Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pre-Scouting Combine 2011 NFL Mock Draft

Here is my Pre-Scouting Combine Mock Draft. It will be followed by several Post Combine Mock Drafts, as well as a Final Mock before the NFL Draft begins on April 28th.

My mock draft has been linked by The Football Fan Spot, Sports Jabber, DC Pro Sports Report, NFL Draft Dog, Walter Football, FF Toolbox, Hail, The Football ExpertNo Limits Sportsline Fantasy Sports and NFL Draft Today in their Mock Draft Databases. If you're a draftnik like me, be sure to click on their hyperlinks and check out all of their extensive NFL Draft related material.

This is not a mock draft where I attempt play general manager and substitute my own judgment for the 32 NFL teams. I do my best to research what particular players or positions each team may be targeting by searching the internet, listening to Sirius NFL Radio, and watching shows like NFL Total Access/NFL Live for reliable tips from beat writers and NFL insiders. When possible I try to provide links and analysis as to why I think a particular player may end up going to the team that I have him slotted to.

Keep in mind that my Pre-NFL Combine Mock Draft is just a starting point. I will supplement these selections as more accurate insider information becomes available following free agency (pending a new CBA), the NFL Combine, and individual Pro Day workouts.

1. Carolina Panthers – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: With Andrew Luck staying in school and no other quarterbacks worthy of the number 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Panthers will look to Nick Fairley to take control of the interior of their defensive line as he did at Auburn and Ndamukong Suh did as a rookie for the Detroit Lions last season.

2. Denver Broncos – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Denver had the worst ranked defense in the league last season. Ex-head coach Josh McDaniel and GM Brian Xanders have left this unit nearly deplete of talent. With Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey getting older and looking at free agency, Peterson could step in and anchor the Broncos' secondary.

3. Buffalo Bills – Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Depending on what free agent losses they suffer in the secondary and at linebacker, the Bills could need help at just about every position on defense. A solid 5 technique to help rush the passer as the Bills continue their transition to a 3-4 defense is a significant need that must be filled at some point.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: With Carson Palmer threatening to retire if his demand for a trade is not granted, the Bengals suddenly have huge needs to be filled on both sides of the ball. They could easily justify using this pick on a franchise quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive end or a defensive tackle. If the Bengals can appease Palmer, a wide receiver to ease the loss of soon to be departed Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens would be a nice start to help rebuild the Bengals offense.

5. Arizona Cardinals – Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M: Several reports suggest that the Cardinals are not interested in using their first round pick on a quarterback, and will instead try to fill their void at that position either via a trade or through free agency. Von Miller is a versatile pass rusher who is ideally suited to come off the edge in a 3-4 defense like Arizona's.\

6. Cleveland Browns – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: The Browns, who will be going back to a 4-3 defense, are in desperate need of someone who can rush the passer on the defensive line. Wide receiver A.J. Green will also be a strong consideration.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Don't listen to Jim Harbaugh's references to keeping the door open on bringing Alex Smith, his time in San Francisco is through. Unless San Francisco can make a play for an established veteran like Kevin Kolb (which they won't be able to do until a CBA is reached), the 49ers will have to find their long term answer at quarterback through the draft.

8. Tennessee Titans – Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama: While I don't see him as a pass rush threat in the NFL as an end in a 4-3 defense like the Titans ran under Jeff Fisher, Dareus will fit well as a run stopping end who can move inside to tackle on pass rushing downs.

9. Dallas Cowboys – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: The Cowboys secondary, amongst other positions, greatly underachieved last season. Terence Newman's days in Dallas appear numbered. While Prince Amukamara may not be a lock down cover corner, he has no glaring weaknesses in his game either.

10. Washington Redskins – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: Rex Grosman clearly is not the answer at quarterback for the 'Skins. Is Cam Newton? While his performance at the NFL Combine might take him out of the mix as a top 3 pick in this year's draft, Washington would still have to consider him at number 10 given their void at the quarterback position assuming they release Donvan McNabb as expected.

11. Houston Texans – Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri: The Texans would love to land local product Von Miller to provide an edge rush for their new 3-4 defense or a corner like Prince Amukamara from Nebraska. Missour's Aldon Smith will have to suffice as a less hyped consolation prize as a pass rushing linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme under Wade Phillips.;

12. Minnesota Vikings – Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: Minnesota has glaring holes at DT, DE, S and QB. With Rhett Bomar and Joe Webb currently the only options on their roster to take over for Brett Favre, the Vikings may need to use their first round pick on a signal caller.

13. Detroit Lions – Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: With the top two corners off the board do the Lions turn their attention to a desperate need for a playmaker at outside linebacker? The Lions could be in a difficult position in this year's draft if the top cornerbacks are off the board, as the number 13 spot may be too early value wise to draft a 3-4 outside linebacker in this draft. Martin Mahew is definitely not a GM who will reach for a player in the draft just because he fills a position of need. While many experts have the Lions drafting a tackle, I think Detroit might want to give young back-ups Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox another year to develop behind Jeff Backus, who is coming off perhaps his best year. Does that mean we could see the Lions go after yet another WR in the first round? Not only could someone like Julio Jones be the highest rated player on the board when the Lions pick, but he would also fill the role of a much needed deep threat opposite Calvin Johnson with Nate Burleson manning the slot. At least for now the Lions hope that a 3-4 OLB like Akeem Ayers of UCLA performs well enough at the Scouting Combine and his Pro Day workout to prove that he is talented enough to be selected in the top half of the first round.

14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: The Rams need to find a legitimate number one target for quarterback Sam Bradford. This pick should be a no-brainer if Jones is still available when St. Louis picks.

15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram, Jr., RB, Alabama: The Dolphins are looking to trade down from number 15 and acquire a second round pick, having given theirs up to Denver in the Brandon Marshall trade last year. Even if they move lower in the first round they could still be in the mix for former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Jr., who would replace the Dolphins aging and injury prone duo at running back in Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: One of the many reasons why I would not be disappointed if the Jaguars moved out of Jacksonville is the lack of any regular reports about their franchise from the local media. The city of Jacksonville doesn't provide any in depth coverage, and Orlando doesn't even acknowledge that the team exists. That leaves me stuck with Mel Kiper, Jr.'s prediction that the Jaguars will take Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, who I was not particularly impressed with when I watched him this year. Personally, I think Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan would be a nice understudy and back-up for DE Aaron Kampman, who will be attempting to come back from knee surgery.

17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) – Cameron Jordan, DE/OLB, California: New England always seems to be looking for defensive ends/outside linebackers for their 3-4 defensive scheme. Cameron Jordan of Cal showed his ability to play standing up at the next level at the Senior Bowl.

18. San Diego Chargers – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: The Chargers had the top offenses and defenses in the league last year, so they can turn their attention adding playmakers and depth to actually make them playoff contenders. Upgrading the right tackle position would help improve the Chargers run game and pass protection, and would become an even bigger position of need in the event that they are unable to re-sign Jeromey Clary.

19. New York Giants – Tyron Smith, OT, USC: Replenishing an aging offensive line has to be a priority for the Giants, as is adding some new blood at linebacker. Tyron Smith of USC lacks ideal size initially as he enters the NFL, but should develop into a solid left tackle as he matures and gains weight.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: While the Bucs have the versatility to go for the best available player for the most part, getting a rush end is their biggest priority. Ryan Kerrigan has a relentless motor, and on film he reminds me of Michigan's Brandon Graham from last year's draft.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: While Mikey Vrable has given the Chiefs more than they could have ever expected as a throw in on the Matt Cassel trade, he probably doesn't have too many productive years left in the tank. Justin Houston would be a nice pick to add to the Chiefs pass rush and serve as Vrabel's eventual replacement.

22. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Castanzo, OT, Boston College: The Colts survived with a very mediocre offense line for years thanks to Howard Mudd, who may be one of the best line coaches ever in the NFL. When Mudd left last season, the Colts line was exposed as a glaring weakness. It's definitely time that Indianapolis looks for some talent at the the tackle position to help protect Peyton Manning and re-establish some sort of running game.

23. Philadelphia Eagles - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Eagles offensive line has underachieved in recent years based upon the money they've paid to big name guys. Carimi could start off his NFL career playing right tackle or even guard, which would give the Eagles some depth and versatility on their line.

24. New Orleans Saints – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: The Saints don't have any glaring needs, but could stand to add to their pass rush, either at DE or OLB.

25. Seattle Seahawks – Jake Locker, QB, Washington: With Matt Hasselbeck indicating that he'd like to re-sign and with the Seahawks having traded for Charlie Whitehurst last year, I'm not sure whether Seattle is in the market for a QB high in this year's draft or not. If they are looking for a quarterback of the future, hometown college star Jake Locker would come into a good situation where he would not be forced to play right away and could work on the accuracy issues that many scouts are bringing up after his senior season.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland: While Baltimore improved their depth at wide receiver last season, they were all possession receivers who did little to differentiate from what they already had in Derrick Mason. A burner like Torrey Smith of Maryland to help Joe Flacco and company stretch the field and open up their offense would be ideal.,0,5415627.story?track=rss

27. Atlanta Falcons – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: Atlanta is still searching for a defensive end to initially compliment, and then replace John Abraham. Cameron Heyward is a hometown kid who could fill that need if one of the top wide receivers is not available to spread the field at the 27th pick.

28. New England Patriots – Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida: Even if the Patriots are able to franchise tag guard Logan Mankins, don't look for him to stay in New England long term given the rift between the parties this past year over his contract. The Patriots apparently liked Maurkice Pouncey coming out of Florida in last year's draft, and will now have a chance to select his twin brother Mike, who could initially help out at guard before ultimately moving to center.

29. Chicago Bears - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: The Bears need help on their interior defensive line. With DT Stephen Paea having been diagnosed with a torn ligament in his knee at the Senior Bowl, Phil Taylor stepped up and showed that he is yet another defensive tackle worthy of a first round pick. Danny Watkins of Baylor could also be an option if the Bears instead elect to upgrade their offensive line.

30. New York Jets – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: Nose tackle Kris Jenkins career is in question after multiple serious injuries have cost him the better part of the past two seasons. Corey Liuget appears to be a rising commodity as the NFL draft nears. (see video)

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: While the Steelers arguably have the best defense in the league, Neither William Gay nor Bryant McFadden are starting caliber NFL cornerbacks. Jimmy Smith is garnering interest as a potential lock down corner, and would be an ideal pick for Pittsburgh this late in the first round.

32. Green Bay Packers – Danny Watkins, G, Penn Baylor: Green Bay won the Super Bowl and will have key players returning from injury last season at tight end, tackle, middle linebacker, outside linebacker, 3-4 defensive end and running back. An bruising guard like Danny Watkins would help solidify a week running game that was without running backs Ryan Grant and James Starks for most of the regular season, thereby making Green Bay's already high powered offense even more frightening for opposing defenses next season than it was this past year.

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