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NFL Draft 2011: Power Ranking the 50 Best Available Players

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterDecember 1, 2016

NFL Draft 2011: Power Ranking the 50 Best Available Players

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    Our final big board is set in the Bleacher Report war room, and we are giving you a sneak peek at our in-depth look at the draft's 50 best players.

    Over 250 college football players will be drafted during the seven rounds of the 2011 NFL draft, and these 50 are the best of the best. The elite.

    Future Pro Bowlers and All-Pro selections will come from this list, as will Super Bowl winners and undeniably a few busts.

    Who ranks as our No. 1 overall player? Can Patrick Peterson and Von Miller overtake Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton?

    Find out inside.

50. Titus Young, Wide Receiver, Boise State

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    Titus Young is among the most exciting players in the entire draft. His blend of route running, moves after the catch and punt return skills get us excited for what he will be able to do in the NFL.

    Positives

    Jackson has electric open-field moves and has the ability to break the defense's back in one big play. He can contribute as a rookie in the slot, as a return man and possibly as an outside receiver in a west coast scheme.

     

    Negatives

    A little on the small side at 5'11" and only 175 pounds. He could struggle to get off press coverage if a team were to put a man on him at the line of scrimmage. 

     

    NFL Comparison

    DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

     

    Projected Round

    Round 2

49. Stephen Paea, Defensive Tackle, Oregon State

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    Stephen Paea ranks as one of the strongest player's not only in the 2011 draft class, but ever. His 49 reps of 225 pounds are the highest recorded at the NFL scouting combine since Justin Ernest put up 51 in 1999.

    Positives

    Paea, as mentioned, has incredible strength. He also has built in advantages in leverage, since he's only 6'0" tall. Has very good potential as a 3-4 nose tackle.

     

    Negatives

    Paea's weight room strength does not always translate to the field. He can get walled down if he's trying to be too aggressive in getting to the quarterback.

     

    NFL Comparison

    Kelly Gregg, Baltimore Ravens

     

    Projected Round

    Early Round 2

48. Benjamin Ijalana, OG/OT, Villanova

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    Ijalana, a guard at Villanova, projects well to tackle in the NFL due to his excellent agility and footwork. HE may not be strong enough to block on an island but could see a Pro Bowl future at guard.

    Positives

    Ijalana has very good tools as a blocker in space. This could mean he will move to tackle or stay at guard in a zone blocking scheme. We prefer him on the inside.

     

    Negatives

    He hasn't played against top talent while at Villanova. It will also take him some time to learn an NFL playbook. The intricacies of the game will be something he has to learn in camp.

     

    NFL Comparison

    Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints
     

     

    Projected Round

    Round 2

47. Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver, Kentucky

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    Randal Cobb enters the draft as a raw athlete teams believe they can mold in to a top-flight wide receiver. He has the ability to help as a receiver, returner and even as a Wildcat runner from the backfield.

    Positives

    There is no shortage of ways to use Cobb's athleticism and abilities on offense. Teams needing a spark on offense and special teams will love Cobb's set of skills.

     

    Negatives

    Cobb is not going to beat many people in the 100-yard dash, but it would be hard to bet against him in the 20. While he can provide an impact as a rookie, it's not likely to come at receiver. For teams needing a "right-now" guy at wideout, Cobb is not their man.

     

    NFL Comparison

    Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings

     

    Projected Round

    Round 2

46. Aaron Williams, Cornerback, Texas

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    Aaron Williams comes from an accomplished program, has excellent measurables and good production against top-flight offenses. The biggest question is, does he play cornerback or free safety?

    Positives

    Very athletic cover man with great length and range. He can eat up yards when breaking on the ball. Williams is an active tackler and has the height to run with the tallest receivers in the NFL.

     

    Negatives

    Williams has never dominated as a cover corner at Texas. While he has been good, he's never been great or received the recognition as being a top cornerback. He may not have even been the best cornerback on his team.

     

    NFL Comparison

    Aaron Ross, New York Giants

     

    Projected Round

    Round 2

45. Bruce Carter, Outside Linebacker, North Carolina

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    Bruce Carter entered the 2010 season as a top 15 player on our big board. He stayed there all season until an ACL tear late in the year caused him to drop in our rankings. The team who drafts Carter will get a steal in Round 2.

    Positives

    Carter is an active and fiery outside linebacker. Before the 2010 season, he was viewed by many as too small, but put on 15 pounds and is weighing in at 240 pounds this offseason. Had Carter stayed healthy we believe he would have been drafted in the top 20 picks of the draft.

     

    Negatives

    The obvious negative is the ACL tear. While ACL surgery is becoming routine there is still a small chance his recovery has not gone well or that he will never return to his former abilities.

     

    NFL Comparison

    Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears

     

    Projected Round

    Early Round 2

44. Brandon Harris, Cornerback, Miami

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    Brandon Harris seems to be a hot or cold prospect as the draft nears. Some love him, others see him as a late-round pick. Where does Harris really rank?

    Positives

    Harris has excellent size for a cornerback and good enough speed to not be a liability on the outside. Unlike many corners in this draft, he has the ideal size and speed combination to be a starter at the position.

     

    Negatives

    Harris can get lost at times in coverage and does not excel over other cornerbacks in man or zone coverage. He has the tools to be very good, but he has yet to put them all together.

     

    NFL Comparison

    Quentin Jammer, San Diego Chargers

     

    Projected Round

    Round 2

43. Jake Locker, Quarterback, Washington

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    Jake Locker has been publicized as the "likely No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft" if he had entered. While that may or may not be true, Locker was highly regarded before the 2010 draft, and even the 2010 college football season. A subpar senior season moved Locker down our board, but he's still likely to be drafted in the top 15.

    Positives

    Locker is an incredible athlete who can make every NFL throw you would ask of him. His ability to get out of the pocket, elude the pass rush and make plays with his feet are tops in this class.

     

    Negatives

    The big sticking point with Locker, and the reason we have him rated No. 43, is that his accuracy is just not that good. He will need a lot of work on timing, footwork and release in the NFL.

     

    NFL Comparison

    Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

     

    Projected Round

    Round 1

42. Marvin Austin, Defensive Tackle, North Carolina

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    Marvin Austin was our preseason No. 1 player for the 2011 NFL draft, and then he was suspended for the entire season after inappropriate contact with an agent (which sounds really, really dirty).

    As it stands Austin may be the first pick overall, but in the second round.


    Positives

    Austin is one of the most athletic defensive tackles we have ever scouted. He's quick, agile and has the speed to run down quarterbacks and running backs in the backfield. He's also very strong and stout at the point of attack. There are not many on-field flaws here.


    Negatives

    The year away from football hurts Austin the most. There were also rumors that he missed a meeting with the Carolina Panthers, but those were never substantiated. Character is a word that gets thrown around a lot during the pre-draft craziness, and Austin is on the wrong side of most people's character radar.

     

    NFL Comparison

    Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

     

    Projected Round

    Late Round 1

41. Rodney Hudson, Guard/Center, Florida State

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    Rodney Hudson is, in our eyes, a beast. Few players can stonewall defensive linemen like Hudson, and he's doing this at 300 pounds. Some draft analysts are not sold on Hudson due to his low weight, but turn on any FSU game from the last two seasons and you cannot help but notice the stud interior lineman.


    Positives

    Hudson can play at a very high level at both guard and center. He has experience at left guard and would be a great fit for a zone blocking scheme, as he is smaller and more mobile than most traditional guards. As a blocker Hudson is unmatched at the center/guard position.


    Negatives

    His size is a drawback and will limit his possibilities in the NFL. Power blocking teams like Dallas and Oakland have needs at guard but may not look Hudson's way since he's under 320lbs.


    NFL Comparison

    Brian Waters, Kansas City Chiefs

     

    Projected Round

    Round 2

40. Cameron Heyward, Defensive End, Ohio State

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    Cameron Heyward is a favorite player by many fans and draft analysts. Most of us have fond memories of his dad Craig bulling through the defense as a running back for the New Orleans Saints.

    Cameron is quite the player himself. He has the ideal body type for a 3-4 defensive end and the quickness to survive on the edge in a 4-3 scheme.

     

    Positives

    Heyward has a great football pedigree, which is more important than most fans would imagine. Heyward's build and style of play will fit a 3-4 defense very well, especially one that asks its defensive ends to get upfield.


    Negatives

    Heyward did not flash the pass rushing prowess in 2010 that had elevated him to first-round status in years past. He's a big body but not overly strong, but not quite fast enough to be a pass rusher in a 4-3.


    NFL Comparison

    Ziggy Hood, Pittsburgh Steelers


    Projected Round

    Round 2

39. Brooks Reed, Outside Linebacker, Arizona

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    Brooks Reed has enjoyed a late push up draft boards, largely because he looks a lot like Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers.

    Reed is a good player, and he has excellent measurables for the outside linebacker position in a 3-4 defense, but living up to his hype may be impossible.


    Positives

    Reed is a quick defender with the burst to really be dangerous off the edge. He's an aggressive tackler with a high motor, which will help him get on the field early in his rookie season as an edge rusher.

     

    Negatives

    Reed is not the athlete that many people believe he is. Watching him on film he can be very stiff, and he doesn't have the hips or flexibility to always turn the corner when crashing the pocket or dropping in coverage.

     

    NFL Comparison

    Brian Cushing, Houston Texans

     

    Projected Round

    Early Round 2

38. Colin Kapernick, Quarterback, Nevada

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    Few players have received the pre-draft bump up draft boards that Nevada's Colin Kaepernick has this spring. His blend of mobility and arm strength has NFL general managers excited at the possibilities.

     

    Positives

    Kaepernick is very mobile and can make plays with his feet. He does a great job eluding the pass rush, getting outside the pocket and making a good run or pass decision. His arm strength and velocity might be the best of any quarterback in this class.


    Negatives

    Colin comes from a pistol offense at Nevada and will need to work on taking snaps under center. He also has a unique delivery that might need re-worked, as he currently drops the ball before throwing. That delay in throwing allows safeties and cornerbacks an extra second to jump the route and make interceptions.

     

    NFL Comparison

    Vince Young, Tennessee Titans (minus the attitude)


    Projected Round

    Round 1

37. Ryan Williams, Running Back, Virginia Tech

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    Want a name to remember as a potential draft steal down the road? Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams won't be the first running back selected in the 2011 class, but he has the skill to be the best runner drafted this year.


    Positives

    Williams has excellent speed and burst through the hole. His build makes him harder to see behind the line, which combined with his ability to accelerate through openings makes him dangerous on sweeps and stretch plays. Williams is also an able and productive receiver out of the backfield.

     

    Negatives

    Williams' size is worth mentioning. At 5'9" and 212 pounds he does not have ideal running back size. He also posted a surprisingly slow 4.6s in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.


    NFL Comparison

    Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs


    Projected Round

    Round 2

36. Jabaal Sheard, Defensive End, Pittsburgh

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    Pitt's Jabaal Sheard is one of the many interesting defensive end/outside linebacker prospects hovering in the late first-round range of the 2011 draft. He has the make-up to be a star but was never dominant in the Big East.


    Positives

    With many NFL teams running some form of a 3-4 defense Sheard is a good fit at outside linebacker. He has experience rushing the passer, excellent speed for a linebacker and a toughness that will help him transition to a new position. As a traditional right end in the 4-3, Sheard is a safe pick.


    Negatives

    Sheard has never played in space before and is a total project at outside linebacker. He has promise, but the move is no guarantee.


    NFL Comparison

    Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs


    Projected Round

    Round 1

35. Ryan Mallett, Quarterback, Arkansas

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    We reserve the right to move Ryan Mallett way down our list if rumors of drug use and alcoholism are true.

    That being said, he's one hell of a quarterback.


    Positives

    Mallett has a killer arm, a great feel for where to put the ball and the make-up of a Pro Bowl quarterback. If you knew nothing else about him and watched him throw the ball, you would see a future star.


    Negatives

    Unfortunately, there's another side to Mallett (allegedly). There have been numerous reports of drug use, alcoholism and even an arrest for public intoxication. The red flags are adding up, and even a report by Paul Burmeister of NFL Network of "documented drug use."

     

    NFL Comparison

    Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (based on ability only)


    Projected Round

    Round 2

34. Kyle Rudolph, Tight End, Notre Dame

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    The 2011 tight end class lacks the buzz of recent seasons, but there is no denying Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph as the top of this class.

    Positives

    Rudolph is a finished product. He will enter the NFL ready to contribute in any offensive system. Unlike most rookie tight ends he has a good understanding of blocking schemes, coming from Charlie Weis' pro-style offense at Notre Dame.


    Negatives

    Rudolph missed most of the last two seasons with injuries at Notre Dame. He was cleared in a recent medical re-check, but NFL teams must consider his injury history and the frequency with which he has missed games.


    NFL Comparison

    Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots


    Projected Round

    Round 1

33. Martez Wilson, Inside Linebacker, Illinois

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    The NFL is currently a league of mixed defenses, with about half of the teams running a 3-4 front while the other run a traditional 4-3. As more teams flip back and forth, it is harder for them to stock their roster with linebackers who can play in both systems.

    Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson is uniquely gifted, as he fits both equally well.


    Positives

    As mentioned above Wilson can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He projects well as an inside linebacker in both, or even a strongside outside linebacker. He has rare speed for his size and is a dependable tackler.


    Negatives

    Wilson is still fairly raw as a linebacker. He can be easily blocked at times and also fails to give maximum effort on every play. Athletically he is way ahead of the competition, but his instincts and work ethic need work.


    NFL Comparison

    Karlos Dansby, Miami Dolphins


    Projected Round

    Early Round 2

32. Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive Tackle, Temple

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    Muhammad Wilkerson enters the NFL at a perfect time. As a college defensive tackle who has the size and agility of a 3-4 defensive end, he will see a rise in his draft stock based solely on the position he can play.

    We are not as high on Wilkerson as others, but he is still a very intriguing prospect.


    Positives

    Wilkerson is the ideal body type and skill set to make the move from defensive tackle to defensive end in a three-man front. At 6'4" he is tall enough to disrupt passing lanes, and with a sub-5.0 in the 40-yard dash he has the speed to make plays on the edge.


    Negatives

    Wilkerson comes from a school that did not run a complex defensive scheme, nor did he face the most talented linemen in the country each weekend. Wilkerson is a prospect in the truest sense of the word. He is a boom or bust gamble in the first round.


    NFL Comparison

    Ty Warren, New England Patriots


    Projected Round

    Late Round 1



31. Danny Watkins, Offensive Guard/Tackle, Baylor

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    Versatility is a lineman's best friend in the National Football League. No offensive lineman in this class is better suited to play multiple positions than Danny Watkins.

    Positives

    A former college hockey player, Watkins has excellent agility and hand-eye coordination. Watkins can play almost anywhere on the offensive line and has worked at left tackle, guard and right tackle. We have not seen him play center, but I wouldn't doubt he can do it at a high level.


    Negatives

    There is just one real negative to Danny Watkins, and that is his age. Watkins will turn 27 before the 2011 NFL season (if there is one). While some see this is as a positive it hurts him in our eyes. Assuming Watkins starts as a rookie, he will have just six NFL seasons under his belt when he turns 34, an age when the average NFL player starts to wear down.


    NFL Comparison

    Logan Mankins, New England Patriots


    Projected Round

    Round 1

30. Akeem Ayers, Outside Linebacker, UCLA

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    Akeem Ayers put it best when he said today, "I don't run track. I play football."

    Those words sum up Ayers pretty well. He's not a sprinter. In shorts and a t-shirt, he failed to impress scouts. But put pads and a helmet on him and a playmaker shows up.

     

    Positives

    Ayers is a playmaker. Over the past two seasons he put up 137 tackles, seven sacks and six interceptions from his outside linebacker position. He has the frame to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme as a pass rusher or drop back into coverage as a strongside backer in a 4-3.


    Negatives

    The naysayers will point out Ayers' weak 40-time or that he only put up 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. There are also those who are not sure what position Ayers will play in the NFL.


    NFL Comparison

    Shaun Phillips, San Diego Chargers


    Projected Round

    Round 1

29. Phil Taylor, Defensive Tackle, Baylor

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    Baylor's Phil Taylor ranks as our top nose tackle prospect in the 2011 class. A first look might make you think of Taylor as just another nose tackle, but his speed and agility at the position are mind-blowing.


    Positives

    Taylor is the ideal player to fill a need at nose tackle. He could also slide out to defensive end in a 3-4 scheme if the team were to run a power rotation. Taylor has excellent quickness, strength and instincts.


    Negatives

    There have been reports of issues with the bones in Taylor's feet, but his dismissed that in a Newark Star-Ledger interview today. Taylor also has the issue of an off-field incident ending his time at Penn State in 2007.


    NFL Comparison

    Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots


    Projected Round

    Round 1

28. Christian Ponder, Quarterback, Florida State

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    Few quarterbacks in this class can compare to Christian Ponder in terms of all-around talent and NFL readiness. With as many as six teams looking for quarterbacks in the first round, Ponder's stock is at an all-time high.

     

    Positives

    Ponder played in a pro-style system at Florida State and is ready to call plays, read a defense and get his offense into the right play call. Ponder is a football-smart person and a hard worker. He has the arm strength and accuracy to play very well in today's NFL.


    Negatives

    You have to look at the injuries. He has suffered a season-ending shoulder injury (2009) as well as swelling in his throwing elbow, which has had to be drained.

    Were it not for the injuries, Ponder might be the first quarterback off the board.


    NFL Comparison

    Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns


    Projected Round

    Round 1

27. Nate Solder, Offensive Tackle, Colorado

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    Nate Solder ranks as the top offensive tackle on many draft boards we have seen this offseason. While he ranks No. 5 on our offensive tackles list, Solder has what it takes to play left tackle in the NFL.

     

    Positives

    A former tight end, Nate Solder has the quick feet tackles need to survive on the outside in the NFL. He also has quick hands, important for fighting off pass rushers, and the size to wall off defenders.


    Negatives

    Solder is bigger than most defensive ends, but he has never been physically dominating at the point of attack. There are also concerns that he's actually too tall and may block passing lanes.


    NFL Comparison

    Jared Gaither, Baltimore Ravens


    Projected Round

    Round 1

26. Mark Ingram, Running Back, Alabama

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    Mark Ingram brings to the NFL a powerful running game, a National Championship and a Heisman Trophy. But he's still our No. 2 running back.


    Positives

    Ingram is a powerful and productive runner who has faced the best defenses in college football. He's also a good blocker and decent enough receiver to see time on third downs. What makes Ingram so good is his vision. He's a patient runner who sees openings and can explode through them.


    Negatives

    A knee injury before the 2010 season has folks worried. There is also the issue of Ingram not being very fast.


    NFL Comparison

    Arian Foster, Houston Texans


    Projected Round

    Round 1

25. Da'Quan Bowers, Defensive End, Clemson

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    From one injured player to the next, Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers has top-five talent but an injury that could push him out of the first round altogether.


    Positives

    Bowers is an explosive defensive end. He is a throwback to the days of 275-pound defensive ends who could rush the passer, stop the run and play all three downs. Bowers has phenomenal raw ability and room to improve once he receives NFL coaching.


    Negatives

    As good as Bowers is, and as great as he could be someday, none of this will matter if his knee situation is as bad as some fear. Many have called the procedure he had done this offseason "microfracture" surgery, which all but means he won't play in 2011 and maybe never again.


    NFL Comparison

    Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears


    Projected Round

    Round 1

24. Jimmy Smith, Cornerback, Colorado

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    Colorado's Jimmy Smith has top-10 talent, but his off-field history and concerns about immaturity could drive him down the bottom of Round 1.


    Positives

    Smith is blessed with a rare blend of size and speed. At 6'2" he is able to run with tall receivers, and with a 4.42 second blast in the 40-yard dash he has the speed and quickness to keep up with smaller, speed receivers.


    Negatives

    There is a long list of issues in Smith's past. He's been arrested twice, said he has better ball skills than Nnamdi Asomugha, skipped the Senior Bowl and has already switched agents.


    NFL Comparison

    Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets


    Projected Round

    Round 1

23. Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback, Missouri

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    Missouri's Blaine Gabbert may have ranked as our No. 1 quarterback in the 2011 Draft class, but we're not sold on him as an NFL passer. There are a lot of great things to love about Gabbert, but can he continue to improve at an NFL level?


    Positives: Gabbert has the arm, poise and body to play in the NFL. He can make every throw without hesitation and displays good touch in spraying the ball all over the field. Gabbert is a mobile quarterback who does well moving left and right, and can make throws on the run. He is also quick enough to pick up yards on the run.


    Negatives: Gabbert comes from a high-octane spread offense at Missouri where he was not overly productive (19 TD, 6 INT in 2010). There's also the issue of his completion percentage, which drops dramatically on third-down.

     

    NFL Comparison: Mark Sanchez, New York Jets


    Projected Round: Round 1

22. Adrian Clayborn, Defensive End, Iowa

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    Adrian Clayborn spent time as the No. 1 defensive end on our draft board early in the season. If Clayborn plays like his 2009 self in the NFL and forgets a bad 2010 season he will quickly become a Pro Bowl player.


    Positives

    Clayborn is built like a brick house. For his size he is very quick and athletic, and uses these combinations well in rushing the passer and stuffing the run. He has played outside at Iowa but projects well as a defensive tackle/defensive end hybrid. We also like his ability as a 3-4 defensive end.


    Negatives

    Clayborn failed to dominate in 2010, due to double teams from opposing linemen largely, but he also looked uninterested at times. If you turn on any game film from 2009 Clayborn is impossible to miss.


    NFL Comparison

    Richard Seymour, Oakland Raiders


    Projected Round

    Round 1

21. Tyron Smith, Offensive Tackle, USC

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    Tyron Smith fits the mold of the athletic pass blocker that NFL teams love to build their offensive lines around. Smith may rank in the low 20s on our board, but he could hear his name called within the first 10 picks of the first round.


    Positives

    Smith is a different breed of tackle than the other players ranked on our list. He is an amazing athlete, especially for his size, and moves like a man 50 pounds lighter. His experience at both left and right tackle make him extremely valuable in the NFL.


    Negatives

    Smith is largely untested. Playing at USC he was kept on the right side and never faced a premier defensive end. He is also just 20 years old, which could be a positive or negative, depending on how you view it.


    NFL Comparison

    D'Brickashaw Ferguson, New York Jets


    Projected Round

    Round 1

20. Cam Newton, Quarterback, Auburn

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    The nation's best football player in 2010, Cam Newton fails to rank as our No. 1 quarterback prospect for the 2011 NFL draft. Is it because of character concerns like many suggest? No, but because of concerns about experience reading a defense, calling plays and accuracy that is all over the map.


    Positives

    Newton is physically intimidating as a quarterback. He is built more like a tight end with speed of a receiver. Newton has a stellar arm and showed marked improvement in his lone season as a starter for the National Champion Auburn Tigers.


    Negatives

    There are the concerns about his maturity and how involved his father will be in his career, but we simply don't care about those things right now. What matters most is can Cam Newton play quarterback at a high level in the NFL?

    We aren't so sure he can.

    Newton lacks the accuracy to be effective, especially early in his career. He must also prove he can handle an NFL playbook and learn to read a defense.


    NFL Comparison

    Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers


    Projected Round

    Round 1

19. Derek Sherrod, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State

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    Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod is the one tackle prospect flying under the radar that you won't want to forget.


    Positives

    Sherrod has freakish size and athleticism. He's very quick in his pass sets and has great reach to get to defenders in both run and pass protection. As a right tackle he's strong enough to set the anchor and has shown he can combination block in the run game.


    Negatives

    Sherrod will need to add strength once he's in the NFL, as he can be overpowered at times. We project Sherrod on the right side, as he's a little too stiff for us to trust protecting the blind side of the quarterback. We would love to see Sherrod play with more aggression, too.


    NFL Comparison

    Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens


    Projected Round

    Round 1

18. Aldon Smith, Defensive End, Missouri

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    Missouri product Aldon Smith might be the draft's second best pass rusher coming off the edge, but is he strong enough to hold up in the NFL?


    Positives

    Smith is an exciting prospect as a defensive end/outside linebacker. He has excellent size, with the length to make plays in pursuit or knock down passes. The one thing you notice watching Smith is that he's an extremely fluid athlete. The game almost comes easy to him.


    Negatives

    Smith is a little weak and could stand to add strength, especially in his lower body. As a defensive end and outside linebacker, he has to get better at setting the edge and shutting down the run.


    NFL Comparison

    Willie McGinest, formerly New England Patriots


    Projected Round

    Round 1

17. Mike Pouncey, Offensive Guard, Florida

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    Can Mike Pouncey ever live up to the success of his twin brother and rookie Pro Bowler Maurkice? Or is he already a better prospect?


    Positives

    Mike has excellent size for a guard/center prospect and plays with a meanness on the field that helps him to dominate the trenches. Some believe Pouncey could even slide outside to right tackle, a belief we share.


    Negatives

    While some see Mike as a center, like his brother, we would avoid placing him there after watching him botch numerous snaps during his senior season at Florida. The biggest obstacle for the NFL team that drafts Pouncey is keeping him motivated.


    NFL Comparison

    Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers


    Projected Round

    Round 1

16. J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin's J.J. Watt ranks as the top 3-4 defensive end on most boards, but not ours. What's missing in Watt's game?


    Positives

    Watt has a nice mixture of speed and size. He's an accomplished pass rusher off the edge and has the burst to close on the ball carrier. He's tall enough to get up and block down passes, too. Watt's the type of player to give it all on every down.


    Negatives

    What position does he play? Watt may not be quick enough to play end in a four-man front, and can play too high for a defensive tackle. Watt has also been blown off the ball too often for us to rank him No. 1. He has to get better at holding his ground.


    NFL Comparison

    Chris Long, St. Louis Rams


    Projected Round

    Round 1

15. Anthony Castonzo, Offensive Tackle, Boston College

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    Anthony Castonzo has the potential to be one of the first offensive tackles drafted in the first round. His experience at Boston College, plus his NFL-level tool set make him a sure-fire first-rounder.


    Positives

    Anthony has amazing quickness and agility. Castonzo certainly passes the eye ball test, too. He's big, strong and moves very well in space. He's also a hard worker, you know you are getting a player who will work to get better over time. As a former tight end he has great quickness.


    Negatives

    Could stand to put some bulk and muscle on his frame. In the games we saw Castonzo was too easily beaten by bull rushes and counter moves. If he learns to keep his eyes up and puts on weight, Castonzo could be very good in the NFL.


    NFL Comparison

    Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles


    Projected Round

    Round 1

14. Mikel Leshoure, Running Back, Illinois

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    Our No. 1 running back comes by way of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Mikel Leshoure is as NFL ready as a running back can come.


    Positives

    Leshoure has the build, vision and speed to succeed in the NFL. He's a hard runner with a great work ethic and was very productive in a major conference. We love Leshoure in the red zone, where his power and speed make him tough to control.


    Negatives

    Leshoure ran a bit on the slow side (4.59) in his 40-yard dash at the combine. He is also not a great receiver or route runner out of the backfield.


    NFL Comparison

    Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers


    Projected Round

    Round 1

13. Gabe Carimi, Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin

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    Gabe Carimi may surprise you as our No. 1 rated offensive lineman, but we believe in this polished pass protector. He most likely will not be the first tackle drafted, but looking back on the draft we believe he'll be the best.


    Positives: Carimi is massive for the position and plays with a mean streak that makes him dominating from start to finish. He is also smart and controlled, not making mistakes in penalties or missing assignments. For a man of his size Carimi moves very well. Coming from the Wisconsin system, where linemen are exceptionally well cocahed, doesn't hurt either.


    Negatives: Carimi does have a few flaws. He fails to sink his hips at times when back stepping. He can also get hurt by shorter defensive ends who get inside his frame off the snap.


    NFL Comparison: Eric Winston, Houston Texans


    Projected Round: Round 1

12. Corey Liuget, Defensive Tackle, Illinois

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    Few people had heard of Corey Liuget before the Fighting Ilini's appearance in the Texas Bowl. The impression he left there has had people talking ever since.


    Positives: Liuget has built-in leverage with a big, strong body and a low center of gravity. He has great burst and is explosive off the line. Unlike most college defensive linemen he has a great understanding of how to use his hands and keeps himself free from blockers. He's also a very good tackler.


    Negatives: There really are few negatives here. Liuget is a bit short and does not have the versatility of some of his linemates in this year's class.


    NFL Comparison: Sedrick Ellis, New Orleans Saints


    Projected Round: Round 1

11. Ryan Kerrigan, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Purdue

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    It is somewhat exciting and also very scary that this is the highest we have seen Ryan Kerrigan rated in all our readings across the interwebs. We are either on to something or completely wrong.

    You want your Clay Matthews clone? Here's a player to consider.


    Positives: Kerrigan is a bull off the edge. He has that special mix of quickness, strength and plain 'ole nastiness we love in our outside linebackers. He has the look of an immediate impact to any team's pass rush in 2011.


    Negatives: The one negative we can find, if we wanted to nit-pick, is that Kerrigan's burst is just average. He is raw, we'll acknowledge that, but the potential here is super high.


    NFL Comparison: Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers


    Projected Round: Round 1

10. Cameron Jordan, Defensive End, California

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    Cal's Cameron Jordan ranks as our No. 1 defensive end in the class of 2011. His football pedigree, rare size and top-level speed scream "can't miss".


    Positives: Jordan is one of the most game-ready players graded in this year's class. He's an ideal fit as a 3-4 defensive end, but he has the ability to move in space like a linebacker. There are truly very few flaws in Cameron's game, which is why we will be shocked if he falls past pick No. 14 in the first round.


    Negatives: The biggest "negative" is that Jordan was not much of a pass rusher at Cal, but he doesn't need to be in a 3-4 scheme. As long as the team who drafts him understands what they're getting this should not be a problem.


    NFL Comparison: Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens


    Projected Round: Round 1

9. Andy Dalton, Quarterback, TCU

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    Andy Dalton has been our favorite quarterback in the 2011 class since it was learned Stanford's Andrew Luck would return to school and wait another year on the NFL.

    At that time most regarded Dalton as a mid-round pick. Now he's a first-rounder.


    Positives

    Dalton is a winner. He led TCU to four bowl games and won three of them, including a 2010 win in the Rose Bowl vs. Wisconsin. He has ideal touch and accuracy, throwing the most catchable ball of any quarterback in the 2011 class. He's also a smart player, able to dissect a playbook and read a defense.


    Negatives

    Dalton lacks pro-typical size and arm strength by most standards. Much like Colt McCoy in the 2010 draft, Dalton has to answer concerns about his height, how far he can throw and if the system he played in inflated his worth.


    NFL Comparison

    Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints


    Projected Round

    Round 1

8. Prince Amukamara, Cornerback, Nebraska

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    Graded as the No. 1 player in the 2011 draft class before the season, Prince Amukamara has moved down draft boards after a bad showing against Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon. What's good and bad here?

    Positives: Has the ideal mix of height, speed and agility. His instincts are exceptional. Prince has a rare ability to play very well in both man and zone coverage. He's a great fit no matter the system he is drafted to. He has the size to press receivers at the line and the speed to turn and run. It's quite impressive to see.


    Negatives: To be incredibly picky, there are some issues with hip stiffness when he's bailing out and flips his hips to run. He's also not a huge tackler, but neither was Deion Sanders.


    NFL Comparison: Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland Raiders


    Projected Round: Round 1

7. Julio Jones, Wide Receiver, Alabama

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    You would be hard pressed to find a wide receiver more NFL-ready than Julio Jones. Were it not for injuries here and there he would be ranked as our No. 1 wide out.


    Positives: Jones has NFL size, speed, strength and blocking ability. He's also one of the most explosive wide receivers in this class. He has a long stride with exceptional burst, which allows him to eat up the cushion in a matter of seconds. Jones has soft hands and can make the tough catch look routine. There are not many receivers we have seen over the years who were more polished than Jones.


    Negatives: Injuries are the biggest concern we have. Jones has struggled throughout his career with nagging injuries, costing him a few games here and there. We also worry about his game speed. Jones looked blazing fast on the track, but that doesn't always show up in games.


    NFL Comparison: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals


    Projected Round: Round 1

6. Robert Quinn, Outside Linebacker, North Carolina

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    Robert Quinn dominated the scene at North Carolina during the 2009 season, and then missed the next year after contact with an agent. This college defensive end ranks near the top on almost every draft board in the country.


    Positives: Quinn immediately passes the eye ball test when you see him. He has a chiseled frame and long, bulky arms. Turn on game film and you will see a burst and tenacity off the line that will make you wonder if he was off-sides. Quinn is an exceptionally gifted athlete who would do well in any sport.


    Negatives: Missed the 2010 season and could be a little rusty. Quinn is not a run stopper yet. He needs to learn to locate the ball better, which will come with better understanding of the opposition.


    NFL Comparison: DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys


    Projected Round: Round 1

5. Nick Fairley, Defensive Tackle, Auburn

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    Nick Fairley was college football's most dominant defensive player during the 2010 season. He figures to transition flawlessly to a three-technique position in the NFL and should be drafted in the top 10 picks.


    Positives: Fairley has the ideal combination of size, strength, speed and burst to become an instant difference maker in the NFL. He is a productive and powerful pass rusher and has an aggression to him that drives him to compete every play.


    Negatives: Fairley will play past the whistle at times and might have to calm down in the NFL. He might also rank as a little light at "only" 291lbs.


    NFL Comparison: Tommie Harris, Chicago Bears


    Projected Round: Round 1

4. A.J. Green, Wide Receiver, Georgia

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    The 2011 NFL draft's best wide receiver is Georgia's A.J. Green. Green has a chance to be the first player drafted, but if not he will not be left waiting long.


    Positives: There are almost too many to list here. Green has it all. He's a finished product, was extremely productive and has the tools to succeed in the NFL when other top receivers did not. If Green is given a good quarterback to work with he has the tools to be a rookie Pro Bowler.


    Negatives: Green missed four games due to suspension after contact with an agent in 2010. Once Green learns how to get off the line when pressed he will become one of the NFL's best.


    NFL Comparison: Andre Johnson, Houston Texans


    Projected Round: Round 1

3. Marcell Dareus, Defensive Tackle, Alabama

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    Alabama's Marcell Dareus was once labeled as soft, inconsistent and lazy. Fast-forward to present day and Dareus has a strong chance to be drafted first overall.


    Positives: Where to begin? Dareus has great size, awesome explosion and can take over a game in a hurry. Just watch Alabama's bowl game domination of Michigan State if you need proof. Dareus has played the two-gap end position in a 3-4 but we love his ability in a 4-3 defense, matched up one-on-one with the guard.


    Negatives: The one flaw we could find was the early in the season Dareus did not always appear to be giving all-out effort every game. This is most likely due to playing in a line rotation though.


    NFL Comparison: Warren Sapp, formerly Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Oakland Raiders


    Projected Round: Round 1

2. Von Miller, Outside Linebacker, Texas A and M

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    It is hard to write about Von Miller (no relation) without gushing. He's our favorite prospect in the 2011 draft class and was this-close to being ranked No. 1 overall.


    Positives: Since we are limited on space here, I'll just say this: Von Miller is the best outside linebacker I have ever covered in the 13 drafts I've written about or scouted. I think that sums it up pretty well. If he's not Defensive Rookie of the Year I will be shocked.


    Negatives: Miller has limited experience in coverage and will have to learn to drop to the flats or cover tight ends.


    NFL Comparison: Derrick Thomas, formerly Kansas City Chiefs


    Projected Round: Round 1

1. Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, LSU

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    Patrick Peterson should have won the Heisman Trophy, and that's all there is to it. Sorry, Cam Newton.

    The consolation prize for Peterson is that he's No. 1 overall on our 2011 NFL draft big board. And the best cornerback we've seen since Charles Woodson.


    Positives: Peterson's college career was simply brilliant. He will go down as one of the best college cornerbacks ever. His NFL career should be the same. He ran a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, has the skills to be an elite cover man from week one of his NFL career and is also a play-making return man on punt returns. Some guys have it all.


    Negatives: Peterson can be a little too aggressive and will unnecessarily jump routes at times. That's about it, though.


    NFL Comparison: Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers


    Projected Round: Round 1

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