2011 NFL Mock Draft: How the Experts Are Saying the Top 10 Will Shake Out
NFL Draft 2011 means two men will be on ESPN more than any player, scout, coach or GM. Those two men are essentially the faces of NFL draft analysis, Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay.
It seems whenever ESPN is on, these two are in a split screen bickering at each other and disagreeing over the draft prospects any number of players.
In a shocking turn of events, this year seems to have turned out a little different for the odd couple. Amazingly, they agree on the first 10 picks of this year's draft. Take a moment to let that sink in.
For this slideshow, we're going to take a look at their "expert" picks and offer a bit of analysis. Let's get going!
No. 10: Carolina Panthers Select Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Both Kiper and McShay agree that the Carolina Panthers will admit that last year's selection of Jimmy Clausen was a mistake and pin the collective hopes of the franchise on Cam Newton.
Newton has a ton of potential, but he's an incredibly risky pick. The Panthers have needs all over the field, but it seems to be a forgone conclusion that Newton will come off the board first.
Newton has been described as someone who lacks a strong work ethic, and that's the last thing you want from a quarterback. When he walks into the locker room or kneels down in the huddle, he needs to command the respect of his teammates, and he needs to be able to execute an NFL offense.
The jury is still out on whether or not he can do either of these things, but the experts seem to agree that Carolina will roll the dice on this high risk, high reward player. If it works out, they'll have a playmaker at the most important position on the field and turn around the fortunes of their franchise.
In my view, this is a pick that's worth the risk. Unlike JaMarcus Russell, Newton has won at every level and has shown the ability to rise to the occasion in big games. If the Carolina coaching staff can harness this incredible talent, they will be rewarded handsomely.
No. 9: Denver Broncos Select Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Marcell Dareus is the consensus pick at No. 2, and he's probably one of the safest picks in the draft.
He's a great talent who can change the game from his position in the middle of the line, and his work ethic is beyond reproach. Dareus has seen more struggles in his 22 years than most people experience in a lifetime, and he's always come back to football.
Any of his teammates will tell you his supreme talent is matched only by his desire to improve his game, and that's an encouraging sign for a team that's about to sink millions of dollars into an unproven NFL player. If the Broncos and their porous defense go this route at No. 2, they will not be disappointed.
That said, I disagree with this pick. If I were in charge of the Broncos, I would select Nick Fairley. Much in the same way that Cam Newton is a risky pick but has huge upside, Fairley, despite his character concerns, has the ability to be a Warren Sapp-type playmaker from the defensive tackle position.
Dareus will give you a consistent effort, but I can't see him disrupting backfields the way the Fairley will. Despite that, Dareus is still a good pick here because of the safeness of his selection.
No. 3: Buffalo Bills Select Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Von Miller has risen up the draft boards since the end of the season, and with good reason. Miller's ability to get to the quarterback, combined with his skills in coverage, make him a great selection here at No. 3 for a team desperate for a playmaking outside linebacker.
In 2009, the Bills selected Aaron Maybin in the first round and have gotten next to nothing out of him. Their need for an OLB is greater than ever, and it is imperative that they don't miss here with Miller.
They have other needs as well, but the best value is in Miller. No offensive tackle is worthy of the No. 3 pick and, while a quarterback like Blaine Gabbert wouldn't be an awful pick here, they need too much help elsewhere to begin to worry about who will be calling plays. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been adequate, so they should look to improve their defense here.
I agree with Miller's selection here. He can make an instant impact on what was one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2010.
No. 4: Cincinnati Bengals Select A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
A.J. Green is a dominant force at wide receiver, and the Bengals would be happy to have him with the fourth pick in the draft.
He has everything you want in a receiver; Green is fast, tall, physical, has great hands and runs clean routes. He was productive in the competitive SEC and he can be a No. 1 receiver the second he steps on the field. Not only was he productive on the field, but he also was a star at the NFL combine. He's as close to can't-miss as a wide receiver comes.
The Bengals also have questions at quarterback, but having A.J. Green catching passes will help solidify whoever they have calling plays.
I agree that this is a good pick and he will be a productive receiver at the next level. Julio Jones is another option here, but the thinking of most experts is that Green is the better prospect.
No. 5: Arizona Cardinals Select Blain Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Kurt Warner's departure hurt them the most as they had no viable answer at the quarterback position. Blaine Gabbert needs to be the pick here because John Skelton is not the long term answer. Gabbert is a much safer pick than Newton, though he doesn't possess the same superhuman athletic qualities.
The Cardinals will be happy to take Gabbert at No. 5 and they will be hoping that he can fill the void that Warner's retirement created.
Gabbert has prototypical NFL size, strength and athleticism. The Cardinals have a great coaching staff led by Ken Whisenhunt, and I'm sure they will be able to get the most out of their selection. Gabbert has a great work ethic and he will be receptive to coaching.
I agree with the experts on this one; the Cardinals simply need someone that can get the ball to their No. 1 star, Larry Fitzgerald.
No. 6: Cleveland Browns Select Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Julio Jones is the second-best wide receiver in this draft class behind A.J. Green, but it's a very close second. The Browns need a weapon for Colt McCoy to throw to, and Jones is a great option here at No. 6.
Jones was productive and explosive at Alabama, using his great combination of size and speed to over match some of the best defensive backs in the SEC. Against Patrick Peterson, one of the best players in this draft, Jones put up 10 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown; that's not a bad day against someone who is regarded as a can't-miss shutdown corner at the NFL level.
For a team that had Chansi Stuckey and Brian Robiske seeing many of the snaps at receiver, Jones will be a welcome addition to a growing and developing offense. Peyton Hillis, Colt McCoy and Julio Jones is a great base to build on for the future.
I think this is a perfect pick for the Browns and, while they'd like to see Green fall to them, Jones is just as worthy of the No. 6 selection.
No. 7: San Francisco 49ers Select Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Patrick Peterson is easily the top talent in this draft, and the 49ers will be smiling widely when they see him drop to the No. 7 pick.
When it comes to cornerback play, this guy's got it all; he can shut down the opposition's best receiver, he's got track star speed and he hits like a safety. Aside from all of that, Peterson can contribute in the return game as a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
The 49ers were 24th in the NFL in defending the pass in 2010, so taking Peterson here is the smartest pick.
For some reason, top defensive backs never go No. 1 (see Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders, Champ Bailey and Troy Polamalu) despite the fact that we've seen first hand just how much they can dominate and game and upgrade a defense. If you need further proof, look at Darrelle Revis and the huge impact he has on the Jets defense.
I agree with the experts on this choice and, if the 49ers are presented with a chance to draft Peterson, I suspect they will do it.
No. 8: Tennessee Titans Select Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Like the 49ers, the Titans would have to be elated to see Nick Fairley fall to them at this late stage of the top 10. Fairley has the talent to be an every down, game changing defensive tackle like B.J. Raji and Ndamukong Suh.
Questions abound regarding his character, on-field self-control and work ethic, but the risk is definitely worth it. Like I said before, I would consider him at No. 2 for the Broncos, and if he falls to No. 8 the Titans have to pull the trigger.
Rarely do defensive tackles come along that can change a game in the way that Fairley can. I saw the same thing with Suh in college, and I think that Fairley can have that kind of impact in the NFL. The question is whether or not Fairley has the will and desire to be the best that he can be.
The Titans have faith in their new coaching staff, and I am confident that they can mold Fairley into a superstar defender. After all, what are they getting paid for? Draft the supreme talent and trust that your guys can shape him into the player he was born to be.
After all, look at that athleticism! He can be seen here leap-frogging 6'0" safety Zac Etheridge, no small feat for a man who weighs in at 6'3", 291 lbs.
No. 9: Dallas Cowboys Select Tyron Smith,
Both Kiper and McShay feel that Tyron Smith is the best option for the Cowboys at No. 9, and I agree with them, in a sense.
I agree that they need to take an offensive lineman; all to often, Jerry Jones elects to choose the flashy skill position player over the player they really need, and that's resulted in them having an offensive line that leaves much to be desired.
Smith is a good prospect, though I feel they are reaching here at No. 9. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, this isn't the strongest offensive line class in recent memory, so I feel they would be better off trading down to the high teens and taking a guy like Anthony Castonzo or Mike Pouncey.
There, they could get more value and pick up another late round pick in the process. Smith is a good player, but he's not top 10 good.
No. 10: Washington Redskins Select J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Redskins are a team that has needs all over the field, but they can't go wrong in trying to improve their defensive line. J.J. Watt was a handful for Big Ten offensive lines in college, and I expect more of the same in the NFL.
The experts are saying that the Redskins really like Watt and the energy he brings to the field, so this will probably be the pick that they make. Although the Redskins do need a quarterback for the future, there is no one here who would give them good value. Perhaps, if they really wanted a guy like Jake Locker, Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton, they could trade down and grab them in the late first or early second rounds.
If they pick here at 10, they could do much worse than Watt. He's a great pass rusher and even better against the run. At 6'5", 290 lbs., he's got everything you could want in a defensive end; he's got a great combination of physical strength and get-around-the-edge speed.
His athleticism is among the best in the draft at the defensive end position, and that will serve him well going up against NFL caliber tackles.
Mike Osterberg is a student at Penn State University and Featured Columnist for the New York Giants. Follow him on twitter @Mike_Osterberg.