Searching for a 2011 NFL mock draft? As the NFL season winds down and the draft order begins to come in to focus, it’s time to start mocking the first round of the NFL draft. Here’s a mock draft that addresses part of the first round.
One note, the order selection is based upon standings with two regular season games left in the season. The NFL draft rules stipulate that teams with identical records will be decided by a strength of schedule tiebreaker. For the purposes of this mock draft, I’m forecasting how the remaining two games will go, then making assumptions about who will win strength of schedule tiebreakers. This mock represents a reasonable effort to decide the order of the 2011 NFL draft, recognizing that the final order will vary slightly.
#1. Carolina Panthers – Andrew Luck – QB – Stanford University
From 2000 to 2010, quarterbacks were taken with the first overall pick eight times. Andrew Luck is emerging as the consensus top NFL quarterback prospect in the 2011 NFL draft. Carolina’s quarterback position is relatively weak, and it’s hard to envision them doing something else with the first overall pick in the draft. Luck will start right away and provide instant hope and intrigue to the Carolina Panthers, one of the most rudderless franchises in the NFL.
2. Cincinnati Bengals – Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Clemson University
Da’Quan Bowers’ draft stock has been rapidly rising during his senior season. He’s racked up over a dozen sacks, a bunch of tackles for a loss, and will instantly bolster a fairly weak Bengals defensive line. Bowers has been inconsistent, but his impressive season of work should quiet some of those critics. This is a relatively easy pick for the Bengals. So far, the draft board remains fairly clear.
3. Denver Broncos – Marcell Dareus – DT – University of Alabama
It seems curious to see the perennially competitive Broncos with such a high draft pick. Nonetheless, if the season ended today, this is exactly where the Denver Broncos would be drafting. The Broncos have been one of the poorer drafting teams in the league, and the talent cupboard is bare on both sides of the ball. But many of their biggest first round blunders have come on the offensive side; Mike Shanahan always favored that side of the game. And that’s exactly why the Broncos will not be drafting an offensive player with the third pick, irrespective of who the coach and GM are.
Expect the Broncos to take a defensive lineman, and Marcell Dareus is the obvious choice at this spot. Dareus has been up and down in his senior season, but has finished strong. His combination of strength and speed are rare, and the Broncos need that kind of help on their defensive line.
#4. Arizona Cardinals – Cam Newton – QB – Auburn University
I expect this draft to be one with a lot of quarterbacks drafted in the first round (perhaps too many). The 2011 NFL draft bares subtle similarity to the 1999 NFL draft, where five quarterbacks were drafted in the first round. I don’t think the 2011 draft will be that top heavy with QB selections, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Luck, Newton, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, and Blaine Gabbert taken in the first round if all the underclassmen come out.
Arizona needs a quarterback worse than anyone else in the league, and with Luck off the board, it becomes a question of which of the remaining prospects has the most upside. The Cardinals won’t be able to pass on Newton, who has impeccable athleticism and a better arm than most analysts think.
#5. Buffalo Bills – Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn University
Buffalo was in the bottom tenth of the league in total defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play has been steady enough that I don’t see the Bills opting for a quarterback in the first round, even if they could take their pick of Newton or Mallett. Fairley gives them a swagger on defense that they’re sorely lacking. Fairley has made some comments suggesting that he might not come out, but if he becomes certain he’ll be drafted this high, expect him to declare.
#6. Detroit Lions – Robert Quinn – DE – University of North Carolina
Detroit is one of the more difficult teams to get a handle on. They have a core offense built around Matthew Stafford, Jahvid Best, and Calvin Johnson. But the defense hasn’t been that bad this year, particularly the pass defense. With Fairley, Dareus, and Bowers all off the board, the Lions might reach on a Defensive End like Robert Quinn. Quinn is still a work in progress and might be a shade undersized, but the talent and speed are there.
#7. San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Peterson – CB – Louisiana State University
It’s tough to make projections for teams that will most likely have a coaching change before draft time, but Peterson would make sense for the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers’ defense was heavily hyped before the start of the season, but they actually rank a very weak 25th in passing defense. Some improved cornerback play would definitely help, and Peterson is a mark better than the next best CB prospect, Prince Amukamara
#8. Minnesota Vikings – A.J. Green – WR – University of Georgia
This is one of those instances where luck and circumstance have a player falling below his talent level would dictate he be drafted. A.J. Green is a dynamic playmaker, but the teams drafting at the top have more pressing needs than wide receiver. Beyond Percy Harvin, the Vikings don’t have a lot at this position, and they’ll be eager to give their next quarterback (be it Tarvaris Jackson or someone else) all the tools needed for success. A stronger passing game will also take the pressure off an overused Adrian Peterson.
#9. Washington Redskins – Ryan Mallett – QB – University of Arkansas
Mike Shanahan loves to draft for offense, and he also has a track record of selecting QBs in the first round (see Cutler, Jay). With the benching of McNabb, it’s clear that the quarterback situation in Washington is in a state of turmoil. After Luck, I think that you can make a case for Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, or Cam Newton as the #2 option in this draft. Cam Newton is riding high right now, but he doesn’t necessarily project better than Locker or Mallett at the next level. Mallett seems like the less risky pick. It’s tougher to get a handle on Locker. Was his lackluster senior performance a statement about him or the dearth of talent that he had to work with at the University of Washington?
#10. Dallas Cowboys – Prince Amukamara – CB – University of Nebraska
Dallas is in the bottom five of the league this year in pass defense. Patrick Peterson will be long gone by the time they pick, but Amukamura is the consensus second best corner prospect in this NFL draft class. He’ll provide instant help and bolster a Dallas secondary in need of a makeover.