NFL Mock Draft 2011: Will Nick Fairley Fall out of Top 5?
There is no longer a clear cut order as to how the 2011 NFL Draft stands to unfold.
While most are now projecting Carolina to target a quarterback first overall, it's going to be interesting to see how the picks progress depending on whether it is Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert.
Nick Fairley seemed like a lock to be taken as one of the top two picks after Auburn won the National Championship, but now it looks like he needs a lot of help just to stick in the top ten.
It's time to get familiar with these names coming to an NFL city near you.
1. Carolina Panthers: Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri
What They're Saying: Although it first appeared that the team was heavily leaning toward Newton, Gabbert's impressive pro day showing looks like it changed the team's mind.
He went 47-50 with two drops and was drawing comparisons to Sam Bradford & Matt Ryan.
Why He Fits: There's little doubt that the team is going in a new direction. New regimes mean new personnel changes, and Carolina needs an upgrade at the quarterback position in a big way.
Ron Rivera is finally getting his first chance at being a head coach, and he'll either sink or swim with his quarterback of choice.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama
What They're Saying: Dareus is the unquestioned top talent at the position after having a far better combine than Fairley.
Although he's just a one-year starter, Dareus has more impressive size than Fairley and there are less questions regarding his ability to plug the gap on the D-Line at the next level.
Why He Fits: It's not a surprise that the two teams with the top picks in the draft are undergoing regime changes.
New coach John Fox has already expressed that the team needs to upgrade at defensive tackle, and Dareus is a perfect fit for that gaping hole.
3. Buffalo Bills: Cam Newton, QB Auburn
What They're Saying: Buffalo could go a lot of ways with this selection as they have several areas to address on the perennially under-achieving squad.
Some would like to see Patrick Peterson here, and it's hard to blame them. He's an elite prospect in this rather mediocre draft, and those don't come around very often. Unfortunately, the Bills are likely to pass.
Why He Fits: The Bills need a franchise quarterback. Nobody is sold on the long-term ability of Ryan Fitzpatrick despite his success last season.
We already know that Newton is a self-proclaimed "icon and entertainer", and although that might be a bit of a stretch at this point in his young career, Buffalo needs something to rejuvenate the fanbase and the Heisman Trophy winner will undoubtedly attempt to invigorate the downtrodden franchise.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Patrick Peterson, CB
What They're Saying: There's been a lot of talk about WR A.J. Green landing with the team as Chad Ochocinco's replacement, but how can the team pass on Peterson?
Seriously. Not only is Peterson the best CB prospect since Charles Woodson, but as I alluded to earlier, he's the top prospect in the class and frankly deserves consideration to go first overall.
Why He Fits: Peterson can immediately step in and improve a Bengals' secondary that seems to constantly get torched.
The corner position is a major area of need with Jonathan Joseph set to be a free agent, and Peterson would be a stable, affordable presence over the next several seasons who future free agents will undoubtedly want to play alongside.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB Texas A&M
What They're Saying: The Cardinals are putting a full-court press for Blaine Gabbert, but at this point the likelihood of him being available to the team is remote at best.
Miller has been a popular pick to the desert for the last couple of weeks. He fits an area of need for the team although there is some concern that he has legitimate bust potential.
Why He Fits: As noted above, he fits a major area of concern for the Cardinals. Miller can come in and immediately provide an upgrade from what they had last season.
If he can avoid the Vernon Gholston syndrome, Miller will standout among an otherwise inept pass rush.
6. Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR Georgia
What They're Saying: Green is the best wide receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson, but that doesn't make him Megatron and far too many are predicting him to have the same impact.
Although it'd be rather nontraditional for Mike Holmgren to go after a wideout this early, it is a major area of need with Colt McCoy entrenched under center.
Why He Fits: He's the best prospect left on the board and has the skills to go several picks earlier.
Defensive tackle remains a possibility here as well, but Green is a far better value here than Nick Fairley.
Green should also open up the field even more for RB Peyton Hillis, who'll look to continue his impressive, dominant running.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska
What They're Saying: Amukamara is a seriously underrated prospect given how little most are talking about him. Peterson might be the top talent in the class, but Prince isn't too far behind.
He quieted any concerns that scouts had about his ability to stay at corner long-term with a string of solid showings since the season end of the season.
Why He Fits: The team needs help at the cornerback position. Badly.
Nate Clements is 31 years old and is due $16 million over the next two seasons. If the 49ers are lucky enough to snag Amukamara, they'll be able to release Clements if they so choose.
8: Tennessee Titans: Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas
What They're Saying: Mallett has a history of thoroughly chronicled off-field issues, but the Titans are so desperate for a quarterback that I don't think it'll be a problem for them whatsoever.
Although he lacks elite athleticism, that is no indicator of success at the position. Mallett's impressive accuracy and on-field instincts make him an intriguing projection at the next level.
Why He Fits: The Titans need a quarterback. After the Vince Young fiasco and the Kerry Collins experiment, perhaps only Carolina is more needy of an upgrade.
Although Mallett is drawing comparisons to Ryan Leaf, it's a little early for that. He could flourish in the right place, but it's a shame that Jeff Fisher is no longer coaching, as he'd be a great guy to mentor Mallett.
9. Dallas Cowboys: J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin
What They're Saying: Their prized possession in Prince Amukamara is off the board at this point, and Watt is a name who's stock is firmly on the rise.
Nick Fairley is still available at this juncture, but Jay Ratliff is going to man the nhttp://bleacherreport.com/slideshow/645019/newose in Dallas for the foreseeable future.
Why He Fits: Watt is an instant upgrade over incumbent Igor Olshansky, and draft guru Mike Mayock recently went as far as to say he's the best five-technique he's ever seen.
Although that might be a bit of an exaggeration, Watt is the best available option at the position and he makes for a fine addition to the Dallas D-Line.
10. Washington Redskins: Julio Jones, WR Alabama
What They're Saying: In some circles, Jones is favored ahead of fellow receiving prospect A.J. Green.
While I have a hard time believing that any team has Jones ahead of Green on their draft board, the Redskins do quite well at 10th overall to nab a very, very talented wideout.
Why He Fits: His combine numbers were absolutely off the charts despite a fractured foot, and Jones would be gaining a lot more attention if Green wasn't such a polished stud.
He fills a major area of need as the 'Skins have had a sub-par receiving core for the last few seasons, and Jones instantly upgrades it in monumental fashion.
11. Houston Texans: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn
What They're Saying: Fairley finally finds his new home at 11th overall in Houston as Wade Phillips transitions the defense to a 3-4 scheme.
He's an absolute mauler inside and would fit wonderfully between ends Mario Williams and Antonio Smith. After all, we are talking about a prospect who was once the favorite to go first overall.
Why He Fits: He's got the potential to help anchor the defensive line for seasons to come in Houston, and their defense was extremely porous last season.
He'll also help to indirectly improve the pass rush as he'll require more attention from blockers inside, opening up the outside for Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Da'Quan Bowers, DE Clemson
What They're Saying: Bowers has more red flags than any other defensive prospect in the class, but the Vikings are notorious for selecting players that other teams shy away from.
There are legitimate concerns about Bowers' work ethic and health, as well as some going as far as to say that he's just another one-year wonder.
Why He Fits: The Vikings need help at defensive end with Ray Edwards becoming a free agent and Everson Griffin continually getting into trouble with the law.
He could turn out to be a serious value pick, as he was another guy who was once pegged for the top of the draft, but his knee woes could serve as a large hindrance.
13. Detroit Lions: Tyron Smith, OT USC
What They're Saying: The Detroit Lions need help on the offensive line. It's the exact same thing that everyone has been saying long before the Matthew Stafford era ever began.
The most athletic player available at the position, there is a lot of hope that Smith hasn't come close to reaching his ceiling and can become a lights-out option with the proper coaching.
Why He Fits: In a draft class that lacks truly elite offensive tackles, Smith is the standout. He's a little unconventional, but this kid is an absolute beast.
The Lions need to keep Stafford upright for a full season to have any chance of competing, and Smith has the tools to block the speedy ends that may come gunning.
14. St. Louis Rams: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB North Carolina
What They're Saying: Quinn would have been a consensus top ten pick had he come out of school in 2010, but now this is 2011.
Perhaps the largest risk/reward pick in the group, defensive-minded head coach Steve Spagnuolo is sure to be able to get the most that he possibly can out of Quinn, who missed the entire season after a ridiculous spat with the NCAA.
Why He Fits: A major value pick at 14th overall, Quinn fits wonderfully on a Rams team that is currently relying on a 34-year old James Hall.
He can impact and improve the unit immensely and immediately, but his health concerns (tumor) are sure to persist throughout the foreseeable future.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
What They're Saying: Ingram doesn't exactly have the same type of hype and momentum heading into the draft as he did after he won the Heisman, but that's to be expected.
The hard-nosed runner is the top talent at the running back position and he stands to upgrade the backfield situation regardless of where he winds up landing.
Why He Fits: With both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown entering free agency, Ingram is almost a no-brainer.
He'll start with a fresh slate and should help to relieve pressure off of QB Chad Henne. Additionally, his presence should open up some downfield possibilities for WR Brandon Marshall, who was less than impressive in his first season in Miami.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB Missouri
What They're Saying: He missed some time on the field last season, which would help to explain his less than overwhelming statistics, but just one look at the game tape and anyone can see this kid is an absolute freak.
Smith is going to take some time to develop, but he could begin paying large dividends long before the season comes to a close.
Why He Fits: The Jaguars need help on the pass rush. With Aaron Kampman coming off of his second torn ACL in as many years, he's no sure thing to return to full form.
Smith is already drawing comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul, who went 15th overall based almost entirely off of his potential. At 16, Aldon Smith is a very comparable case.
17. New England Patriots: Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue
What They're Saying: Anyone who watched the Patriots post-season loss to the Jets should know that they have one glaring weakness: the team cannot rush the passer.
Kerrigan, who was a three-year starter at Purdue, made a living in college doing exactly that. He's got a non-stop motor and, more importantly, a willingness to learn and continually make improvements.
Why He Fits: Bill Belichick loves smart players, and Kerrigan is firmly in that circle, earning honors as a member of the Academic-All America team.
Additionally, he'll come in and do whatever is asked of him, whether it's a full compliment of snaps or a select few, and that's exactly the kind of player that Belichick loves to have on his team.
18. San Diego Chargers: Cameron Jordan, DE/DT California
What They're Saying: Jordan is one of those players who has seen his stock on the steady rise since the season concluded.
He enjoyed phenomenal production in his final year and followed it up with a great Senior Bowl and a better performance at the combine. He's a little on the lighter side, but he uses that to his advantage by often beating his opponents with speed.
Why He Fits: Defensive line seems to be an area where the Chargers could use a definitive upgrade, and that's exactly what Jordan can be for the team.
After a rather disappointing finish in 2010 and a new defensive coordinator at the helm, Jordan may symbolize turning a new leaf in what should be a thorough turnover of personnel.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College
What They're Saying: In a class that really lacks a standout talent in the group, Castonzo is likely a tier-two tackle whose stock will be elevated given the relative shallow depth.
He proved that he was no slouch at the combine and with his level of play during the season, so don't take the above as me stating that he's a subordinate talent; he's not.
Why He Fits: Tom Coughlin's BC ties are sure to play a factor here if he likes what he sees from Castonzo.
Additionally, the team could definitely use an upgrade at the position and is still looking for a long-term answer to protect Eli's blind side. The G-Men's familiarity with the local product could bode well for him being snatched in the top 20.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Houston, DE Georgia
What They're Saying: Houston is a prospect that isn't getting a lot of coverage, but with ten sacks last season it's hard to understand the reason for that.
Gerald McCoy was sensational in his rookie season, but after facing constant double-teams as the season wore on, it became increasingly clear that he needs help on the defensive line.
Why He Fits: Houston is both a very sound athlete and football player, and too often incoming prospects are either one or the other.
Tampa's defense continues to get younger while simultaneously improving, and Houston could very well wind up outperforming this slot.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT Temple
What They're Saying: Wilkerson is our first member of the non-traditional schools that produce quality football players.
He's got phenomenal talent and can be the anchor of a defensive line for seasons to come. but the lack of experience against prime time competition may keep teams from gambling on the potential.
Why He Fits: Tyson Jackson hasn't exactly been the player that the team had hoped when the prematurely selected him.
Wilkerson can come in and fill a huge hole at the defensive tackle position for Kansas City and would help to plug a gaping hole in the rush defense.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Mike Pouncey, G Florida
What They're Saying: Everyone is infatuated with Mike after seeing what brother Maurkice was able to accomplish in his first NFL season.
They might be more similar than other siblings, but that doesn't make them the same person. In fact, Mike's best position at the next level projects as a guard, not a center.
Why He Fits: For the first time in a long time, we saw Peyton Manning go down a lot last season. And when he did, he went down hard.
Pouncey can join a Colts offensive line that seems to be constantly battling injuries and serve as an injection of youth and stability.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado
What They're Saying: In what seems to be a more common theme than in years past, Smith is another prospect whose cocky demeanor and behavioral red flags are getting him rapidly removed from team's draft boards.
However, he's a legitimate cornerback prospect and got better with every season he played at Colorado.
Why He Fits: The Eagles really need help across from Asante Samuel and may not be able to afford to wait until whenever the free agency period may begin.
Smith has long-term starter upside and would most likely be a consensus top-15 pick if it weren't for the aforementioned concerns that he can't seem to shake.
24. New Orleans Saints: Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa
What They're Saying: Clayborn wasn't very good this season which is sure to drop him down several boards among the teams with the top picks. But for his sake, that's probably a good thing in the long-term.
Yet another kid with character concerns, Clayborn falls into the laps of the Saints, who get an absolute steal in this defensive end.
He enters an environment filled with veteran leaders that can show him the right way to play and present himself at the next level—exactly what he needs.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Corey Liuget, DT Illinois
What They're Saying: Liuget can make his presence felt on any defensive line and is an underrated prospect coming out of Illinois.
Should he slide as far as the back end of the first round, the Seahawks would find themselves with an absolute bargain basement deal on a kid who could very well outperform his selection spot.
Why He Fits: The Seahwaks need help up the middle on defense and Liuget can help to plug the hole right away.
Given the fact that there seem to be several defensive tackles trending upward ahead of him, Liuget should be available here.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Torrey Smith, WR Maryland
What They're Saying: It's safe to say that the experiment with washed-up veterans alongside Anquan Boldin all but imploded and the Ravens are going to need to develop a legitimate number two.
Smith can stretch the field as he is an absolute burner and is even capable of opening up the running game by drawing multiple defenders deep in the secondary.
Why He Fits: Flacco needs more than one weapon on the outside in order to win in that division, and Smith provides exactly that.
He's a high-upside gamble late in the first round, and GM Ozzie Newsome rarely swings and misses.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Derek Sherrod, OT Mississippi State
What They're Saying: This is one big kid.
At 6'6" and listed at 305 lbs, that's no understatement. A human bowling ball, Sherrod has the impressive size to bang with NFL defenders immediately. He is also fairly athletic for his size and position, which is another major plus in his game.
Why He Fits: Protect your investments. The most critical piece to Atlanta's championship puzzle is QB Matt Ryan, and Sherrod will be asked to help provide protection.
He won't be an All-Pro from day one, but it's very possible he can quickly develop into a top pick from this class.
28. New England Patriots: Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA
What They're Saying: Ayers was remarkably constant from his junior to senior season. He registered an impressive 68 tackles and four sacks, so production is not the issue.
However, some scouts wonder if he's already reached his ceiling of development. If Ayers never progresses into a better player he won't justify a first round selection.
Why He Fits: The UCLA product is extremely versatile, and Belichick likes that in his linebackers.
He can help to provide a much needed presence in the pass rush and should help to better balance out the talent within the linebacking core.
29. Chicago Bears: Brandon Harris, CB Miami
What They're Saying: Harris is not often talked about given the attention that Peterson, Amukamara and even Jimmy Smith are drawing, but he's definitely someone to keep an eye on.
As the top corner on the board after the aforementioned three are gone, it wouldn't be a surprise whatsoever to see a needy team reach up and make him a first round selection.
Why He Fits: The Bears need an upgrade at corner and Harris fits that billing. He definitely won't be a game-changer right away, but definitely carries that potential down the road.
Although this might be seen as a reach, the Bears really fill a large void with the pick.
30. New York Jets: Cameron Heyward, DE/DT Ohio State
What They're Saying: Although Heyward is coming off of Tommy John surgery, he maintains his first-round grade, which is a testament to his skill set.
Given the fact that the Jets just released Kris Jenkins and Shaun Ellis is a 34-year old free agent, Heyward instantly brings youth to the defense while maintaining a high level of productivity.
Why He Fits: Rex Ryan loves defense and there's no offensive prospect really worth taking here.
Heyward is a versatile defensive lineman who can serve as a swing reserve and make his way into the starting lineup before long. Most importantly, like Rex, Heyward has NFL blood lines.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Phil Taylor, DT Baylor
What They're Saying: Another big-time prospect at the defensive tackle position in a draft class that suddenly looks loaded with them, Taylor comes with perhaps the most upside of any of the DT's.
He's 350 lbs of absolute mass and would be an instant starter unless the team that selected him already had a stud in place, and that's highly unlikely.
Why He Fits: The Steelers have been searching for a replacement for Casey Hampton and Taylor may be Hampton 2.0.
He's an absolute run stuffer and will force double-teams from offensive lineman much smaller than he is, opening up other things for the Steelers defensive unit.
32. Green Bay Packers: Jonathan Baldwin, WR Pittsburgh
What They're Saying: Baldwin's physical skill is not only impressive, it's flat out undeniable and he's rising up draft boards faster than any other wide receiving prospect.
He's got ideal size at 6'4" and almost 230 lbs, so any physical corner that wants to go toe-to-toe with him is almost certain to have their hands full.
Why he Fits: The Packers need to upgrade across from Greg Jennings as Donald Driver enters the twilight of his career.
There isn't a glaring area of concern for the defending Super Bowl champs, and this pick should only help strengthen the team into the future.