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