This is a first round mock of the 2011 NFL draft. It will be updated about once a week. Each of the picks can and will change between now and the draft, as this is my first attempt at a mock draft. I will probably have glaring mistakes, and I will keep working to improve the mock as I go along. Feel free to comment with suggestions, or just to make your opinion known!

1) Carolina Panthers: CB Patrick Peterson – LSU

Carolina needs a number of positions, but having the number one pick can be as much a curse as a blessing. There are no truly premier quarterbacks in this draft class, and while the defensive line options are impressive, they are also deep. There are no Ndamukong Suh’s or Gerald McCoy’s this year that stand out so much as being first overall pick talent. Carolina ends up being the first team in NFL history to take a corner with the first overall pick by selecting the single most impressive overall athlete at any position in the draft.

2) Denver Broncos: DT Marcell Dareus - Alabama

DT Nick Fairley is a popular pick for Denver, but with Fairley dropping on some boards as the best DT in the draft, the Broncos may turn to the usurper in this case. With the release of DTs Jamal Williams and Justin Bannan, the Broncos are getting very thin in the middle, and Dareus provides a big nose tackle to help bolster the line.

3) Buffalo Bills: DE Da’Quan Bowers – Clemson

Like the Panthers, the Bills have a serious need at a number of positions, but none of the top QBs have made such an impression that the Bills will bite when they know that it will take years to get enough pieces at other positions to compete against the New England Patriots and New York Jets.

4) Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J. Green – Georgia

The Bengals got rid of T.J. Houshmandzadeh 2 years ago, and won’t be retaining Terrell Owens next year. While their starting QB Carson Palmer has been vocal and adamant about finding a way out of Cincinnati, whether through a trade or retirement, it is not likely that the Bengals will end up in a position where they don’t have some type of QB or high round draft pick. A.J. Green and Julio Jones showed up huge at the Combine, and the Bengals will target some help for whichever QB leads Cincinnati in 2011 to play alongside Chad Ochocinco, Jermaine Gresham, and Cedric Benson.

5) Arizona Cardinals: QB Blane Gabbert - Missouri

If things fall out this way, the Cardinals will be have to make a decision about whether superior talent or superior need will take precedence. CB Prince Amukamara fills another need for the Cardinals while being excellent value, but the QB concern in Arizona ends up taking the limelight here as the Cardinals select the first Quarterback in the draft. QB Cam Newton gets a lot of play as the first Quarterback to be taken, but with the experience Arizona had with their last Heisman winning QB, they’ll go with the better traditional QB.

6) Cleveland Browns: OLB Von Miller – Texas A&M

Von Miller fills a big need for the Browns and is a good value at this pick. With Miller being projected as a 3-4 OLB and the Brown needing to bolster its front 7, the union of these two ends up being the best fit. There are not any major ILB prospects worth the 6th overall pick, and most of the top DEs still on the board are more prototypical 4-3 DEs, meaning they are undersized for a 3-4 DE and over sized for a 3-4 OLB.

7) San Francisco 49ers: DT Nick Fairley – Auburn

Fairley doesn’t fall too far in the draft as he not only becomes the best option to fill a need for the 49ers, but also ends up being the “Best Pick Available.” The 49ers may also look at CB Prince Amukamara at this pick, but their need at CB seems more directed towards finding depth than an immediate starter. Fairley provides a productive presence in the middle to help pressure the QB.

8) Tennessee Titans: QB Cam Newton – Auburn

The Titans are in complete disarray from top to bottom. They have removed or replaced almost all of their coaching staff including their head coach, and almost all of their coordinators and primary and assistant positional coaches. They’ve also gotten rid of QB Vince Young and will not be keeping WR Randy Moss. The Titans like the mobile, big play and big name QB that Newton is, and with a strong running game headlined by Chris Johnson, Newton will be given a chance to develop into a more polished QB.

9) Dallas Cowboys: OT Anthony Castonzo – Boston College

With the major defensive ends still being pure 4-3 DEs and the safeties not being good value at the 9th overall pick, Dallas will look to protect their QB. This need will be highlighted with the memories of the serious injury Tony Romo sustained last year. While Guard and Tackle are both in major need, Anthony Castonzo will be able to step in at left tackle automatically letting the line shuffle and providing security for fan favorite Tony Romo.

10) Washington Redskins: WR Julio Jones – Alabama

Even though Donovan McNabb is not likely to be retained in Washington, the Redskins still need a major threat at wide receiver. With Julio Jones having an exceptionally strong Combine performance, he will be good value at this point, and if somehow Mike Shanahan is able to keep McNabb, Jones will be a necessary addition to make the team competitive.

11) Houston Texans: CB Prince Amukamara – Nebraska

Houston alternatively ran out of luck, and had a blessing fall into their laps with Amukamara. With the addition of Wade Phillips to the defense, Houston will be trying to change a bad 4-3 defense into a 3-4 defense. Even with an amazing draft, it will take at least a couple of years to get all the necessary pieces to complete the conversion, and with NT Marcel Dareus gone, and no safeties even remotely worth the 11th pick, the draft is already not going Houston’s way. NT Stephen Paea will get some looks, but even with his great strength, he is not a scheme fit as he is under sized for a 3-4 DT. Amukamara is a shutdown corner who makes opposing QBs forgo any attempt at throwing in his direction, and even though Kareem Jackson was drafted last year, the whole defense needs to be revamped, and having a game changer like Amukamara will pay off in the long run.

12) Minnesota Vikings: DE Robert Quinn – UNC

In a perfect world, there would be 4 or 5 QBs valued highly enough that a team like the Vikings could make a small reach and take one, but with the weak QB depth and the only first round passers already off the board, the Vikings will have to look elsewhere with the 12th pick. The only other areas of major need are on the defensive line and at safety, and so the Vikings will take a very impressive DE in Quinn who showed a very high work ethic and excellent measurables despite being out of the game for a year.

13) Detroit Lions: OLB Aldon Smith – Missouri

The Lions desperately need a corner, but with the only surefire first round CBs already gone, they will have to decide to fill another position of need with good value, or bite the bullet and take a major reach for a corner. With the safeties and MLBs also being poor value, Detroit targets an impressive LB from Missouri who has very high potential, while being a little raw yet. With injuries having a major impact on the Lions, they may be wary of a prospect that has had a serious injury in the past year, but Smith shows a great ability to fight through injury and still be dominant even when not at 100%.

14) St. Louis Rams: DT Corey Liuget – Illinois

The Rams opted for Sam Bradford a year ago over Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy despite having a real need for a DT. They were unable to address this concern in later rounds of last years draft, and so they continue their search for a quality starting DT. Had Julio Jones fallen this far, the Rams would have taken him to provide Bradford with weapons using the same technique as the Colts did after drafting Peyton Manning, but with no exceptional value at skill positions on offense that match need, the Rams target a DT. Liuget will be good value as a hybrid 1-tech/3-tech DT who can fit wherever the Rams need him to.

15) Miami Dolphins: RB Mark Ingram - Alabama

The Dolphins have bigger needs at other areas, but as is becoming a theme in this draft, the value simply is not there to fill those needs with a first round pick this early. Instead, the Dolphins will pick up 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram with the hopes of finding a franchise RB. Given that Ingram may have gone with a top 5 pick in last years draft had he left early, it is possible the Dolphins are getting good value with the pick despite a not so great senior season from Ingram.

16) Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Cameron Jordan – California

The Jags seem determined to keep Garrard, and luckily there is no obvious replacement for him anyway at the mid-point of the draft. With safeties and MLBs still too big of a reach, the Jags look to continue to beef up the defensive line reuniting Cameron Jordan and last years first rounder Tyson Alualu in an attempt to imitate the Colts bookend defensive line philosophy. Given the effectiveness of of Jordan and Alualu in college, and the exceptional versatility Jordan has shown at Cal, the Jags end up getting very good value, even if the pick (selecting teammates from the same position only a year separated) is a little unorthodox.


PICKS 17-32….