Dare to be different – that should be the philosophy of selecting a mock draft during a chaotic NFL offseason that features a recently lifted lockout, plus numerous players and owners still at each other’s throats.
Cue an equally as chaotic 2011 NFL Draft, one that features a plethora of solid QB prospects, but none of which that really deserve to be placed at the top of the mountain – and yes that includes Cam Newton.
With Newton, there are enough red flags present – from the off-the-field issues to the in your face arrogance and noticeable missteps during the Gruden QB Camp show – that it’s become quite clear that while Newton’s talent is top notch, the former Auburn QB should not be the top pick. Sometimes being athletically gifted doesn’t always cut it.
As for the rest of this year’s QB class, how many will be selected in the first round? The answer to that question likely depends on how many teams trade up or trade down.
Here’s how I see the first round panning out – quarterbacks and all (sans trades):
KP’s 2011 NFL Mock Draft: First Round Predictions
1. Carolina Panthers – Marcell Dareus (DT, Alabama)
Cam Newton is the popular pick here, but there are still question marks with him. Carolina has needs on the defensive front, and would love to find a face to replace the hole left by Julius Peppers last year. Dareus is that face, and new head coach Ron Rivera is defensive-minded. The Panthers should realize that and avoid the Newton buzz.
2. Denver Broncos – Von Miller (OLB, Texas A&M)
The Broncos had the worst defense in the NFL last season, allowing 390.8 yards per game. There are needs across the defensive front seven, and Miller – who impressed with his skills at the combine and in college – would be a smart addition.
3. Buffalo Bills – Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU)
The Bills have made it known that they liked what QB Ryan Fitzpatrick brought to the team last year. With plenty of other needs, Buffalo should look to who will bring the most value at this spot, and that’s Peterson, who should boost a secondary that only had 11 INT’s in 2010.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – Cam Newton (QB, Auburn)
The Bengals have been known to take on talented players with off-the-field or character issues. With Carson Palmer threatening retirement, the quarterback position has become a need, and Newton fits the other mold. If Newton does go higher, A.J. Green makes the most sense.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Quinn (OLB/DE, North Carolina)
The need at quarterback is there, but I don’t see the Cardinals risking a pick this high. Instead, Arizona could choose to boost another position, and pass rush (Calais Campbell led the team with just 6 sacks in 2010) is a need that a guy like Robert Quinn could certainly fill in the desert.
6. Cleveland Browns – A.J. Green (WR, Georgia)
The Browns were 29th in the NFL in passing yards per game (186.8) and managed just 13 passing TD’s during the 2010 regular season. Colt McCoy needs a clear-cut number one receiver to throw to, and A.J. Green is that big physical target, with great hands.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert (QB, Missouri)
Alex Smith has had enough time to flourish in San Francisco, and clearly it’s time for the experiment to end, and the Niners to move on. The 6’6” 235-pound Gabbert is at the top of many draft boards, and would be a solid value selection if he falls this far.
8. Tennessee Titans – Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn)
Watching Fairley at Auburn, it’s clear that he’s a game changer, and very talented. But, per ESPN: “Multiple NFL scouts have raised concerns regarding his work ethic and maturity” – and that’s the only reason he falls this far. This could wind up a steal for the Titans, who clearly need help in its defensive front seven.
9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith (OT, USC)
The Cowboys want to add more depth in the trenches, and don’t want to see another nasty injury to Tony Romo due to lack of protection. That’s why the smart bet with this pick – if the ‘Boys don’t trade down – would be the top offensive lineman in the draft, and that’s Smith.
10. Washington Redskins – Julio Jones (WR, Alabama)
The Redskins have many needs, but there hasn’t been a clear-cut #1 receiver in DC for years – and now that Moss and others are getting old, Washington would be silly to pass on Jones, if he were to fall this far in the first place. Trading down for additional picks could be another option.
11. Houston Texans – J.J. Watt (DE, Wisconsin)
Houston’s defense (28th in total yards allowed) was dreadful at times in 2010. There’s a need for a high-octane force that will not only stop the run, but also make game changing plays on defense. There are plenty of d-linemen in this draft that fit that description, but Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt – who almost single-handedly knocked out #1 Ohio State – comes to mind.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Castonzo (OT, Boston College)
It’s no secret that the Vikes are seeking a QB, but unless they eventually can deal for McNabb or trade down, this pick will be used to fill a different need, likely in the trenches. Nabbing a talented o-lineman to help protect the future QB is a safe bet.
13. Detroit Lions – Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska)
The Lions need cornerback depth and an impact player in its secondary. Detroit saw lots of success and promise when drafting Nebraska product Ndamukong Suh last year, so why not stick with the Huskers in 2011?
14. St. Louis Rams – Aldon Smith (DE, Missouri)
Sam Bradford needs a big target to throw to, but with no receivers that make sense at this spot, the Rams would have to trade or add one when free agents can be signed. Instead, it makes most sense to beef up the defense with the most talented name left on the board.
15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram (RB, Alabama)
In 2010, Miami’s run game managed just 8 rushing TD’s and 5 carries of 20 or more yards. The current backs are aging and have been injury prone, and adding an impact back is a need. Former Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram is the top back in the draft, and would be a nice add.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Purdue)
The Jags had the 2nd fewest sacks in the NFL last season, with just 26. There’s a glaring need for a playmaker that can rack up the sacks and disrupt the trenches. At Purdue, Kerrigan was a beast; mounting up the sack totals, forced fumbles and tackles for a loss.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) – Cameron Jordan (DE, California)
The Patriots always seem to add versatile pieces that are also highly talented value picks. Cameron Jordan – who may not fall this far in the draft – fits that mold and fills a hole that Belichick and the Patriots currently have.
18. San Diego Chargers – Da’Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson)
Da’Quan Bowers’ knee injury has been no secret over recent weeks, and it’s the reason why he’s freefalling on many mock draft boards. But the Chargers have a need at the defensive end position, and some team is going to take the chance on him, especially this late in the first round.
19. New York Giants – Mike Pouncey (OL – Florida)
Pouncey’s brother was stellar as a rookie with the Steelers, and he has been drawing similar rave reviews. The Giants have needs on the offensive line, including at the center position, where the younger Pouncey could eventually play in the future.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jimmy Smith (CB – Colorado)
Reports exist that the Bucs will let go of Aqib Talib due to off-the-field issues. That leaves a hole at the cornerback position. It’s possible that Tampa Bay may choose to avoid another player with potential for off-the-field problems, but the talent of Smith may also be too hard to ignore.
21. Kansas City Chiefs – Gabe Carimi (OT, Wisconsin)
The Chiefs need to boost the depth of its offensive line to provide more protection for Matt Cassel and the running game. Carimi is a solid pick at this point in the first round, and it’s a possibility that he could be available with this selection.
22. Indianapolis Colts – Corey Liuget (DT, Illinois)
The Colts could use help in the trenches, on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. But with Pouncey and Carimi already off this draft board, don’t be surprised if Indianapolis doesn’t look at a d-line need, potentially a talent such as Corey Liuget, who also could wind up being taken earlier in the first round. Wilkerson (DT) and Solder (OT) are other options here.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Nate Solder (OT – Colorado)
Smith would be a possibility to fill the corner need, but since he’s off the board a few picks earlier, the Eagles should consider adding more pieces to its offensive line. The best potential option left would be the large-bodied 6’9”, 315-pound Solder.
24. New Orleans Saints – Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa)
Clayborn carries some injury risk with him, but his overall mix of size, speed and instincts are too hard to pass up at this point in the draft. The Saints’ top need is on the defensive front seven, specifically at the defensive end position, which makes Clayborn a great fit here.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Jake Locker (QB, Washington)
At the tail end of the first round, Seattle is the only team with a significant need at the QB position. If a handful of teams choose to trade up or down, we could see a handful more quarterbacks taken in the first round, but if not, the most likely could be Locker, who is talented and already spent four years in the Pacific Northwest. Andy Dalton could also be the pick here.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Aaron Williams (CB/S, Texas)
Some project Williams as a corner, others a safety. Baltimore has a need at both positions, and Williams has the unique defensive playmaking ability that would be a solid fit for the aggressive type of defense that the Ravens consistently play.
27. Atlanta Falcons – Justin Houston (DE/OLB, Georgia)
The Falcons need to inject some youth into its defensive line, specifically by finding an aggressive pass rusher. Houston fits that mold, while also playing college ball in Georgia, plus he could potentially play either OLB or DE.
28. New England Patriots – Akeem Ayers (OLB, UCLA)
Mel Kiper has compared Ayers to Mike Vrabel, a former Patriots star who spent time in New England from 2001-2008. Anyone who fits that comparison – combined with the need at the position – makes him a potential fit for the Pats.
29. Chicago Bears – Derek Sherrod (OL, Mississippi State)
During the 2010 regular season, the Bears allowed more sacks than any other team (56). Therefore, adding depth on the offensive line is a necessity, and Chicago could trade up, or be fortunate enough to add a man of Sherrod’s size and talent with this pick.
30. New York Jets – Cameron Heyward (DL, Ohio State)
Heyward, if not for his inconsistency, could have been a top 10 pick. But when at Ohio State, he was either on or he was off. When he was on, he was dominant, and the type of talent that Rex Ryan would love to add to his ruthless defense.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Phil Taylor (DL, Baylor)
The Steelers have a need in the secondary, but with all the major pieces off the board, Pittsburgh could look to bolster either its offensive or defensive line. Taylor and his 334-pound frame could plug up a hole and help keep Pittsburgh’s 2010 league-leading run defense keep rolling.
32. Green Bay Packers – Brooks Reed (DE/OLB, Arizona)
Like many teams late in the first round, the Packers could go in a number of directions. It would not be surprising to see Green Bay add another young, explosive pass rusher that could play OLB or DE, and the best bet left that fits the description would be Reed.
If you were the Carolina Panthers, would you select Cam Newton with the 1st pick in the NFL Draft?
- No (100%, 10 Votes)
- Yes (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 10