We are less than eight hours away from the start of the 2011 NFL Draft and more and more rumors are picking up. The talk of the Falcons trading up in to the top-10 to take either A.J. Green or Julio Jones has picked up, as well as rumors that the Steelers could trade down out of the first round.
No mock draft is ever completely accurate, because there are bound to be trades that shake up the first round. This year, there could be even more trading, as we seem to know even less about the outcome of this draft than we have in years past.
Sam Bradford practically signed the paperwork with the Rams before ever being drafted, yet this year all we know is that the Carolina Panthers have four players in mind for first overall.
In this final mock draft, I will bring together all of the trade rumors, tweets, predictions, mocks and big boards to try and piece together how the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft will play out.
So, Carolina...you are on the clock….
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
The Panthers swung and missed on Jimmy Clausen in 2010 and will take a quarterback with their first selection in the draft. Is Newton the best passer in the draft? No. However, Newton does bring a level of athleticism and playmaking ability that few quarterbacks possess and will force opposing teams to switch their game plans.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama
Dareus could end up being the best defensive tackle or the best defensive end in the draft, as he could end up playing a few different spots. The Broncos need help on defense and would be ten better suited taking Dareus than Von Miller or Patrick Peterson.
3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A
The Bills have been trying their best to implement a 3-4 defense, but have been missing the key component–a playmaking linebacker. Paul Posluszny is a formidable inside linebacker that the team will try and bring back, but the Bills lack an outside linebacker that can get to the quarterback. Aaron Maybin will be entering his third year and has yet to impress, so Miller is a much needed addition.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Blaine Gabbert is still on the board and the Bengals need to find a quarterback… but instead, will take A.J. Green to lead a group of receivers missing a star. Green is an unbelievable talent that could be a star from day one, but the Bengals will have to address their need for a new quarterback after drafting Green.
5. Houston Texans: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The Cardinals could pick up Blaine Gabbert here, but I think they are leaning to picking up a quarterback via free agency. The Cardinals would love to trade this pick for a first rounder in next year’s draft, only to then trade that pick to the Eagles for Kevin Kolb. I don’t think they will be able to find a suitor for that high of a price, however. They will luck out and trade down with the Texans for the 11th overall selection and the Texans second round pick (42ndoverall).
6. Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
In a move that will shock the NFL, the Falcons and Browns will get a major deal done that gives Atlanta arguably the best offense in football (Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Matt Ryan… very scary) and gives the Browns added picks to build their team. This move works out very well for both teams. The Falcons want to win right now and the Browns are quietly building their team to become a contender.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
The Niners need a quarterback and could still choose to find one in the second round. Gabbert has an immense amount of skill and football prowess, however, Gabbert’s intelligence paired with new head coach Jim Harbaugh could turn out to be a very nice relationship in the Bay Area.
8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
The Titans add the draft’s best interior pass-rusher with Fairley and he could remind Titans' fans of Albert Haynesworth in his prime. Hopefully for Titans fans, the similarities will stop once Fairley is off the field. The Titans need to figure out who will be taking snaps for them in 2011, but can wait until the second round to find the right value.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The Boys would love to trade way down in the draft instead of taking Smith here, by taking Nate Solder later on in the draft. Solder should drop to around the 20th pick. Unfortunately, no team that far down will be interested in mortgaging their future to move to the top 10, not after all the impact receivers and quarterbacks have gone. The Cowboys bite the bullet and take the tackle with the most upside to help protect their quarterback.
10. New England Patriots: Robert Quinn, OLB, UNC
In a deal that sends the 17th and likely a third rounder and a later round pick to Washington, the Skins will move back and still be able to draft an impact player, while adding picks later. The Redskins have very few draft picks this year and manholes, so adding picks is the smart move here. The Patriots have an up and coming defense missing a strong pass rushing attack from the outside. Quinn could play outside linebacker or defensive end in the NFL, but either way, he will make quarterbacks pay.
11. Arizona Cardinals: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
The Cardinals have a few options here. They need a new offensive tackle (Anthony Castonzo), a new guard (Mike Pouncey), a new outside linebacker (Aldon Smith), a tight end (Kyle Rudolph) and they could use a new cornerback (Prince Amukamara). I think the Cardinals try to fill a void and go with the best available of all the names listed above, making Aldon Smith a Cardinal. Amukamara is a good choice here too, but new defensive coordinator Ray Horton knows that linebackers are the most important position on the defensive side of the ball in the 3-4.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
The Vikings could go a few different ways with this pick. The team could use a new pass rushing end, a new offensive tackle and without a doubt, could take a quarterback. I think most teams will wait until the early second to find a quarterback, however. Instead, the Vikings will bring in the best offensive tackle available to protect the quarterback they draft with their second pick.
13. Detroit Lions: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The Lions need a new offensive tackle and badly, so they will ignore the needs for a cornerback or defensive end and try and find a way to keep Matt Stafford on his feet in 2011. The Lions will have their choice between Gabe Carimi and Nate Solder. Solder is bigger than Carimi and also has an injury-free past, something Carimi cannot boast.
14. St, Louis Rams: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
The Rams want a wide receiver, but will miss out on A.J. Green or Julio Jones. Corey Liuget is a great addition to the defense. The Rams need a pass rushing defensive tackle and Liuget is the best available, now that Fairley and Dareus are off the board. Other possibilities include the Rams reaching for Mike Pouncey or the Rams trying to find a fit at outside linebacker.
15. New York Giants: Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
The Dolphins are going to try and make a trade here,. They know they want either Mike Pouncey or Mark Ingram, but wish they could move down and still be able to take Ingram while adding picks. The Giants are in desperate need for a guard or a center and will do anything in their power to draft Pouncey. The Dolphins would love for the Steelers to bite on their trade demands, but the price will be too high for the Steelers.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
This pick is a tossup between Watt and Ryan Kerrigan. The Jaguars are rumored to Kerrigan because of his hard working mentality. However, Watt may be an even harder worker. Watt is an explosive end that works very, very hard. I like Watt here, but his versatility to play as an end in the 3-4 could have him go higher.
17. Washington Redskins: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
The Skins were able to move back and add picks later in the draft. They now have the opportunity to take a very good young quarterback in Jake Locker and still try and draft to their needs with the added picks later on in the draft.
18. San Diego Chargers: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
The Chargers will need to add a strong defensive end to their 3-4 system. This isn’t an incredibly easy task, but Jordan should fit in very nicely with the Bolts. The Chargers need to add size and bulk, which Jordan brings.
19. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
The Dolphins still get their guy in Ingram, while adding a third round pick from the Giants. The Dolphins can now address their need for a free safety and inside linebacker in the second and third. Adding a playmaker like Rahim Moore at free safety in the second round, and Quan Sturdivant in the third round could go a long way for this team.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
By this point, you may have noticed that Prince Amukamara is still available and has fallen substantially. The thought process here would be for the Bucs to take the best player available and address a question mark at cornerback, now that Aqib Talib finds himself in even more legal trouble. I don’t think the Bucs are all that concerned about Talib’s legal troubles, they’ve signed worse (have you ever read up on Jeremy Stevens track record? Pretty bad stuff there). They do need to find someone who can step in and play when Talib undoubtedly is suspended. Prince is finally off the board.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Ayers is a solid pass rusher on the outside, but is also versatile in pass coverage. Ayers could step in and compete immediately for the Chiefs. Over time, Ayers could become one of the best linebackers, if he can bulk up to play against the much bigger NFL offensive lineman. He will win at initial contact, but will need some time to develop as a block shedding outside linebacker.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
And the cumulative exhale from Colts staff should knock Goodell off the podium here. The Colts want a new offensive tackle badly and Carimi is a heck of a player. He will bring some worries about injury to the Colts offensive line, but more importantly, will put a jolt in to the Colts running game.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
This pick has been a long time coming, as the Eagles seem to be the team most prepared to take on Smith’s off-field baggage. Maybe adding Smith to a locker room that embraced Mike Vick will be the best thing to happen to him. He could have been a higher pick had he kept his nose clean in college, instead, he will make for one of the toughest cornerback groups in football paired opposite Asante Samuel.
24. New Orleans Saints: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple
The Saints could go with Bowers here, who, if healthy, could be a serious contender for Defensive ROY. Instead, the Saints will be too scared of the injury rumors and go with a safer pick. Wilkerson is a very big guy that adds bulk to the defensive line. The Saints defensive MO is to get to the quarterback, Wilkerson’s strength.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St.
Sherrod is a strong offensive tackle that could come in and play immediately at the right tackle position. The Seahawks could go after a quarterback here, but instead, I think they hold off and are burned by the subsequent run on quarterbacks.
26. Buffalo Bills: Christian Ponder, QB, Florida St.
The Bills will have to send their second and fourth round picks to Baltimore in exchange for Ponder here. The Bills like what Ponder has and can use their third round pick to go back to the defensive line, or even try and pick up a solid receiver like Leonard Hankerson or Greg Little (if they’re still available, that is).
27. Cleveland Browns: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The Browns have just added an arsenal of picks from the Atlanta Falcons and thus, can go with the best player available. Bowers comes with some baggage, but the Browns did their due diligence on him and know that if healthy, Bowers could be a force from day one.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton, QB, TCU
The Bengals will move up in the draft as the run on quarterbacks has now gotten serious. By giving the Bears their next pick and a fourth rounder, they can replace one red bearded quarterback with a red headed one. That would replace one ginger quarterback and one flashy receiver in the first round. The Bengals have officially moved on.
29. Oakland Raiders: Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
The Raiders will move up in to the first round to select a quarterback, but not the one you may expect here. The logical choice would be Ryan Mallett, but the Raiders like badasses with tattoos.
30. New York Jets: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
The Jets could use a big man to anchor their defensive line. Taylor has some injury concerns starting at his feet. Taylor seems to be the logical choice for the Jets and is a Rex Ryan type. As long as Taylor doesn’t make Ryan’s next book, he could be a force in the big apple for some time.
31. Tennessee Titans: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
The Titans and the Steelers are in perfect place to make a deal that is equal value for both parties. The Steelers know they can get either Aaron Williams or Brandon Harris with their next pick and gain a fourth round pick at the same time.
32. Green Bay Packers: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
The Packers could do a few different things here. They could go for a playmaker and take a wide receiver to add to Aaron Rodger’s arsenal, they could reach for a pass rush on the outside or they could be logical and add strength in the middle to protect Aaron Rodgers. The Packers seem pretty smart to me.