2011 NFL Mock Draft: Which Big Names Might Be Left out of the 1st Round?
With the NFL Draft just days away, draft boards and mocks are continuously changing.
Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph is arguably the best at his position, but 2011 isn't the year for tight ends.
Quarterback Jake Locker would have been the top pick in the 2010 NFL Draft had he left Washington, but after a stunningly disappointing season, Locker is likely to slip out of the first round unless the New England Patriots grab him.
Locker's quarterback counterpart, Ryan Mallett, has huge size and extends the field with his arm but lacks intelligence in the pocket. Mallett is rumored to have the best body and arm for a quarterback, but not the intangibles as a leader.
Other first round duds might include Iowa's Adrian Clayborn, Ohio State's Cameron Heyward, and UCLA's Akeem Ayers. The fact that there's so much defensive quality in this year's draft definitely hurts the chances of these guys being drafted higher.
Who else might still be waiting for his name to be called after pick 32, despite high pre-draft prowess?
Let's take a look...
Jimmy Smith (CB, Colorado)
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Jimmy Smith was a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2010, and with good reason. In his final two seasons at Colorado, Smith only allowed 11 completions combined.
He has great size for a cornerback at 6'2" and 210 pounds, and he loves to play man-to-man coverage. Smith also loves to tackle on the open field, something most NFL corners have to spend time learning once getting to the league.
Perhaps because of both Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara, Smith isn't getting the recognition he deserves as a top cornerback, but his lower ranking on draft boards comes for obvious reasons. Smith was arrested twice at school for misdemeanor possession charges and he isn't quite a humble guy.
Confidence is usually something great for an impact player to have in the NFL, but Smith is almost cocky. He claims to have better ball skills than Nnamdi Asomugha of the Oakland Raiders, who is probably the NFL's best cornerback.
Regardless of where and when Smith goes, he'll be a bargain for the NFL team whose willing to deal with his attitude.
Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas)
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Since he's the tallest of the top-five quarterbacks and has the best arm, you might be wondering why Ryan Mallett would be available in round two.
Mallett has the look of an NFL quarterback, but like we saw in a crucial loss to Alabama in 2010, he likes to force the ball into coverage. Mallett's 6'7" frame does have its weaknesses though, as he often struggles to keep his feet moving in the pocket.
The biggest issue with Mallett is that of his character. It's been rumored that he's experimented with drugs and lied about it. He was never voted team captain at Arkansas, which should be alarming to NFL executives. A quarterback usually leads his team and brings his men together in the locker room.
There's no question that if he can get his head screwed on straight, Mallett can be great in the NFL. If he shows success in his first two or three seasons in the league, Mallett can go from his second round contract to making top dollar.
Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa)
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The sole reason for the slim chance that Adrian Clayborn falls into the second round is his health. He's dealt with a condition called Erb's Palsy, in which his right arm tends to go into paralysis while on the football field.
Clayborn said he's played through it, and that his condition doesn't effect his aggression or ability to play his hardest. If not for the paralysis, Clayborn would likely be drafted among the top-15 players in the first round.
He's everything a coach could possibly want in a defensive player, and will play his heart out at all times. A first round pick, regardless of draft position, has become something of great importance for every NFL franchise. Most NFL executives might not be willing to take the risk of dealing with such a serious preexisting injury.
Clayborn's talent will never be questioned. He played with Erb's Palsy in high school as a tight end and won several awards.
Jake Locker (QB, Washington)
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Barring a serious injury, things couldn't have gotten much worse for Jake Locker in 2010.
He was the projected top pick in last year's draft, but Locker elected to stay at Washington instead. There, he displayed several games of low completion percentages, and he only threw 17 touchdowns.
Locker could very easily be drafted by New England in the first round since the team worked him out three days, but he's not of great value to them since Tom Brady is still great.
It's understandable that Locker wanted to get his degree (Andrew Luck, too), but the opportunity to be a first overall selection in the NFL Draft doesn't come around everyday. Locker is also a talented baseball player who was drafted by the Anaheim Angels; the team currently holds his rights and he often works out in their facilities.
Since there's so many quarterbacks to choose from in this year's draft, Locker will likely be available in the second round. At least he's talented in multiple sports and has his degree, though.
Cameron Heyward (DE, Ohio State)
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Unfortunately for Cameron Heyward, there hasn't been a draft in recent years with so much talent at defensive end. According to CBS Sports, he's ranked eighth at his position, and is projected to possibly be drafted late in the first round.
Heyward has the size (6'4", 295 pounds) to be a destructive 3-4 defensive end, but he lacks the ability to bring pressure off the edge. His 40-time is around 5.0 seconds, further indicating his sluggish speed.
Luckily for Heyward, he'd fit nicely with the Green Bay Packers, who already have plenty of pass rushers in Nick Barnett and Clay Matthews. Heyward will demand double-teams because of his strength, and will surely clog running lanes.
Again, Heyward would probably be a first round guarantee if not for the immense talent at his position, but it's hard to imagine that someone of his size and skill would fall too far into the second round.
He also had Tommy John surgery this year.
Akeem Ayers (OLB, UCLA)
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Akeem Ayers ranks second at his position on most draft boards, but after a poor 40-time at the combine (4.81 seconds), scouts have begun to question his coverage ability.
Ayers specializes as a pass rusher, which is probably the reason why he's often fooled by the play-action pass.
He played three positions in high school (defense end, linebacker, wide receiver), so Ayers is obviously versatile, but he needs to find a niche in the NFL.
At around 6'3" and 250 pounds, Ayers has average size. In order to be made into a decent coverage linebacker, Ayers will need to be more physical at the line of scrimmage and learn how to disguise his blitz. Another question mark for scouts is Ayers' blitzing technique.
There isn't a ton of talent at the linebacker position in 2011, so Ayers might be waiting until the early second round for his name to be called.
Kyle Rudolph (TE, Notre Dame)
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Kyle Rudolph is expected to be the first tight end taken in the 2011 Draft, but where he's drafted might appear deceiving. For the first time in several years, it's likely that a tight end won't be taken in the first round of the draft.
Rudolph suffered from a hamstring injury which ended his season early in 2010, but he's back healthy and had a productive offseason. He has immense size (6'6", 265 lbs.), and the potential to be a solid blocker in the NFL.
As a receiver, Rudolph likes to run downfield, but the fact that he's not the most athletic (4.83 40-time) will allow safeties to keep up with him.
According to Notre Dame coaches, one of Rudolph's best qualities is his locker room presence, because he has a desire to win. Rudolph shows great intensity on the field, too.
Injury questions and a stacked defensive draft work against Rudolph's draft projection.