I honestly didn’t even know the 2011 NFL Draft was today until yesterday. Like really, Roger Goodell? A Thursday? I could’ve swore it would be on the weekend, but oh well. I would have wrote a much more deep and in-depth mock but since it’s only hours away I’m leaving you all with the top 15 picks and what I think the Bears will do.
No. 1, Carolina Panthers
Selection: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
I honestly don’t think the Panthers should be taking a quarterback in this year’s draft, there’s just too much risk involved and no sure-fire thing. Newton is a physical beast, though. He’s got the size of Daunte Culpepper/Ben Roethlisberger and the speed of a running back (his 40 time was 4.59, the same as Illinois’ Mikel LeShoure’s). His arm strength is also very impressive. The only thing that raises questions is his QB skills, such as accuracy and decision making. In college he ran the ball almost as often as he threw it (280 pass attempts to 264 rushes), and being a one-year starter makes it harder to judge his consistency. There’s no way he’ll run as much in the NFL with all the speed, so the Panthers will have to do a good job coaching up his pocket skills.
If I were the Panthers, I would probably draft at another position, preferably either DT, DE, or OT. Carolina’s management is apparently “in love” with Newton, so there should be no surprises in the next few hours.
Selection: Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
The Broncos will try and transition Miller from a 3-4 system to the Broncos’ 4-3 system. Former coach Josh McDaniels tried to do this in 2009 with first rounder Robert Ayers and failed miserably. New coach John Fox may be able to do a better job this time around. However, I believe this may be a disaster for the Broncos. If they do decide to take Miller, the Broncos will be kicking themselves for not taking either DT Marcell Dareus or CB Patrick Peterson at number two.
No. 3, Buffalo Bills
Selection: Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama
Unless Cam Newton falls here, the Bills will take whoever the Broncos don’t take. Both Dareus and Von Miller work here, and the Bills defense is number one priority coming into this draft. They’ve shown that they can score with their offense, so this draft will be defense-heavy for them.
No. 4, Cincinnati Bengals
Selection: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
With the departure of Terrell Owens and possible departure of Chad Johnson, the Bengals are S.O.L. when it comes to receiving, which is why they must take A.J. Green. This may be the most NFL-ready player in the draft offensively, and if Carson Palmer sticks around, this duo could put up some numbers. However, don’t be surprised if the Bengals take QB Blaine Gabbert here. They’ll only do that if they truly believe that Palmer is retiring.
No. 5, Arizona Cardinals
Selection: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
In a shocker here, the Cardinals will immediately boost their 29th-ranked defense as ESPN’s best available player falls to them. It is rumored that star wideout Larry Fitzgerald does not want QB Blaine Gabbert drafted here. Look for the Cardinals to pickup a veteran QB via free agency (Bulger? McNabb?) Peterson will step in and make an immediate impact from day one, and may very well be the next coming of Champ Bailey or Nnamdi Asomugha.
No. 6, Cleveland Browns
Selection: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Had DE/OLB Robert Quinn not been such a risk (missed entire 2010 season due to NCAA violation, also had a benign brain tumor) he would likely be the pick here, but the Browns will try and supplement franchise QB Colt McCoy with a weapon like Julio Jones. Jones is the 1B to A.J. Green’s 1A and should prove to be just as effective.
No. 7, San Francisco 49ers
Selection: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
There’s no doubt that the 49ers’ offense is missing one thing: a quarterback. Stacked with a stud RB, a stud TE, and a potential stud WR in Michael Crabtree, Gabbert looks like a good fit to run this anemic offense formerly run by Alex Smith. The pressure is on the 49ers to find an answer on offense, and Gabbert looks like that answer.
No. 8, Tennessee Titans
Selection: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC
With Gabbert being selected a pick before, the Titans can’t take someone like Jake Locker or Andy Dalton this high. They’re instead left with risks like Robert Quinn and Nick Fairley. I think Quinn gets the edge and Fairley takes a long, long, drop.
No. 9, Dallas Cowboys
Selection: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
After seeing Tony Romo suffer that season-ender last season, owner Jerry Jones will try his best to protect his franchise QB with the best OT available.
No. 10, Washington Redskins
Selection: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Did you know that the only player that had more than 2.5 sacks on the entire Redskins team was Brian Orakpo? Pretty much any good defensive player here will suffice for Washington, who will likely take a QB later on as well.
No. 11, Houston Texans
Selection: Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California
Like the Buffalo Bills, the Texans have a gifted offense and a pathetic defense. Prince Amukamara may go here, but I think teams think he is a risk. The Texans also drafted CB Kareem Jackson last year, so it’s unlikely they’ll go CB two years in a row.
No. 12, Minnesota Vikings
Selection: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
The Vikings may look at a QB such as Jake Locker or Andy Dalton here, but I think this is just too high to waste on those two names. The Vikings may trade down if they want a QB in the first round, or they get some backing for the aging Williams duo and some youth for an aging defense. Defense wins championships, and the Vikings will go that route.
No. 13, Detroit Lions
Selection: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
This will be a no-brainer pick for the Lions if Amukamara drops this far. The draft always has that one or two players that falls farther than expected, and Amukamara may be this year’s player.
No. 14, St. Louis Rams
Selection: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Unless Julio Jones falls here, the Rams will have to wait to scoop up a supporting cast for Sam Bradford. Defense has always been a problem for St. Louis, so Liuget makes sense.
No. 15, Miami Dolpins
Selection: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida
The Dolphins would like a running back this year, but they’ll have to wait until later rounds most likely. Mark Ingram’s knee gives them concerns, so they’ll pass on him for now. An offensive lineman is mostly always a safe pick, and if Pouncey is anything like his brother Maurkice, then Dolphins’ fans will be pleased.
No. 16, Jacksonville Jaguars
Selection: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
One of the more athletic defensive players in this draft, Aldon Smith could definitely be the pick here for Jacksonville as they would like to boost up their shaky D-line. Smith is a versatile player, who can shift up to the outside linebacker position if need-be.
What will the Bears do with the 29th overall pick? They need an offensive lineman obviously. Here are possible choices:
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St.
Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
They could also shock fans by selecting a DT, such as Marvin Austin from UNC, to replace Tommie Harris or even a big wide receiver to help out Jay Cutler.