This is the post-combine edition of my 2011 NFL Mock Draft. I’ll do at least one more heading into the draft. Until then, here are my top five picks heading into the combine as I explain my logic. More mock draft picks tomorrow!
Carolina Panthers 1st Round, 1st Overall Mock Draft Pick
The Carolina Panthers have three options here: Trading down (Jerry Richardson has been known to be cheap and may not want to pay a defensive player first pick money), Da’Quan Bowers, or Nick Fairley. The Panthers could feel motivated to trade down and acquire more picks since they don’t have a 2nd round selection.
Assuming they don’t trade down, it should be between Fairley and Bowers. Bowers played at Clemson, would be a remarkable 1-2 punch with Charles Johnson (or a potential replacement), and has a great combination of size and speed from a defensive end. He has also proven himself through adversity, winning the defensive player of the year after his father passed away last season. The Panthers should know how important dominant defensive ends are (Julius Peppers).
I can’t see Richardson paying first overall money for a DT, especially sub-300 weight. Bowers would probably serve as more of a pass rushing specialist as he’d play end. Without predicting trade scenarios going forward, I’ll assume they take Bowers.
Option 1: Trading Down
Option 2: DL Da’Quan Bowers – Clemson
Option 3: DL Nick Fairley – Auburn
Denver Broncos 1st Round, 2nd Overall Mock Draft Pick
The Broncos can go two ways under John Fox: Defensive line or defensive back. Elvis Dumervil will be returning from injury, so that should improve their DL. Would they prefer a shutdown cornerback or a dominant defensive tackle?
With Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey moving toward the conclusion of their careers, Patrick Peterson would give them a versatile defensive back who could learn under both players. I believe Peterson is a rare talent and would be more valuable to Denver than a DT here.
Option 1: DB Patrick Peterson- LSU
Option 2: DL Nick Fairley – Auburn
Option 2B: DL Marcel Dareus – Alabama
Buffalo Bills 1st Round, 3rd Overall Mock Draft Pick
The Buffalo Bills rushing defense was 22nd in 2008, 30th in 2009, and 32nd in 2010. If the key to a successful NFL defense is stopping the run, then the Bills have one option here.
Inside linebackers are weak in this draft, but Marcel Dareus would be a magnificent addition to the Bills 3-4 defense. At 6’4 and 320 with a sub 5.00 40, Dareus played nose tackle at Alabama. Dareus could probably play 3-4 defensive end during earlier downs. In a division with the Jets and Dolphins, they’ll need big defensive ends on first downs.
Add Cullen Jenkins or A.J. Hawk, and the Bills are a faster, better defense. Dareus is too obvious for the Bills if he’s at #3.
Option 1: DL Marcel Dareus – Alabama
Cincinnati Bengals 1st Round, 4th Overall Mock Draft Pick:
The Cincinnati Bengals will want to be cute with the fourth overall pick, so don’t expect defense. With Carson Palmer frustrated, Ochocinco over 30, and Terrell Owens probably not returning, the Bengals should look at wide receiver. A.J. Green or Julio Jones will likely be the pick, and I believe Green currently has a small advantage.
The other option relates to Palmer retiring before the draft. Then, I could see the Bengals going Cam Newton. The biggest reason I see Newton going before Gabbert is because Newton will sell tickets, whereas Gabbert is probably the most boring QB selection amongst Newton, Jake Locker, and Ryan Mallett. Unless an organization is entirely confident on him becoming a solid quarterback, Gabbert could fall into round two.
Newton gets the edge because of the publicity he brings an organization and his raw skills. I don’t believe Palmer is retiring, however, so Newton will wait.
Option 1: WR A.J. Green – Georgia
Option 2: QB Cam Newton – Auburn
Arizona Cardinals 1st Round, 5th Overall Mock Draft Pick:
I had Marcel Dareus going to Arizona in my first NFL Mock Draft this season because I feel the Cardinals need defensive linemen. Dareus would give the Cardinals depth, but I don’t think he’ll be around. Even if he is, the Cardinals need starting linebackers in their scheme. Von Miller would be a solid piece to a rebuilding defense. If they went quarterback? Cam Newton. It’d surprise me, however.
Option 1: LB Von Miller – Texas A&M
Option 2: QB Cam Newton – Auburn
Panthers – Trade Down or DL Da’Quan Bowers
Broncos – CB Patrick Peterson
Bills – DL Marcel Dareus
Bengals – WR A.J. Green
Cardinals – LB Von Miller
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