This year, there is a plethora of top defensive players across the front seven. There is no question that the talent in this year's class is top-notch.
With that said, there have to be players falling far from where they are projected to go. Every year a top player falls. It does not necessarily mean they are bad players. Needs and questions about injuries/character issues are the main reasons for slips.
Look at Aaron Rodgers. Many teams passed on him, mostly due to his character, and teams did not want to take a risk with a quarterback that may have a sort of "cockiness" to him. He took a few years under Brett Favre, studying how to act and how not to act. Now he is the MVP of Super Bowl XLV.
I am not saying that these players are not going to be good. I am clearly saying that questions do arise and will make a player, such as Da'Quan Bowers, fall past the 20th overall pick.
Here is my first mock draft of the 2011 season.
I know that a lot of drafts have Cam Newton going first. The Panthers have needs at a lot of positions. They could easily take a defensive lineman since they do need to replace Julius Peppers or they could take CB Patrick Peterson at No. 1 overall.
The Panthers have a lot of work in front of them. The next two to three years are all about rebuilding. If they draft a quarterback No. 1, they can build around him. Building around a quarterback is much easier and more successful than bringing one in to run a system already in place.
The Panthers saw how the quarterback situation left them in a lot of holes last season bouncing from Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen. They may stick with Clausen this year but the NFL is a "win now" league, and in my mind they cannot do that with Clausen.
Gabbert has better instincts and a bigger body to play the position, especially with the line that he will have in front of him—which they will address in the later rounds.
The Denver Broncos are in a great position. Not very often can you say a team has a great chance at being able to trade out of the second overall pick, and still pick up a top defensive line talent.
The more teams talk about Cam Newton, the more likely they will trade with the Broncos. If the Panthers pass on Cam.
For now the Broncos still hold the second pick and that pick has to be defensive line. They have ignored the defensive line in drafts for a long time. They cannot afford to do that now.
The Broncos top cornerback is Champ Bailey and he is on the downside of his career. Still a very good corner, just not what he used to be. They need someone to put pressure on the quarterback to take pressure off of Champ.
Darius can be a premier player in the 3-4 or the 4-3. The Broncos have said that they plan on moving back to the 4-3. Darius will be a force for the Broncos for years to come.
This will allow the Broncos to be a little more flexible with the 34th pick. If someone like Jimmy Smith, cornerback out of Colorado falls to the second round, they should take him. The Broncos are not that far away. A few pieces here and there will bring them back to contending for AFC West titles.
Aaron Maybin is the reason for this pick. Maybin has now been tabbed as the worst pick in the history of the franchise.
The Bills have no pass rusher and the linebackers are weak. Miller brings a great knowledge and love for the game. He recorded 27.5 sacks his last two seasons with A&M, can hurry passes and cause issues for any offensive tackle in the league.
Last year the Bills brought in Shawne Merriman, but he is always injured. Now I know why his nickname is “lights out.” Miller will succeed in the 3-4 and give the Bills exactly what they need on defense.
The Bills have also been tabbed as the team to take Cam Newton. I think the Bills will be a little smarter with their pick and go with what they need the most. If this season leads to another top-five pick, they may be in line to take Andrew Luck next year. I would wait for Luck.
The Bengals have fumbled first-round picks in drafts before. Carter, Smith, Wilkerson. The list goes on and might include Newton.
The needs for the Bengals are huge. It is a very long list. Receiver, offensive line, defensive line, secondary—basically the whole team. Yet the Bengals are going to go after Cam.
The big question is what the Bengals will do with Carson Palmer. Palmer has announced that he will retire if the Bengals do not trade him. The Bengals are in a tough position with the CBA up in the air
Newton is a hit or miss. He played well during the regular college football season, and in the BCS championship game he had a tough time cracking the Ducks defense. He has not had the experience of losing on the big stage. How will he react when he throws the interception that costs his team the game?
After the Cardinals had stellar years in the pass protection in 2008 and 2009, they took a huge step back last year.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did not play up to his Pro Bowl selection from the year before and they lost Antrel Rolle to the Giants in the offseason. It shows that Rodgers cannot be a No. 1 cornerback in this league but can be a great No. 2.
Rolle is more of a safety but gave Rodgers that protection that he needed to make the plays that got him the Pro Bowl selection
Peterson will be that No. 1 that Rodgers needs to return to Pro Bowl material.
The Browns thought they had their franchise receiver in Braylon Edwards, but things did not work out and he is now with the Jets.
The Browns drafted Colt McCoy last year and he has turned out to be a nice player. Nothing great but he fit well. Now all McCoy needs is that top receiver threat.
That is exactly what Green is. The Browns are not that far away from competing for a playoff spot. They showed flashes last year and can be that if they pick Green here. Joshua Cribbs will excel as the second option and still be a threat in the return game. Be careful AFC North, the Browns are on the way.
The 49ers have one glaring need: quarterback. If they cannot get Blaine Gabbert, then they will go with defense.
J.J. Watt has been quickly climbing the draft boards after a very good combine. He is the biggest defensive end in the draft and is very physical. He is very quick for his size and had 11.5 sacks in the last two years.
Jim Harbaugh has shown confidence in his quarterback Alex Smith. This tells me that they will not draft a quarterback this high in the draft. Most likely in the second round if Dalton is still there. I would not be shocked if they do draft Julio Jones. Smith would then have no excuse if he has Smith and Jones to throw to.
Some people may find it hard to believe that Fairley would fall this far.
The Titans lost a lot (at the time) when Albert Haynesworth signed with the Redskins. They need to bring a nastiness back to the interior line. That is exactly what Fairley has.
Fairley showed it all season and in the national championship game. He did commit a penalty that might have hurt the Tigers' chances at winning, but if it wasn’t for him they probably would not have won. He was a beast at the goal line.
Robert Quinn could have been a top-three pick this year if he was not ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Instead he will have to settle for a top-10 pick.
He is a game-changer and can rush the passer with tremendous tenacity. One thing that he excels at is forcing fumbles. When he gets to the quarterback, he is able to get that ball out of his hands (six forced fumbles his sophomore year and 11 sacks) and if he does not force the fumble, he makes sure the quarterback goes down.
The Cowboys have a defense that was injured often and need some younger legs to move in to pressure the pass so the defensive backs have a little more room to roam.
The Redskins struck gold in Brian Orakpo and now need someone to complement him.
I would love to see the Redskins take Julio Jones with this pick, but I think they will try to upgrade the receiver position later in the draft or in free agency.
The Redskins also released Andre Carter this offseason and Shanahan made a statement that they need to upgrade at that position.
Smith anchored the Tigers defense and had two very productive years in Columbia. They will have two outside rushers for the 3-4 for at least 10 years or more to create chaos for the opposing offensive line.
I knew once the Texans lost Duanta Robinson in free agency to the Falcons they were going to take a step back in the pass defense. I really didn’t think it would be as bad as it was. If Robinson had not left, the Texans probably would have made the playoffs.
They hired Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator, which is an instant upgrade to the secondary. Phillips will want a corner that can come in and instantly produce for the secondary.
Prince has got natural cover ability and is the best tackling corner in the draft. He is going to have to be a great tackler since he will be playing against some of the top receivers in the game.
My only concern with this pick is the fact that the Texans drafted Kareem Jackson in the first round last year. I think that they still need to fill that position.
Phillips will look at the defensive line later in the draft, unless he feels a need for outside speed.
I truly believe that the Vikings are going to trade out of this pick. Whether it is to trade up to draft Cam or to trade down to acquire more picks.
The Rams would be a perfect trade partner. They are desperate for a receiver to match with Sam Bradford. Julio Jones is not off the board yet so the Vikings could consider drafting Jones if they cannot get an extension done with Sydney Rice.
Still, I don't believe receiver what they are looking for with the first-round pick. I think they will decide to upgrade the defensive line and go with Jordan.
Jordan is a four-position player. He can get dirty inside, rush the quarterback off the edge in a 3-4 or stand up and play OLB in nickel packages. They need to get younger at the end position and Ray Edwards most likely won't re-sign with the Vikings, as he could get more money elsewhere.
The Lions have plenty of offensive linemen, just not one that can dominate like Castonzo.
The defense has made some huge improvements, especially with Suh making the All-Pro team. The Lions now need to find that dominant offensive tackle to protect the injury-prone Matthew Stafford. If they can’t protect him then the Lions will never make it past .500 for the season.
The Lions are very close to making the playoffs. If they can keep Stafford off the turf, they will have a great chance to challenge for a wild-card spot.
Stafford has the talent and the players around him to throw over 40 touchdowns. Now he just needs to not worry about getting hit on every play.
As I have mentioned in the earlier picks, I think that the Rams are going to trade up to draft Jones to prevent the chance at losing him. He made a great showing at the combine and has moved up many draft boards, especially after the combine, when teams found out he had a foot injury.
With all the needs of other teams, the Rams should luck out even if they stay in this position to take Jones.
The thing they will have to be careful with is the Patriots. The Patriots have two first-round picks and could use one, if not both, to trade up and take Jones before the Rams have the chance. Jones would bring that Moss effect to the offense and give the MVP Brady another weapon to help break records.
The Dolphins could be in deep water at the running back position. Ricky Williams has said some things to make the average human being believe that he will not be a Dolphin next season.
Ronnie Brown will ask for too much money and has been injured too often.
The Dolphins also need a quarterback but may have to look later in the draft for that, as there is no quarterback left that is worth a top-20 pick. If the Dolphins are brave they may try to trade up, which would cost them a lot since they would have to trade into the top five to select Newton.
Ingram can step in right away and help the Dolphins' soon-to-be-weak run game. He can help make any quarterback a talent, and the Dolphins are going to give Chad Henne one more shot. So Ingram is the most logical selection.
The first four picks of the 2010 draft went to defensive line. They probably will not go towards the line this year. At least not in the first round. They could upgrade at receiver but there will not be one available at this pick.
The Jags' best bet is to trade down to obtain more picks. Instead they will go with the best available player in Akeem Ayers. Ayers is very quick and can move to the defensive end slot if needed. He recorded 14 sacks, and six interceptions over his career at UCLA.
He has got the ideal size and speed at the outside linebacker position.
The Patriots, once again, have a great opportunity to upgrade a lot of positions in the draft. They have the 17th and the 28th overall pick.
The Patriots could use those picks to trade up and draft a playmaking receiver—instead they stay here and take Tyron Smith to upgrade the protection for Tom Brady.
The Pats offensive line is getting older, just like their quarterback, so they need some fresh legs to protect him. Smith can step in at either right or left tackle. He is a converted tight end, which would make him a great fit at left tackle for protecting Brady's blind side with quick feet.
If Ayers is still available at this position, the Patriots would probably go that route and take offensive line with the 28th pick.
Another defenseman falls off the board, making it six in the first 18 picks.
Kerrigan had 25.5 sacks over his last two years at Purdue. The Chargers have lost a lot of punch on the defensive line. They really need to upgrade all across the line.
Luis Castillo is their only top player on the line. Other than Luis they basically have nothing. They will target a nose tackle in later rounds and take a pass rusher off the edge with this pick.
The Giants have needs on the offensive line. They could also look at Ayers if he is passed by the Patriots, but instead they go out and get the best interior offensive lineman of the draft.
The running game took a slight hit last year, especially towards the end of the year and that caused Eli to have to drop back a little more often than Tom Coughlin would like.
The only way that Eli is successful is when the run game produces. Eli is not that great to be able to do it all on his own. Pouncey can provide help at center and guard and will be able to bring that running game back for the G-Men.
The Buccaneers had some trouble defending the pass, and now with Aqib Talib in trouble with the law, it makes this pick a no-brainer.
Smith is one of the tallest corners in the draft. It is what the NFL has been going towards the last few years. He has defended top receivers in college for the last few years and had a good showing against A.J. Green except for a couple of passes.
The Bucs may want to look at drafting some offensive line help to protect their young, prized quarterback Josh Freeman. They will use at least two of their later picks on offensive linemen.
Over that last few years the Chiefs have basically wasted top picks on defensive tackles i.e. Tyson Jackson, Glenn Dorsey and Ryan Sims. Yet they will take Phil Taylor here with pick No. 21.
I am not saying that this is the wrong decision. They need to upgrade at this position due to those previously mentioned busts. Phil Taylor is a huge force up the middle and will demand double-teams. This will be able to free up players like Jackson and Tamba Hali.
The Chiefs may take a look at an offensive tackle or go interior line if Pouncey is still available. They need to get younger on the line as Casey Wiegmann and Brian Waters are at the end of their careers.
This is almost like a "duh" pick. The Colts are projected to take an offensive lineman in almost every mock draft I have seen. So this one is no different.
Peyton needs more protection and the running game needs to improve as they finished last season ranked 29th overall. Nate has very quick feet and converted from tight end. He does a great job getting downfield and blocking the second level.
Nate will also get great practice every day as he will face two of the top defensive ends in the league. He will help Peyton go back to the MVP style that we are all used to.
The Eagles are in a vulnerable position. They need to trade Kolb in order to get anything for him. Vick is back to being a star again. If he can hold onto that status is the big question. Defense could use some upgrade.
Instead they go with an upgrade across the offensive line. Andy Reid is someone who loves to draft big players that are tough and nasty. Sherrod can fill that position.
Sherrod is very versatile and can play both guard and tackle. He can fill in for anyone that goes down to injury. They need to do something to help protect Vick, since the Eagles are convinced that Vick gets hit and suffers with no repercussions.
That's right. From a No. 1 pick before the combine, now all the way down to the Saints at 24. Most teams decided not to take the risk on Bowers. The Saints decide otherwise.
The Saints need a better edge pass rush. Since bringing in Greg Williams to run the defense, they have blitzed on almost every other play. Will Smith is the Saints' only viable defensive end. He is coming off a down year, but with help on the other side, Smith could get to the Pro Bowl.
Bowers did not have a great pro day and has had injury questions. That does not stop me from thinking he is a very good talent. He was a No. 1 recruit out of high school and had a successful college career.
The offense is fine and they could address a running back in the second round. If Ingram is available at this pick then they could go that route, but I believe Greg Williams will be able to get his pass rusher in this first round.
Fighting Illini exiting the dugout of Wrigley's Field
Liuget has a very strong work ethic and can provide a body that can take up double-teams for the Seahawks. He has improved every year since arriving to Illinois.
The Seahawks have had injury concerns across the defensive line last year and need someone to be able to step in and stay healthy.
Quarterback is also a need for the Seahawks. They could go with receiver or with offensive line. The Seahawks have a lot of needs for them to make a strong playoff drive.
The Ravens go with best player available over need. What a shock. Harris is a very good corner that has got 4.4 speed and is a very physical corner that can make the tackles. He is a very good run-stopper and would fit perfectly with the Ravens mentality.
There are other positions that the Ravens need, such as an offensive lineman, wide receiver and inside linebacker. What? Did I say inside linebacker? Yes, I did. Ray Lewis is getting older and would be a great mentor to a young player that could excel under the guidance of Lewis.
They could also go after a receiver to help Flacco, but there is no receiver available at No. 26 that is worth taking this high.
The Falcons' biggest need is defensive end. John Abraham is going to be 33 years old and coming off a great year with 13 sacks. He could mentor a young player for when he is gone within the next five years.
Heyward can play any position across the line, which means he can fill in for any injury. He can learn under Abraham and hopefully will soak in all that he needs to learn to be a top defensive end.
The Falcons could use a receiver to go across Roddy White, who has been one of the best in the league over the last two years, and give Matt Ryan another target. Tight end will be something that they look at and may go with Kyle Rudolph in the second round if he can fall to them.
Clayborn took a slight step back after his tremendous junior season, which saw him put up 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, 20 tackles for losses and 70 total tackles. He has been a force for Iowa over the last four years.
The Patriots had some injury concerns across the defensive line and could use some help rushing the quarterback. Belichick needs someone off the edge so he can be more creative on the defensive play calls.
If the Patriots use their 17th pick to go after a defensive end they may use this pick on offensive line or go towards a linebacker.
Paea was the surprise of the draft. He put up 225 pounds on the bench press an impressive 49 times. The strength of this young kid is amazing. He has great leverage, which leads to having a very strong lower body.
The Bears need to get nasty up the middle. Tommie Harris will probably not be back with the Bears, which will leave that slot open for Paea.
Paea will take up double-teams and leave Peppers free to roam in the backfield to chase down those NFC North quarterbacks.
Rex Ryan is a defensive type of guy. He needs another linebacker to help his defense. Houston is a great tackler and has great feet that make him a very good coverage linebacker. The only knock is that he lacks top speed.
The Jets need someone to be able to rush the passer over the next five to 10 years. Jason Taylor will only be able to give you one or two more years. Houston had 10 sacks last season for the Bulldogs.
The Jets will look in later rounds at a receiver to help Sanchez and offensive line to help the run game, which took a step back last year after Thomas Jones left for the Chiefs.
Pittsburgh knows the value of taking an interior lineman in the first round after they took Maurkice Pouncey last year. They still need a little more help on the front line and may try to trade up to take Maurkice's brother Mike Pouncey.
If they are not able to trade up they will go with Danny Watkins. He is very mature at age 26. He is also very physical and versatile. Even if he does not start right away, he can step in at any position on the line when someone goes down.
The Steelers may go for a corner and look at Aaron Williams. This is the position that looked weak during the end of the regular season and during the playoffs.
The Packers are the defending Super Bowl champions. Aaron Rodgers is now considered a top-three quarterback and has a Super Bowl MVP award to go along with his championship belt. Matthews is the best linebacker in the league. How can it get any better for the Packers?
It can if they draft a "big ugly" from in-state University of Wisconsin. They could always use more help protecting Aaron Rodgers. Carimi is nasty and can be a 10- to 15-year starter protecting Rodgers.
The Packers may also take a look at a running back. Ryan Grant has not been healthy for the last couple of years and missed all of last year. Defensive back is also a need since Charles Woodson is getting towards the end of his career and had that injury during the Super Bowl.