TheDarkHorse’s 2011 Mock Draft – Picks 1-5
The 2011 NFL Draft could serve as our last dose of football for an unfriendly amount of time (especially if you’re an Oakland Raiders fan). Although it’s going to be awkward to watch NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell approach the podium before a packed house during a lockout, Draft Day (or, at this stage, Draft Thursday Night…) remains tangibly intriguing when a blue-chip quarterback has the chance to go No. 1.
It’s no sure thing, but with Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert rising up the board, it’s possible both could go in the top 10. One could argue that four of the first five teams to pick could go quarterback. I also wouldn’t rule out a team moving up for one the young guns — especially with Shanahan’s Redskins buried in the 10 slot — but this mock doesn’t include trades. Next month’s v.2 mock will take a shot at pinpointing some possible move-up/down scenarios. With that said, here’s my top 5 picks:
1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton – QB, Auburn: Some don’t even have Newton in their top 10. I just don’t see Ron Rivera passing up this opportunity to bring in a franchise-altering passer with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Newton has his flaws, but there’s no way Carolina takes on the NFC South with what we’ve seen out of (granted, young) Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen. While it’s awfully tough to bypass some of the defensive line talent in this draft, I believe Newton will continue to rise up the board. It’s only mid-March. This quarterback’s gifts will only become more coveted as we approach late April. The Panthers are serious about Cam Newton and I expect him to end up as the top pick in this draft.
2. Denver Broncos – Marcell Dareus – DT, Alabama: John Fox is going defense with this pick. At 6-foot-3, 319 pounds, Dareus fits well into Fox’s 4-3 scheme, and has the potential to wreak havoc as a 3-technique the way Warren Sapp did in Tampa Bay — and Sapp himself has showered praise on the prospect. For the many top-shelf defensive line prospects in this draft — it’s one of the more stunning DT/DE draft classes in years — Dareus might be the safest pick, as a guy without looming medical or off-the-field concerns. If Nick Fairley has more potential, Dareus appears to have the work ethic for continued growth.
3. Buffalo Bills – Patrick Peterson – CB, LSU: The Bills are courting Newton and no doubt Chan Gailey is enticed by his athleticism. If Carolina passes, Newton could land here at No. 3. If he’s gone — and he is in this mock — the Bills will take Peterson, possibly the best football player in the draft. It’s unusual for a team to strike on a corner this high, but I don’t see the Bills taking Gabbert with this pick. Besides, in Ryan Fitzpatrick, they have a passer the team believes in and grew behind in 2010. The Bills need help all over the place on defense and go with the best player available here.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – Blaine Gabbert – QB, Missouri: If Carson Palmer wasn’t so inconsistent, you work out the issues, get him back in the house and move on. Palmer and the Bengals are at a crossroads, and with the QB making it clear he’s had enough in the Queen City, it’s time for Cincy to find his replacement. I’m not in love with Gabbert. Accuracy is an issue when you look beyond his short-field body of work. That said, with Newton gone, Gabbert represents a new dawn for Marvin Lewis.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Von Miller – DE/OLB, Texas A&M: Some are calling Von Miller‘s decision to join the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the NFL a risk. Is he an immediate problem? A guy with a renegade spirit? No. Another way to look at it — this is someone who has chosen to take a leadership role among his peers and represent his rookie class on a critical issue to the players (even if you think they already make too much). That aside, Miller is perhaps the most versatile defensive talent in the draft and music to the ears of the Cards. I keep hearing over and over that Arizona does not go quarterback with this pick — mainly because this could be it for Ken Whisenhunt, and you don’t risk a critical season on a rookie. You have to wonder if the Cards would surprise people and shoot for Newton or Gabbert is one is available.
For picks 6-10, go here.
For picks 11-20, go here.