2011 NFL Draft: The Houston Texans Will Select Missouri's Aldon Smith
There are less than two weeks to go until the annual NFL Draft. Breaking news and rumors will cause daily changes to mock drafts. Perhaps the biggest wild card for mock drafters is the lock-out imposed lack of player movement via free agency. At this point, we can safely assume there will be no changes to the labor situation before April 28th.
With that being said, we have to proceed with mock drafts as if there will be no veteran acquisitions at all. For the sake of team needs, we’re going to assume that NFL clubs will actually be forced to fill their most glaring needs through this draft, rather than through free agency.
Now that the NFL Draft is long behind us, how did this mock look when compared to the current NFL depth charts?
1. Carolina Panthers- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
2010 second round selection Jimmy Clausen does not appear to be the answer. The new regime in Carolina will start with an all new quarterback, and they’ll likely take the athletic upside and playmaking abilities of the 2010 Heisman Trophy and BCS National Champion from Auburn.
Though the Panthers have needs all over the field and could consider elite talents like Marcel Dareus or Patrick Peterson, Newton will be selected to be the new face of a franchise that’s looking to build for the future.
2. Denver Broncos- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
The Broncos finished last in the NFL in sacks in 2010, and adding a pass rush is the top priority for new Head Coach John Fox. While in Carolina, Fox struck gold by using the second overall pick on Julius Peppers, so he won’t hesitate to grab an elite defensive lineman again.
The Broncos could consider trading out of this spot if they feel that they can move down and still select an impact pass-rusher. They could also consider Patrick Peterson and hope to extend Champ Bailey’s career by moving him to the safety spot.
3. Buffalo Bills- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Cornerback is not considered a huge need for the Bills, but Peterson is the top talent available here and shows all the signs of being an elite, shut down corner. When you play the Patriots high octane offense twice a year, strengthening the secondary will always be a priority.
Many people assume the Bills will take a quarterback here, but Ryan Fitzpatrick played surprisingly well last year and has the support of his teammates. Waiting to select a quarterback of the future in the second round, where there will still be solid passers available, might make more sense.
4. Cincinnati Bengals- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
It looks like all of the starting skill position starters could be on the way out of Cincinnati. A.J. Green is a tremendous playmaker and fills a huge need for the Bengals.
Marvin Lewis will be under pressure to keep his job after this season, so it’s doubtful that he would want to draft a quarterback that will need to be developed for the future. Perhaps drafting Green would give Carson Palmer a new weapon and help to change his mind about leaving town.
5. Arizona Cardinals- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
The Cardinals play a 3-4 defense and have been desperate to add a pass-rushing linebacker for some time now. Von Miller is the top outside linebacker in this draft and is thought to be a relatively safe pick with tremendous upside.
Larry Fitzgerald wants the team to acquire a veteran quarterback to lead the offense. It’s unlikely that the Cardinals would risk upsetting their star receiver by spending a top five pick on a quarterback that might not be ready to play at a high level immediately.
6. Cleveland Browns- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Cleveland has needs all along its defensive line. The Browns are ditching the 3-4 in favor of new Defensive Coordinator Dick Jauron’s 4-3 scheme. Robert Quinn has the speed an athleticism to shine as a pass rushing defensive end.
It’s possible that the Browns could also focus on adding a weapon to an offense that finished 29th in the league. If A.J. Green were to be available, he would make an intriguing option.
7. San Francisco 49ers- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Prince Amukamara is the second of two elite cornerback prospects in this draft, and the 49ers had problems defending the pass in 2010. He should step in and start right away and could allow San Francisco to part ways with Nate Clements.
New Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is likely to address the quarterback spot and is said to be interested in drafting a new signal-caller capable of running a West Coast offense. Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton could be available in round two and are better fits in that scheme.
8. Tennessee Titans- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley’s stock has been up and down lately, but he is still an excellent fit for the Titans. He would immediately help fill the void in the middle that Tennessee has been missing since Albert Haynesworth was traded to Washington.
The Titans could also be another team that would look at Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton at this spot if they are available.
9. Dallas Cowboys- Tyron Smith, OT, USC
We all know that Jerry Jones avoids drafting offensive lineman in the first round, but the Cowboys must do a better job of protecting Tony Romo. Tyron Smith is considered the top tackle available and would be an immediate upgrade.
Dallas will be a popular target for teams looking to move up in front of Washington to select Gabbert or Julio Jones. The Cowboys could conceivably move down in the first and still address their needs along the front five.
10. Washington Redskins- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
The trade for Donovan McNabb didn’t work our for the Redskins, so they are likely to part ways. There’s been speculation that Washington will be looking at Julio Jones here, but Mike Shanahan will undoubtedly be delighted to have a talent like Gabbert fall into his lap.
If both of the top two quarterbacks are off the board, look for the Redskins to draft Julio Jones. If pending unrestricted free agent Santana Moss were to leave the team, Washington’s top returning receiver would be Anthony Armstrong.
11. Houston Texans- Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
It’s easy to assume that the Texans will address their NFL worst secondary with this pick. But the reality is that a lack of consistent pass rush allowed opposing quarterbacks too much time to stand in the pocket and pick apart the Houston coverage. The top priority for new Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips will be to draft the best available 3-4 pass-rusher.
The Texans would certainly consider Prince Amukamara at this spot if he were to fall to them. They could also consider trading down to select another pass-rusher from a very deep group.
12. Minnesota Vikings- Jake Locker, QB, Washington
The Vikings have needs all over the field, but they’re not going anywhere without a better option at quarterback. Locker might be considered a stretch at this point, but there is a growing contingent of experts who think Locker might be the most pro ready quarterback available.
Minnesota’s defensive line is aging and it’s possible they will address that spot here and hope to trade for a veteran quarterback, or draft one in round two.
13. Detroit Lions- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
The Lions appear to be a team on the rise, so their top priority will do a better job of keeping Matthew Stafford healthy and on the field. Gabe Carimi, who has called himself the top tackle available in the draft, could step in immediately as a starter at the right tackle position.
Detroit would likely jump on Prince Amukamara if he were to fall to them, or could consider another tackle, like Tyron Smith or Anthony Castonzo.
14. St. Louis Rams- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Jones sliding to the 14th spot would be a dream scenario for the Rams. St. Louis is desperate for an upgrade to it's receiving corps, and Julio Jones has top 10 talent. He's an immediate upgrade over every other Rams receiver.
If Jones is off the board, the Rams are likely to focus on addressing the defensive tackle spot.
15. Miami Dolphins- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Recent talk has several teams, some of whom need a running back, removing Ingram from their draft boards. But with aging veterans Ronnie Brown and Rickey Williams both pending unrestricted free agents, acquiring a new bell-cow runner for the Dolphins run heavy offense is the top priority. Another thing to consider, the Dolphins don’t have a second round pick, so waiting until their next selection (No. 79 overall) to obtain a new runner may be too risky.
Look for the Dolphins to also consider joining the quarterback sweepstakes should they choose to pass on the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. They could also be open to trading down and addressing their interior offensive line, or could select another running back like Mikel Leshoure.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Jaguars surprised us all last year by selecting Tyson Alualu much higher than was projected. This time, they will again look to improve their pass-rush with Ryan Kerrigan. The Jags play four games a year against the potent offenses in Houston and Indianapolis, so having a versatile talent like Kerrigan that can put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks is a must.
Most of the Jacksonville needs are on the defensive side of the ball, but there has been speculation that they’ll consider a quarterback in the first two rounds.
17. New England Patriots- Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Having three of the top 30 three picks in the draft will allow New England to be flexible. The Patriots top needs are to improve the pass rush, and they are always looking for versatile players to fit into their schemes. Cam Jordan could start as a 3-4 outside linebacker or as a 5-technique.
There are a number of directions that Bill Belichick could go with this pick, including trading down to accumulate further selections.
18. San Diego Chargers- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
San Diego could use an upgrade at starting defensive end, and J.J. Watt is the top available player that fits that need.
The Charger could also be players in trade talks. If they have similar grades on other defensive end prospects, like Muhammed Wilkerson, they might be willing to move down.
19. New York Giants- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
The Giants offensive line is aging, so they’ll look for a youth infusion. Anthony Castonzo is widely considered the second best tackle in this draft, so it would be an excellent choice if he were to fall to New York.
Ahmad Bradshaw is a free agent, so the Giants could consider a running back, like Mark Ingram or Mikel Leshoure. Defensive tackle and outside linebacker are also possibilities.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Justin Houston, DE, Georgia
Tampa’s most glaring need is an outside rush threat. Justin Houston is an excellent fit and has the versatility to play in the complex defensive scheme championed by Raheem Morris.
The Bucs are one of the few team that might consider trading up if they feel that there is a player that better fits their system. It’s highly unlikely that they will target an offensive player in the first two rounds.
21. Kansas City Chiefs- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
The run of pass-rushers continues. The Chiefs could use an impact player at linebacker or along the defensive front. Liuget fits well into the Kansas City 3-4 defense.
Kansas City could also be in the market for an upgrade in the interior of the offensive line. Mike Pouncey could play guard or center and would make sense at this spot. The Chiefs could also really use a starting wide receiver to start opposite of Dwayne Bowe.
22. Indianapolis Colts- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Protecting Peyton Manning will always be a huge priority for the Colts. Sherrod’s stock is rising, while Nate Solder’s is sinking.
Don’t be surprised if the Colts seriously consider targeting a wide receiver or running back here. Reggie Wayne is getting older, Austin Collie has had serious trouble staying healthy and Joseph Addai is a free agent. Bill Polian has stated that the Colts will draft with the assumption that none of their free agents will return.
23. Philadelphia Eagles- Ben Ijalana, OT, Villanova
Michael Vick took way too many hits last year. The Eagles will look to protect Vick and give him more time to stand in the pocket so he doesn’t have to resort to scrambling as often. Local prospect Ben Ijalana makes sense as an Andy Reid type of versatile lineman that could play guard or tackle.
It’s likely that Philadelphia will take a long look at Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith. Nate Solder could also be a candidate on the offensive line.
24. New Orleans Saints- Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Da’Quan Bowers was widely considered one of the top two defensive end prospects available in this draft until major concerns about his ailing knee caused his stock to plummet. Mercifully, the Saints take a chance on Bowers to end his long wait. New Orleans is a team without glaring needs, so they are in a position to gamble that Bower’s knee will hold up.
The Saints are likely to stay on the defensive side of the ball with this pick. They could consider addressing their secondary at this spot.
25. Seattle Seahawks- Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas
The Seahawks surprised most of us last year and won the weak NFC West. That likely took the pressure off Pete Carroll and will allow him to do what he feels is best for the long-term future of his team. That could very well be to draft the successor to aging Matt Hasselbeck. Ryan Mallett has a huge arm, and his reported off the field issues shouldn’t be too much of a concern for Carroll.
Seattle could also choose to address any number of positions on the defensive side of the ball. It would not be a surprise for them to take a “best available defender” approach.
26. Baltimore Ravens- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Smith is widely considered the third best cornerback in this draft, but brings a long list of alarming character concerns. The Ravens have an immediate need to upgrade their secondary, and have a strong, veteran locker room that is likely to keep Smith focused on football and out of trouble.
Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason are both aging receivers who lack downfield explosiveness. The Ravens could consider a wideout like Torrey Smith or Randall Cobb to stretch the field for Joe Flacco.
27. Atlanta Falcons- Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
Reed has the versatility that the Falcons look for in their 4-3 defense. He could play defensive end opposite of John Abraham, or even move to outside linebacker.
The Falcons are another team that could use an upgrade at wide receiver. Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas have not done much of anything opposite of Pro Bowler Roddy White.
28. New England Patriots- Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
The Patriots need help in the interior of their offensive line, and the top prospect that fills that need falls right into their laps. Pouncey has the versatility to play center or guard and provides depth behind Logan Mankins and Dan Koppen.
Bill Belichick is always willing to deal. The Patriots have another selection at the top of the second round, so they could be a candidate to trade out of this spot.
29. Chicago Bears- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Chicago’s number one need is to improve its offensive line and Nate Solder is the last of the top tier tackles available. This selection makes perfect sense for both sides. Solder could be expected to play either tackle spot in the Windy City.
30. New York Jets- Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State
Rex Ryan has stated that he’s always looking for more pass-rushers. Heyward is the top available option that fits into Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. His elbow injury is not expected to be a concern
A 3-4 outside linebacker or offensive tackle could also be options for the Jets. Don’t rule out the possibility that they could look at wide receivers.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers- Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
Cornerback is considered a bigger need, but the Steelers don’t seem to value corners as much as they do lineman. The Steelers defensive line is aging and Taylor is a serious interior force that could help the secondary by decreasing the amount of time they have to spend in coverage. At this point in the draft, Taylor is a better value for Pittsburgh.
If the Steelers are sold on any of the remaining cornerbacks as being a good fit for their system, they may pull the trigger here. They would also be delighted to reunite twin brothers Mike and Maurkice Pouncey side by side on their offensive line for the next decade.
32. Green Bay Packers- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Green Bay has the luxury of having no immediate glaring needs to fill. They will likely address the defensive end position, or an upgrade opposite of Clay Matthews. Akeem Ayers could actually address either of these spots, so he makes an excellent selection this late into the draft.
If the Packers are concerned about Ryan Grant’s health, they could be in the position to pounce on Mark Ingram or Mikel Leshoure should either be available.