2011 Mock Draft

This year’s draft could be unlike any other. With a proposed rookie wage scale that is most likely going to pass, teams now have the opportunity to trade picks, and/or players, to move up or move down in the draft without sacrificing paying top quality, yet unproven, talent an arm and a leg. For most teams at the top of the draft board there is more than one hole to fill, and for teams looking to make the jump to the big time a glaring weakness could be fixed with a single top 10 pick. That being said, here is a mock draft with every team picking in their pre-determined spot, because who knows what is going to happen before draft day between the NFL and NFLPA.

1. Carolina Panthers – QB Cam Newton, Auburn

Why? Last years 2nd round pick Jimmy Clausen does not look to be the answer for the Panthers at QB, and with athleticism that rivals Vince Young and infinitely better throwing mechanics the upside for Newton is endless. A risky pick that could pay off in two years.

2. Denver Broncos – CB Patrick Peterson, LSU

Why? Everyone expects Denver to take a front 7 defensive player, but with two headed secondary of Bailey and Peterson the Broncos would force QBs to hold onto the ball longer. At 6 feet tall and a physical element to his game Peterson is tops on most draft boards, and with two 2nd round picks it makes sense.

3. Buffalo Bills – LB Von Miller, Texas A&M

Why? He’s so flexible that the Aggies made up a position just for him, “joker”. He can play LB or DE, and for a team with more than one need on defense the Bills need someone that they can plug in at more than one position from time to time. He fills more than a few holes.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

Why? Carson Palmer has threatened to retire if he isn’t traded? Automatically creating a need for a QB. He had a great pro day, looked comfortable under center, and showed off more athleticism than originally thought. AJ Green is a possibility, but the Bengals need someone to throw the ball first.

5. Arizona Cardinals – DT/DE Marcell Dareus, Alabama

Why? He brings explosive speed from either the middle or off the edge, which can create havoc for opposing QBs. A lackluster pass rush last year could really benefit from the added attention offensive lines with give Dareus.

6. Cleveland Browns – WR AJ Green, Georgia

Why? There is a possibility that Green won’t be available here, but if he is the Browns will pounce. After drafting Colt McCoy last year having someone for him to throw the ball to is a major priority, and there is no one better than Green in this draft.

7. San Francisco 49ers – DE/LB Robert Quinn, North Carolina

Why? The 49ers gave up an alarming amount of big plays on defense last year. Partly due to insufficient cornerback play and partly due to the inability to rush the QB. Quinn offers a huge upgrade at the latter no matter where he plays, but his athleticism could lend himself to be used more as a LB.

8. Tennessee Titans – DT Nick Fairley, Auburn

Why? Even though Fairley is considered by many to be a one-year wonder thanks to an average 2009 season and the Titans have a huge need for a QB, but could look to bolster other positions first and address QB later on. Add to that the fact that the Titans employ Fairley’s former college defensive line coach and you’ve got a match made in heaven.

9. Dallas Cowboys – DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson

Why? Many early predictions had Bowers at the top of draft boards, but injury questions pushed him down. He’s a quality choice at #9, garnering comparisons to Julius Peppers during his workouts. For a defense that is thin past Demarcus Ware, Bowers can certainly bolster the line.

10. Washington Redskins – QB Jake Locker, Washington

Why? McNabb? Nope. Grossman? Nope. The Redskins need a QB, and Locker is the best available. He would have been the first overall pick last year, but a middle of the road senior campaign lands him at #10 this year. Negatives aside, Locker has been compared to Steve Young. For a franchise desperate for a QB, that’s a mighty fine comparison.

11. Houston Texans – DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

Why? A 260-pound, lightly recruited tight end out of high-school Watt is now a 292-pound defensive beast. He can easily gain more weight to be a behemoth on the defensive line, and will give the Texans’ much more scheme possibilities in their 3-4 system.

12. Minnesota Vikings – DT Corey Liuget, Illinois

Why? Tremendous playmaker on the defensive side of the ball, Liuget can get in the offensive backfield faster than most at DT, and with a glaring weakness at the position Liuget has jumped from a possible 2nd rounder to a top 15 pick in many big boards after his pro-day.

13. Detroit Lions – OT Tyron Smith, USC

Why? Left Tackle is one of the most important positions in the game, especially when you have a quality starter who has the knack for getting injured. Smith could help sure up the porous Lions offensive line and be a security blanket for Stafford.

14. St. Louis Rams – WR Julio Jones, Alabama

Why? Sam Bradford is a stud, but he needs a receiver to throw to. Second to Green by fractions, especially after his eye-popping pro-day, Jones is a substantial upgrade, and could become the one-two punch that the Rams need for years to come.

15. Miami Dolphins – RB Mark Ingram Jr, Alabama

Why? This pick marks back-to-back Crimson Tide players, and the first RB off the board. For a Dolphins team that thrives on the running game Ingram just makes sense. Current RBs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are looking at free agency, and some new blood wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

Why? While many don’t think he will be available, if he is the Jaguars should be thrilled. They have a number of young defensive linemen thanks to last year’s draft, but cornerback is an area of concern. This pick should help solidify that.

17. New England Patriots – OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

Why? The Patriots offensive line is old. Bringing in a player like Castonzo, who can start right away, can help refresh the aging starters. At 6’7”, 310 pounds, why wouldn’t you bring in a 53-game starter like this one? It’s just the Belichick way.

18. San Diego Chargers – DE Cameron Jordan, California

Why? With a mammoth need for front seven help, the Chargers would jump for joy if Jordan slips to them. The son of a former NFLer with a high motor and a fantastic work ethic Jordan gets the nod over Ryan Kerrigan, especially given the west coast ties.

19. New York Giants – OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

Why? Tom Coughlin might appreciate Eli Manning’s arm, but he yearns for a tough running game that can eat up clock and tire-out defenses. Carimi offers the ability to do such a thing at either Guard or Tackle with history of playing in a pro-style offense with the Badgers.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

Why? Kerrigan can not only play DE if needed, but given the right set up he has the potential to excel at OLB. For a defense that is severely lacking in that area he makes for the best available option.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – G/C Mike Pouncey, Florida

Why? This will anger Steelers fans who want to reunite the Pouncey brothers, but the Chiefs need Pouncey when they are ready to cut ties with current center, over-the-hill Wiegmann. Replacing Mike Vrabel with a young OLB is a possibility, but Pouncey is a more solid choice.

22. Indianapolis Colts – DE/OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri

Why? When in doubt, go with the best available player. Smith would be an incredible steal at #22, and would be quite an upgrade on a defensive line that is in some need for a quick fix.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado

Why? Yes, Andy Reid likes to build from the front on back, but it was extremely evident that CB is a tremendous need for the Eagles. Teams beat up whoever lined up opposite Asante Samuel. Smith is the best CB available, and some rank him above Amukamera. It’s a pick that needs to be made at this point.

24. New Orleans Saints – DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

Why? The Saints need more sacks from their DE’s. With Clayborn’s stock dropping by the day he could be snatched up by a willing Saints organization desperate for line help. Expect Cameron Heyward to be looked at given the family ties – father played for the Saints – but Clayborn gets the nod.

25. Seattle Seahawks – QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas

Why? Matt Hasselbeck is almost ready to join his brother at ESPN studios and its evident that Charlie Whitehurst is not the answer. If the Seahawks can groom Mallett under Hasselbeck for one more year Mallett could become a true starter in the NFL.

26. Baltimore Ravens – OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State

Why? Drafting Sherrod makes the Ravens better at left and right tackle. They would be able to move Oher to the right side and sure up both ends. If Pouncey is still available it would be an easy choice to take him over Sherrod, but the Ravens will still be happy with this pick-up.

27. Atlanta Falcons – DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State

Why? The possibility of Heyward and Clayborn flip-flopping is there, but ultimately the Falcons need defensive help in a bad way. No matter which DE is available by the time they are on the clock, expect the Falcons to snatch him up.

28. New England Patriots – OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA

Why? A player who can play right away, but would benefit from some tutelage, Ayers has an uncanny ability to rush the passer. The Patriots benefit from Ayers having a subpar combine and pro-day, two of the main reasons he will still be available this late in the draft. Another reason is the amount of 1st round defensive players available this year.

29. Chicago Bears – OT Nate Solder, Colorado

Why? The Bears had the worst offensive line in the league last season. Yes, the league! At 6’8”, 319 pounds Solder has the ability to stop pretty much anything coming his way. And, being a converted tight end, he also has the athleticism to lead block on running plays. He is raw, but is a great value selection at #29.

30. New York Jets – OLB Justin Houston, Georgia

Why? Have you met the Jets? They preach defense, defense, defense, and add to that some more defense. They have a need at WR with question marks surrounding Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, but will find it hard to pass on a converted DE to OLB who can rush the QB as well as Houston can.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Aaron Williams, Texas

Why? Williams’ not only plays CB, but his athleticism, tenacity, and physical play allow him to dabble at free safety. For a secondary that got lit up in the Super Bowl last year and is looking at possibly not re-signing free agent to be Ike Taylor, adding depth to the secondary is a necessity.

32. Green Bay Packers – DT Muhammed Wilkerson, Temple

Why? A Temple guy? Really? He is the best DT still on the board, and with Johnny Jolly spending a lot of time in the courts it is a need for the reigning champs. Wilkerson not only is capable of stopping the run, but also is capable of rushing the QB from the outside when called upon. A good pick-up to end the first round.

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