2011 NFL Mock Draft: Chris J. Nelson's First-Round Mock Draft 1.0
The Super Bowl is officially in the books, and that means we can turn our attention fully to the offseason. A big part of that offseason is the draft, where teams look to restock their depth with young talent and find the missing pieces for their championship hopes.
I myself have mocked the draft's first round every year beginning in 2005, and even expanded things to the first two rounds last year. My final mock of 2011 will also have two rounds, but for now, I'm focusing on the first 32 picks.
For this keeping score at home, here are how many first-rounders I have correctly predicted to their drafting teams since 2005:
Now, on to the picks...
Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.
Picks 1 Through 4
1. Carolina Panthers — DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
After suffering the terrible bad "luck" of having Andrew Luck return to Stanford, the Panthers are left without a sure-fire quarterback prospect worthy of the No. 1 pick. The 2-14 Panthers unsurprisingly have plenty of holes to fill, however, and Fairley would be a great addition to their defensive line.
2. Denver Broncos — CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
The Broncos have made little progress in new contract talks with Champ Bailey, and they have little young cornerback depth behind him. Peterson is a talented playmaker that would fit in nicely in Mile High.
3. Buffalo Bills — LB Von Miller, Texas A&M
Buffalo ranked just 27th in sacks in 2010, and former first-rounder Aaron Maybin has been a monumental bust. (Called it.) Miller has extraordinary pass-rushing skills and has a much better head on his shoulder than Maybin.
4. Cincinnati Bengals — WR A.J. Green, Georgia
With Terrell Owens unlikely to return and Chad Ochocinco doing his best to make a working relationship with Marvin Lewis impossible, the Bengals will need a new No. 1 wideout. Green is the clear-cut best receiver in this draft and could revive Carson Palmer's career (if Palmer stays, of course).
Pick 5 Through 8
5. Arizona Cardinals — QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
The Cardinals seemed poised to go after veteran Marc Bulger with youngsters Max Hall and John Skelton not ready for the big show, but Bulger isn't the long-term answer. Gabbert is the best quarterback prospect in this draft and could start in 2012 after sitting for a year.
6. Cleveland Browns — DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
The Browns look destined to switch to the 4-3 under new head coach Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, which completely shuffles their personnel needs. Bowers would be an excellent addition as the top 4-3 pass rusher in the draft.
7. San Francisco 49ers — QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
There's no telling whether or not Alex Smith will re-sign, or if he'll ever be a quality starter anyway. Mallett is an underrated prospect by some but is a legitimate top-10 talent at quarterback. Michigan man Jim Harbaugh would be wise to consider the quarterback that once played for the Wolverines.
8. Tennessee Titans — LB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
Vince Young is all but gone and free agent Kerry Collins has little left, but there aren't really any signal-callers worthy of the Titans' pick here. They are also in need of a quality linebacker with David Thornton and Stephen Tulloch slated for free agency, and Ayers fits the bill.
Picks 9 Through 12
9. Dallas Cowboys — DE Marcell Dareus, Alabama
Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher, and Marcus Spears are all slated for free agency in 2011, and Dareus is the top 3-4 defensive end in this draft with plenty of experience in the scheme under Nick Saban.
10. Washington Redskins — CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
Undrafted second-year player Reggie Jones is currently the only player at the cornerback position under contract with the Redskins. Amukamara would be a boost to fill the void left by starters Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall, both of whom may walk in free agency.
11. Houston Texans — LB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
The Texans desperately need a cornerback for their league-worst pass defense, but unfortunately, the top two cornerbacks are already off the board. They next turn their attention to a pass rusher for their new 3-4 scheme under Wade Phillips.
12. Minnesota Vikings — QB Cam Newton, Auburn
While I don't believe Newton to be worthy of a first-round pick as he's not an elite quarterback prospect, someone is going to roll the dice on the guy because of his physical tools. Minnesota needs a quarterback of the future and reportedly may pass on VInce Young, which means they could look to Newton in the draft.
Picks 13 Through 16
13. Detroit Lions — OT Nate Solder, Colorado
Jeff Backus has been a pretty mediocre left tackle for a while, and Gosder Cherilus has been unspectacular as well. It's time the Lions found a long-term guy to protect Matthew Stafford's blind side.
14. St. Louis Rams — WR Julio Jones, Alabama
Sam Bradford had a pretty decent rookie season with one of the league's worst receiving corps. It's time the Rams got him a true No. 1 threat in Julio Jones, who would be an excellent pairing with Donnie Avery.
15. Miami Dolphins — LB Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
I fully expect the Dolphins to trade out of this pick to re-acquire a second-rounder, and I don't think they are specifically targeting a pass rusher. I would hope, however, they are smart enough to not waste the pick on Mark Ingram, and they typically draft the best available player on their board.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars — DE Aldon Smith, Missouri
Derrick Harvey busted and Aaron Kampman is recovering from a torn ACL. The Jaguars need another quality pass rusher bad, and Smith fits the bill.
Picks 17 Through 20
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) — DE Cameron Jordan, California
A lot of people could see the Patriots taking Mark Ingram here, but I don't think they are that desperate for a non-elite running back. Jordan is a tremendous 3-4 defensive end prospect, and the Patriots are always about adding depth and beefing up the lines.
18. San Diego Chargers — DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
Both Jacques Cesaire and Travis Johnson are free agents, making another defensive end a pretty big priority. Watt is excellent at his craft and blends solid pass-rushing skills with great bulk and strength, so he'd be an excellent fit.
19. New York Giants — OT Athony Castonzo, Boston College
The Giants don't have many gaping needs, but adding a potential long-term prospect at tackle might not be a bad idea with both David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie over 30.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — DE Allen Bailey, Miami (Fla.)
The Bucs spend the 2010 Draft upgrading their defensive tackle position, but they could still use a game-changing play-maker at defensive end and have little talent there currently. An in-state prospect with the physical tools of Bailey would be a good pick.
Picks 21 Through 24
21. Kansas City Chiefs — DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
Tyson Jackson has been a monumental bust, and Glenn Dorsey isn't a great fit for the 3-4 scheme even if he has been playing better. Clayborn would be a great addition to the Chiefs' defensive line.
22. Indianapolis Colts — OT Tyron Smith, USC
The Colts still haven't found a long-term replacement for left tackle Tarik Glenn, and the raw but athletic Tyron Smith fits the Colts' blocking scheme and could be the answer.
23. Philadelphia Eagles — OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
Jason Peters got better after struggling the past two seasons, but both Winston Justice and King Dunlap look overmatched in pass protection. Carimi is a strong left tackle prospect that would be a valuable addition the Eagles' line.
24. New Orleans Saints — RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
Reggie Bush hasn't shown he can be a feature back in the NFL, while Pierre Thomas isn't worth the money he wants. Ingram would be a great addition to a talent offense that has both of its running backs slated for free agency this offseason.
Picks 25 Through 28
25. Seattle Seahawks — WR Titus Young, Boise State
Mike Williams emerged as a reliable receiver in 2010, but he doesn't stretch the field or make many big plays. A baby DeSean Jackson, Young really flashed at the Senior Bowl and would be an excellent guy to pair with WIlliams given his deep-play ability.
26. Baltimore Ravens — OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
Free agent Jared Gaither is questionable to return, while Michael Oher had his struggles during his first full season at left tackle. Sherrod would be a nice addition and is someone that could also project at guard as well.
27. Atlanta Falcons — CB Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.)
The Falcons' pass defense did them in the playoffs against the Packers. Dunta Robinson was disappointing in his first season in Atlanta, while Brent Grimes is solid but isn't a true No. 1 corner. Harris would be good pick to develop in the secondary.
28. New England Patriots — RB Mikel LeShoure, Illinois
The Patriots opted against taking a defensive end at No. 17, but it works out well as they get arguably the 1b to Mark Ingram's 1a here. LeShoure is a very talented back and would be a huge boost to a backfield with mediocre parts like BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead playing significant roles.
Picks 29 Through 32
29. Chicago Bears — OT DeMarcus Love, Arkansas
The Bears swung and missed in the first round with Chris Williams a few years ago, so it's time to find that franchise left tackle again. Love is the best tackle on the board and would be a god fit in Chicago.
30. New York Jets — DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
The Bears obviously don't have many glaring needs, but Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce are free agents and the young depth currently under contract doesn't impress anyone. Heyward would be a good fit at end in the Jets' 3-4.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers — OG Mike Pouncey, Florida
Mike Pouncey isn't an elite prospect like his brother was, but he's a good guard in his own right and would be a nice fit alongside center Maurkice in Pittsburgh.
32. Green Bay Packers — LB Justin Houston, Georgia
Clay Matthews is an absolute beast, but he could be even better with a good pass-rushing threat on the other side. Houston presents a big upgrade over the likes of Erik Walden and Frank Zombo with 17 sacks in his final two seasons at UGA.