With the NFL scouting combine officially beginning today, I figure it's only right to post my official preview of the 2011 NFL Draft. I will simply post how I believe each pick of the first-round will go down and a brief analysis. Once the draft has happened, I'll post analysis of the Cowboys' and Jets' draft classes and a review of each TCU player selected. Fun Stuff! Anywho, let's get this party started!
MY 2011 MOCK DRAFT:
1. Carolina Panthers:
Pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Analysis: Of the Panthers' many needs, their front seven are some of the most glaring. Barring any change due to the combine, Fairley appears to be the best in a stacked class of defensive linemen. Carolina desperately needs a solid presence in the middle and Fairley presents not only a great run-stopper but a formidable Warren Sapp-esque pass rusher as well. We saw the way he dismantled Oregon's zone read in the BCS championship, and if this production continues, he'll be someone the Panthers can begin to rebuild their defense around.
2. Denver Broncos:
Pick: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Analysis: This pick will come down to Bowers or LSU's Patrick Peterson. The Broncos defense is in shambles, so they can't go wrong with either pick. The reason I believe they'll go with Bowers over the equally versatile Peterson is that Bowers could fill needs at either DE or OLB (assuming Elvis Dumervil can't play at the same level as past seasons). Denver will most likely be looking at some scheme changes under John Fox as well and Bowers fits the bill as a Fox player more so than Peterson, in my opinion.
3. Buffalo Bills:
Pick: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Analysis: I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the Bills go for shock value and take Cam Newton. However, quite frankly the Bills have far too many other needs to roll the dice on a hit-or-miss QB that will likely backup Ryan Fitzpatrick for his first two years. If the Bills are smart, they'll fill a need at OLB with Miller. He's got great pursuit speed and will be a considerable asset to a struggling defense.
4. Cincinnati Bengals:
Pick: AJ Green, WR, Georgia
Analysis: Although the Bengals would probably be better off selecting a good pass-rusher like Robert Quinn, I have a feeling that they won't be willing to pass on the talent and upside presented by Green. TO simply did not work out as expected and Cinci does need someone to complement Ochocinco (who may not be back either). Green gives the orange and black a complete receiving option. He has great size and speed and is a great route-runner as well. He also has outstanding toughness, which separates him from many WR out of college.
5. Arizona Cardinals:
Pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Analysis: Due to the retirement of Kurt Warner and the miserable failure that is Matt Leinart, Arizona is in desperate need of a QB. Blaine Gabbert is a much safer option than Cam Newton and seems to be a good fit for the Cardinals' system. He's got a good work ethic and and can chunk the ball downfield (which is what the Cards want). He also is more accurate than people give him credit for.
6. Cleveland Browns:
Pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Analysis: The Browns could really use a solid WR to help Colt McCoy on offense, but top 10 is generally a tad high to go with a WR unless they are a sure thing like Green. Although Quinn and his lack of recent playing time present a small risk as well, I think they'll go with him because of his upside. Cleveland is in great need of a good pass-rusher like Quinn. Don't be surprised if the Browns trade down either.
7. San Fransisco 49ers:
Pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Analysis: San Fran could certainly use a high caliber DT like Marcell Dareus, but I just can't imagine that they'd pass on the phenomenal talent of Peterson if he falls to 7th. CB is another need the 49ers have and Peterson and his versatility more than fills that need. He very well could be the best all around player in this draft and would be an outstanding addition to any defense, namely the 49ers.
8. Tennessee Titans:
Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Analysis: Tennessee is starting over, and I have a sneaking suspicion that they will be the team willing to take a chance on Cam Newton and rebuild their franchise around him. It's a potentially risky move, but there aren't really any other high caliber, first round prospects to fill their needs. If they don't take Newton, I think there is a high likelihood they'll trade down. But like I said, I have a good feeling that this is where the Heisman trophy winning cheater will land.
9. Dallas Cowboys:
Pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Analysis: After a season as disappointing as last years', the 'Boys could go any number of directions. Amukamara is the popular projection and I tend to agree with it. Mike Jenkins fell off the planet last year and Terrance Newman isn't getting any younger. The biggest upside to picking Amukamara is that he is big enough that he could likely make a seamless transition to safety (a glaring need for a long time now) and be successful. He will probably be the highest rated player left on Dallas' board and I see no reason why they won't take him.
10. Washington Redskins:
Pick: Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama
Analysis: The Redskins need a QB BAD! But if the draft plays out like I've predicted, there will be no QBs left that DC will be willing to take in the first round. Dareus is highly ranked and is versatile enough to play tackle or end (both needs on the 'Skins defense). Although needs at QB, RB, and WR outweigh those on defense, Washington likely won't be willing to spend a #10 pick on a less valuable player than Dareus. I believe there is an outside chance that they may take Mark Ingram here, I think they will stay safe, take Dareus, and meet their offensive needs in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds.
11. Houston Texans:
Pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Analysis: Houston's secondary is hurting worse than the Cowboys' and Smith will be a good place to start fixing. He's a solid option, coming out of the Big 12, where he proved he can come up and hit guys as well as cover well. Houston could also use a DT, but this is another situation where Smith's value will outweigh that of any available DTs.
12. Minnesota Vikings:
Pick: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Analysis: Here's another team in desperate need of a QB but could face the same problem as Washington. Lucky for the Vikings (at least as far as the draft goes), they also need a lot of help on D-line. The Vikings D-line, though good, is aging and badly needs some youth. Adrian Clayborn is a big, run-stopping DE that will fit their system nicely.
13. Detroit Lions:
Pick: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Analysis: The Lions need a CB BAD! So bad that they will probably be willing to make a bit of a reach and go ahead and grab Williams at 13. Williams isn't on the same level as Smith or Amukamara, but he is still a talented DB who can help a struggling defense. The Lions could possibly go OLB here and take Akeem Ayers, but I think it's more likely they address their most pressing need.
14. St. Louis Rams:
Pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Analysis: I have no doubt that if Jones is available, the Rams will take him at 14th. Bradford has lived up to the hype and then some, so now the Rams need to build around him and give him some good weapons to throw to. Jones is the first step. He has performed well as a young player in a tough SEC, and I believe he will be able to carry over his success to the NFL.
15. Miami Dolphins:
Pick: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Analysis: Miami should go one of two places with this pick, RB or C. RB is the bigger need and Ingram presents a great talent that will also sell tickets. There is no guarantee that Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will be resigned, and even so one can't stay healthy and the other is getting old. If both RBs stay Dolphins, then Miami will likely take Mike Pouncey. But if they go, Ingram will be a Dolphin.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars:
Pick: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
Analysis: The Jaguars have a number of defensive needs. If they don't take Smith here, I believe they'll take safety Rahim Moore. However, I feel like they'll take Smith as he presents the greatest upside. A better pass-rush will also do a lot to help Jacksonville's struggling secondary.
17. New England Patriots (from Raiders):
Pick: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Analysis: The Patriots need to infuse youth into their ever aging defense and OLB is the first place they need to do it. The Pats ought to take Ayers here for fear that he will otherwise be gone by the time they pick again at 28th. An athletic LB like Ayers will be a nice fit for Belichick's aggressive 3-4 defense.
18. San Diego Chargers:
Pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal
Analysis: The Bolts need some help on the outside of their D-line. With such a deep draft for D-linemen they have a number of options still remaining. Jordan is the highest rated remaining DE and is a better fit for the 3-4 with his quickness.
19. New York Giants:
Pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Analysis: The Giants will likely be the first team to take an O-lineman in this years' draft and Solder will likely be where they look. Solder anchored Colorado's offense this year and should be able to do much of the same for a Giants line that needs some help on the outside.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Pick: JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Analysis: The Bucs need help at RB and various defensive positions. Watt will likely be the best player available to meet one of those needs. He doesn't have blazing pass rushing speed (which could be the only reason Tampa might look elsewhere for this pick), but he is big and consistent. He could do a lot to help the Bucs' defense.
21. Kansas City Chiefs:
Pick: Corey Liugent, DT, Illinois
Analysis: The Chiefs have a number of first-round caliber options from which to choose to meet their most pressing needs (DT, OT, and OLB). I feel like they'll take a DT here as Liugent will probably be the highest player left on their board. There will continue to be more options at OT and OLB, but this will probably be KC's only chance at a DT of this caliber.
22. Indianapolis Colts:
Pick: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Analysis: The Colts should take Smith he to rejuvenate their O-line. As is the case with KC, Smith will probably be their highest rated remaining player. He will be a big help in protecting an aging Peyton Manning.
23. Philadelphia Eagles:
Pick: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Analysis: The Eagles will be primarily looking to add depth at various positions. In this case, Carimi may actually present an upgrade to a current starter. Whether he starts or simply adds solid depth, this pick is a win-win for the Eagles.
24. New Orleans Saints:
Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple
Analysis: The Saints will be looking for a RB in the 2nd or 3rd round, but as far as the 1st round goes, they will most likely be interested in upgrading their D-line. Wilkerson is the kind of under-the-radar player the Saints like to go after and is still very talented and highly rated.
25. Seattle Seahawks:
Pick: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
Analysis: The Seattle O-line needs improvement across the board, and Pouncey presents a very good option. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised however if the Seahawks opt to draft hometown hero, Jake Locker, to be their QB of the future.
26. Baltimore Ravens:
Pick: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
Analysis: The Ravens will likely go O-line or Secondary with this pick. Either way they will be looking for depth and heirs apparent. A have a feeling that they will go safety and get Rahim Moore into their system and earning playing time.
27. Atlanta Falcons:
Pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Analysis: The Falcons need more consistency from the DE opposite of John Abraham or simply a backup for Abraham himself. Mark Kerrigan down as the 8th DE taken in the first round.
28. New England Patriots:
Pick: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Analysis: If all goes according to plan, the Pats will be able to get their man at OLB and still pick up a solid OT in Castonzo. Both players will be upgrades to positions that are aging rapidly.
29. Chicago Bears:
Pick: Joseph Barksdale, OT, LSU
Analysis: The Bears will likely use this pick to take an OT to help protect Jay Cutler. However, if the draft goes as I predict, their first round talent pool will have all but dried up. Still, O-line will be their focus for the first couple of rounds so Chicago should go for someone like Barksdale here.
30. New York Jets:
Pick: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
Analysis: The Jets need youth and depth in their defensive front 7, specifically at OLB. Houston will provide just that. Rex Ryan loves aggressive, fast defenses and Houston fits that prototype better than DE Cameron Heyward. I wouldn't be surprised if the Jets take Randall Cobb here as an insurance policy either.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers:
Pick: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Analysis: Yet another team in need of a good young OT to keep their QB standing up. Enter Derek Sherrod. They ought to improve their CBs in the following rounds as well.
32. Green Bay Packers:
Pick: Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State
Analysis: As great as Green Bay's offense was last season, with Ryan Grant injured they were in need of serious help at RB. Thomas could be just the man for the job. He's a big complete back with a lot of speed to match his bruising ability. He could be special if the Pack decides to take him.