TheDarkHorse’s 2011 Mock Draft – Picks 11-20
For picks 1-5, go here.
For picks 6-10, go here.
11. Houston Texans — J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: We get so many of these projections wrong. The “sure lock” winds up a flaming bust, and players we’re ignoring today — guys who won’t even be drafted — will light up the league. I believe we’ll look back on this 2011 NFL Draft five years from now and call J.J. Watt a top 5 pick. I loved his presence, intensity and motor at the combine. Wade Phillips‘ 3-4 defense is the perfect landing spot for Watt, and a good environment for this hard-working, self-made player. He worked himself onto Wisconsin’s roster, paying his own way at the start of his tenure — delivering Pizza Hut to save up dough. He’s no prima donna. He’s a coachable workhorse who did the requisite work at Wisconsin to make the switch from tight end to defensive lineman. Watt is the steal of this draft at No. 11. Sometime these midround picks are where you find the real gems — where less pressure is placed on the incoming player, as well. Houston and Watt are an excellent match.
12. Minnesota Vikings — Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: The Vikings have been vocal about finding a quarterback in this draft. I see a potential trade up — or down — to get their guy. There was a time when it appeared Minnesota at No. 12 could snag Auburn’s Cam Newton, but the hype machine’s in full swing and I project him to go no less than No. 1 to the Carolina Panthers. He’s the type of passer that’s going to require time to develop, coming from a spread, and Leslie Frazier would love the challenge. There are other possibilities at quarterback for the Vikings — and all of them are better than Brett Favre right now, who’s back on his farm tilling soil. It’s time for a new start in Minnesota. In this mock, with no trades — and Jake Locker a reach — I project the Vikings to jump on Jones, who had an excellent combine and would be a good-value selection here. Sidney Rice could bolt via free agency, so Jones addresses a potential need as well. We all saw what happened to Percy Harvin when Rice was out of the offense — they need a No. 1 guy in there to give the passing game a shot.
Picks 13-20 after the jump.
13. Detroit Lions — Tyron Smith, OT, USC: Detroit has to be concerned about Matthew Stafford‘s durability. They won’t say as much, but two seasons running, he’s been shotgunned out of the lineup with significant injuries. He’s a tough kid, that’s not the issue. We recall his gritty performance against the Cleveland Browns two seasons ago. If shoring up the line will keep Matt healthy, selecting the athletic Smith — who bulked up significantly for last month’s combine — is the move here at No. 13. The Lions also could look to Nate Solder or Anthony Castonzo — this is a good class for line prospects. The Lions showed signs of life in 2010. Jim Schwartz has begun turning this program around and keeping Stafford in one piece for a full season could land the Lions in the playoffs, or very close to it.
14. St. Louis Rams — Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: I think the Rams would love to add a wideout like Julio Jones, but he’s gone in this mock. You exit the top 10, and there’s still a flock of quality DE/OLB prospects available — Ryan Kerrigan and Justin Houston come to mind. Cameron Jordan seems like a find for the Rams at this spot, but he’s done his best work at the left end position, typically Chris Long‘s haunt in the Rams’ D. Smith is an intriguing find. He’s a versatile, dispruptive defender, but he’s not projected as an immediate starter by most. He could really come on if a team like St. Louis can find a way to grow him. He could present problems for offenses as a hell-or-high-water edge passer for years to come.
15. Miami Dolphins — Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Miami’s tandem of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have been effective for the Dolphins — at times, sensational. Both are free agents, and that makes Ingram Jr. — son of the former New York Giants wideout with the same name (I feel old) — an ideal choice at this spot. …I don’t get it. Ingram’s attached to a subpar class of running backs, and it’s possibly diminished his stock. His 40 times are not ideal, but this is a tough, driven runner who’s been compared to Emmitt Smith for more than his stature. Take it to the bank: if the Dolphins make this pick, he’ll change their offense for a decade. Ingram enters the league at a time when teams are shifting away from the lone-back. This guy doesn’t need a committee. He’s going to leave his stamp on the National Football League. Mega-steal in the 15 slot.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars — Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California: The Jaguars’ defense needs all sorts of help, and I strongly believe they’ll zone in on a cornerback (or two) in this draft (they finished 28th against the pass last season, and it likely cost them the playoffs). With Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara long gone, none of the remaining corners fit here at No. 16. Make no mistake, the Jaguars would be thrilled to land a player like Jordan. He’s a special pass rusher, one the Jaguars could insert immediately into their scheme. Unlike some of these first-rounders, Jordan did his time as a four-year starter, and his versatility to switch between tackle and end is a huge plus. People overlook the Jaguars, but this team knocked on the playoff door last season, and a good draft could help them finally topple the Colts.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) — Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue: Kerrigan’s ability to wreak havoc off the edge is documented — he’s ideal in the Pats’ 3-4. We saw how New England’s inability to get to the quarterback ended their season against the New York Jets. Bill Belichick coached that D up in 2010, but adding Kerrigan to the mix, primarily as an outside backer, gives this team a Purdue product who will abide by the Patriot Way. New England — per usual — could wheel-and-deal this pick, but No. 17 is a good opportunity to get an impact player. I stopped doubting the Patriots about 10 years ago — they’ll do the right thing, they almost always do. Note: If Ingram were ever available at this spot, I love the idea of him paired with Tom Brady, but it’s a long shot he gets past Miami.
18. San Diego Chargers — Cameron Heyward, DE/DT, Ohio State: San Diego’s search to fill the spot opposite defensive end Luis Castillo could come to and end with Heyward. An elbow injury kept him out of OSU’s pro day, but he’s set to show off his skills later this month in a separate session. Cameron — the son of former New Orleans Saints bulldozing runner Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, a Tecmo Bowl legend– excels as a 5-technique and fills a missing puzzle piece for the Chargers. You wonder how many more years San Diego has to knock on the door, especially after a disappointing finish in 2010 (despite a statistically powerful season). There are other needs at this slot, but Heyward’s on the short list.
19. New York Giants — Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: The G-Men desperately need help along the offensive line. Nothing is more important than protecting Eli Manning. You have to wonder if Tom Coughlin‘s Boston College background could sway him toward OT Anthony Castonzo, but I believe Solder will be the pick. Solder’s dropped on some boards. He’s 6’9″ — he could block an automobile from hitting Eli — and he was a rock at Colorado, a guy who avoided injuries and flat-out got the job done. Check the video above to see what he did to a Denver Broncos scout during CU’s pro day — he’ll do the same to some poor, lonely Washington Redskins defender come autumn.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Check out the suddenly dangerous Bucs. Last year at this time, we had no idea where this team was going. Now, coming off a 10-6 season, with Josh Freeman blossoming into a presence at quarterback, this team must be taken seriously. I love what Raheem Morris did with the young roster last season — he shrugged off a laundry list of late injuries, plugged players in, and kept chugging. The Bucs are in need of a defensive end to pair alongside Gerald McCoy. In such a deep draft for defensive linemen, they get an interesting prospect in Clayborn. Much has been made of his struggle with Erb’s Palsy, which causes intermittent paralysis of the upper arm — but Clayborn has played with it for years and it didn’t prevent him from having a sensational junior year at Iowa. He didn’t match that last season, but remains an intriguing prospect.
My mock draft will continue later this week with picks 21-32.