2011 Mock NFL Draft
By Steve Deace
If I was each team’s general manager, these are the picks I would make.
1. Panthers—Cameron Newton, QB-Auburn*
The Rams and Dolphins have each proved in recent seasons that if you don’t have a franchise quarterback you have to take one whenever you have the top overall pick in the draft, and that is the case for the Panthers. On top of that, the Panthers dramatically need to reinvent their franchise behind the star power Newton brings to the table.
2. Broncos—Marcell Dareus, DT-Alabama*
He’s no Ndamukong Suh, but Dareus has emerged as clearly the top defensive lineman in the draft since the Combine, and with Denver bringing in defensive-minded John Fox as its new head coach this pick is a no-brainer.
3. Bills—Patrick Peterson, CB-LSU*
For my money he’s the best overall player in the draft, and he upgrades both your defense and your special teams with his return ability. Normally I would urge the Bills to take a quarterback here because they need one, but they’re not going anywhere this fall either way. Thus, they can afford to wait and take their quarterback next year when perhaps they draft Stanford’s Andrew Luck No.1 overall.
4. Bengals—A.J. Green, WR-Georgia*
Several scouts believe Green is the best overall player in the draft regardless of position, and the Bengals clearly need to both upgrade this position as well as entice Carson Palmer back from the brink of retirement.
5. Cardinals—Von Miller, LB-Texas A&M
Another team that clearly needs a quarterback, but the Cardinals have the pieces elsewhere to win now—especially in the watered down NFC West. With the federal judge lifting the lockout (although that will be appealed), the conventional wisdom now is that things will return to normal sooner rather than later. That means Arizona can take the best player available – who also happens to be a perfect fit for their 3-4 defense – and wait to pick up a veteran quarterback like Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb later.
6. Browns—Julio Jones, WR-Alabama*
The parade of underclassmen continues with Jones, who is the ideal fit for the Browns’ West Coast offense. If you’re going to make Colt McCoy your franchise quarterback you have to get him some weapons.
7. 49ers—Blaine Gabbert, QB-Missouri*
Another team in desperate need of a franchise quarterback, and Gabbert has surprising mobility to go along with good accuracy, which fits well with what Jim Harbaugh wants. Hopefully this spread quarterback who primarily played out of the shotgun in college works out better for San Francisco than Alex Smith did.
8. Titans—Nick Fairley, DL-Auburn
Tennessee has never been able to replace Albert Haynesworth, and Fairley is reminiscent of Haynesworth in both ability and character. He could conceivably play every single position on the defensive line in a 4-3.
9. Cowboys—Tyron Smith, OT-USC*
Jerry Jones has never picked an offensive lineman in the first round, but then again he’s never needed one as bad as he does now, either. The Cowboys’ offensive line was an Achilles heel last year, and resulted in an inconsistent running game and an injured Tony Romo. It’s not considered a great tackle class, but Smith has the most athleticism in the group.
10. Redskins—Ryan Mallett, QB-Arkansas*
People may scoff when they seem him picked this high, but the reality is he’s a taller version of Jay Cutler (on and off the field) who was Mike Shanahan’s last quarterback draft choice. Mallett easily has the best arm in the quarterback class, and Shanahan is the kind of coach that can smooth out his rough edges. He’s also a player the Redskins won’t be able to get later on, so they should reach for him here.
11. Texans—J.J. Watt, DL-Wisconsin*
With Wade Phillips coming in as defensive coordinator, a 3-4 defense is on its way and you need flexibility and a five-technique up front. Watt provides both so he is the pick even though secondary is their biggest need.
12. Vikings—Jake Locker, QB-Washington
Minnesota really needs a franchise quarterback, and Locker was considered the top overall prospect in the draft entering the season. However, he battled injuries and an inconsistent senior year, but eventually led his team to its first bowl win in a while. A great athlete and leader who is tough as nails, but he needs work on his mechanics.
13. Lions—Prince Amukamara, CB-Nebraska
The Lions would be in quandary here, with perhaps the best 4-3 defensive end, one of the top cornerbacks, and the top power running back still on the board—all of whom fill needs. However, Amukamara meets the most immediate need and he comes with no injury or character red flags.
14. Rams—Robert Quinn, DE-North Carolina*
One of the most talented overall players in the draft, but there’s not a lot of tape on him after he missed his senior season because of violating NCAA rules. There’s also a brain tumor in his past. That said, he’s got a great work ethic and is the best overall true, 4-3 defensive end pass rusher in the draft.
15. Dolphins—Mark Ingram, RB-Alabama*
Another team that needs a franchise quarterback but probably won’t reach here for one. Ingram fills another huge void at running back, although the interior of the offensive line is the bigger need. Still, Ingram has too much value here to pass on him.
16. Jaguars—Cameron Jordan, DE-California
The Jags are known for picking solid character guys, and select a highly-educated Cal Golden Bear defensive lineman in the first round for the second year in a row. Jordan is a lot like another high-motor, high-character guy like Ryan Kerrigan, but with more versatility and athletic ability.
17. Patriots (from Raiders)—Gabe Carimi, OT-Wisconsin
This pick will likely be traded to someone else, and that team will likely move up to draft one of the top offensive tackles still on the board. In my opinion that’s Carimi, whom I believe is the most ready to start for a NFL team right away.
18. San Diego—Phil Taylor, NT-Baylor
Anytime you run a 3-4 defense and you don’t have a decent nose tackle you really don’t have a 3-4 defense. Someone is going to reach for Taylor because he’s one of the few true nose tackles in this draft, and that someone is likely San Diego who needs one.
19. Giants—Anthony Castanzo, OT-Boston College
This is a franchise that typically takes the best lineman available on either side of the ball, and while Castanzo isn’t the most gifted of the bunch he could eventually move inside or play either tackle spot.
20. Buccaneers—Aldon Smith, DE-Missouri*
Late-rising, explosive junior helps Tampa Bay complete its desire to create one of the most formidable defensive front fours in the NFL by providing the edge rusher it lacks.
21. Chiefs—Muhammad Wilkerson, NT-Temple*
Kansas City has a lot of things going for them on offense, but if they want to continue to build on their breakthrough 2010 campaign it needs to upgrade a defensive front that hasn’t lived up to some of the high draft picks spent on it in recent years. Wilkerson gives the Chiefs the pure nose tackle their 3-4 defense needs.
22. Colts—Nate Solder, OT-Colorado
Indianapolis is poised to make Peyton Manning the highest paid player in NFL history, and that sort of investment requires protection. Solder looks like Tarzan, but he combined like Jane in Indianapolis. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with his tape and his upside. He has the athleticism to be a fine pass protector down the road.
23. Eagles—Ryan Kerrigan, DE-Purdue
Under Andy Reid you know two things about where the Eagles are often going in the first round: they don’t take players with red flags and they often take the best lineman on either side of the ball on the board. Kerrigan is a Reid-type player with a high motor and work ethic.
24. Saints—Da’Quan Bowers, DE-Clemson*
Was once thought to be the top overall pick in the draft, but scouts are raising red flags about his knees and character. Still, he’s one of the top overall athletes on the board and for a New Orleans team that struggles to pressure the quarterback without blitzing a gamble worth taking here based on value.
25. Seahawks—Cameron Heyward, DL-Ohio State
Since there’s probably not a quarterback worthy of taking here to groom behind Matt Hasselbeck, Pete Carroll instead elects to shore his defensive line with a steady, if not spectacular, player who also offers some versatility.
26. Ravens—Derek Sherrod, OT-Mississippi State
Baltimore has done little to hide their interest in the late rising Sherrod, who was one of the most underrated players in the SEC the past two seasons. He should fit right in and fill the hole the Ravens have at right tackle, which was a sore spot last season.
27. Falcons—Adrian Clayborn, DE-Iowa
If you watched his junior film you’d project him in the top 10, but if you watched his senior film you might project him to the second day of the draft. Clayborn is one of the more intriguing players in the first round and opinions vary on his value.
28. Patriots—Mike Pouncey, OL-Florida
New England has multiple questions to answer on its offensive line, and Pouncey is perhaps the most versatile offensive lineman in the draft. Frankly, I’ll be surprised if he lasts this long. More than likely if he gets passed the teens somebody will jump up and try to snatch him away.
29. Bears—Corey Liuget, DT-Illinois*
With Tommie Harris done in Chicago, there will be plenty of pressure to replace him with an in-state college star that could end up going higher than this.
30. Jets—Akeem Ayers, OLB-UCLA
The quintessential hybrid pass rusher for the Jets 3-4 defense, Ayers isn’t great in space but for the Jets he doesn’t have to be.
31. Steelers—Ben Ijalana, OL-Villanova
For being such a dominant franchise Pittsburgh surprisingly continues to have issues with its offensive line.
32. Packers—Mikel LeShoure, RB-Illinois*
Ted Thompson likes to go with the best player available, and perhaps the best player on the board that could also make an instant impact is a power-runner like LeShoure.
Top 20 players on the board for Round 2
1. Kyle Rudolph, TE-Notre Dame*
2. Marvin Austin, DT-North Carolina
3. Jimmy Smith, CB-Colorado*
4. Aaron Williams, CB-Texas*
5. Rahim Moore, S-UCLA*
6. Jonathan Baldwin, WR-Pittsburgh*
7. Brooks Reed, OLB-Arizona
8. Jabaal Sheard, DE-Pittsburgh
9. Brandon Harris, CB-Miami, Fla.
10. Danny Watkins, OL-Baylor
11. Christian Ponder, QB-Florida State
12. Marcus Cannon, OT-TCU
13. Torrey Smith, WR-Maryland
14. Andy Dalton, QB-TCU
15. Christian Ballard, DT-Iowa
16. Stephen Paea, NT-Oregon State
17. Randall Cobb, WR-Kentucky
18. DeAndre McDaniel, S-Clemson
19. Stefan Wisniewski, OL-Penn State
20. Bruce Carter, OLB-North Carolina