2011 NFL Mock Draft: Chris J. Nelson's FINAL Two-Round Mock Draft
It's Christmas in April, as the 2011 NFL draft is finally upon us with the first round tonight. Speculation and draft talk has consumed an offseason marred by a lockout, so it's really all us die-hard football fans have.
I've made a lot of changes since my mock just a week ago, trying to sift through all the valid nuggets of information and all the BS spread by teams and agents for the purpose of misinformation.
I 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 those keeping score at home, here are how many first-rounders I have correctly predicted to their drafting teams since 2005. Let's hope I can stay in the 8-11 correct range this year!
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)
This has been the consensus for some time, and I don't see it changing now. The Panthers are enamored with Newton's physical ability and, whether I like him as a prospect or not, Carolina seems to and that's all that matters.
2. Denver Broncos—DE/OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
(previous mock: DT Marcell Dareus)
Many have assumed that Marcell Dareus was practically a lock here, but everything coming out of Broncos headquarters today says they like Miller. I don't see him quite as good a fit in the Broncos' 4-3 scheme at defensive end than he would be in a 3-4 outside linebacker spot, but his ability is undeniable.
3. Buffalo Bills—DE Marcell Dareus, Alabama
(previous mock: OLB Von Miller)
Miller is probably the guy they really covet here, but it looks like Denver might throw a wrench in those plans. I don't buy the Blaine Gabbert talk either, and I think instead they'll choose a prototypical 3-4 end in Dareus.
4. Cincinnati Bengals—WR A. J. Green, Georgia
(previous mock: WR A. J. Green)
I've had this pick mocked all offseason, and I'm not changing it now. They may very well need a quarterback too, but Green is special and the team will need a new No. 1 receiver with Ochocinco likely on the outs.
Picks 5 Through 8
5. Arizona Cardinals—CB Patrick Peterson, Louisiana State
(previous mock: OLB Robert Quinn)
Pass-rusher is their primary need, but the secondary certainly needs attention as well. Peterson might be the best overall player in the draft and could eventually be a shutdown corner or playmaking safety.
6. Cleveland Browns—WR Julio Jones, Alabama
(previous mock: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn)
I think the real need here is on the defensive line, which is totally without starting talent in the switch to the 4-3. That said, it sounds like the Browns are leaning more toward Jones, who would give them a true No. 1 receiver ahead of Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie.
7. San Francisco 49ers—QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
(previous mock: CB Patrick Peterson)
Jim Harbaugh has been sending signals to Alex Smith all offseason, but in all likelihood the former first-overall pick is not the long-term answer. Gabbert is a bit of a project after playing in the spread in college, but he certainly has the tools to be the guy.
8. Tennessee Titans—QB Andy Dalton, Texas Christian
(previous mock: QB Blaine Gabbert)
No one would have thought this pick possible a few days ago, but word is there could be a run on quarterbacks in the top 12. Potentially out of reach of any such prospects by the time they pick in the second round, the Titans reach for a pretty solid prospect here.
Picks 9 Through 12
9. Dallas Cowboys—OT Tyron Smith, Southern California
(previous mock: OT Tyron Smith)
Late reports have the Cowboys considering Anthony Castonzo or even a trade down but, since I don't mock trades, I'm going to go with the guy they've reportedly coveted all along in Smith. He's an intriguing option at right tackle and could provide long-term insurance if Doug Free eventually leaves.
10. Washington Redskins—QB Jake Locker, Washington
(previous mock: CB Prince Amukamara)
A run on quarterbacks is expected early, so Shanahan simply can't wait for his guy at No. 41. Locker had a down senior year, but he has the arm, intelligence, and mobility that the Redskins' head coach covets.
11. Houston Texans—CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
(previous mock: LB Aldon Smith)
Thanks to a quarterback shopping spree in the top 10, the Texans land a top-two player at their biggest need. A pass-rusher is also possible here, but I don't see them passing up on Amukamara with the league's worst secondary in 2010.
12. Minnesota Vikings—DE Aldon Smith, Missouri
(previous mock: DE J. J. Watt)
Ray Edwards seems destined to leave, and another rusher is needed to bookend Jared Allen. Smith is the perfect guy for the job and has the physical tools to be a dominant pass-rusher in this league.
Picks 13 Through 16
13. Detroit Lions—OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
(previous mock: OT Anthony Castonzo)
People have mocked all kinds of cornerbacks and defensive linemen here, but I don't think they should pass up on the most sound tackle in the draft. Jeff Backus will eventually need replacing on the left side, and Gosder Cherilus hasn't entirely lived up to his draft status, either.
14. St. Louis Rams—DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
(previous mock: WR Julio Jones)
Julio Jones would be the perfect pick for them, but unfortunately it looks like he's destined to be off the board by the time the Rams pick. St. Louis needs boost on the defensive line and are known to be high on Liuget, so I think it's a match.
15. Miami Dolphins—QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
(previous mock: QB Ryan Mallett)
Chad Henne might not be the answer, and the team has gone the "game manager" route for too long. A reach and a risk in the eyes of many, I think Mallett is the one elite quarterback prospect in this draft and someone the Dolphins should absolutely consider.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars—DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
(previous mock: DE Ryan Kerrigan)
The Jaguars have tried to land a pass-rusher in the draft many times, and they always seem to fail. Kerrigan is similar to the Jaguars' Aaron Kampman and would be a solid, safe pick for the team.
Chad Henne might not be the answer, and the team has gone the "game manager" route for too long.
Picks 17 Through 20
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland)—DE Cameron Jordan, California
(previous mock: DE Cameron Jordan)
New England is exploring trading up to grab Jordan, but I personally think they could actually land him here. Jordan is a prototypical 3-4 defensive end and could really excel in Bill Belichick's scheme the same way Richard Seymour and Ty Warren did.
18. San Diego Chargers—DE J. J. Watt, Wisconsin
(previous mock: DE Corey Liuget)
Another long-mocked pick, the Chargers need defensive line help and Watt is the best guy on the board. He's a strong run defender and solid pass-rusher for the Chargers' 3-4 scheme.
19. New York Giants—DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
(previous mock: DT Muhammad Wilkerson)
A pretty big fall for Auburn's one-year wonder, Fairley might be a little later than expected due to some attitude concerns. Nevertheless, the Giants are always looking to beef up their line and Fairley would be a great value here.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina
(previous mock: DE Da'Quan Bowers)
A top-five talent, Quinn falls to No. 20 due to his being out a season and a worrisome benign tumor on his brain. The Bucs need a real boost in their pass-rush and Quinn would certainly provide it.
Picks 21 Through 24
21. Kansas City Chiefs—OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
(previous mock: NT Phil Taylor)
I personally like Phil Taylor here, but you certainly can't argue with Carimi. Branden Albert hasn't yet developed into an elite player and the rest of the line needs help as well.
22. Indianapolis Colts—OT Nate Solder, Colorado
(previous mock: OT Nate Solder)
I've often thought Solder was a perfect fit for the Colts' blocking scheme due to his athleticism, and I think there's a good chance he falls to them here. If he does, he could end up being the elite left tackle Manning has lacked in recent years.
23. Philadelphia Eagles—CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
(previous mock: CB Jimmy Smith)
Philly has some major line issues, but they also need help at corner and there is a huge drop-off at the position after Smith. He's got some character concerns, but there's nothing wrong with a corner being a little cocky.
24. New Orleans Saints—DT Muhammad Wilkerson
(previous mock: DE Adrian Clayborn)
Sedrick Ellis appears to be a promising player, but the team could use a real monster nose tackle to play alongside him. Wilkerson, who was a beast at Temple, could be that guy.
Picks 25 Through 28
25. Seattle Seahawks—QB Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
(previous mock: QB Andy Dalton)
Matt Hasselbeck has little left and is on the free agent market, while Charlie Whitehurst may never be starting material. Kaepernick is a very intriguing prospect who would give Pete Carroll a potential long-term starter at the position.
26. Baltimore Ravens—DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
(previous mock: DE Cameron Heyward)
Although they have Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata in tow, the Ravens could always use a bit more depth on the defensive line. Heyward is your prototypical 3-4 end and is a good versatile guy for the Ravens' complex scheme.
27. Atlanta Falcons—DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
(previous mock: TE Kyle Rudolph)
The Falcons reportedly want into the top six, but I don't think they have the ammo to get there. Concerns over Bowers' knee cause him to fall, but the Falcons might find him too much of a bargain to pass up here.
28. New England Patriots—OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona
(previous mock: OLB Brooks Reed)
As New England continues to hoard picks, they land one of the better pass-rushers in the draft and someone who could really shine at outside linebacker in Bill Belichick's defense.
Picks 29 Through 32
29. Chicago Bears—DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina
(previous mock: OT Gabe Carimi)
Their offensive line needs more help than anything, but they also have to replace Tommie Harris, and the in-house candidates aren't all that appealing. Austin is a great schematic fit and has a ton of upside.
30. New York Jets—NT Phil Taylor, Baylor
(previous mock: OLB Akeem Ayers)
Kris Jenkins could never stay healthy and the team has finally moved on, so adding Taylor would give the Jets some depth and allow Sione Pouha to move around more.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers—OG Mike Pouncey, Florida
(previous mock: OG Mike Pouncey)
Mike isn't as talented as his brother Maurkice, but he's a good and versatile prospect in his own right and could really excel with a familiar face playing alongside him on a quality team. The Steelers' line could certainly use more youth.
32. Green Bay Packers—OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
(previous mock: OLB Justin Houston)
Ayers is an intriguing prospect with some versatility and great athleticism, and he could really excel opposite Clay Matthews in the Packers 3-4. He's certainly an upgrade over Erik Walden and Frank Zombo.
Picks 33 Through 36
33. New England Patriots (from Carolina)—RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
(previous mock: RB Mark Ingram)
The Patriots wait until the second round and they still land the draft's near-consensus top back. I don't think Ingram is all that special, but he's a nice value here for a team that has the picks to afford to use one on a running back.
34. Buffalo Bills—QB Christian Ponder, Florida State
(previous mock: QB Colin Kaepernick)
After going defense in the first round, the Bills land an ideal developmental quarterback here. Ponder's upside is questionable, but he's very smart and pretty NFL-ready for a rookie.
35. Cincinnati Bengals—DE Allen Bailey, Miami (Fla.)
(previous mock: QB Christian Ponder)
The Bengals pass-rush needs some help with Antwan Odom's injuries and the team's past swings and misses. A physical freak like Bailey has the versatility to play end or tackle, but he's valuable either way.
36. Denver Broncos—OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
(previous mock: OT Derek Sherrod)
Aside from Ryan Clady, the Broncos line is far from settled. With Ryan Harris slated to leave in free agency, Sherrod would be an excellent choice to start on the right side from day one.
Picks 37 Through 40
37. Cleveland Browns—DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
(previous mock: WR Torrey Smith)
Cleveland went offense in round one, so it's time to address the defense here. Clayborn is a versatile lineman who could play inside or outside in Jauron's 4-3 scheme.
38. Arizona Cardinals—OLB Justin Houston, Georgia
(previous mock: WR Leonard Hankerson)
Houston is expected to fall a bit due to a positive marijuana test at the combine, but the reality is most teams don't care all that much. Outside linebacker is a huge need for Arizona and Houston would really upgrade their pass-rush.
39. Tennessee Titans—OLB Bruce Carter, North Carolina
(previous mock: DE Allen Bailey)
The Titans need help at linebacker with Stephen Tulloch slated for free agency and no elite starters under contract, so they go with an intriguing specimen in Carter here.
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—WR Torrey Smith, Maryland
(previous mock: QB Jake Locker)
After taking Jake Locker in the first round, it's time to get him a new toy. Smith is a talented deep threat who would upgrade the Redskins' receiving corps.
42. Houston Texans—OLB Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh
(previous mock: CB Ras-I Dowling)
The Texans lucked out and got a No. 1 corner early, so now they need a pass-rusher for Wade Phillips' new 3-4 scheme. Sheard is one of the only good ones left on the board here, so he's a natural fit.
43. Minnesota Vikings—WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami (Fla.)
(previous mock: OG Marcus Cannon)
With Sidney Rice potentially bolting, and migraine man Percy Harvin not really a true No. 1 guy, it would behoove the Vikings to draft such a prospect. Hankerson has a lot of potential and fits the bill.
44. Detroit Lions—CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia
(previous mock: OLB Bruce Carter)
Cornerback is a huge need for Detroit (but really, what isn't?) and Dowling has been moving up the charts with his great speed. He's a good value here and would inject some talent into a started secondary.
Picks 45 Through 48
45. San Francisco 49ers—CB Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.)
(previous mock: OLB Jabaal Sheard)
The Niners' secondary can't seem to land a quality player through the draft, so it's back to the drawing board. Harris is unspectacular, but he's a solid all-around cornerback and fills a need.
46. Denver Broncos (from Miami)—DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State
(previous mock: ILB Martez Wilson)
After passing on Marcell Dareus at No. 2, the Broncos absolutely have to get a defensive tackle here. Paea is a monster who can really push the pile, making him a nice addition to John Fox's 4-3 scheme.
47. St. Louis Rams—TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
(previous mock: DT Stephen Paea)
Sam Bradford was better than expected as a rookie, and he did it all without any real safety blanket at the tight end position. Rudolph would give him that luxury and make his job much easier.
48. Oakland Raiders—OG Orlando Franklin, Miami (Fla.)
(previous mock: OG Orlando Franklin)
Robert Gallery is all but gone in free agency, so it's time to retool the line. Franklin is a behemoth who can play either guard or tackle.
Picks 49 Through 52
49. Jacksonville Jaguars—WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh
(previous mock: WR Randall Cobb)
Mike Sims-Walker could be gone soon, leaving the Jags without a true No. 1 receiver. Baldwin has the blend of size and athleticism to be a real elite receiver in this league if he can be developed properly.
50. San Diego Chargers—WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky
(previous mock: OLB Sam Acho)
Philip Rivers has done quite well with a no-name receiving corps, but it's time to get him some more talent. Cobb can stretch the field and would help fill the void, especially if V-Jax eventually leaves.
51. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—ILB Martez Wilson, Illinois
(previous mock: CB Brandon Harris)
Barrett Ruud and the Bucs have never been close on a contract, so the team might soon have a huge need in the middle. Wilson has all the tools to be a great linebacker if he can get some good coaching.
52. New York Giants—RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
(previous mock: RB Mikel Leshoure)
Looking to rebuild their secondary with Brandon Jacobs falling off the planet and Ahmad Bradshaw slated for free agency, Leshoure is arguably as good as Ingram and could really excel in the Giants' talented offense.
Picks 53 Through 56
53. Indianapolis Colts—G/C Rodney Hudson, Florida State
(previous mock: G/C Rodney Hudson)
I've mocked this for months now, and I stand by it. Hudson is a sound technician and has great athleticism, meaning he could easily upgrade the Colts' interior line.
54. Philadelphia Eagles—OT James Carpenter, Alabama
(previous mock: OT James Carpenter)
Winston Justice and King Dunlap are not starters and, honestly, Jason Peters isn't anymore either. Carpenter is pretty underrated and could fill the void left by Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan years ago.
55. Kansas City Chiefs—OG Danny Watkins, Baylor
(previous mock: OG Danny Watkins)
Watkins has first-round talent, but his advanced age might make some teams lower his value. He'd be a huge upgrade to the Chiefs' interior line that needs a serious youth injection.
56. New Orleans Saints—RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
(previous mock: RB Kendall Hunter)
Reggie Bush doesn't look like he'll ever carry the load, and I'm not all that high on Pierre Thomas either. Hunter is a Jamaal Charles clone who could really excel in a talented passing offense.
Picks 57 Through 60
57. Seattle Seahawks—OG Benjamin Ijalana, Villanova
(previous mock: DT Marvin Austin)
Seattle has added some nice pieces to their offensive line in recent years, but it's still not complete. Ijalana offers versatility as a right tackle or guard.
58. Baltimore Ravens—CB Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State
(previous mock: OG Benjamin Ijalana)
After missing out on Jimmy Smith in round one, the Ravens will look to upgrade their secondary here.
59. Atlanta Falcons—WR Jerrel Jernigan, Troy
(previous mock: WR Jerrel Jernigan)
Atlanta is looking for a speedy playmaker to complement Roddy White, and they covet Jernigan highly. He'd be a really intriguing toy for Matt Ryan.
60. New England Patriots—OG Will Rackley, Lehigh
(previous mock: OG Will Rackley)
This may be considered a bit of a reach, but Rackley is a very talented small-school prospect, and Bill Belichick has been known to work wonders with his offensive linemen. Rackley could really develop into something special in New England.
Picks 61 Through 64
61. San Diego Chargers (from New York Jets)—OLB Sam Acho, Texas
(previous mock: WR Jon Baldwin)
The Chargers need help at outside linebacker with Shawn Merriman having moved on, and Acho is a talented player with a high football IQ that should help him convert to a stand-up role in the Chargers' 3-4 scheme.
62. Chicago Bears—OG John Moffitt, Wisconsin
(previous mock: DT Christian Ballard)
Chris Williams was tried and failed at guard (and everywhere else) so it's time to look for more talent in the draft. Moffitt isn't widely regarded as a second-round pick, but he's a really underrated player who could be an instant starter inside.
63. Pittsburgh Steelers—CB Davon House, New Mexico State
(previous mock: CB Davon House)
The Steelers' secondary isn't all that talented aside from Polamalu and they lack a true No. 1 corner or any depth. House is a nice developmental project for Mike Tomlin.
64. Green Bay Packers—RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
(previous mock: RB Ryan Williams)
The Super Bowl champs have a talented team and the luxury to go a lot of directions here, which is why I like them to beef up their backfield with Brandon Jackson moving on, Ryan Grant being phased out and James Starks still unproven.