Projecting the draft is one of the most inaccurate, difficult, frustrating and fun things an NFL fan can do. It allows any fan to take the role of GM and build the team as he or she see’s fit. For this week, I’ve decided to put out a way too early 2011 mock draft for a few reasons. Mocks this early allow us to look at back our perceptions of players after their junior and sophomore seasons. A good amount of the players in these mocks will not be first rounders. As of now though, they have the best shot. Early mocks also allow us to see how a player develops, and compare past thoughts with present. They give us a tool to determine which players had fluke seasons, and which ones are truly special. Last, I decided to do a dual mock draft. I invited a friend of mine to create his own. I always feel that one mock is never enough, and much more information can be garnered from comparing mocks than from looking at one alone. The mock was built from the ground up by both of us, including the order. To not be too much of a homer, we put the Colts at 31. We all know they should be lower. Also, I decided to include players that can enter the draft early next year, instead of just the seniors. If you would like to create your own mock, or muse on either of these, please do so in the comments section. Special thanks to Kazim Naqvi for creating an excellent mock on such short notice.
1. Buffalo Bills – QB Jake Locker, QB Washington 6-3, 226
Locker is the quarterback your little brother created on Madden. He’s got one of the biggest arms in college football, runs in the 4.4’s, shows great character and toughness, and has the ability to create something out of nothing on every play. Washington tried to play him at safety after he broke his arm early on in his collegiate career just to get him on the field. Locker can make every throw. Under the tutelage of Coach Sarkisian, his play and accuracy has improved. However, he must prove that he can be consistently accurate in his final season to guarantee the number one spot.
2. St. Louis Rams – A.J. Green, WR Georgia 6-4, 207 lbs
This team is still a long way from bringing back the greatest show on turf. However, their most pressing need is to help their young quarterback. Out of the four top 20 caliber wide receivers, A.J. Green in the most natural and athletic ball catcher. He has soft hangs, length, speed, and the ability to go up and compete for any ball. He’s the complete package.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Julio Jones, WR Alabama 6-4, 210
Jones had an underwhelming sophomore season compared to the hype surrounding him. However, he plays on a run oriented team, which stunted his numbers. With a strong junior campaign he should be a top 10 pick. Jones is a true number 1 NFL receiver. He can catch the deep ball on the outside and is not afraid to go over the middle on the slant. Jones is a hard runner and should be near the top of the league in YAC in a few years, if not as a rookie.
4. Detroit Lions – Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa 6-3, 282
You can’t run through him, you can’t run over him, you can’t run around him. This man is immovable at defensive end. On top of that, Clayborn posted impressive numbers with 11.5 sacks as a junior, proving he’s also a natural at rushing the passer. He’s the cornerstone piece in a dominant Iowa defense. Match him up with Suh and the Lions might have the best defensive line in football.
5. Cleveland Browns – Andrew Luck, QB Stanford 6-4, 235
The Browns are a team that has a lot of piece already in place. They’ve passed on franchise caliber quarterbacks in the past. Since Colt Mccoy is not the answer, I can’t see them passing on Luck. He’s the most pro-ready QB in the draft. He throws a tight, accurate ball and can make every throw. He’s good in the pocket or on the run. He needs to prove that he can operate out of the shotgun, a formation Stanford rarely uses.
6. Kansas City Chiefs – Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College 6’7, 295 pounds
The Chiefs gave Matt Cassell the offensive weapons he needs to succeed in the 2010 draft. Now they give him the protection. Castonzo is long and lean with room to add on to his frame. He has quick feet and can stop the speed rushers that dominate the NFL. Based on the last few drafts, don’t be surprised if he goes higher than this.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas 6-7, 238
David Garrard’s play will dictate this pick. While Mallett currently doesn’t deserve to be picked this high, he’s the last of the elite caliber quarterbacks and will rise. Mallet is huge and has the arm to match his size. He plays a bit Jekyll and Hyde. One week he is a top 5 pick, the other he loses his accuracy and doesn’t look like a pro prospect. If Mallett can become consistent, he could elevate himself to a top 10 pick.
8. New England Patriots (From Oakland Raiders) – Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama 6-3, 280
Dareus has the strength and size to play the 5 technique in a 3-4. However, what separates him from most 5 techniques is his explosiveness, pass rushing ability, and tendency to make the big play (See National Championship). The Patriots just got the next Richard Seymour.
9. Seattle Seahawks – Mark Ingram, RB Alabama 5-10, 215.
Ingram’s running style is often compared to Emmit Smith’s. He’s not the flashiest back and doesn’t have the home run hitting ability of C.J. Spiller or Jahvid Best, but he is tough and strong. He uses excellent vision to find a hole and then seems to run through everything. He can play on every down in the NFL. Coach Carroll gets the back his team is desperately missing.
10. Carolina Panthers – Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State 6-6, 287
The son of Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, Cameron Heyward looks to become the second first rounder in the family. He has the versatility to play both in the 3-4 and 4-3, and the size to be a stout run defender. He must improve his pass rushing ability (5 sacks in his first two years) and overcome the stigma of Vernon Gholston to secure a selection this high.
11. Denver Broncos – Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska 6-1, 200
Amukamara has good ball skills, size, instincts, and possibly the best name in the draft. The first-team Big 12 player must prove he can have a similar impact without the added protection of Suh.
12. Arizona Cardinals – Bruce Carter LB, North Carolina, 6-3, 225
Carter should be a nice fit at ILB in the 3-4. He’s explosive, hits hard, and can rush the passer. He reminds me a lot of Bart Scott. No matter where he is selected, Carter should be in contention for defensive rookie of the year.
13. Chicago Bears – Marvin Austin, DT North Carolina 6-3, 305
Austin has the ability to become the top rated defensive tackle in this draft. He combines an explosive first step with strength and power. He proved he can collapse the pocket and rush the passer when needed with four sacks as a sophomore. The Bears hope that Austin can be the player that Tommy Harris never could.
14. Tennessee Titans – Ras-I Dowling, CB Virginia 6-2, 200
Another corner with another great name. As of now, Dowling is the best tackling corner in this draft. He is both fast and physical, and has the ball skills to be a first round pick. He should help not only the pass defense but the run. Dowling made too many mental mistakes last year, guessing and whiffing on a few potential picks. While this might be a bit of a reach, we’ve seen how bad the Titan’s secondary is at tackling.
15. Washington Redskins – Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame 6-3, 220
If Floyd stays healthy, there is no way he lasts this long. He started off last season with 4 receptions for 189 and 3 touchdowns. He has length and explosiveness. If he shows the ability to go over the middle, he can prove he is the complete package. Even if he doesn’t, Floyd will be a first rounder. I don’t see how the Shanahan’s could pass on a player like this.
16. New York Giants – Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina 6-5, 270
Quinn had an explosive sophomore season with 11 sacks. He has the best first step in the draft and can run the arc. However, I worry that he is a beneficiary of playing with three other first rounders at North Carolina. If he produces again this season, those worries should be gone. Like his teammate Austin, he could become the first DE selected.
17. Cincinnati Bengals – Stephen Paea, DT Oregon St 6-1, 288
While Paea is undersized, he is explosive and strong. He excels as a one gap player, and would fit the system put in place by Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer. Paea gave fits to Pac-10 lineman with his combination of strength and speed and should continue to do so in the NFL.
18. Houston Texans – Jonathan Baldwin, WR Pittsburgh 6-5, 225
Andre Johnson seems to make every play in the Texans passing game. Jonathan Baldwin gives the Texans a number 2 receiver with the abilities of a true number 1. Baldwin is a tall and long. He has the leaping ability of Randy Moss. He had a productive sophomore season, utilizing his physical skills. Keep an eye on him, as he could drastically rise or fall depending on his junior campaign.
19. San Francisco 49ers – DeAndre McDaniel, S Clemson 6-1, 210
McDaniel is a playmaker at safety. He cleaned up backs in the running game and made numerous plays in the passing game, including 8 INT. He and his fellow ACC safety, Deunta Williams, will battle this season to be the top safety taken. Right now, McDaniel has a slight edge.
20. Atlanta Falcons – Jurrell Casey, DT, USC 6-1, 295
Casey emerged on the college football scene with a great first half of the season. For a while, he was unblockable. Casey has a great first step, elite upper body strength and a relentless motor. However, he has a tendency to get washed out of plays, often because he tries to do too much.
21. New England Patriots – Jeremy Beal DE/OLB 6-3, 261 pounds
For the second time in this draft, the Patriots add youth to their defense. Beal is one of those players that’s a tweener and could play with a hand down or standing up. He can really rush the passer, but struggles against the run.
22. Miami Dolphins – Deunta Williams, S North Carolina 6-2, 205
Coach Sparano states that the Dolphins would address their safety issues somehow in 2010. So far, they’ve added no new safeties. Like his ACC counterpart, Williams has great ball skills, posting 12 picks in three years. He shouldn’t make it past Miami.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Evan Royster, RB Penn State 6-1, 213
As much as the Eagles and I like him, Shady McCoy is not an every down back in the NFL. Royster is. He can block, catch, and is a solid runner. Royster has excellent vision. He would allow the Eagles to use McCoy at both running back and in the slot, and would greatly improve their offense.
24. Green Bay Packers – Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin 6-7, 325
Gabe Carimi is a lot like the Packer’s 2010 first round pick, Bryan Bulaga. Carimi is big, powerful and consistent. He doesn’t quite have the feet to deal with the elite pass rushers in the NFL, but should be a great RT across from Bulaga. Aaron Rodgers will be happy.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jared Crick, DT Nebraska 6’6 285
If Roethlisberger slips up again, you could see Christian Ponder of Florida State coming off here. Instead, the Steelers choose to add some youth to their defense. Paired next to Suh, Jared Crick looked unblockable. He must prove he can be as effective when taking on the double teams that were devoted to Suh.
26. San Diego Chargers – Von Miller, DE Texas A&M 6-3, 240
The Chargers are one of the oldest teams in the league and need to add youth at almost every position. It seems that Shawne Merriman will no longer be around after this season and Larry English was absent as a rookie. Even if English becomes a pro bowler this year, look for the Chargers to add a pass rushing specialist like Miller.
27. Baltimore Ravens – TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame, 6-6, 260
Joe Flacco is emerging as the best young quarterback in football. To help him out, the Ravens add the best receiving TE in this draft. Rudolph has prototypical size and speed for a TE. He has exceptional hands and would be a formidable compliment to Todd Heap, eventually supplanting him as their number 1 TE.
28. New York Jets – Chris Galippo, ILB, USC. 6-2, 250
At times last year, Galippo looked like the next Brian Urlacher. At other times, however, he looked completely lost on the field. Galippo has the size to play inside in the 3-4 and the athleticism to play in Rex Ryan’s scheme. If he becomes consistent in his play, Galippo should be a first rounder.
29. Minnesota Vikings – Christian Ponder, QB Florida St 6-2, 220
Even if Favre decides to play until he’s 50, the Vikings must find a quarterback of the future in this draft. Ponder is a poor-man’s Jake Locker, combining great athleticism with a good arm. He needs to prove he can be consistently accurate. He’s a good fit for the Vikings, as he can create something out of nothing.
30. New Orleans Saints – Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech 5-10, 206
Williams emerged on the scene after an injury to Darren Evans. Williams had a great first season, posting over 20 touchdowns. He’s is explosive and tough. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to splitting time with Evans.
31. Indianapolis Colts – Kristofer O’Dowd, C/OG USC. 6-5, 315
A four-year starter at USC, O’Dowd has everything the Colts look for. He is athletic and explosive with great size. As a sophomore he was named first team all Pac 10. O’Dowd has a mean streak on the field and should bring some nastiness to the Colts’ offensive line. O’Dowd could play guard for a season or two and supplant Jeff Saturday when he retires. With another productive year, he should easily fit the first round profile of a Colt.
32. Dallas Cowboys – Matt Reynolds, OT BYU 6-6, 329
The Cowboys get a big, powerful tackle in the mold of their other offensive lineman. He should immediately start at right tackle, and could supplant athletic Doug Free as the left tackle of the Cowboys future.
1. Buffalo Bills – QB Jake Locker, QB Washington 6-3, 226 lbs
Athletic, great character, tough, and has a lighting quick release. Still learning to play QB at a high level after injuries during his sophomore season (he then started at safety), but showed tremendous growth and leadership last year under Coach Sarkisian. Locker is a fantastic athlete who can run in the 4.4s, and a year of further improvement will make him a great fit for the Bills in desperate need of a signal caller.
2. St. Louis Rams – A.J. Green, WR Georgia 6-4, 207 lbs
Probably a bit ambitious here, but at a long 6’4, Green has supreme body control and hands. A monster junior season is in store, and while the Rams have other needs on defense, the dynamic combo of Bradford-Green could be too good to pass up. Think of him as Calvin Johnson lite.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina 6-5, 270 lbs
Very impressive as a sophomore, recording 11 sacks. He stands at a long 6’5 270 pounds with a lighting-quick first step that separates him from other solid DE in this draft. The Bucs drafted two DT with their first two picks in 2010, and adding a Julius Peppers type impact player can form a formidable defensive line for years to come.
4. Detroit Lions – Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College 6-7, 295 lbs
Long arms, agile, and productive – sounds like a top shelf left tackle to me. The Lions need help on their offensive line, and could be on their way to developing a dynamic offense with Stafford, Johnson, Best, Pettigrew.
5. Cleveland Browns – Julio Jones, WR Alabama 6-4, 210 lbs
The Browns need some juice on offense, and Jones fits the bill. Great combination of size (6’4), strength, and good enough speed. His statistics do him an injustice as he is underutilized at Alabama in a rush-heavy attack – this guy is the real deal, and will have an immediate NFL impact.
6. Kansas City Chiefs – Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama 6-3, 280
Made a name for himself by knocking Colt McCoy out of the National Championship Game. At 6’4 296 he is athletic enough to play a 3-4 end or hunker down the middle of the line.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Andrew Luck, QB Stanford 6-4, 235
Stanford was much more than Toby Gerhart last year, and Luck is poised for a breakout Sophomore season. He has ideal size, mobility, arm strength, and quick release to be an NFL quarterback, something the Jags are in need of.
8. New England Patriots (From Oakland Raiders) – DeAndre McDaniel, S Clemson 6-1, 210
The Pats could use a young WR, but with Jones and Green off the board they go for a superb all-around talent at safety. McDaniel is coming off a 98 tackle, 8 INT season for the Tigers and has room to grow.
9. Seattle Seahawks – Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas 6-6, 238
Mallett is 6’7 and has one of the best on-the-field arms I have seen in college football. He has enough mobility for his size, and may be a top-5 pick if he displays increased consistency and accuracy after success in his first season at Arkansas (30:7 TD to INT).
10. Carolina Panthers – Marvin Austin, DT North Carolina 6-3, 305
Loads of talent with this 300 pounder – he will land comfortably in the first round if he matches his motor and effort with his ability.
11. Denver Broncos – Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State 6-6, 287
Good speed and power with a strong 290-pound frame – he can give this 3-4 defense much needed versatility. But then again, he may be Vernon Gholston 2.
12. Arizona Cardinals – Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska 6-1, 200
With a great combination of ball skills, instincts, and toughness, Amukamara thrived in Bo Pelini’s stout defense and should turn many heads this season.
13. Chicago Bears – Ras-I Dowling, CB Virginia 6-2, 200
At 6’2 200 pounds, Dowling is a physical corner who can thrive in a Tampa 2 system.
14. Tennessee Titans – Bruce Carter, OLB North Carolina 6-3, 225
A consistent player with good instincts and above-average range – will produce right away.
15. Washington Redskins – Mark Ingram, RB Alabama 5-10, 215
Clinton Portis is racking up mileage, and Ingram is the best back in the nation with supreme burst and power. The Heisman trophy winner may take a step back with the emergence of Trent Richardson statistically, but he is an NFL-ready back who can have an immediate impact.
16. New York Giants – Jurrell Casey, DT USC 6-1, 295
Had a great first 6 games as a Sophomore, but lacked consistency down the stretch. With another year of growth under Monte Kiffin’s defense, Casey will display his lighting quick first step in full force.
17. Cincinnati Bengals – Jonathan Baldwin, WR Pittsburgh 6-5, 225
At 6’5, Baldwin uses his size to create big plays down the field. 1100 yards and 8 TD as a sophomore should be a stepping stone for a big 2011 season.
18. Houston Texans – Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa 6-3, 282
11 sacks as a junior, he would bolster a strong front 7 for the Texans.
19. San Francisco 49ers – Jeremy Beal, DE/OLB Oklahoma 6-3, 261 pounds
34.5 tackles for loss the last two years, Beal is a versatile end who can really rush the passer.
20. Atlanta Falcons – Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin 6-7, 325
Solid tackle that has been productive for three straight years. He won’t overwhelm you, but he’s the second best tackle in a weak group.
21. New England Patriots – Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech 5-10, 206
This guy is special. He exploded as a freshman with 1655 yards and 21 TD. Great balance and vision, and displays good burst.
22. Miami Dolphins – Jerrell Powe, DT Mississippi 6-2, 340
A bit raw, but he is a 340-pounder who can move. He could really anchor this emerging 3-4 defense in the middle.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Patrick Peterson, CB LSU 6’1, 211 pounds
The Eagles need help at cornerback, and Peterson’s solid combination of strength and ball skills make him a solid 1st round pick.
24. Green Bay Packers – Daniel Thomas, RB Kansas St. 6-2, 227
A natural runner who has great hands in the passing game – burst onto the national spotlight with 1,265 yards. This is an NFL feature back.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Greg Romeus, DE Pittsburgh 6-5, 270
A consistent and dangerous end that can rush the passer and help in the run game. The Steelers are great at using versatility to their advantage.
26. San Diego Chargers – Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame 6-3, 220
Floyd is a burner and a big-play machine in Charlie Weiss’ NFL style offense. Pairing him with a bigger target could be ideal – as a compliment to the physical 6’5 Vincent Jackson, Floyd could thrive with Philip Rivers in this big-play offense.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Von Miller, DE Texas A&M 6-3, 240
A speedy edge rusher who would form a dynamic pass-rushing attack with Terrell Suggs and Sergio Kindle. While the Ravens may have more pressing needs, Miller is the best player available.
28. New York Jets – Jared Crick, DT Nebraska 6’6 285
Has to prove that he can dominate without the presence of Ndamukong Suh, but Crick has flashed signs of promise – he had 5 sacks in a game last year.
29. Minnesota Vikings – Christian Ponder, QB Florida St. 6-2, 220
The Vikings need to address their quarterback situation post-Favre, and Ponder is an accurate passer with a great feel for the position. With another year of improvement in his accuracy and awareness, Ponder will show he is an NFL quarterback.
30. New Orleans Saints – Allen Bailey, DT Miami 6-4, 290
Bailey has outstanding talent and athletic ability, but must show more consistency if he is to be a 1st round pick.
31. Indianapolis Colts – Stephen Paea, DT Oregon St 6-1, 288
Paea almost declared for the 2010 draft, but another year of college ball will definitely help strengthen his technique and consistency. He has displayed great ability as a one-gap penetrator, and would be a fantastic addition to the Colts front 7. While the Colts may be inclined to draft an offensive lineman or defensive back in the 1st round, all the others not already taken would be reaches. Paea has tremendous strength and explosion for a 290 pounder, and would fit very well along the Colts dynamic pass rushers Freeney and Mathis to wreak havoc in the opponent’s backfield.
32. Dallas Cowboys – Deunta Williams, S North Carolina 6-2, 205
With 6 INT as a junior, Williams displayed the type of ball-hawking skills and range to be a productive NFL safety. The Cowboys are in need of secondary depth.