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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Round 1

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1. Carolina Panthers (2-14): Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: Carolina is a team that needs just about everything. You don’t go 2-14 by having loads of talent. That said, I think they are going to take the risk and grab Cam Newton #1. I think it’s the wrong pick and don’t think that Cam Newton will be anywhere close to a franchise quarterback. Still, this isn’t an exercise in who I would pick, it’s who I think the Panthers will pick… and unless they trade out, I think Newton will be their pick.

2. Denver Broncos (4-12): Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama: After pick one, this draft is as wide open as any in recent memory. For seemingly the 10th straight year the Broncos need front seven help, but for the first time in recent memory (Robert Ayers aside), they might actually address it. They did the right thing in re-signing future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey, and can take some of the pressure off of him by drafting Dareus. He has every trait that you could want in a D-Lineman. While he may not have as quick of a first step as Nick Fairley, I think Dareus will be the better pro because of his technique and motor. Denver would love to trade down, but Dareus would be a solid pick for John Fox, John Elway and the Broncos. I couldn’t fault them for looking at Von Miller or Patrick Peterson here either.

3. Buffalo Bills (4-12): Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M: Miller, the best pass-rusher in the draft has ridiculous ability and while he is the prototypical 4-3 OLB, he could thrive as and OLB in a 3-4, even though he’s a little leaner than most. Once he fills out a little in his lower half and acclimates himself to the speed of the NFL game, he has the talent and the look of a perennial pro bowler. Absolutely deadly off the edge and will make an immediate impact and dramatic improvement to the Bills defense.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12): A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: Yes, the Bengals need a QB considering that Carson Palmer has vowed to never play for the Bengals again, but the Bengals haven’t acted logically in quite some time. That said, their receiving corps is losing both Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, so receiver is definitely a need. I could also see the Bengals bypassing AJ Green and popping on Julio Jones here, a move that would really fire up the Bengals faithful. In the end though, I think they take the big, franchise receiver out of Georgia.  He fits their system from one aspect in that he already has a suspension under his belt from his time as a Bulldog. Cheap shots aside, Green should be dominant in the NFL and will provide immediate help to whoever is throwing him the ball.

5. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Anyone that watched the Cardinals last season already knows that their biggest need is at the QB position. They could also use a CB so Patrick Peterson is definitely in play as the best player remaining on the board.  However, I think their QB need outweighs everything and they select the big-armed QB out of Missouri. Late smoke signals are that Arizona isn’t that high on Gabbert… seems like posturing to me and Gabbert should be the pick.

6. Cleveland Browns: (5-11): Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: The Browns are another team with a lot of holes to fill. GM Tom Heckert is on record as saying there are 2 guys that they would love to have, if both are gone they will look to trade out. 1 of those guys has to be AJ Green, but the other remains a mystery… my money says it’s Quinn. Even with Fairley, Peterson, and Julio Jones still on the board, I think the Browns take the do-everything DE out of Chapel Hill. He was ruled ineligible last season, but that could be a blessing. Bust potential is there, one because he plays with a brain tumor, and two because most of his numbers came against poor competition… Still, an athlete like Quinn with 4.6 speed at 6’4-265 is hard to find. If Peterson is still on the board when the Browns pick, the 6 spot might be a hot commodity in order to take Peterson away from the 49ers at 7.

7. San Francisco 49ers (6-10): Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: I can’t see another team passing on Peterson, although the 49ers might be tempted to sure up their defensive line with Nick Fairley or Robert Quinn, should they be available. Still, I think Harbaugh wants the best available player, and that is definitely Peterson.

8. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: Fairley has been compared to former Titan Albert Haynesworth more times than Lindsay Lohan has relapsed. The comparisons are based on ability vs. work ethic. I think it’s a little unfair to Haynesworth, who is an absolute monster when he wants to be, whereas Fairley is a very good player but has a lot of work to do to be great. He got away with bad technique in college because he was physically dominant over his competition. That won’t happen in the NFL, so he will have to refine his technique and engage his legs more. He has elite quickness, but he won’t knock over NFL lineman just by using his arms. Red flags all over the place about his work ethic, but I still don’t see him sliding out of the top 10.

9. Dallas Cowboys (6-10): Tyron Smith, OT, USC: If Peterson inexplicably falls to 9, he’s the pick, but Tyron Smith fits a Cowboys need perfectly. He’s raw, but he’s young and has off-the-charts upside. Can play either tackle position, but eventually will slide into the left tackle spot. Moves easily and quickly, holds blocks well when technique holds up and most importantly this pick will satisfy Jerry Jones. Nowhere near a finished product and needs to read and recognize defensive schemes better, but when he does, he could be an anchor for many years.

10. Washington Redskins (6-10): Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: I can definitely see Washington trying to trade down. They need help on both lines as well as a QB and WR, but only have 2 picks in the first 4 rounds. If they stand pat, I think they will go with the playmaker and take Jones. He ran at the combine with a stress fracture in his foot and still posted a faster 40-time than AJ Green. He is an excellent blocker as well and would be a great value pick at #10.

11. Houston Texans (6-10): J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: Watt would provide the Texans with the front seven help that they desperately need. He’s a high effort 5-technique that can blow up the run, but needs to work on his pass rush a bit. Watt is a guy that you will never question his hustle or desire. He leaves it all on the field and should succeed at the next level.

12. Minnesota Vikings (6-10): Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Smart money would have the Vikings taking a quarterback, but I think they end up with Donovan McNabb this season and look to the other side of the ball with this pick. They could use a dominant DE and I think they take a chance on Da’Quan Bowers here. Bowers is an injury risk, but two months ago was touted as the possible #1 pick overall. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Locker here, but I’ll go with Bowers.

13. Detroit Lions (6-10): Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: This marks one of the few times since Barry Sanders was roaming in the backfield that the Lions are out of the top 10. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have needs, as their defense is a mess. Amukamara would be another absolute heist at #13 and would be a great addition to the Lions.

14. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: Liueget has exploded up draft boards in the past week. Last year he blossomed from an above-average college player to a great one. He seemed to get serious about becoming a better athlete and working on his physique. He still has some room to grow both in the weight room and on the field and would make an immediate improvement to the Rams D-Line.

15. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida: With no elite running backs projected to go in the first 20 picks or so, the Dolphins break the Steelers hearts and shore up their line with Pouncey. He is a great run blocker and will be a great pass blocker. No questions about his durability and with the way his twin brother Maurkice has played in Pittsburgh, Mike looks bound for a long and successful career.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8): Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: The Jags need a DE that will fit into their 4-3 scheme and Smith is just that. Had he stayed in school he had top-10 written all over him, but he chose to seek greener pastures. He needs a little more development as a pass rusher, but he is a very promising prospect.

17. New England Patriots (14-2, from Oakland): Cameron Jordan, DE, California: Jordan is another hot name that has been rising up draft boards. He has the pedigree as his dad was an NFL player. Add to that he has a non-stop motor, a very high football IQ and is versatile enough to fit in any defensive scheme and he and Bill Belichick seem like a match made in heaven. Although, if somehow Bowers free falls, he seems like a New England guy as well.

18. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple: The Chargers most pressing need is at D-end, so I think they grab the best available one left in Muhammad Wilkerson, a 5-technique with a lot of potential. If they choose to go another route, they could sure up their RT position with Castonzo, but the potential of Wilkerson is immense if they can get him in the weight room and serious about conditioning.

19. New York Giants (10-6): Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: The Giants need a tackle and are in prime position to have their choice of them between Castonzo, Gabe Carimi, and Nate Solder. The Boston College ties may give Castonzo the edge, even though I prefer the human road-grader in Carimi.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6): Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: The Bucs need a rush end in the worst way. Adrian Clayborn would be the pick if not for his durability concerns. Kerrigan is somewhat of a one-trick pony, but he can get to the QB and that’s the trick that the Bucs need the most.

21. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6): Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: A better talent than Kerrigan, but has medical concerns. The main issue is that he has Erb’s palsy that affects the nerves in his right side. It hasn’t hindered him to this point, but it will limit him to playing on the right side of whatever front he is on.

22. Indianapolis Colts (10-6): Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Colts dream would be for Carimi to fall to them. If not, I think they take Nate Solder, but Carimi, the Outland Trophy winner is a top-15 talent and the best run-blocker in the draft. The knock on him is that he needs to work on his footwork to contain faster D-ends, but he dominated Adrian Clayborn and had a great Senior Bowl week, so those concerns may be fading.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: With Carimi going one ahead of them, the Eagles would be well served to take the talented Smith. The only thing keeping him from the top 15 are off-the-field issues. He has failed several drug tests in his life, but if anyone knows how to handle those types of issues it’s Andy Reid. His talent will be too much for the Eagles to pass up.

24. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: Yes, I’m going with the cheesy pick here. Cam, the son of former Saints running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward will provide the Saints with a boost in the pass rush that they sorely need. He is a player that generally gets the job done. Quickness may be a concern, but as technique improves so will his ability to get around the edge.

25. Seattle Seahawks (7-9): Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Another cheesy pick, but Locker will fill the need at QB and be a very popular pick in the evergreen state. He certainly cost himself a lot of money by choosing to go back to school for his senior year, but he graduated and got the bowl win that he was looking for. His reward is a chance to perform in front of the fans that have followed his career for so long.

26. Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: The Ravens desperately need a hand at the corner position and will have their choice of the second tier guys. Williams doesn’t have the top end speed of Ras-I Dowling, but all of his shortcomings can be fixed and with Ed Reed back there, I think the Ravens go with the more of a sure thing. They could also go Nate Solder here to solidify their tackle spot. He would provide terrific value at #26.

27. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: The Falcons could use some help on the D-line, but Solder provides too much value to pass up. Solder does everything well is a great athlete with idea size. If he learns to utilize leverage more and bend his knees he could be an anchor for a long time for the Falcons. Great value pick.

28. New England Patriots (14-2): Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Bill Belichick always seems to get what he wants in the draft. He strikes again and lands the Heisman Trophy winner at #28. Ingram is a very patient runner with good balance and quick feet. Durability is the main concern, but I think Belichick would be doing cartwheels in the war room (something I would like to see) if Ingram fell to them in this spot.

29. Chicago Bears (12-4): Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: If Solder falls to 29 he is the pick without question. I have him slotted two higher, so the Bears will grab Derek Sherrod, a 4-year starter out of Mississippi State. His biggest concern is his lack of explosive power, something that can be corrected through hard work. Would provide an immediate upgrade at a position of need and let Jay Cutler sleep a little better at night.

30. New York Jets (11-5): Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: Rex Ryan loves defense and the Jets biggest need is at OLB. In Ayers he gets the best linebacker prospect in the draft not named Von Miller and a guy that should have no problem transitioning to the Jets defense. If Belichick was doing cartwheels for Ingram, Rex Ryan would be hula hooping if Ayers is available at #30.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: The Steelers still need secondary help. Troy Polamalu makes up for a lot, but he can’t hide the corners on every play. Pittsburgh has two choices here in Brandon Harris or Ras-I Dowling. Dowling is the more talented, but had an injury riddled 2010 season that might scare the Steelers away. Instead they pull the trigger on Harris, an intelligent and talented cover corner who has gotten better every year.

32. Green Bay Packers (10-6): Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona: The Packers could use an upgrade at rush-backer and reed would provide another option opposite of Clay Matthews. He has great instincts and very explosive off the ball. Reed is a very good athlete with well above-average speed and ability; should contribute right away.



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