NFL Mock Draft 2011: Blaine Gabbert to the Carolina Panthers
One of the most exciting aspects of the draft for me is the first ten picks. The first ten teams to pick tend to be the ones with the most holes to fill, and thus more speculation and pressure about who to choose. With my Redskins sitting on the tenth pick, I am also extremely nervous about other teams selecting players that would be best for the Redskins.
With that said, I have put together my own mock draft of who I think the first 10 picks could be, based on the needs of the team and the quality of the players involved.
Carolina Panthers: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
Carolina’s key area of need is its offense, especially at quarterback. Carolina averaged the lowest points per game in the NFL (12.2) last year, and Jimmy Clausen has so far been a huge disappointment. Many are predicting that the Panthers will take a QB, and I agree that Blaine Gabbert would be their best bet.
Blaine Gabbert is ranked as the top quarterback in the draft right now and has many positive qualities. At Missouri last year, he ranked second in the Big 12 in pass efficiency and has a strong arm. He is intelligent, tough, accurate and possesses a good work ethic. He may take time to adjust to play in the NFL, but has the talent and drive to develop into a solid player that would fulfill a pressing need for Carolina’s offense.
Denver Broncos: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
Denver’s faltering defensive line came in last in the league in sacks. Several defensive players are aging rapidly and fresh legs are badly needed. Picking DT Marcell Dareus is a no-brainer, and he should play a key role in revamping Denver’s defense.
Marcell Dareus is a large player, but displayed surprising quickness at the Combine, impressing on-lookers. He is agile and strong, a capable pass rusher who can also defend the run. He is a sturdy hulk of a man who is not easily knocked down and would fit well in Denver’s 4-3 scheme. He is generally acknowledged as the best defensive tackle in the draft, and should be scooped up immediately.
Buffalo Bills: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
Buffalo has a long list of needs all over the field. The weak offensive line and lack of dominating pass rushers are two priority issues. It is hard to say which weakness should be addressed first, but I would go with the offensive line.
Buffalo’s offense actually performed decently last year. Ryan Fitzpatrick did a fine job, and could have even improved had he been offered better protection. Buffalo almost has all the pieces together to build a productive offense, so beefing up an offensive element could bring immediate benefits for next season and beyond. I think OT Anthony Castonzo would be a good choice.
Castonzo is an extremely intelligent and hard-working player. These intangible qualities are often overlooked, but are key traits that some of the most successful NFL players must have.
The ability to adapt to new circumstances and learn quickly is also important for players to make an immediate impact on their new teams. Castonzo is also a good athlete, and delivered impressive performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine. He has great initial quickness, instincts and is an impressive pass blocker.
He would be a quality addition to the Bills’ squad.
Cincinnati Bengals: QB Cam Newton, Auburn
Carson Palmer has publicly stated he wants to get out of Cincinnati, which would leave a gaping hole in an offense that struggled in the past season. Cincinnati has had its share of spotlight-loving, high-risk players, and may be willing to take the gamble on Cam Newton.
Newton is a tempting prospect considering his athleticism and sensational, Heisman winning performance last season. He is elusive and quick in the pocket and has a strong throwing arm.
Some see him as the next Michael Vick (2010 version), while others see him as the next JaMarcus Russell. Whatever the case, he is a high risk/reward candidate and choosing him may just pay off for the Bengals.
Arizona Cardinals: OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
Arizona clearly needs a lot of help.
Their quarterback problems are well-known, but Coach Whisenhunt has stated that he isn’t interested in this year’s QB class.
I expect them to instead focus on shoring up their defense, of which the aging players failed to pass rush consistently and effectively. OLB Von Miller would fulfill this role perfectly.
The winner of the 2010 Butkus award, Miller is an explosive, athletic pass rusher who could make an immediate impact for the Cardinals.
Cleveland Browns: WR AJ Green, Georgia
The Browns made some notable improvements last year, and RB Peyton Hillis’ outstanding performance was a pleasant surprise. Colt McCoy’s first games as starting QB got off to a rocky start, but he has good leadership qualities and potential to improve his game.
The key missing component in the Browns' offense is the lack of a reliable, quality wide receiver. Luckily for the Browns, they should be able to snag Georgia’s stellar WR, AJ Green.
Green dominates this year’s class of WRs. His positive traits are innumerous – good size and speed, explosiveness and elusiveness and long arms with excellent ball control. The addition of this stud receiver could dramatically help the Brown’s offense improve their performance and continue movement in a positive direction.
San Francisco 49ers: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
Alex Smith has been an erratic and altogether disappointing quarterback for the 49ers. Still, a looming problem has been on defense, particularly in pass coverage.
Nate Clemens, who joined the team in 2007, has struggled to fulfill the role and fell far short of expectations. An elite player with new fresh legs would help the 49ers close this important defensive hole. Who better than Patrick Peterson, who is often considered the best player in the draft?
Patrick Peterson is a beast. He has won countless awards for his stellar defensive play during his time at LSU. He is a gifted athlete, has great instincts and can read the play well. He is quick on his feet and a solid, reliable tackler.
Some predict he may be chosen earlier in the draft due to his sheer athleticism and elite potential. He is another player who can make an immediate impact on the team that picks him, and would make a perfect addition to the 49ers’ roster.
Tennessee Titans: DT Nick Fairley, Alabama
After a good start in 2010, the Titans seemed to fall apart mid-season. It became clear by the season’s end that Vince Young simply is not a good fit for the team, and it seems likely to some that the Titans will look for a solid QB to start over.
According to my predictions, with Gabbert and Newton gone, the lack of true standout QBs left in the draft will lead the Titans to fulfill other needs. I think they will go with DT Nick Fairley.
The Titans don’t have enormous problems at defensive tackle, and the unit did fine last year. However, the unit is not perfect, and Nick Fairley is simply too good to pass up. Adding him to their tackling unit would likely take it from decent to excellent.
Though there have been questions about his character, he possesses excellent pass rushing skills, quickness, strength and explosiveness. He is also considered a very versatile player that could excel on both the inside and outside.
He is likely to rank very highly on the draft boards of many teams, and if still available this late, it would be wise for the Titans to take him.
Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyron Smith, USC
The Cowboys received a well-deserved slice of humble pie after a 1-7 start silenced their gloating about an inevitable 2011 Super Bowl appearance.
They have several areas of need, including on defense, especially in defending the run and at cornerback. But they also need help protecting Tony Romo. These players are aging and showed some noticeable weak points.
While drafting star CB Prince Amukamara is tempting and would be a good choice, the consensus seems to be that the Cowboys will pick OT Tyron Smith.
Smith flew under the radar for a while, but made a splash at USC’s Pro Day, upping his value. Observers noted his agility and quickness, and he excels as a pass blocker but can effectively block the run as well.
Washington Redskins: DE Cameron Jordan, California
The Redskins have many needs on both sides of the ball. Personally, I think it would be foolish to go for a quarterback at this point, when there are so many better players available. Drafting stud WR Julio Jones would be a tempting option, but the Redskins should go for a defensive player first. The current squad has had trouble adapting to the 3-4, and the Redskins defense ranked at the bottom of the league in many categories in 2010. They should take DE Cameron Jordan.
Cameron Jordan is a versatile player, who is a competent pass rusher with intelligence and good instincts. He also possesses impressive size, strength and speed. He could fill in effectively at OLB, and has played in a 3-4 scheme before, a huge plus. The Redskins should take advantage of this and use Cameron Jordan to shore up their defense for next season and beyond.