2011 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting and Analyzing Every Pick of the First Round
The long-anticipated day of the 2011 NFL draft has almost arrived. In less than two weeks, young football players will have their dreams made when they get called to the stage by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
By now, every team has their top targets picked, but this draft has more uncertainty than any other NFL draft in recent memory. Questions have been flying from expert to expert.
Will Cam Newton be the first overall pick? Will the Bills draft a quarterback? Where will Blaine Gabbert be drafted? How far will Nick Fairley and Da'Quan Bowers fall?
Look for all of the answers to these questions in this article. Without further adieu, with the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers select...
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton (QB, Auburn)
It's nearly impossible to debate that the Carolina Panthers are in desperate need of a quarterback.
Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore both made it fairly obvious to the football world that they are not capable of leading a team to victory or success. While I personally feel Cam Newton is a great risk of being a bust, the Panthers management sure has shown that they feel differently.
New Carolina head coach Ron Rivera has reportedly said he is "convinced" on Cam Newton. This pick is almost a lock, with seemingly the only other possible first overall pick being Blaine Gabbert.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus (DT, Alabama)
With an NFL-low in sacks last season, the Broncos made it pretty obvious that they're lacking talent on the defensive line, besides former sack leader Elvis Dumervil.
Earlier this offseason, it looked as though either Da'Quan Bowers or Nick Fairley were going to be the perfect picks for Denver. However, between injuries and poor combine performances, both Fairley and Bowers have seen their draft stock fall. For Dareus, it's been just the opposite.
After a fantastic offseason, it seems as though Dareus is also a lock to be a Bronco next season.
3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller (OLB, Texas A&M)
The Buffalo Bills are just one of those teams that have many positions on their roster that they need to upgrade. The most outstanding components that need revision are quarterback and the pass rush.
While it's a good possibility that the Bills would draft Blaine Gabbert at QB to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick, it's much more likely that they will upgrade their horrible pass rush by taking Miller. However, with the Bills you never truly know and a possibility of drafting yet another cornerback in Patrick Peterson remains open.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green (WR, Georgia)
Out of all of the players in the 2011 draft, A.J. Green probably has the most raw talent and athletic ability.
Being one of the most promising players in this draft, it's surprising that he's likely to fall to even fourth overall. With the departure of Terrell Owens and likely Chad Ochocinco as well, the Bengals are left essentially with Jordan Shipley and not much else at the wide receiver position.
A.J. Green will be a necessity and a must-pick for the Bengals if he is available at this pick, and all signs show he will be.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU)
In the minds of many draft experts and analysts, Blaine Gabbert is a solid fit for the Cardinals, who had John Skelton starting under center at the end of the season. However, Larry Fitzgerald personally requested from his coach, Ken Whisenhunt, that he wants Kevin Kolb throwing to him.
Fitzgerald is the type of spectacular NFL player that will be given the respect of Whisenhunt, who will listen to this request. The Cardinals will find a new quarterback either from a trade deal or free agency and will take the most talented player available in the draft, Patrick Peterson.
6. Cleveland Browns: Robert Quinn (DE, North Carolina)
Plain and simply, the Browns are in need of a pass rusher.
The Browns' current defensive ends, Kenyon Coleman and Brian Schaefering combined for 2.5 sacks in 2010. Robert Quinn, who has looked fantastic this offseason, seems to be a great match for Cleveland.
However, like the Bills, the Browns are another team that has a lot of holes to fill. Julio Jones is a consideration at this pick along with Aldon Smith.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert (QB, Missouri)
Although it seems surprising for a talent like Gabbert to drop out of the top five, there's a very good chance that he will end up in San Francisco, being taken as the seventh pick.
With Gabbert available, there's no way San Fran could pass up on him after the Alex Smith Project being proven a failure. If Gabbert isn't the first overall pick to Carolina, where the odds are certainly against him, he'll be a 49er.
8. Tennessee Titans: Julio Jones (WR, Alabama)
While it's evident that the Titans need help on their defense, specifically on their line, Julio Jones is a perfect fit in Tennessee.
With Kenny Britt as their only solid option at wide receiver, the Titans need someone else to help stretch the defense. Julio Jones would put up great numbers at wide receiver but also would aid Chris Johnson's rushing numbers, which declined from his phenomenal 2009 season.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith (OT, USC)
The Cowboys were one of the most disappointing teams in football last season, mainly due to the season-ending injury to QB Tony Romo.
Since Dallas is still one of the most talented teams in football, they don't have many needs in the draft besides in their secondary and on the offensive line.
Drafting Tyron Smith would give Tony Romo more time in the pocket and revive Dallas' passing offense.
10. Washington Redskins: J.J. Watt (DE, Wisconsin)
The Washington Redskins have a lot of work to do if they want to stay afloat in the competitive NFC East in 2011.
The first step: getting a pass rusher who can get after Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Michael Vick. The Redskins' 3-4 defense needs a big end like J.J. Watt that can plug up the holes and record some sacks.
Watt is probably the best choice at this pick, but the Redskins could possibly target Aldon Smith, too.
11. Houston Texans: Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska)
Last year, the Houston Texans missed the playoffs yet again, but not by much.
With one of the best offenses in football, with Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, and a solid pass rush led by Mario Williams, one may ask, "How didn't the Texans make the playoffs last year?"
The answer is simple. Every single team that the Texans played simply picked on their young secondary.
The best way for the Texans to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history would be to draft Prince Amukamara.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Jake Locker (QB, Washington)
If I were the GM of the Minnesota Vikings, there is no way that I would take Locker this high. I would try to trade down and seriously consider picking a guy like Christian Ponder.
However, the Vikings are in desperate need of a QB, and desperate times call for desperate measures. If Locker can mature as a quarterback, he potentially could be a solid NFL quarterback. However, that's a big "if."
13. Detroit Lions: Aldon Smith (DE, Missouri)
With Prince Amukamara off the board, the Lions will look to further improve their young defensive line.
Aldon Smith would line up across from Cliff Avril and aid Ndamukong Suh in wreaking havoc in the backfield. Taking Smith could be the next step for the Lions to grow and become a potentially dangerous team in the next several years.
14. St. Louis Rams: Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn)
Before the NFL combine, there was a high possibility of Nick Fairley going either first overall to Carolina or second to Denver.
The big defensive tackle from Auburn stumbled a bit at the combine but had a solid pro day, which will keep him in the top 15 in the first round.
The Rams defensive line was strong last year, with Chris Long and James Hall, but Hall is aging and the Rams would love to add another solid defensive lineman to their depth chart.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey (C, Florida)
Unfortunately for Miami, they're in a very uncomfortable spot at the 15th overall pick.
Realistically, there isn't anyone left on the board that would fill the greatest needs of the Dolphins. Pouncey looks like the best option for Miami at this spot. Pouncey is a solid O-lineman who could really aid Jake Long and put their pass protection atop the NFL.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Cameron Jordan (DE, California)
The Jacksonville Jaguars are just another team that finish up their year looking up towards the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South.
The Jaguars need someone that can get after the quarterback, and Cameron Jordan is just the guy for the job. After a great year at Cal, Jordan's been looking good this offseason and will likely be the fourth defensive end off the board.
17. New England Patriots: Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Purdue)
If the Patriots keep their first of two first-round draft picks, they'll be looking to upgrade their defensive line.
Ryan Kerrigan would definitely enhance the Patriots' poor pass rush, which would make them the most complete team in football, if they weren't it already. However, the odds of the Pats dealing this pick are very decent.
18. San Diego Chargers: Muhammad Wilkerson (DE, Temple)
The Chargers are a team in need of additions on their defensive front, and with Wilkerson still on the board by the 18th pick, they'll likely jump all over him.
A solid defensive end, Wilkerson could possibly help restore the San Diego defense of old.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo (OT, Boston College)
The highly skilled left tackle out of Boston College will be the third offensive lineman off the board.
Castonzo would fill the hole in the Giants' aging offensive front five and aid in protecting Eli.
After an impressive offseason, it'd be very surprising to see Castonzo falling past 19th overall in the first round.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Da'Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson)
Similar to DT Nick Fairley, just a couple of months ago, Bowers was projected to either be the first overall pick to Carolina or second overall to Denver.
Bowers saw his draft stock drop drastically after more knee concerns that were brought up due to his poor pro day performance. However, even though Bowers is one of the riskiest picks in the draft, Tampa Bay will gladly take him 20th overall just due to his great potential.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor)
Phil Taylor is a perfect fit for the Kansas City Chiefs defense.
Kansas City needs a run-stopping tackle, and Taylor can provide. After a great offseason, Taylor seems to have gotten rid of his doubters and proven he deserves to be a first-round pick.
If Taylor isn't the guy, the Chiefs will still likely look to upgrade their run defense either at linebacker or somewhere else on the defensive line.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Solder (OT, Colorado)
The Indianapolis Colts have arguably the greatest quarterback in football, and they need someone to help protect him.
Their offensive line didn't perform nearly as well last year as they had done in previous years, and the quick and easy solution would be drafting Solder to protect Manning.
Solder will likely be the third offensive tackle off the board, but the Colts could also go with Derek Sherrod or Gabe Carimi.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Sherrod (OT, Mississippi State)
With their newly re-established quarterback, Michael Vick, the Eagles are in great need of help on the offensive line.
Derek Sherrod is an absolute plow, who was previously estimated to end up in Chicago, but after a solid offseason has moved up several picks to the Eagles at 23. Philly could also go with a very similar offensive tackle, Gabe Carimi, with this pick.
24. New Orleans Saints: Corey Liuget (DT, Illinois)
The New Orleans Saints are also a well-rounded team, who are seemingly only in need of a wide receiver and a defensive lineman.
Without many solid receivers in this draft, the Saints are likely to take a chance on Corey Liuget out of Illinois. Liuget could develop into a great defensive tackle and help add onto the Saints D-line.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Jimmy Smith (CB, Colorado)
By finishing in first in the dreadful NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks managed to become the first sub-.500 team to make the playoffs, at 7-9.
The Seahawks need a lot of help in their secondary and Jimmy Smith is the best option at the 25th pick. Expect Smith to be the third cornerback off the board despite some of the legal issues he had at Colorado.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa)
As solid as their defense is as a whole, the Baltimore Ravens need some help at defensive end.
At this point in the draft, Clayborn would be the best defensive end available. The talented Clayborn could make the Ravens defense even more scary than it already is. At this spot, Baltimore could also pick Justin Houston or Cameron Heyward.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Cameron Heyward (DE, Ohio State)
If in the previous pick the Baltimore Ravens end up taking Justin Houston or Adrian Clayborn, Cameron Heyward will be a Falcon.
The Falcons could use some extra help on the defensive line, and Heyward would make Atlanta an even better team than they are already.
28. New England Patriots: Mark Ingram (RB, Alabama)
The New England Patriots have constantly struggled running the ball ever since they had Corey Dillon.
The Pats need a rushing threat to help spread out the defense for Tom Brady. Although BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a decent season last year, it doesn't seem like he can do the job on his own.
Ingram, the former Heisman winner and national champion, would be a great addition to the deadly New England offense.
29. Chicago Bears: Gabe Carimi (OT, Wisconsin)
The offensive line for the Chicago Bears is an absolute mess and has been for years.
The Bears never seem to be able to reach full offensive potential since Jay Cutler never has any time in the pocket and Matt Forte never has any gaps to run through. If he's still on the board, Carimi will be an answer to Chicago's prayers.
30. New York Jets: Akeem Ayers (OLB, UCLA)
Although it was still very strong, the Jets defense hit a bit of a decline from being on top of the league in 2009.
The Jets need some help with their pass rush, and if Ayers is still on the board by the 30th overall pick, they'll grab him in an instant. If Ayers isn't available, New York will likely look to improve their pass rush with another player like Brooks Reed.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams (CB, Texas)
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who came so close to being Super Bowl champions, are really only in need of upgrading in two spots: offensive line and secondary.
They'll likely look to improve their secondary with Aaron Williams if he's still available. Williams is versatile, with the ability to play not only cornerback, but safety as well, and could be extremely valuable to the Steelers defense.
32. Green Bay Packers: Brooks Reed (DE, Arizona)
The Super Bowl champion Packers are stacked across their depth chart but are in need of an addition on their defense with the role of a pass rusher.
Brooks Reed would play opposite to Clay Matthews and help in raising the Packers' sack total to an even higher number. Reed seems as though he'd be a perfect fit in this defense and would round out the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.