2011 NFL Draft: 15 Sleepers Who Could Slip Into 1st Round

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer IDecember 21, 2010

2011 NFL Draft: 15 Sleepers Who Could Slip Into 1st Round

0 of 15

    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 26:  Jonathan Baldwin #82 of the Pittsburgh Panthers watches as teammate Dion Lewis #28 fumbles the ball at the goal line against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game on December 26, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Every year draft experts and fans debate on who is going to go in the first round, and every year most people agree on about two thirds of the first round. Every year, most mock drafts end up being correct about two thirds of the players who go in the first round.

    That doesn't mean they get draft order right, or who actually goes to who, but generally everyone works from the same pool of information, minus what the teams talk about behind closed doors and that insider info that doesn't sneak out until later.

    There always are a couple of players, especially toward the end of the first round, who sneak into that first round pool, dropping a "sure thing" into the second round.

    We'll take a look at a bunch of guys who could sneak into the first round and throw everybody's mock draft out of whack.

15. Stefan Wisniewski, C Penn State

1 of 15

    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 13:  Stefan Wisniewski #61 of the Penn State Nittany Lions blocks against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Stefan Wisniewski is a big center out of Penn State. Very few centers go in the first round, but the Patriots offensive line needs youth and Wisniewski could sneak into the bottom of the first round with New England's second pick.

14. Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma State

2 of 15

    STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 05:  Wide receiver Justin Blackmon #81 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys warms up before the college football game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Boone Pickens Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  The Cowboys defe
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Justin Blackmon is a red shirt sophomore, but if he declares the winner of the Biletnikof Award just may catch scouts eyes and power his way into the first round. There are a lot of teams that need wide receivers and Blackmon could be too great a prospect to risk giving to another team.

13. Phil Taylor, DT Baylor

3 of 15

    COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 7: Phil Taylor #11 of the Baylor Bears moves on the field during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Phil Taylor is considered one of the best nose tackle prospects in the draft. So while other teams may focus on the flash positions or upgrading the offensive line, Taylor may get into the first round by a team with a 4-3 scheme in need of a new nose tackle.

12. Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado

4 of 15

    LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 26: Cody Green #17 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers slips past Jimmy Smith #3 of the Colorado Buffaloes during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Colorado 45-17 (Photo by Eric Fran
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    You can't underestimate the worth of a good cornerback. With all the attention being paid to Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, and Janoris Jenkins, a guy like Smith may fly under the radar until the Combine.

    If Smith performs well at the Combine, you could see him shoot up a number of draft boards.

11. Tyron Smith, OT Southern California

5 of 15

    TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 7:  Tyron Smith #70 of the USC Trojans stretches before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils on November 7, 2009 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.  USC won 14-9.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
    Jeff Golden/Getty Images

    Tyron Smith is a beast of a prospect at 6' 5", 285 lbs. Offensive lineman are worth their weight in gold in the first round of the NFL draft and Smith could be one of those athletic freaks who outclasses the rest of the competition in the buildup to the draft and hears his name called instead of someone else.

10. Rahim Moore, S UCLA

6 of 15

    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Safety Rahim Moore #3 of the UCLA Bruins in the game with the Houston Cougars at the Rose Bowl on September 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 31-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Safety Rahim Moore is on more than one first round mock draft, but he's ranked low and has fallen off of ESPN's big board of the Top 32 prospects of late.

    That being said, he's still one of the best safeties in the draft and there's no reason to think one of the teams at the bottom of the draft order in the first round won't scoop this guy up because they fear he won't be there for them when their turn comes up again in the second round.

9. J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin

7 of 15

    ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 20:  J.J. Watt #99 of the Wisconsin Badgers tries to outrun the Michigan offense after intercepting a fourth quarter pass while playing the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Wisco
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    J.J. Watt is a great defensive end prospect whose PR gets lost in the noise of players like Da' Quan Bowers, Adrian Clayborn, and Robert Quinn.

    But anyone who is a Wisconsin fan will tell you Watt is one of the best defensive ends in college football this year, and that his size and speed, coupled with his pass rushing skills, will propel him into first round consideration.

8. Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame

8 of 15

    NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 20:  Michael Floyd #3 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish loses his footing against the Army Black Knights at Yankee Stadium on November 20, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Like Blackmon, Floyd could be that wide receiver that could go low first, high second round. Coming from Notre Dame, that automatically gets Floyd more exposure and it gets him more attention from scouts than if he played at Southwestern Florida Junior College.

    There will be one receiver that technically may be considered a "reach," and you can throw Floyd's name into that pool.

7. Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri

9 of 15

    KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Missouri Tigers passes during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on November 27, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    We have our first quarterback of the list!!

    Blaine Gabbert is a name a lot of casual draft watchers and non-Missouri watchers may not be all that familiar with, but Gabbert quietly has been building a nice draft resume while guys like Jake Locker take a dive this year.

    At 6' 5", 240 lbs., Gabbert is great physical prospect for the NFL, and he has great accuracy with his throws, shows good leadership skills and is ranked high for intangibles on ESPN's draft tracker.

    With all the quarterback questions in the NFL this year, Gabbert may end up being the big shocker of the draft this year.

6. Travis Lewis, OLB Oklahoma

10 of 15

    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 04:  Linebacker Travis Lewis #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates with the Big 12 Championship Trophy after the Sooners beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 23-20 at Cowboys Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by T
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Travis Lewis is a great outside linebacker prospect who will make a great fit on a lot of teams, the question is if any teams get to him in the first round.

    If they do, you heard it here first.

5. Aaron Williams, CB Texas

11 of 15

    AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Cornerback Aaron Williams #4 of the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Aaron Williams is another cornerback who could sneak into the first round if some team decides Williams is a can't miss prospect that might be gone in the second round.

    Williams is one of those guys teams like nowadays because he gets praised for his leadership and maturity on and off the field before any of his on-field accomplishments. In the era of Facebook and the Personal Conduct Policy, this is a big plus for NFL teams.

4. Kyle Rudolph, TE Notre Dame

12 of 15

    SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 03: Kyle Rudolph #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs after making a catch against the Washington Huskies on October 3, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Washington 37-30 in overtime.  (Pho
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Notre Dame machine rears its ugly head again. Very few tight ends are taken in the first round for various reasons, but when one is, he's usually a game-changer.

    Kyle Rudolph has shown he can be a big impact on any offense. He has great skills catching the ball, makes big plays, and at over 6' 5" and 253 lbs., Rudolph isn't the top-ranked tight end in the draft for nothing.

3. Jonathan Baldwin, WR Pitt

13 of 15

    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 26:  Jonathan Baldwin #82 of the Pittsburgh Panthers is tackled by teammates Da'Norris Searcy #21 and Deunta Williams #27 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game on December 26, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The wide receiver roullette continues with Jonathan Baldwin. Baldwin is in a lot of first round mocks, but with all the different teams and their respective needs, it's difficult to see more than a few receivers going in the first round.

    It's possible Baldwin has to wait until the second, but we won't know for sure until draft day.

2. Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech

14 of 15

    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 04:  Ryan Williams #34 of the Virginia Tech Hokies against the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The running back class isn't very deep this year and it's likely you only may see one running back get drafted in the first round, that one being Mark Ingram.

    But if a second running back does go in the first round, it can only be Ryan Williams.

1. Christian Ponder, QB Florida State

15 of 15

    TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Christian Ponder #7 of the Florida State Seminoles throws for a first down during a game against the Florida Gators at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    At least a third of the teams in the NFL have a quarterback question heading into 2011, and the 2011 NFL draft features one of the deepest fields at the position since 2004.

    The draft will be an arms race this year, and don't be surprised to see a guy like Jake Locker fall and a guy like Christian Ponder shoot up the draft boards next spring and find his name being called in the first round.

    While Ponder gets knocked for some skill problems, he's aces in the intangible department and some coach somewhere will decide Ponder can be coached up and developed.