2011 NFL Mock Draft: Predicting the Top 15 Picks in the Upcoming NFL Draft

Chris FaigCorrespondent IApril 22, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: Predicting the Top 15 Picks in the Upcoming NFL Draft

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    COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 7:  Quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Missouri Tigers looks to pass during the game against the Baylor Bears at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    With less than seven days until the 2011 NFL draft, the National Football League is still in the middle of a grueling lockout with its players. However, the draft will still take place on April 28th, 2011.

    From Cameron Newton to A.J. Green, there is a deep pool of offensive and defensive talent entering the NFL this year.

    However, a majority of the projected first-round selections in 2011 are expected to be on the defensive side of the ball.

    The draft values of each player have been continuously fluctuating since the end of the college football season, with the No. 1 overall selection still completely up in the air.

    As the 2011 NFL draft quickly approaches, take a look at mock selections for the top 15 picks in the first round.

1. Carolina Panthers: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama Crimson Tide

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Marcell Dareus #57 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Louisiana State University Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Top Needs: DT, WR, QB

    Selection: DT Marcell Dareus; 6'4'', 306 pounds

    Why?: The Panthers need some real help on their defensive line. Dareus has the capability to penetrate against the pass defense, as well as anchor versus the run, which makes him a great choice for Carolina with their first overall pick. The Panthers may not feel safe with Jimmy Clausen, but they won't waste the first overall pick in the draft on any quarterback in this draft.

    So if Carolina decides to pass on A.J. Green, who alongside Steve Smith would create one of the scariest WR duos in all of football, then Dareus seems like the right selection.

2. Denver Broncos: LB Von Miller, Texas A&M Aggies

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 07:  Jordan Jefferson #9 of the Louisiana State University Tigers throws under pressure from Von Miller #40 of the Texas A&M Aggies during the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on January 7, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by C
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Top Needs: DE, CB, RB, LB

    Selection: LB Von Miller; 6'3", 243 pounds

    Why?: Todd McShay described Miller as having "a freakish combination of size, speed and athletic ability." Miller has a great aptitude for continuously getting after the quarterback and has improved his ability to drop and cover, which will be a valuable asset to the team that selects him. With Miller's unbelievable talent and athleticism, I highly doubt Denver will pass up on the promising linebacker.

3. Buffalo Bills: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri Tigers

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    TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Missouri Tigers drops back to pass during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes  at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 27-24.  (P
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Top Needs: QB, DE, OT, OLB

    Selection: QB Blaine Gabbert; 6'4", 234 pounds

    Why?: As analysts have looked back at past tapes, and with Andrew Luck deciding to stay at Stanford, Blaine Gabbert has quickly become the highest-rated quarterback entering the 2011 NFL draft. This past season, Gabbert completed a total of 301 passes out of 475 attempts for 3,186 yards, a 63.4 CMP percentage, 16 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 127.03 QB rating.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Cameron Newton, Auburn Tigers

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Cameron Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigersc reacts with his team against the Oregon Ducks during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Chri
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Top Needs: QB, OT, DE, RB

    Selection: QB Cameron Newton; 6'6", 250 pounds

    Why?: Cam Newton is known for his unbelievable running abilities but also has a cannon for an arm with underrated accuracy. Newton has exhibited the potential to be a great professional quarterback and is projected to be selected in the early first round.

5. Arizona Cardinals: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU Tigers

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 20:  Patrick Peterson #7 of the Louisiana State University Tigers nearly intercepts a pass in the final seconds against Markeith Summers #16 and Korvic Neat #28 of the Ole Miss Rebels as time expired at Tiger Stadium on November
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Top Needs: QB, OL, OLB, CB

    Selection: CB Patrick Peterson; 6'1", 222 pounds

    Why?: Throughout his three seasons with LSU, Peterson has exhibited rare athleticism and superb instincts. College football analysts and experts all over have been raving about this kid and the potential he possesses. Peterson is expected to develop into one of the premier cornerbacks in the National Football League.

6. Cleveland Browns: WR A.J. Green, Georgia Bulldogs

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    AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13:  A.J. Green #8 of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Top Needs: WR, OT, DE, LB

    Selection: WR A.J. Green; 6'4'', 211 pounds

    Why?: Colt McCoy had a solid first year with the team that surrounded him. With the addition of A.J. Green, McCoy would gain a reliable and consistent threat at wide receiver, which is something he needed badly last season. Green has supreme physicality for a receiver and is as athletic as they come.

7. San Francisco 49ers: WR Julio Jones, Alabama Crimson Tide

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: Julio Jones #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide stiffarms Chris Rucker #29 of  the Michigan State Spartans during the Capitol One Bowl at the Florida Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Im
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Top Needs: WR, LB, DT

    Selection: WR Julio Jones; 6'3", 220 pounds

    Why?: With Julio Jones still on the board, the 49ers will snag one of the most athletic players in this year's draft. Now that Gabbert and Newton are already off the board, the Niners will be forced to select the best talent remaining, which is of course Julio Jones. Paired with Michael Crabtree, San Francisco would be a hard team to stop on offense next season.

8. Tennessee Titans: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 30: Cornerback Prince Amukamara #21 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers breaks up a pass intended wide receiver Wes Kemp #8 of the during second half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Top Needs: QB, LB, CB

    Selection: CB Prince Amukamara; 6'0", 206 pounds

    Why?: One of Tennessee's weakest positions has to be cornerback. With Patrick Peterson off the board, the Titans would likely go with the next best defensive back in Prince Amukamara. Amukamara is a shutdown corner that scared opposing quarterbacks so much this season that they would rarely throw the ball his way.

9. Dallas Cowboys: DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson Tigers

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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Michael Dyer #5 of the Auburn Tigers against Da'Quan Bowers #93 of the Clemson Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Top Needs: OL, DE, S

    Selection: DE Da'Quan Bowers; 6'3", 280 pounds

    Why?: The Dallas Cowboys need some serious improvements to their pass-rush game on defense, as well as some depth. The Cowboys must draft on the defensive side of the ball and try to win much like the Jets do on a weekly basis. Dallas has so many offensive weapons that if its defense could just hold teams to under 20 points every week, it would have an extremely good chance to win week in and week out.

    Bowers has proven to be a natural pass rusher who led the FBS in sacks this season with 15.5. College football analyst Todd McShay has said that "Bowers is a stud, can fit any defensive scheme, and is blessed with a rare combination of size and athleticism."

10. Washington Redskins: DE Robert Quinn, UNC Tar Heels

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28:  Defensive lineman Robert Quinn of North Carolina runs through a drill during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Top Needs: QB, WR, DE, OL

    Selection: DE Robert Quinn; 6'4", 265 pounds

    Why?: Robert Quinn is a pure athlete with good size and great quickness. Quinn was declared as permanently ineligible to play college football after accepting over $5,500 in extra benefits from agents. Despite not playing for the entire 2010 season, Quinn has still impressed scouts with his freakishly athletic talents.

11. Houston Texans: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn Tigers

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Nick Fairley #90 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates the Tigers 22-19 victory against the Oregon Ducks during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Top Needs: CB, DT, S

    Selection: DT Nick Fairley; 6'4", 291 pounds

    Why?: While at Auburn, Nick Fairley exhibited an explosive first step and proved that he can be a highly effective pass rusher. Mel Kiper Jr. has Fairley as a top-10 lock and believes that he "epitomizes the ideal penetrating 4-3 tackle."

12. Minnesota Vikings: OT Tyron Smith, USC Trojans

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:   Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans throws a pass as Tyron Smith #70 blocks Jesse Feagin #98 of  the Washington State Cougars during the second quarter of the college football game at the Los Angeles Memorial C
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Top Needs: QB, S, OL, OLB

    Selection: OT Tyron Smith; 6'5", 307 pounds

    Why?: With the top two quarterbacks already selected, the Vikings will decide to select some protection for whoever they decide to start at QB next season. Smith is one of the most athletic offensive linemen I have ever seen play and has shown supreme strength against opposing defenses.

13. Detroit Lions: OT Nate Solder, Colorado Buffaloes

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    BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 04:  Brian Orakpo #98 of the Texas Longhorns rushes against Nate Solder #78 the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on October 4, 2008 in Boulder, Colorado. Texas defeated Colorado 38-14.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Top Needs: LB, OG, CB, SS

    Selection: OT Nate Solder; 6'8", 315 pounds

    Why?: Nate Solder has proven to be a physical beast that has a passion for improvement. With the top athletes already selected, the Lions will be a bit conservative and draft an offensive lineman to protect Matthew Stafford.

14. St. Louis Rams: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois Fighting Illini

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    Top Needs: WR, OLB, DT

    Selection: DT, Corey Liuget; 6'2", 298 pounds

    Why?: Corey Liuget is an explosive defensive threat that has consistently clogged up the middle for his defense. Once Liuget gets adjusted to the professional level, he will be one of the best defensive tackles in the National Football League.

15. Miami Dolphins: QB Jake Locker, Washington Huskies

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    SEATTLE - OCTOBER 30:  Quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Washington Huskies passes against the Stanford Cardinal on October 30, 2010 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Top Needs: RB, OL, QB

    Selection: QB Jake Locker; 6'3", 230 pounds

    Why?: Locker's stock continues to drop, but his extreme competitiveness, work ethic and natural skill set make him seem like a safe pick for the Miami Dolphins, who haven't had a reliable quarterback in quite some time.