Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: Take One

1. Panthers: WR AJ Green, Georgia - Carolina picked a bad year to have the #1 overall pick because there is no consensus top selection. Jimmy Clausen cannot be the long-term solution, but is there a quarterback available that's without question marks? No, and franchises cannot afford to miss with the top pick at the position (see: Tim Couch, 1999; David Carr, 2002; Alex Smith, 2005; JaMarcus Russell, 2007).
To compound their problems, the team dealt this year's second round pick to New England meaning they won't select again until pick 65. They need an infusion of talent on the offensive side of the ball, and Green would provide just that. For my money, he's the best player available and would single-handedly change the look of the offense.
Crazy stat: In 2010, the Panthers averaged almost 40 passing yards less per game than the next worst offense.
2. Broncos: DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson - Julius Peppers 2.0? John Fox sure hopes so. Denver registered the fewest sacks in the NFL last season. They need to develop some type of pass rush. Bowers can and will help immediately in this area. They'll sprint to the podium to make this pick.
Crazy stat I: Bowers rushed for 1,200 yards as a senior in high school.
Crazy stat II: Bowers would be the first player born in the 1990's to ever be drafted.
3. Bills: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn - Fairley basically came out of nowhere - like the rest of the Auburn team. In 2009, he had 29 tackles (only 3.5 for loss). This season, he dominated college football. Despite being consistently double-teamed, Fairley racked up 60 tackles, 11 sacks, and 24 tackles for loss. His presence would only help a depleted Bills' defensive line which was shredded for a league-worst 170 yards per game. Another pick that should take about 15 seconds to make unless Buffalo is worried about these comments.
4. Bengals: DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina - Death, taxes, and the Bengals employing players with character issues. Life's only certainties. Quinn's off-the-field issues aren't as worrisome as some others have been (he accepted money from an agent and was forced to sit out the 2010 season), but is it a preview of things to come? Cincy better hope not because he has difference-making potential along the defensive front, and they had the league's fourth-fewest sacks.  
5. Cardinals: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri - After the Derek Anderson-Max Hall-John Skelton fiasco, Arizona clearly needs to hand the reigns to a capable signal-caller. The team struggled mightily getting the ball to their best player, Larry Fitzgerald (and all other players for that matter). An average passing game would open things up in the running game. Truthfully, I am not convinced Gabbert can be a top tier quarterback in the league, but he would certainly be an improvement over the Holy "Crap I Can't Believe He's This Bad" Trinity.

6. Browns: DT Marcel Dareus, Alabama - Cleveland has to answer one question: is Colt McCoy the quarterback of the future? I would think new head coach Pat Shurmur thinks so or he wouldn't have jumped ship on Sam Bradford. So, the Browns can address the defensive side of the ball after giving up 129 yards per game on the ground last season. Dareus would look great next to Shaun Rogers...especially if you are into the 700lbs defensive tackle combo kind of thing.  
7. 49ers: QB Jake Locker, Washington - If anyone in the NFL knows Jake Locker's strengths and weaknesses, it's Jim Harbaugh who had to prepare for Locker in each of the his four seasons at Stanford. San Fran is desperate for a face of the franchise, and Locker seems like the ticket. he was a front-runner for the top pick of last year's draft before deciding to return to Washington. Can one year make that big of a difference?
8. Titans: QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas - If the statue known as Kerry Collins can have success in Tennessee, I think Mallett can too. He's lead-footed and struggles when flushed out of the pocket, but cannon arms like his don't come along very often. He will, however, be able to lean heavily on the league's best running back, Chris Johnson. The more I think about this, the more I like the fit.

9. Cowboys: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU - A dream scenario for Dallas would have either of the draft's top two cornerbacks slipping to them. In this case, they have the option to take either. Peterson has shutdown-corner potential and can immediately contribute in the return game, possibly taking some of the burden off Dez Bryant. The Cowboys have gotten progressively worse over the last three years against the pass (188 yards/game in 2008, 225 in '09, and 243 in '10). Peterson would help reverse the trend.   
10. Redskins: WR Julio Jones, Alabama - Yes, Cam Newton would be available in this scenario. No, the Skins will not take him. He's a younger - and better - version of Donovan McNabb, but we all know how that experiment turned out in DC. If they nab Newton, I'll run a marathon. And, unlike my boy Peter King, I'll actually do it if I'm wrong. Now, about Jones. He was All-Everything in high school, started from Day One at Alabama, and offers the downfield threat missing in Washington.   
11. Texans: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska - At one point this year, Houston's secondary was called "the worst ever." I'm not sure if I would go that far, but they did allow the most passing yards per game by any team since 2005. In my mind, they should make a run at newly-minted free agent CB Nnamdi Asomugha and take Amukamara (and not only to drive the Texans' beat writers crazy trying to type these names every day). The two of them wouldn't cure all of Houston's ills, but it would help.
12. Vikings: QB Cam Newton, Auburn - Minnesota fans are fooling themselves if they think Joe Webb is the answer at the quarterback position. Newton, fresh off a Heisman Trophy, has lost two games in the past three years (one at Florida in 2008, one at Blinn College in '09).
13. Lions: OT Tyron Smith, USC - Priority #1 in Detroit has to be keeping QB Matthew Stafford healthy. Protecting him would be a good idea.
14. Rams: OG Mike Pouncey, Florida - Priority #1 in St. Louis has to be keeping QB Sam Bradford healthy. Protecting him would be a good idea.
15. Dolphins: RB Mark Ingram, Alabama - Far and away the best running back in this class, Ingram would seamlessly take over for the Ricky Williams-Ronnie Brown combo and help whomever lines up under center next season. It would not surprise me if Ingram ends up being popped in the top 10 picks. For my money, he's the best running back available in the draft since Adrian Peterson in 2007.
16. Jaguars: Adrian Clayborn, Iowa - The injury to DE Aaron Kampman was devastating as the Jags tied for the second-fewest sacks in the NFL last year. Clayborn, who had a bit of a down year, can invigorate the group.
17. Patriots (via Oakland): LB Von Miller, Texas A&M - New England had one of the league's youngest defenses this season, and it showed as they struggled on that side of the ball, especially against the pass. The easiest way to improve pass defense: get pressure on the quarterback. If Miller can do one thing, it's that.
18. Chargers: DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State - Heyward was the most dominant defensive end at Ohio State since Vernon Gholston. Let's hope he can have more professional success than his predecessor. San Diego registered the second most sacks in the league last season, but you can never have too many pass rushers (just ask the next team on the board).
19. Giants: LB Akeem Ayers, UCLA - Upgrading from Keith Bulluck to Ayers would boost the GMen defense into the league's top three squads. They already have the league's best defensive end combo, and their safeties are great. Ayers would allow defensive coordinator Perry Fewell (assuming he doesn't get hired away) to get even more creative with his schemes.
20. Bucs: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue - Last year, the Bucs solidified the DT position by taking Gerald McCoy and Brian Price with their first two picks. Adding another piece along the defensive line will go a long way towards the Bucs improving a dismal sack total. 
21. Chiefs: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin - Carimi would slide right into the starting right tackle position on Day One and help an already stellar Kansas City rushing attack. A perfect late first round pick.
22. Colts: OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State - Indy was forced to start three backup offensive linemen during their playoff game against the Jets. Sherrod can be the long-term solution for Peyton's blind side.
23. Eagles: OT Nate Solder, Colorado - Michael Vick took way too many hits this year. Many of them came when Vick scrambled, but if he had better protection in the pocket, he wouldn't have to scramble so often.
24. Saints: S Rahim Moore, UCLA - New Orleans' defense was torched against Seattle in the playoffs for 41 points. This was a Seattle team that averaged 19 points during the regular season. The main culprit: S Roman Harper. The safety position is in need of an upgrade and Moore is the best one in the class.
Crazy Stat: In 2009, Darren Sharper had nine interceptions. In 2010, the whole Saints team had nine interceptions.
25. Seahawks: DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State - At this point in the first round, Paea is simply too good to pass up. The Seahawks have offensive issues, but a run-stopping defensive lineman is invaluable.
26. Ravens: DE JJ Watt, Wisconsin - Surprisingly, the Ravens struggled to get to the quarterback this season. They recorded only 27 sacks, tied for fourth-worst in the league. Watt, possessor of the never-ceasing motor, would be a great fit.
27. Falcons: TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame - Tony Gonzalez's career cannot last forever. It's time to start grooming a replacement.
28. Patriots: WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh - After the despicable showing by New England's wide receiver corps yesterday, it's time to prioritize the position and land a true #1.
29. Bears:  DT Drake Nevis, LSU - Chicago fans should love the idea of Nevis and Tommie Harris stuffing the middle and shutting down the opponent's running game every week.
30. Steelers: DE Aldon Smith, Missouri - The Steelers love hybrid DE/LBs (see: Woodley, LaMarr and Timmons, Lawrence and Harrison, James). It makes sense since the hybrids have led the Steelers defense to three consecutive top-three finishes in sacks.
31. Packers: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College - Notice a trend here? Teams with franchise quarterbacks need to find the muscle to protect them. Every dollar spent keeping QB Aaron Rodgers clean is money well spent.
32. Jets: OG Ben Ijalana, Villanova - Damien Woody has had a great career, but his time is done and the Jets need to start grooming some linemen to take over. As they proved last year with their selection of Vladimir Ducasse, New York will not shy away from taking talented guards from smaller schools. Not a sexy pick, but a necessary one.

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