2011 NFL Mock Draft: Chris J. Nelson's Two-Round Mock Draft 4.0
The 2011 NFL draft is just five days away, and it's amazing to think how much things have changed since the offseason began three months ago. Things we thought we "knew" in January now seem ridiculous.
Of course, it's still difficult to pinpoint everything that's going to happen, and some teams are just downright more difficult to read than others.
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 third mock draft for 2011 was two rounds and that continues with this version.
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 1 Through 4
1. Carolina Panthers—QB Cam Newton, Auburn
(previous mock: QB Cam Newton)
The Panthers haven't officially confirmed this pick and there isn't quite a consensus that Newton is the guy, but nearly all signs point toward Carolina going this route. They have plenty of needs and a handful of other options, but it seems unlikely they pass on Newton at this point.
2. Denver Broncos—DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
(previous mock: DT Marcell Dareus)
With a new four-man front on defense and Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams out, the Broncos need a run-stuffer to plug up the middle. Dareus is a safer pick than Auburn's Nick Fairley and seems to be the likely selection here.
3. Buffalo Bills—LB Von Miller, Texas A&M
(previous mock: QB Blaine Gabbert)
The quarterback position is hardly settled with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, but perhaps there is no bigger need than the team's pass rush. Miller is a consistent producer and has a high football IQ, so he should succeed where Aaron Maybin hasn't.
4. Cincinnati Bengals—WR A. J. Green, Georgia
(previous mock: WR A. J. Green)
Blaine Gabbert is a potential pick here as the team has to start taking Carson Palmer's retirement threats seriously, but I see them addressing that position in the second round. TO is gone and Chad Ochocinco seems to have finally worn out his welcome and Green is a perfect fit, giving Cincinnati a new long-term No. 1 receiver.
Picks 5 Through 8
5. Arizona Cardinals—OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
(previous mock: OLB Von Miller)
Indications are the Cardinals will pass on Gabbert here, meaning they could go a handful of other directions. Patrick Peterson is a possibility as the best player available, but the secondary was actually not terrible in 2010 and the team's pass rush is probably its biggest pure need, which Quinn would help greatly.
6. Cleveland Browns—DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
(previous mock: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn)
It's hard to know just which route Mike Holmgren will go here, as he could opt for a pass rusher, quarterback or even Patrick Peterson despite taking Joe Haden a year ago. However, the defensive line in Dick Jauron's new 4-3 scheme will need a lot of help, and Fairley would be a nice fit.
7. San Francisco 49ers—CB Patrick Peterson, Louisiana State
(previous mock: CB Patrick Peterson)
Jim Harbaugh's quarterback situation isn't settled and pass rusher is a big need, but the team's secondary could always use more help, and it's probably going to be too difficult to pass on Peterson at this point in the draft.
8. Tennessee Titans—QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
(previous mock: DE Robert Quinn)
With four (maybe five if you include Denver) teams needing a quarterback sitting in front of them in Round 2, the Titans would probably be better served addressing the position here unless they want Rusty Smith starting in 2011. Gabbert has all the tools and is a worthwhile project.
Picks 9 Through 12
9. Dallas Cowboys—OT Tyron Smith, Southern California
(previous mock: OT Tyron Smith)
The Cowboys have been known to be high on Smith for quite some time, and though players like Cameron Jordan, J. J. Watt and Prince Amukamara will draw interest, it seems likely they'll go with the offensive tackle they covet in the end.
10. Washington Redskins—CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
(previous mock: CB Prince Amukamara)
The Ryan Mallett interest is a smokescreen and this is way too early for Jake Locker to be taken, even if they are high on him. A lot of people like Julio Jones here, but cornerback is a huge need with Carlos Rogers and Phillip Buchanon free agents and DeAngelo Hall completely devoid of talent, so Amukamara makes much more sense.
11. Houston Texans—LB Aldon Smith, Missouri
(previous mock: LB Aldon Smith)
The owners of the worst secondary in football last year, I'm sure the Texans would love if either Peterson or Amukamara fell to them. I don't have that happening though, so a pass rusher for Wade Phillips' new 3-4 scheme would be a good second option.
12. Minnesota Vikings—DE J. J. Watt, Wisconsin
(previous mock: DE J. J. Watt)
It's tempting to put Da'Quan Bowers here, but I'm just not sure it's worth the risk. Watt has a much cleaner bill of health and actually has some pass rush skills of his own. A beast against the run, he'd be excellent paired opposite Jared Allen.
Picks 13 Through 16
13. Detroit Lions—OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
(previous mock: OT Anthony Castonzo)
Tyron Smith would probably be their first choice, but Castonzo represents the best combination of talent and fundamentals at his position. Jeff Backus is an adequate but replaceable starter at left tackle, so it's time to invest in a long-term protector of Matthew Stafford's blind side.
14. St. Louis Rams—WR Julio Jones, Alabama
(previous mock: WR Julio Jones)
There's no guarantee Jones falls here, but I don't see him going early barring a trade up from someone picking later. The Rams' receiving corps is riddled with injury questions and lacks a true No. 1 threat, so Jones would be Sam Bradford's best friend.
15. Miami Dolphins—QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
(previous mock: QB Ryan Mallett)
Most people have wisely jumped off the Mark Ingram trade here, and I'm not sold on Pouncey being worth this pick. A trade down is always possible as the team would like to pick up a second-rounder, but through all the BS and misleading rumors, I think they are quite high on Mallett and would be wise to take the draft's best pure passer here.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
(previous mock: DE Ryan Kerrigan)
Aaron Kampman has been limited to just 17 games over the past two seasons, and the team has consistently failed at drafting pass rushers. It's back to the drawing board with Kerrigan, who may never be elite but is a solid all-around prospect.
Picks 17 Through 20
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland)—DE Cameron Jordan, California
(previous mock: DE Adrian Clayborn)
One of the best 3-4 end prospects in the draft, Jordan is a very talented and sound project. He could excel in Bill Belichick's defense as a long-term replacement for Richard Seymour.
18. San Diego Chargers—DE Corey Liuget, Illinois
(previous mock: OLB Aldon Smith)
The Chargers' first need on defense is probably a pass rusher, but with no glaring options there, they could look elsewhere. Liuget profiles as a 3-4 end and could be a productive rookie starter for a young defensive line in San Diego.
19. New York Giants—DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple
(previous mock: DT Corey Liuget)
The Giants drafted Linval Joseph in the second round last year, but he played sparingly as a rookie. The Giants could also use an upgrade over Rocky Bernard and are expected to let Barry Cofield walk via free agency. Wilkeron is a fast-rising prospect and would be an excellent addition.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
(previous mock: DE Ryan Kerrigan)
Tampa Bay beefed up their defensive tackle spot with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in 2010, but their pass rush from the end spot is still sorely lacking. Injury concerns could cause Bowers to plummet, but he might be too good of a value here for the Bucs to pass up.
Picks 21 Through 24
21. Kansas City Chiefs—NT Phil Taylor, Baylor
(previous mock: NT Phil Taylor)
Some might call this a reach, but I'm a fan of Taylor's, and I think he's the best pure nose tackle prospect in this draft. The Chiefs haven't had a legitimate starter at the position since the scheme was implemented, so Taylor would be a great fit.
22. Indianapolis Colts—OT Nate Solder, Colorado
(previous mock: OT Anthony Castonzo)
A raw but athletic prospect, Solder would be a great fit in the Colts' blocking scheme and could develop into the long-term answer on Peyton Manning's blind side.
23. Philadelphia Eagles—CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
(previous mock: OT Nate Solder)
Character concerns have followed Smith leading up to the draft, but they may be overblown as he has stayed pretty clean off the field since 2007. The Eagles could really use an offensive tackle here, but they might be better served going with a cornerback like Smith considering the huge drop-off at the position after him.
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 squads and would be a good addition here.
Picks 25 Through 28
25. Seattle Seahawks—QB Andy Dalton, TCU
(previous mock: QB Colin Kaepernick)
Matt Hasselbeck is a free agent and probably doesn't have much left in the tank, while Charlie Whitehurst has done nothing to show he's starter material. Dalton is an underrated prospect and could be great in the right system.
26. Baltimore Ravens—DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
(previous mock: WR Torrey Smith)
Torrey Smith probably isn't worth this pick, as the team can land a young receiving talent in the second or third round. Word is they like Heyward a lot, and he's a prototypical 3-4 end that would be a nice fit alongside Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata.
27. Atlanta Falcons—TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
(previous mock: DE Justin Houston)
With so many needs on offense, it's hard to envision them going tight end here. But there's a pretty steep drop-off after Rudolph and there might not even be another tight end worthy of taking in the second round, in which case it might be worth to nab a replacement for Tony Gonzalez here.
28. New England Patriots—OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona
(previous mock: OLB Brooks Reed)
Back on the clock again, the Patriots are in a perfect position to draft the best pass rusher in the board. Reed would be an excellent 3-4 outside linebacker and would significantly upgrade the team's defense.
Picks 29 Through 32
29. Chicago Bears—OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
(previous mock: OG Mike Pouncey)
Chris Williams doesn't appear to be panning out, while J'Marcus Webb still has a long way to go. Carimi is an excellent technician that could excel at tackle or guard, making him a better value than Pouncey here.
30. New York Jets—OLB Akeem Ayers
(previous mock: DE Cameron Heyward)
The team is about ready to give up on Vernon Gholston, while Jason Taylor is on the fast track for retirement and Bryan Thomas struggled in 2010. Ayers has all the physical tools to develop as a 3-4 outside linebacker and could excel as a pass rusher under Rex Ryan.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers—OG Mike Pouncey, Florida
(previous mock: OT Derek Sherrod)
Pouncey is probably a bit overrated because of his junior season and his brother, but he's a solid prospect in his own right and it might be worth it to draft Maurkice's brother and team the two at center and guard for years to come.
32. Green Bay Packers—OLB Justin Houston, Georgia
(previous mock: OT Gabe Carimi)
Nobody needs to be told that Clay Matthews is a beast, but Erik Walden and Frank Zombo leave plenty to be desired on the other side. Houston is the best pass rusher left on the board with all the tools to convert to 3-4 outside linebacker.
Picks 33 Through 36
33. New England Patriots (from Carolina)—RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
(previous mock: RB Mark Ingram)
Some may be surprised to see Ingram fall all the way to the second round, but in reality he's not special enough for a high or mid first-round pick. The Pats have him fall into their laps at a good value here, as he certainly projects as a major upgrade over BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.
34. Buffalo Bills—QB Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
(previous mock: DE Allen Bailey)
Ryan Fitzpatrick exceeded expectations in 2010, but there is still plenty of skepticism that he's the long-term answer. Kaepernick is an intriguing prospect with all the tools and smarts to succeed, so Gailey and Nix might have to pull the trigger.
35. Cincinnati Bengals—QB Christian Ponder, Florida State
(previous mock: QB Christian Ponder)
After going receiver in Round 1 with A. J. Green, the Bengals need to find someone to get him the ball as it doesn't appear that it's going to be Carson Palmer. This would be a dream scenario for Cincinnati, as Ponder possesses the accuracy and intelligence to excel in Jay Gruden's offense. However, Buffalo and others will also be looking at Ponder, so expect the Bengals to explore trading up for him.
36. Denver Broncos—OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
(previous mock: LB Akeem Ayers)
There are needs all over the defense and quarterback isn't settled either, but the Broncos are expected to let Ryan Harris walk in free agency. Sherrod if a potential first-rounder that probably couldn't be passed up if he fell to this spot.
Picks 37 Through 40
37. Cleveland Browns—WR Torrey Smith, Maryland
(previous mock: WR Leonard Hankerson)
They'd probably jump on A. J. Green at No. 6 if he fell and they may even consider Julio Jones, but ultimately there are too many defenders worth taking at their spot in the first round. They get good value for Smith here in the second, providing them the speedy No. 1 receiver they lack.
38. Arizona Cardinals—WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami (Fla.)
(previous mock: QB Andy Dalton)
After passing on Blaine Gabbert in the first round, there isn't really a good fit at quarterback on the board and they might have to go with a veteran (Marc Bulger?) in 2011 while trying to develop John Skelton and Max Hall. In that case, another receiver to make up for Anquan Boldin and possibly Steve Breaston's departures might be a nice addition.
39. Tennessee Titans—DE Allen Bailey, Miami (Fla.)
(previous mock: LB Martez Wilson)
The Titans landed their long-term quarterback in Round 1, so now they can focus on their defensive front seven that needs work. Their pass rush could be leaving via free agency in 2011, so a physical freak like Bailey might be appealing.
40. Dallas Cowboys—CB Aaron Williams, Texas
(previous mock: CB Aaron Williams)
Jerry Jones would probably love Patrick Peterson in the first round, but that's unlikely to happen. He'll settle for some in-state secondary relief in the next round with Williams.
Picks 41 Through 44
41. Washington Redskins—QB Jake Locker, Washington
(previous mock: WR Jon Baldwin)
Mike Shanahan is looking for his next John Elway in Washington, and while Locker has a long way to go before he approaches that Hall of Famer, he does posses the blend of size, arm strength and athleticism Shanahan covets.
42. Houston Texans—CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia
(previous mock: CB Brandon Harris)
With the top two cornerbacks in this draft coming off the board in the top 10, the Texans had to go another direction in the first round. They address their secondary here with the best corner left on the board, as Dowling has been climbing the draft charts after an excellent 40 time.
43. Minnesota Vikings—OG Marcus Cannon, TCU
(previous mock: QB Jake Locker)
Brett Favre's replacement won't be found here, as any quarterback worthy of being picked in the top two rounds are off the board. It's hard to say what direction the Vikings will go here, but they could always use offensive line help and Cannon could fill a void at either guard or right tackle.
44. Detroit Lions—OLB Bruce Carter, North Carolina
(previous mock: OLB Bruce Carter)
It's no secret the Lions have needs everywhere, and linebacker is no exception with literally every starting spot open for upgrade. Carter is a perfect fit on the outside in the Lions' 4-3 scheme.
Picks 45 Through 48
45. San Francisco 49ers—OLB Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh
(previous mock: OLB Jabaal Sheard)
Former first-rounder Manny Lawson is a free agent and never really panned out like the Niners planned. They could use some help getting to the quarterback, which is where a fringe first-round talent like Sheard comes in.
46. Denver Broncos (from Miami)—LB Martez Wilson, Illinois
(previous mock: DT Stephen Paea)
They upgraded their front in the first round, and now it's time to get some help next to D. J. Williams in the middle of John Fox's new 4-3 defense. Wilson has questionable instincts, but the physical tools are certainly present.
47. St. Louis Rams—DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State
(previous mock: DT Marvin Austin)
Clifton Ryan is expected to walk and Fred Robbins isn't getting any younger, so it might behoove the Rams to find an upgrade at defensive tackle to team with Chris Long and some of the team's other young linemen.
48. Oakland Raiders—OG Orlando Franklin, Miami (Fla.)
(previous mock: OG Orlando Franklin)
The Raiders and Robert Gallery were extremely far apart in contract talks, so expect him to walk via free agency. Al Davis loves his physical freaks, so he'll love a beast like Franklin.
Picks 49 Through 52
49. Jacksonville Jaguars—WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky
(previous mock: WR Titus Young)
Mike Sims-Walker appears to be gone in free agency, which means the Jaguars will need a new big-play receiver. Cobb has dynamic ability and would be a welcome addition to a run-first offense.
50. San Diego Chargers—OLB Sam Acho, Texas
(previous mock: OLB Sam Acho)
After passing on a pass rusher in favor of a lineman in the first round, it's time to replace Shawne Merriman by landing Brian Orakpo's former sack mate at Texas. Acho is a smart, talented football player that could really excel as a 3-4 linebacker in San Diego.
51. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—CB Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.)
(previous mock: CB Ras-I Dowling)
The Buccaneers already needed to find a long-term replacement for Ronde Barber, and Aqib Talib's gun-happy offseason could set their secondary back years. Harris is the best cornerback left on the board at this point, so the Bucs should grab him.
52. New York Giants—RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
(previous mock: RB Mikel Leshoure)
Ahmad Bradshaw may be tempted to leave via free agency, while Brandon Jacobs has at times been a shadow of his former self and hasn't been the best personality in the locker room. Leshoure is arguably the best running back in this class and would be a nice value for the G-Men here.
Picks 53 Through 56
53. Indianapolis Colts—G/C Rodney Hudson, Florida State
(previous mock: G/C Rodney Hudson)
The Colts got a potential left tackle in the first round, and here they have a great opportunity to beef up the interior. Jeff Saturday isn't getting any younger, while Mike Pollak hasn't really panned out and Kyle DeVan is not long-term starting material. Hudson's great athleticism and high football IQ are just what the Colts look for and he could be an instant starter at guard with an eye toward center down the line.
54. Philadelphia Eagles—OT James Carpenter, Alabama
(previous mock: OT James Carpenter)
Opting for a cornerback in Jimmy Smith with their first pick, it's time for the Eagles to address a dire tackle situation that presently has two disappointments (Jason Peters and Winston Justice) and a never-was in King Dunlap. Carpenter is a strong player that could solve the team's tackle woes for many years.
55. Kansas City Chiefs—OG Danny Watkins, Baylor
(previous mock: C Stefan Wisniewski)
The Chiefs have taken measures to upgrade their line with Brandon Albert and John Asamoah, but they could still use a bit more youth with Casey Wiegmann and Brian Waters featured in starting roles. Watkins is a bit older than your typical prospect, but he's extremely sound and could be a quality starting guard for the next decade.
56. New Orleans Saints—RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
(previous mock: RB Kendall Hunter)
I'm not the biggest fan of Pierre Thomas as a long-term starter, and Reggie Bush is a free agent that has shown he isn't more than a complementary back. Drew Brees could certainly use a Jamaal Charles clone like Hunter to add a new element to an offense that always seems to have a running back shortage anyway.
Picks 57 Through 60
57. Seattle Seahawks—DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina
(previous mock: OG Marcus Cannon)
The Seahawks appear poised to go after a quarterback in the first round, but their primary goal early in the draft will still be to build up the trenches. Austin has some character issues, but he's a good value here and would be a nice replacement if Brandon Mebane bolts in free agency.
58. Baltimore Ravens—OT Benjamin Ijalana, Villanova
(previous mock: OT Benjamin Ijalana)
Jared Gaither may be gone as a free agent, while Michael Oher struggled on the left side in 2010 and the interior could use some help as well. Ijalana projects at either right tackle or guard, where he could be a starter in a year.
59. Atlanta Falcons—WR Jerrel Jernigan, Troy
(previous mock: TE Kyle Rudolph)
The Falcons need help on defense, but after going tight end in the first round, they are simply too eager to land another guy they covet here. Atlanta is high on Jernigan, and he'd provide an excellent complement to Roddy White as a deep threat for Matt Ryan.
60. New England Patriots—OG Will Rackley, Lehigh
(previous mock: OG Danny Watkins)
Logan Mankins is probably going to be freed eventually at some point, and in that case the Patriots will need to upgrade their interior offensive line. Rackley isn't expect to go around the third round or so, but he's an excellent guard prospect that Bill Belichick could really mold into a star.
Picks 61 Through 64
61. San Diego Chargers (from New York Jets)—WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh
(previous mock: WR Randall Cobb)
Philip Rivers can do wonders with seemingly anyone at receiver, but he could really use a long-term No. 1 guy and Vincent Jackson could be gone sooner rather than later. Baldwin is similar talent to Jackson, with enough size and speed to be a great vertical thread.
62. Chicago Bears—DT Christian Ballard, Iowa
(previous mock: DE Christian Ballard)
The Bears are looking to replace Tommie Harris, and there isn't a whole lot of indication that Marcus Harrison or Matt Toeaina can be that guy. Ballard is strong and athletic with experience at tackle and end, and he could afford to add about 10 pounds of muscle to play inside in Lovie's defense.
63. Pittsburgh Steelers—CB Davon House, New Mexico State
(previous mock: CB Curtis Brown)
Ike Taylor has never really been your true No. 1 corner, but he's certainly benefited from Dick LeBeau's excellent defensive front that takes pressure off the secondary. The Steelers' corner depth is also sorely lacking, so House would be a nice prospect to groom as a starter.
64. Green Bay Packers—RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
(previous mock: RB Ryan Williams)
The Super Bowl champs obviously don't have too many glaring needs, but they could use another running back with Brandon Jackson on the way out, Ryan Grant practically forgotten, and James Starks not yet ready to carry the whole load. They grab the best back available here, and Williams could really excel in Mike McCarthy's excellent offense.