2011 NFL Mock Draft: Picks 1-16 Updated Mar. 31st
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1. Carolina Panthers: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama-
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. While there are some people who will point to Cam Newton as the answer, he simply isn’t a franchise quarterback of the ilk of Peyton Manning.
While I considered Bowers for the top spot, and have had Fairley there before I think Dareus makes the most sense. While the Panthers could use star DE Charles Johnson, he also might no longer fit in their system. New HC Ron Rivera has talked about employing both the 4-3 and the 3-4. That would make Dareus the be perfect fit for the the Panthers as he as adept to playing both inside at tackle and outside as a 3-4 end. While it isn’t his primary position, Dareus could even play some NT as well. Wherever he is lining up, Dareus projects to be a force at the next level. He should be an excellent run defender and put more than ample pressure on the quarterback.
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. The Broncos need help along the defensive line, and while initially I thought either Fairley or Dareus, would be the pick here, I think Bowers is the best fit. Bowers is the rare combination of a DE, who has the size and bulk to hold up in the running game, and get effective pressure on the quarterback. The Broncos still need a DT (actually two of them), but would be better served with drafting one with one of their two 2nd round picks. Bowers and Dumervil would give Denver the book end pass rushers that every team is looking for.
3. Buffalo Bills: OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M-
As the days go by Miller’s stock keeps rising and rising, to the point that I just can’t see the Bills passing on him. I know they could go QB here, or the top corner on their board, but Miller is an elite talent and fills a major need. He’s making it harder and harder for the Bills to pass him up, to the point that I just can’t see it happening.
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.
5. Arizona Cardinals: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri-
Athough I think this is too high to have two quarterbacks go in the top 5, I could see it happening. Gabbert would give the Cards the quarterback they need to help appease star receiver Larry Fitzgerald. I don’t think it is a perfect fit by any means, but it def. could happen.
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.
7. San Francisco 49ers: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU-
Although I think the 49ers would take Gabbert if he is there, they will be more than happy to land a shutdown corner like Peterson. I don’t think there is anyway they’d try reaching for another QB, or even Julio Jones to shore up their receiving corps. Peterson gives San Fran, a star player, who could fall out of the top 5 given the needs of other teams.
8. Tennessee Titans: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn-
The Titans have been searching for an inside pass rusher for a couple years now, and now they finally have one in Nick Fairley. Fairley is a top 5 talent, but one that could slip since he isn’t as good of a fit in the 3-4. Fairley will be a big boost to the Titans pass rush, that could be hurting from the potential loss of Jason Babin. Tennessee needs a disruptor along their defensive line and that fits Fairley perfectly.
9. Dallas Cowboys: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska-
The Cowboys have many needs, but I see them going hard after a corner back in this draft. I think Amukamara is the best CB, in this class and an absolute steal for them at this pick. Personally I think Amukamara is the best corner in this draft and will automatically revitalize their secondary.
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.
11. Houston Texans: OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina-
Houston will be in the midst of transitioning to a 3-4 defense, and with no corner back to take they should focus this pick on grabbing a front 7 player. This pick should come down to either a rush linebacker or a 3-4 DE. I go back and forth about which position the Texans should address, but if they feel like Quinn can stand up, then he has to be their pick. The Texans have at least average defensive ends, but they don’t have much in the way of pass rush specialists. I know they plan is to use Mario Williams in a hybrid formation, and that could work, but they need someone who is more natural at the position. I still have some doubts about Quinn, but he does have the upside to be an elite pass rusher, and that is exactly what the Texans need.
12. Minnesota Vikings: DE Cameron Jordan, California-
While Cameron Jordan isn’t a prototypical 4-3 defensive end, he is still quick enough to rush effectively from that position. Jordan’s ability to play inside, fits well with the Vikings since he can move inside to replace Pat Williams on passing downs. Adding Jordan to the front line, will go a long way to helping the Vikings defense return to elite status.
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.
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 I’m not conceding my personal rankings in terms of who should go first between Julio Jones and Jon Baldwin, but I think it is time to concede the fact that Jones will go first. I think teams will fall in love with his incredible combine numbers, and slightly overdraft Jones. It’s not that I am anit-Jones, its just that I worry about how refined he is. That being said, he will be a major upgrade for the Rams and they will be thrilled to land him with this pick. If they feel he could get drafted earlier, don’t be surprised if St. Louis looks to move up a couple of spots to secure his services.
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.
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.