2011 NFL 1st-Round Mock Draft: The Story of a Blockbuster Trade and Bold Picks
With the 2011 NFL Draft right around the corner, it is time for an updated First-Round Mock Draft. I intend to publish rounds 1-3 at some point this upcoming week and the 7-Round Mock Draft at the end of the week, so please stay tuned.
In these articles, I will not address the draft as it is set to be now, but also with projected trades—including a blockbuster trade in the first round.
Carolina Panthers: Marcell Dareus, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
With the first pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Carolina Panthers select Marcell Dareus—Defensive Tackle—Alabama.
The fact of the matter is that the Carolina Panthers are in rebuilding mode. Any team that finishes with a season record of 2-14 should be. This means that a lot of changes need to be made.
The fan base in Carolina is split on this decision. Many fans are craving a new quarterback and will find it hard to miss out on both Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton.
However, Jimmy Clausen was by many considered the safest pick at quarterback last year, and he played miserably during his rookie campaign.
When you consider the many holes the Panthers have on their roster, it’s hard not to see that any rookie quarterback would have a tough time trying to succeed at this point. Picking a quarterback would make a lot more sense if the quarterback had a team surrounding him.
Typically when a franchise struggles the way the Panthers did last season, you find them missing beef on the defensive line. Marcell Dareus fills an immediate need at defensive tackle and would help Carolina come a far way in the rebuilding process.
The mammoth defensive tackle out of Alabama is incredibly athletic for his position, and when you consider the effect Ndamukong Suh had for the Lions last season the first pick overall selection becomes a lot easier.
Arizona Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback, Missouri (Trade!)
TRADE ALERT! The Denver Broncos receive Arizona Cardinals’ fifth pick and second and fifth round draft picks for the second pick overall.
With the second pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Arizona Cardinals select Blaine Gabbert—Quarterback—Missouri.
The Cardinals are not far removed from a Super Bowl appearance, but the team was left in shambles when Kurt Warner retired. When you rotate three quarterbacks throughout one season you clearly have not found your answer.
Some believe that if given time, John Skelton could develop into a quality starter in the league, but the franchise and the fans alike are inpatient.
When you add to the fact that wide receiver super star, Larry Fitzgerald wants to get away if the Cardinals don’t have a better option at quarterback next season, it leaves the organization with only two options:
1) They could trade for a veteran quarterback.
2) They could draft their franchise quarterback.
When the Panthers pass on Gabbert everything becomes clearer. Drafting one of the best quarterback prospects in years would go a long way with not only answering their star receiver’s prayers, but also settling their quarterback position, so Arizona can focus on other areas later in the draft.
Buffalo Bills: Nick Fairley, Defensive Tackle, Auburn
With the third pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Buffalo Bills select Nick Fairley—Defensive Tackle—Auburn
Draft experts have Nick Fairly going as early as first overall and as late as in the middle of the first round. Personally, I think he’ll get off the board when the Buffalo Bills pick third overall.
Many people have the Bills going after a quarterback early. On the other side, it is not hard to argue that Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a bad option as the organization’s starting quarterback. Bills coach, Chan Gailey has stated that he regrets not starting Fitzpatrick from the start of the 2010 season.
What stands out when you look at the Bills’ roster is the complete lack of defensive playmakers. The reason some draft experts have Fairley is because they consider him a huge risk/huge reward kind of pick and are not willing to make the gamble.
Whether Nick Fairly becomes a star in the league or simply an average Joe remains to be seen. Either way, the Bills are willing to pull the trigger on because even if he doesn’t explode in the NFL, he should still be able to fill a huge need in Buffalo.
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, Wide Receiver, Georgia
With the fourth pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Cincinnati Bengals select A. J. Green—Wide Receiver—UGA.
At age 37, Terrell Owens is expected to be released while franchise wide receiver Chad Johnson will likely be traded. This leaves the Bengals with close to no viable receiver threat.
That simply does not fly in today’s NFL.
The pick comes down to a battle between A.J. Green and Julio Jones, where Green gets the nod. Despite all the hype Jones has received since he outshone Green in the Combine, A.J. Green still stands out as the most complete receiver in the 2011 draft.
This is a no-brainer.
Denver Broncos: Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, LSU
With the fifth pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Denver Broncos select Patrick Peterson—Cornerback—LSU. (Draft picks traded with the Cardinals)
Champ Bailey surprisingly signed a new contract with the Broncos after the end of the 2010 season after expressing his urge to be traded. This will help Denver’s secondary for a few more years, but the organization understands that they must start looking for his replacement.
Denver find themselves striking gold when the best cornerback prospect since Champ Bailey came off the board in 1999 is still on the board when they pick fifth.
There has been a lot of talk about Denver’s interest in quarterbacks in this draft. They currently have three former first round draft picks on their roster at quarterback and I don’t buy it for one minute that they will look to add another one this year despite getting a new head coach.
Patrick Peterson is arguably the most gifted player in this year’s draft and there is no way that the Broncos will miss out on him when they strike in the first round.
Cleveland Browns: Da'Quan Bowers, Defensive End, Clemson
With the sixth pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns select Da’Quan Bowers—Defensive End—Clemson.
There are questions about Bowers knee and his stature, but I think he has shown by now that his knee is ready to go, and when it comes to beef—there are ways to add that.
He can play both defensive end and tackle and fills a huge void for Cleveland. He is definitely the most talented defensive end prospect this year and Cleveland fans should be excited about watching him putting on their colors.
San Francisco 49ers: Von Miller, Outside Linebacker, Texas A&M
With the seventh pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the San Francisco 49ers select Von Miller—Outside Linebacker—Texas A&M.
The 49ers don’t have a glaring need at outside linebacker, but when Von Miller is still available when they are on the clock, they’ll have no choice but to pull the trigger.
Von Miller adds great pass rushing ability to a roster that needs it. Some people feel he will be taken off the board when Buffalo picks third, but when he falls to the seventh pick overall, he’s just too good to let slip away.
Tennesse Titans: Cam Newton, Quarterback, Auburn
With the eight pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Tennessee Titans select Cam Newton—Quarterback—Auburn.
There will definitely be quite a few people disagreeing with this pick as the Titans are currently planning to cut ties with Vince Young, who has a lot of the same skill set as Newton has.
Titans’ owner, Bud Adams, kept defending Vince Young in his fit against Coach Jeff Fisher, but when he realized that the team did not believe they could win with Young at the helm, also he realized it was time to say goodbye.
Adams’ believe in VY could hardly have been due to Young’s personality. He did not command the huddle the way the organization had hoped for when they drafted him and he never had questionable work ethic along metal difficulties.
Ergo, it must have been his skill set that was intriguing. Cam Newton shares a lot of Vince Young’s physical skills, but if you have a look at interviews of him and listen to him speak, there is no way that man is not a leader to rally the troops.
This would let the Tennessee Titans keep the Vince Young-effect, where star running back Chris Johnson get a break from some of the pressure, while holes open up in the opposing secondary at the same time.
Additionally, if the Titans can resign Kerry Collins, Newton could learn from a proven veteran for one or two seasons while he is adapting to the NFL. Could the pick be any easier?
Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, Offensive Tackle, USC
With the ninth pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys select Tyron Smith—Offensive Tackle—USC.
When Tony Romo went down with injury in a clash against the Giants in 2010, it hurt the Cowboys tremendously. They will not risk this again and although owner, Jerry Jones, traditionally doesn’t like picking blockers this early, the organization cannot miss out on an athlete like this.
Offensive tackle is the most obvious need for the Dallas Cowboys, and Tyron Smith is the best option in this year’s draft class.
Washington Redskins: Julio Jones, Wide Receiver, Alabama
With the tenth pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Washington Redskins select Julio Jones—Wide Receiver—Alabama.
It is uncertain who will take snaps from under center for the Washington Redskins in 2011, but whoever it is will need someone to target.
In the highly competitive NFC East, it is very important for the Redskins to get their passing game back on track. With both Gabbert and Newton off the board, it becomes evident that they must start looking for wide receivers.
After all, Rex Grossman is not an awful option as a temporary solution at quarterback.
Julio Jones gives the Redskins something they have lacked for a long time. He outshone A.J. Green, who some have mock draft as early as first overall, in the combine and I fully expect him to have a fantastic NFL career.
The only reason he is still available when the Redskins pick is because other teams have holes glaring more that need to be filled. He gives Washington great value at this point.
Houtson Texans: Prince Amukamara, Cornerback, Nebraska
With the 11th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Houston Texans select Prince Amukamara—Cornerback—Nebraska.
When you have the worst pass defense in the NFL, cornerback is an obvious need for an otherwise talented roster.
With Patrick Peterson already taken, Prince Amukamara is the best cornerback left on the board. The consensus is that this pick is a done deal unless Peterson is still, miraculously and unbelievably, on the board at this point.
Minnesota Vikings: Robert Quinn, Defensive End, North Carolina
With the 12th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Minnesota Vikings select Robert Quinn—Defensive End—North Carolina.
I expect the Minnesota Vikings to trade for Donovan McNabb at some point before the 2011 season. This kills their immediate need for a quarterback.
Also, none of the quarterbacks still not drafted are expected to start right away and when you have arguably the best running back in the world on your roster, you want to win right away. Running backs are known to have few prime years.
Robert Quinn has been rocketing up draft charts lately and is of good value at 12th overall. He also fills a need, and imagining Quinn playing opposite Jared Allen is intriguing.
Detroit Lions: Cameron Jordan, Defensive End, California
With the 13th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Detroit Lions select Cameron Jordan—Defensive End—California.
This is simple. Cameron Jordan is great value at this point, and having him play alongside standout defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh would make offensive coordinators around the league have nightmares for weeks before they face the Lions.
If they get this pick along with the rest of the draft right, I am betting on the Lions to make the playoffs in 2011—what a turnaround!
St. Louis Rams: JJ Watt, Defensive End, Wisconsin
With the 14th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the St. Louis Rams select J. J. Watt—Defensive End—Wisconsin.
The St. Louis Rams all of a sudden became respectable when they struck gold by drafting Sam Bradford last year.
Considering the fact that both A.J. Green and Julio Jones will be long gone at this point, there are no players left on the board that would give Bradford a target man and still give the Rams good value.
Since they cannot risk to miss here, the Rams decide to upgrade their defense instead. J.J. Watt is good value at 14th overall and would start immediately. He would help Sam Bradford and the Rams by contributing to stop shoot outs, where young quarterbacks typically struggle.
Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, Running Back, Alabama
With the 15th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Miami Dolphins select Mark Ingram—Running back—Alabama.
The Miami Dolphins are all about their running game and when both Ricky Williams and injury-plagued Ronnie Brown are set to be free agents, the alarm bell should be ringing loudly.
When the first day of the 2011 NFL Draft is underway, it will be hard for the Dolphins to ignore their glaring need and the former Heisman Trophy winner's ties to the organization.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, Defensive End, Purdue
With the 16th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Jacksonville Jaguars select Ryan Kerrigan—Defensive End—Purdue.
This pick is about as easy as Miami’s. According to reports, the Jaguars are falling for Kerrigan, and when he is still available at 16th overall, all the organization has to do is say “I do.”
He fills a big need for the team and is supposedly their favorite target in the draft.
New England Patriots: Gabe Carimi, Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin
With the 17th pick overall (via Oakland) in the 2011 NFL Draft the New England Patriots select Gabe Carimi—Offensive Tackle—Wisconsin.
Honestly, there is no telling what Bill Belichick will do on draft day. It seems whatever he does turns out brilliantly, and his incredible talent for finding great talents beats all other coaches in the league hands down.
The fact that the Patriots have two first round draft picks this year almost seems a bit unfair to the rest of the league.
Gabe Carimi seems like a good pick at this point. New England has a need to replace their left tackle and it is a bit surprising that Carimi falls to them. Belichick will get full value out of Carimi.
San Diego Chargers: Akeem Ayers, Outside Linebacker, UCLA
With the 18th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers select Akeem Ayers—Outside Linebacker—UCLA.
San Diego is a joker here, because there are so many ways they can go. Outside linebacker and defensive end are big needs for the Chargers and Ayers just might fit the bill perfectly.
He is projected to be taken off the board somewhere in the middle of the first round and early in the second round, and therefore gives the Chargers on par value with this pick as well as filling a void.
New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, Offensive Tackle, Boston College
With the 19th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the New York Giants select Anthony Castonzo—Offensive Tackle—Boston College.
When it comes to the Giants, there are basically two possible paths to take in the first round. They can either choose to upgrade their linebacker crew or protect their quarterback.
Ayers, who many projects to be taken by the Giants was just picked by San Diego, and this makes the selection a lot easier.
The former Super Bowl MVP, Eli Manning, has been heavily criticized lately because of his turnovers. Giving him better protection by upgrading the left tackle position will give their offensive line much needed young talent.
This pick would limit the giant turnover problem immediately.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, Defensive End, Iowa
With the 20th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Adrian Clayborn—Defensive End—Iowa.
Before the 2010 season, Adrian Clayborn was projected was as good as a lock to be a top 10 draft pick. Due to a disappointing senior campaign, Clayborn slides till late in the middle of the first round when Tampa Bay picks.
The Buccaneers’ main goal in this draft should be to pick up a stud defensive end, and Clayborn just might fit that bill. He is an end with great upside and if he can get back to his 2009 form, he’s likely to blow up the scene come the 2011 season.
Kansas City Chiefs: Aldon Smith, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End, Missouri
With the 21st pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Kansas City Chiefs select Aldon Smith—Outside Linebacker/Defensive End—Missouri.
The Chiefs will be looking to add a threat opposite Pro Bowler Tamba Hali. Smith, who played defensive end at Missouri, is now purely a pass rusher. He could excel as an outside linebacker allowed rushing the quarterback on every down.
He also has the athleticism to at some point be a good cover linebacker, but this is a skill that would need to be developed first.
Indianapolis Colts: Nate Solder, Offensive Tackle, Colorado
With the 22nd pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Indianapolis Colts select Nate Solder—Offensive Tackle—Colorado.
The Colts should have prioritized upgrading the offensive line last year, but did not. As a result of this Peyton Manning actually got a chance to feel human as he was under more pressure than usual last year.
That made him struggle at times, and Indianapolis will try to make sure that this does not happen again in 2011.
Nate Solder would help keep Manning upright, which will be important for the Colts after signing the worlds’ biggest football star to a very lucrative contract.
Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Pouncey, Guard/Center, Florida
With the 23rd pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Philadelphia Eagles select Mike Pouncey—Guard/Center—Florida.
Mike Pouncey can play both guard and center, and the Eagles happen to have an obvious need at guard. He’ll not only add talent to their offensive line, but also versatility.
Mike is not expected to be quite as talented as his brother, Maurkice, but talented enough to be worthy of getting picked 23rd overall.
He’ll help the Eagles keep Michael Vick healthy, which will be a key to their success.
New Orleans Saints: Cameron Heyward, Defensive End, Ohio State
With the 24th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the New Orleans Saints select Cameron Heyward—Defensive End—Ohio State.
Heyward would line up opposite Will Smith, providing the Saints with a scarily good defensive line. He is versatile enough to play both defensive tackle and defensive end, but would probably be utilized first and foremost as a defensive end.
Although not a prolific pass rusher, he is good both against the run and the pass, and will therefore be an every down player.
He has a lot of the same skill set as Charles Grant, who he’d essentially be replacing.
Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, Quarterback, Washington
With the 25th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Seattle Seahawks select Jake Locker—Quarterback—Washington.
Along with Adrian Clayborn, Jake Locker was projected to be taken off the board a lot sooner one year ago. He did not live up to the expectations of many and his draft stock has taken a hit because of that.
Locker still possesses great physical tools and intangibles good enough to make him an elite talent. The Seahawks, who pick a lot later than their final record would suggest this year, find Locker falling to them late in the first round.
Current starter, Matt Hasselbeck will turn 36 this upcoming season and Charlie Whitehurst appears to be a career back-up. When a talent like Jake Locker suddenly falls to Seattle, they find it hard not to pull the trigger.
Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Harris, Cornerback, Miami
With the 26th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Baltimore Ravens select Brandon Harris—Cornerback—Miami.
Dominque Foxworth is coming off major knee surgery and the Ravens quite simply don’t have any other noteworthy cornerbacks. Since both Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara are long gone, Brandon Harris becomes the best available option at cornerback.
He will function as both insurance in case Foxworth does not recover properly as well as adding much needed talent to the Ravens’ secondary.
Atlanta Falcons: Justin Houston, Defensive End, Georgia
With the 27th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons select Justin Houston—Defensive End—Georgia.
Defensive end is a big need for the Falcons, and Justin Houston will make Atlanta’s defense one to fear. He is arguably the best pass rushing defensive end in the draft and should have been picked higher.
The video will speak for itself.
New England Patriots: Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive End, Temple
With the 28th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the New England Patriots select Muhammad Wilkerson—Defensive End—Temple.
Muhammad Wilkerson falls near the bottom of the first round due to the depth at his position in this draft. Having already taken care of their issue at offensive tackle earlier in the round, the Patriots set their eyes on seizing Wilkerson.
Wilkerson is the best talent available that fits a need in New England. Defensive end has been an issue since Richard Seymour was traded to the Raiders.
Chicago Bears: Derek Sherrod, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State
With the 29th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Chicago Bears select Derek Sherrod—Offensive Tackle—Mississippi State.
Many people would say that Chicago’s most glaring need is at offensive tackle—and anybody that watched the Bears visit the New Meadowlands Stadium to take on the Giants would agree.
The Bears returned to Chicago whipped and humiliated—a lot due to all of the sacks that the offensive line allowed, forcing Jay Cutler to quit at half time with a concussion.
Derek Sherrod is a border line first round/second round talent, but the need is there, and the Bears will grab him even if it is a bit of a reach.
New York Jets: Stephen Paea, Defensive Tackle, Oregon State
With the 30th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the New York Jets select Stephen Paea—Defensive Tackle —Oregon State.
The New York Jets splashed the cash on several offseason veteran signings before the beginning of the 2010 season. This has given most people an impression that the Jets are all about go big or go home.
The Jets just might solidify that impression when they select Stephen Paea out of Oregon State. The work out warrior sky rocketed up draft boards when he set a new record with 49 reps during the bench press work out at the combine this year.
He fills a huge void for New York as Kris Jenkins is set to be a free agent.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Jimmy Smith, Cornerback, Colorado
With the 31st pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers select Jimmy Smith—Cornerback—Colorado.
Unfortunately, the Steelers don't get the chance to reunite Mike Pouncey with his brother Maurkice. With no offensive linemen worthy enough of a first round draft pick left on the board, the Steelers look to another need.
Aaron Rodgers tore apart the Steelers defense in the Super Bowl and need a cornerback opposite Ike Taylor.
Smith, who is not known for his playmaking ability but for his steady coverage, has been criticized lately. He has serious character concerns and is considered a high risk/high reward kind of pick.
Green Bay Packers: Corey, Liuget, Defensive End, Illinois
With the 32nd pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft the Green Bay Packers select Corey Liuget—Defensive End—Illinois.
Cullen Jenkins is set to be a free agent this year and Johnny Jolly will be next year. This makes defensive end a need for the reigning Super Bowl Champions.
Corey Liuget fits that bill perfectly. The playmaking defensive end out of Illinois might well have gotten drafted earlier and he is fantastic value for the Packers when they pick him up with the last pick of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.