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2011 NFL Draft Analysis - Round 1
Carolina QB Cam Newton
Carolina QB Cam Newton
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 28, 2011


2011 NFL Draft Pick-by-Pick Analysis and Breakdown - Round One

2011 NFL Draft - 1st Round

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

- Top Storylines And What We Learned From The 1st Round
- Best Players Still Available Going Into The 2nd Round

COMING NEXT WEEK: Post-Spring Top 25, 2011 Draft First Look, and the start of Preview 2011

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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

6 (6) Atlanta Falcons (trade with Cleveland Browns)
WR Julio Jones, Alabama 6-3, 220 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 6 CFN Overall Ranking: 4

Every once in a while there’s a shiver moment in an NFL Draft. This is one of them. This is the I Want To Win A Super Bowl pick by taking Jones and giving Matt Ryan a devastating playmaker to work with on the other side of Roddy White. As good as A.J. Green might be, Jones is the better athlete and has an even bigger upside. However, he has suspect hands compared to Green and he’s never healthy. Even so, if he stays injury-free and he gets to be a No. 2 receiver … yeeeeeeesh.

CFN Analysis: Everyone knew he was a next-level prospect coming out of high school as the rare player who physically could’ve made the jump right away, and then came the NFL Combine. He put on an all-timer of a show with a sub-4.4 while jumping out of the stadium and cutting like a much smaller player. With a phenomenal attitude, a great competitive fire, and a good personality, he’s the type of prospect you want to be your No. 1 guy. There are two problems. 1) He was okay as a collegian but he was hardly special on a consistent basis. It was partly due to the offense, but a player of his talent should’ve done more. 2) He was ALWAYS hurt. While he’s tough and plays through pain, he always had a big ding of some sort he had to overcome. With his tools and his physical style, he’s a star in the making who’ll blow up if he can stay on the field. If it was a guarantee that he could play a full 16 games on a regular basis, he’d be the No. 1 receiver on the board.
CFN Projection:
First Round

7 (7) San Francisco 49ers
OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri
(DE) 6-4, 263 (Soph.)
Overall Pick No. 7 CFN Overall Ranking: 13  

Uhhhhh, okay. He’s a very good pass rushing prospect and San Francisco is looking for someone who can get to the quarterback on a regular basis, but the seven is a bit high. He’s a tweener who’ll need time to grow into the role, but he’s hardly a sure thing considering there are so many other great defensive players on the board. The upside is limitless, though, and he’s going to have to be a 3-4 outside linebacker.

CFN Analysis: Is he an outside linebacker or is he an end? He’s a tweener, but in a good way with the outstanding athleticism needed to work as a 3-4 outside defender and the strength to hold up in a 4-3. Fluid, he moves like a much smaller player with the ability to get around the edge like a breeze. Not just a pass rushing specialist, he’s strong, doesn’t mind contact, and will battle hard with a great fire and competitiveness. In a good way, he’s not there yet. Still very young, he’s still tapping his potential and could go from being a great prospect to a top-shelf all-star with just a little bit of work. Arguably the best pure pass rusher in the draft, he can be turned loose right away with the knowledge that there’s a lot more to come from his game down the road.
CFN Projection: First Round

8 (8) Tennessee Titans
QB Jake Locker, Washington 6-2, 231
Overall Pick No. 8 CFN Overall Ranking: 35

Tennessee is trying to outdo itself after the Vince Young pick. HE … CAN’T … THROW ... ACCURATELY. If it's not going to happen in college, it's not going to happen in the NFL. He’s a great guy and he’s the type of player you’d love to see succeed, and after the Young fiasco, the Titans obviously wanted a completely different type of guy with a completely different type of attitude to revolve the franchise around, but the No. 7 pick in the draft should’ve made the players around him at Washington better, and no, his supporting cast really wasn’t that bad. Tennessee has now politely excused itself from the Super Bowl discussion for the next decade.

CFN Analysis: He doesn’t have prototype height and he doesn’t have big hands, but that’s about it as far as the physical knocks. An elite athlete for an NFL quarterback, he runs extremely well, has a live arm, and he’s tough as nails. A peerless leader and a pure baller, he’s a fantastic guy with the type of attitude and intangibles that makes him easy to root for. There’s one problem … he can’t throw. Everything looks right, even though he seems like he’s about to run too much when he should be setting his feet to fire, but the mechanics aren’t all that bad. You can’t teach accuracy, and in a world where two of the most accurate quarterbacks in NFL history, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, are the standard-bearers for Super Bowl winners, Locker has a hard ceiling on how far he can likely take a team. If he’s asked to go out there and just play, he should be fine. If he’s asked to be Tom Brady and a pro style passer, it’s not going to happen.
CFN Projection: Second Round
 
9 (9) Dallas Cowboys
OT Tyron Smith, USC 6-5, 307
Overall Pick No. 9 CFN Overall Ranking: 17

The Cowboys were in a great spot with several good players available to fill the available needs, but if you need a corner, a defensive tackle, and an offensive tackle, you take the guy you can stick on the outside of your offensive line for the next decade and hope can keep the quarterback clean. A tremendous athlete, Smith should be terrific and should be the mainstay for a reemerging line. However, he has to rock right away for a line that needs a left tackle, and Smith hasn't been on the left side for a while.

CFN Analysis: Out of all the decent tackle prospects at the top of the chain, Smith has the biggest upside. Very athletic, he moves well and has the look of a ten-year fixture at left tackle. There will be criticisms and concerns that he only played right tackle throughout his career, but that’s really not that big a deal; he’ll be more than fine moving over to the other side. With a little bit of time and a little bit of work, he should be able to handle the best of the speed rushers, and he could be the ideal lineman for a zone-blocking scheme. However, he can play in any system and be fine. The one problem is that he’ll never be a mauler. He had to work his tail off – or on – to get to over 300 pounds over the last few months, but he’s not likely to ever be more than 310 pounds on a regular basis.
CFN Projection: First Round

10 (10) Jackonsville Jaguars (trade with Washington)
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri 6-4, 234 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 10 CFN Overall Ranking: 6

David Garrard, thanks for playing. The Jaguars needed a quarterback to build around for the future, and while Garrard is decent and can be a stopgap for a year, and then it’ll be Gabbert’s time to take over and become the franchise-maker to become a star to build around. This is what’s called a building pick. Gabbart can groom a bit, and then he should be ready to rock when Garrard starts to falter. Remember, Aaron Rodgers got a few years to prepare, too.

CFN Analysis: There’s no wow factor. There’s no bust potential, but there’s nothing in Gabbert’s game to suggest that he’ll be a special, “I’m going to Disney World” type of superstar. He has all the tools, the athleticism, and the personality and make-up to be a very, VERY good pro for the next 15 years, but it’s not like he was a special college player – he was the only quarterback who couldn’t seem to throw against the miserable 2010 Texas Tech pass defense - and he had major problems against anyone with a strong pass rush. On the plus side, most of his negatives can be quickly fixed. His throwing motion doesn’t need that much tweaking, and for those who don’t think he can connect on the deep ball on a consistent basis, go back to the pills he was slinging to Danario Alexander two years ago. The bigger issue is that he’s not Cam Newton. Gabbert is the safe, secure pick who should be a rock-steady starter in two years, but if you’re passing on Newton for him, you’re not slinging for the stars … and that might not be a bad thing. Gabbert has the rare issue of still scratching the surface on what he can be, while also having a hard ceiling on where he can take a team. If he ends up winning a Super Bowl, it’ll be because he’s a good player on a special team.
CFN Projection: Top Ten Overall

11 (11) Houston Texans
DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
6-5, 290 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 11 CFN Overall Ranking: 16

Put him on the other side of Mario Williams and turn him loose. He’s in a great position considering he doesn’t have to be the main man on the Texans’ line, and now he gets a chance to use his great motor and his pass rushing skills to become a terror in the backfield. Yeah, he went from being a walk-on to the 11th pick, but career path worked out for Clay Matthews.

CFN Analysis: The ultimate story of rags to riches, Watt started out his career as a skinny tight end at Central Michigan, decided he wanted to try making it at Wisconsin, walked-on, got a LOT bigger, and became one of college football’s most productive all-around defensive linemen. He plays with a passion and doesn’t take a play off, and with his combination of motor, size, and quickness, he’s the prototype 3-technique defender. He’s not going to dominate athletically at the next level and doesn’t have flash speed, but his raw strength is phenomenal and his work ethic will never be a question. At the very least, he’ll bust his tail to try to be good, but there could be a hard ceiling on what he can become once he can’t just get by on want-to.
CFN Projection: First Round
 
12 (12) Minnesota Vikings
QB Christian Ponder, Florida State 6-2, 229
Overall Pick No. 12 CFN Overall Ranking: 72

(Heavy sigh.) I know he’s a mellonhead, but with defensive tackle a need and Nick Fairley right there, why reach for Ponder? Des-pa-ra-tion (clap, clap … clap clap clap). The Vikings wanted Jake Locker, tried to trade down, and then panicked that everyone was overpaying for marginal quarterbacks. Enter Locker, who can’t throw a fastball half as well as Brett Favre did on his worst day. This is a big, BIG reach for such an average player, and this is Minnesota blowing off real, live talents to help out right away for a third-to-fourth round talent.

CFN Analysis: The athleticism is there, the tools are there, and the toughness is there. Ponder shows nice touch, is a playmaker, and is a fiery, old-school leader who acts the part. There’s nothing phony about him; he’s a baller who just seems to like being the main man for an offense. As tough as he is and as hard-nosed as he is, that’s also his problem as he takes too many shots and gets hurt way too often. While he has a nice arm, it’s nothing special and he’ll likely need to work in a timing attack. The problem is that he thinks he has Brett Favre’s gun at times and he can’t seem to make the throw he’s able to see. While he’s not a fastball pitcher, he does a decent job of putting a nice touch on his deeper throws. It would be nice if he was a little bit taller, and it’ll be tough to count on him for a full season, but he should be more than just a nice No. 2 option.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round
 
13 (13) Detroit Lions
DT Nick Fairley, Auburn 6-4, 291 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 13 CFN Overall Ranking: 7

The word you’re looking for is Yoink! If Minnesota isn’t going to take the best interior pass rushing lineman in the draft, Detroit will bring him to the NFC North, put him next to Ndamukong Suh, and it should be uh-oh time for Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, and now Christian Ponder. He might have turned everyone off in interviews and he might be a one-year wonder, but he doesn’t have to be the No. 1 guy next to Suh and can be turned loose. Yeah, Prince Amukamara would’ve been nice, but Fairley is a top three talent who slid.

CFN Analysis: If he wants it – REALLY wants it – he’ll be a dominant NFL pass rusher. There’s a concern that he went from being a promising part of the Auburn defensive interior rotation to an all-timer of a star way too quickly, but his 2010 was too breathtaking to ignore. If you can destroy the SEC, you can destroy anyone, and he was unblockable at times proving to be almost as important to the national title defense as Cam Newton was to the offense. He beats up runners, flies into the backfield, and explodes out of his stance. An ideal 3-technique tackle, and with the quickness to be moved to a true defensive end if needed, the expectations are going to be sky high from Day One. Fine, so he might be a cheap shot artist, he’s not exactly known for his impeccable character, and his rise was so meteoric that the temptation will be there to think he might flame out in a hurry, but tackles with his ability to get into the backfield are rare. There’s bust potential, but he might just be worth the risk.
CFN Projection: First Round

14 (14) St. Louis Rams
DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina (OLB) 6-4, 265 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 13 CFN Overall Ranking: 15

Tremendous value. The Rams might have needed Nick Fairley to slide one more spot, but it could also use a pass rusher in Quinn to be everything that Chris Long isn’t. This is a pure best player available selection for a playmaker who isn’t going to do much against the run, but was considered a top five talent, if not No. 1 overall, before all the suspension issues. Compared to where Von Miller and Aldon Smith went, this is a terrific move.

CFN Analysis: With a dream combination of size and skills, he’s a phenomenal athlete who comes in out of central casting. While he wasn’t all that impressive at the Combine considering the hype, he plays fast, gets off the ball in a hiccup, and he’s a rock. No, he didn’t quite blow up in Indianapolis, but he still impressed with the way he came in cut after missing all of last year suspended. Will he be more of a playmaker against the run and not just into the glory plays in the backfield? Is he really a star, or did he look great because he was surrounded by NFL talent? There are question marks about his all-around game and he’s hardly a finished product, but the skills and upside are all in place to become a special defender with a little bit of time.
CFN Projection: First Round

15 (15) Miami Dolphins
C Mike Pouncey, Florida (OG) 6-5, 303
Overall Pick No. 15 CFN Overall Ranking: 23

Nice. Mark Ingram might have been the splashier pick, and he might seem like a need pick, but with the versatile Pouncey on the same line as Jake Long and the rest of the talent up front, the building blocks are there. While others are reaching for talents, Miami got a sure-thing if he’s at guard, or a sensational center with a wee bit of time. He'll be a center. Wait until the second round for a running back, or maybe even a quarterback, but the line is quickly becoming special with this selection.

CFN Analysis: While he’s not his brother, Maurkice, he’s a very big, very good blocker with an NFL-ready body and the talent and toughness to play anywhere in the interior of a line. However, he doesn’t have the NFL-ready game with some technique work to do and with a consistency problem. Fortunately, he wants to be great and will always fight and always work to be better - just like his brother. While he has way too many problems with the most basic of acts, snapping the ball, and he might be a more natural fit at guard. No matter where he plays, his size and skills are good enough to make him an anchor no matter where he plays.
CFN Projection: First Round

16 (16) Washington Redskins (from Jacksonville)
DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue 6-4, 267
Overall Pick No. 16 CFN Overall Ranking: 11

The anti-Albert Haynesworth pick, Kerrigan is going to bring the A effort every time out. Put him on the other side of Brian Orakpo and look out. A theme in this draft early on is taking players who don’t have to be the main man, and that’s perfect for Kerrigan who can be erased by double teams, but should blow past tackles time and again and will always hustle to make plays.

CFN Analysis With the ultimate motor and with a variety of skills and moves, he could be the best edge rusher in the draft. He might not be lightning fast and he’s not the most fluid of athletes, but he’s relentless when it comes to getting into the backfield, and he has the drive and the desire to do whatever it takes to get better. There’s no questioning his character, and he improved his stock in a big way at the Combine in the interviews, on the bench, and in the quickness drills. He’s not going to fly off the ball at an NFL level and he’s not going to be a pure speed rusher, but there’s no bust potential and he could be a statistical superstar with the right help from the rest of the line.
CFN Projection: First Round

17 (17) New England Patriots (from Oakland)
OT Nate Solder, Colorado 6-8, 319
Overall Pick No. 17 CFN Overall Ranking: 28

This is Bill Belichick saying he doesn’t believe in his tackle situation going into this year, but Solder isn’t an out-of-the-box starter. He’s going to need a little while and he needs to get into the weight room, and while it’s hard to question a Belichick pick, he could’ve been had down the draft a bit and it’s stunning that there wasn’t a trade down to get him. He’s a pure athlete, though, and he might be asked to shine right away to keep Tom Brady upright. This is NOT a sure thing at the 17.

CFN Analysis With great size and a fantastic frame, he’s tough to get around with long arms and the room to get even bigger and bulkier. However, there might not be much of a need to do much to get larger if it’ll cost him any of his great athleticism. Very quick and great on the move, he’s an ideal pass protector who’ll wall off pass rushers without a problem. He’ll also do the work needed to improve; he’s always trying to get better and he’ll be happy to do whatever the coaches ask. With his height and lack of strength, though, he’s not going to beat up anyone for the ground game. He needs to be in the right system, and he’s not going to work in a power-running attack.
CFN Projection: First Round

18 (18) San Diego Chargers
DT Corey Liuget, Illinois 6-2, 298
Overall Pick No. 18 CFN Overall Ranking: 14

The Chargers could’ve used a pass rusher to start making the defense more disruptive – thanks Larry English for busting so far – but Liuget is a terrific interior presence who should get into the backfield from the interior. He’s not Nick Fairley, but he’s not all that far off and he doesn’t have the character issues. While he’s not all that big, he’s a mauler who’ll be a key replacement for Jamal Williams.

CFN Analysis While he might be a bit undersized, he’s extremely strong and became ultra-athletic after getting in better shape. Bulk is sort of his issue. He was too big in a bad way a few years ago, and then he worked on his body-type, got rid of most of his bad weight, and became a star. When he’s on, he’s a game-changer who can dominate in the backfield and can be strong against the run in a true anchor sort of way. An almost ideal 3-technique defender, he’ll shoot the gap and he’ll sit on quarterbacks’ heads on a regular basis if he’s surrounded by a few big-bodied rocks. With his ability to play anywhere on a defensive front, he’ll be a coach’s dream; he can fit in any scheme.
CFN Projection: Second Round

19 (19) New York Giants
CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska 6-0, 206
Overall Pick No. 19 CFN Overall Ranking: 10

Value pick. The Giants needed help for the offensive front, and had Anthony Castonzo and Gabe Carimi there for the taking, but Amukamara is a top ten talent who can be a very, very good piece to a strong defensive puzzle. Injury problems in the Giant secondary showed how much a corner is needed, and while Amukamara isn’t a perfect pick – he doesn’t make enough big plays – he’s a physical talent.

While all the hype and all the attention is going to Patrick Peterson, Amukamara could be a better value. With great size, tremendous speed, and all the tools needed to be someone’s No. 1 cornerback, he’s a top talent who looks the part. Not just a finesse corner, he’s great against the run and has no problems whatsoever getting his nose dirty. The problem is his lack of big plays, failing to make a pick last year (but he made five as a junior), and he’s not going to be the type of offensive defensive back who takes the ball to the house, but he’ll be a sound, consistent corner who becomes a key part of a defense. Throw him out there and don’t worry for the next ten years.
CFN Projection: First Round

20 (20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa 6-3, 281
Overall Pick No. 20 CFN Overall Ranking: 29

And somewhere, Da’Quan Bowers is breaking something tasteful. Had Clayborn come out last year he probably would’ve been a top ten overall pick, but he was mediocre last year, was non-existent way too often, and slipped. Put him on the line with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price and lookout. He’s the dangerous pass rusher who can dominate with all the attention paid to the middle. While this is a good pick, Tampa Bay had to have wanted Prince Amukamara to slip one spot further.

CFN Analysis: After choosing to come back for his senior year, when many projected he’d be a top ten overall pick had he left early, he was a disappointment. As part of a loaded line full of NFL prospects, he disappeared way too often and almost never came up with the game-changing play a player of his talent should’ve. Even so, he’s a very strong, very versatile lineman who can get into the backfield as a 3-4 end or can hold up as a 4-3 tackle. Despite his problem with Erb’s Palsy, causing a weakness and paralysis in his arm, he doesn’t seem to have many problems because of it. However, he might have to only play on the right side. More of a football player than a top-shelf athlete, there’s a limit on what he can do, but he plays with a fire and a passion and should carve out a strong career.
CFN Projection: Second Round

21 (21) Cleveland Browns (from Kansas City)
DT Phil Taylor, Baylor 6-3, 334
Overall Pick No. 21 CFN Overall Ranking: 80

A bit of a reach, Taylor is a pure block of a nose tackle for the Dick Jauron defense. He’s not going to get into the backfield on a regular basis, but with the trade to move up, the Browns apparently thought Taylor was worth the move to find an anchor and a run stuffer to work the entire defense around. There might not be more pressure on any defensive player in the first round because of what he’ll be asked to do.

CFN Analysis: Forget about the quick interior pass rushers scattered about in the 2011 draft; Taylor is a massive rock who’ll sit there in the middle of the line and won’t be moved for until January. The Penn State transfer has the dream size for an NFL nose tackle with the strength to push people around to make things happen. While he has the bulk, he has to work on staying under 340 and he has to work even harder to keep the motor running. He might only be a two-down defender who’ll need to be a part of a rotation, and he’ll be maddening at times when the light isn’t on, but he’s the textbook definition of an anchor.
CFN Projection: Second Round

22 (22) Indianapolis Colts
OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College 6-7, 311
Overall Pick No. 22 CFN Overall Ranking: 20

There are few more obvious picks in the draft. Indianapolis needed to upgrade the offensive line in a big way, and while Castonzo won’t necessarily beat anyone up in the running game, he’ll help prolong a 35-year-old Peyton Manning’s career. The Colts got a ten-year starter with a great value, and going forward, New England’s pick of Nate Solder will always be compared to Indy’s offensive tackle pick five spots later.

Extremely smart and with impeccable character, he’s the type of player you want to be the leader of your line. With prototype size and great sliding skills as a pass protector, he’s a left tackle who should be more than fine right away, and he has the bulldozing skills to pound away for the ground game. However, he’s not a killer of a run blocker and he’s not going to throw anyone into the third row. While he’s never going to be a superstar, he should be a very good, very solid starter for a long time. There’s no bust potential.
CFN Projection: First Round

23 (23) Philadelphia Eagles
OG Danny Watkins, Baylor (OT), 6-4, 310
Overall Pick No. 23 CFN Overall Ranking: 64

Get him on the field now, Philly; he has about ten minutes of his career left. Way too old to build around for the next decade, he needs to start RIGHT NOW or this pick isn’t going to work. He’s ultra-strong and can move, but if he takes a year to develop, especially considering he has to move from the outside in, it’ll be a questionable pick. Even so, the fickle Eagle fans will love him from the word go.

CFN Analysis: Ollllllllllld. He’s one of the most versatile linemen in the draft, he’s insanely strong, and he has an ultra-nasty mean streak and work ethic that every coach dreams of. If he was turning 22, he might be a top 50 overall pick – and he still might be – but about to turn 27, he has about five years of shelf life and will lose several draft slots because of it. The problem, also, is that he’s not a finished product and needs a year of NFL coaching, but because of his age and because of where he’ll be drafted, or overdrafted, he might get stuck inside and let him start hitting someone right away.
CFN Projection: Second Round

24 (24) New Orleans Saints
DE Cameron Jordan, California 6-4, 287
Overall Pick No. 24 CFN Overall Ranking: 27

The right pick at the right time, he was among the hottest players coming off of Senior Bowl workouts, and for a Saint defense that loves to get to the quarterbacks, and needs more pure pass rushers to be disruptive forces, Jordan can step in right away and produce. There was some talk that about him sneaking into the top 15, and now he gets to be a possible final piece of the puzzle. However, if Da’Quan Bowers turns out to be the top five talent he was expected to be a few months ago, or if Mark Ingram becomes a star, there will be plenty of second guessing.

CFN Analysis: Everyone’s darling of the post-season workout circuit, Jordan was awesome in Senior Bowl practices showing off his tremendous size, good athleticism, and high motor. Very, very long, he has a big frame that carries his weight extremely well. The problem is that he wasn’t always a killer in Pac 10 play, even though he was consistent and productive. He’ll be asked to become a dominant pass rusher in a 3-4, but he’s a better athlete than a polished sack artist and will disappear for long stretches. With his versatility and with his drive he’ll be an excellent pro for a long time. However, don’t be shocked if he’s a slight disappointment compared to other top ends in the draft.
CFN Projection: First Round

25 (25) Seattle Seahawks
OG James Carpenter, Alabama (OT) 6-4, 321
Overall Pick No. 25 CFN Overall Ranking: 62

A bit of a reach for a guard – no, he’s not going to be a steady NFL tackle – it still should be a terrific pick if, and only if, Seattle is planning on using him next to Russell Okung as a guard. If there’s any plans on putting him at right tackle, then there will be plenty of second guessing about not taking Gabe Carimi. Yes, line help was a must, but Carpenter could’ve been had at least 20 picks later.

CFN Analysis: A top blocker at the highest of levels, he has nice size, good athleticism, and the versatility to play anywhere on an NFL line except center. With a fantastic Senior Bowl week, he showed more talent and more skills than many scouts thought, and his stock went up in a big hurry. While he’s athletic enough to work at tackle, he’s a far better option as a light-footed guard. He’s not going to destroy anyone in the running game, but he’s more than good enough to get by and he’ll be drafted much higher than most with his skills because of his versatility.
CFN Projection: Third Round
 
26 (26) Kansas City Chiefs (from Atlanta) after picking ahead of Baltimore
WR Jonathan Baldwin, Pitt 6-4, 228
Overall Pick No. 26 CFN Overall Ranking: 43

While there are certainly risks and question marks, he’s a freak of nature who should explode on the other side of Dwayne Bowe. He has No. 1 target ability and tremendous skills, and now all he has to do is take advantage of single coverage and hit home run after home run while Bowe draws everyone’s top cover-corner. Matt Cassel’s fantasy stock just went through the roof.

CFN Analysis: A receiver who’s built like a tight end, he has the look and the bulk to be an Andre Johnson-type size-wise, and he’s physical enough to use his size well. However, he’s not nearly as fast as a top-shelf target needs to be, isn’t all that quick, and has a knucklehead streak that’ll turn off some, but he’s a great athlete, can jump out of the stadium, and has enough pure football talent to be a potential superstar. One of the toughest calls in the draft, he could be a Pro Bowl talent if he wants it and if he turns into a workout warrior who takes to coaching. If he doesn’t bring the effort, which is a legitimate concern, he could be maddeningly inconsistent.
CFN Projection:
Second Round

27 (27) Baltimore Ravens after passing on the 26th pick
CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado 6-2, 211
Overall Pick No. 27 CFN Overall Ranking: 45

Smith has huge character questions and was dropped by some teams because of his Facebook page, and then he spends draft day wearing a Scarface t-shirt. Good move. However, Baltimore got a top ten talent late in the first round, and while Smith would be a risky pick for most teams, give him a year of getting his butt kicked by Ray Lewis and he has all the makings of being the next great Raven defensive back.

CFN Analysis: Very big, very athletic, and very fast, Smith has the tools that scouts dream about. He measured even bigger than expected at the Combine, flashed a 4.44 in the 40, and threw up 24 reps on the bench. While his future is as a safety with his size and range, he’s going to be a corner right away thanks to his measureables. Smooth as a three-day beard with the working definition of tight hips, he doesn’t cut well and doesn’t look quite as fluid as you’d like for a corner. While he’ll be great against the bigger, fast receivers, he’ll have problems against the jitterbug-quick targets he can’t get his hands on. Again, his future is brightest as a free safety, but he should be solid right away no matter where he plays if, and it’s a big if, he keep his attitude in check and can absorb an NFL playbook. He’s not exactly in the running for the Rhodes Scholarship.
CFN Projection: Second Round

28 (28) New Orleand Saints (from New England) 
RB Mark Ingram, Alabama 5-9, 215 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 28 CFN Overall Ranking: 12


Woooooooo. If New England had kept the pick, Ingram would’ve been the centerpiece of a Patriot running game that’s loaded with mediocre talent. Instead, New Orleans just came up with a special piece to the offensive puzzle and he just made Drew Brees a whole lot better. Five years ago, when running backs were valued more, he would’ve been a sure-thing top ten pick, if not a top three. New England, you got too cute … again. Multiple picks are nice, but a Heisman running back of Ingram’s caliber doesn’t fall in your lap every day.

The 2009 Heisman winner and main cog for a national title team is the one back in the draft who might be a franchise difference maker. In today’s day and age of multiple back rotations and dime-a-dozen runners, Ingram has it when it comes to that special something that makes a great back special. Emmitt Smith didn’t run fast and wasn’t all that big, but he always seemed to know how to produce, and that’s Ingram … to a point.

He’s a very thick, very tough runner with better hands than he gets credit for, and with an innate ability to make the right cut at the very last nanosecond, he’s the definition of a downhill runner. Patient, he rarely makes a wrong decision and he makes up for his errors with power and always fighting through contact.

While he had a decent Combine, showed he doesn’t have elite speed and is a mediocre athlete. Forget about any home runs and he’s not going to provide the Adrian Peterson-like highlight runs. He was dinged up early last year and was never consistent, and there might be some concern that he’s a bit of a one-year wonder. With his running style he might have a short shelf life, but he’ll be ultra-productive for a few years on the right team.
CFN Projection:
First Round

29 (29) Chicago Bears
OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin 6-7, 314
Overall Pick No. 29 CFN Overall Ranking: 22

The Bears had been barking for weeks about wanting to trade down, but if they were going to stay put, Carimi was among the most obvious picks in the draft. The worst offensive line in the NFL was getting Jay Cutler killed, and Carimi had been the target all along. There weren’t any left tackle options, and there was no way, no how the offense could go into the season with J’Marcus Webb, a seventh round pick last year, protecting Mr. Cavallari’s blind side.

CFN Analysis: Very, very big and very, very tough, the Outland Trophy winner beat up the best the brightest defensive linemen the Big Ten had to offer, and he was the key part of the puzzle on a great run blocking line. There’s no real work needing to be done with his technique or his style; plug him in and let him go. Can he stay healthy? He got cut way too much and was chopped down, but he still has injury concerns. While he might not be athletic enough to handle the speediest NFL pass rushers, he’ll be a very steady, very good starter for a decade somewhere on a line. Outside of injury concerns, there’s no real downside.
CFN Projection: First Round

30 (30) New York Jets
DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple 6-4, 315 (Jr.)
Overall Pick No. 30 CFN Overall Ranking: 112

He’d be a slight bit of a reach for almost anyone else, but for the Rex Ryan defense he’s a terrific pick who should blow up on the inside. A replacement for Kris Jenkins was needed, and Ryan got an ultra-athletic prospect who’ll be asked to produce from the moment he steps on the field. He’s not necessarily going to be an anchor, but he has the skills to be tremendously productive when surrounded by a ton of talent.

While his production mostly came in MAC play, he was ultra-productive and ultra-reliable as the anchor of a very good Temple defense. With his size and bulk, he has the raw mass needed to sit in the middle someone’s line, but he also has the tools and the quickness to get into the backfield and work as a 3-4 end if needed. Now he has to get better and go to work on coming up with more creative moves. He got by on simply having better skills than everyone he was facing, but that’s not going to work at the next level. He needs coaching and needs technique work, and he’ll probably be overdrafted in a strong class of tackles, but the potential and talent are undeniable.
CFN Projection: Second Round

31 (31) Pittsburgh Steelers
DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State 6-5, 294
Overall Pick No. 31 CFN Overall Ranking: 26

With Da’Quan Bowers still on the board, the Steelers went with the more versatile Heyward. Pittsburgh gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to finding tremendous defensive lineman, and Heyward, while not a speed rusher, will be used in a variety of ways to fill in the gaps, especially in a rotation, both inside and out. It’s a good pick at the right slot, but there are plenty of other big-time players on the board, like Bowers, Martez Wilson, and several offensive tackles, who’d be better immediate fits.

The son of former NFL star running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, Cameron has the strength and he has the athleticism to be the ideal 3-4 end. The problem is his lack of consistency. He should be great all the time, and when the lights were turned on and he was challenged, he dominated. The Buckeye line was being maligned two years ago, and he came out and destroyed Wisconsin. In the 2011 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas, he spent most of the evening sitting on Ryan Mallett’s head. His size and his football talent make him almost a sure thing not to bust, but he’s not a pure pass rusher and he doesn’t get off the ball in a hurry. While he’ll probably be a rock-solid ten-year starter, he’s not going to be a Pro Bowl dominator and there’s a hard ceiling on how good he can be.
CFN Projection: Second Round

32 (32) Green Bay Packers
OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State 6-6, 321
Overall Pick No. 32 CFN Overall Ranking: 25

This means the end for Chad Clifton. With Bryan Bulaga on the other side, possibly moving to left tackle, Sherrod can be a right tackle and the Packer line is set on the outside for the next decade. However, Da’Quan Bowers was still on the board. Take a chance on the pass rushing superstar with Clay Matthews working on the other side, and it would’ve been uh-oh time for the rest of the NFC North. Even so, Sherrod is a good, sound pick taken at the right time.

Very big and very long, he has the prototype size and bulked up to get stronger and look even more like the ideal tackle. He moves well for is size and is good at burying his man when he’s able to lock on, but he’s not a consistent blaster for the ground game He’ll work to be good and he’s smart enough to adjust to the NFL immediately, however, he’s a good all-around prospect, but he doesn’t do any one thing at a high level. He’ll start, but he’ll be a cog and he definitely won’t be an anchor.
CFN Projection: Second Round