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This is the final effort to try to predict the coming 2011 NFL draft. As Andy mentioned, we’ll do a contest between us and anyone who submits one for who gets the most right, I’ll explain the point system later, but this is going to be a long post anyway so we’ll skip it.

1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

The Panthers will go for the fences this year and they may have the team to protect Newton. They’ve got a strong offensive line and solid running game. Their defense isn’t quite up to keeping them in games without some play-making from Newton. Newton’s ceiling is highest, but he’s the most unpolished of the quarterbacks in the 1st round, and the Panthers have to find some help for Newton at WR and TE in the draft.

2. Denver Broncos – Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama

The Broncos cut almost all their interior defensive linemen before the lockout and that leaves them incredibly thin at the position. As I said before, I really don’t see this pick going any other way. Peterson could fit, but there’s not a big gap between him and Dareus (1 and 2 on my board), and Dareus is such a bigger need for the team this year.

3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

If the Panthers go with Gabbert, this will be Cam Newton, but with Newton gone the Bills will look towards defense where they have no presence whatsoever. Mayock loves his lean, I love his play recognition. He’s a bit small to be a good run support guy, but he can bulk up and get after the quarterback year one. Sadly, he’s about the only 3-4 piece the Bills have currently.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

A lot of people are projecting Gabbert to slip a little bit more than this, but I think the Bengals are really looking to get a hold of him. Gabbert fits perfectly in a west coast scheme because he has good short throw accuracy and a quick release. They’ve kicked the tires on all the quarterbacks, but have managed to keep their interest level pretty low. If they don’t snag Gabbert, they’ll get a hold of A.J. Green. It’s offense this year for the Bengals.

5. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Best case scenario for Arizona – Judge Nelson rules the season underway. They trade with Philadelphia this pick and maybe a 3rd for Kevin Kolb, while moving down. Until that’s a possibility they’ve got three options. Pass Rusher, or one of the two best players on board. The Cardinals look to go either A.J. Green or Peterson, but I give the edge to Peterson because multiple sources are saying the Cardinals are leaning defense. He’ll fit nicely opposite DRC or as a ball hawk safety if he can’t cut it as a corner.

6. Cleveland Browns – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

If things shake out this way, the Browns will be ecstatic . A. J. Green will terrify defenses and provide McCoy with something to target. Green is a blue chip (one of 4 in this class – Peterson, Miller, Dareus) and will be elite in the vein of Calvin Johnson. He ought to put up big numbers despite young quarterback play.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

San Francisco may make a move up to try to secure Peterson if they get wind that Arizona is leaning him. Here they miss out on him and Gabbert. They have the ammunition to move back into the 1st later to get a quarterback so they’ll look defense here. Their options are Quinn and Amukamara. With this being a deeper defensive line draft and particularly thin at CB, and some debate over whose a better corner, this is a sound pick for them

8. Tennessee Titans – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

The Titans definitely need a quarterback, but I don’t think they like Locker as much as some people think and are leaning more to the Dalton, Mallet, Ponder group. I expect them to get a quarterback in the first round, but they’ll move back in at the end of the round to get one. Here they’ll work on their defensive line with Fairley. They’ve got experience with defensive tackles that need motivation so they should be able to get more out of a Fairley than most teams.

9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith, OT, USC

This is the year Jerry Jones breaks his trend. Amukamara is on the board, but they’ll address the offensive line first. Jones talked about having premiere tackles most of his time at the helm of the Cowboys, but he lacks that right now. Smith will compete with Free and likely take over the role of protecting Romo’s blind side sooner rather than later.

10. Washington Redskins –  Robert Quinn, OLB, UNC

The Redskins have a slew of directions to go. Ideally, they’ll move down. Since the Redskins and Vikings lack draft picks and both want Locker but are generally too high to get him, both will exhaust all avenues to move down in this draft. If they can’t, the Redskins will look defensively to try to pair Quinn with Orakpo and create a fearsome duo rushing the passer.

11. Houston Texans – Aldon Smith, OLB, MIssouri

The Texans have been talked about as a team that’ll trade up for Peterson or Amukamara. Look for the 49ers to be a likely trading partner, or the Cardinals. If they can’t get a deal done, Smith is a good pickup to be their rush linebacker in a new 3-4 scheme. He’ll remind Phillips of Demarcus Ware.

12. Minnesota Vikings – Jake Locker, QB, Washington

While I won’t rule out the Redskins reaching for Locker at 10, I think it’s more likely that the Vikings will do it. The Redskins have a mess of picks at the back-end, sure they won’t end up with starters, but they can add some depth there,. The Vikings are lacking that and have an old team that’s really desperate for some good QB play to keep them in the mix, the Redskins are rebuilding (even if they won’t admit it). I still think they’ll work to move down as well, but if they cannot, they will pull the trigger here.

13. Detroit Lions – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

This is a tough pick for me. Best player on the board is Julio Jones, but doesn’t fit a real big need (thought it could look really good to have Calvin + Julio for a few years). Bowers is an elite talent, but there’s a lot of people talking about him plummeting. This would also be a good point for a WR needy team to move up. If the Lions can get a bidding war for Julio Jones they may be best off. Otherwise they’ll take Bowers and pair him with Suh, who I think could motivate him enough to scare some NFC North teams.

14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

I don’t expect the Rams to get Jones here, but I think they’ll work to get him. That might entail moving up with Vikings or Skins or Lions if they can wait that long and snag him. If they don’t a team like the Patriots or Chargers could sneak by and snag an elite wide out.

15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, G, Florida

There’s been rumors the Steelers are looking to move up. Pick 15 might be too high for them to get to, but if they’re serious (and it sounds like they are) they may send a fair amount to get a hold of Pouncey. More like, in my mind, is that the Dolphins will shop this pick and if they can’t find a team with a need to get here they’ll go with Pouncey to keep pace with their run game.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

I feel I’ve had the Jaguars looking at Kerrigan for a while now. He’s a blue-collar worker at the end position that won’t make mistakes. They need to improve their pass rusher in a division that features Manning and Schuab.

to be continued.

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