denver Broncos: DeAndre McDaniel, S Clemson
68. Buffalo Bills: Colin Kaepernick, QB Nevada
69. Arizona Cardinals: Clint Boling, G Georgia
70. Cleveland Browns: Edmund Gates, WR Abilene Christian
71. Dallas Cowboys: Marcus Gilbert, OT Florida
72. New Orleans Saints: Pernell McPhee, DE Mississippi State
73. Houston Texans: Jaicquawn Jarrett, S Temple
74. New England Patriots: Kendall Hunter, RB Oklahoma State
75. Detroit Lions: Ras-I Dowling, CB Virginia Tech
76. San Francisco 49ers: Christopher Carter, LB Fresno State
77. Tennessee Titans: Johnny Patrick, CB Louisville
78. St. Louis Rams: William Rackley, G Lehigh
79. Miami Dolphins: James Carpenter, G/OT Alabama
80. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ricky Stanzi, QB Iowa
81. Oakland Raiders: Stefen Wisniewski, C/G Penn State
82. San Diego Chargers: Jerrel Jernigan, WR Troy
83. New York Giants: Kelvin Sheppard, LB LSU
84. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Colin McCarthy, LB Miami
85. Philadelphia Eagles: Marcus Gilchrist, CB Clemson
86. Kansas City Chiefs: Jeremy Beal, LB Oklahoma
87. Indianapolis Colts: Johnny White, RB North Carolina
88. New Orleans Saints: Tyler Sash, S Iowa
89. San Diego Chargers: Wesley Saunders, TE South Carolina
90. Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Burton, CB Utah
91. Atlanta Falcons: Lee Ziemba, OT Auburn
92. New England Patriots: Kendric Burney, CB North Carolina
93. Chicago Bears: Gregory Salas, WR Hawaii
94. New York Jets: Ahmad Black, S Florida
95. Pittsburgh Steelers: Chimdi Chekwa, CB Ohio State
96. Green Bay Packers: Jacquizz Rogers, RB Oregon State
97. Carolina Panthers: Dwayne Harris, WR East Carolina
98. Seattle Seahawks: Chris Hairston, OT Clemson
99. Buffalo Bills: Casey Matthews, LB Oregon
100. Cincinnati Bengals: Terrence Tolliver, WR LSU
101. Cleveland Browns: Greg Romeus, DE Pitt
102. Arizona Cardinals: Virgil Green, TE Nevada
103. Philadelphia Eagles: Lawrence Guy, DT Arizona
104. Houston Texans: Vincent Brown, WR San Diego State
105. Minnesota Vikings: James Brewer, OT Indiana
106. Detroit Lions: Demarco Murray, RB Oklahoma
107. San Francisco 49ers: Kenrick Ellis, DT Hampton
108. Tennessee Titans: Sam Acho, DE Texas
109. Dallas Cowboys: Deunta Williams, S North Carolina
110. Miami Dolphins: Eric Hagg, S Nebraska
111. St. Louis Rams: Shane Vereen, RB California
112. Oakland Raiders: Daniel Thomas, RB Kansas State
113. Jacksonville Jaguars: K.J. Wright, LB Mississippi State
114. San Francisco 49ers: Jordan Todman, RB Connecticut
115. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Demarcus Love, OT Arkansas
116. New York Giants: Joe Barksdale, OT LSU
117. Kansas City: Joshua Thomas, CB Buffalo
118. Indianapolis Colts: John Moffitt, G Wisconsin
119. Philadelphia Eagles: Akeem Dent, LB Georgia
120. Jacksonville Jaguars: Nate Irving, LB North Carolina State
121. Buffalo Bills: Brandon Hogan, CB West Virginia
122. Baltimore Ravens: Greg Jones, LB Michigan State
123. Atlanta Falcons: Curtis Marsh, CB Utah State
124. New England Patriots: Jah Reid, OT Central Florida
125. New York Jets: Niles Paul, WR Nebraska
126. Chicago Bears: Scott Lutrus, LB Connecticut
127. Pittsburgh Steelers: David Arkin, G Missouri State
128. Green Bay Packers: Davon House, CB New Mexico State