2011 NFL Mock Draft: Picks 17-32 Updated Mar. 31st
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17. New England Patriots (From Oakland): WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh-
The Patriots could look to go in a number of directions here, including DE (the 3-4 variety), RB, WR, OT, OG, or Rush LB, and I think they will take the best player available at one of those needs. Although I would typically look for them to fill one of their defensive needs, I’d be a little shocked if they let Jon Baldwin get past them. Baldwin has big time speed and play making ability, and he could be the perfect replacement for Randy Moss.While I know there are some concerns about his attitude, overall I think Baldwin will be an exceptional addition and offer great value to the Pats.
New England is a prime candidate to trade up (or even trade down), but right now I think Baldwin is their prime choice.
18. San Diego Chargers: DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin-
With the Patriots passing on J.J. Watt, San Diego lands a player worth of a top 10 pick in the 2nd half of round 1. The Chargers could consider an offensive lineman or receiver here, but defensive end is their biggest need and Watt should fill it exceptionally well.
19. New York Giants: OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA-
Although a number of teams could target Ayers, I see him falling a little bit, since he is more of a 4-3 OLB, than a 3-4. Sure he rushes the passer, but guys like Smith and Miller do it better. Ayers plays better in coverage and diagnosing runs, making him a more ideal fit for a 4-3 team. The Giants desperately need to upgrade their back 7 (and could also look DT). He can be useful blitzing the quarterback, but can go out in coverage as well. He would be a big upgrade for the G-men, and should be able to start from day 1.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue-
I’ve been mocking them an offensive tackle for some time, but I really think Tampa could be happy with Ryan Kerrigan. He has fallen some in my book and this is a bit high for him, but he can get after the quarterback. Sacks didn’t come easy for the Buccaneers last season, and that has to change for them to take their game to the next level and become a playoff team. I worry about Kerrigan in the ground game, but I do still like him as a pass rusher.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: OLB/DE Justin Houston, Georgia-
The Chiefs might be desperate for a receiver, but there is no one on the board here worth taking. I realize that they have been drafting pretty steady on defense of late, but they do have their tight end, running back, and quarterback (at least they believe so) positions set. Offensive line looks pretty good assuming they resign their free agents (not big name stars so I see them coming back). Receiver is a big issue, but it will need to be addressed in free agency to find a real fix. I think the Chiefs will look to add another pass rusher to compliment Hali, and Houston is a great fit. While the Chiefs defense did a lot of things well this season they were really a one man show when it came to rushing the passer. If they can add a second threat it will strengthen the entire defense.
22. Indianapolis Colts: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College-
I finally gave in and now have the Colts taking an offensive tackle. They could take one in free agency, but they might not want to pay the high price tag with having to resign Peyton this offseason. Look for the Colts to add a good defensive player or two in free agency to allow them to take an OT. Castonzo I thought preformed well at the Scouting Combine, and looked to be the 2nd best tackle in the draft. I don’t think he is the perfect tackle, but he should be a day one starter and protect Peyton’s blindside for a number of years.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Brandon Harris, Miami-
The Eagles have a pressing need at offensive tackle and I’m not buying their faith in Winston Justice, but I am starting to think they might look elsewhere in the draft. Corner back is almost as big of a need as offensive line, and Brandon Harris has great starting potential. Given the level of talent of the Cowboys and Giants receiving corps, the Eagles need to matchup if they want to stay competitive.
24. New Orleans Saints: G/C Mike Pouncey, Florida-
I think Mark Ingram would have been their pick if he was available. But, with him off the board and the Saints filling their DT need with Shaun Rogers, I could see them looking to upgrade their offensive line. Yes they already have two of the best guards in the league, but Carl Nicks is a restricted free agent, and I’m not sure if they are willing to have both of their guards signed to massive contracts. If they land Pouncey, they could look to trade Nicks, before he is an unrestricted free agent next season. Even if they keep Nicks, they could always start Pouncey at center where, there current starter, Jonathan Goodwin is also currently a free agent.
25. Seattle Seahawks: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois-
The Seahawks have a number of needs so I think they will go with the best player available strategy, and at this point no player has more value than Liuget. Liuget has the makings of a star defensive tackle. While he could potentially play outside in a 3 man front, his best position is DT. Seattle could be looking at losing their best D-lineman in DT Brandon Mebane, so Liuget could possibly be his replacement. Even if they keep Mebane, pairing him with Liuget would be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
26. Baltimore Ravens: CB Aaron Williams, Miami-
The Ravens have one of the elite defenses in the league, but their corner back play is still average at best. Williams is a bigger more physical corner, but he can still cover quicker guys. He probably won’t develop into an elite corner, but he should be a good starter.
27. Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame-
Although the Falcons need to upgrade their pass rush, there aren’t any good 4-3 ends available at this pick. They could grab a guy like Heyward or Ballard and kick him inside on passing downs, but I’m guessing they go in a different direction. They could target an offensive lineman if they lose one of their starters in free agency, but for now I like Kyle Rudolph with this pick. No it isn’t the wide receiver they are hoping for, but Rudolph, should still be a good weapon in year one, despite being Tony Gonzalez’s understudy. Surround Matt Ryan with as many weapons as possible is key for Atlanta, and Rudolph definitely qualifies.
28. New England Patriots: OT Derek Sherrod, Miss. St.-
While I like the idea of the Patriots grabbing a playmaker, I’m thinking they will take the more practical approach at take an offensive lineman. Sherrod is 4th on my OT board, but I see him as a guy the Patriots will like. He can play on either side and is more of a pass blocker than a run blocker. The Pats need him, because with Matt Light on the way out, and New England’s once elite offensive line is showing some holes. The Jets exploited some of those weaknesses in the Playoffs, as they were even able to get pressure with 3 and 4 men rushing. Unless the Patriots add a top tackle in free agency, they will have to address it early in the draft.
29. New York Jets: DE Muhammad Wilkerson Temple-
The Jets are likely to lose Shaun Ellis to free agency this offseason leaving a major void along their defensive line. I think this has to be New York’s top priority come draft time, and they should be quite pleased with Wilkerson. I’ve previously had Cameron Heyward here, but his injury could knock him down a peg. Wilkerson is a little raw, but he flashes big time upside, and looks to be effective both against the rush and the pass. He should ensure that the Jets don’t miss Ellis too much, and will help keep this defense among the league’s elite.
30. Chicago Bears: OT Nate Solder, Colorado –
Nate Solder is a boom or bust tackle, and I consider him the 5th best OT in the draft. I do think he will go higher than others and remain a first round pick because of that unlimited upside. I liked what I saw from Solder in the offensive lineman drills at the Combine, but his lack of upper body strength does worry me. He’s a good fit for Chicago, given his quickness, but he needs to maintain leverage if he is going to be a star.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin-
I’ve had Pouncey going to the Steelers for quite some time, but I could see him off the board by this pick. If that is the case Pittsburgh should waste no time turning in their card for Carimi, who is a perfect fit for them. Last season both of their starting tackles missed a significant amount of time due to injury, so it is a major need for Pittsburgh. Carimi could have been born to play in Pittsburgh as he is a pure road grinder, with a blue collar attitude. He will be devastating in run blocking and more than hold his own in pass blocking. He’s probably a better fit on the right side, but since both tackles need upgraded he fits in Pittsburgh.
32. Green Bay Packers: WR Torrey Smith, Maryland-
This is a bit of a luxury pick, but it makes sense as well. I know the Packers have some defensive and offensive line issues, but they also could have a huge issue developing at WR. James Jones is a free agent, and I’m guessing he’ll get priced out of what the Packers are willing to pay. On top of Jones leaving, Donald Driver is coming off his worst season and might only have one more year left. A good young receiver like Torrey Smith, does make some sense for the Packers. Their window is now, and adding weapons for Aaron Rodgers has to be a top priority. Smith has the speed and quickness to help stretch the field, and be a home run threat.