2011 NFL Mock Draft: Last Hour Predictions for All 32 First Round Picks
2011 NFL mock drafts are in their final stages of relevance as the 2011 NFL Draft is set to begin in a matter of hours.
Countless rumors have been flung across the internet about which teams are interested in which prospects, who will make trades and who is facing a draft day free fall.
So, after months of speculation, sifting through rumors and reading between the lines, here's my final projection.
On to the picks.
First Round, Picks 1-8
1. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton, QB Auburn
It seems all but a done deal at this point. Ron Rivera, new Panthers head coach, will tie his legacy in Carolina with the Heisman Trophy winning QB from Auburn. While there's no doubt Newton has a high risk factor, his potential is mesmerizing.
2. Denver Broncos - Von Miller, OLB Texas A&M
Marcel Dareus has been the projected pick to the Broncos by most for a while now, but today the Denver Post is reporting that it's Von Miller or bust for John Elway and the Broncos. They'll also look to trade out of this spot for the right package.
3. Buffalo Bills - Marcel Dareus, DT Alabama
Dareus is thought of highly by most draft pundits and was projected to go #1 overall a few weeks ago. He's probably the best player available at this spot (Patrick Peterson the other possibility, or A.J. Green), so the Bills get good value with the third pick.
4. Cincinnati Bengals - A.J. Green, WR Georgia
Chad Ochocinco has probably played his last down in Cincy and A.J. Green is the best WR prospect since Calvin Johnson a few years ago. Now, the Bengals will just have to find someone to throw him the ball.
5. Arizona Cardinals - Patrick Peterson, CB LSU
Patrick Peterson is my favorite player in this draft, a big physical corner with elite speed who can help in the return game. Blaine Gabbert will get a good, long look, but the Cardinals would be smart to draft this year's best overall player.
6. Cleveland Browns - Julio Jones, WR Alabama
Julio Jones is this class' second best wide receiver, an intimidating physical force who fits perfectly in a classic west coast offense. The Browns are in dire need of a playmaker on the edge and Jones makes most sense at this spot.
7. San Francisco 49ers - Robert Quinn, DE/OLB UNC
The Niners brass will be desperately hoping that Peterson falls to this spot, but if not, Quinn is a nice fallback plan. Though he hasn't played football in over a year, Quinn is a dominating pass rusher and would immediately improve the Niners' D.
8. Tennessee Titans - Jake Locker
The Titans could go a number of ways with this pick, including Nick Fairley or Blaine Gabbert. I think they'll roll the dice on Jake Locker. Various reports (for whatever that's worth) have pegged the Titans as being interested in Locker. They could try and trade down, but if they're still at No. 8, they'll go for the UDub QB.
First Round, Picks 9-17
9. Dallas Cowboys - Anthony Castonzo, OT BC
Tyron Smith, OT from USC, has been the popular projection here for a while. My sense is Jerry Jones will go another route, instead taking an NFL ready guy who can step in from day one at right tackle.
10. Washington Redskins - Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri
Mike Shanahan thanks his lucky stars as the Missouri QB falls all the way to No. 10. Donovan McNabb isn't the answer, nor is Rex Grossman (obviously). Gabbert was the projected No. 1 overall pick for much of the offseason and offers great value here.
11. Houston Texans - Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska
Colorado CB Jimmy Smith may be the most talented d-back in the draft, but character concerns make him too much of a risk here. Prince has a great work ethic and solid technique. He'll be a day one starter for the Texans' beleaguered secondary.
12. Minnesota Vikings - Tyron Smith, OT USC
If Locker had fallen to this spot, the Vikings probably would've nabbed him. They'll also give Ryan Mallett a good long look, but opt instead to draft the best OT in the class. He may need a few years to develop, but Smith has the potential to be a multi-year Pro Bowl selection.
13. Detroit Lions - Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado
Though reports came out this morning that Smith failed three drug tests, his talent is too much to pass up at this point. He'll offer an immediate upgrade to a shoddy defensive backfield.
14. St. Louis Rams - Nick Fairley, DT Auburn
The fall for Fairley stops at No. 14. The Rams have drafted a slew of defensive linemen over the last few years with varying results, but Fairley is too much of a talent for the Rams to not grab here. Another blue chip talent in the first round for the second straight year.
15. Miami Dolphins - Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas
Though the Dolphins would have you believe otherwise, the team knows Chad Henne isn't their guy. And oh, by the way, the 'Phins have a pretty good history with big, immobile QBs with drug concerns and huge arms.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars - Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue
The Jags select another DE in the first round, this time the ultra-hard working Ryan Kerrigan. While he's not an exceptional athlete, he has a very high floor and should contribute early.
17. New England Patriots - Cam Jordan, DE Cal
Jordan had a monster Senior Bowl and proved he's one of the elite DEs in a class filled with them. He's an ideal 3-4 defensive end and offers a great replacement for Richard Seymour, the player the Pats gave up to receive this pick.
First Round, Picks 18-25
18. San Diego Chargers - J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin
The Chargers haven't made it much of a secret they're targeting a rush linebacker or defensive end, and J.J. Watt is the best player available on the board at this spot. He's got a great motor and should be able to contribute in Mike Manusky's 3-4 defense right away.
19. New York Giants - Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin
The second straight Badger comes off the board as the Giants snag Carimi. He's big and tough and uses solid technique, but isn't an elite athlete. Nevertheless, he gives the Giants the opportunity to shuffle their aging bodies on their o-line.
20. Tampa Bay Bucs - Da'Quan Bowers, DE Clemson
Not too long ago, Bowers was considered the best player in this draft class. Knee injuries have ruined his draft stock as of late, but he won't fall past the Bucs at No. 20.
21. Kansas City Chiefs - Derek Sherrod, OT Mississippi State
The Chiefs would love to add a wide receiver at some point in the first couple rounds, but there isn't a player who deserves a selection at this point. Sherrod has seen his stock rise as of late and fills a need on the offensive line right away.
22. Indianapolis Colts - Nate Solder, OT Colorado
Solder is the last of the OTs with a first round grade left on the board. Though he's almost too tall (6'8"), he has the athleticism and feet to play left tackle in the NFL for years.
23. Philadelphia Eagles - Mike Pouncey, OG Florida
The interior of the Eagles' offensive line is riddled with free agents and aging veterans, and if Mike Pouncey performs at 80 percent of the level of his twin, he's a steal at No. 23 overall.
24. New Orleans Saints - Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa
Adrian Clayborn had a disappointing senior season after posting double digit sack numbers as a junior, but there's no doubt the former Hawkeye is a force off the edge. He's a perfect fit for the Saints' 4-3 defense.
25. Seattle Seahawks - Christian Ponder, QB FSU
Pete Carroll could opt to go with Ponder or TCU's Dalton here, but I think he'll lean towards the former Seminole. Ponder is extremely accurate and had a great Senior Bowl, and he should push Charlie Whitehurst for playing time in training camp.
First Round, Picks 26-32
26. Baltimore Ravens - Aaron Williams, CB Texas
The Ravens secondary was injury-riddled in 2010, and was without a doubt the weakness of the defense. Aaron Williams is big (potentially a FS down the road) and has enough speed to warrant a first round selection.
27. Atlanta Falcons - Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA
People have been down on Ayers ever since he posted a 4.8 40 at the NFL combine, but the former UCLA Bruin is a talented linebacker. He plays sideline to sideline, has good instincts, and can shed blocks. Should pair well at OLB with Sean Weatherspoon.
28. New England Patriots - Muhammad Wilkerson, DE Temple
Wilkerson is a big, physical 3-4 defensive end who is versatile enough to kick into nose on passing downs. It's likely the Pats will trade one of their two first round picks, but if not, a haul of Jordan and Wilkerson would transform their d-line.
29. Chicago Bears - Stephen Paea, DT Oregon State
Paea is a short, stout DT prospect who has incredible weight room strength that doesn't always translate to the field. However, he's very disruptive and would be a nice complement to the Bears' d-line.
30. New York Jets - Phil Taylor, DT Baylor
Taylor is a massive prospect from Baylor (340 lbs), who has struggled with weight problems in the past. If he can stay around his current weight, he should be a great 3-4 anchor for Rex Ryan.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers - Danny Watkins, OG Baylor
The Steelers would love to add their second Pouncey brother in as many years and could make a move to trade up and snatch him. If not, Watkins is an older (26) prospect who is relatively new to football, but is as tough as they come and would start immediately.
32. Green Bay Packers - Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner heads to Green Bay, where he serves as a secondary option behind Ryan Grant. Though James Starks had some flashes last year, Ingram is the more talented player who would serve multiple purposes behind Grant.