The Football Expert: 2011 NFL Mock Draft by Gregory Cox - 2 Rounds

2011 NFL Mock Draft

by Gregory Cox
Senior Writer
January 25, 2011

My friends, the time has come to mock the draft. The time has also come for you to mock me. If it entertains you and brings you happiness by all means go for it. Honestly, these are never easy for me. I always have a player too low, too high or off entirely. This is especially true in January. It gives me heartburn just thinking about it. I'm hoping for some great emails informing me that Cam Newton declared for the draft since I don't have him in my 32. Those should be fun to read at greg@thefootballexpert.com.

As always, a mock draft is a blend of what I think a team should do and what they will do. They are also a combination of perceived value compared to my personal value on a player. There is no perfect formula for this. I should close this intro by stating that this is a mock draft. I am not curing any disease, settling the conflict in the Middle East or feeding the hungry. Lighten up and enjoy it because these are always purely for entertainment purposes.

1. CAR: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Sure, popular opinion is that the Panthers are crestfallen over Andrew Luck's decision to finish his education at Stanford. Chin up, fans. In this division with teams quarterbacked by Ryan, Brees and Freeman is it really a stretch to envision this franchise right back at #1 overall again next year? If Luck again decides to go back to Stanford then it might be time to panic. Anyway, Ron Rivera is the new head coach and they hope to have a new Julius Peppers on board. Those are unrealistic expectations to put on Bowers
2. DEN: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Josh McDaniels has left the building and two Johns, his replacement Fox and executive Elway, have offices. That should give devoted fans something to feel good about going forward. This draft is loaded on the defensive line. The Broncos play in a division with three teams that basically push them around offensively at the moment. Other than their 10-6 loss to the Chiefs this defense gave up 29+ points in five division games and even including that performance the season average was 34.1 points allowed. The quickest way to slow down opponents is with a disruptor on the line. We'll see how Fairley does in the interviews because personally I could see him falling to the teens if red flags pop up. He was certainly a yellow flag (as in personal foul) guy for the BCS champs
3. BUF: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Mock drafts in May are always going to be an (even more) silly exercise. Just after the 2010 draft was in the books I went for it and had Mallett going to the Bills who I projected to pick #6. Now all indications are the team will roll with Fitzpatrick as their starter this season. Backup is a bigger question mark as they see how last year's seventh round pick (Levi Brown) and Green Bay's former second rounder (Brian Brohm) develop. Fitzpatrick is only 28 and did throw for precisely 3,000 yards in 13 games with 23 touchdown passes. The 20 turnovers were the problem. Either way, he is the man so that's that. Now back to what they actually will do. Clearly Maybin was a bust and they need to stop missing in the first round. They also need to find a serious pass rush threat because no one really believes Merriman will ever be 'lights out' again
4. CIN: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
It is very possible both members of the TOcho Show will not be members of the Bengals. Owens is almost certainly out and Ochocinco's future is tenuous at best. When the divas were sidelined late in the year Carson Palmer looked like a new man. Going with Green as a potential #1 option puts the veteran back in charge of the offense instead of the tail wagging the dog so to speak. They already have Shipley, Caldwell and Simpson who combined for 97 receptions. Maybe it hurts to lose any veteran presence, but at least now Palmer can throw the ball wherever he wants
5. AZ: Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
Quick, who was this team's sack leader? Stumped? It's Calais Campbell. When a guy listed at three bills is leading your team with 6 sacks it might be time to look for another pass rusher. Haggans and Porter each had 5 on the outside linebacker spots where sack masters roam. Both will be 33 when the Cards are on the clock. Quinn is a consideration if he is on the board, and quite frankly I am uncomfortable having them go to the next player on the board at the position. These sticky situations arise all the time in mock drafts and it leads to angry emails. Fire away until I figure out a better direction for the Cards to take. I don't feel like quarterback is the call at this point if you're curious and why wouldn't you be? They were awful last year post-Warner, but having gotten a look at their rookies Hall and Skelton it might be better to fish around for a veteran option. Given that this team could be really bad in 2010 there might be a little Luck in their future
6. CLE: Marcel Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama
There are splashier picks for the Browns to be sure. Setting up a tandem at corner with LSU's Peterson certainly comes to mind. A hot #1 wide receiver? Well, sometimes 'boring' is the right move. In case you haven't noticed this is a pretty physical division they are stuck in. Winning at the line of scrimmage has to be their first priority unless they are happy with third place because Baltimore and Pittsburgh will be tough as nails physically up front
7. SF: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
I have no idea if Peterson stays on the board this 'long'. If he does the 49ers would love it. None of the youth at the cornerback position has panned out thus far. Their defense would be immensely improved with a player capable of making plays on the back end. Cleveland's Joe Haden (Florida) played very well as a rookie after going #7 and they hope for a similar impact here at the same spot. There is always a chance Harbaugh takes a liking to one of the quarterbacks in this class, but right now I'm not feeling it
8. TEN: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
This is a really interesting quarterback class. I would have predicted a return for Gabbert and Luck declaring for the draft, but the opposite was true. Now no one really knows the order of the top handful of passers and exactly how high they will go. What we do know is that a lot of teams not qualifying for the playoffs (not a coincidence) picking in the top 20 are looking for a new signal caller. Jeff Fisher has enough juice to grab someone he thinks can be the future while surviving 2011 with someone else at the helm. Am I sold on Gabbert at this point? Read the second sentence of this paragraph and I think you will have the answer. Someone is going to fall for his potential
9. DAL: Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California
I am not a 'look at this crazy pick!' kind of guy, so this is a dead serious projection. Last year no one (including me even though I was quite familiar with him) expected Tyson Alualu to be a top 10 pick and that turned out pretty well. His teammate already has more draft momentum and would not be as surprising in this spot. Anyone who has watched a Cal game can see how disruptive Jordan is. Maybe the Cowboys grab another corner, but I prefer them addressing the problem on the front end
10. WAS: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
The interior of the offensive line needs to be addressed, but this is the top 10 so that area is on the shelf for the time being. They need a pass rusher to bookend Orakpo who was the only player with more than 3 sacks. The combination of ex-Cal Bears Alexander and Carter did not work out in their new 3-4. However, with Quinn and Miller off the board that is out the window. It would be crazy fun for Locker going from Washington to, well, Washington wouldn't it? Quarterback is still up in the air because while the papers have yet to be filed Shanahan and McNabb appear to be heading for a divorce. A lot of people are already conceding they jump on replacement right here, even suggesting Cam Newton is the guy. Can you picture Shanahan rubber stamping that move? I can't. For now, let's talk receiving options. Moss, their tight end Cooley and who exactly? Armstrong was a nice deep threat. Kelly and Thomas were busts from the 2008 class. Those misses won't deter the new regime. He has some drop problems, but I still like Jones quite a bit. Sue me
11. HOU: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Do they throw more youth at a position already loaded with it? Conventional wisdom says no and while I have been conflicted on this since rookies just made a positive impact (McCourty, Haden) right now I'm going in another direction. There is also the matter of switching to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. They are going to need some players to make that work. This defense was destroyed through the air this season to the tune of 4,280 yards and 33 touchdowns against just 13 interceptions. It is fair to blame the secondary, but where was the pass rush? Someone has to harass the quarterback and this might be too high for Ayers so we'll see how the process shakes out
12. MIN: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Suddenly the Vikings are pretty thin at wide receiver. Looking at strictly production, Harvin's sophomore campaign (out of the slot) accounted for a huge chunk of their yardage at the position this season. Rice missed most of the year due to injury, Moss made a token appearance for a handful of games before being cut and Berrian continued to be mostly invisible. Mixing in the two Gregs (Camarillo, Lewis) and the group of five totaled only 95 receptions for 1,143 yards and 5 touchdowns. Harvin missed a couple of games and still got close to that on his own (71-868-5). They need someone to lean on, especially if Rice leaves in free agency and don't get me started on the CBA nightmare. All of that being said, with Green and Jones gone while quarterback prospects are on the board their decision making process changes. Joe Webb did some nice things late in the season, but head coach Leslie Frazier wants a real answer at the position. The rumor buzz about Josh McDaniels signing on as OC (before he took the position in St. Louis) led some to wonder if Tebow would be reunited with Harvin via trade. Locker is a similar prospect in terms of mobility. I have no idea where he goes in the first round, but I'm okay sticking him here at the moment. Until I learn otherwise I view him as the best leader of the top quarterback prospects
13. DET: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Lions won their way out of position to draft Peterson and he would have been a virtual lock to them if available. There is a chance Amukamara is also snatched up before they pick here. If he is not there should be very little thought required before turning in the card. Delmas is a budding star at safety, when healthy Levy looks good and Suh just had a killer rookie season. Having a quality player in the middle at all three levels gives the defense something to build around. They need a star corner if they ever want to compete with Green Bay for the North title while Rodgers is quarterbacking the Packers
14. STL: Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
Justin Blackmon decided to return for another season at Oklahoma State, which ruined a great writeup I had in this space about the hilarity of him being drafted higher than Dez Bryant. He has some nerve. Wide receiver is the biggest problem for them and in a better scenario I would have someone at that position for them here. Some sort of relief for Steven Jackson is also an issue, but I don't see the logic in spending such a high pick on a complementary player. Instead, how about some help blowing up holes inside for Jackson to run through? Pouncey's twin Maurkice went right around this point last year to the Steelers. Unless their genes were split similar to the movie Twins with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito that is pretty good news for his draft stock although he needs to stay at guard whereas his brother is a center. Admittedly this looks like a reach
15. MIA: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Should teams wait until the later rounds to take a running back? It seems like an idea with, pardon the pun, legs after this season. This year 17 players had at least 1,000 yards rushing. The bookends of that list were the NFL leader (Foster) and a rookie (Blount). Three others were taken in the seventh round or not at all, and Turner was taken in the fifth round. On the other side of that coin 6 of the top rushers went in the first round and 5 more were second rounders which represents 65% of the list. I don't think teams are ready to give up taking them early just yet. Brown and Williams combined for a disappointing 1,407 yards on 359 carries. Their inability to run the ball put too much pressure on Henne passing it and he committed 21 turnovers. Now that I've brought that up, if they like a replacement for him here that is the call
16. JAX: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
If Jack Del Rio had been shown the door I would almost certainly project a quarterback here. However, no head coach facing the ultimatum of making the playoffs or getting a pink slip is going to spend a first round pick on a quarterback of the future. Suffice it to say drafting at defensive end has been a sore spot for the Jaguars of late. They did get a hit on the interior of the defensive line last year with their 'they did what?!' pick Alualu. This could be another risky choice because Smith is seen as a freak athlete. In draft cliches that reads as boom or bust. They already have the latter in Harvey
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