Predicting the NFL Draft

Mock drafts are always difficult to accurately put together, but it seems that 2011 has taken things to another level. The lack of free agency and the numerous shaky QB situations help make the 2011 NFL Draft extremely uncertain, and it should be interesting to watch unfold next week.

As always, the following mock draft should be taken with a grain of salt. It doesn’t account for trades, and there’s a good chance several teams could be making deals to position themselves to take QBs in the second half of Day One.

First Round

1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton (QB, Auburn)

With no chance for pre-draft negotiations this year, the #1 pick is as uncertain as ever. Well, at least it was. While we still don’t know for sure, all signs are pointing to the new regime in Carolina taking Newton, who has loads of upside but may need time to develop.

2. Denver Broncos – Marcell Dareus (DT, Alabama)

The Broncos sit in a good position, as they need a lot of defensive help but should have their choice of top defenders. Von Miller and Patrick Peterson also make sense, but Dareus is a good choice as a versatile player who is capable of playing DE in a 3-4 but would play DT in the Broncos’ new 4-3.

3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller (OLB, Texas A&M)

The Bills need a QB for the future, but Miller is a better value here – especially since they are okay at QB for now with Ryan Fitzpatrick. While the Bills add Shawne Merriman to the fold, they still need pass rush help – especially since it looks like Aaron Maybin will never pan out.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green (WR, Georgia)

The one big problem here is that we have no idea who the quarterback will be. Carson Palmer’s future is up in the air, and Blaine Gabbert is a possibility if the Bills pass. Even with him on the board, the Bengals should go for either Patrick Peterson or Green, who can instantly become a starter and replace Chad Ochocinco/Terrell Owens on the outside.

5. Arizona Cardinals – Blaine Gabbert (QB, Missouri)

The Cardinals were awful at QB last year with the three-headed monster of Derek Anderson, Max Hall, and John Skelton. There’s still a chance Skelton could develop into an adequate starter, and the Cards could also get into the Kevin Kolb sweepstakes, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add Gabbert to the fold given the uncertainty of the off-season.

6. Cleveland Browns – Robert Quinn (DE, North Carolina)
The Browns desperately need a WR, and if A.J. Green is off the board, Julio Jones is certainly an option. However, the Browns also need help defensively, and despite missing the 2010 season because of rules violations, Quinn is a top-notch pass rusher.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU)

This is the ideal scenario for the 49ers, as they land one of the top players available and bolster their secondary with an instant starter. Blaine Gabbert and Robert Quinn are possibilities if they fall, but even if Peterson isn’t on the board, the pick could be CB Prince Amukamara.

8. Tennessee Titans – Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn)

Fairley has been tagged with the “boom or bust” label, but there’s no question that he has a lot of talent. He was dominant last season for Auburn, and while the Titans are solid up front, he could be a game-changer in the middle.

9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith (OT, USC)

The most obvious needs for the Cowboys at this spot are OT and CB, and they have a pair of nice options in either Smith or Prince Amukamara. Smith’s stock has been on the rise, and they really can’t go wrong with either guy at #9.

10. Washington Redskins – Julio Jones (WR, Alabama)

There’s a lot of talk that Jake Locker could be taken earlier than expected, and the Redskins are a very good fit for the raw QB. It’s quite possible that they’ll try to trade down and target a QB, but it would be hard to pass up a complete WR like Jones if he’s still on the board.

11. Houston Texans – Cameron Jordan (DE, California)

The Texans need help across the board on defense under new DC Wade Phillips. That includes both DE and OLB in their new 3-4, making Jordan one of several options at this spot in the draft, along with OLB Aldon Smith.

12. Minnesota Vikings – Jake Locker (QB, Washington)

Does this pick make much sense? No, not at all. Locker has potential, but he really has no business going this high in the draft. Still, it’s hard not to sense that there’s going to be some QB chaos in this draft given the shaky situations out there and the lack of free agency. The Vikings drafting Locker could be the first domino to fall in a crazy 1st round when it comes to reaching for QBs.

13. Detroit Lions – Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska)

This is an ideal scenario for the Lions, as CB is their top need and Amukamara represents a great value at #13. There’s a good chance he won’t be available though, and if that’s the case, help on both lines is a possibility.

14. St. Louis Rams – Aldon Smith (DE, Missouri)

The Rams will hope the Redskins reach for a QB and let Julio Jones drop. WR is their top need with a bunch of average talent but no real playmaker for Sam Bradford. If Jones isn’t there, look for the Rams to address needs on the defensive front. Smith is a bit undersized and fits as a 3-4 OLB as well, and while he may need some time to develop, he’s loaded with potential.

15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram (RB, Alabama)

Ingram has been pegged to the Dolphins for months, and it’s clearly the logical choice. Both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are likely gone, and Ingram is the top RB on the board. Sure, they could end up with someone like DeAngelo Williams once the off-season actually gets going, but Ingram makes sense here for a team that likes to run the football but doesn’t, you know, have a running back.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Purdue)

The Jaguars appear to be one of the easiest teams to predict in the 1st round. They sit in prime position to address their weak pass rush, and someone like Kerrigan or Aldon Smith should be on the board when they pick.

17. New England Patriots (from Oak) – J.J. Watt (DE, Wisconsin)

Once again, the Patriots have a ton of flexibility in the draft. They own two picks in each of the first three rounds, and they’ll be a prime candidate to find a trading partner who wants to move up and take a QB. Don’t rule out a trade at either #17 or #28, but if they stay put, look for them to target either a DE or OLB in their 3-4 defense.

18. San Diego Chargers – Muhammad Wilkerson (DE, Temple

Like the Patriots, the Chargers can target either a pass rusher or a DE for their 3-4 system, and Wilkerson fits as a solid value who can make the transition to end and compete for a starting spot.

19. New York Giants – Mike Pouncey (OL, Florida)

Several teams will be eying Pouncey, starting with the Dolphins and ending with a line of teams in the 20s. You can’t expect him to have the kind of rookie season his brother, Maurkice Pouncey, did, but he’s a versatile G/C prospect who would instantly help a Giants team that dealt with injuries up front last season.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Da’Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson)

A top-5 talent, Bowers has become one of the toughest players to predict. He’s seen his stock take a huge hit because of concerns about his knee, and where he ends up will depend on how teams evaluate the injury. The Buccaneers addressed the DT position in last year’s draft, and Bowers is a perfect fit at DE to help the pass rush if the Bucs get past the injury issues.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Anthony Costanzo (OT, Boston College)

The run on linemen continues, with the Chiefs having their pick of prospects to start at RT. Costanzo, Nate Solder, Gabe Carimi, and even Derek Sherrod can all be considered, and the Chiefs appear to be sitting in a great position if they want to upgrade their OL.

22. Indianapolis Colts – Gabe Carimi (OT, Wisconsin)

The Colts really struggled up front last season, putting Peyton Manning in a tough situation. He still produced in a big way, but he was forced to make even quicker decisions than usual. The Colts are in a solid position here to grab an upgrade, as several O-line prospects should be coming off the board in the 20s.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – Jimmy Smith (CB, Colorado)

Smith might be as talented as top CBs Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara, but his stock is down because of character concerns. Still, several teams could be ready to jump on him in this area, and he would be a perfect fit for the Eagles to start opposite Asante Samuel.

24. New Orleans Saints – Corey Liuget (DT, Illinois)

There has been talk of the Saints taking a RB, and while they’ve dealt with injury problems there, it doesn’t seem likely. Instead, they’re in a position to add talent to their D-line. There’s a good chance Liuget won’t be on the board, and if not, DE Adrian Clayborn would be a fine pick as well.

25. Seattle Seahawks – Colin Kaepernick (QB, Nevada)

The Seahawks are a tough team to project given how many needs they have despite being a playoff team. Several teams may be making moves up or down to grab QBs, and if the Seahawks get Matt Hasselbeck back, they’re still going to need someone to develop for the future. Kaepernick’s stock has been on the rise, and while he needs time to develop, Seattle would be a good fit – again, assuming Hasselbeck returns.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Akeem Ayers (OLB, UCLA)

Jimmy Smith would be the best scenario for the Ravens, but while Eagles’ drafts are tough to predict, it’s hard to see Smith dropping past Philly. If that’s the case, the Ravens should focus on the front seven, and Ayers works as a rush OLB. The Ravens could also opt for a speedy WR, but no WR presents a good value here.

27. Atlanta Falcons – Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa)

The Falcons don’t have many big needs, but if Clayborn slips to them at #27, he should be a no-brainer. He’s a solid overall DE who can get to the QB and defend the run, and the Falcons are in need of help in the pass rush alongside John Abraham.

28. New England Patriots – Nate Solder (OT, Colorado)

Again, the Patriots can go in several directions given the amount of picks they have, and Solder is too good of a value to pass up here. OT Matt Light is a free agent, and given that Solder may also be a target for the Pats at #17, he’s a great value here.

29. Chicago Bears – Marvin Austin (DT, North Carolina)

If Solder slips another pick, he’d be a no-brainer for a team in need of offensive line help. Danny Watkins and Derek Sherrod will also get significant consideration, but don’t rule out Austin, as his stock has been on the rise and the Bears are in need of an upgrade at DT after Tommie Harris had a disappointing year.

30. New York Jets – Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor)

The Jets are expected to address their defensive front, and Taylor is one of several options at this spot. His stock has risen significantly in the off-season – although he has some injury concerns – and he could anchor the line on the nose, while Cameron Heyward, Brooks Reed, and Jabaal Sheard should also be considered up front.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Danny Watkins (G, Baylor)

The Steeler O-line was hit hard by injuries last season, and they could opt for a lineman in the 1st round for the second year in a row. If they don’t go with Watkins, they may target a CB like Aaron Williams.

32. Green Bay Packers – Cameron Heyward (DE, Ohio State)

The defending Super Bowl champs overcame a lot of defensive injuries last season, and Heyward fits as a 3-4 DE to replace free agent Cullen Jenkins.

Second Round

33. New England Patriots (from Car) – Brooks Reed (OLB, Arizona)

34. Buffalo Bills – Christian Ponder (QB, Florida State)

35. Cincinnati Bengals – Andy Dalton (QB, TCU)

36. Denver Broncos – Aaron Williams (CB, Texas)

37. Cleveland Browns – Jabaal Sheard (DE, Pittsburgh)

38. Arizona Cardinals – Justin Houston (OLB, Georgia)

39. Tennessee Titans – Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas)

40. Dallas Cowboys – Brandon Harris (CB, Miami)

41. Washington Redskins – Derek Sherrod (OT, Mississippi State)

42. Houston Texans – Curtis Brown (CB, Texas)

43. Minnesota Vikings – Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State)

44. Detroit Lions – Mikel Leshoure (RB, Illinois)

45. San Francisco 49ers – Randall Cobb (WR, Kentucky)

46. Denver Broncos (from Mia) – Kyle Rudolph (TE, Notre Dame)

47. St. Louis Rams – Jonathan Baldwin (WR, Pittsburgh)

48. Oakland Raiders – Ras-I Dowling (CB, Virginia)

49. Jacksonville Jaguars – Torrey Smith (WR, Maryland)

50. San Diego Chargers – Leonard Hankerson (WR, Miami)

51. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Rahim Moore (S, UCLA)

52. New York Giants – Quan Sturdivant (LB, North Carolina)

53. Indianapolis Colts – Benjamin Ijalana (G, Villanova)

54. Philadelphia Eagles – Orlando Franklin (G, Miami)

55. Kansas City Chiefs – Titus Young (WR, Boise State)

56. New Orleans Saints – Martez Wilson (LB, Illinois)

57. Seattle Seahawks – Bruce Carter (LB, North Carolina)

58. Baltimore Ravens – Jerrel Jernigan (WR, Troy)

59. Atlanta Falcons – D.J. Williams (TE, Arkansas)

60. New England Patriots – Ryan Williams (RB, Virginia Tech)

61. San Diego Chargers (from NYJ) – Dontay Moch (LB, Nevada)

62. Chicago Bears – Rodney Hudson (OL, Florida State)

63. Pittsburgh Steelers – Brandon Burton (CB, Utah)

64. Green Bay Packers – Taiwan Jones (RB, Eastern Washington)

-By Matt Brown

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Note: We’ll be live blogging/live chatting during the draft next week here on the staff blog using Cover It Live. Stay tuned for more details, but please feel free to join us.

Category: Fantasy Guru Daily

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4 Responses

  1. Stretch says:

    Matt,

    I have been trying to keep track of the NFL Draft on my own. I believe that the Vikings will wait on the QB and select D.Bowers (DE, Clemson) in the 1st rd. Which would allow a run of QBs in the 2nd rd. And A.Dalton (QB, TCU) looks to be their guy in the 2nd.

    Just my 2¢,

    Stretch

  2. Matt Brown says:

    Certainly a possibility. Wouldn’t be surprised to see that at all. It’s just that as the draft gets closer, it’s feeling more and more like the run on QBs is going to creep up into the 1st round. Without free agency, teams could end up in desperation mode. If I was running the Vikings, I would try to do exactly as you said, but I don’t know that they can stay put and take a QB in the 2nd round unless they want Ricky Stanzi. The 49ers and maybe the Redskins are stuck in that same situation.

    Really, that’s what makes this draft so intriguing. We really have no idea how teams are actually going to react on draft day, and teams will likely be trying more than usual to make sure they get their guy because of the uncertainty in the NFL right now. Should be fun.

  3. Fred Fugere says:

    Matt,
    I think your assessment of a QB run is quite likely, however, do you really think Mallet falls below Kaepernick, Ponder, and Dalton? Even your own Greg Cosell said Mallet had the best skill set of all the guys coming out and I’ve seen many an analyst say he’s probably the most pro ready. I’m just bringing this up since there isn’t much else to talk about, but I’d be surprised if Mallet was still around after the first round.
    Fred

  4. Matt Brown says:

    With Mallett, it all depends on what teams think about the character issues. For us, it’s impossible to really know. It’s very possible a team met with him and doesn’t think there are maturity issues, and he could be the 3rd QB off the board. Mallett is the best pure passer in the draft, as Greg has said, but of course succeeding at QB in the NFL is also a big mental thing. You very well may be right. Again, that’s why this could be an interesting draft to watch unfold. There couldn’t be more QB uncertainty.

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