Daily Blog • April 1, 2011

2011 Mock Draft 2.0

The Pro Days have just about wrapped up & NFL teams are locked inside scouring game tape on the prospects. Its important to note that even though the players & the league will be going to court on April 6th, that the earliest a decision will come on free agency will be just before the draft with an appeal expected. There are some estimates that a new agreement won’t happen until late-July/early-August, which would essentially nullify FA this year. No trades are forecasted in this mock however, we do fully anticipate some especially in the Top 10 this year, as rookies will be under a new cap structure when they sign minimizing the risk to teams.

#         Team                       Pos                 Player                                     School
1.         Carolina                  DT                   Marcel Dareus                       Alabama

       When teams approach a draft especially those in the Top 10 they also look ahead to the next years projected talent to make their evaluations. The Panthers are not going to be a good team in 2011 with a new coach, scheme, roster & are very likely to be picking in the top 5 next year. Rather than take a chance on a QB with question marks the Panthers fill a big need on the DL with Dareus to start the rebuilding process & wait another year for Andrew Luck.
2.         Denver                     CB                   Patrick Peterson                  LSU
       The cupboard isn’t as bare for new coach John Fox as many would think with 11 starters on defense who were with the team in 2010 or 2011. That said the big problem for the Broncos is that all 4 projected starters in the secondary will be 32 or older come mid-season for a defense with a 26-10 TD/Int ratio in 2010. Peterson is an elite cover CB who will be an immediate starter across from one of the best in Champ Bailey.
3.         Buffalo                      LB                   Von Miller                            Texas A&M
        In 2010 the Bills started 9 different LB’s with 4 ending up on injured reserve and had a rookie DC for a team transitioning to a 3-4. The Bills only logged 27 sacks while giving up a 28-11 TD/Int ratio. Paul Posluszny is an effective ILB when healthy & the Bills won’t risk their pass rush future for 2011 on the rehab of Shawne Merriman alone. Miller is an impact player who will help ease the disappointment of Aaron Maybin.

4.         Cincinnati                 WR                  AJ Green                              Georgia
        With the Bengals switching to a West Coast offense under new OC Jay Gruden there is a need for a disciplined route runner here. By selecting Green the Bengals take a playmaker who logged a TD once every 7.2 rec’s while in college. Green will help in all facets of the offense & allow the team to move on from the antics that have plagued the team at this position in recent years.
5.        Arizona                      QB                  Blaine Gabbert                      Missouri

        The Cardinals likely won’t have the luxury to sit & wait for the CBA to be approved so that they can make a run at Marc Bulger in FA. They went from a 27-18 TD/Int ratio with a 7.1 ypa in 2009 to a 10-19 ratio with a 5.8 ypa with 4 different starting QB’s LY. Look for the Cardinals to try & trade down with Miller off the board & they desperately need an OL (3 could be FA’s) but none are rated high enough here. If not, they take Gabbert who’s experience in a spread offense would help him here despite an unimpressive 16-9 ratio in 2010.         

6.       Cleveland                   DE                  Da'Quan Bowers                    Clemson
        Since 2005 the Browns have only earned 30 or more sacks once (40 in 2009). Bowers was given a clean bill of health at his Pro Day workout after skipping most of the Combine with an MCL issue. There is a risk here as he only had 4 sacks in his 1st 2 years at Clemson before logging a sack in 9 straight games in 2010. He is a solid balanced run/pass DE for a DL void of bodies.

7.       San Francisco             CB                  Prince Amukamara               Nebraska
        If the 2011 season started today, David Carr (13 pass att’s in 2010) would be the starting QB for the 49ers. That said, Jim Harbaugh’s West Coast Offense isn’t a good fit for Cam Newton who doesn’t have the discipline to go thru all his reads here. Amukamara has excellent size (6-1 205) in a division of big WR’s & would greatly improve a secondary that gave up a 25-15 TD/Int ratio in 2010. SF potentially becomes a team that would move up into the back of the 1st round for Christian Ponder.

8.       Tennessee                   DT                  Nick Fairley                            Auburn
        The Titans are in a similar situation to the 49ers lacking an established QB with an overall roster that isn’t that far off from competing. Former OL coach Mike Munchak isn’t likely to deal with another QB with off-field issues here. Fairley only has 1 year of starting experience under his belt but the raw talent to be an impact player on an already formidable DL. He’ll heavily rotate in the lineup as a rookie as the Titans target a QB in the 2nd round.

9.       Dallas                           OT                  Tyron Smith                           USC
        The Cowboys major needs are at RT & in the secondary. Romo has been given a clean bill of health & the Cowboys skill players remain potent. Dallas hasn’t drafted an OL higher than the 4th round under Jerry Jones & in a draft full of promising OL talent they have let it be known their spot is for sale. Barring a trade & without an Eric Berry type player in the draft the Cowboys take Smith who will form a formidable OT tandem with the very underrated Doug Free.

10.     Washington                WR                 Julio Jones                             Alabama
        Lacking a 3rd or 4th round pick this year, the Redskins are very likely to sell this spot to a team like St Louis (then take an OT) who are in dire need of a playmaker at WR. The Donovan McNabb trade backfired on them & they aren’t going to retain him or his $10 million offseason bonus after the draft. In the 1st draft we had Newton here but his undisciplined style doesn’t mesh with either Shanahan’s hard line approach. Julio Jones would bolster an unimpressive WR unit (Santana Moss is an UFA), Rex Grossman can be signed cheap with perhaps Andy Dalton being targeted in the 2nd round.
11.    Houston                       OLB/DE          Aldon Smith                          Missouri
       In 2010 the Texans #32 pass defense gave up a 33-13 ratio with an 8.2 ypa with the local writers calling it the worst in the history of the modern NFL. Ownership is very high on Gary Kubiak who smartly brought in Wade Phillips to be the DC in 2011. With the top 2 CB’s off the board & a 3rd not rated high enough to select, the Texans select Smith who had 17 sacks in 22 starts at Missouri. He will fill the hole at OLB alongside DeMeco Ryans & Brian Cushing when he enters camp.

12.   Minnesota                     QB                 Cam Newton                           Tennessee
      Newton is this year’s Tim Tebow but with less experience & a few more character questions. If a CBA agreement is reached before the draft it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Vikings make a run at Vince Young here as the new offensive scheme isn’t ideal for Donovan McNabb now. Joe Webb is the only QB on the roster for the Vikings right now. We think very highly of former DC Leslie Frazier who like Mike Tomlin comes from the Tony Dungy scheme & by being the interim HC LY has a good handle on the roster. Newton is very raw but very talented & Frazier is the ideal coach to get him settled in the NFL.

13.   Detroit                           OT                 Anthony Castonzo                  Boston College
       Even though the Lions allowed just 27 sacks LY, QB’s Matt Stafford & Shaun Hill were KO’d by injuries & the top 3 RB’s had ypc’s of 3.2 (Jahvid Best), 3.7 (Maurice Morris), 3.9 (Kevin Smith) with Best leading the team with 555 yds rushing. With the DL getting upgraded in LY’s draft its time for the Lions to improve the protection around their franchise QB. Castonzo could start at OG as a rookie as Jeff Backus can still play at LT but he’ll have a chance to beat Gosder Cherilus out for the RT spot if training camp opens up in time.
14.    St Louis                        DE                  Robert Quinn                          North Carolina
        Look for the Rams to try & trade up if one of the 2 elite WR’s slips to the Redskins at #10. While Sam Bradford was very successful as a rookie he only had a 6.0 ypa due to the injuries & lack of talent at WR. HC Spagnuolo is a Giants disciple though & believes that you can’t have enough good pass rushers (43 sacks LY vs 25 in 2009) on the line. Quinn had 19 plays behind the LOS (sacks + tackles for loss) in 13 starts in 2009 when he broke the Tar Heels DE record in the 40 yd dash (4.51) set by Julius Peppers. He would give the Rams a brutal pass rushing trio combined with James Hall (10.5 sacks) & Chris Long (8.5 sacks).

15.    Miami                           C/OG               Mike Pouncey                        Florida
       The overriding selection for the Dolphins has been Mark Ingram & Miami isn’t expected to bring back Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams this year as they move away from the Wildcat. The bigger problem for the Dolphins in 2009 was an OL that gave up 74 plays behind the LOS LY (38 sacks/36 tfl’s) due to injuries & poor play at Center (down to 3rd string vs CHI). Pouncey had a strong Combine & Pro Day along with the success of his brother with the Steelers to come in & earn the starting spot at Center shifting Richie Incognito to a more natural LG spot making the entire OL better. VT RB Ryan Williams is a strong candidate in the 2nd round.

16.   Jacksonville                   DE                   Ryan Kerrigan                       Purdue
      The Jaguars are in  the 3rd year of Jack Del Rio’s retooling effort & in each of the past 2 years have gone into December with their playoff future in their hands only to implode. The Jaguars pass defense was almost as bad the Texans LY with a 28-13 ratio & an 8.3 ypa due to their 3rd straight year of less than 30 sacks earned & horrific Safety play. Kerrigan is everything the Jaguars are looking for with production (56 plays behind LOS in 35 starts), character (2 time team captain) & a play style/bodystyle similar to Aaron Kampman who he can learn from as a rookie. 

17.   New England                  DE                  JJ Watt                                   Wisconsin
       With 4 picks in the Top 60 the Patriots are once again the power brokers in the NFL draft. Taking a Nick Saban coached RB here will be very tempting for the Patriots but they have glaring needs in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Bringing in Marcus Stroud just before the start of the lockout was a smart move but he’s a short term solution. Watt (26.5 plays behind LOS in 26 starts) can play well in the 3-4 or 4-3 which is essential as the Patriots schemes are very fluid.

18.    San Diego                      DT                  Muhammad Wilkerson           Temple
        The Chargers outgained foes by 1984 yds LY but were -6 TO’s & had one of the worst seasons by a special teams unit in recent memory. Wilkerson has been a fast riser on the boards thanks to a good offseason & some solid tape on file. San Diego could move up if Aldon Smith falls (3 picks in top 61 overall) but they have the overall talent to stand pat & take a 3-4/4-3 DE that they can develop for the future as they have a slew of players who will be eligible for FA in the near future. In the 2nd round they can target a 3-4 ILB as both starters have been released.

19.   NY Giants                        OT                  Nate Solder                              Colorado
       The Giants made it to 10-6 despite the WR & OL units getting slammed by injuries. Manning threw an NFL high 25 interceptions working the back end of the WR depth chart under pressure from an OL that had 2 players starting all 16 games in its original spot. Solder is a big & nasty with the upside to be a LT down the line. Four of 5 OL starters from LY will be 32 or older by mid-season with RG Rich Seubert likely to start the year on the PUP list. OL is the Giants biggest need with LB addressed in round 2.

20.   Tampa Bay                      DE                  Cam Jordan                              California
        In a normal year Jordan would be taken much higher but the depth in this years draft & surge in 3-4 defenses has him sliding. The Bucs DL only pulled in 15 sacks LY which is very poor for a Cover-2 defense. TB also saw both their 1st Rd & 2nd Rd DC’s (Gerald McCoy & Brian Price) land on the IR while in the thick of a playoff spot. The Bucs can’t rely on another easy schedule to get them to 10 wins & Jordan would be a very good fit here bolstering a weak pass rush.

21.    Kansas City                    DT                   Corey Liuget                             Illinois
       The Chiefs biggest need is at WR as Dwayne Bowe was held to zero catches in the playoff loss to Baltimore. However, there isn’t a WR worth taking at this point in the draft & they lack the ammunition to move up into the Top 10 for Green/Jones. DC Romeo Crennel ran a very simple 3-4 scheme LY & Liuget has the frame to get bigger & handle the NT spot for the Chiefs which is a concern here. A speed WR or OG/C Stefen Wisniewski would be a good fit in the 2nd round.

22.    Indianapolis                   OT                  Gabe Carimi                              Wisconsin
       Colts GM Bill Polian is very well respected so when he admits a draft mistake such as passing on OT Rodger Saffold in LY’s draft, it’s worth noting. Its also worth noting that Charles Johnson who’s been a disappointment at LT is unsigned & RT Ryan Diem has a big contract for 2011. Polian has also made no secret of liking Big Ten players in the draft & Carimi would be a solid fit for the Colts here.

23.   Philadelphia                    OT                   Ben Ijalana                               Villanova
        One of the reasons why Michael Vick was so successful LY was that his mobility & improved ability to read the field on the move allowed him to escape some poor pass protection (50 sacks or 1 every 11 pass att’s). Injuries were a big part of the OL LY & Andy Reid has never been afraid to use high picks to improve the trenches on either side of the ball. Ijalana dominated at Villanova & would be a great fit at RG for 2 years or so before moving to RT here.

24.    New Orleans                SLB                    Akeem Ayers                             UCLA
        While the Saints look to be set on the offensive side of the ball, defensively their biggest concern is at LB. Aside from Jonathan Vilma the Saints are rather unimpressive at LB. Both the SLB & WLB are FA’s from 2008 & 2009 respectively & an upgrade is needed. Ayers is a big (6-4 255) hard hitting player who can excel in either a 4-3 at SLB or in a 3-4 as an OLB.

25.    Seattle                           QB                     Jake Locker                              Washington
      Matt Hasselbeck is no longer under contract with the Seahawks & it’s not a lock that he’ll return. SEA wasn’t sold on Charlie Whitehurst as the longterm answer despite a good game vs the Rams to wrap up the regular season. Gifted with impressive mobility & a strong arm the knock on Locker has been his accuracy (career best 58% in 2009). A closer look shows that his problem has been not moving deep enough on 5 & 7 step drops which puts him right in the midst of the OL & pass rushers. SEA also has a glaring need on the OL with 3 starters being FA’s right now.
26.    Baltimore                       CB                     Jimmy Smith                            Colorado
       Smith didn’t have a great offseason doing ok at the Combine but having an unimpressive Pro Day. He’s also endured questions about his work ethic & off-field behavior as well. Ed Reed had more interceptions (8) than the top 3 CB’s on the team combined LY (7) despite missing the first 6 games. The Ravens have more than enough leadership on that side of the ball to assist Smith in maturing into the NFL. BAL is also another team that could move out of the 1st round for a QB needy team or they can try to acquire an upgrade at RT if Jared Gaither isn’t in their long-term plans.

27.    Atlanta                           DE                     Justin Houston                          Georgia
       The Falcons live in a division with 2 excellent QB’s in Drew Brees & Josh Freeman and could potentially be facing Andrew Luck in the future twice a year & will likely be dueling with Aaron Rodgers on a regular basis. John Abraham had another solid season (13 of the teams 31 sacks LY) but he only has another 2 years in him before he wears out. Houston has logged 17.5 sacks & 62 QB hurries the L2Y while at Georgia. His skill set would be enhanced by playing on a team with high powered offense as he’ll be put into more pass rushing situations. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Atlanta pick up a WR they feel is special here (Torrey Smith) as even though he had a 28-9 TD/Int ratio LY, Matt Ryan only had a 6.5 ypa.

28.   New England                 RB                      Mark Ingram                             Alabama
       The dominant feeling is that the Patriots will auction off this spot as they continue to work the draft. However, they can’t trade picks for players & will trade future picks at their own peril as the 2012 draft isn’t provided for under the expired CBA. The OL is starting to show some cracks as there is no guarantee that FA LT Matt Light will return & Logan Mankins may sit out again. That said the Patriots take the best player on their board with Ingram who will be able to quickly understand a similar playbook that he had with Saban. The Patriots aren’t going to be +28 in TO’s for the 2nd year in a row & only had 2 games with a 100 yd rusher LY.

29.   Chicago                          OT                      Derek Sherrod                          Mississippi St
        The Bears have gone 2 Drafts without a 1st round pick due to the Jay Cutler trade which got them to the NFC Championship game last year. The OL matured as the year went along but still allowed 56 sacks (1 every 8.3 pass att’s). Chicago fielded a rookie 7th Rd pick at RT for the final 12 games LY after shifting former 1st Rd pick Chris Williams to LG. Sherrod is a balanced run/pass blocker who will step right into the RT spot & with the potential of being developed into a LT for 2012.

30.   NY Jets                           DT                      Phil Taylor                                NY Jets
       Despite their playoff success the past 2 seasons & very impressive defense the Jets don’t have a lot of depth on that side of the ball. While they earned 40 sacks in 2010 the Jets allowed a surprising 24-12 TD/Int ratio which is remarkable considering the talent in the secondary. Taylor is a huge prospect for a DL that needs to be shored up at both DE spots. The Jets can’t count on FA to bolster their ranks as if the lockout is lifted they’ll be under the Final 8 rules once again.

31.    Pittsburgh                     CB                      Brandon Harris                         Miami, Fl
       The Steelers defense deserves a huge amount of credit for a 12-4 season capped by a Super Bowl run. However, they will have 8 defensive starters who will be 30 or older by mid-season including Troy Polamalu who is coming off an Achilles injury that had him at 85% vs GB. Harris needs some work refining his mechanics for a team that is talented enough to let him develop as a rookie before placing them in the starting lineup. Harris isn’t afraid to provide run support & can win the nickel CB role early in the season. Look for them to address the OL in the 2nd & 3rd rounds.

32.    Green Bay                     OLB                    Brooks Reed                              Arizona
        Clay Matthews had 29% of the Packers sacks LY (13.5) as they started 4 different OLB’s opposite him due to injuries. Green Bay has the depth & talent to take a chance on Reed who is a classic ‘tweener DE/OLB prospect who is rising up boards as the GM’s break down more tape. The Packers are also deep enough to take a chance on boderline CB here or invest in an OT if one slips this far down the board.