2011 NFL Draft: The 5 Players Who Could Start for Any of the 32 NFL Teams
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Every year, fans around the league ponder what collegiate stud their NFL team of choice will select in the NFL draft. Sometimes teams can find that player who turns into a perennial Pro Bowler early in the first round, while other teams find the gem that is that team's missing link late on Day 2.
This year's draft should be no different.
While the early parts of the first round are likely to see a handful of players who could become the playmaker that the team drafting them is looking for, other teams will find their most valuable rookie later on.
Here is a glimpse of five players that every fan should keep an eye on, as each one of them will likely play a big role on whichever team is fortunate to stake claim to them.
LSU Cornerback Patrick Peterson
Peterson was a standout on defense and special teams for the Tigers
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Unless you are one to get caught up in the Cam Newton hype, it's fairly easy to see who the hottest commodity in this year's draft is.
LSU cornerback and return man Patrick Peterson has the speed and coverage skills to crack any secondary in the league.
In addition to playing defense for the Tigers, Peterson was a force in the return game in 2010. He averaged 16 yards per punt return and took two back for touchdowns. He also averaged better than 29 yards per on 29 kick returns.
At 6'0'' and 220 pounds, the 20-year-old Peterson will likely develop further and could become the prototypical shutdown corner. Whether on an island in man coverage or playing zone, Peterson has the skills to become the type of player every NFL team covets.
Texas A&M Outside Linebacker Von Miller
Miller could quickly become a pass-rushing force for whatever team selects him
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If there is one type of player in the NFL that can drastically affect the outcome of a game on any given play, it's an elite pass-rusher.
In Texas A&M's Von Miller, NFL teams see a player who can play in either a 4-3 as an outside linebacker or as a hybrid edge-rusher in a 3-4.
As a junior in 2009, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. His 2010 campaign, with teams doing whatever they could to contain him, was every bit as good, as he tallied 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss.
That performance was good enough to earn him the 2010 Butkus Award.
A big-game player, Miller has the talent and motor that could remind many of another perennial Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer in the late Derrick Thomas. Whoever lands Miller will add the biggest game-changer on the defensive side of the ball in this year's draft.
Alabama Defensive Tackle Marcell Dareus
Dareus has a bright future tormenting opposing quarterbacks at the next level
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In 2009, all the talk in Tuscaloosa was around the mammoth Terrence Cody in the middle of the 'Bama defensive line. Many didn't even notice that the man he played next to on short-yardage plays was even better than Cody was.
Marcell Dareus, at 6'0'' and 319 pounds, has the rare combination of size, speed and leverage and a motor that could make him a starter at defensive tackle or nose tackle for any team in the NFL.
While he may not get after the quarterback as well as last year's best defensive tackle, N'damukong Suh, Dareus is probably better against the run. Even while being double-teamed by every team he faced last season, Dareus made tackle after tackle of opposing runners.
Stanford Fullback/Linebacker Owen Marecic
Stanford's most valuable all-around player was Owen Marecic
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When you ask football coaches about the type of player they want on their team, they say they want guys who are physical, smart, talented (obviously) and willing to do anything you ask of them.
No one player in college football better exemplified all those characteristics than Stanford's Owen Marecic.
Coach Jim Harbaugh called him his team's most valuable player.
Not only did the former high school two-way star lead the way for Toby Gerhart to break the Stanford single-season rushing mark in 2008, but he started all four years for the Cardinal. His senior season saw him rank third on the team with 51 tackles on defense while rushing for five touchdowns on offense.
A bruising blocker that will do anything his coach asks of him, Marecic could become the NFL's next Tony Richardson, who quietly punishes defenders while blocking in the running game and also shows up making tackles on special teams.
Nebraska Placekicker/Punter Alex Henery
The NCAA record holder in FG % also averaged more than 43 yds per punt
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I know what you're thinking right now..."A kicker!?!?"
Nebraska's Alex Henery isn't just any kicker. Henery is statistically the best field-goal kicker in NCAA history, making 89.5 percent of his kicks.
The impressive part is that he did it pulling double duty as the team's punter as well, where he averaged better than 43 yards per punt and 26 punts inside the opponent's 20.
While you likely won't hear Henery's name called early in the draft (because Al Davis still has Sebastian Janikowski), his is the only name you are guaranteed to hear amongst all the collegiate specialists.
Not only is Henery good enough to start at kicker or punter for most NFL teams, he's good enough to start at both kicker and punter for probably half the teams in the league.