2011 NFL Mock Draft

First Round

Pick Team Selection Position College
1 Carolina Panthers Marcell Dareus Defensive Tackle Alabama
Cam Newton is a project quarterback, plain and simple. Plus, you've already got one of those in your locker room. So if you're Carolina, you must not miss on this player. Dareus is one of the few can't miss prospects in this year's crop and fits their needs as well.
2 Denver Broncos Patrick Peterson Cornerback LSU
While the Broncos recently re-signed Champ Bailey, Peterson makes sense in the long term. He'll get to learn behind a potential Hall of Fame cornerback and is the best player on the board. Like Carolina, Denver can't miss here. Peterson's bust-rate is close to zero.
3 Buffalo Bills Von Miller Outside Linebacker Texas A&M
Despite all the Cam Newton talk, Miller represents value at #3 while addressing the need for a legitimate pass-rusher. Miller should also help erase the memory of first round bust, Aaron Maybin.
4 Cincinnati Bengels Blaine Gabbert Quarterback Missouri
Carson Palmer is done in Cincy, one way or the other. The Bengals will have to approach this draft accordingly. A.J. Green is the more sure-fire option, but Cincinnati has no one to take-over under center with Palmer gone, so their hand is forced.
5 Arizona Cardinals Robert Quinn DE/OL North Carolina
This is a bit earlier than expected for Quinn but Arizona has no pass-rush to speak of, so Quinn sneaks into the top-5. Cam Newton makes sense here given his Ben Roethlisberger-like playing style (and Whisenhunt's success with him in Pittsburgh).
6 Cleveland Browns A.J. Green Wide Receiver Georgia
Pretty much a chalk pick across the board. Mike Holmgren has a history of drafting wide receivers early in the draft, so even Julio Jones would be an option here if Green were to get scooped up before the Browns pick at #6. The acquisition of Green will only help Cleveland brass further examine Colt McCoy's development as a pro.
7 San Francisco Cam Newton Quarterback Auburn
A pass-rusher or a corner would make more sense here, but this just feels like the natural landing spot for Newton. The Niners re-signed Alex Smith for one more year, so Newton will get to red-shirt his freshman campaign and, in theory, be ready for the start of the 2012 season.
8 Tennessee Titans Nick Fairley Defensive Tackle Auburn
After spending the early part of the draft season as a consensus Top 3 Pick, Fairley winds up going #8 to the Titans. The one-year wonder tag has served to diminish his stock, as did questions about his work ethic. If Tennessee can get through to this kid, they'll have disruptive force in the interior of their defensive line for the next decade.
9 Dallas Cowboys Prince Amukamara Cornerback Nebraska
Dallas has some really nice options here. J.J. Watt or Cameron Jordan would fit into their defensive front three. One of the offensive lineman could go here as well. But the defensive backfield was a joke last year and selecting Amukamara should stop some of the bleeding.
10 Washington Redskins Cameron Jordan Defensive End Cal
This is a really splitting hairs, but Jordan gets the nod at #10. J.J. Watt is the other option at 5-technique. They could go with Julio Jones, and it should not be put past Daniel Snyder to do just that. While Jones is a fine prospect, this team needs to build from the inside out, not the other way around.
11 Houston Texans Aldon Smith Outside Linebacker Missouri
The need for pass-rusher exceeds the need for anything else, given what's on the board. They could opt for J.J. Watt, but the assumption is that the defensive line will be created from leftovers of last year's line and maybe a veteran free agent. There won't be any good pass rushers available in free-agency, so Smith become Wade Phillip's new DeMarcus Ware.
12 Minnesota Vikings Corey Liuget Defensive Tackle Illinois
The Williams Wall is beginning to crumble, that much is for sure. Liuget will be targeted to once again make this unit the formidable group it was for many years.
13 Detroit Lions Anthony Costanzo Offensive Tackle Boston College
If Prince Amukamara somehow slips this far, expect Detroit to run their card to Roger Goodell within seconds of Minnesota's pick. That is not the case in our projection, so the Lions plan for life after Jeff Backus.
14 St. Louis Rams Julio Jones Wide Receiver Alabama
It just feels lazy to project Jones here, given his perceived ascension up draft boards since his walk-off at the Combine. But the quantity and quality of defensive talent this year allows Jones to land in the Ram's lap and both parties should be thrilled. Jones may be disappointed at not going in the top-10, but those feeling will be short-lived. He will forget about that as soon as he and Sam Bradford begin what should be annual trips to both the playoffs and Honolulu.
15 Miami Dolphins J.J. Watt Defensive End Wisconsin
This pick makes a lot of sense. Miami could use a 3-4 end and he's the best one on the board. He could also transition to a 4-3, should Tony Sparano get fired soon and the new regime decides to go back to a four-man front. Watt is a great player with solid character. Dallas and Houston will likely regret passing on him. Miami can look for a running back in the second round.
16 Jacksonville Jaguars Ryan Kerrigan Defensive End Purdue
Death, taxes the Jags need a defensive end. This seems to be true every year about this time. Kerrigan is a lunch-pail guy and should comfort Jacksonville's decision makers since they know exactly what they are getting with this pick.
17 New England Patriots Mike Pouncey Guard/Tackle Florida
[from Oakland (8-8)] We must always assume that Bill Belichick is looking to trade out of this spot. Since there are no trades in this mock, the Pats look to sure up the trenches. Age along the offensive line and the unknown future of pro-bowl guard Logan Mankins drive New England's decision making.
18 San Diego Chargers Tyron Smith Offensive Tackle USC
The Chargers find themselves without any potential value at #18. Most of the players that fit their needs are off the board, so they do the smart thing and find a high-ceiling guy to sure up the offensive trenches.
19 New York Giants Mark Ingram Running Back Alabama
Ingram to the Giants has become the trendy pick of late, and for good reason. It looks like Tom Coughlin has had about enough of Bradshaw's fumbling and Jacob's general suckage. Ingram isn't considered a premier running back talent, but he's good enough to tote the rock for Big Blue.
20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers DaQuan Bowers Defensive End Clemson
How the mighty have fallen. Fairley at #8 and Bowers at #20... three months ago most mocks had these guys at #1 and #2. Tampa is known for ignoring red-flags (see Aqib Talib) and will likely jump at the chance to do it again if Bowers falls this far.
21 Kansas City Chiefs Cabe Carimi Offensive Tackle Wisconsin
Branden Albert is OK at tackle, but would be better at his natural position of guard. Lined up with Carimi, the two would shine. This would likely be the thought process of Scott Pioli as he selects Matt Cassel's new blind side protector.
22 Indianapolis Colts Derek Serrod Offensive Tackle Mississippi State
The need for a tackle is so great that Indy will likely take whichever one is highest on their board. They might even go tackle in the first 2 rounds if the right guy is available. Peyton has 3 or 4 good years left in him. They will be wasted if he's spending that time on his back.
23 Philadelphia Eagles Marvin Austin Defensive Tackle North Carolina
Marvin Austin's ascent into the first round reminds me of Jarod Mayo a couple of years ago. There was very little talk surrounding this guy even a couple of weeks ago and now it appears he's well on his way to a first round payday. Andy Reid loves drafting lineman, so this feels like a match.
24 New Orleans Saints Akeem Ayers Linebacker UCLA
The Saints are desperate for some players to put around Jonathan Vilma. Ayers versatility should allow Greg Williams to dial up even more aggressive pressure packages.
25 Seattle Seahawks Muhammed Wilkerson Defensive Tackle Temple
With Brandon Mebane expected to test the free-agent market (once we have one) the Seahawks must address the defensive front four. Seattle has needs all over the place - not the norm for a division winner. Neither is winning your division with a losing record. Such are the times we live in.
26 Baltimore Ravens Aaron Williams Cornerback Texas
Ozzie Newsome is known for his drafting acumen. Typically it is all about drafting the best player available. It would appear that Williams is the top guy on their board at this point, though Danny Watkins is going to be tough to pass up, given their needs.
27 Atlanta Falcons Kyle Rudolph Tight End Notre Dame
With Tony Gonzalez contemplating retirement, the Falcons get one heck of a prospect in Rudolph. He will need to improve his base strength and blocking technique, but should be able to contribute right away in the passing game as a receiver.
28 New England Patriots Cameron Heyward Defensive End Ohio State
Coming into this offseason it was expected that the Pats would be looking at improving their defensive front 7. They need a pass-rusher along with someone to compliment the returning Ty Warren. Heyward is the best remaining 5-technique so he gets the nod. Let's face it, it would be a near-miracle to see the Pats select someone here. This is the pick they'll use to get another 1st rounder in next year's draft.
29 Chicago Bears Nate Solder Offensive Tackle Colorado
Chicago's offensive line woes are the stuff of legend, just ask Jay Cutler's knee or repeatedly concussed brain. The unit played better down the stretch but could use some new blood.
30 New York Jets Phil Taylor Nose Tackle Baylor
Not so long ago, Taylor's life was in a downward spiral on the heels of his departure from Penn State. Since then he has kept his nose clean and looks like he's matured to the point to be a legitimate 1st round prospect. The Jets are in desperate need for a nose tackle, so they grab Taylor despite the fact that he may be a bit of a reach at #30.
31 Pittsburgh Steelers Danny Watkins Guard Baylor
This is probably the best case scenario for the Black-n-Gold. Jerry Dulac of the Post Gazette recently said that Aaron Williams will be their guy, but he's already gone in this exercise. The Baylor product is over-aged for a rookie (26 years old), but has the versatility and nasty playing temperament coveted by Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert. He could potentially line up at left guard, right guard or right tackle. All three look to be needs in the near future, so now is the time for the Steelers to address them.
32 Green Bay Packers Justin Houston Outside Linebacker Georgia
Houston is the best pass rushing linebacker on the board at this point so he gets to be the Robin to Clay Matthew's Batman. If a 5-technique should fall to the Pack, expect him to be the pick over the former Bulldog.