NFL Draft 2011: Top 5 1st Round Steals and Busts
The first round of the 2011 NFL draft is in the books. The smoke has settled and the initial reactions and grades are in. Now, we take an even deeper look at the prospects and their destination to see which teams landed steals in their slots and which players could turn into busts.
The top six selections are locks. They landed where they should be and will thrive in their destinations.
Cam Newton will sell tickets in Carolina.
Von Miller will rejuvenate the defense in Denver.
Marcell Dareus is the anchor for Buffalo.
A.J. Green is the next superstar in Cincinnati.
Patrick Peterson will solidify arguably the best secondary in the NFL.
Julio Jones completes Atlanta’s offense.
These six are set for long, top-notch careers with their elite abilities. Yet the rest of the wild first round allowed for potential steals and busts.
We’re going to leave James Carpenter and Jon Baldwin off today because Seattle and Kansas City reached. We’ll get to them another day. The rest of first round is fair game.
Bust No. 5: Robert Quinn, North Carolina DE to St. Louis Rams
As much as it paints me to say, Quinn could potentially bust in St. Louis. I’m a big fan of Quinn, head coach Steve Spagnoulo and the direction the Rams are headed in general.
Still, I believe Quinn would be better suited as an outside linebacker next to James Laurinaitis than a defensive end.
The rest of the defensive line will not be able to keep the focus off him, which could hinder his attempts to get to the quarterback and improve the overall line. He will be the new superstar on the line and will be looked at to accelerate the progression of former first-round pick Chris Long.
He was my No. 5 overall prospect and No. 2 pass rusher in the class though. He has elite talent and could have an Elvis Dumervil-type impact for the Rams.
Still, there’s a chance he could flame out in St. Louis as a defensive end because he relies more on his speed off the edge and will not have top-level talent surrounding him on the defensive line to keep pressure off him.
Steal No. 5: Jimmy Smith, Colorado CB to Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens should have been bashed relentlessly for missing their pick, but reports have surfaced that they had a deal in place with Chicago to trade down to acquire the Bears’ 2011 first- and fourth-round selections.
I’ll forgive you, Baltimore, because that would have been a downright steal.
Baltimore was able to land the No. 1 player I had pegged for them.
Jimmy Smith could very well turn into the best cornerback in this entire class, maybe even the best player in the class overall. He has elite ability right now. He is one of my favorite players in the draft for his on-field talent.
The only reason he fell in the draft was character issues. Not only is the drinking and smoking overblown—Ben Roethlisberger drinks and even Calvin Johnson admitted to smoking—but he lands in the prime destination for several reasons.
First off, Baltimore desperately needed a cornerback of his caliber.
Second, and more importantly for Smith, he joins a team with Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. Let’s get one thing straight: Jimmy Smith will not act out with Lewis and Suggs in the locker room.
The NFL better get ready, because Jimmy Smith is coming.
Bust No. 4: Phil Taylor, Baylor DT to Cleveland Browns
Cleveland made a great move to trade down in the draft and then made a silly decision to trade up. Not only do I believe they could have landed Taylor at No. 27, but I don’t even believe he was the right selection.
He is the best 3-4 nose tackle in the draft, yet the Browns are looking to switch to the 4-3 defense. He will still make an impact, and they made the smart decision to draft Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard to help improve the defensive line and pass rush.
Sheard’s ability off the edge will help Taylor from becoming a bust, but he could be one of those often-injured players. Although cleared by several doctors, he does have an inoperable foot injury. His recent weight loss will help him stay on the field, but will it take away from his impact as a defensive tackle?
He is a top-five DT, but he comes with several concerns.
Steal No. 4: Cameron Jordan, California DE to New Orleans Saints
Cameron Jordan is the son of former Vikings player Steve Jordan. He was my No. 2 rated defensive end in this draft, as he may be the most NFL-ready defensive end in the entire class. He is simply a solid player all around and a fantastic selection for the Saints.
He should have been drafted much higher with his ability to step in immediately to make a major impact for any defensive front seven. New Orleans desperately needed to improve their defensive line and pass rush following their heart-breaking loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
He had no business free falling to the No. 24 selection. He is a top-10 talent in this draft and will become a leader very quickly in New Orleans. Jonathan Vilma will be extremely happy to have Jordan up front.
Bust No. 3: Nate Solder, Colorado OT to New England Patriots
I still believe this was a poor selection for the Patriots. Solder was my No. 4 offensive tackle and is easily the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft with Tyron Smith, as he was a converted tight end.
Still, I believe he needs more time to develop, and if he is asked to start as a rookie, he could be outmatched in the NFL this year.
Bill Belichick would have been better off selecting Anthony Castonzo, as he is more NFL-ready right now. I’m not trying to put Solder down by any means. He has a high ceiling and is a top offensive tackle. Still, I could see him struggling if asked to start immediately.
Steal No. 3: Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple DE to New York Jets
I had the Jets pegged for Arizona’s Brooks Reed for most of the past month. That’s because I always figured Muhammad Wilkerson would be gone by the No. 30 pick.
Guess what—he should have been!
Wilkerson is a potential top-10 talent in this draft. He is a remarkable defensive lineman with excellent work ethic, dedication, motor and on-field talent.
He will become an instant favorite in New York with his abilities to stop the run and attack the passer. This is the ideal player for the Jets at defensive end, and they will walk away from this draft feeling that they can get over their AFC Championship hump.
Bust No. 2: Christian Ponder, Florida State QB to Minnesota Vikings
I predicted in a couple of mocks that the Vikings would select Christian Ponder. He is a fine young quarterback and was actually my No. 3 QB in this draft.
He is a solid leader with experience, fine arm strength, good decision-making and accuracy. He is the game manager the Vikings need.
Why then is he the No. 2 bust of the first round?
The only thing that will make him a bust will be his inability to stay healthy. I can only hope, for his sake, that his injury history is behind him. Yet he has not proven to be a durable quarterback throughout his career.
Injuries are freak occurrences, and nobody can ever predict an injury. Still, some people are just more prone to injuries than others, and he is toward the top of this class on that list.
Steal No. 2: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin OT to Chicago Bears
The Bears lucked out when Carimi of all players fell to them late in the first round. He is my No. 1 offensive tackle with his nasty nature and malicious run-blocking ability. He is the type of player every team wants in their trenches controlling the pace of the game. He should have been taken much earlier.
He believes he is the best offensive tackle in the class—as he should—and will now be out to prove every team wrong for passing on him. This is bad news for every team in the NFL.
The Bears’ No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 concerns were on the offensive line. They desperately need to protect Jay Cutler and improve the rushing attack with Matt Forte. With one free-falling prospect, they were able to do just that.
Bust No. 1: Jake Locker, Washington QB to Tennessee Titans
This is a great landing spot for Locker, because he has one of the best running backs in the league to hand the rock to in Chris Johnson. Johnson will take a ton of pressure off the athletic quarterback as the Titans find ways to get him the ball.
Still, this was a poor selection for Tennessee at No. 8. They could have traded down and still landed Locker, but more importantly, a quarterback was still on the board that better fit their system in Blaine Gabbert.
I’m not a fan of Gabbert, but he has the short-range accuracy needed for the Titans’ system, makes better reads and still has mobility.
Locker had a poor senior season, and I was never high on him to begin with. He will rely more on his athleticism in the NFL, I believe, as he does not have the accuracy of a starting NFL QB.
Steal No. 1: Nick Fairley, Auburn DT to Detroit Lions
I predicted Fairley would drop to the Lions in a few scenarios and am glad we are going to get to see him paired with Ndamukong Suh. Suh and Fairley will create the most dominant, menacing and ferocious defensive tackle duo in the history of the NFL.
This is the ideal landing spot for him because he won’t be asked to be the man. He’ll also be forced to perform well because, well, nobody would dare tank it with Suh on the team—he’d slap even Nick Fairley around!
Maybe that’s why he didn’t look too excited to get drafted by the Lions, because he knows he will have to work.
Fairley was the anchor for the Auburn Tigers defense and single-handedly carried the defense to the National Championship. I think he will work hard in the NFL and be fantastic now that the pressure will not be on his shoulders to anchor an NFL defense.
The Lions will now boast two of the nastiest and strongest defensive tackles in the history of the position. For a team on the verge of competing and taking the NFC North division, this was a dream scenario. I feel bad for any quarterback and running back that will have to face this relentless duo.