It’s good to be back.
Although it’s not certain whether or not the 2011 NFL season will start on time (or if it will start at all), there will still be a draft. Eight days from now, teams will select and make trades for who they hope will help them win a world championship.
It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t start the 2011 football year without a mock draft. However, we’re only doing the first round. Anything after that is purely a guessing game (unless you’re an actual NFL coach or general manager).
*Note: Projections are based on: who we think should go to a particular team based on need, who the teams are likely to select and no trading of picks.
1. Carolina Panthers
- Patrick Peterson, CB/PR, LSU
- The best player in college football would usually be drafted here. But since the Panthers drafted Jimmy Clausen last year with the idea that he would be their starting QB for the foreseeable future, drafting Cam Newton doesn’t make sense.
- With receivers tandems in your division like Roddy White, Marques Colston and TE Kellen Winslow, Jr., Carolina needs a shutdown corner. Peterson is that player.
2. Denver Broncos
- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
- Denver’s defense was not good last year. Dareus, who could be taken first overall, instantly makes them better.
3. Buffalo Bills
- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
- Buffalo needs a QB more than any other team (besides Arizona). While Gabbert may take some time to reach his potential, he is the best overall QB prospect in this draft.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
- Cincinnati actually has a solid defense and running game. Their passing game needs work. Carson Palmer doesn’t want to be there, and Chad Johnson needs help (despite TE Jermaine Gresham).
- Texas A&M LB Von Miller is probably the best player available at this spot, but the Bengals could use Jones more-so than Miller. Jones is a stronger receiver, which is key when playing against the likes of Ed Reed (Baltimore), Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh) and Joe Haden (Cleveland).
5. Arizona Cardinals
- Cam Newton, QB, Arizona Cardinals
- I think Ryan Mallett is the better prospect at QB, but the buzz is too high on Newton. Besides, the NFC West is just the division for his unusual size and strength, as well as his unorthodox style of playing QB. A team that is desperate will take a risk, and that’s what this pick represents.
6. Cleveland Browns
- Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
- Somehow Miller drops to the Browns at #6. Nick Fairley and A.J. Green could also be taken here. Miller’s versatility should sell the Browns on picking him.
7. San Fransisco 49ers
- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
- While not quite the player Peterson is (at least not right now), Amukamara is still a very good prospect. With Gabbert and Newton gone at this point, Amukamara makes a lot of sense here. A.J. Green could also be taken, but a CB is more of a need than a WR is for the Niners.
8. Tennessee Titans
- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
- Fairley slips to #8 because of teams needing other positions, more than anything. His disruptive, dynamic style is reminiscent of Warren Sapp. It’s appropriate that he takes over a position for a team that was once held by a nasty, disruptive DT: Albert Haynesworth.
9. Dallas Cowboys
- Tyron Smith, OT, USC
- It seems like Jerry Jones would take A.J. Green in a heartbeat if he was still on the board at #9. However, thinking about what could happen to Tony Romo if he doesn’t get more protection should be enough motivation to pick an OT.
10. Washington Redskins
- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
- Green presents the go-to threat that the Redskins desperately need.
11. Houston Texans
- Robert Quinn, DE, UNC
- Pairing the best DE prospect alongside Mario Williams is something the Texans would greatly benefit from.
12. Minnesota Vikings
- Cameron Jordan, DE, California
- Ryan Mallet would make sense here, but #12 is a little too high to take him. Jordan is a good DE who can make big plays consistently. His size and style reminds me of a young Michael Strahan.
13. Detroit Lions
- Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
- Bowers or Aldon Smith should be the pick here. Bowers figures to be the more consistent producer between these two DE prospects.
14. St. Louis Rams
- Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
- The Rams could utilize Smith’s skill-set. While he still needs to improve his run defense, coach Steve Spagnuolo and his staff could help Smith become a strong player.
15. Miami Dolphins
- Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
- The Dolphins are a running team, and drafting Pouncey would upgrade their running game. He’s not far off from his brother, Maurkice Pouncey, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Steelers.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars
- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
- Is it just me, or do the Jaguars draft a defensive lineman every year? Watt is an excellent player who could finally bring consistency to the Jaguars defensive line.
17. New England Patriots
- Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
- Contanzo isn’t a guard, so Stephen Neal’s retirement isn’t what prompts this pick. Contanzo, however, can play right or left tackle, and versatility is something Bill Belichick and co. are great at maximizing.
18. San Diego Chargers
- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
- What once was a dominant position for the Chargers has become one plagued by injuries. Kerrigan can help restore the Chargers’ LB core.
19. New York Giants
- Gabe Carimi, OL, Wisconsin
- To standout like Carimi did last season (Outland trophy winner–best interior lineman) for a program like Wisconsin, you have to be a special player. The Giants could go another way, but Carimi would really help them get back to winning the NFC East. He is just the player for this team at this time.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
- Harris or Adrian Clayborn (Iowa) could be selected at this spot. Both would help the Bucs defense. Since Tampa Bay took Gerald McCoy last season and because their defensive backfield needs help, Harris will fit in well in Tampa Bay.
21. Kansas City Chiefs
- Phil Taylor, DL, Baylor
- The Chiefs are an improving team on offense and on defense. Taylor dropping to #21 is another plus for KC fans, as he is a 3-4 NT that should take some attention off of Tamba Hali.
22. Indianapolis Colts
- Derek Sherrod, OL, Mississippi State
- Smith, Carimi and Costanzo are gone, so Sherrod is the next man on the list for the Colts. Manning may not have many years left, but whatever time he does have left need to preserved. Sherrod is a natural LT, specializing in pass protection. At this pick and for this team, Sherrod is an easy pick.
23. Philadelphia Eagles
- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
- Ingram is a former Heisman trophy winner who is as tough a runner as there is in this class. LeSean McCoy is more of a receiver, so selecting Ingram would bolster Philly’s backfield. It would also take pressure off of Michael Vick, saving him from having to carry the ball so much.
24. New Orleans Saints
- Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
- Besides Jonathan Vilma, the Saints could certainly use some help in their linebacking core. Ayers is one of those “tweener” or “Jack” linebackers. He has good size and good speed. The NFC South offenses present a lot of challenges, so selecting Ayers would certainly help New Orleans.
25. Seattle Seahawks
- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
- Mallet is a productive version of JaMarcus Russell. His size and arm strength are almost overwhelming. The Seahawks need a QB, and Matt Hasselbeck can’t possibly survive much longer. Mallett is a big time player, and although he may need to mature, he’s worth any risk he may present.
26. Baltimore Ravens
- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
- The Ravens need a cornerback, a pass-rusher (unless Sergio Kindle somehow makes a comeback) and a left tackle (which would allow Michael Oher to switch back to right tackle, where he could make the pro bowl). Most pass rushers and offensive lineman worthy of a first round selection are gone at this point.
- Character concerns is what causes Smith (and another candidate for this pick, DT Marvin Austin) to drop this low. Smith fits more of a need than Austin does. Hopefully for Ravens fans, Smith will listen to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
27. Atlanta Falcons
- Aaron Williams, DB, Texas
- The Falcons don’t need many positions filled. As the #1 team in the NFC last season (#2 overall to the Patriots), the Falcons have the luxury of picking for the future as opposed to picking for the present.
- Williams can play the nickel or safety. As much as TE Kyle Rudolph would help the Falcons, they would be best served to select a defensive player at this pick. Williams is an agile, aggressive DB who can contribute right away.
28. New England Patriots
- Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
- Hoping for Mark Ingram, the Patriots will take Leshoure here to (hopefully) get some consistency from their running back position.
29. Chicago Bears
- Nate Solder, OL, Colorado
- Marvin Austin and Torrey Smith would make sense here, except for the fact that the Bears need a lot of help at the offensive line position. Solder’s resume’ makes him an easy pick at #29.
30. New York Jets
- Cam Heyward, DL, Ohio State
- Kris Jenkins’ injury early last season, along with another Ohio State product’s (Vernon Gholston) lack of production makes Heyward an easy pick here. Rex Ryan would really like to coach a player with Heyward’s talent and character.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor
- Despite his lack of football experience, his uses his size and strength well. If Aaron Williams was here, the Steelers might take him. Otherwise, Watkins could be the pick. Besides, not many offensive lineman with limited experience wouldn’t want to play for an organization like the Steelers.
32. Green Bay Packers
- Marvin Austin, DL, UNC
- The rich get richer. Austin’s suspension does contribute to him dropping this low. Still, the Packers are so active and unpredictable with their defensive fronts that adding Austin to a defense with Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji and Charles Woodson is downright scary.
Thanks for reading.