2011 NFL Mock Draft: Picks 1-16 updated 4/10
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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 to replace 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: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU-
I had considered Peterson as a potential option in the past, but with the Broncos resigning Champ Bailey, I thought the need was lessened. Now though with Da’Quan Bowers’ recent injury concerns, Peterson is the best value that makes sense for Denver. If Dareus were still on the board Denver could go that route, but instead they will make due with adding an elite corner. Peterson and Bailey should really shutdown opposing passing attacks. The Broncos will still need to address their need at defensive end, but they can look to that later in the draft.
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: OLB/DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina-
Although I think the 49ers would take Gabbert if he is there, they will be more than happy to strengthen their defense if he isn’t available. San Francisco could go corner with this pick, but they could also look to address their need for an elite pass rusher. In addition to needing an All-pro pass rusher, the position is even a greater need with both Manny Lawson and Travis LaBoy poised to be free agents. Although, I prefer Aldon Smith to Quinn, there still seems to be more hype surrounding Quinn.
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 available. Amukamara will fill the Cowboys’ biggest need, but there are some rumors that Dallas isn’t high on him. I’m guessing that is a smokescreen. If he falls this far, Dallas is getting an absolute steal as I really don’t see much that separates Amukamara and Peterson.
10. Washington Redskins: DE Cameron Jordan, California-
I’ve had Aldon Smith going to the Skins for a while, but I think the safer option might be Jordan. 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 Julio Jones 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 don’t see Haynesworth back with this team next year, and without him the Redskins defensive line is a joke. I know most of the focus on a 3-4 D-line is on the NT, but the end positions are just as important. The best units in the league get a significant amount of production from their defensive ends, and by drafting Jordan the Redskins would be filling that need.
11. Houston Texans: OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri-
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 Aldon Smith is too good to pass up here. Smith will give them a significant pass rusher to build their defense around, which will hopefully make their pass defense less of a joke. Smith reminds me a lot of DeMarcus Ware, whom did quite well under new Defense Coordinator Wade Phillips in Dallas.
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. Smith has the upside to be an elite pass rusher, and that is exactly what the Texans need.
12. Minnesota Vikings: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue-
This is a little high for Kerrigan can help fill the Vikings biggest need, which is replacing DE Ray Edwards. Minnesota won’t be able to address the quarterback position here, so they should focus on drafting something they can fix, and that is their defensive end spot. Kerrigan, should do quite well with his hand in the ground, and be a great compliment to Jared Allen.
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: OG Mike Pouncey, Florida-
I know the Dolphins might want a running back, but with the way that Pouncey’s stock has been moving up and Ingram’s has been moving down, I see Miami taking Pouncey here. Miami will probably look to trade back as they have multiple needs to fill, but if they stay here Pouncey is a good value for them.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE De’Quan Bowers, Clemson:
This is a pretty far drop for Bowers and frankly I’d be surprised if he fell this far. But will so many teams above them that either don’t need him or run the 3-4, there is a chance he will be there for the Jags. Bowers is a special talent, one that is far better than the 16th player in this draft (even with the injury concerns). The Jaguars will be quite happy to add Bowers to their emerging defensive line.