I can admit that it’s pretty insane to project a first round that you not only don’t have the draft order for, but the pool of available/draftable players is also a bit of a mystery when considering the junior class.
If you haven’t guessed by now though, I am insane and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than trying to project the first round of the draft. Why not, I’m actually not too bad at doing it, and there’s even proof on the interewebz now: Mock Draft Accuracy.
Yes, before you ask, I’ll be wearing that link out all year long, and I’ll also be wearing out this site w/ tons of 2011 content.
On that note, let’s get to our first 2011 NFL Mock Draft of the year. . .
1. St Louis Rams: AJ Green - WR - Georgia
This guy is about as close to a Randy Moss clone as we’ve seen in a long time. He’s got elite speed, great size, and tremendous hands/concentration. Don’t be surprised to see him as the number one player off the board in April. Green immediately established himself as one of Matt Stafford’s go-to guys as a true freshman in 2008, and compares very favorably to Moss with his elite size and speed combination.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Robert Quinn - DE - North Carolina
It’s still a big mystery to most scouts and draft experts why the Bucs didn’t address defensive end in the 2010 Draft with what should still remain a big area of need. Outside of former Arena League star Stylez G. White, the Bucs have nobody to put pressure on the quarterback from the edge. Quinn is a monster pass rusher and would be a nice fit along Tampa’s revamped D-Line.
3. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Mallett - QB - Arkansas
I had this kid as a potential first-rounder but he wisely choose to stay in school another year. Mallett has tremendous arm strength and prototype size for the position. The Bills obviously didn’t see their franchise QB in the 2010 Draft, so they’re opting to take their chances and see if they can’t land one of the elite QBs from this class.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jake Locker - QB - Washington
While most folks might assume Locker goes as the consensus number one pick, I see the Bills taking the chance on the player with the stronger arm and bigger upside. Locker should be ready to play right away after another year of seasoning in 2010. I just don’t see the Jaguars winning with David Garrard, and regardless of the team moving or not, QB is exactly the position they’ll be looking at in the upcoming draft.
5. Denver Broncos: Bruce Carter - OLB - North Carolina
While the Broncos will discover that WR remains a need position, they’ll ignore QB and WR to select a linebacker that will fit on the inside of their 3-4 defense. I really like Carter, and while I think the Broncos will be better served looking in other areas, I wouldn’t be shocked to see McDaniels take the best player on his board.
6. Kansas City Chiefs: Andrew Luck - QB - Stanford
Yes, before you ask, this is a MUCH better QB class than this past year. Luck has the potential to be the first player selected in this draft if things fall in the right place. Either way, he’s going to be a top-10 pick if he declares this year. The Chiefs will owe Matt Cassel a $7 Million+ bonus this next off-season, so expect them to part ways if Kansas City has to endure another sub .500 season.
7. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones - WR - Alabama
I’m still not sold on QB Colt McCoy, but I remain confident that we won’t see much of him this season if at all. The Brownies still have needs all over the field, but they should be looking for more play makers on offense if they’re even considering the McCoy experiment. Jones could be a dynamic receiver at the next level, and the Browns need all the help they can get on the scoreboard.
8. New England Patriots: Cameron Heyward - DE - Ohio State
With the pick the Patriots robbed the Raiders of in the Richard Seymour trade, the Pats will look to bolster their defensive front with a very talented end who would fit in nicely as a 5-technique. Heyward is the son of former Saints RB Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, and Cameron has been a starter for the Buckeyes since the day he arrived in Columbus.
9. Detroit Lions: Anthony Costanzo - OT - Boston College
The Lions might get Matt Stafford killed this season if they can’t keep his jersey clean, and while I think Stafford makes it to 2011 alive, he’s going to need more help up front in a very tough division full of pass rushers like Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, and Clay Matthews. It’s still a bit of a mystery that they didn’t go after a lineman higher in the previous draft, but that’s Detroit for you.
10. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson - CB - Louisiana State
Peterson has great size, good speed, and terrific instincts. The Cardinals defense has suffered a lot of hits. And while they did do a good job of addressing linebacker and defensive tackle, they still have holes in a that secondary. Their lack of depth at corner was blatantly obvious when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was injured late last season.
11. Carolina Panthers: Greg Romeus - DE - Pittsburgh
Romeus has terrific strength and speed for his size, and has been wreaking havoc on opposing QBs since the day he put on a Panthers uniform. He’s a natural fit as a base end in a 4-3 defense, and the Panthers might not be able to get by on just Everette Brown, Charles Johnson, and Tyler Brayton off the edge. Romeus would give the team a really nice influx of youth for their DE rotation.
12. Seattle Seahawks: Adrian Clayborn - DE - Iowa
The Seahawks did a really good job with the 2010 Draft but they still have needs on defense, and pass rusher remains one of them. I love Lawrence Jackson just as much as anybody out there, but he and Chris Clemons can’t get into the backfield on a regular basis. Clayborn will bring a very physical presence to the rotation and should figure in as a starter by mid-year.
13. Tennessee Titans: Marvin Austin - DT - North Carolina
The Titans have a lot of talent but they need sharper teeth on defense. While most believe their secondary and line backing corps is the issue, I would argue that defensive tackle is still an area of need if they expect their front four to dominate the way it used to. While Austin is no Albert Haynesworth, he’s a very imposing tackle that plays with a mean streak.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers: Gabe Carimi - OT - Wisconsin
I think the Steelers will stick by their bone-headed QB and even give him some more protection to boot. While I love the addition of Pouncey in 2010, I still think the Steelers need to find their left tackle of the future. Carimi is massive and he has great technique, combined with excellent footwork. While the Steelers could continue to get by another year with Willie Colon and Max Starks, they could draft a long-term answer in Carimi.
15. Chicago Bears: Nate Solder - OT - Colorado
It’s been a few years since the Bears had the chance to pick in the first round, so they’ll naturally be looking at offensive tackle or wide receiver. I’m still of the opinion that Mike Martz thinks he can get it done with the receivers he’s got, which leads me to believe that they’ll go after a lineman to protect their QB. Solder is a mountain of a man at 6′8″ but he’s also got all-world potential if he can turn in another solid season for Colorado.
16. Philadelphia Eagles: Ros-I Dowling - CB - Virginia
I had this kid as a first-rounder last year if he would have declared, but another year of seasoning at Virginia will only help his stock in my opinion. The Eagles are always looking for talent to add in the secondary, and Dowling could definitely help out immediately. He has great size and good instincts to react to the ball in the air and come down with the interception.
17. Miami Dolphins: Evan Royster - RB - Penn State
Royster is one of the more exciting running backs in college football, and the Dolphins certainly could use an influx of youth at that position. Ricky Williams is nearing the end of his career, and while Ronnie Brown isn’t exactly long in the tooth, he’s got a long list of injuries that have been piling up. Royster would give them a potential RB to mold for the future.
18. Houston Texans: Michael Floyd - WR - Notre Dame
It’s either defensive end, another cornerback, or wide receiver in my mind. They added their running back and corner back of the future with the selections of Ben Tate and Kareem Jackson, so I see them trying to find that big receiver to compliment Andre Johnson. Floyd is a terrific leaper with soft hands, and he’s got a great combination of size and speed to be a deep threat at the next level.
19. New Orleans Saints: DaQuan Bowers - DE - Clemson
Sorry Saints fans, but I don’t see the Lombardigras continuing on for another year. The team is solid in a lot of areas but I see defensive end being a potential issue this season on the other side of Will Smith. Alex Brown and Bobby McCray are more stop-gap options than anything else. Bowers is a huge base end that could boost his stock with a standout junior year.
20. New York Giants: Greg Jones - LB - Michigan State
The Giants didn’t address middle linebacker in 2010 until the fourth round with the selection of Phillip Dillard, but I’m not convinced that he, Jonathan Goff, or Chase Blackburn are the answer there. Jones has the potential to be a solid middle linebacker in the NFL because of his terrific instincts and football smarts.
21. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Baldwin - WR - Pittsburgh
The Redskins have a lot of talent at the wide receiver position, but none of the players on their roster are elite. While McNabb will make the WR corps better, they’d do well to snag a future star in the middle of the first round. Baldwin is a phenom that has been compared to Larry Fitzgerald by the Pittsburgh coaching staff.
22. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara - CB - Nebraska
The 49ers still have a need at corner back, as neither Nate Clements or Shawntae Spencer are considered long-term answers. The coaching staff likes what it has in Terrell Brown, but they need a corner that has elite potential and Amukamara is just that. His size/speed combination would certainly entice the 49ers to think hard about adding him to their secondary.
23. Green Bay Packers: Jeremy Beal - DE - Oklahoma
The Packers have a stout defense, but they’re going to have to add another hybrid athlete on the outside to compliment Clay Matthews at linebacker. Green Bay made a smooth transition to the 3-4 last season, but they need to continue adding pieces that will fit their scheme and Beal definitely fits. Beal is explosive off the edge and could bring a lot of versatility to Dom Capers’ defense.
24. New England Patriots: Jerell Powe - DT - Mississippi
The Pats are stock piling at this point, but they still could use another big tackle in the rotation behind Vince Wilfork. While it’s not out of the question that they could go running back, the Pats collect interior lineman, and they’re in need of another pure nose tackle. Powe is large and in charge at 340 lbs, but he’s got great anchor strength and should be able to hold the point of attack well in the pros.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Aaron Williams - CB - Texas
It’s still a shock to some that the Ravens didn’t address the corner back position in the 2010 Draft, but they’ll get their chance with the athletic play maker Williams. Baltimore can’t be counting on either Dominique Foxworth or Fabian Washington for the long term, so taking a corner makes a lot of sense. Williams has good size and great instincts, in addition to his exceptional recovery speed.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: Deunta Williams - S - North Carolina
The Bengals have been getting by on the cheap at this position and this year, it will become obvious that they need a difference maker in the defensive backfield if they want to control their division. Williams is a super-sized safety that not only hits like a ton of bricks, but has tremendous instincts to cover the deep pass and play center field. He’s been a starter since the day he set foot on campus at Chapel Hill.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Ryan Williams - RB - Virginia Tech
The Falcons love to run the ball but they struggled to get the job done down the stretch. While the Falcons have a decent RB corps, the Va Tech Hokie is a more explosive version of Jerious Norwood and would offer the club another weapon in the passing game. Williams might see a small decline in numbers this season if Darren Evans returns from a torn ACL, but the super sophomore should still remain high on a lot of draft boards.
28. New York Jets: Akeem Ayers - OLB - UCLA
The Jets are a very strong team with not a lot of holes to fill, but adding fire power to an already tough defense would certainly be something New York is looking to do. Ayers is a classic hybrid that will translate well into a 3-4 defense on the outside rushing the passer and stopping the run. He is a great athlete that plays with a chip on his shoulder, something the Jets covet in their defensive players.
29. Minnesota Vikings: Jerrod Johnson - QB - Texas A&M
Can you say reach? I knew that you could, and while I’m not sold on Johnson just yet, he’s got a lot of upside to be a difference maker at the QB position. At 6′5 250 lbs, Johnson won’t be easy to take down in the open field and he offers great arm strength to go along with his mobility outside of the pocket. If you’re looking for a Josh Freeman-type that could sneak into the first round, this is your guy.
30. San Diego Chargers: Matt Reynolds - OT - Brigham Young
The Chargers offensive line isn’t what it used to be, and while most folks were fine placing the running game woes squarely on the shoulders of LaDainian Tomlinson, I still didn’t see many holes for the former All-Pro to run through. I look for the Chargers to address the offensive line early in this draft, and Reynolds would be a great addition to the right side of that group.
31. Indianapolis Colts: Mike Pouncey - C - Florida
“Hey wait a minute!” No, this is no mistake. This is the twin brother of Maurkice Pouncey and he’s also a beast. The Colts want to get more physical up front and run the ball better. While there are other needs to address, Pouncey will help set the tone up front, and offer a future replacement for Jeff Saturday that can play guard in the meantime.
32. Dallas Cowboys: Marcel Darius - DE - Alabama
This guy had a monster performance in the BCS National Championship Game, knocking Colt McCoy out of the contest. He also made an interception on a shovel pass, and took it three yards all the way back for a TD with a very nifty spin move for a 300-pounder. The Cowboys covet big physical players for their 3-4 front and Dareus fits that mold to perfection.
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