NFL Mock Draft: Will Prince Amukamara Be the First Cornerback Selected?
As I write this, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara is playing in what is probably the game of his life against Jake Locker and the Washington Huskies in the Holiday Bowl.
Will Prince assert himself, turning in a game for the ages, or will he remain behind Patrick Peterson of LSU on the draft board?
Only time will tell.
But for now, I'm going to give you my 2011 NFL Mock Draft, updated as of December 30.
How high will Prince be selected?
Read on and find out.
32. New England Patriots, J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
J.J. Watt has amassed 59 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception this year and has helped lead a strong Wisconsin defense.
With their young secondary improving, I think the Patriots are going to go with a lineman here, one of their weak spots, and Watt is a solid choice.
31. Atlanta Falcons, Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
There's a very good chance tight end Tony Gonzalez could retire after this season.
He's also getting older and doesn't have the same burst as he used to.
Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph would be the first tight end on the board, and I'm guessing the Falcons will seize him with the 31st selection in the draft.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers, Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
I see Cameron Heyward dropping into the Steelers' lap and could be the steal of the draft.
He's dropped a bit in the rankings, but Heyward had 42 tackles, three sacks, an interception this year and led a strong defensive team in the Buckeyes.
This will help the Steelers on the corner.
29. Chicago Bears, Stefan Wisniewski, OT, Penn State
The Chicago Bears are in desperate need of protection for QB Jay Cutler, as he's been sacked the most in the NFL, and I don't see Colorado's Nate Solder dropping to them.
That leaves impressive center Stefan Wisniewski, and I don't think the Bears will hesitate to wrap him up.
28. Baltimore Ravens, Allen Bailey, DE, Miami
The Baltimore Ravens haven't gotten much out of Cory Redding this year at defensive end, and Bailey should be ready to get the Ravens back to being a defensive powerhouse.
He had 44 tackles and seven sacks on the year.
27. New Orleans Saints, Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
Drake Nevis would be a good fit for a Saints team that lacks great pressure from the defensive line, whose lack of pressure has not forced many interceptions.
Nevis has had a very good year for the No. 10 Tigers this year, with 56 tackles and six sacks.
He would strengthen the pressure on the line.
26. New York Jets, Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
The New York Jets could always use some more weapons for Mark Sanchez.
He's been struggling lately, but he still gives the Jets a chance to win and I see coach Rex Ryan sticking with his guy next year.
Broyles could fill in for Braylon Edwards if the Jets decide to let him go.
25. Philadelphia Eagles, Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
The Eagles have given up 44 sacks this season, and with Michael Vick playing the way he has this season, they're going to want to beef up that offensive line.
Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin is a top-notch offensive lineman paving the way for a strong Badgers rushing attack, and would be a good fit here.
24. Kansas City Chiefs, Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh receiver Jonathan Baldwin hasn't had quite the spectacular year a lot of people expected, given he was being compared to Larry Fitzgerald before the year.
But he's still had a solid year, and the Chiefs, who have no one opposite Dwayne Bowe, would be wise to pick up another weapon for the emerging Matt Cassel and a balancing rushing attack.
23. Green Bay Packers, Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
As good as the Packers defense has been this season, they still haven't settled who will line up opposite Clay Matthews.
When Von Miller drops to the Packers at No. 23, the Packers will make sure to grab him.
22. Indianapolis Colts, Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
One of the reasons Colts QB Peyton Manning has struggled more than usual this season is his offensive line has been spotty, and he's even admitted he's had to hurry throws.
Colorado's Nate Solder, the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2010, should have Manning jumping for joy when the Colts select him at No. 22.
21. St. Louis Rams, Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida
Despite 43 sacks by the defense this season, the Rams have still given up a good amount of points.
Luckily for them, Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins will fall to them at No. 21. He's widely considered the third-best cornerback on the board.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
The Buccaneers are an up-and-coming team, but they have trouble stopping the run and getting to the quarterback.
That's where Stephen Paea comes into play, who has been a solid player for the Oregon State Beavers this season, with 45 tackles and six sacks, including three sacks in his last four games.
19. New York Giants, Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
The struggling Giants could use some help on the offensive line, as Eli Manning has seemed uncomfortable at times in the pocket.
Anthony Costanzo, all 295 pounds of him, should do the trick.
Costanzo's considered one of the best offensive linemen in the draft.
18. San Diego Chargers, Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The loss of Shawne Merriman has clearly hurt the Chargers in the linebackers department, and the Chargers have been searching for their next defensive force since.
Akeem Ayers could be that guy, who had 68 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions in a complete 2010 season for the Bruins.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars, Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Jacksonville Jaguars defense has had trouble getting to the quarterback this season, with just 26 sacks on the year.
Iowa's Adrian Clayborn could fix that in a heart beat, whose four sacks don't fully demonstrate how talented this guy really is.
16. Miami Dolphins, Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
The Dolphins, who should barely lose out on the top five QBs in the draft, will instead look to draft their next running back of the future.
This running back is Mark Ingram, who is being projected in most drafts as the clear No.1 RB in the draft.
With Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams not having particularly stellar seasons (not to mention they will be free agents), I see the Dolphins looking to Ingram for the answers.
15. New England Patriots, Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
I don't know why the Pats wouldn't go all defense here. With an offense like theirs, it seems they could win with rent-a-players.
Although the Patriots have 31 sacks on the season, a little above the league average, the defensive line is indeed their weakness. That's how good this team is.
It's hard to ignore 13 sacks, and the Patriots will pick Ryan Kerrigan as a result. He should be a good NFL player and help this team continue its dynasty.
14. Minnesota Vikings, Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel has said the five suspended Buckeyes, including Terrelle Pryor, will return to the team in 2011.
Color me skeptical.
This is the year for Pryor to declare.
There are a plethora of teams dying for quarterbacks, and I think Pryor would land in the highest spot if he declared for the draft this year.
The Vikings are desperate for QB depth, and they could easily reach for Pryor if he declares.
13. Washington Redskins, Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
I don't think the Redskins will reach for a quarterback in light of the Donovan McNabb-Mike Shanahan situation.
Shanahan seems to trust Rex Grossman, and I could see him shoring up the defensive line with Robert Quinn instead.
Young running back Ryan Torain has shown some skills this year and I see the Redskins letting him develop, as Clinton Porris becomes more injury-prone each and every year.
The Redskins only had 29 sacks this season, and Quinn could do wonders coming off the corner.
12. Tennessee Titans, Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
With the top four QBs off the board, I don't think Titans coach Jeff Fisher will reach for Pryor.
Justin Blackmon, however, has got to be a tantalizing option for any QB.
The QB picture will be muddled in Tennessee, but a receiver like Blackmon would make things a whole lot easier.
I see Blackmon being a star in the NFL. This season he had over 1,600 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns for the No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys.
11. Seattle Seahawks, Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Washington QB Jake Locker, considered the No. 1 QB coming into the season, has seen his stock drop based on some poor performances against tough competition this year.
Auburn's Cameron Newton, however, has seen his stock skyrocket, and I see the Heisman winner overtaking Locker for the third QB selected in the 2011 NFL Draft.
The Seahawks, despite a bad defense, have an even worse quarterback situation, and will jump for Locker.
10. Cleveland Browns, Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
With a talented young duo of QB Colt McCoy and RB Peyton Hillis, the Browns have one position left to fill with a possible difference-maker: wide receiver.
With A.J. Green off the board at this point, the Browns will gladly accept Julio Jones, who had over 1,000 yards receiving and seven touchdowns this season for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
9. Detroit Lions, Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers, widely considered the top defensive end in the draft, should go to the Lions.
With Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara already off the board, I don't see how the Lions pass up on Bowers.
Despite a solid season by Lions defensive end Turk McBride, I could see him being the odd man out here, unless there's some movement along the line.
8. Houston Texans, Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama
The Houston Texans, looking for someone alongside Mario Williams, will snatch up Dareus before the Detroit Lions can.
With a duo of Williams and Dareus, the Texans can work on giving the secondary some help.
Despite nine sacks in 13 games for Williams this year, the Texans only managed 28 sacks as a unit.
7. Dallas Cowboys, Prince Amukamara, CB,
Generally considered the second-best corner in the 2011 NFL Draft, Prince should be the obvious choice here for the Cowboys.
They have looked a lot better as a whole under coach Jason Garrett this season, but it's evident the pass defense needs a lot of work. Prince will be a God-send for the Cowboys.
6. San Francisco 49ers, Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn
The good news for 49ers fans is losing the division at the hands of the St. Louis Rams in Week 16, which shot them up the board to No. 6 currently.
That means they will most likely be able to select either Cam Newton or Ryan Mallett, depending on who the Arizona Cardinals select.
I see Cam going to the Niners, a desperate team searching for a quarterback and a direction. Newton would be welcomed with open arms in San Francisco.
5. Arizona Cardinals, Ryan Mallett, QB, Oklahoma
Ryan Mallett is the safe bet for an Arizona Cardinals team with no leader in sight under center.
The problem with running quarterbacks like Newton is they aren't able to tear through NFL defenses like they do college ones.
Mallett is the better passer generally speaking, and I think the Cardinals will go with him.
4. Buffalo Bills, Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Nick Fairley has been a monster this year, and he would fit into whatever defensive scheme the Bills choose to use.
He's not only played well this season, he's dominated in big games, such as against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
His stock has risen to the point where I could see him being the No. 1 defensive lineman selected.
3. Cincinnati Bengals, A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
I, at first, was picking the Bengals to go with Da'Quan Bowers or Nick Fairley, but the more I look at the Bengals, the more I think they'll go with the next Chad Ochocinco here.
Ochocinco clearly isn't happy, Terrell Owens might retire and QB Carson Palmer needs all the help he can get.
A.J. Green is one of those electric receivers that are hard to pass up.
2. Denver Broncos, Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Cornerback Champ Bailey seems discontent with the Broncos (for good reason) and there's a chance he could want out.
Whether he leaves or not, cornerbacks like Patrick Peterson are hard to come by, and I don't see the Broncos letting him go.
Peterson not only is considered the top corner going into the draft, he also has four interceptions on the year that he's run back for a total of 134 yards.
If he's not a difference-maker, I don't know who is.
1. Carolina Panthers, Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Nothing's really changed since the last Mock NFL Draft.
The Panthers lost again, and Andrew Luck is still widely considered as the top QB in the nation.
The Panthers aren't going to do anything else but draft Luck.
Although Matt Moore hasn't had much time to develop, the Panthers certainly can't afford to sit around and wait.
Luck, generally considered the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft, could very easily turn into 2011's Sam Bradford.