NFL

2011 NFL Mock Draft: Top 5 Team-by-Team Needs

| by Alex Groberman

With the college football season officially done tonight, what better way to celebrate than a nifty little mock draft detailing the fates of soon-to-be-overpaid college stars?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m reluctant to go past the top five in these mocks because anything past the No. 5 pick become shots in the dark. A reach here, an Aaron Rodgers-type drop there, and boom – you’re left with a mangled mock draft board.

Rather than issuing another post-Andrew Luck’s decision type list, everyone would be better served seeing what needs the top five teams in the 2011 NFL Draft have. Some squads have bigger holes than others. However, everyone picking within the first five selections is doing so for a reason.

With no further delay, here is a team-by-team breakdown of who needs what coming into the draft:

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  1. Carolina Panthers – The Panthers really control how the rest of this draft will look. Obviously if Andrew Luck was still available they would address their so-called weakness at the passing position and select him. However, Luck’s decision may end up being a blessing in disguise for this squad seeing as Jimmy Clausen is still young and has some serious potential. A skilled and talented wide receiver like A.J. Green would be good in this spot, particularly considering the lack of receiving weapons not named Steve Smith on this roster. That being said, this team was horrid defensively ranking 26th in scoring and 23rd against the rush. A player to shore up that side of the ball to fill a Julius Peppers role may not be a bad idea.
  2. Denver Broncos – The Broncos are in desperate need of some youth on the defensive side of the ball. Considering how many quality defensive players there are in this draft, it shouldn’t be a problem for John Elway and the gang to nab a difference-maker. Patrick Peterson out of LSU is a complete stud, and when all is said and done, he may end up being the best player in this draft. Da’Quan Bowers out of Clemson is also a beast of a defensive end, and he would probably fit in quite nicely.
  3. Buffalo Bills – The Bills have a chance to make this draft really interesting. If you take the Panthers out of the equation, this team probably serves as the biggest wild cards in the top half of the draft. Popular opinion has this squad addressing their massive hole at franchise quarterback. It seems to be generally accepted that Ryan Fitzpatrick is nice and all, but that you don’t build a team around him. If the Bills are in the mood to live a little, a Cam Newton would really spice things up. The guy is talented, athletic and a proven winner. If Buffalo isn’t feeling particularly adventurous, Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert is watching his stock grow exponentially. If the Bills decide that Fitzpatrick is the long term answer at the quarterback slot, they could turn their attention to the defensive end where they’ve constantly ranked in the bottom of the NFL. A Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley or Bowers if he’s still on the board would work here.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals are in a rough spot. This team is marred by an awful locker room philosophy of talent over character, bad coaching and a terrible recent history. If this team were smart they would get rid of as many of the losers on their roster as humanly possible, and start anew. Considering the fact that they retained the headmaster of the circus in Marvin Lewis, though, it appears that the Bengals aren’t planning to right this ship just yet. They’ll likely take whoever is left out of Green, Peterson, Dareus or Bowers.
  5. Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals desperately need to find a quarterback worthy of an NFL roster spot. If either Newton or Gabbert fall to this point -- and it’s likely that at least one of them will -- this team would be wise to make that pick.  This team has holes on defense that they should address them, however, they have to get a quality passer this year if they don’t want to put up offensive totals similar to the Oakland Raiders of three years ago.