1. Carolina Panthers – Andrew Luck – QB – Stanford
(1/4/11): I still do not think that the jury is out on Jimmy Clausen…yet. It’s easy to see that Clausen hasn’t been given a fair enough chance to make plays in Carolina. Receivers have been dropping balls and the defense ranks 32nd against the pass. However, with Andrew Luck possibly entering the NFL Draft, he is too good to pass up. Luck has the skills as well as the intangibles and intelligence to be a great NFL quarterback. Last QB to have all of those? Peyton Manning.
2. Denver Broncos – Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska
(1/4/11): The Broncos are an AGING football team and their defense is horrendous. Injuries have plagued the whole team on both sides of the ball. With the status of Champ Bailey uncertain and the thin depth of this year’s safety class, Prince Amukamara is almost a no-brainer for Denver. He is, in my opinion, the best cornerback in this draft class and an absolute gamer.
3. Buffalo Bills – Adrian Clayborn – DE – Iowa
(1/4/11): The Bills are one of those teams that have the heart to be a championship football team but lack the talent and the luck. Injuries have run rampant throughout the offense and defense, and the switch from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense seems to be doing more harm than good. Chan Gailey isn’t going anywhere, so the defense will stay the same. Adrian Clayborn to the Bills reminds me of Aaron Maybin to the Bills a couple of years back; Maybin didn’t seem to pan out. Clayborn, however, is a HUGE defensive end with prototypical speed and POWER. I emphasize power because Aaron Maybin didn’t have much of it. The only thing that will waver my pick here is the fact that Clayborn is a 4-3 DE and I’m not quite sure how he will work in a 3-4 defensive scheme.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – Nate Solder – OT – Colorado
(1/4/11): I have been hearing rumors that Chad Ochocinco will be out of Cincy by next season and T.O.’s contract will not be renewed. Naturally, if those two things happen, my pick will change. Carson Palmer is nearing the end of his career, and I have noticed that a majority of his errors come when he is under pressure, which is often. Nate Solder is the top offensive tackle in this year’s draft and could be an adequate rock on the otherwise shaky Bengals line.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Blaine Gabbert – QB – Missouri
(1/4/11): John Skelton looked decent at times but he is not the answer for a Cardinals team that wants to win now. Gabbert is a great talent at the quarterback position with above average accuracy and footwork. The Cards need some offensive line help but I think QB is a more glaring need.
6. Cleveland Browns – A.J. Green – WR – Georgia
(1/4/11): The Browns are going to be a dangerous team in a few years. They are doing all of the right things as far as personnel and have a stable head in the front office with Mike Holmgren. Aside from a ton of injuries on defense, the Browns have a pretty solid squad. Wide receiver is the most glaring need on the offensive side of the ball and A.J. Green is the best the Browns can get for this draft. There is no doubt in my mind that Colt McCoy is the future of the Browns organization so it is time to give him some weapons.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Jake Locker – QB – Washington
(1/4/11): While most of you are going to argue for Cam Newton in this spot, the 49ers have a pro-style offense which takes Newton out of the picture. Don’t take me the wrong way, Newton will most likely end up on a team that runs the pro-style offense, but I believe that if Jim Harbaugh is the 49ers head coach, he will look for a smart, accurate, and NFL-ready quarterback like Locker (assuming Andrew Luck is off the board). Locker suffered at Washington behind a horrible offensive line and receiving unit. The Niners’ offensive line is up-and-coming and will give Locker the protection he needs to be successful.
8. Tennessee Titans – Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Clemson
(1/4/11): The Titans have a pretty poor pass defense but they have talented cornerbacks and safeties. What else could be the cause of their poor defensive performance? Pass rushing ability. With the departure of Kyle Vanden Bosch, the Titans picked up Jason Babin from the Eagles. Babin has done a great job at DE but the Titans still have yet to find their groove on defense. With the safety position thin in 2011, I foresee the Titans going with a big, physical, and fast DE in Bowers.
9. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU
(1/4/11): The Cowboys implosion in 2010 was unforeseeable. Many had America’s team favored to win the Super Bowl but we all learned that without defense, no championship is possible. The pass defense for the Cowboys is soft and injured. Patrick Peterson is tall, instinctive, and has a quick burst to the football. He is an exceptional athlete and, given the Cowboys’ defensive situation, one player that they cannot afford to pass up on.
10. Washington Redskins – Cam Newton – QB – Auburn
(1/4/11): With Donovan McNabb likely done in Washington, Mike Shanahan said specifically that he is going to check out the QBs in the draft and see who they could get. Well, if Cam Newton drops to them at the number 10 spot, I don’t see how they could pass over him. Newton is able to make so many plays with both his arm and his feet. Dual-threat quarterbacks are becoming increasingly popular in the NFL and when you have an offensive line as poor as Washington’s, it is easy to see why.
11. Houston Texans – Janoris Jenkins – CB – Florida
(1/4/11): The Texans’ secondary is absolutely horrible. They were torched all season and it didn’t look like rookie cornerback Kareem Jackson was going to pan out. While Jackson was at Alabama, Nick Saban told him he wasn’t ready yet and should stay in school at least one more year. Looks like he was right. Give Jackson some time and he should be okay. Janoris Jenkins is one of those quick learners that everyone likes. As a true freshmen, he showed the ability to compete with some of the best. He is quick and instinctive but the only thing he lacks is elite size and the ability to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. His hip fluidity and explosive burst could make people forget about his size, though. He reminds me a bit of Asante Samuel (and not because of the dreads). If Jenkins skips his Senior season, I like the Texans taking him here since they could get a nice Safety in the 2nd round.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Ryan Mallett – QB – Arkansas
(1/4/11): This should be an obvious quarterback pick for the Vikings at this spot. However, since the QB class is so rich, the Vikes may take a chance to grab one in a later round. Mallett may go sooner than 12 if some of the teams don’t want to take a chance on Locker or Newton. His 6’6”, 238-pound frame combined with superior arm strength and confident poise is undeniable. With all of the homerun threats in Minnesota, the Vikings need a quarterback that can sling an accurate long ball and Ryan Mallett can do just that. The one thing that worries me is that most of his throws are fastballs and can sometimes sail over the receivers’ head. In NFL terms, this is called “trying to do too much.”
13. Detroit Lions – Anthony Castonzo – OT – Boston College
(1/4/11): The Lions are going to be scary in a couple of years (if Stafford can stay healthy). Jim Schwartz and his staff are doing a great job of putting all the right pieces into place. They are drafting young, talented players to build around. The offense is decent but still lacks O-line and wide receiver depth. Anthony Castonzo is an awesome prospect out of BC. He’s big and strong and his quickness off the ball combined with near perfect footwork is captivating. Castonzo reminds me a lot of Joe Thomas in that he is a bulldog at the OT position. He gets down and dirty in the run game but can also be a rock in pass protection. Great foundational player for the Lions.
14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones – WR – Alabama
(1/4/11): Sam Bradford is playing some great football and the Rams almost made the playoffs. Considering how bad the team was in 2009, this is a remarkable feat. The integral pieces need to starting getting placed so that the Rams can become a playoff team. The first order of business is getting Bradford a foundational wide receiver. Brandon Gibson is a pretty decent player and Danny Amendola is Welker, Woodhead-esque. All this aside, the team still lacks a solid number 1 WR. Julio Jones is as good as there is when it comes to possession wide receivers.
15. Miami Dolphins – Christian Ponder – QB – Florida State
(1/4/11): At the beginning of the 2009 season, I had faith in Chad Henne. I figured that with the addition of Brandon Marshall, Henne would pan out nicely. Obviously, I was wrong. Henne lacks confidence and desire and is NOT the answer in Miami. The Dolphins are a team with high potential. The running back situation in the 305 will most likely force this pick to change. Ricky Williams wants out and Ronnie Brown is very injury-prone. Mark Ingram may be a better option at 15 but for right now, the Dolphins are in dire need of a capable quarterback. Ponder is a huge quarterback with the passion and drive needed in South Florida. He was a winner at Florida State and will be just that in the NFL. Hey Miami, pull that plug on Henne!
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Robert Quinn – DE – North Carolina
(1/4/11): Before the NCAA violations occurred, Robert Quinn was a top prospect in the NFL draft. Well guess what? That hasn’t changed. Scouts still took notice of Quinn’s abilities and will be all over him come draft time. The Jaguars need secondary help but I think they should hold off until the second round to pull the trigger. Instead, they should capitalize on the talented defensive ends in this draft class. Tyson Alualu was a questionable pick last year but he worked out nicely. Aaron Kampman was a great pick up for the Jags but he has been injured most of 2010. Imagine a defensive line with Kampman, Terrance Knighton, Tyson Alualu, and Robert Quinn. Not exactly the sexiest names on the planet but it will be a defensive line built to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) – Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
(1/4/11): I know that Fairley is a 4-3 DT but Bill Belichick is a fan of any talent and I believe Fairley could play at 4-3 DT, 3-4 DE, or even NT. He is an athletic player and a pure animal. Some scouts are concerned with his attitude, however. Fairley sometimes resorts to, um, dirty tactics. But hey, that’s how a defensive lineman should be anyway, right? right?
18. San Diego Chargers – Gabe Carimi – OT – Wisconsin
(1/4/11): The Chargers are a tough team to figure out. They have no glaring holes, yet they still underperform each year. The defense is one of the best in the league so that isn’t a problem. Maybe some safety help later on. The offensive line is the only major week point on the team as of right now. Gabe Carimi is a big, strong left tackle who drives defenders off the ball and keeps prolific pass rushers at bay. Check out the video of Carimi vs. Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward. Carimi handles Heyward, who is one of the best college Des, with ease.
19. New York Giants – Von Miller – OLB – Texas A&M
(1/4/11): The Giants have problems on defense from the linebackers to the secondary. The front four is solid. Age and injuries have plagued the D. Perry Fewel loves to call disguised blitzes with safeties but having your safeties blitz allows your corner backs and linebackers to be vulnerable. What if you could have a linebacker that blitzes with almost the same quickness as a safety? That’s what you will get with Von Miller. He is a fast, blitzing outside linebacker who will fit very will in Fewell’s hard-nosed defensive scheme.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Rahim Moore – S – UCLA
(1/4/11): This pick may be a stretch, I know. However, the Bucs really need help in the secondary, especially with safeties. Rahim Moore is about 15 pounds away from being a terrific safety. He has all of the instincts that you want in a cover safety but lacks the bulk. Moore is still undecided whether he will leave UCLA. Perhaps another year in college will do him good. Right now he is the top safety in the draft so I can see why he would want to come out.
21. Seattle Seahawks – Marcell Dareus – DT – Alabama
(1/4/11): If the Seahawks can grab Marcell Dareus with the 21st pick, that would be a steal. It’s evident that the ‘Hawks need front-four help and Dareus is as good as they come. The guy is simply un-blockable. He possesses all the tools needed for an elite NFL defensive tackle. Right now he plays DE at Alabama but many believe that he will play 4-3 DT at the next level. Having a great pass rushing DT like Dareus will free up some pressure on the ailing secondary in Seattle.
22. Kansas City Chiefs – Justin Blackmon – WR – Oklahoma State
(1/4/11): Justin Blackmon reminds me so much of Dez Bryant. He is a huge, possession wide receiver that has continued to impress all season. KC is emerging as a great football team. Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe are working very well together but it is clear that the Chiefs need another weapon. If Blackmon decides to leave OK State, this should be a no-brainer pick in terms of talent.
23. Indianapolis Colts – Mark Ingram – RB – Alabama
(1/4/11): I’d be surprised if Ingram fell this far but all of the teams ahead of the Colts have other needs than the RB position so it makes sense. We all know what Ingram is capable of. He’s an absolute beast. The Colts offense feeds off of Peyton Manning and Manning feeds off the running game. It is obvious the running game in Indy took a blow when Addai got injured. In fact, many are saying that Addai is too injury prone to rely on. If that’s the case, Mark Ingram is more than adequate.
24. Philadelphia Eagles – Ras-I Dowling – CB – Virginia
(1/4/11): The Eagles are in need of some major defensive help (mainly in the secondary). After losing Ellis Hobbs for the season, and potentially for good, Dmitri Patterson was forced to start. Patterson showed signs of greatness but as the season progressed, he became more and more reliant on holding the receivers, which drew a ton of penalties. The Eagles need a lockdown corner like Ras-I Dowling. I can see Asante Samuel and Dowling as starters and Dmitri Patterson sliding to the nickel position.
25. Green Bay Packers – Ryan Williams – RB – Virginia Tech
(1/4/11): I could also see the Packers going OT or CB with this pick, but I believe that they have more of a need at RB than anywhere else. The run game sets up the play action and Aaron Rodgers is one of the best to run the play action. Ryan Grant is injury prone and relying on Brandon Jackson or John Kuhn to carry your run game is silly. Ryan Williams is the 2nd best running back in the draft and, if drafted, will eventually become the everyday starter in GB. Williams said he would leave school if the NCAA Advisory Committee gives him a 1st-round grade.
26. New Orleans Saints – Stephen Paea – DT – Oregon State
(1/4/11): If I had to choose one defensive tackle in the 2011 draft that will have the most success in the NFL, I think it will be Stephen Paea. Paea was a former rugby player who has the ability to drive anyone off of his feet with his great strength. The Saints lack a solid defensive tackle to wreak havoc on backfields. Look no further than this monster.
27. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Baldwin – WR – Pittsburgh
(1/4/11): Listed as the second coming of Larry Fitzgerald, Jonathan Baldwin has superior size and strength to go along with his great catching ability. Having Devin Hester and Johnny Knox as your number one and two WRs will only get you so far. Having Baldwin as your number one will boost the Bears past their plateau.
28. New York Jets – Tyron Smith – OT – USC
(1/4/11): The Jets need to give Mark Sanchez time to throw the ball if they want to be successful. The Jets have a good O-line but it isn’t great…yet. Tyron Smith is one of the top OTs in this draft and adding him to the arsenal will only make the Jets offense better. The Jets may go with safety or nose tackle with this pick so stay tuned. I still am not sold on Mark Sanchez but that’s for another day.
29. Baltimore Ravens – Brandon Harris – CB – Miami (FL)
(1/4/11): Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. The Ravens secondary, particularly at the cornerback position, has been run dry with devastating injuries. I couldn’t tell you who is playing cornerback over there in Charm City. However, I do know that Brandon Harris had a great year at Miami and is a top cornerback in the 2011 draft class. Harris may stay in school so stay tuned for possible changes.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Cameron Heyward – DE – Ohio State
(1/4/11): The Steelers are always in the running for a championship. Their shear toughness is unmatched. They have a solid defense but could use some depth on the D-line. Cameron Heyward must be taken with the 30th pick if available. He is a DT at Ohio State but projects as a 3-4 DE at the NFL level.
31. Atlanta Falcons – Allen Bailey – DE/DT – Miami (FL)
(1/4/11): Allen Bailey played some DT at Miami but switched to DE for his senior season. He is almost 300 pounds and can easily switch back to DT for the Falcons, who are thin at that position. He is fast and strong and has a 40” vertical. He is a Jason Pierre-Paul type player.
32. New England Patriots – Akeem Ayers – OLB – UCLA
(1/4/11): The Pats have had some issues with their linebackers all season. Inconsistency has hit them hard. However, they cleaned their act up later on in the season and have shown signs of maturation. With a stud cornerback in Devin McCourty, the Patriots have to focus on stopping the run. Akeem Ayers is a great penetration LB with a high sack and TFL count. The one thing that worries me is if Ayers can play OLB in a 3-4 scheme. Something tells me that Belichick could make it work.