2011 NFL Mock Draft: Picks 1-16, Updated Feb. 17th
1. Carolina Panthers: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn-
With no Andrew Luck in the mix the Panthers, will go to plan B, which is to choose from one of the elite defensive players in the draft or wide receiver A.J. Green. There might be a big push for the Panthers to go for Green, given their need for a play making receiver (especially to help in the development of Jimmy Claussen), but I think that would be a big mistake. The Panthers have spent a number of draft picks on receivers the last few years, and while Green is better than all of them, that is just too many resources to put into one position, especially when they have so many other holes. The other reason why Green doesn’t make sense is that receivers just aren’t worth the high draft pick when you have so many other needs. As good as Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are they weren’t enough to keep their teams from having losing records. The Panthers need a bigger impact player.
While the Panthers could go for one of the elite corners or a defensive end, those aren’t nearly as big of a need as defensive tackle. Fairley is an elite player, and fills a major need for the Panthers. Adding Fairley to an already impressive defensive line (assuming they resign Johnson), would jump start the Panthers rebuilding efforts big time.
Feb. 1st update: Still think Fairley is the pick here, combine, workouts and background work will all be crucial. The reports about his attitude are troubling, but not sold yet that it changes anything.
Feb. 17th update: No change at the top Fairley is still the best fit for the Panthers.
2. Denver Broncos: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska-
The Broncos could go in multiple defensive directions here, but I’m going to say they nab Amukamara here. The Broncos could opt for a defensive end (or a rush linebacker if they stay in the 3-4), but taking a corner here makes sense. Champ Bailey is an impending free agent, and if they can’t agree to terms with them their corner situation is dismal. Even if they do bring Bailey back, his time at the top of his game is near the end, so adding a young elite corner makes sense. Also, when you play Phillip Rivers twice a year, strengthening your defensive backs is a always a good idea.
Feb. 1st update: Still think CB is the pick here and believe that Amukamara is that guy.
Feb. 17th update: Still like Prince over Peterson, but Peterson is closing the gap for me. Also think Denver could be the type of team that prefers Peterson. I keep Prince up here for now, but it is getting close.
3. Buffalo Bills: DE/DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama-
The Bills could go a number of different directions, but with the recent release of Marcus Stroud, the Bills need some help up front. I know they were impressed with Alex Carrington, but Dareus is at a different level. Putting him next to Kyle Williams should shut down the run. Dareus also projects to give a good amount of pressure from his end spot. I still think OLB Von Miller is high on their list, but to run a 3-4, you need to have linemen who can hold at the point of attack, and that is Dareus.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection OLB Robert Quinn
pick change: Feb. 1st previous selection OLB Von Miller
4. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Cam Newton, Auburn-
While wide receiver could be the pick, or DE with Bowers on the board, I’m thinking the Bengals bite the bullet and grab Newton. Newton’s workout was a start, and if he follows it up with a big combine and pro day he will likely be picked in the top 5. If the Bengals can’t convince Palmer to come back and play, they will look for his replacement. Personally, I think that this is far too high for Newton, but some team will pull the trigger on him. It will be tough to pass up A.J. Green, but it could end up happening with Newton on the board.
Feb. 1st update: Yes quarterback could be an issue if Palmer follows through with his trade demands, but I don’t think there is anyone worth taking at this spot.
pick change: Feb. 1st selection WR A.J. Green
5. Arizona Cardinals: OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M-
While a lot of people have the Cardinals taking a quarterback in the first round, I don’t think that is the direction they will look to go. I see Arizona looking to add a more veteran option and maybe drafting a QB in the mid-rounds. The Cardinals biggest need after quarterback is a pass rusher, and that is one need they can fill this April. With Miller on the board, the Cards should be running up to Commissioner Goodell to turn their card in. Miller will make the Arizona’s defense vastly superior.
pick change: Jan. 25 Previous selection CB Patrick Peterson
pick change: Feb. 1st previous selection OLB Robert Quinn
6. Cleveland Browns: DE De’Quan Bowers, Clemson-
Previously I had the Browns reaching for a wide receiver with this pick and taking Julio Jones, but recent events make me believe they will go in a different direction. With the hiring of Dick Jauron, it is now pretty official that the Browns are heading to a 4-3 alignment, and right now they don’t have the personnel to handle the move. In particular they need to find help at defensive end, making De’Quan Bowers a fantastic selection for them. Bowers is the top rated player on my board, but he doesn’t fit nearly as well into 3-4 teams, and teams like the Panthers and Bengals don’t have a pressing need for a DE, allowing him to fall. The Browns would be wise to end that fall, as he has the potential to be the next Mario Williams or Julius Peppers. Although the Browns still need to add a big play receiver, I think they will look more towards the 2nd round and/or free agency.
pick change: Jan. 25 previous selection WR Julio Jones
Feb. 17th update: There is a chance Bowers could be off the board, but I still am pretty strong on this pick. He is the perfect fit for the 4-3 and is a huge need for the Browns. A.J. Green is a very real option for the Browns here, and I could move him back up dependent on his combine.
7. San Francisco 49ers: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU-
While the 49ers could be tempted by a quarterback, I think Peterson makes too much sense for them to pass up. Their secondary got pretty torched last season, and adding a play-maker like Peterson should help fix that problem immediately. The 49ers could win the NFC West next year with just a few changes so adding guys who can help right away, compared to a developmental QB makes sense. With Peterson in the fold that defense should finally be as good as advertised. Quarterback is still and issue, and one that will likely be addressed in free agency (or via a trade) and a mid-round selection.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection, QB Blaine Gabbert
Feb. 17th update: I could see the 49ers look long and hard at both Gabbert and Robert Quinn with this pick, but right now I can’t see them not taking Peterson, who is a steal at 7 and a perfect playmaker.
8. Tennessee Titans: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri-
The Titans at this point could go in any direction, but it will be hard to gauge until they have a new coach in place. Despite the coaching change it looks as though Vince Young is on his way out. While that would have happened with Jeff Fisher at the helm, he was more likely to look for a more veteran fix (McNabb, Kolb, etc.), then go the rookie route. With a new staff in place it might be time to rebuild in Tennessee, making Gabbert a smart pick. While I don’t know if I’d label him a ‘franchise quarterback’, he does have the best combination of potential, talent, and likelihood of reaching it. Gabbert probably should start until at least mid-season, but he gives hope as a quarterback who can take pressure off Chris Johnson.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection DE De’Quan Bowers
Feb. 17th update: It is really hard to say what direction the Titans go, but Gabbert has got to be on their short list. I don’t think he is a great quarterback prospect, but I do like the upside.
9. Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyron Smith, USC-
I have gone back and forth with this pick, but think Smith is a good fit for Dallas. With reports that the Cowboys aren’t going to franchise Doug Free, there is a serious chance they lose him in free agency. Even if they do retain him, right tackle was a HUGE hole for the Cowboys last year and needs to be fixed for Dallas to contend. Corner back and defensive end also make sense, in addition to trading back (or even up for a corner). Until the Cowboys address their offensive line woes, it will be hard for me to not mock them a Tackle. I know some think Smith is too light, but I’m a big believer in him, and think he will show himself at the combine next week.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection, OT Tyron Smith
pick change: Feb. 1st previous selection, DE Marcel Dareus
10. Washington Redskins: OLB/ DE Aldon Smith, Missouri-
While a lot of people will try to ‘mock’ the Redskins a quarterback, that is not the direction this team should be going in. I could also see the Redskins as a prime team to trade back, given their vast needs and small number of picks, but I’m not predicting trades in this mock. In this version of the draft, I have A.J. Green available, which I know a number of fans would jump at, but that too is the wrong choice. The Redskins need to fix their offensive line, and their front 7 on defense, to become a contender. Until then it doesn’t matter who they have at receiver, since the quarterback will never get the ball to him.
I’ve had a 5 technique defensive end mocked here the last two weeks, but I’m going to change my tune a little and go with Aldon Smith. Smith will complement Orakpo on the other side and give the Redskins an incredible pass rush tandem. While defensive end is a priority it is such a deep draft that you can get a really good one in the 2nd round. I think Robert Quinn will get some looks here as well, but Smith might be a better fit.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection DE Marcell Dareus
pick change: Feb. 1st previous selection DE Cam Jordan
11. Houston Texans: OLB/DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina-
Houston will be in the midst of transitioning to a 3-4 defense, and with no corner back to take should focus this pick on grabbing a rush linebacker. I’ll keep with the trend of my previous picks and give the Texans an elite pass rusher. I think Quinn absolutely dominated two years ago, and should help cause havoc in Wade Phillips new defense.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection OLB Von Miller
pick change: Feb. 1st previous selection OLB Aldon Smith
12. Minnesota Vikings: WR A.J. Green, Georgia-
I’ve thought the Vikings would go for Cam Newton all along, but the hype makes it seem like he will be long gone by the time they are on the clock. I know people will question this pick, considering the fact that Minnesota already has Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, but I could really see this happening. For one thing it is great value, and for another Minnesota’s quarterback, whomever it will be, will need all the help he can get. When the Vikings were without Sidney Rice last season, their passing game really struggled (not all on Rice). Rice is also a free agent, which could make this a big need, but even if he resigns it makes sense for the Vikings. Adding Green to the mix makes Minnesota that much more dangerous and still a playoff threat. They do need to still fix that offensive line, but Green could be the pick here.
Feb. 1st update: I realize there are some Vince Young to the Vikings rumors, but I still see Newton as the pick here until that happens.
pick change: Feb. 1st pick selection Cam Newton
13. Detroit Lions: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
With Tyron Smith off the board, the Lions will have to go with the next best available tackle. I know corner and linebacker are need spots, but they aren’t anything compared to Detroit’s need at left tackle. What the Lions have done in terms of protecting (or not protecting) Matt Stafford is flat out insane. You spend $60 million on a guy and you put him in a situation where he can’t succeed and needs to run for his life. The Lions have to fix that this offseason and grabbing Smith would be a smart move. Detroit might have needs at LB and CB and a few other positions, but they are secondary compared to their need at offensive tackle.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection OT Anthony Castonzo
pick change: Feb. 1st previous selection OT Tyron Smith
14. St. Louis Rams: WR Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh-
Most draftniks will say this is too high for Baldwin, but I think they are underselling him a bit. Baldwin has all the skills to be a number one wide receiver in this league and his addition should make Sam Bradford very happy. The Rams could look at some defensive options, but I think they stay the course and add the top WR on the board. While right now you can make a case of Julio Jones over Baldwin, I don’t think it is nearly as strong as most scouts make it out to be. I believe that Baldwin will separate himself during his workouts, and end up being the 2nd receiver in this class.
Feb 1st update: This pick will be either Baldwin or Jones unless the Rams grab a couple big receivers in free agency. They have to add weapons for Bradford and I don’t see them changing course.
Feb. 17th update: I think Baldwin is going to really kill it at the combine and pro day, which will cement this pick. I think there is a case to be made that he is even better than A.J. Green, but I’m guessing Green’s hype wins out.
15. Miami Dolphins: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama-
I’ve had Ryan Kerrigan here for a couple of weeks now, but I have to change this to running back and Mark Ingram. I do think the Dolphins need another rush linebacker, it isn’t nearly as pressing of a need. Miami right now doesn’t have anyone capable of significant playing time on their running back depth chart. That means the need someone they know can start, not someone who might be able to start, like a late round pick. If the Dolphins had a 2nd rounder, I’d still maybe hold off. But not having a pick until the 3rd round, puts Ingram right here. I’m not a huge Ingram fan, and would say this is a good 10 spots too high, but he does fill a primary need for the Dolphins.
Feb. 1st update: Still not buying a quarterback here or a running back. If for some reason Gabbert falls I could see him being taken, but no way Mallett or Locker get picked here. Ingram is a nice back, but not top 15 worthy. Dolphins should stay the course and strengthen that defense.
pick change: Feb. 1st previous selection OLB Ryan Kerrigan
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa:
Clayborn was once thought to be a top 10 pick, but slipped some due to a poor senior campaign. Clayborn’s senior numbers weren’t entirely his fault as teams routinely double teamed him, and ran plays away from the powerful defensive end. Clayborn isn’t a dominate pass rusher, but he has the skills to get between 7-10 sacks a season. Clayborn will help continue to boost a Jacksonville pass rush that let them down when it mattered the most.
Feb. 1st update: Clayborn could be slipping and I nearly had him fall into the 20′s, but still have enough confidence to keep him here. Not participating in the Senior Bowl didn’t help his stock, and at this point unless he has an incredible combine I think the best he can hope for is being taken right here. The Jags could look corner or safety, but my guess is they stay with a lineman.
Feb. 17th update: I still like Clayborn to the Jags, though a guy like Kerrigan could be in the mix as well. Cam Jordan is guy who is falling, but really shouldn’t. He fits better inside on a 4-3, but the Jags could find a place for him. I think Clayborn has the inside edge, and is still a good fit here.