2011 Mock NFL Draft
By Steve Deace
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*
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—Blaine Gabbert, QB-Missouri*
Another team in desperate need of a franchise quarterback, and Gabbert has surprising mobility which Coach Chan Gailey covets. Don’t be surprised if Gabbert goes No. 1 and this is where Newton ends up. Could you imagine Cam Newton and his entourage rolling into Buffalo?
4. Bengals—Julio Jones, WR-Alabama*
The parade of underclassmen continues with Jones, who is the ideal fit for the Bengals and their new West Coast offense. He also might be the kind of weapon that could help sway Carson Palmer from his ultimatum.
5. Cardinals—Von Miller, LB-Texas A&M
Arizona really needs a quarterback, but there are too many questions about the remaining prospects at this point so instead the Cardinals select a disruptive outside presence perfect for their 3-4 defense.
6. Browns—A.J. Green, WR-Georgia*
One of the most explosive athletes in the draft, he’s more a vertical threat than the traditional West Coast offense receive, but if Colt McCoy is your franchise quarterback you’ve got to get him some weapons.
7. 49ers—Patrick Peterson, CB-LSU*
San Francisco really needs a quarterback, but really only Jake Locker fits what Jim Harbaugh is looking for and this may be too early to take him. 49ers need a cornerback, and in my opinion Peterson is the best overall player in the draft. Under this scenario, don’t be surprised if San Francisco trades down here with someone like Houston or Detroit who covet Peterson to draft a quarterback like Locker later.
8. Titans—Nick Fairley, DL-Auburn
Tennessee has never been able to replace Albert Haynesworth, so they would consider themselves quite fortunate to have Fairley fall this far. He could conceivably play every single position on the defensive line in a 4-3.
9. Cowboys—Prince Amukamara, CB-Nebraska
Cowboys need offensive line help, but Jerry Jones doesn’t pick them in the first round. Dallas also needs help at corner and though the draft is deep at the position it does drop off in proven prospects after Amukamara.
10. Redskins—Jake Locker, QB-Washington
Entered the season the top prospect in the draft, but senior year was marred by injuries. Still, he led Huskies to first bowl win in years, is a freak of an athlete, and Mike Shanahan’s coaching acumen is limited when he doesn’t have a franchise quarterback.
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—Robert Quinn, DE-North Carolina*
Minnesota really needs a franchise quarterback, but there isn’t one on the board worthy of this pick and it has other needs, too. Quinn is the perfect rush end for Leslie Frazier’s 4-3 defense, and had he not been ruled ineligible by the NCAA could’ve been a top five pick in this draft.
13. Lions—Tyron Smith, OT-USC*
After watching its franchise quarterback shut his season down prematurely two seasons in a row, emerging Detroit finally decides to invest heavily to protect its investment. It’s not a great year for offensive linemen, but Smith is the consensus top tackle in the draft.
14. Rams—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 in the draft and is good value at this point for St. Louis.
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, and it seems like every mock draft in the world is projecting him here.
16. Jaguars—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.
17. Patriots (from Raiders)—Cameron Jordan, DL-California
New England’s defensive line needs an upgrade since the trade of Richard Seymour and Jordan, who is a late-rising prospect, could provide that.
18. San Diego—Muhammad Wilkerson, DL-Temple*
San Diego’s 3-4 defensive needs are similar to New England’s, and Wilkerson’s profile and late rise is similar to Jordan’s.
19. Giants—Anthony Castanzo, OT-Boston College
In a position to take the best player available, but that’s not the way they roll, preferring instead to take the best lineman available.
20. Buccaneers—Ryan Kerrigan, DE-Purdue
Up-and-coming Tampa Bay continues to build its defensive line with a steady and productive player.
21. Chiefs—Phil Taylor, DT-Baylor
There are character questions for sure, but you can’t run a 3-4 defense without a plugger in the middle and Taylor is the best fit to do that left on the board.
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—Gabe Carimi, OT-Wisconsin
We’ve seen it before in the draft that once offensive tackles start getting selecting there’s a run on the position. The Eagles typically draft the best lineman available, and at this point that’s the latest Badger behemoth.
24. Saints—Aldon Smith, DE-Missouri*
New Orleans struggled to get pressure on the quarterback without blitzing, and Smith put up great numbers at Missouri in basically a season and a half because of injury.
25. Seahawks—Christian Ponder, QB-Florida State
Any time you don’t have a franchise quarterback you don’t draft a defensive lineman or a cornerback, even though those are other positions of great need for the Seahawks. Ponder has all the tools and is a solid character guy. There are questions about his durability, which is why he’s considered a fringe first round pick. Still, he can sit behind Matt Hasselbeck for a year and be groomed for the future.
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.
27. Falcons—Jabaal Sheard, DE-Pittsburgh
Atlanta is another team that needs to upgrade its pass rush, and Sheard took full advantage of having a preseason All-American as a teammate on the other side. With Greg Romeus getting the bulk of the attention early, Sheard ended up being named an All-American and All-Big East.
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.
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—Brooks Reed, OLB-Arizona
Putting another quality athlete opposite Clay Matthews, Jr. will only make Matthews better.
Top 10 players on the board for Round 2
1. Jonathan Baldwin, WR-Pittsburgh*
2. Kyle Rudolph, TE-Notre Dame*
3. Aaron Williams, CB-Texas*
4. Rahim Moore, S-UCLA*
5. Mikel LeShoure, RB-Illinois*
6. Cameron Heyward, DL-Ohio State
7. DeAndre McDaniel, S-Clemson
8. Stefen Wisniewski, OL-Penn State
9. Ryan Mallett, QB-Arkansas*
10. Jimmy Smith, CB-Colorado