The 2011 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and as speculation and projection become more and more accurate we can finally say we have some idea as to what will happen in this year's draft.
Recently, prospects like: Da'Quan Bowers, Brooks Reed, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Colin Kaepernick have seen their stocks change dramatically.
You may ask: "Where might they get drafted?" Don't fret, I am here to be your guide through this two-round 2011 NFL mock draft.
Please be sure to leave your thoughts and opinions!
Selections are made based on my own opinions.
Cam Newton, Quarterback, Auburn
The Panthers have slowly but surely let the media know they are interested in drafting a quarterback. Whether that is Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert is up in the air at this juncture, but I believe that Newton will get the edge in the end.
The Heisman Trophy winner has tremendous potential and reminds me of Josh Freeman. While some may think Newton is going to take his money and sink into mediocrity, I see him excelling as a leader and as a quarterback. He wants to be an icon, and he will be one
Marcell Dareus, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
A story came out a couple months ago saying that Denver was closing in on Da'Quan Bowers, but considering his knee problems, I cannot see him being the pick here.
Dareus is an anchor on the line and will help Denver transition back to the 4-3 defense with his versatility. The only question mark surrounding Dareus is that he only started one year for the Crimson Tide. Scouts and personnel may wonder if he can produce at a high level early in his NFL career with such inexperience.
Also, there is no way Patrick Peterson is the pick here, Denver just gave Champ Bailey a huge extension. They will look for an upgrade in the secondary sometime in the next couple of rounds.
Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback, Missouri
The Bills need a franchise quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick performed well last year, but he was incredibly mediocre in his prior years. He is under contract with the Bills for the 2011 season, so he can help groom Gabbert or provide stability as a reliable backup.
Gabbert had a great pro day a couple weeks ago, which really showed off his arm strength and accuracy. He also scored a 42 on the Wonderlic (for what it's worth). If Gabbert can manage to battle through the tough Buffalo winters, he will be the face of the Bills for years to come.
Von Miller is an option here as well, but Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey have hinted at taking a quarterback in the first round. There are plenty of 3-4 linebacker prospects in the second through fourth rounds that can help the team. It isn't like the Bills are going to fix their entire defense in this draft alone.
A.J. Green, Wide Receiver, Georgia
This pick depends on what happens with Chad Ochocinco. If he leaves or is traded by the Bengals, A.J. Green will likely be the pick to fill the void.
However, Cincinnati needs a new signal caller with Carson Palmer holding out. With no quarterback on the board worthy of a top 10 pick, the Bengals will have to wait until the second round for someone like Christian Ponder or Ryan Mallett (spoiler alert).
Von Miller, 3-4 Outside Linebacker, Texas A&M
The Cardinals pass rush is atrocious. Joey Porter was horrific last season and there wasn't much help behind him. Von Miller will help out the anemic linebacking core by putting some much needed pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Robert Quinn, Defensive End, N. Carolina
This pick comes down to Robert Quinn and Julio Jones. With such a drop off in pass rushers after the first round, the Browns will likely upgrade their new 4-3 defense under Dick Jauron.
If the Browns are dead set on Colt McCoy as their starting quarterback, they may bite the bullet and take Julio Jones. I question the new regime's allegiance to McCoy, which is why I believe Quinn will be the pick here.
Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, LSU
While this may seem like a big fall for Peterson, cornerbacks do not possess the value that defensive linemen and quarterbacks do. It is much easier to throw away from a corner than it is to avoid a pass-rushing threat like Robert Quinn or Marcell Dareus.
The 49ers need an upgrade at corner in a bad way. Nate Clements has been less than impressive since coming over from the Buffalo Bills a few years ago. With Taylor Mays holding down the middle of the field and Patrick Willis holding down the front seven, it seems like the 49ers are just a cornerback away from being a dominant defense.
Nick Fairley, Defensive Tackle, Auburn
Tennessee needs a quarterback, but they'll have to wait. Fairley is arguably the best player on the board and he fills a need a defensive tackle.
Some question his work ethic and dirty play, but Fairley is a talented lineman. His play is similar to Ndamukong Suh, as he gets into the backfield to disrupt running and pass plays.
Prince Amukamara, Cornerback, Nebraska
Jerry Jones recently said that he didn't think his team needed a corner. I would like to think this is a smoke screen, but who knows with Jerry Jones?
Terrance Newman and Mike Jenkins have been a mediocre combination in the secondary. Prince Amukamara would help solidify one of the weaker points on the Cowgirls defense.
Julio Jones, Wide Receiver, Alabama
With Donovan McNabb on his way out of Washington, the Redskins will be looking for a quarterback the team can build around. However, no quarterback on the board is worthy of a top 20 pick so the Skins will have to wait until a later round to pick up a new signal caller (spoiler alert again).
Julio Jones was the winner of the NFL Scouting Combine. He may have even jumped A.J. Green on some draft boards, but for now Jones is still behind him in my eyes. Regardless, Jones will help provide the new quarterback in Washington with an outstanding threat at receiver. Jones has drawn comparisons to guys like Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree based on his size and skills. The talent is there, but he needs to make sure he plays hard week in and week out.
Aldon Smith, 3-4 Rush Linebacker, Missouri
This pick is tough. It all depends on which way the Texans want to go in terms of defense. They are implementing the 3-4 next season (which I think is a big mistake) and will need to acquire proper personnel. A guy like J.J. Watt would shore up their defensive line, or an outside linebacker such as Aldon Smith or Akeem Ayers would help solidify their pass rush. It all depends on what the Texans see as their biggest need.
Aldon Smith is a defensive end/rush linebacker tweener. He has the size and speed to play linebacker in the 3-4, but not many guys make that adjustment very well. If I were drafting for Houston, I would much rather trade down a couple spots and grab Akeem Ayers. He has proven to be more than capable of rushing the passer and dropping into coverage from the linebacker position.
J.J. Watt is an option here as well, but the Texans have guys like Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye who project pretty well into the 3-4 based on their measurables.
J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Wisconsin
Jason Allen had a pretty mediocre year, and that is due in part to the sub-par play of fellow defensive end Ray Edwards. While Edwards will almost certainly be out of Minnesota by the time the 2011 season rolls around, J.J. Watt will be more than capable of filling the void.
Watt has seen his stock skyrocket lately, thanks to guys like Mike Mayock saying, "He is the best 5-technique I have ever seen." While Watt might not seem like an elite pass-rusher, he brings just about everything to the field and in the locker room. He can bull rush and is a high character guy according to almost all reports, only adding to his impressive repertoire.
Ryan Kerrigan is an option here if Minnesota would rather have the more prototype 4-3 defensive end.
Tyron Smith, Offensive Tackle, USC
Lions fans seems to be in denial, claiming the team doesn't need a tackle and that Jeff Backus had a career year. If a career year means giving up both sacks that separated your franchise quarterback's shoulder, it's time for an upgrade.
Smith has kept weight on after constant questioning as to whether or not he would be able to bulk up for the NFL game. He has done this while maintaining his freakish athleticism, making him one of the more intriguing tackle prospects in a fairly weak class.
Ryan Kerrigan, Defensive End, Purdue
Defensive end isn't a huge need for St. Louis, and I could see them trading out of this spot. They could move up or down depending on who they want. A safety, outside linebacker, and an upgrade at defensive tackle are needs, as well as an upgrade at guard.
Kerrigan has helped his stock with impressive showings at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. Some teams have said they see making a transition to rush linebacker in the 3-4, but I don't think he has the athleticism to play outside linebacker.
Guys like Corey Liuget, Mike Pouncey, Akeem Ayers and Rahim Moore are all options as well.
Mark Ingram, Running Back, Alabama
Ingram has seen one of the more dramatic stock drops of late, but I cannot see Miami passing on him. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are unrestricted free agents, and are as good as gone at this point. Ingram will give the Dolphins offense a solid weapon out of the backfield, but the team needs to decide on what direction they are going at quarterback.
Brooks Reed, Defensive End, Arizona
A bit of a reach here, but Jacksonville likes to make sure they get the guys they want. They did it with Tyson Alualu last year, so why not do it again?
Brooks Reed has skyrocketed into first-round consideration recently, thanks to his impressive NFL Scouting Combine numbers and pass-rushing skills. It's no mystery that the Jaguars are targeting guys like Reed and Ryan Kerrigan to solidify their young and talented defensive line.
On top of his pass-rushing prowess, Brooks Reed is a leader on and off the field. He was a team captain at Arizona and has been getting rave character reviews by scouts and coaches.
Rahim Moore is an option as well, but he is a bigger reach than Reed in my eyes. They would benefit from taking Ras-I Dowling in Round 2 or Round 3, given his ability to play corner and safety. I've had him in the first round in my earlier mocks, but his injuries keep adding up. The Jags are probably going to take a quarterback early, too.
Akeem Ayers, 3-4 Outside Linebacker, UCLA
Ayers has played outside linebacker at UCLA, giving him the edge in terms of experience. He won't have to make the positional change that guys like Robert Quinn and Aldon Smith could end up making. Ayers has also been praised for his pass-rushing skills from the linebacker position.
Cameron Jordan, 3-4 Defensive End, California
Depending on what happens in the top 10, Cam Jordan should be picked in the 9-to-18 range. He would probably be a top 10 pick in any other draft, but the defensive-line talent is incredible this year.
The Chargers could end up taking an DE/OLB tweener such as Justin Houston. They've lost faith in Larry English.
Anthony Castonzo, Offensive Tackle, Boston College
Akeem Ayers would most likely be the pick here, but since he is off the board, the Giants will likely upgrade their offensive line.
Will Beatty has been less than stellar in his time at tackle, so Castonzo makes a bit of sense here. He is one of the more pro-ready guys in the class, and the Giants are ready to win now. My concern with Castonzo is that he appears to have neared or reached his ceiling.
Justin Houston, Defensive End, Georgia
Guys like Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers might be options here, but their stock is dropping.
Justin Houston is one of my favorite guys in this year's draft. He is an explosive pass-rusher and blows you away with his physicality and speed. He compares well with Atlanta's John Abraham.
Phil Taylor, Nose Tackle, Baylor
While he might be a slight reach here, the Chiefs desperately need a starting caliber nose tackle. Phil Taylor moves very well for someone his size (6'3", 335 pounds) and will pretty much complete Kansas City's switch to the 3-4 defense. Obviously they need upgrades here and there, but it's impossible to run a 3-4 defense effectively without a solid nose tackle up front.
Gabe Carimi, Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin
I can see comments coming, saying Nate Solder will be the pick over Carimi. I will tell you why Carimi goes ahead of Solder.
1. Solder is not pro ready, nor is he close. He is a project with incredible potential.
2. He didn't play against the top-flight competition that Carimi played against every week.
4. Indy needs to make sure they get the safer prospect. They cannot afford to let Manning get hurt.
Mike Pouncey, Guard, Florida
Philly needs to bulk up the line as much as possible to protect Michael Vick. Pouncey has recently claimed he will be a Cowgirl, but I can't see a guard going in the top 10.
Jimmy Smith is an option here too, but the Eagles are not exactly desperate for a corner since they have Asante Samuel on one side of the field. They will probably pick one up in Round 2 or 3.
Da'Quan Bowers, Defensive End, Clemson
The slide ends for Da'Quan Bowers!
New Orleans is a great place for him, too. They have playmakers on both sides of the ball, and he will be able to play with less pressure on him to produce early. This will allow him to get back to 100 percent and make a difference for the team when he's full go.
Jimmy Smith, Cornerback, Colorado
I mentioned that the Eagles are not desperate for a corner. The Seahawks are.
Pete Carroll needs to do whatever he can to land a starting corner, as well as Jake Locker. And while it looks like the Seahawks could miss out on Locker in the second round, they did give up a third-round pick for Charlie Whitehurst last year.
Nate Solder, Offensive Tackle, Colorado
The Ravens will likely part ways with Jared Gaither at some point before the start of the 2011 season. With Michael Oher able to play left and right tackle effectively, Nate Solder will be able to make the NFL transition at right tackle. If at some point he becomes a better player than Oher, he can move to the left, but I see Solder playing his career on the right in Baltimore.
Adrian Clayborn, Defensive End, Iowa
Depending on the Falcons needs, they could take a number of players: Torrey Smith, Kyle Rudolph, or even Derek Sherrod. I could see Clayborn falling into the second round, and Atlanta taking a receiver here, but for now he is the pick. Atlanta has nothing to offer in terms of pass-rush outside of John Abraham.
Muhammad Wilkerson, 3-4 Defensive End, Temple
A small-school prospect, Muhammad Wilkerson projects well into a 3-4 defensive end role. The Patriots have the ability to take a chance on him, due to the ridiculous talent on their roster.
Cameron Heyward, 3-4 Defensive End, Ohio State
Shaun Eills isn't getting any younger, and Cameron Heyward will provide Rex Ryan's defense with an outstanding playmaker.
With the absolute failure of Vernon Gholston, it looks like the Jets will be looking for upgrades across the front seven throughout the draft. However, New York will have to find a replacement for Braylon Edwards and/or Santonio Holmes.
Ben Ijalana, Guard/Tackle, Villanova
The top priority for Pittsburgh is to protect Ben Roethlisberger. Whether they need a corner or a safety is irrelevant, they need to protect their franchise quarterback.
Ben Ijalana projects as a guard/tackle tweener. This works for the Steelers, as they need upgrades across the line.
Danny Watkins, Guard, Baylor
I have the Packers reaching for Watkins here because:
1. They have a need at guard.
2. Watkins is the most pro-ready player in the entire draft.
3. The Packers are ready to win with Rodgers at the helm for years to come.
Some think the Packers are going to take a wide receiver, but rookie receivers almost never make an immediate impact.
Rahim Moore, Safety, UCLA
Brandon Merriweather is a joke. The Patriots could definitely use an upgrade.
Corey Liuget, 3-4 Defensive End, Illinois
Buffalo needs to fix is anemic run defense. Liuget is a solid run-stuffer who has experience playing just about every position on the line.
Ryan Mallett, Quarterback, Arkansas
Christian Ponder is an option here too, but the Bengals have a history of taking talented players with character concerns. Regardless, Mallett is an incredible passer. He just needs to grow up fast.
Aaron Williams, Cornerback, Texas
With Parrish Cox in loads of trouble with the authorities, the Broncos will need a starting corner across from Champ Bailey.
Torrey Smith, Wide Receiver, Maryland
Whether Colt McCoy is starting next year or not, the Browns need to add some weapons to their dismal excuse for an offense.
Marcus Cannon, Guard/Tackle, TCU
Some have pegged Cannon as a guard, but I think he'll be a solid right tackle in the NFL. He has the size and athleticism to dominate smaller pass-rushers.
Christian Ponder, Quarterback, Florida State
New regime means new quarterback, enough said.
Christian Ballard, 3-4 Defensive End, Iowa
Dallas needs an upgrade next to Jay Ratliff. Safety is an option here, too, I would say.
Jake Locker, Quarterback, Washington
Mike Shanahan was in love with Locker last year, so why not take him here? Hopefully he can grasp the two-minute drill...
Brandon Harris, Cornerback, Miami
Kareem Jackson was a bit of a project. Even though he will develop into a solid corner, the Texans still have secondary issues.
Andy Dalton, Quarterback, TCU
New regimes mean... you get the picture.
Bruce Carter, Outside Linebacker, N. Carolina
Detroit could go a couple different directions here, but they have a big hole at linebacker.
Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback, Nevada
Do I need to say it again?
Marvin Austin, Defensive Tackle, N. Carolina
Austin could end up going anywhere between the end of Round 1 and here. There are still some character concerns apparently so I have him slipping a bit.
Jonathan Baldwin, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh
Some think Baldwin is a bust. I say you're wrong. This guy has all the skills to be a top-flight threat in the NFL. St. Louis is desperate for a weapon.
Stefen Wisniewski, Center/Guard, Penn State
Family ties in the organization might lead to this pick. Wisniewski fills a need on the offensive line as well.
Leonard Hankerson, Wide Receiver, Miami
Mike Sims-Walker regressed after his breakout year due to inconsistencies. He was also the focus of secondaries, so Hankerson will provide an added threat to a pretty talented offense.
Martez Wilson, Inside Linebacker, Illinois
Most reports state that Wilson had a bad pro day. He'll probably slip a bit, but maybe not this far. San Diego has multiple free-agent linebackers, so this pick makes sense in that regard.
Mason Foster, Outside Linebacker, Washington
Much like Detroit, Tampa could go a couple directions. However, there is a big hole at linebacker.
Mikel Leshoure, Running Back, Illinois
Arguably the best running back in the class. Leshoure can make insane cuts, but probably will not be the workhorse that Mark Ingram could end up being. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are mediocre at best.
Stephen Paea, Defensive Tackle, Oregon State
The bench-press winner of the combine finds a home! Paea is overrated I feel, but he'll be a solid run-stuffer for a team like Indy or Chicago.
Curtis Brown, Cornerback, Texas
With Ellis Hobbs retiring due to injury, the Eagles have a hole at corner. Curtis Brown had a solid combine and has creeped up boards recently.
Jabaal Sheard, 3-4 Rush Linebacker, Pittsburgh
The Chiefs need someone across from Tamba Hali. As long as Sheard can grow up and stay out of trouble, he should have a good time getting to the quarterback.
Greg Jones, Outside Linebacker, Michigan State
While he might not be the best value, Jones fills a need for New Orleans. They could also go receiver here.
Rodney Hudson, Guard, Florida State
Fills a need and has good value, Hudson fits well with the Seahawks in my eyes.
Titus Young, Wide Receiver, Boise State
Anquan Boldin had a hard time getting open when teams focused on him. The Ravens need a deep threat to compliment him. Young is explosive, much like Mike Wallace or D-Jax.
Kyle Rudolph, Tight End, Notre Dame
Disclaimer: Kyle Rudolph will not fall this far.
I had a hard time fitting Rudolph in, and ultimately took him out of five or six different spots. He will go towards the start of the second round, either by trade or to a team like Buffalo or Arizona.
Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver, Kentucky
The Patriots have shown interest in Cobb throughout the draft process, so this pick seems to make perfect sense.
Sam Acho, 3-4 Rush Linebacker, Texas
I've seen Acho pegged as a mid-round prospect, but he had a very solid Senior Bowl. He fills a need for San Diego since Larry English can't seem to get it going.
Drake Nevis, Defensive Tackle, LSU
This is a bit of a slip for Nevis, but with more and more teams switching to the 3-4 defensive tackles, he will have to wait a little longer for his name to be called.
Quinton Carter, Safety, Oklahoma
This pick probably should have been Davon House, but Carter is arguably the second-best safety in the class. He will fill a depth need, and can step in for Ryan Clark down the line.
Allen Bailey, 3-4 Defensive End, Miami
Green Bay is losing Johnny Jolly and Cullen Jenkins, so if they don't address 3-4 defensive end in the first round, they will have to in the second or third. Allen Bailey has seen his stock plummet this year, as he's a project with great upside.