Our 2011 NFL Draft coverage continues in this multipart series of mock drafts prepared by Bruno Boys staff writers Brad Berreman, Cory Steger and James Ronstadt. Brad, Cory and James will provide individual predictions and analysis on each team’s critical first draft pick in Round 1 of the 2011 NFL Mock Draft.
Here is Bruno Boys Brad Berreman’s initial take on Round 1 of the 2011 NFL Draft:
1. Carolina Panthers - Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
New Panthers head coach Ron Rivera will likely want to start building a solid defense as soon as possible and Fairley seems like a good starting point. Fairley is arguably the most talented player in this draft, but his maturity could be called into question with some problematic on-field conduct. Some might also consider him to be a one-year wonder, given that his production increased dramatically last season. Fairley is probably just too talented to fall very far in this draft, if he does at all.
Other Possibilities: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn; Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
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2. Denver Broncos - Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Denver had one of the league’s worst defenses in 2010, a fact that new head coach John Fox will surely want to rectify quickly through the addition of a pass rusher like Bowers. Although he had surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus not too long ago, Bowers is slated to hold a private work out on April 1 and that should prove to scouts that he’s healthy. If the knee is not an issue and he has a strong workout, then he would make for a potent defensive end tandem with Elvis Dumervil, who missed all of 2010 with a torn pectoral muscle.
Other Possibilities: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn; Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
3. Buffalo Bills - Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Buffalo had the league’s worst run defense last season and Dareus not only fills an immediate and glaring need, his experience at Alabama and its 3-4 defensive scheme makes him a good fit in the Bills. His upside may not be as great as Fairley’s; however he could be the more versatile of the two. The fact that a team drafting this high needs a player like Dareus could result in three consecutive defensive linemen off the board to kick off April’s draft.
Other Possibilities: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn; Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
4. Cincinnati Bengals - A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Bengals clearly need a wide receiver, with Terrell Owens gone after just one season and Chad Ochocinco getting older. Although Green didn’t have as impressive a workout as Alabama’s Julio Jones did at the NFL Scouting Combine, Green has tremendous upside and is still the top wide receiver in the 2011 Draft class. Bringing Green aboard could be enough to convince quarterback Carson Palmer to continue to play despite his retirement threats. Well, okay. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch.
Other Possibilities: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri; Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
5. Arizona Cardinals - Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
The Cardinals need a pass-rushing outside linebacker and Miller fits that bill (27.5 sacks over his final two collegiate seasons). He’s also capable in pass coverage, a skill that’s a must-have in 3-4 defensive schemes similar to the one that Arizona uses. The Cardinals could also target a quarterback of the future here as well, but Miller may be too tantalizing a talent to pass up. Some scouts think that he’s a “workout warrior” and has the potential to be a major bust at the next level.
Other Possibilities: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas; Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
6. Cleveland Browns - Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Although Quinn was suspended for all of the 2010 season for taking improper benefits from an agent, his character is generally not in question. The Browns clearly need playmakers on offense, but defensive end is also a big need as their current group is aging and not particularly impressive. Quinn is a raw prospect, but Cleveland may see his potential as simply too good to pass over.
Other Possibilities: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
7. San Francisco 49ers - Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Peterson had an impressive showing at the NFL Combine, displaying impressive speed (4.34 second 40-yard dash) along with good size (219 pounds). The 49ers have a major need at cornerback with Nate Clements clearly in decline as a cover man and little else as far as proven talent at the position. Patterson is the best corner in the 2011 NFL Draft, and there’s a chance that he is gone by this pick. In any case, San Francisco could go defense with this pick even though quarterback should be considered an obvious need as well.
Other Possibilities: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina; Cameron Jordan, DE, California
8. Tennessee Titans - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Heading into the 2011 season, the Titans will have a new head coach as Mike Munchak replaces Jeff Fisher. Expect the Tennessee to target their quarterback of the future as the franchise looks ready to move on from Vince Young once and for all. Gabbert is one the top signal callers available, and by all appearances, he does not have the significant downside of Cam Newton. Most people consider him the top-rated passer in this draft, and there’s a good chance that Gabbert will be the first quarterback off the board.
Other Possibilities: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas; Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
9. Dallas Cowboys - Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The Cowboys clearly missed offensive tackle Flozell Adams last season and Smith could be simply too talented for Jerry Jones to resist. He played right tackle in college, but is considered athletic enough to easily make the transition to left tackle at the next level. The fact that he dropped out of the NFL Combine early is a concern; however he said that he is recovering from a knee injury that caused him to miss one game in 2010. At 20 years old, he is one of the youngest players eligible in this year’s draft, and might have the most upside of any offensive tackle in this year’s crop.
Other Possibilities: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
10. Washington Redskins - Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Questions about Newton’s character and NFL readiness may lead to him falling out of the top five. With the Redskins in need of a quarterback of the future, it’s hard to imagine him falling past this pick with Mike Shanahan as head coach and owner Dan Snyder’s desire to make a splash. While Newton has immense potential, he also comes with tremendous downside as he did not play in a pro-style offense at Auburn. If Newton proves that he’s willing to work hard, then this could look like a relative steal for Washington down the road.
Other Possibilities: Jake Locker, QB, Washington; Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
11. Houston Texans - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Texans had the league’s worst pass defense in 2010, so it’s safe to say their biggest Draft Day need is the secondary. Amukamara has the size (6’0, 205 pounds) and speed (4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine) to potentially become a starter immediately. In any case, Houston should be happy if they get the second-best cornerback available.
Other Possibilities: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina; Cameron Jordan, DE, California
12. Minnesota Vikings - Jake Locker, QB, Washington
The Vikings clearly need to address the quarterback position and Locker may qualify as the most talented option available at this pick. He played in a pro-style offense under head coach Steve Sarkisian at Washington, and appears to have the makeup and willingness to work on his perceived shortcomings. Locker’s poor showing at the Senior Bowl hurt his stock, but a nice showing at the NFL Combine certainly helped him bounce back. While Minnesota could go in another direction here – an offensive tackle is another option – the need for a franchise quarterback should supersede any others.
Other Possibilities: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado; Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
13. Detroit Lions - Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
With quarterback Matt Stafford proving to be brittle during his first two NFL seasons, the Lions have to make offensive tackle a priority with Gosder Cherilus coming off a knee injury and Jeff Backus not getting any younger. Castonzo is widely thought of as the top offensive tackle available. Plus he’s considered a high-character guy who seemingly has little downside and could play either tackle spot at the next level.
Other Possibilities: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (Fla.), Tyron Smith, OT, USC
14. St. Louis Rams - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Jones had an excellent showing at the NFL Combine, as he ran a 4.39 second 40-yard dash, and then had surgery to repair a fracture in his left foot immediately afterward. The Rams need a go-to guy for quarterback Sam Bradford, and Jones may fall to them at this pick due to concerns about his durability. The dynamic receiver was often slowed by injuries during his collegiate career. His fall down the first round could be compared to Michael Crabtree’s situation in 2009 when the former Texas Tech star had a similar injury heading into the draft.
Other Possibilities: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri; Cameron Jordan, DE, California
15. Miami Dolphins - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
With Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams slated to become free agents, there’s a strong possibility that one or both could be gone in 2011,leaving the Dolphins in dire need of a running back. Ingram’s build and lack of measurable speed reminds some of all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith. Though this is obviously a lofty comparison, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner at the very least seems more than capable of being a workhorse at the next level. His father is former New York Giants wide receiver Mark Ingram, so he has NFL bloodlines.
Other Possibilities: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
16. Jacksonville Jaguars - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Jacksonville allowed the most points to opponents (419) in franchise history last season and common sense dictates that they really need pass rushers. Watt had seven sacks and 21 tackles for a loss in his final collegiate season, and he has the size (6’6”, 290 pounds) to play anywhere along the Jaguars’ 4-3 defensive line. The Jaguars should use a second straight first-round pick on a defensive lineman, the only question might be who they choose.
Other Possibilities: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue; Cameron Jordan, DE, California
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) - Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida
18. San Diego Chargers - Cameron Jordan, DE, California
19. New York Giants - Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
21. Kansas City Chiefs - Stefen Wisniewski, C/OG, Penn State
22. Indianapolis Colts - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
23. Philadelphia Eagles - Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
24. New Orleans Saints - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
25. Seattle Seahawks - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
26. Baltimore Ravens - Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
27. Atlanta Falcons -Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
28. New England Patriots - Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
29. Chicago Bears - Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
30. New York Jets - Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
31. Pittsburgh Steelers - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
32. Green Bay Packers - Danny Watkins, OG/OT, Baylor