With less than two days remaining before the 2011 NFL Draft, its time to unleash our final mocks for all Soup followers to see. Keep in mind everything could change dramatically if free agency and trades open up before the draft begins, although that is no guarantee at the moment.
Regardless, this has been a crazy offseason of news, opinions, rumors and predictions, and at least in terms of players entering the league, we're about to have some answers. Check out my final first round mock draft before the real thing, and leave a comment if I nailed it or missed the mark by a mile.
This has been back and forth and all over the place. Carolina very well just may not have a clue as to who they should take with the top overall pick. When in doubt and when you don't have a franchise quarterback on your roster, you have to go quarterback. Cam Newton has his risks, but he also could be the most talented player in this draft class.
Other possibilities: Marcell Dareus, Blaine Gabbert, A.J. Green
I'm not buying Denver's quarterback smoke screen, and I don't think they'll draft Von Miller. Not if Dareus is here. Patrick Peterson is a real possibility, but ultimately, they still have Champ Bailey and their run defense needs some major help. John Fox's best defenses have had a beast in the middle (ala Kris Jenkins), so starting things off right with a load like Dareus is the right move.
Other possibilities: Patrick Peterson
A part of me keeps going back to Blaine Gabbert here, but I think Buffalo is going to wait on a quarterback. A pure pass rushing specialist like Miller doesn't come around every day, and Aaron Maybin has been a major bust. Miller will come in and bring instant pressure from the outside, while Ryan Fitzpatrick has been stable enough at quarterback for the Bills to wait a round or two for a potential successor.
Other possibilities: Blaine Gabbert
A.J. Green is a solid possibility here, but before the Bengals start adding more receivers, they'll need a quarterback first. Carson Palmer is retiring, sitting out or going to be traded. At least that's what he's having us all think. If he's even remotely serious, Cincy needs to plan accordingly and count their blessings that a guy like Gabbert is here at the fourth pick.
Other possibilities: A.J. Green, Ryan Mallett, Patrick Peterson
I've been seeing Peterson dropping to seven and sometimes lower, and I just don't see it. Arizona may have more pressing needs, but it'd be foolish to reach for a passer they're not in love with at this spot. I can easily see them trading up to land Gabbert if they decide to go for a quarterback, but I've been hearing defense from a lot of places. That could mean Robert Quinn, but not if Peterson is here at five.
Other possibilities: Robert Quinn, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett
The Colt McCoy Era can't officially begin until the guy has some weapons. If Green lasts until pick six, this has to be the selection for Cleveland. Yes, they are another team that could go a number of directions with this pick, but they are starving for a play-makeranywhere on offense. Green is the best receiver in the draft and would be an instant impact performer.
Other possibilities: Prince Amukamara, Julio Jones
The 49ers are said to have offered Alex Smith a one-year deal if he wants it. We may not find out until after the draft if he's coming back or not, but either way, I don't see San Francisco reaching for a quarterback here. If Gabbert somehow falls to seven, sure, but otherwise, first year head coach Jim Harbaugh is just going to play it cool. Nate Clements is aging, and the 49ers' secondary was suspect all season in 2010. Prince Amukamara should look to change that.
Other possibilities: Julio Jones, Jake Locker, Nick Fairley
This will be very interesting. Tennessee is done with Vince Young and has no replacement for him, yet passing on a potential inside stud like Fairley may not make much sense. If Blaine Gabbert is available somehow, I think the Titans bite, but otherwise, Fairley (who many compare to former Titan Albert Haynesworth) is the pick.
Other possibilities: Ryan Mallett
I'm sorry for the lack of suspense, but after studying other mocks, reading team reports and looking back at my own mocks, I still have the same exact top nine players (and counting) as I did in my last mock. That either means I'm really right, or I'm completely off. You really never know.
However, for Dallas, Tyron Smith has to be the pick. He's regarded as the best offensive tackle in this class, and the Cowboys clearly need to do a better job of keeping Tony Romo off his back (broken collarbone).
Other possibilities: Anthony Castonzo, Nate Solder
Reach much? Sorry, but I actually don't view Locker as some big project like other draft analysts do. I think he's a guy who played behind a sketchy offensive line and didn't get a ton of help from his receivers at Washington. He has the size, tools and moxie to be a star at the next level, and Mike Shanahan knows it.
Other possibilities: Julio Jones, Robert Quinn, Jimmy Smith
Houston would love a guy like Von Miller, but he'll be long gone, and any other pure outside pass rushers would be too much of a reach at this point. Corner is another need, but again, it'd involve a major reach. Unless Houston does in fact extend their hands higher than they should, look for them to bolster their defensive line with the addition of Robert Quinn.
Other possibilities: Aldon Smith, Jimmy Smith
Minnesota is currently looking at Joe Webb as their quarterback for 2010, while there are also rumors about Donovan McNabb finding his way to the Vikings. Either way you look at it, neither of those options are for the long term, so getting a kid like Mallett who can sit and learn for a year (or possibly play right away) is the right move. They have several holes, but they have to address the most important position before they can move forward.
Other possibilities: Corey Liuget, Cameron Jordan, Colin Kaepernick
The Lions would love to find a guy to help protect Matthew Stafford on that offensive line here, but Jimmy Smith is too good a prospect to pass up at 13. Many have he and Amukamara neck-and-neck, and Smith certainly has the potential to be a shutdown corner. Big boost to that Detroit secondary.
Other possibilities: Nate Solder, Brandon Harris, Anthony Castonzo
Am I the only guy left who thinks Jones lasts this long? His awesome Combine showing has vaulted him up draft boards, but I still think team's needs will get in the way of actually taking him until this point. The big one is Washington. I think the Skins' are enamored with Jake Locker enough to reach and let Jones slip, which should allow the Rams to get the player they covet the most.
Other possibilities: Corey Liuget, Mikel LeShoure
And this is where I deviate even from my own logic. I know Mark Ingram makes the most sense on paper, and even Mike Pouncey is starting to get a lot of grind in the rumor mill. However, with no second round pick at the moment, the Dolphins would really be losing a shot at landing a solid quarterback in this draft. Everyone knows Chad Henne's days are numbered, and Ponder is seeing his stock rise fast. I could also see Colin Kaepernick or Andy Dalton here.
Other possibilities: Mark Ingram, Mike Pouncey, Colin Kaepernick
Bowers is a top-five talent who would be hyped up as a demon terror for quarterbacks if he wasn't facing questions about his knee. I don't know if he'll be completely himself right away, but the talent is there, and getting him at 16 is a major steal if he's anywhere close to 100 percent.
Other possibilities: Ryan Kerrigan, J.J. Watt, Colin Kaepernick
I like both Justin Houston and Corey Liguet for New England, but Houston should fall due to his recent drug questioning, while I think this might be too early for Liguet. Watt is a stud defense end that probably is lasting longer in this draft than his talent suggests. The Patriots land a new key cog to their growing defensive line.
Other possibilities: Corey Liguet, Mikel LeShoure, Justin Houston
The Chargers have been hurting on their defensive line ever since losing Igor Olshansky and Jamaal Williams. The addition of Heyward should get them going in the right direction up front again.
Other possibilities: Muhammad Wilkerson, Jonathan Baldwin
Eli Manning led the league in interceptions thrown in 2010, and a lot of that had to do with extra defenders in his grill. The Giants could stand to improve their offensive line in general, but grabbing an elite tackle will go a long way in ensuring Manning has the type of longevity his brother has.
Other possibilities: Mike Pouncey, Nate Solder, Gabe Carimi
I really like both Ryan Kerrigan and Da'Quan Bowers here, but that's solely based off of things I've heard or read. My gut feeling says that if Jordan drops this far, he's the guy Tampa Bay will take, because he's the best overall talent on the line, and defensive line is where they're going with this pick. Jordan could be a top 10 pick, but team needs will get in the way of his draft stock, and he could easily drop to 15-20. I have the fall ending here, though, as the Buccaneers get a very talented player and fill a huge need.
Other possibilities: Ryan Kerrigan, Adrian Clayborn, Brandon Harris
KC needs more talent on the outside of their defense, but they could also use some on their defensive line. They've gotten better as a unit at rushing the passer, but Mike Vrabel was invisible on the outside and their defensive line still had some inconsistency. If they aren't concerned about Justin Houston's drug issues, he's the pick. However, I think the mammoth Wilkerson is the safer pick here.
Other possibilities: Phil Taylor, Justin Houston, Brandon Harris
This one may shock some people. Everyone I've seen has Indy going offensive tackle (as they should), but I just can't justify the Colts passing up a talent like Kerrigan. Cameron Jordan falling led to Kerrigan's own fall, and now the Colts have the option of bolstering one of their lines. The Colts aren't getting younger on either line, but Kerrigan is ultimately the more attractive talent.
Other possibilities: Nate Solder, Gabe Carimi, DeAndre McDaniel
As much as the Eagles probably want to draft defense here, they know protecting the fragile Michael Vick is a top priority. The fight could be between Solder and Gabe Carimi, but one of them should end up in Philly when this pick passes through.
Other possibilities: Aldon Smith, Gabe Carimi
New Orleans needs to improve their run defense. They got smashed up by Marshawn Lynch, of all running backs, and Sedrick Ellis just can't do it all on his own all the time anymore. Time to get some talent and youth on the inside of that line.
Other possibilities: Corey Liuget, Phil Taylor, Mikel LeShoure
Seattle could use some help in the secondary, and they get it here with Aaron Williams. Williams' stock has been on the rise of late, and he's good enough to step in and contribute right away for a Seahawks secondary that could use lots of work. Quarterback is also a need, but help at corner is more pressing.
Other possibilities: Colin Kaepernick, Jonathan Baldwin
Baltimore loves getting pass rushers, and in Sheard, they get a pass rusher with good athleticism and versatility. They could beef up their secondary here, too, but adding another elite pass rusher makes sense for their system.
Other possibilities: Brandon Harris, Aaron Williams, Brooks Reed
Kyle Rudolph is really starting to pick up some steam for Atlanta at this pick, but with Tony Gonzalez still on board and there being some good talent at spots where the Falcons could use some help, tight end isn't making a ton of sense. Smith is raw, but he could be a freak in the right system. Atlanta could go secondary, too, but one could argue the addition of help on the defensive line will impact the secondary. Two birds with one stone. Pun intended.
I still think the Patriots are enamored with Justin Houston's versatility, but his stock is falling at the moment, and Bill Belichick has to be thinking he can land his guy with the first pick in the second round. With that out in the open, the Patriots should feel comfortable drafting another guy they covet, and that's versatile defensive lineman Corey Liuget.
Other possibilities: Mark Ingram, Gabe Carimi, Justin Houston
It only makes sense that a Badger goes to play for the Bears, doesn't it? Seriously, though, Jay Cutler has been getting absolutely abused behind a sketchy offensive line and exited the NFC title game because of said poor pass protection. The Bears need to give Cutler no outs in 2011. If they improve his pass protection and offensive weapons and he still falters, then they'll know it was on him and not their lack of trying.
Other possibilities: Derek Sherrod, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Harris
New York could always get some young blood at outside linebacker, but I think the big holes to fill here are either wide receiver or cornerback. With Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Antonio Cromartie all possibly on their way out of New York, the Jets need to make a decision as to which is most likely to leave. They should count on only getting one of their top receivers back (if that), which suggests getting another impact receiver is a necessary move. I think Edwards is the odd man out, making the selection of the big, physical Baldwin all that more important.
Other possibilities: Justin Houston, Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith
Pouncey has the talent to go higher and has said his "main goal" is to beat his brother's selection spot from last season. Because of need, Pouncey is likely looking at 25-30, while him going to meet his brother in Pittsburgh is too heat-warming to not predict.
Other possibilities: Aldon Smith, Jimmy Smith, Aaron Williams
Defensive end in Green Bay's 3-4 arguably needs more attention, but getting another stud outside linebacker across from Clay Matthews could really put this defense over the top. Reed gets comparisons to Matthews for his non-stop motor, long hair, and tenacity. He's not on the same level as Matthews, but he's close. Throw him on the other side, and suddenly, the Packers' defense just got scarier, which I didn't think was possible.
Keep coming back for extensive 2011 NFL Draft coverage, and be sure to stop by for our LIVE NFL Draft Chat and Live Draft Tracker starting tonight at 8:00 pm ET, and running for all three days of the draft!