2011 NFL Mock Draft Round 1 Picks 1-16 Updated Feb. 24th
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. Now with not franchising Johnson they could very well lose him, but Fairley is still a slightly better fit than Bowers for me.
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.
Feb. 24th update: Bowers is gaining some steam, especially if they lose Johnson. But Fairley is still the best fit for the Panthers.
2. Denver Broncos: DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson-
With the Broncos officially resigning Champ Bailey, I think corner back slides a few notches down their needs list. Although the Broncos covet, Fairley and could ideally go with the next best defensive tackle, I think they go with the best player available, in Bowers. Denver needs to revamp that entire defense, but in particular the defensive line. Elvis Dumervil will be at one end, but beyond that the Broncos have nothing for the other end spot. Bowers will be an instant fix, and should become a dominate force.
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.
pick change: previous selection Feb. 17th CB Prince Amukamara
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
Feb. 24th update: I’m not buying the Newton to Buffalo rumors, though I guess anything is possible considering they took Spiller last year. The Bills I think will look DE/OLB/CB before considering Newton. I like Dareus more than most and say he is probably the best fit for a 3-4 team.
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
Feb. 24th update: I still see Newton as the fit in Cincinnati, although personally I think it is far too early for Newton.
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
Feb. 24th update: Miller will need to have a big combine to secure this top 5 spot, but I believe that he will, and the Cards will be quite happy with their selection.
6. Cleveland Browns: WR A.J. Green, Georgia-
The Browns have two major needs (WR and DE) and either one could make sense for this pick. I have previously linked them to both a receiver and defensive end, but now I believe they will look receiver first. Although I don’t normally advocate receivers over more important positions, like the defensive line, it is hard to argue against Green. Green has the skill set and potential to be the next elite receiver in this league. Given the Browns lack of a quality wide receiver, Green makes a lot of sense for them. Although, they could still look at DE with a guy like Robert Quinn or Aldon Smith, I think Green is too good to pass up.
pick change: Jan. 25th 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.
pick change: Feb. 17th previous selection DE De’Quan Bowers
7. San Francisco 49ers: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska-
While the 49ers could be tempted by a quarterback, I think corner back makes too much sense for them to pass up. Their secondary got pretty torched last season, and adding a play-maker like Amukamara 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 a stud corner 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. I’m extremely close between which corner is better Peterson or Amukamara, but give the slight edge to Amukamara.
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.
pick change: Feb. 17th previous selection CB Patrick Peterson
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.
Feb. 24th update: I really don’t love this pick for the Titans, but it is hard not to go with it. They desperately need a quarterback, and at least have some talent around him on offense.
9. Dallas Cowboys: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU-
I know the Cowboys need an offensive lineman, and I think Tyson Smith is perfect for them, but there is no way they’d pass up Peterson (or Amukamara) if available. Their secondary was flat out awful last season, and they need a playmaker to take over. When you play the Eagles and Giants receiving corps 4 times a year, you have to match-up. The Cowboys do have serious offensive line issues and will need to fix that in free agency/2nd round of the draft.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection, OT Tyron Smith
pick change: Feb. 1st previous selection, DE Marcel Dareus
pick change: Feb. 17th previous selection, OT Tyron Smith
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
Feb. 24th update: The more I see of Smith the more I love him, I think he is going to be a dominate pass rusher at the next level.
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
Feb. 24th update: The Texans could look to move up or down in this draft, but adding an elite pass rusher is paramount as they make the 3-4 switch.
12. Minnesota Vikings: WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh-
While I think the Vikings will consider quarterback, there is no one at this pick worth taking. Other areas of need include both the offensive and defensive lines, but none is as pressing as wide receiver. Although the Vikings could still resign Sidney Rice, they are going to let him test the open market, and I’m guessing some other team overpays for him. The Vikings will desperately look for a receiver complement to Percy Harvin. I think Baldwin is an exceptional talent, one that has a case to be picked ahead of Green. People may scoff at this pick, and I’m not a huge fan of drafting receivers high, but it happens every year, and Baldwin is a weapon.
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 pevious selection QB Cam Newton
pick change: Feb. 17th previous selection WR A.J. Green
13. Detroit Lions: OT Tyron Smith, USC-
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. In addition to the pain the offensive line has caused their quarterbacks, the Lions running game hasn’t fared much better. Their backs have one of the worst yards per carry in the league, and can never pick up the tough yards. I know defense wins championships, but Smith is a top notch talent and can protect Stafford for the next decade.
pick change: Jan. 25th previous selection OT Anthony Castonzo
pick change: Feb. 1st previous selection OT Tyron Smith
pick change: Feb. 17th previous selection OT Anthony Castonzo
14. St. Louis Rams: WR Julio Jones, Alabama-
The Rams need to walk away from this draft with a frontline receiver, which means they need to address this position in the first round. Now normally I would hate the idea of 3 receivers in the top 15, but it is hard to argue the talent of these three guys. Jones is another big play, big time receiver and will quickly become Sam Bradford’s best friend.
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.
pick change: Feb. 17th previous selection WR Jon Baldwin
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
Feb. 24th update: I don’t love this Ingram pick, but until the Dolphins do something in their backfield it is hard for me to ignore the position.
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.
Feb. 24th update: Clayborn fits with the Jags and I think he is their number one target.