Home > Draft, NFL > LiveBall Sports’ 2011 First Round NFL Mock Draft (Version 1.0)

LiveBall Sports’ 2011 First Round NFL Mock Draft (Version 1.0)

Oct 2, 2010; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly (right) shakes hands with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh after the game at Autzen Stadium. Oregon defeated Stanford 52-31. Photo via Newscom

Posting frequency has been an issue for me of late and will continue to be so for about two more weeks.  So I needed a quick way to get ridiculous amounts of web traffic without having to put in consistent daily time and effort I don’t have into this blog.  You know what that means: it’s mock draft time!  Better yet, it’s the exciting lockout edition of the LiveBall Sports Mock Draft, where we ignore undrafted free agents just like the NFL will in April!

There will likely only be two versions of the LBS mock, meaning I will tinker with this one until within a week of the draft when I start to get whiff of trades that may actually happen.  Then I’ll re-do the whole mock for even more web traffic.  Let’s get started:

1) Carolina Panthers: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

What makes Dareus the first pick of the Ron Rivera era in Carolina?  Well, his versatility makes him a nice building block, because if the Panthers want to make him the cornerstone of their defense, they can build around their defensive line with future selections at the position as well.  Furthermore, this is a class littered with one-year wonders on the defensive line at the top of the draft.  Victims of this label, fairly or unfairly, include Fairley, Bowers, Watt, as well as Clayborn and Quinn, though their “year” was actually 2009.  Quinn had 20 college sacks at UNC and 20 in 2009.  So who are the safest prospects?  The guys who had their production spread out over 2009 and 2010, creating a personal culture of success.  That’s Dareus and Aldon Smith of Missouri.  Smith isn’t a first overall type, but why not Dareus?  He’s the best player in an ultra-strong class, and perhaps the best player in the draft.

This isn’t just about not liking Blaine Gabbert enough, as worse players have gone with the first overall pick in recent years.

2) Denver Broncos: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

I sense that once the Panthers don’t take Gabbert, the Broncos will be able to get out of this pick because the Cardinals will want Gabbert bad enough to move up three spots for him.  There’s good information out there that the Cardinals don’t like Cam Newton, and for them it’s either Gabbert or another position.  After the year they just went through, their second round pick seems like an expendable price to get Gabbert.  I think the guy the Broncos covet is Robert Quinn, but they would feel much more comfortable about getting him at no. 5 than up at no. 2.  He’s a high-risk guy, even by the standard of a top ten pass rusher.  John Fox pass rushers typically have more size than Quinn and Elvis Dumerville, but Quinn certainly fits the “planet theory” that the Broncos will subscribe to under Fox.

3. Buffalo Bills: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

This is the first likely landing spot for Cam Newton, but I just don’t see the Bills pulling the trigger here on Newton.  Gabbert is simply regarded as the better quarterback prospect.  Patrick Peterson would be just as tempting for Buffalo, and while I don’t think the Bills are married to the idea of drafting a quarterback, they have the need, the have the infrastructure where Gabbert wouldn’t have to play right away, and in the NFL, you just need to strike while the iron is hot and pick up the best quarterback you can get while you can.  For the Panthers, you have a chance to see what you have in Jimmy Clausen and if it’s nothing, you’ll be around Andrew Luck territory.  For the Broncos, your entire depth chart is loaded with passers who could be playing somewhere in the NFL, but can’t win in Denver with that defense.  For the Bills: it’s time to draft a quarterback.  Maybe Newton if Gabbert is gone, but he’s not here, so it’s Gabbert.

Cincinnati Bengals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Now here is a potential Cam Newton landing spot.  The Bengals have a need at the position one way or another because while they can hold Carson Palmer’s rights indefinitely, they cannot make him play for them.  If they really buy his retirement threats, Newton makes the most sense here.  But the Bengals have a serious pass rush issue, and they have a huge hole in their starting lineup if Jonathan Joseph walks as expected in free agency.  Peterson fills that hole for the Bengals with a Bengals type of defensive player, and he can return kicks and punts for a year while Adam Jones plays the corner position, likely stepping in for year two.  And god, the Bengals could be so horrible that Andrew Luck is playing QB for them next year.

5) Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

In the event that the Cardinals don’t see enough marginal value in a Blaine Gabbert pick to go up three spots to get him, this is an easy pick when Gabbert and Peterson are both gone.  The Cardinals took an OLB in the second round in 2009 that just didn’t work out for them, Cody Brown from Connecticut.  Miller is far more touted as a player and would start for the Cardinals immediately, which is the one advantage he has over any quarterback.  And like each one of the top five teams except Buffalo, Andrew Luck awaits next year if your team can just manage to be bad enough for sixteen however many more games.

6) Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

Nowhere in the draft does talent and need synthesize better than for the Browns, who will benefit from teams ahead of them not needing WRs to get Green.  I’d watch the sneaky-ness of the Broncos in this situation.  As bad as their defense is, you’d have to expect them to go on that side of the ball, especially after adding Demaryius Thomas in the draft last year.  But WR#2 is a hole on that team and A.J. Green is a rare talent at that position.  He becomes Cleveland’s own if he’s sitting here, but my god, someone has to want A.J. Green in the top five, right?  That’s why no one is talking about him, right?

7) San Francisco 49ers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

I don’t know how many league insiders expect Jim Harbaugh to take on Cam Newton as a project, but for San Francisco, a new quarterback makes sense this year.  Never underestimate the hubris of the NFL head coach, because as a former quarterback himself, Harbaugh knows what a guy like Cam Newton must do to succeed at the pro level.  The common mistake here is assuming oneself is the missing piece that will help get player X to production level Y.  Harbaugh’s been mum on his quarterback situation, but Newton projects as a top five pick right now, so the value — at least the draft value — makes sense for the 49ers at no. 7.

8 ) Tennessee Titans: JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

A perfect fit in the Titans’ prized defensive line, Watt slots in on the left side and causes nightmares for quarterbacks Peyton Manning, David Garrard, and Matt Schaub.  Or at least, that’s the best case scenario.  Watt isn’t really the 5-technique people see when they look at his height and weight.  He’s an edge player, and I expect the Titans to realize this.

9) Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT, USC

The Cowboys need the OL help worse than maybe any other team in the league, and what Tyron Smith brings to the table is unquestioned ability and a good projection.  Because of the Doug Free/Marc Columbo duo, the very young Smith doesn’t have to start immediately, but Free is on a one-year tender and Columbo is about a year away from not being able to move.  Smith will likely be forced into duty this year for the Cowboys thanks to an injury, because that’s just the way the Cowboys OL works.  He’s unlikely to give up the job at that point.

10) Washington Redskins: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri

Smith is a developmental project of sorts, but the production he showed as Missouri’s most dominant defensive player the last two years is very real, and this is a good pick at no. 10 for a Redskins’ franchise that needs the added pass rush help in 2011, and a full time started in 2012.  Smith could end up being the best defensive player in this draft.  He has that kind of ability.

11) Houston Texans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

It may not be the wisest move of the Texans to give up on Amobi Okoye entirely, but the Texans are clearly starting to grow impatient, and on the back of the strength of this defensive line class, the Texans need to find a way to generate immediate returns to get after quarterbacks in the AFC South.  Fairley isn’t supposed to be here at this point in the draft, so why the heck not draft him if you’re the Houston Texans?

12) Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

This is a name that’s being floated now in the middle of the first round, and the Vikings offer both the opportunity to get Ponder on the field right away, and to develop him in a timely matter so that his age 23 rookie season can be a success, and so that Ponder can achieve franchise QB status going into 2012.  Handing the ball to Adrian Peterson and throwing to Sidney Rice: there is real potential for a prolific rookie season here.

13) Detroit Lions: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Carimi is the Jeff Backus clone in this draft, and he’s exactly the kind of player the Lions (who got 16 starts from 4 of their 5 offensive linemen next year) need to take the next step as an offense.  Julio Jones is also in play here if the Lions like him enough.

14) St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

I don’t really see the Rams moving up for Jones, just doesn’t seem like their style.  But if he falls all the way to them, then why not?  This has moved beyond a weakness of the Rams, rather, it qualifies as an epidemic of poor receiver play.  I don’t like Jones as a no. 1 WR in the NFL, but he instantly becomes the top option for Sam Bradford to throw to with this pick.

15) Miami Dolphins: Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal

I’ve heard the Dolphins are a lock to take Mark Ingram here.  Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense though.  They could certainly use the weaponry, but that’s not really the Dolphins style to make that pick.  Cameron Jordan fills a hole in the defensive front for the Fins.  Plus, think about it mock draft-ers: if the Dolphins took Ingram, where would they be able to find the time to practice the 2-yard tunnel screen to Brandon Marshall.  That’s a freaking staple of the offense, you know.

16) Jacksonville Jaguars: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Have you seen the state of the Jags secondary over, oh, the past four years?  The Jags have proven that they will move up to grab a player they covet, and that’s likely going to be the case here with Amukamara.

17) New England Patriots (from Oakland): Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

The long-term Richard Seymour replacement, drafted, of course, with the pick obtained for Richard Seymour.  Nothing could exemplify “the Patriot way” any better.

18) San Diego Chargers: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

I think the Chargers realize that they aren’t deep enough at the tackle position despite having a quarterback who has a Manning-esque feel for the rush and perhaps an even better ability to absorb a hit and deliver the football.  Castonzo would play right tackle for the Chargers, but the real value in this pick is his value to the running game and ability to have a left tackle should anything happen to Marcus McNeill.

19) New York Giants: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

I’m skeptical about Ingram, considering how much Toby Gerhart struggled as a rookie for the Vikings, and considering how comparable they were as college players.  Ingram isn’t as toolzy as a typical Heisman winner, and has a reliance on the offensive line to make his patience pay off with big runs.  The Giants system will be perfect for him.

20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

There’s a lot of 3-4 teams right in the middle of the draft this year, which is bad for Bowers because if he gets out of the top 10, he could slide down the board.  The Bucs need a pass rusher, and should have their choice of a bunch of the Big Ten’s leaders and legends should Bowers be gone before this.

21) Kansas City Chiefs: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

The Chiefs made the playoffs last year with a dreadful defensive line.  This year, they’ll miss the playoffs with a much improved front three.

22) Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

The Colts did just draft Jerry Hughes last year, but Kerrigan will be more complementary than an obstruction.  You can’t have too many pass rushers when you play the Colts style of defense.  This, actually, may prove that.

23) Philadelphia Eagles: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

A second corner may be the Eagles biggest need this offseason, and Harris has the no. 1 CB potential to succeed Asante Samuel at the position.

24) New Orleans Saints: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

When you’re Gregg Williams defense, you can never have enough corners.  The third year in a row the Saints pick a corner in the first round, the spot on the roster opens because of Malcolm Jenkins’ permanent move to free safety.

25) Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

A new offense requires a new quarterback, and here the Seahawks spurn hometown Jake Locker to make Mallett the fourth QB taken in the first round.

26) Baltimore Ravens: Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

This pick should officially close the Jared Gaither era in Baltimore.

27) Atlanta Falcons: Stefan Wisnewski, C, Penn State

The defense is in better shape than people believe, and so the Falcons find the guy who can take over as the centerpiece of their line in 2012.

28) New England Patriots: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia

Houston is a freakish athlete and would become New England’s best pass rusher shortly.

29) Chicago Bears: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

If any OL coach can make Solder a field-ready player as a rookie, it’s Mike Tice.

30) New York Jets: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida

Pouncey becomes the teams’ LG and then Vlad Ducasse heads back outside to relieve Damien Woody as he slowly succumbs to age.

31) Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Ilijana, OT, Villanova

Ilijana gives the Steelers immediate line help wherever they most need it, and he becomes the 6th OT and 8th OL taken in the first round.

32) Green Bay Packers: Jabaal Sheard, OLB, Pittsburgh

Frank Zombo was a great find as a rookie who played a role on a championship team, but the Packers can really get the most out of their 3-4 by adding another pass rusher to the mix.

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