2011 NFL Draft Analysis - Round One
Carolina QB Cam Newton
Carolina QB Cam Newton
Posted Apr 28, 2011

After all the controversy, all the speculation, and all discussion, Cam Newton went No. 1 overall to Carolina. Can he change around the franchise? Will he be able to turn things around right away? It's one of the most interesting drafts ever, and we'll cover it all. Check out the CFN pick-by-pick look at each of the players (updated after the selection) with analysis of each new NFL star.

2011 NFL Draft - 1st Round

Top Five Picks & Analysis

2011 NFL Draft Analysis
1st Round (1-5) | 1st Round (6-10) | 1st Round (11-15) | 1st Round (16-20)
1st Round (21-25) | 1st Round (26-32) | 2nd Round | 3rd Round
4th Round | 5th Round | 6th Round | 7th Round | Top Free Agents

2011 NFL Draft Team Analysis - AFC
EAST Buffalo | Miami | New England | NY Jets
WEST Denver | Kansas CityOakland | San Diego
NORTH Baltimore | Cincinnati  Cleveland | Pittsburgh
SOUTH Houston | Indy | Jacksonville | Tennessee

2011 NFL Draft Team Analysis - NFC
EAST Dallas | NY Giants | Philadelphia | Washington
WEST Arizona | San Francisco | Seattle | St. Louis
NORTH Chicago | Detroit | Green Bay | Minnesota
SOUTH Atlanta | Carolina | New Orleans | Tampa Bay

2011 NFL Prospect Rankings & Breakdowns
- QBs | RBs | FBs | WRs | TEs | OTs | OGs | Cs 
- OLBs | ILBs | DTs | DEs | CBs
1 (1) Carolina Panthers
QB Cam Newton, Auburn 6-5, 248 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 1    CFN Overall Ranking: 3

And away we go with the storyline of the draft, and possibly the 2011 season - at least after the labor problems are solved. Carolina rolls the dice and takes the special player with the special tools, and now the question will be whether or not the franchise will have the patience to live through the rough times. It would've been nice to have had the option of taking Andrew Luck here, but Newton has all the skills and all the potential to be tremendous, too. The difference is that it's going to take Newton a while to be productive, and he's going to have to learn to fight through the type of on-field adversity he never had to deal with last year. He doesn't have any receivers to throw to, and there's a reason Carolina is picking No. 1 overall, and while it would be hopeful to suggest that the first overall pick should make everyone else better right away, like Sam Bradford did for St. Louis last year, remember, Peyton Manning stunk it up as a rookie and one of the greatest rookie quarterbacks of all-time was Rick Mirer.

Carolina, get the running game going again. Revolve the offense around the backs, the Ron Rivera defense, and a conservative style that allows Newton to make the simple reads to get the ball out of his hands early. Let Newton make mistakes and accept that this is a pick for 2013. It'll be a fun two-year learning curve.

CFN Analysis: One of the most polarizing NFL draft prospect in years, he's the ultimate boom-or-bust pick. There are screaming, seemingly-obvious warning signs that will keep several teams from investing their hopes into, but his talent is so immense and his raw skills are so great that anyone who passes on him might be blowing off the next big thing.

The Heisman winner carried Auburn to the national title with a slippery running style and tremendous leadership and clutch play, but he also finished second n the nation in passing efficiency. With 30 touchdown passes, 1,473 rushing yards, and 20 scores on the ground, and with the national championship, he had the greatest single season of any quarterback in college football history.

He's huge. He's Daunte Culpepper, but bigger, strong, and even more athletic. While he can shake off pass rushers without a problem, he can also run around them when needed. Auburn didn't ask him to do anything crazy with the passing game, mainly using him to see-throw/make-throw, but coaches crowed that he would've been special in any passing system. The arm is there, the athleticism is peerless for a guy with his bulk, and despite what others might have you believe, he was a leader the rest of the Tigers rallied around.

The problem is 1) the entire act comes across as phony; 2) he only did it for one year and will need to take his lumps for a few seasons; and 3) he isn't exactly the most trustworthy of characters. Can he handle it when he stinks it up as a rookie and gets lustily booed? Can he handle failure after failure? No college quarterback has ever had to undergo the scrutiny he went through, yet he always compartmentalized well and came up with great performance after great performance. However, now he's outside of the bunker-down, kiss-butt Auburn bubble. While he needs tons of work on his mechanics, and there's a big Buyer Beware sign around his neck, but if someone is willing to be very, very patient, and if he's coddled, the upside is limitless.
CFN Projection:
Top Ten Overall

2 (2) Denver Broncos
OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M 6-3, 246
Overall Pick No. 2 CFN Overall Ranking: 8

Basically, Denver is telling Robert Ayers to become a player. A&M fans get mad about this, but it's not really a rip; Miller is not going to be a great linebacker. He's going to be a devastating pass rusher who comes up with one or two really big plays per game, but is he going to be a leading tackler type of playmaker? No. the Broncos seem to think he's going to be a superior three-down player, but he's going to be in Honolulu on a regular basis because his sack totals will be ridiculous. Get a block on him, though, and he'll be neutralized.

CFN Analysis: He was really a defensive end in college and will have to prove he can be a full-time star in more space in a true outside linebacker role. While he won the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker, he didn't always look natural in workouts making the transition; too many scouts were glossing over the concerns because they're blinded by the athleticism and the pass rushing skills. Yes, he blazed through the short runs and put up great times, but he didn't always appear to move instinctively well enough in outside linebacker football drills. Not a defensive end at an NFL level, he might be faster than anyone he'll line up against, but he doesn't have the bulk to work on every down up front. He might turn out to be a very, very expensive one-trick pony, but that one-trick could be dominant enough to send him to Honolulu on a regular basis. With his speed and burst, he should be an absolute terror at getting to the quarterback and being a game-changer. Is he going to be a top-shelf, all-around outside linebacker? Probably not, and it's not always a sure-thing that some players can make the little position adjustments needed to shine – like former Wake Forest "sure-thing" Aaron Curry - but prospects with Miller's talents are rare. There's a good chance Miller can be a faster, lighter, more athletic Clay Matthews.
CFN Projection: First Round

3 (3) Buffalo Bills
DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama (DE) 6-3, 319 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 3 CFN Overall Ranking: 5

Can he be more productive for the Bills than he was for Alabama? He was a very good player for the Tide, but was he a consistently dominant force? Not really. The tools are all there, though to do whatever the Bills want, but now he's going to be asked to become a franchise playmaker to build the line around for the last decade. You don't take a player at No. 3 and ask him to be just pretty good. Now it's time to instantly improve the worst run defense in football.

CFN Analysis: Extremely versatile and explosive, Dareus is the ideal defensive lineman in any scheme with the quickness to work as a one-gap playmaker and the size and toughness to sit on the nose if absolutely needed. With all the right tools, he's quick off the line, tough when blocked, and fast enough to get to the runner down the field. There aren't too many problems, but he wasn't quite as productive as a top-shelf NFL prospect should be. He needs to keep his weight in check and he'll need a constant push to reach his full potential, but if he decides he wants to be the best defensive tackle in pro football, he might just do it. The sky is the limit on his talent, but there's bust potential is he doesn't keep developing. Being a big athlete alone isn't going to get it done at the next level.
CFN Projection: First Round

4 (4) Cincinnati Bengals
WR A.J. Green, Georgia
6-4, 211 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 4 CFN Overall Ranking: 2

Carson Palmer, do you want to play with your new toy? Green was being talked about by Carolina as a No. 1 overall pick with great size, tremendous hands, and good character, even with the jersey-selling incident. With Ochocinco off playing soccer, and all but done, and with the need for a No. 1 receiver to revolve the offense around, the Bengals have a true top target to make a big difference immediately. It might only be the fourth pick in the draft, but Green is a great value here.

CFN Analysis: With all the tools, he's the ideal receiver prospect and is a legitimate No. 1, go-to target who should be a franchise-shaper. He was the only thing the Georgia offense had going for it at times (after he came off suspension) and he still produced at the highest of SEC levels. He has the size, the speed, the athleticism, the hands, and the willingness to go across the middle. The one big knock is his lack of bulk; he's not going to be an Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald when it comes to his size. Yes, he's a great athlete, but he came up with an underwhelming Combine compared to Julio Jones, has smallish hands, and it's not like a post-grad degree at M.I.T. is an option, but he's a hard worker, is missing the diva trait, and he does everything you want on the field and he'll instantly be the featured star of a passing game from the moment he steps on the field.  
CFN Projection:
First Round

5 (5) Arizona Cardinals
CB Patrick Peterson, LSU 6-0, 219 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 5 CFN Overall Ranking: 1

It's not a bad thing to get the safest player in the draft at the five. Arizona doesn't necessarily need a corner, but if you're going to get a big, fast, athletic playmaker at a top-shelf level, you do it and you enjoy. He's not going to be an NFL returner for too long because he'll be too talented a defensive back. Eventually he'll be a whale of a safety, and he's a perfect Cover-2 corner, but he'll be asked to sit on an island from Day One and produce.

CFN Analysis: If there's such a thing as a perfect defensive back prospect, Peterson might be it. He's big, smooth as silk, a strong hitter, and very, very fast checking in with a 4.34 in the 40. He has no problems getting physical and isn't going to shy away from making a stop, and he makes teams pay for trying to go his way with the ability to take the ball away and do something big with it. While he can be a lock-down cover-corner on any No. 1 target, he might end up making the biggest splash, eventually, as a whale of a free safety with limitless range and playmaking potential. The only possible problem might be a slight issue of consistency. He rose to the occasion, but he also needed a challenge. And then there's the issue with the hype. Like all great corners, the ego is overflowing, and now the fawning has become so over the top that anything less than a perennial Pro Bowl career will be a disappointment.
CFN Projection: First Round

2011 NFL Draft Analysis
1st Round (1-5) | 1st Round (6-10) | 1st Round (11-15) | 1st Round (16-20)
1st Round (21-25) | 1st Round (26-32) | 2nd Round | 3rd Round
4th Round | 5th Round | 6th Round | 7th Round | Top Free Agents