02-10-2011, 05:18 PM (This post was last modified: 02-10-2011 06:20 PM by Polar Bear Jones.)
Published: February 10, 2011
Pass-rushers rule top of board
Two elite cornerbacks go back-to-back;
four offensive tackles in latest projection
By Todd McShay
Archive The college all-star circuit has ended, the final first-round order is set and the NFL combine is rapidly approaching. So what better time to update our first-round projection?
The top of Scouts Inc.'s latest mock draft is heavy on defensive players, with defenders occupying the top three spots on the board and seven of the top 10. A pair of elite defensive backs are off the board in consecutive spots in the top 10, which also includes a pair of underclassman quarterback prospects.
There are some new faces in this projection, too, including an under-the-radar offensive lineman and an impressive defensive lineman from a program not known for producing top pro prospects.
Things likely will change significantly as the combine and the rest of the pre-draft process unfold, but this is how we see things playing out based on what we've seen on film and the buzz we're hearing from around the league.
Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson* The Andrew Luck dream has long since ended, and it's time to deal with the reality of the situation. Trading out is a long shot, 2010 second-round pick Jimmy Clausen does not appear to be the long-term answer at quarterback and although Blaine Gabbert is the premier quarterback in this year's class, Gabbert is no Luck. Auburn DT Nick Fairley is an option, but I believe that Bowers is the better choice. He is a power rusher with the tools to develop into a Julius Peppers-type impact player.
Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn* The Broncos are likely to transition to a four-man front under new head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. They finished last in the NFL with 23 sacks last season, so upgrading the pass rush is a major priority. Bowers would be a possibility if available and Alabama's Marcell Dareus makes sense, but Fairley's specialty is wreaking havoc in opposing backfields (24 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks in 2010), and he has the elite tools to become an every-down impact player as an "under" tackle/3-technique in a four-man front.
Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM The Bills have no shortage of needs. Left tackle is a priority, but the 2011 class doesn't offer a surefire top-five pick. The team is also likely to draft a quarterback, but it should do so on Day 2, when a legitimate backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick (and potential future starter) can be found. The Bills also need help along the defensive front, and Miller makes sense because he's a versatile playmaker. Miller can play sideline to sideline versus the run, and he's at his best when turned loose off the edge as a pass-rusher.
A.J. Green, WR, Georgia* Using a top-10 pick on a wide receiver is rarely a wise move, but Green is special. Many wideouts are big and fast, but Green's route-running savvy, toughness, body control and ball skills set him apart from most college wideouts. The Bengals also have needs at defensive end (and could select North Carolina's Robert Quinn), middle linebacker (what's Dhani Jones' future?) and quarterback. (Is it time to draft Carson Palmer's replacement?)
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri The Cardinals have needs at guard, right tackle, tight end, 3-4 outside linebacker and cornerback, but none is bigger than their need at quarterback. Gabbert is still a work in progress, but he's the most complete signal-caller in this class. His accuracy is far better than his statistics indicate, he has the arm strength to drive the ball vertically (which is what the Cardinals want in their starting quarterback) and he has the work ethic and football intelligence to quickly emerge as a solid starter.
Cleveland Browns Record: 5-11
Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama* New defensive coordinator Dick Jauron could use a disruptive 3-technique like Dareus to fit his 4-3 scheme. Dareus missed two games in 2010 thanks to suspension and was hobbled by an ankle injury for several others, but anyone questioning his ability to penetrate and make plays in opposing backfields clearly did not watch tape of the Crimson Tide's 2009 national title run.
San Francisco 49ers Record: 6-10
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU* San Francisco can't afford to take another risk on a quarterback in the top 10. The 49ers are better served to draft the best available player in Peterson, who could help a defense that ranked 24th in the NFL and could contribute in the return game.
Tennessee Titans Record: 6-10
Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska Quarterback is obviously the biggest need, but the Titans can't afford to gamble on Cam Newton or Jake Locker here. Look for them to bring in a veteran signal-caller and use a Day 2 pick on a quarterback to develop such as Arkansas' Ryan Mallett or TCU's Andy Dalton. This franchise has had too many disappointing first-rounders over the years, and taking Amukamara -- the top athlete on the board and one of the hardest workers in the 2011 class -- would be a strong building block for new head coach Mike Munchak.
Dallas Cowboys Record: 6-10
J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin* The team's most pressing need is for a 5-technique (defensive end) in its 3-4 scheme. The Cowboys are also aging along the offensive line and need some depth/future starters at inside linebacker and safety. Dallas would have a tough call in this scenario, but Watt will continue to fly up boards because of his versatility and nonstop motor. Watt is capable of making an immediate impact on all three downs as a rookie. Finding a player like Watt to generate inside pressure would be a great complement to OLB DeMarcus Ware's edge rushing ability.
Washington Redskins Record: 6-10
Cam Newton, QB, Auburn* Newton is the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in the 2011 class. Head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan are certainly capable of developing Newton, but it will not be an overnight job.
Houston Texans Record: 6-10
Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado Kareem Jackson should make big strides in his second season, and Glover Quin should improve in his third season. It would be nice to bring in a veteran cornerback to provide depth and stability, but if the Texans are unable to do so, Smith would be a good pick for them at No. 11. A big, smooth cornerback with the strength, confidence and balance to hold up in press-man coverage, Smith could emerge as one of the most underrated players from the 2011 class.
Minnesota Vikings Record:6-10
Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina* Quinn falls here because of the suspension that cost him the entire 2010 season, and the Vikings take advantage. Their defense is aging, and two of their defensive ends -- starter Ray Edwards and backup Brian Robison -- are free agents. The team would like to find its future franchise quarterback here, but Locker needs too much time to develop.
Detroit Lions Record: 6-10
Nate Solder, OT, Colorado Cornerback, strong safety and outside linebacker are all bigger needs for the Lions, but it would be a reach to take the next available at any of those positions. Protecting QB Matthew Stafford is the No. 1 priority -- both short- and long-term -- and Solder can eventually develop into a good bookend opposite right tackle Gosder Cherilus.
St. Louis Rams Record: 7-9
Julio Jones, WR, Alabama* Jones could show more consistent focus, but he's a big, physical receiver with the toughness and underrated speed to emerge as QB Sam Bradford's go-to target for many years.
Miami Dolphins Record: 7-9
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama* QB Chad Henne deserves one more season at the helm, and rather than using this pick on a long-term project like Locker or Newton, the team should put better weapons around Henne. Ingram had a knee injury early in 2010 but recovered nicely and got stronger as the season progressed. He is the type of NFL-ready back who could give Miami a huge boost in the run game even as a complement to current free agents Ronnie Brown and/or Ricky Williams.
Jacksonville Jaguars Record: 8-8
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa The Jaguars have more pressing needs at quarterback and in the secondary. They also could use a speedster at wide receiver. But drafting a good value at defensive end is never a bad idea, and Clayborn could learn a lot early in his career from Jags right defensive end Aaron Kampman, who will return from injury in 2011.
New England Patriots (from Oakland)Record: 14-2
Cameron Jordan, DE, California The Patriots could use help along the defensive line, and Jordan would be as good fit as a 5-technique who can hold up against the run and bring some pass-rushing ability to the table.
San Diego Chargers Record: 9-7
Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri* Smith, who also could fit as a 4-3 end, is still growing into his body and needs to get stronger, but he is a relentless pass-rusher with a knack for getting to the quarterback. His 2009 tape tells the true story of his potential, because in 2010 he was hobbled when he was able to get on the field.
New York Giants Record: 10-6
Tyron Smith, OT, USC* The Giants can use this pick to solidify QB Eli Manning's protection for the next several years. Current LT David Diehl can move inside to guard, Will Beatty can play either tackle position and RT Kareem McKenzie is entering his 11th season and will be a free agent after the 2012 season. Smith has great potential as a left tackle, but he started two seasons at right tackle at USC and is still a bit unpolished.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Record: 10-6
Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue* Tampa Bay didn't get much production from starting defensive ends Tim Crowder and Stylez G. White, and the entire team had only 26 sacks in 2010. Kerrigan is relentless as a pass-rusher and against the run and would boost the Bucs' defensive front immediately.
Kansas City Chiefs Record: 10-6
Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA* Ayers has good size and speed, shows sideline-to-sideline range as a run defender and has a lot of upside as pass-rusher. He is a very good fit in Kansas City's 3-4 scheme and could contribute immediately.
Indianapolis Colts Record: 10-6
Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College The Colts rarely draft offensive linemen this high, but they have a major need when it comes to protecting Peyton Manning. Castonzo could add some bulk to his frame, but pass-blocking is his strength and his run-blocking should improve with time in the weight room. Indianapolis also could consider a defensive tackle with this pick.
Philadelphia Eagles Record: 10-6
Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin Outside linebacker is a bigger need, but no available prospect fits the Eagles' scheme and is worth this pick. Carimi has versatility to play tackle or guard immediately and should develop into a very good starting tackle -- likely on the right side -- in the very near future.
New Orleans Saints Record: 11-5
Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia* Houston is a bit raw and not an ideal fit for New Orleans' defensive scheme, but upgrading the pass rush is a primary need for the Saints and Houston has all kinds of potential in that area.
Seattle Seahawks Record: 7-9
Jake Locker, QB, Washington Locker's stock took a big hit this season, but we still think he will come off the board in the first round. The Seahawks are not completely settled at quarterback and could do worse than bringing in a local hero with a lot of upside, and if they don't pull the trigger, we could see a team trade back into the late first round to get Locker.
Baltimore Ravens Record: 12-4
Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky* The Ravens need speed at wide receiver, and Cobb is an underrated offensive weapon who would fit the bill. He's a very savvy route-runner and can contribute in the return game. Baltimore also could look to fill needs at cornerback or defensive end.
Atlanta Falcons Record: 13-3
Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida The Falcons are definitely in the market for a pass-rusher, but there is none on the board worth the pick. Atlanta also needs to upgrade its interior offensive line, and Pouncey makes perfect sense given his ability to contribute immediately at either center or guard.
New England Patriots Record: 14-2
Dan Watkins, G, Baylor The Patriots got their defensive end earlier in the first, and no pass-rusher or running back is worth taking here. Watkins is a fast-rising line prospect who plays with an edge, and although he played tackle in college, he is a better fit inside at the NFL level. This is also a prime spot for teams picking early in the second round to possibly trade back into the first. New England has plenty of options.
Chicago Bears Record: 11-5
Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois* If Liuget falls to this spot, the Bears will get a steal. He's a top-20 pick in our rankings thanks to his strength, quickness, balance and motor. Chicago has bigger needs at offensive tackle and wide receiver, but Liuget is a better value than any player available at those positions.
New York Jets Record: 11-5
Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor The Jets need a reliable presence in the middle of their 3-4 defense, and veteran NT Kris Jenkins has played just seven games combined in the past two seasons. Taylor has the size to anchor the middle of that three-man front and surprisingly good feet for a 350-pound prospect.
Pittsburgh Steelers Record: 12-4
Benjamin Ijalana, OT, Villanova Ijalana is an under-the-radar FCS prospect, but he possesses good physical tools and a lot of upside. A lack of depth along the offensive line was an issue for the Steelers in 2010, and assuming Ijalana's nagging minor injuries have healed, he could add depth while preparing for a full-time starting job.
Green Bay Packers Record: 12-4
Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple* Wilkerson has impressive size and overall power and would be a very good fit as a 5-technique in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme. He can stack and shed against the run and is a power pass-rusher with active hands.
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McShay Mock - Polar Bear Jones - 02-10-2011 05:18 PM