2011 NFL Mock Draft – Top 10 Picks
Tony’s Top 10:
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton led Auburn to the BCS National Title in 2010 and won the Heisman Trophy. Newton is a great athlete, with major potential. Newton also comes with a lot of risks; He has played only 1 season of D1 Football, in a spread offense, where he was not asked to take the ball from center, or read defenses in a back pedal. He is not familiar with NFL terminology or how to call a play because of the simplistic play calling at Auburn, his mechanics need work and his accuracy is lacking. All of these things will need to be mastered to be successful in the NFL, but will take him a few years. Time the Panthers don’t have, and would be better off taking a player that can contribute right away. Also, he was dismissed from Florida for multiple incidences of academic dishonesty, allegedly was in possession of a stolen laptop, his father was involved in a “Pay for Play” scandal, concerning Cam’s recruitment to Auburn, all things NFL teams would see as taking shortcuts. Newton is not NFL ready, and poses a major risk to be another draft bust.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Dareus is best known for his hit that knocked QB Colt McCoy out of the 2009 BCS Championship game. He has played in a 3-4 at Alabama and is best suited for a nose guard position but is athletic enough, to play 4-3 defensive tackle as well. He is strong against the run at the point of attack and can get up field, into the offensive backfield on pass plays. Dareus was suspended for the first 2 games of the 2010 season for contact with a sports agent. Denver has been talking about taking a QB, to boost interest for a trade, but if they keep the 2nd pick they are in much need of a boost on defense, Dareus, Von Miller, or Patrick Peterson would be great picks for the Broncos.
3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A & M
Miller’s job is to get to the QB, he was the nation’s best linebacker in 2010. He played a DE/OLB hybrid position at Texas A&M but will most likely be an OLB in a 3-4 system in the NFL. He is a great pass rusher, and can step in and contribute from day 1. Miller needs to improve his run stopping, and he was never really asked to drop into pass coverage in college. The Bills have lacked a pass rush for some time, and may be hesitant to use another top pick on a pass rusher after missing on Aaron Maybin, 2 years ago. The Bills also signed Shawn Merriman after he was released by the Chargers, but he was unable to contribute due to injury and likely will not return to his pre-injury dominance. Buffalo could also look for a QB at this spot.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley played 2 seasons at Auburn; he had a breakout season in 2010, making impact plays that drove up his draft stock. He is a great athlete, who can play anywhere along the defensive line. There is some concern that he was a 1 year wonder in college. He loses focus during games, and has a reputation as a dirty player due to late hit penalties. His work ethic has been questioned as teams are concerned he may get lazy once he is paid NFL money. The Bengals could also look to replace Carson Palmer with a QB or draft WR AJ Green at this spot, but Green doesn’t make much sense if there is nobody to throw him the ball. Fairley seems the most NFL-ready and most able help the Bengals this year.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Gabbert offers great size, and possesses NFL arm strength and accuracy. Gabbert played in a spread offense at Mizzou, and will face questions about taking snaps from center and reading defenses, much like Newton and the other top QBs coming out of college these days. Gabbert didn’t put up eye-popping numbers while in college, and appeared hesitant to air the ball out, preferring to make shorter high-percentage throws. Gabbert would be a good fit in Arizona, as they are in desperate need of a QB, and have had success using some spread formations, (before Kurt Warner retired in 2009) providing a chance for Gabbert to have early success. Gabbert is also known to be a hard worker and film junkie.
6. Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Green was able to dominate in the SEC from the minute he stepped on campus; the only thing to stop him were injuries in 2009 and a 4 game suspension (selling a jersey) in 2010. He offers great height and speed. Green’s best asset, as they should be, are his great hands. One of the few college WRs to put up big stats in a pro-style offense as opposed to a spread. Green has been compared talent-wise to a young Randy Moss. He should be able to contribute right away for the Browns who lack any impact weapons in the passing game. There is a good chance Green could be gone at this point and the Browns could take the next best WR, Alabama’s Julio Jones or CB Patrick Peterson.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
One of the best defensive players in 2010, Peterson is considered the most complete player in the draft. He performed at a high level in the SEC having played against this year’s top 2 WR prospects (Green, & Jones). He has great speed (4.3), good height (6’0) and size (219 lbs.) for a corner and could play free safety if needed. Peterson is a shutdown corner in man coverage, plays the run effectively and makes good tackles. Peterson is a great athlete; there are few, if any, negatives in selecting him.
8. Tennessee Titans: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Quinn was a starter at UNC from the 2nd game of his freshman year until his career ended due to NCAA suspension (agent contact). Some teams will worry that Quinn did not play football in 2010, and he has some health concerns, having had a brain tumor removed while in high school. Quinn was a DE/OLB hybrid player in college and will be best suited as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. He is a great athlete, but is not an elite pass rusher. He holds his own against the run, but wasn’t asked to drop into pass coverage. The Titans are in need of a QB, and also have been linked to DT Nick Fairley; they may look to trade this pick.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Smith was a 2 year starter at right tackle at USC, but is expected to play left tackle in the NFL, which is a concern. Typically, your LT, is your best lineman – used to cover your right-handed QB’s blind side – and Matt Barkley was right-handed; thus, begging the question of why Smith played RT instead of LT. Smith possesses great size, and performs well in pass coverage and run coverage. He is a little slow out of his stance, which could allow for elite pass rushers to get around him. Smith is the most athletic prospect at OT, making him likely the first OT selected, but I could see Dallas picking Boston College OT Anthony Castonzo, who is more technically sound.
10. Washington Redskins: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
The Redskins don’t seem sold on Donovan McNabb. Locker is a great athlete with a strong arm, and good running ability similar to a young McNabb. He spent the last 2 seasons at the University of Washington playing in a pro-style offense, giving him an experience advantage over other QB prospects. Locker was considered to have been the top QB prospect had he entered the 2010 draft, and lost some stock by returning to school for his senior year. He reminds me of Jay Cutler when he was at Vanderbilt: he wasn’t surrounded by much talent yet still found ways to succeed. He has suffered some injuries due to his hard running. Locker is a great leader, and teammates follow his lead.
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Photo by Dave Sizer