For the new year, we bring you our most updated 2011 NFL Mock Draft, with updated Draft Order and possible underclassmen that could declare.
Five quarterbacks being taken in the Top 15? Five offensive lineman in 1st round? The Lions take ANOTHER wide receiver? The Big 12 and Pac-10 domating the Top 10? What if Andrew Luck DOESN't leave Stanford? And why is Blaine Gabbert the headline picture? Find out in our New Year's First 2011 NFL Mock Draft.
(* = Underclassmen)
1. Carolina Panthers - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford *
I've stayed away from this pick because I truly believe that they should stick with Jimmy Clausen, but from what I've scouted of Luck in the past weeks, he needs to be the number one quarterback. He's the best quarterback prospect I've seen in the past five or so years, with only Phillip Rivers/Eli Manning in the argument with him. I think Carolina should trade with Cincy, Buffalo, Arizona, San Francisco, or Washington, but no matter what, if he declares, he should be the top overall pick.
2. Denver Broncos - Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU *
It's very rare you see a defensive back in the Top 5, and last year's Eric Berry was something special to be taken fifth overall. However, Peterson has had one of the best defensive years in college football history in my opinion, and he has the ability to be the top cornerback in the NFL within a year or two. He'll take the reins from a probably Hall of Fame candidate Champ Bailey.
3. Cincinnati Bengals - Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson *
This pick is so tough to judge because the Bengals could clean house and start over. No matter what, they need a quarterback, but because this team needs so much, if the franchise doesn't feel that they want anyone past Luck at quarterback, they could go best player available. Bowers has the size, athleticism, and production to be a top pick, and looks better than Gaines Adams did coming out of Clemson.
4. Buffalo Bills - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri *
We've had Gabbert as the number two or three quarterback in the country all season long, but people I've talked to gave pretty clear indications that he likely would return for his senior year. However, because guys like Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett haven't been spectacular and Cam Newton is tough to judge, Gabbert might become the number two guy on most boards. If that's the case, there are seven teams in the top 15 that could be looking for a quarterback.
5. Arizona Cardinals - Tyron Smith, OT, USC *
Arizona is another team that could be looking for a franchise guy. But based on how John Skelton has developed at the end of this season and because this team is only better protection and a few defensive players away from being back to the playoffs, they could go best player available. Levi Brown hasn't been great as a pass blocker, and with Skelton a righty and Brown comfortable at right tackle, they need a blindside protector.
6. San Francisco 49ers - Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Troy Smith. Alex Smith. Nate Davis. Most teams have two quarterbacks that they'd rather start than either of them. While I like Troy Smith as a back-up, it's clear they need a franchise guy. They are only really a good coach and a quarterback away from being in the playoffs, and Locker looks to me like he could play early on this year. They are a prime candidate to go out and get a QB in free agency, so that will likely alter this pick.
7. Dallas Cowboys - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
This pick will likely come down to offensive line and defensive back. As for the future, this team really needs to do a better job protecting the quarterback, as they've seen now what losing your quarterback for the year can do to your team. Carimi can step in and move Doug Free back to right tackle where he won't need as much tight end help, and Tony Romo can get the ball out to his playmakers further down the field.
8. Houston Texans - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
With AJ Green on the board and Kevin Walter having made ZERO defenders miss after the catch, receiver is a tempting option. However, Andre Johnson and Jacoby Jones are solid enough, and they can go after a receiver like Armon Binns in the 2nd round. This secondary and total defense is notably bad, and adding Amukamara can add more talent to this secondary and hopefully reduce the number of big plays next year.
9. Detroit Lions - AJ Green, WR, Georgia *
Different GM, same story, right? Well, not quite. This team has a history of taking receivers early in the draft, but this year, it's the smartest pick they can make. They have solid starters on the defensive line, good linebackers for the system, and there aren't any defensive backs worthy of this high of a pick. Also, the offensive line has played fairly well this year, and the running back and tight end spots are set. That leaves receiver, where Calvin Johnson needs help in getting rid of some of his double teams. Those two together with Matt Stafford could make this offense one of the best in the NFC if they all can stay healthy.
10. Cleveland Browns - Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Mike Holmgren did a solid job in last year's draft, getting secondary help with Joe Haden at cornerback and TJ Ward at safety. Still, however, this defense needs some help, especially in their pass rush. It's between a defensive end and a rushing outside linebacker. Adrian Clayborn fits the first need, while Miller fits the second. I give Miller the edge because his ceiling is so high as a prospect, and there is depth in this draft for 5 technique defensive ends.
11. Seattle Seahawks - Nick Fairly, DT, Auburn*
Nick Fairly has been the biggest draft riser of anyone this year, coming from a fringe starter to maybe the best defensive tackle in the country. Fairly has been tremendously disruptive on almost every play in each game, and has been as clutch as a defensive lineman can be. Fairly can be a great 3-technique defensive tackle for the Seahawks, who's pass rush struggled mightily this year.
12. Tennessee Titans - Marcel Dareus, DE, Alabama*
I'm not as high on Dareus as many others are, but he's measurables, speed, and quickness will make defensive coaches excited to have him on their roster. The Titans have been known to really like drafting defensive lineman, and once again I think they will. They may look for offensive line help or for secondary help, but no one available fits what they need at this point.
13. Washington Redskins - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas*
While they'd much rather Locker, I think Mallett can fit into this system nicely, especially if they bring in a veteran to run the offense at the early point of the season, maybe even Rex Grossman. Mallett has been inconsistent this year, but his top receiver was out earlier in the year and he still hasn't shown that he can make plays outside the pocket. He has a lot to learn, but he can be a top notch quarterback in the NFL.
14. Minnesota Vikings - Cam Newton, QB, Auburn*
The Heisman trophy winner has been beyond just impressive this year, maybe going down as one of the Top 5 greatest college football players of the past 10 years in just one season. Newton has the speed and athletic ability to make plays outside the pocket and in the open field, and he can pick you apart in the pocket. With all the playmakers on this team, Newton can add yet another dimension to this already tough to plan for offense.
15. New England Patriots (via OAK) - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama*
They trade away Randy Moss? So what, they'll use Brandon Tate and Deion Branch and finish with the best record in the league. But with those two and Wes Welker, why would they draft another receiver? Because they don't have many needs. Outside of maybe a pass rusher, running back, and offensive line depth, they don't need much, so why not take the best player available. Jones, Welker, and Branch would give this receiving corps their best crop since Moss, Stallworth, and Welker.
16. Miami Dolphins - Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
Jake Long was elected to the Pro Bowl this year, and may be the best left tackle in the NFL. While the passing game hasn't been on track for much of the year, I think more of that has to do with play-calling and panic rather than blocking. However, opposite him, they need some help. Costanzo is an NFL-ready right tackle who can give this team great bookend protection for Chad Henne or whoever their QB is next year.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Last year, they selected Tyson Alualu, a defensive end/tackle hybrid athlete who we felt was a 2nd or 3rd round value. And while most agreed with our evaluation, I'll admit, we were wrong on Alualu. He's been very solid for this team and looks like a long-term starter. However, in this hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense, they need help opposite him, which is where Clayborn comes in. He can play defensive end in either set, and can complement Alualu for years to come.
18. San Diego Chargers - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State*
Michael Floyd. Patrick Crayton. Legadu Naane. Seyi Ajiroutu. Those were the Chargers top four receivers this year. And even with Vincent Jackson back, it's very unlikely he'll be sticking around for the future. That means, regardless of whether Jackson stays or not, is that they need a top flight receiver. Blackmon has been more productive and versatile for Oklahoma State than Dez Bryant was, and while I don't think he's as talented as Dez, he could be a number one or two receiver in the NFL.
19. New York Giants - Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA*
Keith Bulluck is probably in his last year, Michael Boley has been a disappointment for this team since he was signed, and Jonathan Goff is nothing special on the inside. They really need a linebacker in this draft, and they'll get to choose between Ayers and Greg Jones of Michigan State. Because of his versatility, I'd take Ayers, but I can't see this team not taking an outside linebacker and letting Justin Tuck stay at defensive end.
20. Tampa Bay Bucs - Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida*
Aqib Talib is their foundation in the secondary, and while he's had quite a few run ins off the field, he's a great talent and their long term answer at one cornerback spot when he's healthy. However, Ronde Barber may be in his last year, EJ Biggers isn't the long-term answer, and overall with the Falcons and Saints passing the ball all over the field, they need cornerback help. Jenkins is a good fit for the Cover 2 system.
21. St. Louis Rams - Malcolm Floyd, WR, Notre Dame*
What Sam Bradford and the Rams have been able to do is outstanding this year. Forget the fact that they will get into the playoffs at 7-9, getting seven wins with this team is something to be happy about. The offensive line has been great, and Steven Jackson is still one of the more talented backs in the NFL. But the receivers could use an upgrade, and while Floyd hasn't been consistent all year, with the right quarterback, he could be a number one receiver in the NFL.
22. Kansas City Chiefs - Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina*
Much of the Chiefs success is thanks to their offense, who's ground game and smart passing have been among the best in the NFL. And while the defense has played well this year, Mike Vrabel can't be looked at as a long or short term starter opposite Tamba Hali. If you pair Hali and Quinn together, you have a very athletic set of outside linebackers, a group that and really get pressure against almost any NFL team.
23. Chicago Bears - Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
The offensive line is a big need, but at this point in the draft, I don't see a tackle that fits their system and worth taking based on that risk. Therefore, I think they look for a rotational defensive tackle who can eventually take over for the often injured Tommie Harris. Austin is a great talent with some off the field question marks.
24. Indianapolis Colts - Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
While Sherrod maybe isn't the best fit for the Bears, he's a perfect fit for the Colts, and Sherrod may actually be able to play left tackle for this team early on. While their numbers involving their offensive line is good, a lot of that has to do with coaching and Peyton Manning more so than talent. Sherrod can develop into their franchise left tackle that can make Peyton Manning worry more about the coverage than the pressure.
25. Green Bay Packers - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama*
When Ryan Grant went down this year, the already average Packers run game went as close to forgotten about as you'll see in the NFL. And even when Grant returns, he'll need a complement back. With Mark Ingram being a probable upgrade over Grant and a steal here at the bottom of round one, they could have another great offensive weapon to help Aaron Rodgers even more next year.
26. New York Jets - Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh*
On paper, their receivers are great, with Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Jericho Cotchery and Brad Smith. But Cotchery and Edwards have been very inconsistent this year, Smith is a solid number three or four receiver and not much else, and both Holmes and Edwards have expiring contracts this year. Baldwin makes logical sense, as the team can keep the more productive Holmes, let Edwards go, and have a younger, hopefully more consistent receiving set.
27. New Orleans Saints - Jabael Sherad, DE, Pittsburgh
Sherad may not be a main stream 1st rounder yet, but thanks to Greg Romeus's injury early in the year, Sherad got the chance to shine, and he sure did. He is a relentless rusher, can get through double teams, and can step in right away and give this team an extra burst in their lackluster pass rush.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State
Finding a right tackle to replace Flozell Adams may be hard at this point in the first round, so I think they go with the best available offensive lineman. They already have Kraig Urbik, Max Unger, and Maurkice Pouncey as young interior lineman, but Hudson is as close to a lock to be a stud as you'll find in guards, and maybe he can slide out to right tackle in this scheme.
29. Philadelphia Eagles - Greg Jones, ILB, Michigan State
Michael Vick has really saved this defense at times by putting up fantastic numbers and putting a lot of pressure on teams to throw more obvious passes down field. However, their biggest weakness is still at linebacker, where they can't stay healthy or find enough quality starters. Jones is a great value here and he can play strongside linebacker or inside, and he'll fit into this system very well.
30. Baltimore Ravens - Allen Bailey, DE, Miami (FL)
They have Haloti Ngata on one side of this 3-4 defensive line, but their continued rotation of the other side leads me to think that they would really like a talent like Bailey to step in and be a consistent starter. A pass rusher could be nice as well opposite Terrell Suggs, but Bailey is the best front-seven prospect available.
31. Atlanta Falcons - Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina
Sean Weatherspoon and Curtis Lofton are very good linebackers for this team, but adding Carter could make this the best young linebacking crew of any 4-3 defense in the NFL. Carter is perfect to play on the strong side of the defense opposite Weatherspoon, and he could make this defense even more consistent and more complete than it already is.
32. New England Patriots - Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech*
The rich get richer in this draft, as now they can add Ryan Williams to Julio Jones in this draft class. Williams could go higher than this, but with teams ahead of them, outside of the Packers, already fairly comfortable at running back, he could fall to this point. Williams with Green-Ellis and Woodhead could be a great rotation, and he could become what they hoped Lawrence Maroney would be.
Players Close to the 1st Round
Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware
Demarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State
Jerrell Jernigan, WR, Troy
Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland*
James Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh
DeMarcus Love, OT, Arkansas
Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska*
Jurrell Casey, DT, USC*
Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina
Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL)*
Mark Barron, S, Alabama*
Will Hill, S, Florida*
Rahim Moore, S, UCLA*