2011 NFL Mock Draft: Rounds 1 & 2
1. Carolina Panthers: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Is Blaine Gabbert the best prospect in this class? Absolutely not. But Carolina has no other choice but to address the quarterback position. Time and time again, first-year coaches bring in ‘their guy’. Also, Mel Kiper also brings up a good point by saying that projecting the idea that Carolina will take a QB at No. 1 maximizes the trade potential of the pick. Since so many different teams are looking to take a QB in the first two rounds, Carolina would be wise to bait another team into a trade in order to land Gabbert or Auburn’s Cam Newton.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Marcell Dareus’ versatility and strong combine performance have at least temporarily vaulted him past Auburn’s Nick Fairley as the draft’s best defensive line prospect. Denver will be reverting back to a 4-3 defense and Dareus fits very well in either defensive tackle spots. That being said, so does Fairley so this pick is definitely a toss-up between the two players.
3. Buffalo Bills: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Bills GM Buddy Nix has already stated that Buffalo probably has to add a quarterback in this draft. If Cam Newton is available here, it’s tough to imagine them passing him over just to take a lesser prospect in Rounds 2 or 3. Newton has a world of potential and he’d easily be the face of the franchise.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The current state of this franchise is in flux. Palmer has said he wants out. Ochocino and Owens will test free agency once a CBA agreement is reached. If Gabbert and Newton are gone, it’s best for the Bengals to wait until the second round to grab a QB. This leaves them to address receiver and they’d so happen to select A.J. Green. He’s a fast, silky smooth receiver with size and highly-productive.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Arizona’s defense fell off a cliff in 2010 and the first thing they must do is improve the pass rush. Von Miller’s speed off the edge and the havoc he generates against opposing teams is a must-have at this pick.
6. Cleveland Browns: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Lingering questions remain about the seriousness of Da’Quan Bowers’ injury. He didn’t work out at the combine and he skipped his pro day. He plans to have a private workout in a couple weeks so there’s still time for him to repair his draft stock. Bowers still led the NCAA in sacks last season so he definitely won’t slip past the top ten.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Patrick Peterson is the safest selection in this draft but as the pundits keep telling us, cornerbacks are rarely taken early in drafts because defensive linemen have a bigger impact, blah blah. If Peterson slips to San Francisco, considering he fulfills a big need, they have to take him.
8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Nick Fairley will have an immediate impact for any team. Dareus looks more physically imposing, but Fairley was far more disruptive this season. This is about as far as he can possibly slide and that’s no fault of his own. Dareus is generating more buzz which is why Fairley ends up with Tennessee. The Titans need to tweak their defense and providing LB Stephen Tulloch a bodyguard up front would makes him even better.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
I’ve said it a million different ways, but Prince Amukamara makes the most sense for Dallas. But given that great defensive linemen like UNC’s Robert Quinn, Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt are still available here makes this pick more open to interpretation as Amakamara has been my choice here for some time. Dallas’ pass rush needs work and it doesn’t matter who is playing corner if a QB gets too much time in the pocket.
10. Washington Redskins: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Julio Jones had one of the most impressive performances at the combine and he’ll be rewarded for it. Let’s face it, if a team is amongst the top 10 picks in the NFL Draft, their offense needs help. Point being, Jones could be gone as early as pick No. 4, as unlikely as it may seem. The Redskins have swung and miss trying to address this position for years. Landing Jones may finally fix the problem.
11. Houston Texans: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
If he had played this year, Quinn very well may have been the top pick in this draft. But due to his suspension (lied to NCAA about receiving improper benefits), we’ll never know what could have been. Quinn is an excellent rusher on the edge and as Houston transitions into a 3-4 defense, they presently lack any player who fits the mold of a 3-4 OLB. Quinn would come in as their best player at the position on draft day.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
Minnesota is in a precarious position. They need a QB but it’s unlikely Gabbert or Newton fall this far. Do they make a trade up, trade down, reach or wait? My guess is they trade up but if they pick here, Smith is raw prospect with a big-time potential. At the combine, he was physically impressive as a lean defensive end who could potentially play OLB.
13. Detroit Lions: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Considering Matt Stafford was out most of the year, it should be apparent to the Lions that they need to better protect their QB. Smith is an athletic prospect who will need to quickly adapt to the speed of the NFL. The Lions are rapidly becoming more competitive in their division. If Amukamara slips to the Lions, they may select him over T. Smith.
14. St. Louis Rams: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
For the Rams fans who feel they have bigger needs than taking a DE, they must remember who their head coach is and how he likes to play defense. Steve Spagnuolo got this job because he built one of the best 4-3 defensive lines that almost single-handedly won the New York Giants the Super Bowl by creating pressure. The quickest way to get better on defense is right at the point of attack. St. Louis does have a need at DT and the more quickly they improve upfront, the more rapidly they approach success.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Mark Ingram may have had a down 2010 season, but he leads this year’s running back class. Miami is letting both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to test free agency. Ingram would then be the majority ball-carrier in a split with Lex Hilliard.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Watt has gone from a third-round sleeper to a near-lock for consideration as a top 20 pick. He is a tenacious pass-rusher and has one hell of a motor which fits right into the profile of what the Jags want to do. Jacksonville’s defense has been getting eaten alive against the pass so a cornerback makes sense as well.
17. New England Patriots: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
From what I saw of him at the combine, Kerrigan looked like a 3-4 OLB and not a 4-3 DE. He’s a natural pass-rusher so he will likely be used based on situation, which is common in a 3-4 anyway. Of course, the Pats could trade this pick for 17 picks in the 2048 Draft, so there’s really no telling what they’ll do.
18. San Diego Chargers: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
I just love the rhyming sound of ‘Phil Taylor from Baylor’. But San Diego needs to re-tool their 3-4 defense. It all starts at NT but they may also grab a DE or OLB. Taylor is the top 3-4 NT in this class for a good reason. He’s a beast who can occupy double-teams, push guys around which opens things up for everybody else. The Chargers should slide Antonio Garay to LDE and give Taylor a shot at NT.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Only a few years ago, New York had one of the best offensive lines in the league and now, well, they’re getting long in the tooth. The Giants have the offense in place, but they need a new LT and possibly a LG. Castanzo could play at either spot long-term.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Character issues cause Clayborn to fall in the draft after a subpar senior year. But as they say, only one team needs to like him. That team is the Bucs. Clayborn is a great pass rusher, good speed, plays disciplined and understands his role.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Ayers had a poor combine showing but he’s still too good to pass up. He’s not a perfect fit for Kansas City’s 3-4 but he’s a natural gamer. He can do it all and as John Madden would say, ‘That guy is a football player.’
22. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Protecting Peyton Manning had never been an issue in all these years except last year. The Colts could use upgrade at three spots (LT, RT, RG). Solder may be a bit too big for what the Colts like to do but at this spot, he fits a need and may be the best player available on their board.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida
The Eagles could grab a tackle but Pouncey is a can’t-miss player. Everyone by now knows about his brother Maurkice playing for the Steelers and even project him to be selected by Pittsburgh but it’s unlikely he lasts that long. From pick No. 18 to 29, just about every team could use an offensive lineman so they’ll go fast. Bottom line, Philly has to give Vick more time in the pocket to work his magic. Pouncey can absolutely do that.
24. New Orleans Saints: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Liuget is an intriguing prospect. He could feasibly be selected much earlier than this as he is one of the more athletic defensive linemen in this draft. Considering he can also get after the QB as a DT really elevates his stock. He could even climb up to the mid-teens. New Orleans most immediate concern is their pass-rush so any help upfront is a welcome change.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Locker won’t slide past Seattle but in truth, a team will probably trade up to get him if Minnesota doesn’t take him at No. 12. Although the media has the masses convinced that Locker isn’t as good as initially presumed, he’s got the intangibles. People forget the Washington was a bad football team. Nobody blamed Jay Cutler when he couldn’t win games at Vanderbilt so why bury Locker in the 2nd and 3rd round? It’s ridiculous.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Every mock draft, I seem to change what the Ravens do. Offensive tackle, cornerback, wide receiver, or a pass-rushing OLB. Any of those four options make sense to me and this time, cornerback felt right. Smith could be a top 20 pick.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami
Defenses can too easily key on Michael Turner and Roddy White. Atlanta needs more offensive playmakers and in all likelihood, they’ll address those concerns in this draft. Hankerson ran a great 40 and while he flew under the radar, he was extremely productive for a mediocre Miami team with inconsistent QB play.
28. New England Patriots: Danny Watkins, G, Baylor
The Patriots tend to select guys that analysts pat them on the back for taking and Watkins is one of those guys. He’s an elder statesman at 27 years old but he grades well. Commentators will line up to pat Belichick on the back for this pick even though he’s almost guaranteed to be picked late in the first.
29. Chicago Bears: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Carimi deserves to be picked higher as he can play left or right tackle or even slide inside. Jay Cutler was mincemeat for opponents’ pass-rushers. For all the grief Cutler took in the playoffs for leaving the game due to injury, his offensive line was to blame as it was all season. Carimi is an instant upgrade.
30. New York Jets: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
Moore is one of my favorite players in this class. He’s a true ball-hawk safety. He’s got great instincts. The Jets are really lacking at free safety and Moore would be a great value pick late in the first round. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if they go for a pass-rusher here.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Pittsburgh’s Willie Colon is a free agent and Max Starks was seriously injured. Adding youth to their offensive line is a must. Roethlisberger’s toughness and ability to evade has afforded the Steelers the opportunity to lower the line’s priority in the draft but it’s catching up to them quickly. Sherrod lacks physicality but will learn from some of the best on how to be a more aggressive lineman.
32. Green Bay Packers: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
It seems every 3-4 defense could use another pass-rusher so it’s hard to justify Houston slipping this far, but this is a deep class for tweeners so I suspect teams will hold off and grab one in later rounds. The Browns inconsistent pass defense is as much a product of inadequate cornerback play as it is an inability to generate a pass-rush.
33. (2.1) New England Patriots: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Heyward is one of the better five-technique guys in the Draft. He lacks explosion but he has a ton of upside which Belichick should appreciate. The Patriots need to start using their picks rather than trading them away for more in the future because their talent is withering away.
34. (2.2) Buffalo Bills: Benjamin Ijalana, OT/G, Villanova
Buffalo needs a corner so it’s possible they address that here but adding Cam Newton forces them to better protect that investment. Ilajana played FCS ball so he’s a bit raw but he’s got a good talent base: quick feet and plays tough.
35. (2.3) Cincinnati Bengals: Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
If Cincinnati doesn’t take a QB in the first, they’ll need to address it sooner or later. Carson Palmer wants out and if he forces their hand, they’re going to need someone to come in immediately. Ponder lacks great arm strength but he’s accurate and steady under pressure.
36. (2.4) Denver Broncos: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
Providing Tim Tebow a underneath receiver is a good idea. Denver cut Daniel Graham, leaving them with few options at the position. Rudolph is coming back from injury but if he was entirely healthy, his stock would be much higher.
37. (2.5) Cleveland Browns: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
Smith is getting disrespected because of his hands, because of Darrius Heyward-Bey (also a UMD alum) but Smith is 10X the receiver DHB ever was in college. Cleveland has to address the lack of WR production in the first few rounds and Smith falling to them in Round 2 would be a blessing.
38. (2.6) Arizona Cardinals: Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
Kaepernick is a big QB that is tough to bring down with a big arm. To head coach Ken Whisenhunt, that would very similar to what he heard about Ben Roethlisberger before the Steelers drafted him. Arizona wants to move forward with John Skelton, but the reality is, if he doesn’t pan out, they have no contingency plan unless they add a free agent which may not be possible this offseason.
39. (2.7) Tennessee Titans: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Mallett is getting a bad reputation and maybe it’s deserved. Maybe he does have a drug problem. Maybe he is immature. But this isn’t a beauty pageant. And let’s face it, just like Charlie Sheen says, it’s all about winning. Mallett can make all the throws and the Titans have no one else to do that for them.
40. (2.8) Dallas Cowboys: Martez Wilson, OLB, Illinois
Dallas needs to address their pass rush in the first few rounds and Wilson provides great versatility. He played MLB in college, DE in high school and most scouts view him as an OLB in the pros. Wilson is extremely athletic and had one of the better combines of all the linebackers there. In his time at Illinois, he was a tackling machine. He could easily go much earlier, even top 20 when the dust settles.
41. (2.9) Washington Redskins: Allen Bailey, DE, Miami
Washington’s front seven is far off from where it needs to be to run an effective 3-4 defense. Bailey is a big guy who does a lot of things well on defense. He’s quick for his size, he can slide to NT on passing downs and he’s a workout warrior.
42. (2.10) Houston Texans: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Harris has fallen on my draft board with every update. The problem is size but the thing is, he plays big and fast. The scouts seem cold on him for whatever reason but he deserves to go sooner. Houston desperately needs an upgrade at corner as they were shredded by the pass last season.
43. (2.11) Minnesota Vikings: Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina
Minnesota has stuck the franchise tag on Chad Greenway but they appear content to allow Ben Leber test the free agent market. This leaves them a player short at the OLB position and Brooks Reed possesses a great mix of pass rush and coverage ability. The comparisons to Clay Matthews are obvious, both in style of play and in looks.
44. (2.12) Detroit Lions: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Detroit has needed to draft a corner in the first two rounds for years now. Williams is a naturally-gifted athlete who can come in and help ASAP. The Lions were often beat deep and need a player who can cover the backend.
45. (2.13) San Francisco 49ers: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
Wilkerson is steadily rising up draft boards and by the time the draft comes along, he could go much sooner. He’s versatile enough to fit anywhere on a 3-4 line. San Francisco could be without Aubrayo Franklin next season and in the meantime, they can use Wilkerson at DE or swap him around with Franklin depending on the down and distance.
46. (2.14) Denver Broncos: Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
Knowshon Moreno can’t stay healthy and neither can anyone else in their backfield. Mikel Leshoure slides to them but goes no further. They may have depth here at the position but no real solutions. Leshoure is a tough runner with big-play ability.
47. (2.15) St. Louis Rams: Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
The Rams have got to get Sam Bradford a legitimate receiver to throw the ball to. Cobb is quick guy who can compliment what St. Louis already has at the position. They can also use him in a multitude of ways, think Percy Harvin or Dexter McCluster.
48. (2.16) Oakland Raiders: Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
With Nnamdi Asomugha hitting the free agent market, the Raiders strength becomes a weakness. Dowling, though injury prone, is a natural athlete at the position with size.
49. (2.17) Jacksonville Jaguars: Quinton Carter, FS, Oklahoma
Carter would come in to replace Don Carey, who has just been awful for Jacksonville. This safety class is paper thin so addressing this need as soon as possible will force the Jags in this direction. It may not be Carter, but a safety is certainly on the way.
50. (2.18) San Diego Chargers: Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa
Ballard is a great fit at a position of need for the Chargers. Jacques Cesaire is a free agent and San Diego probably should have sought to find a replacement for him last offseason.
51. (2.19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona
Tampa is in desperate need of a couple pass-rushing defensive ends. Reed is undersized but has a great motor. He’s not a natural fit in most 4-3 defenses but considering this is the Tampa 2, the Bucs can definitely make it work.
52. (2.20) New York Giants: Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
Sure, the Giants have Brandon Jacobs (aging fast) and Ahmad Bradshaw (fumbling issues), but New York likes to keep the cupboard full at the RB position. Williams has the best vision of any back in this class. He’s explosive and simply makes things happen.
53. (2.21) Indianapolis Colts: Clint Boling, G, Georgia
Will the Colts really take two offensive linemen in the first two rounds? They should. Watkins can develop into a tackle and Boling stay inside to provide Indianapolis the protection they lacked last season.
54. (2.22) Philadelphia Eagles: Curtis Brown, CB, Texas
Philly must address their defensive secondary as all too often last season, they allowed teams to stay in games because they couldn’t hold a lead. Brown was overshadowed by his teammate Aaron Williams while at Texas but he’s nearly just as good.
55. (2.23) Kansas City Chiefs: Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida
Gilbert has risen quickly up draft boards and Kansas City must finally address their offensive line after it being such a strength just a handful of years ago.
56. (2.24) New Orleans Saints: Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh
Sheard is a classic tweener who the Saints will use as a defensive end. The Saints lack glaring weaknesses so they may end up taking the BPA. Sheard is a good prospect though who is strong along the edge.
57. (2.25) Seattle Seahawks: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Baldwin is steadily dropping down draft boards but he’s still a big possession target and better No. 1 option than Mike Williams.
58. (2.26) Baltimore Ravens: Titus Young, WR, Boise State
Baltimore’s offense didn’t threaten any defense to cover the deep ball despite the fact that Joe Flacco can make those throws with ease.
59. (2.27) Atlanta Falcons: Orlando Franklin, G, Miami
Atlanta’s reliance on the running game means they’ve got to have good interior linemen but both of their guards are free agents. Franklin is a great prospect who could potentially move further up draft boards due to his size, quickness, strength and tenacity.
60. (2.28) New England Patriots: Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State
New England finally established a running game last season with BenJarvus Green-Ellis but they’ve got zero healthy depth with a string of ancient veterans (Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk). Hunter has great speed and gives the Pats a dynamic big play guy.
61. (2.29) San Diego Chargers: Greg Little, WR, North Carolina
San Diego’s bread and butter is having huge receivers who can go up and get the ball. Little, contrary to his name, plays big. He’s a physical receiver who is nasty after the catch.
62. (2.30) Chicago Bears: Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
Casey’s got a great motor and is fantastic against the run. Considering what Chicago asks their interior linemen to do, get a push against the pass and lights out against the run, he’s a great fit.
63. (2.31) Pittsburgh Steelers: Rodney Hudson, G, Florida State
As previously stated, Pittsburgh hasn’t done enough recently to protect Roethlisberger. Hudson is a wide-bodied blocker who can hold his ground that does everything well.
64. (2.32) Green Bay Packers: Marcus Cannon, G, TCU
Cannon is a beast. He’s huge. For his size, he’s quick on his feet and has an affinity for run-blocking. He’ll need to continue to develop his pass-blocking.