2011 NFL Mock Draft: Picks 17-32 Updated 4/17
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17. New England Patriots (From Oakland): DE Cameron Jordan, California-
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. While I think it is a tough call, New England should be quite happy to see Cameron Jordan on the board. Jordan could easily go in the top 10, but likely will fall given team’s pursuing other needs. Jordan could immediately come on as a starter and should give New England another playmaker on that defense.
New England is a prime candidate to trade up (or even trade down), but right now I think Jordan is a good fit.
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-
New York needs and outside linebacker, and although Ayers should probably be falling a bit further than this (i.e. look for a trade back), it will be tough for the Giants to pass him up. He really could improve that defense and should be a good blitzer from his linebacker position. It is a slight reach for New York, but I think one that makes them a far stronger team.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa-
The Buccaneers need a defensive end and Clayborn would be a fantastic value at number 20. Clayborn will give Tampa the outside pass rusher they have been lacking. He is strong enough that he should be an effective anchor against the run as well. Tampa still has needs at OT and CB, but DE is their most pressing need, and should be addressed here.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona-
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 Reed 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. Reed has been moving his way up draft boards and looks to be a good pick here.
22. Indianapolis Colts: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin-
I know that Carimi isn’t what you’d typically expect from a Colts Offensive tackle as he is more of a run blocker than a pass blocker (and might be a better fit on the right side). But both tackle positions were an issue last season and desperately need upgraded. While Carimi could fall given the ‘right tackle’ perception of him I think he is a very good NFL caliber tackle. And personally I wouldn’t care which side he plays on, I think he will come into this league and be able to start from day one.
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: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama-
Even with resigning Pierre Thomas I can see the Saints drafting Mark Ingram. Running back has been a revolving door for a couple of years and Ingram could finally be their answer. Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory have done well, but both are injury prone and neither looks to be the answer. Ingram gives the Saints great value at this pick and should help balance their pass happy offense.
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. Liuget is moving up draft boards, but it is hard to place him too much higher than this as he is more of a 4-3 guy only.
26. Baltimore Ravens: CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado-
The Ravens have one of the elite defenses in the league, but their corner back play is still average at best. Dowling is moving up draft boards, and while this is a bit high fills the Ravens’ biggest need. He should be an instant starter and should be a good fit for Baltimore’s defense.
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. Surrounding 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: OLB Justin Houston, Georgia-
The Jets could go for a defensive end with this pick, but with Houston on the board New York might opt for the pass rusher. Houston doesn’t get as much credit as I think he deserves. I really believe Houston will make a flawless move to OLB in the NFL. I like his first step and his instincts in getting after the quarterback. As good as New York’s defense has been, they don’t have an elite pass rusher. Houston could be that guy for the Jets, and turn there elite defense into something special.
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: G Danny Watkins, Baylor-
I’ve had Pouncey going to the Steelers for quite some time, but I could see him off the board by this pick. With Pouncey and Carimi gone the Steelers could look to a very good guard prospect in Danny Watkins. Watkins is an older player, but for a team that is set to contend now that isn’t really an issue. Watkins can step in from day one and give the Steelers another top notch interior lineman, and help keep Mendenhall and Roethlisberger upright. Offensive tackle and corner back are still big needs for the Steelers, but ones that will need to be addressed later in the draft.
32. Green Bay Packers: DE Marcus Wilkerson, Temple-
Cullen Jenkins is very likely to leave this offseason and the Packers will need to find a replacement. Wilkerson looks to be an instant starter at a 5-technique, and should fill in for Jenkins nicely. He has good upside and is just scratching the surface of his potential. By grabbing Wilkerson the Packers will assure their defense stays strong and keeps up their hopes for repeating.