2011 NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0 by: “The Better Looking Mel Kiper”

Every year around this time, draft talk starts heating up, and people come yelling at me for a newer version of the mock draft.  Although I live for the draft, a few years back I took some advice for my man Wale.  I now avoid over-saturating the mock draft world with my expert mocks, and simply put quality “Better Looking Mel Kiper” versions out when the time is right.  That being said, this is version 3.0, and my next release will be the final version on draft day, Thursday, April 28th.

DISCLAIMER #1: The draft order and player selections have been determined as of 4/23/11.  With some time still to go before the draft, any trades made or progress with the CBA could affect the draft order, but I obviously can’t predict that.

DISCLAIMER #2: Contrary to popular belief, I can not see more than 4 days into the future.  Therefore, if 5 days from now it becomes very obvious that something will occur in the draft that I did not account for, don’t hold it against me…I’m only partially superhuman.

DISCLAIMER #3: This is a Brett Favre-free mock draft.  Favre has no influence on which players will be selected where.  At no point in this draft will I name a team the “Favre’s.”  Although Favre’s sister tried to shuttle some meth my way recently, I refused on the basis of principle.  I’m pretty confident that by the time you are done reading this draft, Favre will have revoked his retirement papers and tried to make moves on other masseuses, but I’m not letting it affect me.

DISCLAIMER #4: Although I try my hardest, I can not possibly be as stupid with draft picks as some teams.  Yes, Carolina, Detroit, Cincinnati, Arizona, Tennessee, Miami, and Oakland, I am talking to you.  I try to predict where players will go, but sometimes I can not dumb myself down enough to know what the aforementioned idiotic teams will do.

DISCLAIMER #5: All I can ask of you is to sit back, get comfortable wherever you are, have an open mind, read through the whole mock, realize that Mel Kiper and Todd McShay obviously read this and let my knowledge influence their mocks, and let me know if you have some input.  Let’s do it…

  1. Carolina (2-14)

What inspired me to get back on the blog and work on finishing up this mock was seeing that both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay had Cam Newton going #1 overall to the Panthers in their mocks.  As I sat watching Sportscenter that day, I was thinking to myself, “How could a team be so stupid and pick a quarterback with so many questions #1?”  I was running through a list of players that would be much better selections for the Panthers, from Patrick Peterson, to Marcel Dareus, and even AJ Green.  But, after days of contemplation, and countless hours of Miller-Lite-Therapy, it finally dawned on me.  Teams get the #1 overall pick because they make stupid decisions!  I finally get it.  So, the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft will be…

SELECTION: Cam Newton, QB Auburn

  1. Denver (4-12)

The Broncos were trying to transition to a 3-4 defense over the past few seasons, but upon the arrival of new head coach John Fox, there are headed back to a 4-3.  That should make some Broncos fans happier, as former first rounder Robert Ayers should feel more comfortable coming off of the edge as a defensive end rather than standing up as a 3-4 outside linebacker.  That being said, the Broncos still have holes all over their defense.  They could use help on the defensive line, at linebacker, and in the secondary.  Three players are possible selections for the Broncos at #2, Marcel Dareus, Patrick Peterson, and Von Miller.  Although Miller could play in a 4-3 system, he projects better to a 3-4 in my mind.  Peterson is the most talented player in the draft, but Dareus fills a more immediate need.  If you have a chance over the next couple of days, watch the Sport Science segment on Marcel Dareus…amazing.

SELECTION: Marcel Dareus, DE/DT Alabama

  1. Buffalo (4-12)

The Bills are one of those teams that I try to follow their train of thought, but sometimes they are so stupid that I can’t get on their level.  Aaron Maybin?  Leodis McKelvin?  James Hardy?  CJ Spiller looks like he is going to turn into a pretty good pro, but they have so many needs and they continue to fail to address them.  The Bills could use help along the defensive line, at linebacker, cornerback, wide receiver, quarterback, and offensive line.  If Cam Newton doesn’t go #1, he could be the choice at #3 for the Bills, but with him gone, improving their terrible pass rush could be the avenue that Buffalo chooses.

SELECTION: Von Miller, DE/OLB Texas A

  1. Cincinnati (4-12)

Cincinnati falls into that same category as Buffalo, just one of those teams that I have a hard time thinking as terribly as they do.  Newton and/or Gabbert could be a possibility here because of the Carson Palmer situation (threatening to retire if the Bengals don’t move him).  Drafting a quarterback is usually a way to get your fan base excited about your team, but I think that the Bengals are a couple of key pieces away from the playoffs, and one of those pieces definitely is not a rookie quarterback.  The biggest needs in Cincinnati are at quarterback, wide receiver, and along the defensive line.  Without a first round need for a corner, Peterson gets passes and AJ Green becomes the obvious choice.

SELECTION: AJ Green, WR Georgia

  1. Arizona (5-11)

Who would have thought that just two short seasons after leading the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, Ken Whisenhunt would be on the hot seat in Arizona.  Arizona has needs on both sides of the ball, most noteably under center.  Although Gabbert has better pro potential that Newton in my mind, Whisenhunt knows that trying to turn Arizona into a winner with a rookie quarterback is no easy task.  The Cardinals would be much better off trying to pick up a veteran, see Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, etc., to play quarterback and address another position in the draft.  So, where do the Cardinals biggest needs lie?  All on the defensive side of the ball.  A lot of people see Peterson going to the Cards, but allocating that much money to one position between Peterson and Rodgers-Cromartie doesn’t make much sense to me.  Also, Whisenhunt knows that a defense can be very successful without two shutdown corners, as was the case all of those years he was in Pittsburgh.  Providing some pressure on to opposing quarterback is where the Cards turn in 2011.

SELECTION: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB North Carolina

  1. Cleveland (5-11)

Mike Holmgren, you lucky dog.  Not only did Cleveland hit it big last year with Joe Haden and Colt McCoy, the Browns have the opportunity to grab 2011’s best prospect with the 6th overall pick.  I feel very similarly about Patrick Peterson than how I felt about Adrian Peterson a few years ago.  It seems like every team knows that those two are special players, they just have bigger needs to fill.  But, when the draft is all said and done, three years down the road teams one through five will be kicking themselves for not taking this guy.  Anyways, pairing Peterson with Joe Haden in the secondary immediately boosts Cleveland’s pass defense.  While they still have holes at other spots, their talent at corner will be undeniable.

SELECTION: Patrick Peterson, CB LSU

  1. San Francisco (6-10)

The 49ers just missed out on Peterson, which has to irk the San Francisco faithful.  Peterson would have addressed one of the 49ers biggest needs, aside from quarterback, and added some punch to a defense that is lacking it.  Offensively the 49ers are set at nearly every position other than the most important one, quarterback.  Without free agency or the ability to trade players, new head coach Jim Harbaugh is handcuffed into waiting until maybe August or September to sign someone, go with who they have on their roster, or draft a rookie and hope he develops quickly.  I truly believe that San Fran’s talent level is high enough that with a solid veteran behind center they can push for a playoff spot.  Also, you can’t tell me that a voice in the back of Harbaugh’s head isn’t saying tank 2011 so I can draft my guy Luck in 2012.  With Gabbert not convincing me he’s the guy, the next corner is the selection.  Prince Amukamara would probably be the top corner taken in nearly any other draft, but unluckily he was competing against Patrick Peterson.  Still, Prince is worthy of a top ten pick, and his physicality is just what the 49ers need in their secondary.

SELECTION: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska

  1. Tennessee (6-10)

It’s been said over and over again, with a new coach often comes a new quarterback.  For Tennessee, it is almost a necessity considering their starting quarterback right now would probably be Rusty Smith.  Although his name is exceptional, Rusty is not an NFL caliber guy.  All indications are that Vince Young will be sent packing as soon as the CBA is resolved, and savvy veteran Kerry Collins is celebrating his 50th birthday soon, so he more than likely won’t be suiting up in Tennessee next year either.  Plus, Tennessee’s talent level isn’t at a point where I can see them competing for a playoff spot, so why not start fresh with a young gun-slinger.  Blaine Gabbert was initially considered to be the top quarterback of the 2011 class before everyone decided to jump on board with Cam Newton.  I’m still a big believer that Gabbert will be a much better pro than Newton, but what the hell do I know.  Anyways, Chris Johnson is young enough where he has time to allow a rookie to develop, and it gives new head coach Mike Munchak time to get some other pieces in place (aka pass rusher and defensive tackle).

SELECTION: Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri

  1. Dallas (6-10)

No one predicted that the Cowboys would be picking this high in 2011.  In fact, it took heroics from Jon Kitna to move them down to 9th, otherwise they’d be selecting in the top 5.  The Cowboys don’t have as many needs as teams in the top 10 usually do, which can be a curse because you can easily over draft a player to fill a need and then he may not develop into a player worthy of top 10 money.  The Cowboys need help along the offensive line, defensive line, and secondary.  With Amukamara off of the board, protecting Tony Romo becomes the Cowboys’ biggest concern.  Tyron Smith has worked his way up most draft boards to be considered the top offensive tackle available.  Look for him to be the selection is the Cowboys stay at #9.

SELECTION: Tyron Smith, OT USC

  1. Washington (6-10)

Usually calm and calculated Mike Shanahan has created a disastrous situation in Washington.  First McNabb was his guy, then he wasn’t, then he was again, and now he’s being benched for Rex Grossman.  Yes, that Rex Grossman.  Then, Albert Haynesworth was failing conditioning tests and riding the pine for nearly the entire season.  The ‘Skins would be much better off dumping both McNabb and Haynesworth off to another team that is willing to deal with their antics.  Washington has needs at wide receiver, running back, defensive line, and outside linebacker.  With so many needs, grabbing the best available player is the route that the Redskins will go.

SELECTION: Julio Jones, WR Alabama

  1. Houston (6-10)

I had high expectations for the Houston Texans coming into the 2010-2011 season, but inconsistent play led the Texans to a disappointing season, and them sitting with the 11th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  In my opinion, the Texans have enough talent to be a playoff team, but they play in a tough division and their youth often leads to inconsistent play.  The Texans could use help at wide receiver, defensive tackle, and in their secondary.  Kareem Jackson looks to be developing nicely, but the Texans did have the NFL’s worst passing defense in 2010.  If Amukamara is still around at 11, I expect Houston to take a long look at him.  But, with Prince off of the board and Wade Phillips implementing his 3-4 scheme (by the way, finding a place for former #1 overall pick Mario Williams to play may be difficult), I expect the Texans to address a big need they have at the 3-4 defensive end position.

SELECTION: Nick Fairley, DE/DT Auburn

  1. Minnesota (6-10)

The Vikings are another team that is just a few pieces away from contending for a playoff spot.  Sadly for Minnesota, one of those need positions is at quarterback.  Although Minnesota is in a similar situation that the 49ers are in, (a veteran quarterback would be a much better fit than a rookie) the unruly CBA situation isn’t allowing the Vikings to address their quarterback situation in any other way than the draft.  Although I have high hopes for Jake Locker, I think that #12 may be a bit too high to take him.  Therefore, the Vikings look to address their second biggest need, defensive end.

SELECTION: Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson

  1. Detroit (6-10)

Detroit has three huge needs that need to be addressed before they can be expected to compete for a playoff spot on a consistent basis.  The Lions are very weak at cornerback, linebacker, and offensive tackle.  If Amukamara somehow makes it down to #13, he would be a no brainer for Detroit.  There are no 4-3 linebackers that have enough value to be worthy of the 13th pick.  Therefore, the Lions should look to protect their teams most important investment, Matthew Stafford.

SELECTION: Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College

  1. St. Louis (7-9)

The St. Louis Rams are doing everything possible to try persuade other teams to let Julio Jones fall to #14 so they can grab a top wideout for Sam Bradford to throw touchdowns to.  Sorry St. Louis, but after Jones lit up the combine, it doesn’t look like he’ll make it to 14.  Head coach Steve Spagnuolo loves to collect defensive lineman, and with no receiver available, I expect that to be the direction that the Rams go.

SELECTION: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT Temple

  1. Miami (7-9)

The Dolphins have gone from a consistent contender in the AFC East to a team that has a ton of questions on both sides of the ball.  The first decision that needs to be made is whether or not Chad Henne is going to be the quarterback of the present and future in Miami.  That decision could have a big impact on the Dolphins’ draft day direction.  Miami also needs to determine if they are going to attempt and resign free agent running backs Ronnie Brown and/or Ricky Williams.  Aside from quarterback and running back, the Dolphins have holes on the defensive line and at safety.  The Dolphins lack of a running game in 2010 may have already cemented their draft day direction for 2011.  Mike Pouncey may benefit from his brother’s success in the draft, but he is a very good interior lineman.

SELECTION: Mike Pouncey, C/OG Florida

  1. Jacksonville (8-8)

The Jaguars fit into that mold I discussed earlier of teams that just have yet to figure out how to draft decent NFL players.  The Jaguars need help at quarterback, wide receiver, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback, and safety.  David Garrard’s days are all but over in Jacksonville, and I’m not willing to bet any money that Trent Edwards will do anything productive in the NFL.  Defensively, the Jags are a complete mess, but luckily the 2011 draft is littered with defensive line talent.  The Jags could go in a couple different directions, Cameron Jordan is an established defensive end that is a great run stuffer (not to mention he played alongside Tyson Alualu at Cal), while Aldon Smith is a great rusher with questionable run stuffing ability.  When it’s all said in done, the Jags would be well served by going with the guy that can do a bit of everything.

SELECTION: J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin

  1. New England – from Oakland (8-8)

The chances of me correctly determining what the Patriots are going to do in the 2011 NFL Draft are similar to the chances that the Panthers make a good choice with the #1 pick in the draft.  With so many defensive players still on the board, the Patriots could go in several different directions depending on philosophy.  They could go with young and inexperienced, but with a ton of upside in Aldon Smith.  Experienced and scheme fitting like Cameron Jordan or Adrian Clayborn.  Collegiate success with a high motor and football IQ in Ryan Kerrigan.  Your guess is as good is mine, but I’m sticking with the upside.

SELECTION: Aldon Smith, DE Missouri

  1. San Diego (9-7)

San Diego over performed in regards to their talent level for the 2010 season.  Philip Rivers was throwing touchdowns to no name receivers nearly the entire season.  Ryan Mathews didn’t live up to the expectations that were set on him for his rookie season.  Next season, it is likely that the Chargers will be losing Vincent Jackson, and their in-house talent doesn’t look to be enough to consistently fill the void.  Defensively, the Chargers could use help along the defensive line, specifically at nose tackle, and at safety.  Cameron Jordan is a California guy that could fit wonderfully on the end of the Chargers 3-4 scheme

SELECTION: Cameron Jordan, DE California

  1. New York Giants (10-6)

If I was a betting man, my money would be on the Giants going with a defensive lineman.  It seems that every single year, even with needs in other positions, the G-Men always wind up drafting defensive lineman high in the draft.  With so many good d-lineman taken and still available, you can’t really blame them this season, but they have needs at other spots.  The Giants could use to add a linebacker and bolster their offensive line depth.  Akeem Ayers was once considered to be a top 15 prospect, but the emergence of some other players has him sliding a bit.  Either way, Ayers can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 and should be a playmaker in any scheme.

SELECTION: Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA

  1. Tampa Bay (10-6)

The Bucs were one of the most surprising teams in the NFL last season, alongside Kansas City.  I said it before the 2010 season began, I really like what Raheem Morris brings to the table with his youth, energy, and motivational ability.  Morris has the rare ability to relate to his players while still being a disciplinarian.  Although I question the Bucs ability to follow-up their 2010 success with a similar amount in 2011, their young players have made some developmental strides that should have fans in Tampa Bay excited for the future.  Needs for the Bucs are on the defensive line, linebacker, and wide receiver.  Grabbing a pass rusher is the best option here for the Bucs.

SELECTION: Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue

  1. Kansas City (10-6)

Similarly to the Bucs, there is a lot to be excited about in Kansas City.  The Chiefs are one of the younger teams in the NFL, but they have the infrastructure in place to be able to compete for a long time.  With that being said, the Chiefs still have some need positions.  Wide receiver, nose tackle, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, and cornerback are all positions that the Chiefs can address early in the draft.  With so many needs, taking a player at or near the top of your draft board isn’t a bad decision.  Brooks Reed reminds me of a young Mike Vrabel…fitting isn’t it.

SELECTION: Brooks Reed, DE/OLB Arizona

  1. Indianapolis (10-6)

Over the last couple of seasons, the Colts seem to be losing players and not replacing them in typical Colt fashion.  Marvin Harrison retired, and Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon have been dubbed the replacements, but haven’t lived up to high expectations.  Bob Sanders is injured and eventually released, and the Colts passing defense is among the worst in the NFL.  Joseph Addai has been often injured over the last couple of seasons, and Donald Brown has lived up to first round hype.  The Colts have a few major needs heading into the 2011 NFL draft.  Indianapolis has issues on their offensive and defensive lines, as well as at linebacker and cornerback.  At #22, there is still good value available in Colorado’s mammoth offensive tackle Nate Solder (6’8”, 320 lbs).

SELECTION: Nate Solder, OT Colorado

  1. Philadelphia (10-6)

It is looking like Philadelphia has no choice but to stick with Michael Vick after he had such a great 2011 season.  Although Vick’s playing style subjects him to injury more often than most quarterbacks, the Eagles can’t afford to keep Kevin Kolb at the salary that the unproven quarterback will demand.  That being said, the Eagles offense, aside from some interior line questions, looks set up to be a high scoring unit for years.  As is the case over the past few seasons, the Eagles’ most pressing need is at linebacker, but with Ayers off of the board, there aren’t any other 4-3 linebackers with first round value.  The Eagles could look to a variety of other positions on the defensive side of the ball, and they could use an upgrade at cornerback, considering Ellis Hobbs was forced to retire.

SELECTION: Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado

  1. New Orleans (11-5)

After a shocking first round loss to the Seahawks in the playoffs last season, the Saints will be on a mission this season to advance further into the playoffs in 2011.  Offensively, the Saints could use help at running back seeing that Pierre Thomas will be a free agent once a new CBA is reached.  But, finding a running back to compliment Reggie Bush can be accomplished later in the draft.  Defensively, the Saints have a couple of questions, primarily at defensive end and outside linebacker.  Like I’ve mentioned several times before, this draft is littered with defensive ends, so the Saints can grab a top 10 talent player at #24.

SELECTION: Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa

  1. Seattle (7-9)

Pete Carrol should be thanking the first 23 teams that picked for letting Jake Locker fall all the way to #25.  Locker is a supreme talent that was hampered in college by lack of surrounding talent and a switch in offensive schemes.  Locker has the athleticism to keep plays alive and rush for good yardage, while also possessing a cannon of an arm.  With a little coaching, Locker could be a good player in the NFL for many years.

SELECTION: Jake Locker, QB Washington

  1. Baltimore (12-4)

The Baltimore Ravens are an aging team that seems to play with a youthful exuberance unlike any other squad in the league.  Ray Lewis is 36 going on 25, and the rest of the defense follows suit.  Offensively, the Ravens should be good for a few years.  Ray Rice is a stud, Joe Flacco continues to develop, and Anquan Boldin is proving that he is a legitimate top wideout in the NFL.  The Ravens could use some help at wideout, but they can fill out their depth chart in rounds 2-7.  Similarly to many teams previously, the Ravens can take advantage of the depth at two positions in this draft, defensive end and rush outside linebacker.  The Ravens could choose to bolster their front 3, or add a rush linebacker opposite of Terrell Suggs.  In my opinion, the Ravens give Sergio Kindle a year to prove his worth, and stick with another top talent d-end that falls in this draft.

SELECTION: Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State

  1. Atlanta (13-3)

For a 13-3 team, Atlanta has more weaknesses than expected, but then again many of those weaknesses were exposed in their early departure from the playoffs.  Offensive tackle, wide receiver, tight end, defensive end, and cornerback are all needs worthy of top picks in the 2011 NFL draft.  In my opinion, sticking with the highest rated player remaining on their draft board is the way to go with pick #27.

SELECTION: Kyle Rudolph, TE Notre Dame

  1. New England (14-2)

Here we go, my second go around at incorrectly picking what the Pats will do with a first round pick.  At #17, the Pats went with a rush outside linebacker, but Aldon Smith is more of a “project” than a player that can contribute immediately.  With #28, the Pats need someone who can step in and give them solid playing time right as the season starts.  Remaining needs for New England are along the offensive line, defensive line, wide receiver, outside linebacker, and cornerback.  I truly believe that unless Ingram is available at #33, the Pats aren’t looking his way here.  Danny Watkins (OG, Baylor) is a possibility, but drafting a 27-year-old rookie always worries me.  Gabe Carimi could be groomed as Matt Light’s replacement, and he is the best offensive lineman left on the board.

SELECTION: Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin

  1. Chicago (11-5)

Chicago’s biggest area of weakness is at offensive tackle.  Cutler was hit way too many times last season, and if they want to build their team around him, they need to keep him healthy.  After just missing out on Carimi, the Bears move onto one of the most athletic offensive tackles in the 2011 draft.

SELECTION: Derek Sherrod, OT Mississippi State

  1. New York Jets (11-5)

Can’t stand the Jets.  Need help on defense.  Make a bad decision Tannenbaum.

SELECTION: Justin Houston, DE/OLB Georgia

  1. Pittsburgh (12-4)

Unlike the Jets, it often seems like the Steelers just don’t make bad decisions.  Tomlin is the man, end of story.  If Bill Belichick were to be replaced by one coach in the NFL, I’m taking Tomlin.  I wouldn’t even mind having Tomlin now…hold your teams New England…over Belichick.  But, that’s a story for another day.  The Steelers lack of offensive line depth killed them all the way to the Super Bowl.  Again, Danny Watkins is a good player, but 27 is just too old.  Marcus Cannon is an absolute animal (6’5”, 360 lbs) that fits the Steelers system.

SELECTION: Marcus Cannon, OT TCU

  1. Green Bay (10-6)

I predicted the Pack to win the 2010-2011 Super Bowl because of their talent level.  Last season, the Packers sustained a number of huge injuries, and still won the title.  Scary to think how much better they will be once they get the likes of Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, Cullen Jenkins, etc back.  Anyways, the Packers could use some youth along the offensive line, but with Cullen Jenkins possibly hitting free agency, they need to address their front 3.

SELECTION: Corey Liuget, DE/DT Illinois

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