Evan Silva

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Draft 2011: NFL Mock 1.0

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The 2011 draft class is loaded on defense. 18 of the 32 picks in this first-round mock play on that side of the ball, and 26 defenders received strong consideration for day-one picks. Of those 26, 18 were either dominant college pass rushers (e.g. Ryan Kerrigan, Nick Fairley) or flashed that kind of ability (Akeem Ayers, Cameron Jordan).

If your team needs a pocket pusher, you should like this year's crop.

We've got roughly 10 weeks to go before April's NFL draft. As mentioned previously, the draft and events related to the draft are the only offseason activities we know for sure will take place.

Learn to love the draft.

And don't take it personal when the player I "mock" to your favorite team isn't the player you want your team to pick.

1. Carolina Panthers - Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers

Arriving at Clemson as the nation's top recruit, Bowers realized his potential as a junior, leading the NCAA in sacks (15.5), tying for first in tackles for loss (26), and earning the Nagurski Award as college football's top defender. New Panthers coach Ron Rivera is implementing a Tampa-2 defense built on front-four pressure. As 2010 sacks leader Charles Johnson enters free agency and left end Tyler Brayton his age-32 season, Bowers would give Rivera a building block at his scheme's most important position.

2. Denver Broncos - LSU CB Patrick Peterson

Peterson has shed 12 pounds since the college season, vowing to run a sub-4.4 forty at 6'1/210. The Broncos are getting back Elvis Dumervil to reinvigorate their pass rush, but won't re-sign free agent Champ Bailey. For a team that ranked 25th against the pass even before losing its shutdown corner, Peterson is a no-brainer choice as perhaps the draft's most skilled all-around athlete.

3. Buffalo Bills - Auburn QB Cam Newton

Newton scored 51 touchdowns in the SEC and has an accurate, powerful arm. In the NFL, he'll be a run threat similar to Vince Young with strength to shake off rushers like Ben Roethlisberger. Newton's checkered pre-Auburn history and transition from an option to pro-style offense are concerns, but there's not a more talented quarterback in this class. Buffalo is an ideal landing spot with Ryan Fitzpatrick capable of keeping the offense competitive while Newton learns.

4. Cincinnati Bengals - Auburn DT Nick Fairley

Fairley finished the season ranked third in the NCAA in tackles for loss, and his 24 were easily first among interior linemen. (Undersized Memphis DT Frank Trotter's' 16.5 were second.) Fairley has been criticized as a one-year wonder who tends to play high at 6'5/298 and takes plays off, but consistently dominant performances on the national stage for the BCS champs are hard to ignore. In Cincinnati, he'd be an instant upgrade over Tank Johnson at three-technique tackle.

5. Arizona Cardinals - Texas A&M OLB Von Miller

After leading the nation in sacks (17) as a junior, Miller made the surprise decision to stay in school and improve his cover skills. It paid off. Miller exhibited freakish fluidity in his drops during January's Senior Bowl, and no one questions his devastating combination of body lean and burst off the edge. Miller is the top pure pass rusher in the draft, and Arizona's greatest weakness is at outside linebacker with incumbent starters Clark Haggans and Joey Porter both turning 34.

6. Cleveland Browns - Georgia WR A.J. Green

New Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur knows what it's like calling plays without a dominant, No. 1-caliber receiver, and it isn't much fun. A silky smooth deep threat at 6'4/212, Green is NFL-ready after mastering Mark Richt's aggressive pro-style offense to the tune of 15.78 yards per catch and 23 touchdown receptions in 28 college starts. There's not a better wideout in this year's class.

7. San Francisco 49ers - Georgia OLB Justin Houston

Houston isn't considered a top-ten pick yet, but he'll get there after ripping up the Combine. 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds with an incredibly quick first step, Houston terrorized the SEC for 17.5 sacks and 33 tackles for loss in his final two seasons. 49ers OLBs Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson disappointed with 6.5 combined sacks in 2010, and Lawson is a free agent. Houston played both end and linebacker for the Dogs, easing his transition into San Francisco's 3-4.

8. Tennessee Titans - Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert

The arm strength is there, but Gabbert did little vertical passing last season in Mizzou's Mike Leach-like spread. While it may have been partially due to a lack of outside playmakers following Danario Alexander's graduation, Gabbert isn't nearly a finished product or as talented as Newton. Gabbert is also not expected to throw at the Combine, which sends up something of a red flag. Still, owner Bud Adams is intent on finding a franchise QB. The Titans can sign a veteran like Billy Volek or Chad Pennington to warm the seat until Gabbert is ready.

9. Dallas Cowboys - Alabama DE Marcell Dareus

A 6-foot-3, 306-pound bowling ball, Dareus left Alabama with 20 career tackles for loss and 11 sacks as essentially a one-year starter. While not a truly difference-making pass rusher, Dareus possesses rare quickness for a 3-4 end and can crash the pocket as a three-technique tackle on passing downs. Three of Dallas' top four defensive ends are free agents (Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher), so this is good value and fills a major need.

10. Washington Redskins - Alabama WR Julio Jones

More physical than Green with nearly as much field-stretching ability, Jones started all three years at Alabama after leaving high school as the nation's No. 3 overall recruit. He's dominated every level of football he's ever played. Also a chain mover and devastating blocker, Jones would immediately step in as Washington's No. 1 receiver. Santana Moss turns 32 this summer and is a free agent. Anthony Armstrong can motor downfield, but does little else well.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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