2011 mock draft 4.0
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With pro days in the rearview mirror, momentum continues to shift in the scouting process, and Robert Quinn, Tyron Smith and Andy Dalton are gaining steam. Meanwhile, air has come out of the sail of Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers and Washington's Jake Locker, who could fall out of the first round altogether. Given the lack of depth at the cornerback position and the need at the position, PFW projects five cornerbacks fitting into the first round, with Jimmy Smith benefiting greatly.
1. Carolina Panthers
A.J. Green | WR | Georgia [Jr.]
With depth available in the DL class at the Panthers' greatest area of need and no can't-miss pick in this year's quarterback crop for GM Marty Hurney to feel comfortable selecting, momentum has shifted in favor of the draft's top playmaking talent. Green immediately makes Jimmy Clausen's job a lot easier and gives the Panthers a feared weapon to open up the offense.
2. Denver Broncos
Von Miller | DE | Texas A&M
Miller does not fit the John Fox prototype for defensive ends, weighing far less than the 270 pounds Fox prefers. However, Miller is one of the most coveted talents in the draft and he would give football czar John Elway the most leverage to strike a deal to slide down and pick up a number of players that better fit the defense.
3. Buffalo Bills
Cam Newton | QB | Auburn [Jr.]
Newton showed he could carry a team on his back and won championships at Blinn College and Auburn, enough for Bills GM Buddy Nix to overlook concerns about the Heisman Trophy winner's character. Although Newton might not provide a long-term solution, he is the one quarterback in this year's draft who can change the complexion of the Bills' franchise immediately and give the 71-year-old Nix and 92-year-old owner Ralph Wilson the best chance to win now.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
Julio Jones | WR | Alabama [Jr.]
Whether GM Mike Brown has a chance to deal Carson Palmer before the draft will directly influence the Bengals' decision before the draft, but if he is not able to trade the disgruntled quarterback because of the pending labor situation, Palmer could be forced to hang up the cleats or come to appreciate the support Brown has tried to supply in the offseason, bringing in new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and adding a legitimate, trouble-free, playmaking No. 1 receiver such as Jones to electrify the passing game.
5. Arizona Cardinals
Blaine Gabbert | QB | Missouri [Jr.]
No team is more desperately in need for a quarterback than the Cardinals. Ken Whisenhunt's offense was stuck in neutral without Kurt Warner, and oppposing defenses were able to key on stacking the box and shutting down the run. Gabbert will require time to develop, but he has all the requisites to blossom under Whisenhunt.
6. Cleveland Browns
Robert Quinn | DE | North Carolina [Jr.]
Moving from an odd to an even front under Dick Jauron will be very difficult without more heat coming off the edges, and the Browns lack a pass rusher on their defense who can create edge pressure. Quinn, who has the pin-your-ears-back-and-go speed to register double-digit sacks, is brimming with upside.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Patrick Peterson | CB | LSU [Jr.]
The Niners have some impact players in their front seven but lack a playmaker on the back end who can lock down half the field. Peterson has the size and physicality to press Larry Fitzgerald and contain No. 1 receivers.
8. Tennessee Titans
Nick Fairley | DT | Auburn [Jr.]
The single greatest value from an interior defensive lineman is the ability to create pressure, and with former Auburn DL Tracy Rocker on staff to continue molding Fairley, Titans GM Mike Reinfieldt could be comfortable managing the undisciplined, inconsistent Auburn star. Fairley showed he can change games when he wants to and is the most explosive three-technique in the draft. The Titans' defense has not been the same since Albert Haynesworth departed, and Fairley could provide an immediate spark.
9. Dallas Cowboys
Marcell Dareus | DL | Alabama [Jr.]
Jerry Jones is a value-driven decision maker who has loaded his roster with talent by selecting the best player available. If Dareus happens to fall to No. 9 because teams ahead of him are focused on filling needs, it would allow Jones to fill a great need of his own and also land great value. Dareus is capable of playing anywhere along a 3-4 front and could make the Cowboys' pass rush even more daunting than it already is with DeMarcus Ware, the best pass rusher in football.
10. Washington Redskins
Prince Amukamara | CB | Nebraska
Mike Shanahan is intent on improving his offense, but the defense is littered with holes as well, and Shanahan will be able to find more offensive value in the coming rounds. If Amukamara is available, he could plug into the starting lineup right away and shore up a struggling secondary.
11. Houston Texans
Jimmy Smith | CB | Colorado
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips prefers big, physical, press cornerbacks who can hem the line — the speciality of Smith, who has a chance to surge up draft boards because of the lack of quality and depth at the CB position in this year's draft. Off-field questions could affect Smith's draft stock considerably, but teams have become more sympathetic to the difficult circumstances he has had to overcome and believe he can be controlled in the right environment.
12. Minnesota Vikings
Tyron Smith | OT | USC [Jr.]
A strong pro-day performance might allow Smith to be the first tackle drafted. Bryant McKinnie has continually invited trouble, and Phil Loadholt has struggled heavily with speed rushers. The key to developing a quarterback is to give him enough time to function in the pocket, and Smith could help provide it.
13. Detroit Lions
Aldon Smith | DE | Missouri [Soph.-3]
Although the Lions sorely could use more help at left tackle, head coach Jim Schwartz has stubbornly supported OLT Jeff Backus and could continue ignoring the problem that has kept Matthew Stafford out of the lineup. The defensive-minded head coach has serviceable ends, but Kyle Vanden Bosch turns 33 in November and the damage Smith could do from the inside has to be very attractive to Schwartz.
14. St. Louis Rams
Cameron Jordan | DL | California
Following the formula that led the Giants to capture Super Bowl XLIV, head coach Steve Spagnuolo fully understands the importance of loading up on pass rushers, and a player capable of disrupting inside and outside would allow Spagnuolo to be more creative in designing pressure packages.
15. Miami Dolphins
Mike Pouncey | OG | Florida
Part of the problem for Chad Henne has been having to deal with consistent pressure from the inside. Head coach Tony Sparano earned a head-coaching job because of the stellar job he did with the Cowboys' offensive line, but he needs more talent to work with and could plug in Pouncey right away. That would provide a more secure pocket for Henne and a rookie QB challenger to be selected in the coming rounds.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars
J.J. Watt | DE | Wisconsin [Jr.]
GM Gene Smith has made his mark on the Jaguars' roster by building inside-out, reshaping the makeup of the offensive and defensive lines and focusing on the chemistry in the locker room. While Watt lacks a "wow" factor as a pass rusher, he is a relentless performer who leaves everything on the field and will challenge the entire defense to elevate its game. He grades out off the charts intangibly and will be a cornerstone of a franchise for the next 10-12 years.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland)
Anthony Castonzo | OLT | Boston College
The Patriots have done a very good job scheming protection on the offensive line to conceal the shortcomings of their left tackle. However, with Matt Light unsigned and Nick Kaczur proving unreliable, the Patriots would benefit heavily from a very smart, versatile and dependable left tackle such as Castonzo.
18. San Diego Chargers
Ryan Kerrigan | OLB | Purdue
The Chargers' defense has not been the same since Shawne Merriman got hurt, and replacing his production has been challenging, with Larry English struggling to make an impact. Kerrigan could team up with fellow former Boilermaker Shaun Phillips to upgrade the Chargers' pass rush. He could even take over for Phillips eventually.
19. New York Giants
Mark Ingram | RB | Alabama [Jr.]
Tom Coughlin prefers to employ a physical, ball-control, power running game, and Ingram is perfectly suited for Coughlin's approach. Brandon Jacobs did not run with the same authority a year ago and Ahmad Bradshaw is set to hit restricted free agency, creating a potential void in the backfield for the Giants.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Adrian Clayborn | DE | Iowa
The condition of Clayborn's shoulder could potentially push him out of the first round altogether, but he still fills a primary area of need for GM Mark Dominik, who has proven he knows when to take calculated risks.
21. Kansas City Chiefs
Gabe Carimi | OT | Wisconsin
GM Scott Pioli shied from investing heavily in the tackle position a year ago when he held a top-five pick, but he still could stand to upgrade his offensive line and Carimi has the ability to help readily at right tackle or guard.
22. Indianapolis Colts
Corey Liuget | DT | Illinois [Jr.]
The Colts' defense would benefit heavily from a quick, penetrating three-technique to alleviate the extra attention being paid to Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Liuget is best slanting and stunting and could step into the starting lineup immediately.
23. Philadelphia Eagles
Da’Quan Bowers | DE | Clemson [Jr.]
The Eagles could use help on both of their lines, and, with Victor Abiamiri returning from injured reserve, are one of the few teams with enough talent to consider drafting Bowers and shelving him for a year, if necessary. Teams have expressed serious concerns after Bowers clearly appeared hobbled at his pro day, and his Combine reevaluation could go a long way toward determining his draft status.
24. New Orleans Saints
Muhammad Wilkerson | DE | Temple [Jr.]
A college defensive tackle who projects to left end in the NFL, Wilkerson could take some time to develop while working in a rotation with Alex Brown and Will Smith as a rookie. He could give the Saints much-needed youth at the end position.
25. Seattle Seahawks
Marvin Austin | DT | North Carolina
Austin has a chance to slip into the first round after testing off the charts athletically. With Pete Carroll showing that he could get the most out of Kentwan Balmer, the Seahawks could feel more comfortable taking a chance on a player with underachiever tendencies, and it would not be a surprise if Austin climbs into the back end of the top round for a team in need of an inside rusher. If he had not interviewed so poorly, he could have gone even higher.
26. Baltimore Ravens
Derek Sherrod | OT | Mississippi State
Michael Oher looked more comfortable on the right side as a rookie than he did on the left side last year, and head coach John Harbaugh would upgrade the line considerably if he could kick Oher back to the right side and fill the left side. Sherrod has the skill set to play either left or right tackle and could give the Ravens the flexibility they need to better protect Joe Flacco and clear more holes for Ray Rice.
27. Atlanta Falcons
Aaron Williams | CB | Texas [Jr.]
The Falcons need to find a way to create more pressure on the quarterback and take some pressure off Roddy White in the receiving game, but the end and receiver positions carry far more depth than the cornerback position in this year's draft. To address struggles the Falcons had in the slot in the playoffs, Mike Smith would benefit greatly from adding a corner who is best manning the slot.
28. New England Patriots
Andy Dalton | QB | TCU
With value being greatly diminished at this point on the board, expect the Patriots to convert this year's 28th pick into a much higher selection next year by weighing offers from teams seeking to land a quarterback. Dalton sits more highly than Washington's Jake Locker on many draft boards and although he does not grade out like a first-round pick, has a chance to be the third quarterback drafted by a team seeking to reach for a need. The Vikings and Jaguars both have shown they will be aggressive targeting talent and have a need at the position.
29. Chicago Bears
Nate Solder | OT | Colorado
OL coach Mike Tice is seeking big power players on the Bears' offensive line but if Solder is available, it could prove too difficult for Bears GM Jerry Angelo to ignore. With Frank Omiyale having started his career at left guard in Chicago and showing great improvement under the training of Tice, Omiyale could kick back inside and allow Solder to take over at left tackle.
30. New York Jets
Phil Taylor | NT | Baylor
The Jets still could bring back Kris Jenkins for another season, but he is coming off back-to-back injury-shortened seasons and could easily find better offers when free agency opens, creating a need in the middle of the Jets' defensive line.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers
Brandon Harris | CB | Miami (Fla.) [Jr.]
One of the key factors in the Steelers' Super Bowl loss was their inability to handle the Packers' explosive passing game, especially when Green Bay spread the field. Harris instantly provides help in nickel situations and brings the physicality that Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau desires.
32. Green Bay Packers
Justin Houston | OLB | Georgia [Jr.]
The Super Bowl champions could use more help rushing the passer, and Houston has shown he can bring it in the Bulldogs' 3-4 front as a junior. He has the size, power and edge burst that defensive coordinator Dom Capers seeks to leverage the edge.