2011 NFL Draft: The Defensive Line Will Dominate the 1st Round

James BrownSenior Analyst IApril 9, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: The Defensive Line Will Dominate the 1st Round

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The 2011 NFL draft is stocked with offensive talent and names like Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and A.J. Green will grab all of the headlines. However a closer inspection will reveal that the defensive side of the ball is represented quite well.

    In fact, the defensive end/tackle position should dominate the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.

    Here is a look at the defensive studs that will get the call in the first round and the teams that could select them.

Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

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    Marcell Dareus is a monster defensive tackle that has skyrocketed up the big board and will easily be a first-round pick.

    The Denver Broncos hope that the Carolina Panthers pass on the big fella so they can add him to the front line. Dareus is a perfect fit for the Broncos who are in need of some defensive help. This disruptive pass rusher has great strength and balance that allow him to clog lanes to stop the run.

    A dual threat like this is too good to pass up and he tops the list of defensive talent in the draft.

Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

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    Although Cam Newton got all the hype, Nick Fairley was a big reason the Auburn Tigers were national champions.  

    Fairley is conserved a productive interior lineman that can wreak havoc with any offense. In certain games last year he was unblockable, including the championship game.

    His performance in that game solidified a first-round draft spot and the Tennessee Titans may make a play for him with the No. 8 pick.

Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

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    Robert Quinn has used a strong pro day workout to launch himself into the top of the draft big board. Quinn is a smart player who has the ability to fit into different schemes and tremendous upside that could pay off for a team that has time to transform him into an elite pass rusher.

    Quinn sat out a year ago, but it won’t matter with the talent that he brings to a team. Quinn could go as early as No. 6 to the Cleveland Browns, but if they choose offense, look for the Houston Texans to nab Quinn at No. 11.

J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

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    J.J. Watt has the total package and will be a great pick for anyone in the 2011 draft. The superstar out of Wisconsin wreaked havoc in the Big Ten and has the skill set that will work in the next level. He has a deadly combination of size and speed and will be a target in the first round.

    The Washington Redskins can make a play for Watt at No. 10, if all of the big offensive targets have been gobbled up. If not, he won’t slide past the New England Patriots, who will find a place for him in their scheme.

Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple

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    ESPN’s Todd McShay has high praise for Wilkerson, suggesting that he has "more upside than any other 3-4 end in this draft." The tall end could use some weight on his frame but has exceptional speed for a player of his size.

    The Houston Texans could add him to the team at the No. 11 spot but if they pass plenty of other teams will take a look at him. The Patriots, Jaguars and the Chargers could all make Wilkerson a first-round pick on draft day.

Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

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    When the college football season ended, Da'Quan Bowers was considered the best defensive player in the draft and the Carolina Panthers had thoughts of taking the elite pass rusher with the No. 1 overall pick. Then they looked at his medical records. Bowers has bad knees that are causing his stock to drop, but some team will take a chance on him in the first round.

    He has great moves that allow him to get to the opposing quarterback and he uses his strength to his advantage. If the Minnesota Vikings can grab him at No. 12 it will be a steal for the amount of upside that he has. It will be interesting to see where he falls on draft day as some mock drafts have Bowers falling as far as No. 20 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Cameron Jordan, DE, California

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    Cameron Jordan has the ability to be one of the most versatile defenders in the draft. He comes off the snap with a relentless aggression and has long arms that allow him to shove off would-be blockers. Jordan’s work ethic and non-stop energy on the field makes him an automatic first-round selection.

    The New England Patriots would love to see him slide all the way to the No. 17 spot, but don’t be surprised if the Minnesota Vikings gobble him up at No. 12.

Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

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    Smith is not necessarily a leader on the field, but he makes up for it with his raw talent. He is a consistent pass rusher that will play through injury. His talents have enough teams taking notice, who are willing to take him in the first round.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars like his upside so much they are willing to take a shot at him with the No. 16 pick, but if they pass the San Diego Chargers will be waiting to scoop him up.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

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    Clayborn suffers from Erb's palsy, a condition stemming from a difficult childbirth that affects the strength and range of motion in his right arm that could hurt his stock. However he is such a talented player a team will be willing to take a chance on Clayborn as early as the first round.

    The New Orleans Saints could target him with the No. 24 selection , but if they pass the Atlanta Falcons will take a shot on the youngster.

Draft To Remember?

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    These are just a few of the defenders that could make a splash in the NFL next year. The list could have also included Ryan Kerrigan out of Purdue and Cameron Heyward out of Ohio State—both of which could go in the first round.

    This year the draft is deep with talent on the defensive side of the ball, and years down the road this draft could be looked at as one of the best ever for defenders.

     

    Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of BookieBlitz.com, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews and predictions. Feel free to contact Matt at mregaw@gmail.com.

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