2011 NFL Mock Draft | Taylor Smith’s First Round Volume Two
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the NFL’s work stoppage, the draft is set to go as scheduled starting Thursday evening in New York City.
NFL Soup has been on top of draft coverage for months, and we’ll be your home for the event itself, as well. We’ll be holding a LIVE draft chat throughout each of the seven rounds, and will be hosting draft-intensive radio shows over on Blog Talk Radio all week long.
So, with just three days until round one gets underway, I’ll be taking one final shot at predicting how that round will play out.
The poor Panthers have plenty of needs all over the field, but with a new coaching regime coming in, it may be time for a new plan at quarterback, as well. Drafting Newton doesn’t bode well for the future of 2010 second-round pick Jimmy Clausen, but Newton has the potential to be a once-in-a-lifetime type prospect at QB. There are certainly questions about his mental makeup, but Carolina will be looking to make a splash.
Dareus appears to have supplanted Nick Fairley as the top-rated DT prospect on lots of draft boards, and not without reason. He’s been a dominant force on the line for the Crimson Tide for a few years, and has all the physical tools necessary to become a perennial All-Pro. The Broncos had one of the weakest defensive lines in the league last season, and finished with just 23 sacks as a team last season.
Like the Broncos, the Bills were able to generate very little pass rush at all in 2010. Aaron Maybin, the 11th overall pick in 2009, appears to be the bust-to-end-all-busts, and has given Buffalo absolutely nothing in his two NFL seasons. Miller has been shooting up draft boards since dazzling during the week of the Senior Bowl, and has the ability to instantly transform that struggling Buffalo front seven.
With Carson Palmer wanting out of Dodge, QB could open up as a glaring hole on Cincy’s roster. However, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are each expected to be gone, as well. Choosing Blaine Gabbert here would be far from a shock, but Green has been tabbed as “the guy” for the Bengals since the draft order was finalized. At 6’4″ with great speed, there’s no reason to believe Green can’t become a top-tier, No. 1 NFL receiver.
I originally had Blaine Gabbert slotted here, but the tide seems to be shifting towards Peterson. I believe him to be the best overall player in this draft, and the Cardinals fill a huge hole here by nabbing him. The duo of Peterson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has the opportunity to become one of the league’s most dynamic corner tandems.
Mike Holmgren and co. appear to believe that Colt McCoy is the quarterback of the future, so it’s time to get him a true, big-time target. Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie have the chance to be nice players, but neither has the “alpha dog” talent that Jones does. He worked out extremely impressively at the combine on an injured foot, and will be a vital cog in the retooling of Cleveland’s offense.
So, as it turns out, the Cardinals’ and 49ers’ picks are interchangeable, meaning I think San Francisco will pick whichever player Arizona doesn’t. They’d be thrilled to see Peterson fall into their laps, but QB has been a problem position for the franchise for a while now. Gabbert may be the most NFL-ready quarterback in this draft, and Jim Harbaugh and company won’t hesitate to take him.
Fairley was the trendy pick to be taken No. 1 overall following his terrific performance in the National Championship Game, but concerns over his attitude plus his only having played one productive season of college football cause him to drop a bit. Tennessee will be looking to replace Albert Haynesworth (who signed with Washington in 2009) in the middle of the D-line, and Fairley is the easy choice. There’s a reported divide amongst coaches with regards to who to take, but I think Fairley has to be the pick.
The Cowboys have tons of holes in the secondary, meaning Nebraska corner Prince Amukamara should hold some intrigue. However, the aging offensive line appears to be a much more dire need for Dallas, which is why they’ll take Smith here. Smith will be just 20 years old if the season starts on time, so he has the chance to be a rock on the Cowboys’ O-line for the next decade-plus.
There’s been lots of talk about Jake Locker as the potential pick for the ‘Skins here, but I think they can wait to take a quarterback. Quinn is a guy that we could see go as high as No. 6, and, while he didn’t play a snap of football last season due to suspension, his physical tools are too strong to ignore. The outside combination of Quinn and Brian Orakpo in the 3-4 could give Washington a fearsome pass rush.
If Locker is the pick for Washington at 10, then the Texans would happily nab Quinn at 11. Houston ranked 32nd in the league against the pass in 2010, but they have a history of avoiding guys with character concerns, so cornerback Jimmy Smith would seem like an unlikely choice here. Aldon Smith is extremely raw, but he’d likely be given the chance to start from day one in the 3-4 opposite Connor Barwin.
Unless the Vikings’ staff suddenly develops an extreme fondness for one Tarvaris Jackson, Locker seems increasingly likely to be Minnesota’s choice at No. 12. Coaches love his raw ability and athleticism, and feel as though he would be able to learn and develop on the fly. The Vikings have plenty of areas to upgrade on defense, but if you think Locker can become the face of your franchise, you take a chance on him here.
I can’t remember the last time the Lions drafted this late in the first round, but they finally appear to be a team on the rise, for a change. Jimmy Smith was my original choice here, but with the Cowboys opting for Tyron Smith over Prince Amukamara, the Nebraska corner will fall here to Detroit. The Lions struggled mightily against the pass last season, and they’ll solidify that area with the former Corn Husker.
The Rams would LOVE to find a way to nab themselves Julio Jones, but with him already off the board, they’ll try to address their defensive line here. Illinois’ Corey Liuget is a possible selection, but Kerrigan is viewed by many as a fairly safe pick. You can never have enough pass-rushers, and with Chris Long finally appearing to emerge as a real playmaker, the Rams could be wreaking major havoc in the backfields of opponents next season.
As mentioned prominently on last Wednesday’s draft preview radio show, the Dolphins have become big-time fans of Ryan Mallett. Character concerns and potential drug problems aside, Mallett is as talented a passer as we have in this draft. He doesn’t have the greatest mobility, but Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have had pretty solid careers despite not having tremendous foot speed, right?
I had Bowers tabbed as the No. 1 overall pick in my last mock, but concerns over a potential knee problem have caused him to fall completely out of the top-10. The Jaguars seem to draft defensive linemen in the first round just about every year, but I assume they’ll stop once they stop drafting busts. They struck gold with Tyson Alualu at No. 10 last season, and Bowers has the potential to be a real find this low in the first round.
Part of me has felt all along as though the Patriots would somehow, some way wind up with the former Heisman Trophy winner Ingram. With six picks in the first three rounds, New England will have plenty of chances to add depth at several positions. Bill Belichick is always a candidate to trade any pick, but Ingram is too perfect a fit to pass up on. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead enjoyed nice seasons, but Ingram is a guy with a chance to be a true difference-maker for years to come.
Watt can likely be taken as high as No. 9 to Dallas, but the Chargers get a gift when he drops to No. 18. San Diego has been searching for a well-rounded 3-4 defensive end, and Watt fits the bill. He has better athleticism than you’d think, and is one of the smartest players in this class. This pick makes sense.
The Giants have age concerns all over their offensive line, so it’s time to get younger by taking a tackle in the first round. Castonzo is the most experienced tackle in this class, having started at Boston College since his freshman season. The Giants suffered an epic collapse down the stretch last season, but don’t really appear to have too many holes outside of the O-line.
Jordan is another guy whose stock spiked during the week of the Senior Bowl, and I would not be at all shocked to see him go somewhere in the top-15. The Bucs began to revamp their defensive line by drafting tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price with their first two picks in 2010, and it continues with Jordan at No. 20. He’s an athletic specimen and may well be the best player on the board at this point.
The defending AFC West champs have been retooling their defense through the draft over the past few years, and will continue here with the addition of the versatile Ayers. He’ll likely stick at outside linebacker at the next level, and will likely serve as the replacement for the aging Mike Vrabel at some point. He’s a supreme athlete and excels at getting to the quarterback and wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Keeping Peyton Manning upright proved more difficult in 2010 than it had in recent years, and left tackle Charlie Johnson is set to become a free agent. Nate Solder is still very raw, but he didn’t make the transition to the offensive line until 2008. He’s immense and has pretty good footspeed for a guy his size. They’ll have some other options at No. 22, but I think Solder will be the pick.
Michael Vick and the Philly offense became the league’s most explosive unit last season, but Vick’s elusiveness helped hide the how porous the Eagles’ offensive line was. They clearly need some help on the offensive line, but with Smith sliding down the board, Philly jumps at the opportunity to get Asante Samuel some help on the outside. Smith is good enough to possibly go on the top-15, but the Eagles get a gift here at No. 23.
The signing of Shaun Rogers strengthened the interior of the defensive line, but that doesn’t mean the Saints won’t use this pick on another tackle. Corey Liuget, Muhammed Wilkerson and Phil Taylor could go here, but I feel as though the defensive end, Clayborn, will ultimately be the choice. He’s versatile enough to play all over the line, and should provide some additional stability.
Liuget is rising up draft boards all over the place, but falls to the Seahawks here. Jake Locker would be an extremely tempting choice were he to fall to No. 25, but Liuget can help shore up a very shaky Seattle defense.
The Ravens already boast one of the best defensive fronts in football, but they seem to be happy to stockpile talent there year-after-year. Heyward’s stock has been very up-and-down throughout this whole process, but, again, you can never have too much versatility. This team will be very scary.
Houston’s physical tools make him a candidate to go higher than this, but he drops to the Falcons here at No. 27. Atlanta loves defensive ends that can rush as well as drop into coverage, which Houston obviously can do. John Abraham, while still effective, isn’t getting any younger.
Indications are that Pouncey will go somewhere between No. 10 and No. 20, but you never know what will happen once the draft actually comes around. With Logan Mankins likely entering his final year in New England, what better player to step up and take the reigns than Pouncey? His stock has undoubtedly been enhanced by the successful rookie season of his twin brother, Maurkice, for the Steelers in 2010.
The Bears have no bigger need than the offensive line, as evidenced by Jay Cutler having been sacked a league-leading 56 times last season. There are questions about Sherrod’s toughness and ability to finish his blocks, but he’s been a consistent player on the Bulldogs’ line for a few years.
The Jets loaded their defense with household names last season, but the inability of Kris Jenkins to stay healthy means they need to look for a stopgap at nose tackle. Phil Taylor is likely the best player at the position available in this draft, despite a foot condition. This seems like a safe pick.
Pittsburgh would obviously love to land the other Pouncey twin here at No. 31, but they’ll have to “settle” for Colorado’s Jimmy Smith. Miami’s Brandon Harris is another possibility, but a meeting between Williams and the Steelers last week reportedly went well, giving him the edge between the two. Corner was the Steelers’ primary area of weakness last season, as exposed by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the Super Bowl.
Like Aldon Smith, Sheard is an incredibly raw, athletic, pass-rushing talent. He does come with some character concerns, but the Packers would to well to beef up their already deep linebacking corps. Sheard is one of many versatile outside rushers likely to go in the first round, and will make Green Bay’s defense all the more dangerous in 2011.
Keep coming back for extensive 2011 NFL Draft coverage, and be sure to stop by for our LIVE NFL Draft Chat for all three days of the draft!