2011 Final NFL Mock Draft: Picks 17-32
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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-
San Diego needs to add a DE to their impressive front 7 and they are getting an absolute steal here with J.J. Watt. Watt looks to be a classic 5-technique end and should be great against both the run and the pass. I think he gives San Diego the impact player they are looking for, and one that fills their biggest need.
19. New York Giants: OG/C Mike Pouncey, Florida-
New York needs to get younger and healthier along their offensive line. The Giants have both needs at guard and center so they will definitely find a place for Pouncey to play. While the Giants have decent starters, they also know their bread and butter is running the football so I think they will look to maintain that edge.
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 Akeem Ayers, UCLA-
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 Ayers 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. This is a good spot for Ayers and I think he can start from day one for K.C.
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 Jimmy Smith, Colorado-
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 Jimmy Smith might just be too good to pass up. While I thought Smith’s off the field red flags could cause him to slip a bit, at this point his stock seems to be trending upwards. The Eagles might even have to jump up a few picks to land him, but if he checks out off the field he is worth it. In terms of physical talent Smith is a top 15 talent, so if the Eagles land him anywhere outside of that they are getting value.
24. New Orleans Saints: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois-
The Saints could go RB here, but instead I think they look to bolster their defense. Liuget is a top 20 talent so this is a good value spot for him and I think New Orleans gets an absolute steal here. The Saints might have signed Shaun Rogers in the offseason, but that was just for one year and they need some depth here regardless.
25. Seattle Seahawks: QB Christian Ponder, Florida State-
I don’t love the idea of a 4th quarterback (heck I don’t like the idea of where any of these signal callers are going) in the first round, but Seattle could very well look for a QB here. Ponder is in my book the 2nd best quarterback in this draft, though I know for a fact Newton will go higher (and Locker probably will as well), so this is good value for the Seahawks. It is a risky pick and one they could regret, but I think Ponder will end up being a good quarterback in Seattle and take the reins in a year.
26. Baltimore Ravens: OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona-
This is a luxury pick for the Ravens, but with no corner on the board can they pass up an elite pass rusher like Brooks Reed. For years they have watched the Steelers benefit from the two elite pass rushers, and I think here the Ravens follow suit.
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: DE Muhammed Wilkerson, Temple-
The Jets need to replace Shaun Ellis and Wilkerson would be a nice value here and give the Jets the starting end they would be lacking.
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: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama-
Is running back the Packers biggest need? No not even close, but it is a position that needs upgraded, and this is a great value for them. Ingram could give the Packers the ground game that they were lacking last season to balance Aaron Rodgers. This is an absolute steal for Green Bay at this point, and I can’t see them not taking him (though if they get a big trade offer I’m sure they will move back).