2011 NFL Mock Draft: Every First-Round Pick with Expert Analysis
With the potential full-season lockout still looming over our heads, the NFL draft is all that us football fans have to look forward to.
Fortunately for us, the draft is only a few weeks away, and the time remaining until the Carolina Panthers select the first overall pick is slowly but surely diminishing.
Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have been following the draft every step of the way, providing the country with their inside expertise on where each athlete will be taken. From me to you, here's a compilation of the two expert's opinions, combined into one super-charged mock draft.
No. 1. Carolina Panthers: DT Marcell Dareus
In Todd McShay's latest mock draft, he has Marcell Dareus atop the list, over favorites like Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton.
The reasoning is simple—Carolina drafted Jimmy Clausen last year, who still has a good chance to be the future quarterback for the Panthers. One shaky rookie season isn't enough for management to give up on him forever.
Carolina needs a defensive tackle, so Dareus seems to be the logical choice, due to his versatility.
No. 2. Denver Broncos: DT Nick Fairley
We know Denver certainly won't take a quarterback with the second overall pick, after trading up last season to take Tim Tebow.
The Broncos defensive line was a huge problem last year, and they were ineffective against both the rush and the pass.
Fairley is devastating against the run, but his unique athletic ability for his size really makes him a rare player who could help Denver immediately.
No. 3. Buffalo Bills: QB Blaine Gabbert
Gabbert is now predicted by both Kiper and McShay to be the first quarterback taken in the NFL draft this year.
Although they disagree on when he will be taken, it's safe to say Gabbert won't have to wait too long to hear his name called on draft day.
The Bills need a lot of work before they can be a contending team, and their biggest need may be at the offensive tackle position. Since there are no real prospects worth drafting this high, Gabbert may be the one to go.
Some people would expect to see Cam Newton get selected at this spot, but McShay firmly believes that Gabbert is the better overall quarterback and will get taken first.
No. 4. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Cam Newton
When Carson Palmer was drafted in 2003, he sat on the bench for a year and learned under starter Jon Kitna.
A similar situation may arise in 2011, when Cam Newton could be taken by the Bengals to learn under Palmer, or whoever the Bengals decide to start for a season before he takes over the starting role himself.
Another option here for the Bengals is trading down, although Newton would most likely be taken at this spot anyway.
No. 5. Arizona Cardinals: OLB Von Miller
There is a very good chance Joey Porter won't be back to play for the Cardinals next season, so taking Von Miller would make perfect sense here.
Miller would be an immediate pass-rush upgrade on the outside in the Cardinals' 3-4 defensive system, and that combined with his athletic ability should allow him to flourish in Arizona.
No. 6. Cleveland Browns: WR A.J. Green
A.J. Green would be a perfect fit in Cleveland, where the Browns need plenty of help at the wide receiver position.
Green put on a great performance at the NFL combine, running a 4.48 in the 40, which is good for a 6'4", 211-pound man. He has the ability to make an immediate impact in the NFL, and the Browns probably won't pass on him if he's available.
No. 7. San Francisco 49ers: CB Patrick Peterson
Patrick Peterson might just be the best overall player in the NFL draft this year.
Still, looking at past history tells us that Peterson will probably fall out of the top five, regardless of how good of a corner he is. Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders and Champ Bailey were all very highly regarded corners going into the draft, but none were taken inside of the fifth pick.
The 49ers have a strong defense, but they should still be excited by the opportunity to take one of the top players with the seventh overall pick, especially if they can fill the void at quarterback with a trade or free-agent acquisition.
No. 8. Tennessee Titans: DE Da'Quan Bowers
The only concern surrounding Da'Quan Bowers heading into the draft is whether or not he will be able to recover from a nagging knee injury.
Bowers was unable to show his skills in front of the Colts as a precautionary measure with his recovery. He is still a very talented prospect that would provide immediate help to the poor pass rush in Tennessee.
No. 9. Dallas Cowboys: CB Prince Amukamara
Prince Amukamara has the potential to be a Pro Bowl corner.
It won't matter if Dallas takes Amukamara with its pick, or trades down to allow another team to snatch him up; Amukamara should be taken in the top 10.
Dallas' main issues lie in the offensive line, so the Cowboys could end up targeting that position. Still, if the Cowboys have a potential elite corner at the end of the day, they shouldn't have any complaints.
No. 10. Washington Redskins: WR Julio Jones
Both Kiper and McShay agree that the Redskins will select Julio Jones with the 10th overall pick if he is still available.
Washington has a lot of needs to fill in the offseason, and offensive-minded head coach Mike Shanahan will most likely look toward a playmaker such as Jones for a first option. He's coming off surgery, but his raw talent and ability to block make him an elite target that shouldn't be overlooked.
No. 11. Houston Texans: DE Robert Quinn
The Houston Texans had one of the worst defenses in the league last season.
They selected a corner in the first round last year, but may aim for a linebacker in this year's draft. Robert Quinn would be a good fit at ROLB in the 3-4 scheme of Wade Phillips.
Playing alongside Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin, he could help transform the Texans secondary into one that can actually compete.
No. 12. Minnesota Vikings: OT Anthony Castonzo
Rumors have swirled around Minnesota being connected to Jake Locker, but taking him this high in the draft would be a stretch.
If the Vikings really wanted him, a better solution would be to trade down and gain an extra draft pick. The upside with Anthony Castonzo is that he'll be ready to play immediately and bringing him in would allow the Vikings to move Loadholt and McKinnie to more favorable positions.
No. 13. Detroit Lions: OT Tyron Smith
Two main needs that the Lions have to address are the corner and offensive tackle positions.
After Amukamara and Peterson, there isn't another CB who should be taken within the top 15 picks. Tyron Smith is a good option at tackle because he is a good run-blocker who can make room for Jahvid Best, as well as help keep Matt Stafford off the injured reserve list.
No. 14. St. Louis Rams: DT Corey Liuget
Unless a highly valued wide receiver is available with this pick, the Rams will probably go after a defensive tackle, which would fill one of their main needs.
Corey Liuget has good vision and can locate the ball extremely well. His power, leverage and performance in Indy improved his draft stock quite a bit, which may boost him into the top 15.
No. 15. Miami Dolphins: RB Mark Ingram
Taking a quarterback or an offensive lineman would help out Miami, but neither of those positions have too much value at this point in the draft.
A running back like Mark Ingram would help out the Dolphins, even if he was part of a rotation along with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Both backs have had injury trouble recently, so it's not out of the question that Ingram could get an opportunity in his rookie season.
No. 16. Jacksonville Jaguars: OLB Aldon Smith
Aldon Smith is a linebacker who could have been a very high draft pick in 2012 if he had chosen to stay at Missouri for another year of development.
Jacksonville has a strong defensive interior, but the Jaguars lack strength on the outside. Smith has plenty of upside and could help the Jags pretty quickly.
No. 17. New England Patriots: DE J.J. Watt
If the Patriots have a weakness, it's the defensive line.
J.J. Watt would immediately improve the front seven, playing alongside Wilfork and Warren. He has the size and skill set to fit well into Bill Belichick's defensive scheme.
Another option for the Patriots is trading either this pick or their other first-round pick, which is something that New England seems to do almost every year.
No. 18. San Diego Chargers: DE Cameron Jordan
Cameron Jordan thrived in the 3-4 system at California, and would fit in well with San Diego.
Jordan should be able to help the Chargers, who aren't far off from being an elite team in the NFL again. He is a force against the run, which could prevent everyone in the division from running all over San Diego and might lead to an extra win or two.
No. 19. New York Giants: G/C Mike Pouncey
Twin of Pittsburgh Steeler Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey has a very similar skill set that could lead to an excellent rookie season like his brother had.
Eli Manning is much more effective when he doesn't have to win games by himself, and better guard play would lead to a more productive run game, which would be great for the Giants.
No. 20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Justin Houston
Justin Houston is a good defensive end in a 4-3 system, and would fit well in Tampa Bay.
The interior defensive line of the Bucs is pretty decent, but the outside could use some work, and Houston would address that need.
He has a chance to be one of the biggest steals in the draft.
No. 21. Kansas City Chiefs: OLB Akeem Ayers
Akeem Ayers' stock has slipped in the past couple of weeks after below-average workouts.
He would fill an obvious need at linebacker for Kansas City, and has the skills to cover and rush the passer. His reputation for athleticism makes him a good fit for the Chiefs' defensive system.
No. 22. Indianapolis Colts: OT Nate Solder
Nate Solder is the best offensive line prospect at this position in the draft, and has a huge amount of upside.
The Colts are really lacking on O-line talent, and struggled to run the ball effectively for most of the season, so improving that position should be a priority.
No. 23. Philadelphia Eagles: OT Gabe Carimi
Philadelphia could target the offensive or defensive line with its first-round pick, but it's likely the Eagles will take Gabe Carimi if he's available.
Carimi excels at sustaining run-blocks, which should help the already explosive Eagles offense. Playing in the Big Ten against top defensive ends should help him transition quickly into the NFL.
No. 24. New Orleans Saints: DT Muhammad Wilkerson
Muhammad Wilkerson had the potential to be a top 10 pick if he stayed another year at Temple.
He has the capability to penetrate from the tackle position, and his size and speed make him very scheme-versatile. The Saints are lucky to find such good value at this point in the draft.
No. 25. Seattle Seahawks: QB Jake Locker
Seattle is in need of a quarterback of the future because Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst are the only decent ones on the roster.
This would be a great scenario for both Jake Locker and the Seahawks, because Locker would be able to sit behind Hasselbeck and learn for a year while he continues to improve. The Seahawks can also try and defend their division title with the starter that got them there last season.
No. 26. Baltimore Ravens: CB Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith adds depth to an already talented and strong defense in Baltimore.
He could be a steal if he lives up to the skill set that he showed throughout his college career in Colorado. Smith has good ball awareness and size for his position, which could lead to him starting early on.
No. 27. Atlanta Falcons: DE Adrian Clayborn
Adrian Clayborn has a reputation for relentlessness and was referred to by Carimi as the best defensive end he faced at Wisconsin.
Although the Falcons don't have any immediate needs that must be addressed, they wouldn't likely pass up a guy who has great discipline against the run and the ability to rush the passer.
No. 28. New England Patriots: DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan
New England would love to see Ryan Kerrigan still on the board because the Patriots really need an upgrade in the pass rush.
The Patriots love strong and big linebackers who can get to the quarterback from the outside. Kerrigan has a great opportunity to thrive in this system.
No. 29. Chicago Bears: OT Derek Sherrod
Derek Sherrod might be a bit of a reach at this spot, but he'll be the best tackle left on the board and Chicago might just have to take him.
There is a chance the Bears will trade up to secure a player like Pouncey, whom they could really use, instead of going with a tackle.
No. 30. New York Jets: NT Phil Taylor
Phil Taylor would look good as a potential replacement for Kris Jenkins, so passing on Taylor would be a tough call.
He can move very well for a 330-pound man, and the Jets don't have any great pass-rushing tackles.
No. 31. Pittsburgh Steelers: OG Danny Watkins
The offensive side of the ball is slightly more of a need than the defensive side for the Steelers.
Danny Watkins is very versatile and he offers more of the same qualities that Pittsburgh drafted in its linemen last year. Taking Watkins would allow the Steelers to help the defense with a later pick, which is probably better.
No. 32. Green Bay Packers: OLB Brooks Reed
Brooks Reed is a beast out of Arizona who could work well in the Packers system and take some of the pressure off Clay Matthews.
Reed is a smart athlete who could be a real sleeper in this draft. He has great quickness and shows good instincts dropping into coverage.