2011 NFL Draft | Taylor Smith’s First Round Mock
Mock drafts are pretty goofy considering the entire thing can be blown to smithereens with just one tiny trade, but whatever.
We here at NFL Soup are well aware that mock drafts are a dime a dozen. However, we have several heads working together all season long, dedicated to getting fans of the NFL Draft the best draft coverage possible, and that includes endless, useless mock drafts.
But in all seriousness, its never too early to buckle down and try to figure out what the great minds of the NFL may be thinking in terms of the future of their franchise. So, with that in mind, here’s my take on the first round of the draft:
Nick Fairley has been rumored to be the pick here ever since his dominant performance in the National Championship Game, but things have gotten a bit cluttered at the top since then. The 2-14 Panthers have all sorts of needs, and, with Julius Peppers having taken his talents to Chicago last spring, a big-time pass-rusher is right at the top of that list. Questions about Fairley’s commitment and “Haynesworth potential” may vault Bowers into the top spot.
Denver’s defense was just about abysmal all-around, and with the re-signing of Champ Bailey, a corner isn’t necessarily needed at No. 2. Former Chargers great Jamal Williams was holding down the nose tackle spot last season, and he’s been released. New head coach John Fox is implementing a 4-3, and an all-around dominating defensive tackle would be a nice start.
The Bills have had crappy quarterbacks since Jim Kelly retired, and this sad sack franchise needs to make a splash. Obviously, Cam Newton is the biggest name in this draft, and he fits right in with their needs. You can get by with Ryan Fitzpatrick as your starting quarterback, but this is a team that needs to generate some interest and excitement. Drafting Newton certainly accomplishes that.
Green has been listed in this spot seemingly since the draft order came out, and it makes sense. The Bengals are not expected to bring back either Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens, and they need an influx of youth there anyway. Green is, by all accounts, the most talented wide receiver in this draft, and would be capable of making a splash right away. That is, if the inaccurate Carson Palmer isn’t there to whiz passes 30 feet over his head.
Miller’s stock has been skyrocketing since the Senior Bowl, and many project him as a top-five pick. Arizona tied for 18th in the league in sacks last season, and Miller is a guy that can help out there immediately. The Cardinals need a quarterback, but I’d expect them to bring in a veteran rather than overdraft someone like Blaine Gabbert at No. 5.
Dareus has been rumored to possibly go in the top-two, but here he is to Cleveland at No. 6. He was impressive at the combine, and his overall body of work at Alabama may give him an advantage over Fairley, a one-year wonder at Auburn. With the declining Shaun Rogers now in New Orleans, Dareus will slide in and replace him nicely.
Peterson falling to No. 7 would give the 49ers an insane bargain, as he may be worthy of going first overall, talent-wise. However, teams are always hesitant to take corners that high, and that’s how Peterson drops this far. San Francisco’s pass defense was a joke last season, and Peterson already might be better than incumbents Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer. I think he’s the best overall player in this class.
Gabbert impressed many with his effort at the combine, and has all the physical tools necessary to become a special NFL quarterback. Lord knows the Titans need one, as they’ve had to fight through the Vince Young/Kerry Collins era for the past few seasons. With Jeff Fisher finally out, it’s time for a fresh start with a fresh passer. The presence of the great Chris Johnson will certainly ease Gabbert’s growing pains.
Dallas’ secondary was atrocious last season, and it was a major reason for their epic collapse. They need help at safety more than corner, but this is a weak draft for safeties, so corner it is. Amukamara was great at the combine, and he’s undoubtedly the second-best corner prospect here. If Mike Jenkins can rebound from his regression of a 2010 season, the Cowboys will have an extremely talented pair of cornerbacks.
After lighting up the combine (with a stress fracture in his foot, no less), Jones is pushing A.J. Green for the top receiver spot in this draft. The Redskins’ group of receivers leaves much to be desired, and the general lack of talent at the position likely had plenty to do with Donovan McNabb’s horrendous season. Jones has everything you’d want out of a No. 1 receiver; something the Redskins have lacked for a long, long time.
Houston obviously needs help in the secondary, but this may be too high to take a chance on either Jimmy Smith or Brandon Harris. So, with the Texans switching to the 3-4 under Wade Phillips, a pass-rushing outside linebacker is desired. This draft is loaded with guys at the position, and Robert Quinn may have the highest ceiling of any of them. Having not played in a game since November 28, 2009, due to suspension is a concern, but, considering his tremendous physical attributes, there’s reason to believe in him.
The Vikings obviously need a new quarterback, but with Newton and Gabbert both gone, there’s nobody you can feel good about taking here. Jordan is the next best thing, a guy whose stock has soared since the week of the Senior Bowl. He has all the makings of a potentially dominant edge rusher, which would give the Vikings quite the intimidating duo in Jordan and Jared Allen. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jordan taken higher, either.
When was the last time the Lions picked outside the top 10 in the first round? This is unchartered territory for them. Detroit’s secondary was a major weakness last season, and this is a perfect spot to take a guy like Smith. He appears to have improved his draft position after showing well at the combine, and would make tons of sense here. The Lions would be wise to address the offensive line (Matthew Stafford keeps getting the crap beaten out of him), but there aren’t really any “can’t-miss” O-line prospects in this class. It can be addressed a bit later.
The Rams would love for Julio Jones to fall into their laps here, but with him in Washington, they’ll have to wait to get Sam Bradford that major weapon. For now, they’ll have to settle on J.J. Watt, who picked up 11 sacks in his two seasons at Wisconsin. Watt will give St. Louis a nice complement for former No. 2 overall pick Chris Long, who (finally) emerged as a real playmaker last year.
Ingram seems to be the consensus pick for the Dolphins at No. 15. It’s uncertain that either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams will return to Miami next season, and they need some new blood at the position. He’s absolutely the top running back in this class, and often draws comparisons to a more bulky version of Emmitt Smith. Ingram seems like a guy certainly capable of being an every-down back at the NFL level.
It seems like the Jaguars draft a defensive lineman just about every season in the first-round, but maybe they should stop screwing it up by drafting terrible players. Smith’s athletic ability makes scouts’ mouths water, and his relatively productive college career backs it up. Jacksonville had just 26 sacks as a team last year, which tied for second-worst in the league. Yikes.
The rich get richer here, as the Patriots have compiled an embarrassment of riches in this draft with two picks in each of the first three rounds. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan going here, but Houston seems like a major difference-maker at outside linebacker. New England can probably find a way to use this guy in several different spots, and his versatility will make him a very valuable player for them.
Clayborn has the talent to be a top-10 pick, but here he falls to No. 18. The Chargers’ 3-4 defensive ends don’t make much of a discernible impact, so Clayborn is a natural fit for them. He was the MVP of the Orange Bowl a couple of years ago, and racked up 184 tackles and 19 sacks in his four-year career at Iowa. The Chargers need to get younger on defense, and drafting Clayborn would be a good start.
Fresh off of their most recent epic collapse, it’s evident that the Giants desperately need to address their senior citizen-heavy offensive line. Tyron Smith may have helped his stock as much as anybody at the combine, going from a fringe first-round pick to a possible top-10 selection. I’m always wary of workout wonders, but apparently Smith was good enough in college to make people feel fine about his NFL potential. This is a big pick for the Giants.
Tampa went a long way towards revamping their defensive line by drafting defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price with their first two picks last year, but more help is needed. Kerrigan is a high-character guy with enough talent and experience to step in and become a contributor right away. The Bucs could upgrade at several positions on defense, but defensive end likely tops the list.
Like Tampa, the Chiefs have a nice young core on offense, but need to work on rebuilding their defense. They’ve used tons of first-round picks in recent years on defensive linemen, and it’s now time to find a legitimate playmaker off the edge at linebacker. Ayers would give them that, a proficient run-stuffer and a guy that can hold his own in pass coverage.
The Colts “suffered” through their worst season in recent memory, but it was still strong enough to get them into the playoffs. Offensive line has been a weakness on this team for a few years now, and they currently don’t have anyone that looks like a future franchise left tackle. In steps Carimi, the 2010 Outland Trophy winner, to fill the void. Indy loves high character players, and Carimi fits the bill.
Eagles quarterbacks, be they Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick, were getting their brains beaten out all season long last year, so, obviously, they could use some help on that line. They allowed 52 sacks in 2010, so drafting Castonzo, a four-year starter that may have helped himself at the combine, makes sense for them.
I would’ve thought a DT would be their top priority, but it appears as though they’re bringing in Shaun Rogers to play alongside former first-round pick Sedrick Ellis. The Saints’ defense as a whole wasn’t nearly as proficient last season as it was during the Super Bowl run of ’09, and upgrades are desired in many areas. Darren Sharper isn’t getting any younger, and it showed last season, when his performance dropped off a bit. Moore enjoyed a very solid career at UCLA, and I think he’ll be the first safety off the board here.
The Seahawks may be the worst division-winner in NFL history, and their defense is horrible. They desperately need help at corner, and Harris is the next-best prospect available at that position. Drafting the best player left regardless of position would work for the Seahawks, but Harris can probably start right away. If Jimmy Smith falls due to character concerns, he’ll be the pick here, I would imagine.
The Ravens tried to revamp their receiving corps by bringing in Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh last season, but the passing game didn’t get much better. Youth is needed here, and Baldwin is a guy who’s helped himself with great workouts. At 6’4″, he has ideal size for a No. 1 receiver, and looks like a guy capable of doing it all. Baltimore doesn’t have much of a downfield threat, and Baldwin will immediately change that.
John Abraham had an amazing season, but he’ll be 33 in May. Even if he remains productive in the next few years, Atlanta needs help on the pass rushing front. Heyward was a four-year starter at Ohio State, and scouts love his work ethic and leadership capabilities. His stock has been slipping a bit, but he seems like a guy that would fit in nicely with Atlanta.
Like the Giants, the Patriots are getting a tad long in the tooth on the offensive line. With Logan Mankins becoming a free agent, guard seems like the biggest potential hole. Cannon played tackle in college, but seems to translate better to guard at the next level. He’s a huge body (6’5″, 358) that should be able to help keep Tom Brady’s jersey looking squeaky clean.
We all know the Bears need some help on that line, and Sherrod may be the best player available. There are questions about his toughness, but he’s been a pretty consistent player throughout his college career. He may be a guy that is better served starting his career as a right tackle, but he projects well as a left tackle long-term.
With the recently-cut Kris Jenkins having missed most of the last two seasons with torn ACLs, the Jets are in need of a replacement in the middle of the defensive line. Phil Taylor is a massive nose tackle that can fill the void immediately, and his stock has been rising since the combine. There’s a chance that he’s snapped up prior to pick No. 30.
This is pretty cute, isn’t it? The Steelers, who need depth on the offensive line, will take Pouncey and place him right alongside is brother Maurkice, who enjoyed a successful rookie season himself last year. Ben Roethlisberger is routinely beaten to a pulp back there, and rampant injuries to the line aren’t helping matters. Pouncey is the easy choice.
The Packers have very few needs, so they can make this pick with an eye toward the future. Donald Driver, while still serviceable, is 36 years old. James Jones will be a free agent, and Jordy Nelson seems more like a slot guy. Smith has amazing speed, and, alongside Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, would give the Packers an almost unfair group of talented pass-catchers.