Earlier this week, all four contributors to the blog posted their individual “picks” for how they see the first round of tonight’s NFL draft unfolding. Today’s piece will be a little bit different in that it’s the “official” mock draft of Foxboro Blog and a combined effort from the four of us. We each took turns making picks round-robing-style and came up with the mock draft below. Stephen’s picks will be in blue, Rick’s in Red, Jason’s in Green, and Derek’s in Orange. It’s an interesting look at how tonight’s draft may play out, and, after viewing the results, I think Patriots fans could be pretty happy if that’s the case.
1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
New regime has no ties to Jimmy Clausen, who flopped in his first year as a starter. Newton has the biggest upside of any player in the draft.
2. Denver Broncos – Marcel Dareus – DT, Alabama
Under new coach John Fox, this team has to address defense first, especially against the run. Denver was 31st against the run last season, and Dareus is a run stopper that can fit right in on the defensive line. Also, he knows how to get after the quarterback, so he can be used in versatile ways. One of the best defensive players, if not the best in this draft.
3. Buffalo Bills — Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The Bills would probably love to shore up their run defense with this pick, but Peterson is the best player available by a wide margin. He would fill a need (Drayton Florence is a free agent), and Peterson has the raw physical tools and ball skills to someday rival the likes of Revis and Asomugha.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri
With Carson Palmer continuing his refusal to play another game for the Bengals, Cincinnati drafts theist NFL-ready quarterback in the draft.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Arizona would do cartwheels if Miller is still on the board. He’s an explosive, elite athlete who will step in and be a double-digit sack artist in the Cardinals’ 3-4 system.
6. Cleveland Browns – A.J Green, WR, Georgia
Colt McCoy is in need of a huge vertical weapon downfield. Green makes big plays and has maybe the best hands in this draft. Plus, he can make a direct impact right away as we saw at Georgia where the team struggled on offense until his return from a suspension in the tough SEC.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
The 49ers have a well-documented need at quarterback, but I’m not sure they’re sold on anyone in this draft class except Gabbert. Quinn would give the San Fran defense an elite pass-rushing defensive end capable of taking some of the pressure off the secondary. If not for his medical concerns, he could have gone in the Top 3.
8. Tennessee Titans – Nick Fairely, DT, Auburn
With no reasonable QB available at #8, the Titans go defense. They benefit by picking up Fairely who is a steal at this spot. Were it not for his character concerns, it’s possible that he could have been the top pick.
10. Washington Redskins – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
With Quinn and Gabbert off the board, the Redskins will most likely trade this pick, but Jones would be a good pick at 10. He would bring a boost to whoever the next QB is for the Redskins. He is a physical beast with amazing speed and that’s with a broken foot. Jones and Santana Moss are a nice 1-2 combo in the NFC East and Dan Snyder won’t pass up the big name
11. Houston Texans – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Texans could stand to upgrade a number of positions on defense, not the least of which is the cornerback position. Amukamara could easily be picked in the top 10, but I’d imagine Houston would jump at the chance to draft him if he slips to 11.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Just like the Titans four spots earlier, the Vikings are a QB-needy team that’s drafting in a spot where any quarterback they pick would be a reach. The Vikes also need help on the O-line, so they’ll go with a tackle. When you have Adrian Peterson in the backfield it’s never a bad idea to bring in someone who can open up some holes for him.
With Quinn and Bowers off the board, the Rams go for a tough physical DE in J.J Watt. Watt can stop the run and be a force for a coach in Steve Spagnolo whose specialty is the defensive side of the ball. St. Louis has the potential to build a nice front 4 with this pick.
15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
Most mock drafts have the Dolphins taking Mark Ingram here, but I don’t expect Miami to take a running back if they still lack the personnel up front to open a few holes. Pouncey is widely regarded as the best interior offensive lineman in this draft class and would shore up a position of need.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Jaguars are in the market for a pass rusher to round out their defensive line, and Kerrigan is one of the most explosive in the draft. Kerrigan is a hard worker and was a team captain in college. He’s a good pickup here for the Jags.
18. San Diego Chargers – Cameron Jordan, DE California
This would be an absolute steal for the Chargers who are in need of another pass rusher. Jordan is the perfect fit because that is his specialty. From talking to people who have followed Jordan specifically, they tell me he would have been a top 10 pick if he went to a college like USC. This kid has the pieces and would help the Chargers right away.
19. New York Giants – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
The Giants need to shore up the offensive line, and Carimi could be the best offensive lineman in this draft class. He has performed admirably against some of the top pass-rushers in this year’s draft class and should have the ability to step into a starting role from Day One.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Justin Houston, DE, Georgia
The Bucs are in need of some pass-rushing help and Justin Houston is the best remaining rusher on the board. He’s a good fit to complete Tampa’s young defensive line.
22. Indianapolis Colts – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The best player on the Colts is Peyton Manning. Why not protect him with a young player on the aging Colts’ offensive line? Solder is a good fit for a team that needs a boost of some young talent and to protect the one guy they can’t afford to lose.
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
The Eagles need to upgrade their offensive line to help protect Vick. Philly’s new offensive line coach places a premium on tall, powerful linemen, and Sherrod fits that mold. He has a future at tackle, but could easily move inside to guard depending on the offensive linemen the Eagles choose to keep for the upcoming season.
24. New Orleans Saints – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Saints biggest need is a defensive end, and they pick up the best remaining one on the board. Clayborn has slipped some from initial projections, so New Orleans may be finding a potential steal here late in the first round.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL)
The Ravens desperately need help at cornerback to assist their veteran laden defense. Other than his lack of size, Harris has solid agility and can make big plays. Baltimore has had success in the past drafting from the U (Ed Reed, Ray Lewis). They hit another home run with this pick.
27. Atlanta Falcons – Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Falcons make a play to move up to get an elite playmaker on offense, but if they stand pat, offensive line makes sense. They have a number of offensive linemen who will be free agents. Drafting Watkins would give them a strong hedge against one or two of their established starters seeking greener pastures.
28. New England Patriots – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
If the real 2011 NFL Draft turns out the way our Foxboro Mock Draft has, there can be no complaints from the fans who have been bemoaning the Patriots’ pass-rush this off-season. A first-round combo of Aldon Smith and Cameron Heyward is about as good as it can get. I was tempted to go for Mark Ingram at this spot, but I don’t see any of the next four teams going RB and I doubt Heyward would make it to #33. He’s simply too good of a value to pass up at this spot.
30. New York Jets – Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Rex Ryan gets a new weapon as the Jets look to improve their pass-rush. Hopefully, Akeem and Tom Brady don’t meet up too often.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
The Steelers secondary desperately needs an upgrade, especially if they can’t find a way to re-sign Ike Taylor. Williams may be a half-step slow in the speed department, but the Steelers’ attacking stlye on defense would prevent opposing teams from exposing that weakness on a regular basis.
32. Green Bay Packers, Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
Wilkerson has been projected to the Patriots as high as #17 in some mocks, so Green Bay can cash in on some value here at the last slot in the first round. He should be a nice addition to the Packers defensive line.