2011 NFL Mock Draft: Chris J. Nelson's Two-Round Mock Draft 3.0
The offseason full of free agency and trades that we're usually enjoying has been put on hold due to the CBA battle, which means there isn't a whole lot of stuff to talk about during the months of the offseason.
A big part of that offseason that is happening 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 currently works 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 One Through Four
1. Carolina Panthers—QB Cam Newton, Auburn
(previous mock: DE Robert Quinn)
This pick has changed for me three times in three mock draft attempts, but at the end of the day the Panthers need a franchise quarterback more than anything else. Despite all the negative publicity Newton has garnered and his immense bust potential, I get the feeling he'll end up going first overall.
2. Denver Broncos—DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
(previous mock: DT Marcell Dareus)
The Broncos are in need of a whole new defensive front with the switch to the 4-3 under John Fox, and Dareus is easily the safest of the two defensive tackles. The only other threat here is probably Patrick Peterson, but defensive tackle is a more pressing need.
3. Buffalo Bills—QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
(previous mock: QB Cam Newton, Auburn)
Despite their needs on defense, it seems likely the Bills will go with one of the top two quarterbacks prospects if either is available when they pick. They would actually luck out here with Gabbert as he's the safer prospect than Newton, though that doesn't mean Chan Gailey won't ruin him.
4. Cincinnati Bengals—WR A. J. Green, Georgia
(previous mock: WR A. J. Green)
With no quarterback worth taking here to replace Carson Palmer, the Bengals will likely try to replace TO and Chad Ochocinco instead. I don't buy the talk that the team prefers Julio Jones over Green, and I fully expect this marriage to happen.
Picks Five Through Eight
5. Arizona Cardinals—OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
(previous mock: OLB Von Miller)
With neither of the top two quarterback prospects falling to No. 5, the Cardinals can go with the obvious route in a quality rusher like Miller. He's a fairly safe pick in the scheme of the draft and fills a huge need in the Cardinals' aging linebacker corps.
6. Cleveland Browns—DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
(previous mock: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn)
Fairley is somewhat of a scary pick due to his questionable attitude and motivation, but the talent here is undeniable. With a huge need at defensive tackle in the switch to the 4-3 under Dick Jauron, Fairley is a perfect fit in Cleveland.
7. San Francisco 49ers—CB Patrick Peterson, Louisiana State
(previous mock: DE J. J. Watt)
The team could use help all throughout their defense including the front seven, but they might have to jump on Peterson if he falls to them at No. 7. Peterson would give the Niners the playmaking defensive back they've lacked in recent years, regardless of whether he ends up at corner or safety.
8. Tennessee Titans—DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina
(previous mock: QB Blaine Gabbert)
There's no one to replace Kerry Collins and Vince Young here, so the Titans will turn to the defensive line. Quinn might concern some teams due to a benign brain tumor, but it doesn't appear to be a problem and he's easily one of the best rushers in the draft.
Picks 9 Through 12
9. Dallas Cowboys—OT Tyron Smith, Southern California
(previous mock: CB Patrick Peterson)
The team would probably salivate if Patrick Peterson fell here, but they are also known to covet Tyron Smith. He's separated himself as one of the best offensive tackles in the draft and would give the Cowboys a long-term replacement for Marc Colombo.
10. Washington Redskins—CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
(previous mock: CB Prince Amukamara)
The team is without and quality cornerbacks on their roster, as Carlos Rogers is a free agent and DeAngelo Hall is in fact terrible. Amukamara is the 1B to Patrick Peterson's 1A and would be a fantastic addition to Mike Shanahan's defense.
11. Houston Texans—LB Aldon Smith, Missouri
(previous mock: DE Cameron Jordan)
Aside from second-year player Connor Barwin, the Texans are almost entirely without any quality pass rushers for Wade Phillips' new 3-4 scheme. Houston could greatly benefit from the addition of Smith, giving them potentially one of the best starting linebacker corps in the NFL.
12. Minnesota Vikings—DE J. J. Watt, Wisconsin
(previous mock: DE Da'Quan Bowers)
This is way to early to take someone like Jake Locker, despite their needs for a long-term quarterback, so the Vikings instead focus on replacing Ray Edwards. Watt has a ton of versatility on the line and has a nice combination of run-stuffing ability and pass-rushing skills to bookend Jared Allen.
Picks 13 Through 16
13. Detroit Lions—OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
(previous mock: OT Tyron Smith)
Detroit's offensive line is not as good as they say, as Gosder Cherilus is only average and Jeff Backus is one of the worse starting left tackles you can find. Castonzo is probably the most refined and NFL-ready tackle in the draft and would be a great addition by the Lions.
14. St. Louis Rams—WR Julio Jones, Alabama
(previous mock: WR Julio Jones)
Many people are assuming this pick, and if Jones is available here you have to imagine it'll happen. The Rams don't have a true No. 1 receiver and many of the ones they do have are injury prone, so Jones would be a great new weapon for Sam Bradford.
15. Miami Dolphins—QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
(previous mock: ILB Akeem Ayers)
The Dolphins very well might trade out of this pick, and Ryan Mallett's stock is all over the map due to questions about drug use, leadership, and character. That being said, the Dolphins need someone that can develop into an elite NFL passer, and Mallett is the best bet in this draft.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
(previous mock: DE Allen Bailey)
The Jaguars consistently swing and miss on pass rushers in the draft, so it's time to try yet again. Kerrigan is a great prospect and could learn from Aaron Kampman while starting as a rookie.
Picks 17 Through 20
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland)—DE Cameron Jordan, California
(previous mock: DE Adrian Clayborn)
Bill Belichick is all about building up the trenches, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him add even more depth here. Jordan is a fantastic 3-4 defensive end prospect that could develop into the next Richard Seymour.
18. San Diego Chargers—DE Corey Liuget, Illinois
(previous mock: OLB Aldon Smith)
It's widely assumed San Diego will look for a pass rusher here, but they could also address a defensive line that has become pretty thin in recent years. Liuget fits the profile of a defensive end in the 3-4 scheme and could be a rookie starter for the Chargers.
19. New York Giants—DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple
(previous mock: DT Corey Liuget)
Barry Cofield is coming off a great year but is on the way out, while Rocky Bernard isn't really starting material. Wilkerson's stock has been on the rise and he'd be an excellent fit along Chris Canty inside.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
(previous mock: DE Ryan Kerrigan)
The Buccaneers heavily addressed their interior defensive line early last year, but their pass rush is still a bit lacking. Bowers' stock has fallen due to healthy concerns, but he'd be a nice value here with all the tools to be an elite pass rusher if he can stay on the field.
Picks 21 Through 24
21. Kansas City Chiefs—NT Phil Taylor, Baylor
(previous mock: NT Phil Taylor)
Most don't have Taylor going this high, but I view him as the best 3-4 nose tackle prospect and the draft and very much worthy of a first-round selection. The Chiefs could use a major upgrade over past starter Ron Edwards and Taylor fits the bill perfectly.
22. Indianapolis Colts—OT Nate Solder, Colorado
(previous mock: OT Anthony Castonzo)
Peyton Manning doesn't need perfect protection to do his thing, but the Colts have been without a starting-caliber left tackle since Tarik Glenn retired. Solder is a bit raw and is a project, but he's got the tools to be great on the blind side.
23. Philadelphia Eagles—CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
(previous mock: OT Nate Solder)
It's tempting to put an offensive lineman here, and there are still some to choose from despite the best tackles being off the board. However, Asante Samuel isn't as good as his numbers indicate and there cornerback depth is pretty poor, so Smith would be a great fit if he can alleviate concerns about his character.
24. New Orleans Saints—DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
(previous mock: DT Stephen Paea)
Clayborn has the versatility to be either a tackle or end in the 4-3 scheme, but he'd be a nice fit as a 4-3 end if he can keep any extra weight off and keep his current athleticism. He greatly fits the mold of guys like Will Smith and Charles Grant from past Saints squad and would be a good addition here.
Picks 25 Through 28
25. Seattle Seahawks—QB Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
(previous mock: WR Torrey Smith)
The Seahawks were unable to re-sign Matt Hasselbeck before the CBA expired, and neither he nor Charlie Whitehurst is the long-term answer at quarterback. Kaepernick's stock has been skyrocketing lately and he'd be a nice project for Pete Carroll.
26. Baltimore Ravens—WR Torrey Smith
(previous mock: CB Jimmy Smith)
The real need here is cornerback, but there just isn't one worth taking at this point. The team could also use a young receiver for Joe Flacco after rolling with a handful of veterans in 2010, and Smith might be the third-best prospect in this year's receiver class.
27. Atlanta Falcons—DE Justin Houston, Georgia
(previous mock: CB Brandon Harris)
John Abraham continues to dominate, but Jamaal Anderson was a bust and the team has struggled to find a second pass rusher. There is concern that Houston has some Vernon Gholston bust potential in him, but he's got all the tools to succeed and is a local product the Falcons know well.
28. New England Patriots—OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona
(previous mock: RB Mark Ingram)
The Patriots have the fortune of having three picks in the top 33, and they can add a great pass rusher here with their second first-round pick. A defensive end at Arizona, Reed profiles as a 3-4 outside linebacker and could excel in Belichick's scheme.
Picks 29 Through 32
29. Chicago Bears—OG Mike Pouncey, Florida
(previous mock: OT Gabe Carimi)
The Bears need help all over the offensive line (except center if they re-sign Olin Kreutz) and are known to be very high on Pouncey. He'd be a good fit as a starting guard as a rookie and could eventually replace Kreutz down the line if the team wanted.
30. New York Jets—DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
(previous mock: DE Muhammad Wilkerson)
Kris Jenkins isn't going to return after constant injuries, and the defensive line could use a bit more help with Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce heading for free agency. Heyward is an ideal fit as a 3-4 end in Rex Ryan's scheme, assuming the team hasn't sworn off all Ohio State defensive ends.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers—OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
(previous mock: OG Mike Pouncey)
A lot of people expect a Pouncey reunion here, and it's quite possible if he falls. If Pouncey isn't available, however, the Steelers could look to another lineman like Sherrod, who would be a long-term solution at tackle with Flozell Adams past his prime and Willie Colon a free agent.
32. Green Bay Packers—OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
(previous mock: OLB Justin Houston)
The Packers could really use another pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews, but there isn't one certainly worth this pick. While they did take Bryan Bulaga in the first round a year ago, an in-state product like Carimi would be a good addition that could start at either tackle or guard down the line.
Picks 33 Through 36
33. New England Patriots (from Carolina)—RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
After addressing the defensive front seven with their first two picks, the Patriots are lucky enough to be sitting here in the second round with the best running back still available. Ingram is a nice value here and is a major upgrade over the likes of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.
34. Buffalo Bills—DE Allen Bailey, Miami (Fla.)
The Bills have Alex Carrington ready to assume a starting defensive end spot, but they could still use more help. Bailey is a fantastic athlete that could literally play end, tackle, or linebacker depending on the scheme and where he focuses his attention. He'd provide nice athleticism, strength and pass rush as a 3-4 end for the Bills.
35. Cincinnati Bengals—QB Christian Ponder, Florida State
The Bengals have to be taking Carson Palmer's retirement threats seriously by now, which means they'll need to look for a long-term replacement in the draft. Ponder lacks an elite arm, but has the ideal intelligence and accuracy for Jay Gruden's West Coast Offense in Cincinnati.
36. Denver Broncos—LB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
The Broncos continue to beef off up their defense here, adding a versatile player like Ayers to their linebacker corps. He has the skill set and athleticism to play inside linebacker next to D. J. Williams, outside opposite Williams, or even be developed as a pass-rushing end.
Picks 37 Through 40
37. Cleveland Browns—WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami (Fla.)
The Browns have a few promising receivers in Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, but they still lack a true No. 1 threat. Hankerson's stock has been on the rise and he has a great combination of size and speed to be a primary target for Colt McCoy.
38. Arizona Cardinals—QB Andy Dalton, Texas Christian
The Cardinals will probably have to settle for a short-term veteran option at quarterback in 2010, and it's unknown is John Skelton or Max Hall will ever develop. Dalton has an underrated prospect that could be groomed as Arizona's long-term answer at quarterback.
39. Tennessee Titans—LB Martez Wilson, Illinois
The Titans don't have a starting middle linebacker under contract, and Wilson would be a nice addition here. He needs to work on his read and reaction, but he's an excellent tackle that could excel behind the Titans' strong line.
40. Dallas Cowboys—CB Aaron Williams, Texas
Mike Jenkins hasn't fully lived up to his potential, while Terrence Newman probably doesn't have many starting years left ahead of him. In-state product Williams is arguably the best cornerback left on the board right now and would be a nice addition.
Picks 41 Through 44
41. Washington Redskins—WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh
Santana Moss was probably one of the worst No. 1 receivers in the NFL last year, and it's time to find a true starting wideout. Baldwin could go much higher than this and has some character concerns, but he's got the hands and the size to be a big-time receiving threat.
42. Houston Texans—CB Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.)
Houston wasn't lucky enough to land a top-two cornerback in the first round, but the league's worst pass defense needs some attention here. Harris is the best cornerback available and a borderline first-round pick, so he's an easy choice here.
43. Minnesota Vikings—QB Jake Locker, Washington
Some people have Locker going to the Vikings in the first, and others think he won't come off the board until the fourth round. I don't believe he'll fall that far, and this is a nice spot for him with a team that has no long-term quarterback.
44. Detroit Lions—OLB Bruce Carter, North Carolina
Detroit would probably love if Akeem Ayers fell to them here, but I don't have that happening. However, Carter is a nice prospect in his own right and could fill one of the many holes the Lions have on defense.
Picks 45 Through 48
45. San Francisco 49ers—OLB Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh
Free agent Manny Lawson never truly developed into a quality pass rusher, and the team doesn't have any standouts at the position under contract. Sheard is one of the few pass rushers left before a huge drop off in talent and would a good selection for the Niners.
46. Denver Broncos (from Miami)—DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State
The Broncos already took a defensive tackle at No. 2 in Marcell Dareus, but they really need two new starter for 2011. Paea has better bulk than Dareus and could fill the nose tackle role next to Dareus inside.
47. St. Louis Rams—DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina
Free agent Clifton Ryan isn't expected back, while Fred Robbins is still effective but not getting any younger. Austin has first-round talent and would be a great addition to the Rams' defensive line.
48. Oakland Raiders—OG Orlando Franklin, Miami (Fla.)
The Raiders need to replace one of their best run blockers in Robert Gallery, and could always use more help at other spots on the line as well. Franklin has a fantastic blend of size and athleticism and has the ability to start at tackle or guard.
Picks 49 Through 52
49. Jacksonville Jaguars—WR Titus Young, Boise State
The Jaguars could use some receiver help with Mike Sims-Walker likely leaving as a free agent, and Young is an intriguing deep threat that has drawn understandable comparisons to DeSean Jackson.
50. San Diego Chargers—OLB Sam Acho, Texas
The Chargers went defensive line over linebacker in the first round, but it all works out as they pick up a talent linebacker prospect with a great motor and high football IQ.
51. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia
Ronde Barber is on the fast track for retirement and Aqib Talib might be a bit busy trying to convince a jury he didn't shoot at someone, so cornerback is a huge need for the Bucs right now. A Virginia alum in Barber is replaced by another in Dowling.
52. New York Giants—RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
There's no guarantee that Ahmad Bradshaw will return as a free agent, and Brandon Jacob' play and attitude have fallen off a cliff in recent seasons. Leshoure is arguably as good as any back in the draft and would be a good fit in New York.
Picks 53 Through 56
53. Indianapolis Colts—G/C Rodney Hudson, Florida State
After addressing tackle in the first round, the Colts look inside in Round 1 with Hudson. He's a bit undersized, but he has the athleticism the Colts look for in linemen and could be either a starting guard or an eventual replacement for Jeff Saturday at center.
54. Philadelphia Eagles—OT James Carpenter, Alabama
The Eagles need major help at tackle, with Winston Justice and King Dunlap over-matched as starters and Jason Peters failing to perform and landing behind bars this offseason. Carpenter is a sound tackle prospect and would be good to groom on either end of the line.
55. Kansas City Chiefs—C Stefan Wisniewski, Penn State
Casey Wiegmann is about done at 37, Rudy Niswanger isn't starting caliber, and both are free agents this offseason. Wisniewski is a potential first-round prospect that is a nice value for the Chiefs' offensive line here.
56. New Orleans Saints—RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
Pierre Thomas signed a new deal, but he's only an average talent and isn't guaranteed huge money. With Reggie Bush's long-term future with the team in doubt as well, Hunter would be a nice Jamaal Charles clone for Sean Payton's offense.
Picks 57 Through 60
57. Seattle Seahawks—OG Marcus Cannon, Texas Christian
The Seahawks need help at three of the five offensive line spots, and Cannon is a prospect at four of them. The mammoth 358-pound monster would be a fantastic addition to Carroll's front.
58. Baltimore Ravens—T/G Benjamin Ijalana, Villanova
Michael Oher struggled at left tackle in 2010, while Jared Gaither is a free agent and not guaranteed to return. Ijalana has potential at both tackle and guard and could be a good addition to the Ravens' line.
59. Atlanta Falcons—TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
They don't have an immediate need for a tight end, but Tony Gonzalez is probably a year away from retirement at most. Rudolph is a fantastic value here and could learn from one of the game's best for a year before taking over.
60. New England Patriots—OG Danny Watkins, Baylor
Watkins' talent says he should go a lot higher, but his age (he'll be 27 in November) will make some teams wary of using such a high pick on him. However, the Logan Mankins clone would be a nice addition to the Patriots' line and could even start as a rookie.
Picks 61 Through 64
61. San Diego Chargers (from New York Jets)—WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky
It seems unlikely Vincent Jackson has a long-term future in San Diego, while the team could do much better than the likes of Patrick Crayton, Buster Davis, and Seyi Ajirotutu. Cobb is a dynamic threat at receiver that would be a great weapon for Philip Rivers.
62. Chicago Bears—DT Christian Ballard, Iowa
Marcus Harrison has yet to develop, Anthony Adams is a free agent, and Matt Toeaina is a questionable talent as a starter. Ballard is the latest in a long line of quality defensive linemen from Iowa and would be a nice fit in Lovie's defense.
63. Pittsburgh Steelers—CB Curtis Brown, Texas
The Steelers should be able to retain free agent cornerback Ike Taylor, but there's little to no depth behind him. Brown is a nice corner prospect with solid all-around skills that would fit in nicely in Dick LeBeau's scheme.
64. Green Bay Packers—RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
The Packers didn't address their pass rush in Round 1, but there just isn't an outside linebacker worth taking here. James Starks is far from proven as a starter and Ryan Grant is merely average and probably won't be around much longer, so I like the prospects of the Packers grabbing a starting-caliber back.