Is there anything better than drafts? Maybe mock drafts. I consume these things at an unbelievable rate and made this blog as a means of publishing my own mocks some day. Well that day has come, so please, make sure you are seated and securely fastened because here come the first 16 picks of my 2011 NFL Mock Draft.
For all of these picks, assume the following mad lib: (Team making the pick) needs a (Player’s position), and (Player) is the best (Same position as before) left, so that was the draft pick. That is always the case in these things, and I will try to steer away from abusing that as much as possible with the assumption that you know why I’m making these picks.
I will also not make any trades in this mock draft. I will mention when I think they are possible, but things get awfully sticky when picks start getting traded and the trying to change who gets picked based on what trades I think will happen is not in the spirit of this draft. I will make the picks as though the team that begins the day with the pick holds on to it.
*Note: This is how I’m predicting the draft will turn out. Not how it should turn out.
**Note 2: I know there is currently a whole bunch of confusion about the lockout and the draft/season, but if I’m going to pretend that I’m the only person in the universe responsible for making draft picks, I might as well pretend that the League and players will get their acts together, if nothing else, for the sake of my blog.
1. Carolina (2-14) — Cam Newton, Quarterback (Auburn):
Please don’t read this as me saying that Cam Newton is the best player in the draft. As far as I’m concerned he’s almost as sure a bust as Jamarcus Russell. But Carolina forgot about Jimmy Clausen and Newton does have an extremely rare set of skills that looked great in college. Unfortunately, the NFL quarterback game is played with the mind, not the legs. I’d consider Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco to be the recent first-rounders with success and Vince Young and Russell to be the flaming disasters. You put it together. But it’s very obvious that the Panthers have no idea what they are doing and may take a gamble on the rarity of Newton’s athleticism, which is elite. I hope things work out with the Cam/Panthers marriage, but it’s just not going to happen.
2. Denver (4-12) — Marcell Dareus, Defensive Tackle (Alabama):
Dareus is great. He’s a wrecking ball of a man, and him going to Denver is a pick that has pretty much already been made. There’s not that much more to say about this pick. There isn’t another direction they can go (except for Fairley, who lacks the flexibility of Dareus). There isn’t a trade partner. There’s one fantastic talent (Dareus) and one team that would benefit from him (the Broncos). Barring the end of the world happening with the first pick (entirely possible with Carolina steering), Dareus is going to Denver.
3. Buffalo (4-12) — Von Miller, Linebacker (Texas A&M):
This might be the first really hard choice made in the draft. It comes down to Miller or Blaine Gabbert, who both represent two huge areas of need for the Bills. The reasons I went with Miller are (1) Overall, he’s better than Gabbert and (2) Ryan Fitzpatrick is a proven mediocre starter that isn’t that bad. Either way, The Bills are in a good spot to get either one and we shouldn’t be surprised if either guy gets picked here. As far as this draft goes, this might be the last pick that I can make with any sort of certainty, so enjoy the following 29 picks of educated guessing.
4. Cincinnati (4-12) — A.J. Green, Wide Receiver (Georgia):
This is another pick that could be Gabbert. The whole Carson Palmer/Bengals front office game of chicken is basically a public advertisement of both the Bengals’ talent mismanagement and this team’s uncertainty at quarterback. But A.J. Green really is good, and maybe the thinking is that picking him will lure Palmer back. Bad teams have a history of incorrectly assuming that great receivers can make a quarterback better (see also: Detroit Lions draft history) and the Bengals will almost certainly fall for this deception.
5. Arizona (5-11) — Patrick Peterson, Cornerback (LSU):
If this were a televised mock draft, the experts would be talking about how Gabbert could have gone at either of the last two picks and how he must feel to see these other players coming off the board. That will only be pumped up after Arizona passes on him to take the best player in this whole shebang-a-bang. If the real draft plays out like my mock draft, the Cardinals should rush to the stage and draft Peterson in the middle of the Goodell-Green handshake photo-op. Earlier, if it’s possible. This pick also seems ripe to get traded. Although Peterson and Gabbert seem like viable options for the Cardinals, teams that value Gabbert more or want to Patrick Peterson (maybe Dallas or Houston try to sneak in there) could try to trade up and offer the Cards something that’s too good to pass up. This pick seems like a big question mark to me, but for now, I’m guessing Peterson goes to Arizona.
6. Cleveland (5-11) — Robert Quinn, Defensive End (North Carolina):
This is a player that I am very high on. He could potentially turn into a 3-4 OLB or stay as a DE in a 4-3 and these are both positions that the Browns need badly. He’s strong and quick and maybe someone at Cleveland will value him as highly as I do. This draft could really get interesting if Julio Jones gets picked here, since there are only two premier receivers and a lot of teams that are competing for them. I think the Browns would be great with either Quinn or Jones.
7. San Francisco (6-10) — Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback (Missouri):
We would all be relieved when he got picked, as though some sort of justice had been served. But really, who feels bad for anyone drafted in the first round? Or any round? This pick seems ripe to get traded. Although Gabbert seems like a viable option for the 49ers, his dropping this far might draw the attention of some teams a few picks later (Washington, Minnesota, Jacksonville). The price would have be pretty high, because the 49ers seem like a pretty good fit for Gabbert in terms of offensive style.
8. Tennessee (6-10) — Nick Fairley, Defensive Tackle (Auburn):
Amidst all the televised champagne-popping and celebrating because of the relief that follows the Gabbert pick, the Titans are going to throw their own confetti if Fairley falls to them. This is another example of a pick that, if possible, has to be made. If you read my top 11 players available, you know that I think Fairley is going to be great, and the Titans should welcome him. Sorry, rest of the AFC South.
9. Dallas (6-10) — Tyron Smith, Offensive Tackle (USC):
Dallas’ first-round pick is going to be one of the most entertaining storylines of the first round. This team could try to trade up for Peterson (or even someone else) or they may try to trade down if the price isn’t right. I think the O-line is the biggest area of need, but I’m not thrilled about Smith at ninth overall, and I don’t think the Cowboys would be either. What will truly be interesting to watch is how the run on quarterbacks goes. This pick is very available if a team wants to try to jump in front of Washington (a quarterback mess) to grab Jake Locker. It’s probably too early for that, but you never know. That third quarterback saga will be one that keeps popping up on television, even though I don’t think Locker has a realistic chance to go this early.
10. Washington (6-10) — Julio Jones, Wide Receiver (Alabama):
This pick is probably a decision between Jones and Locker, and Jones is just better. The dropoff between the top tier of receivers and the next-best is pretty drastic, and comes right after Jones. The dropoff between the top tier of quarterback and the next-best is slightly less drastic and, possible worse for the Skins, has already happened. Look for Washington to address the ball-catching situation early and the ball-throwing situation later, probably in the second round. I’ll also throw in that I still think both Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker are options here, but a first-tier receiver is probably better than a second-tier quarterback in this draft.
11. Houston (6-10) — Aldon Smith, Defensive End (Missouri):
The Texans give Mizzou yet another first-round defensive player and I’m totally ok with it. Smith might not have the skills of a guy like Robert Quinn, but he’s a super freak athlete and that can only help the Texans’ D-Line. Mario Williams is going to draw double teams and a player who moves as well as Aldon Smith might be what Houston needs on the end of the line. I have a suspicion that this pick could also get traded to a team that needs a quarterback and wants to sneak in front of Minnesota to reach for Jake Locker.
12. Minnesota (6-10) — Da’Quon Bowers, Defensive End (Clemson):
Every year there is a guy that slips too far and my prediction for this year’s draft is Bowers. When I looked at the players I had available for the Vikes here, I was surprised that Bowers was available. Maybe that says more about my poor mock drafting than how this year’s draft is going to go, but I think the Vikings have to jump on this opportunity. While they might like to get a quarterback, I was generally unimpressed by Locker last season. I thought about making a bad pun involving his last name here, but then decided that last season was bad enough for him without that.
13. Detroit (6-10) — Prince Amukamara, Cornerback (Nebraska):
If Prince falls to the Lions here, the whole team should rush the stage to make this pick. A player of this quality at this position has to be taken by a team as bad a pass coverage as the Lions. Detroit basically has 2 turnstiles playing corner and a guy like Amukamara could be the first step to turning around a defense that hasn’t been better than miserable in a long time. Amukamara has looked great in man coverage, and I don’t see any reason why we should expect the same after a few starts in the big leagues.
14. St. Louis (7-9) — Corey Liuget, Defensive Tackle (Illinois):
This seems like a really good match. Liuget is physical and has some great strength for the Rams’ interior D. And the Rams need just that. Every year there are players who just seem like they fit into some rosters better than others and Liuget and the Rams are this year’s example. I just don’t see why Liuget should have an interest in other teams and I don’t see why the Rams should have an interest in any player other than Liuget.
15. Miami (7-9) — Mark Ingram, Running Back (Alabama):
Miami’s offense is one of the most roadside-car-wreck situations in recent NFL memory. For a couple of seasons, Miami has done some experimenting with the Wildcat and using both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in the backfield. But as of right now, both of those guys are free agents and the lockout (or whatever it is) is stopping any progress on that situation, so Ingram makes sense. I don’t know the status of Miami’s Wildcat transformation, but given the quarterback situation, the ‘Phins are a running team and there’s no better back than Ingram.
16. Jacksonville (8-8) — J.J. Watt, Defensive End (Wisconsin):
I didn’t get to see much of J.J. Watt this year, but I do know about the Jags DE problem. For a team drafting in this position, there are a surprising amount of holes in the Jacksonville roster. This could be Jake Locker or maybe Ryan Mallett if they are still available, but I’m going with Watt.
Plus, Jacksonville Jaguars = J. J. Think about that for a while.
How do you feel about the the first 16 picks? Let me know in the comments below. if you think you can do better, enter my draft picking competition and prove it.
Stay on the lookout for my mock draft part 2 coming soon.