The 2011 NFL Draft has been panned by many writers as a lackluster class but it may just be a symptom of the larger problem: The NFL lockout. It has been a difficult draft to get motivated about since all indications are there will be no draft day trades or moves that lead to a wild day in NFL war rooms.
With the court decision for the NFL Lockout to be lifted, there is the potential for draft day deals but many of the NFL general managers were not prepared for this possibility. Don’t expect an explosive trade of Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb to the Minnesota Vikings or Randy Moss signing with the New York Jets on this years draft day.
The following are the top ten spots in the NFL Draft. Some will provide for a reach and others will be expected moves. Will Cam Newton be drafted in the first ten picks? Can Blaine Gabbert keep himself in the top ten of the NFL Draft after falling past the Buffalo Bills and potentially past the Arizona Cardinals?
1. Carolina Panthers: Patrick Peterson Cornerback LSU Tigers
The most pure athlete in the NFL Draft and the new coach for the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera, is looking to build a defensive power house in Carolina. Defense wins championships and shut down corners are a great start to a developing defense. Patrick Peterson is fast and is highly skilled at the position going in.
Peterson is tough to fool on the snap of the ball and when he does make a mistake at the line with a receiver he has tremendous closing speed to compensate for mistakes. You can’t teach speed and Peterson will be the fastest man on the field for the Panthers on defense.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus Defensive End Alabama Crimson Tide
Marcell Dareus is quick around the end and he is one of the best college defensive lineman off the snap of the ball. Dareus played for some of the best college coaches in football while logging time with Alabama and his learned skill, along with his great football instincts will make him a solid defensive line player for years to come.
3. Buffalo Bills: Cam Newton Quarterback Auburn Tigers
Cam Newton should not be going this high in the NFL Draft. It is a mistake worthy of the Buffalo Bills and this mistake will keep the Bills languishing at the bottom of the AFC East for three more years. Is it a draft pick to hasten their move to Toronto? For some reason the Bills are enamored with Newton and he will be a long term project if he ever does make it as an elite quarterback.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green Wide Receiver Georgia Bulldogs
A.J. Green is the best available wide receiver in the NFL Draft. He has the hands that make for a great NFL receiver and he has the physical makeup that reminds many of Jerry Rice or a Randy Moss. High expectations will be made of Green and once he progresses to the next level he will have to adjust quickly to the ultra high level of cornerbacks in the NFL.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Nick Fariley Defensive Tackle Auburn Tigers
The quarterback position is where every NFL Mock Draft has focused but the Arizona Cardinals will surprise everyone by bulking up their defensive line. Fairley was projected at the top of the NFL Draft board in January but a poor NFL combine and average pro day have led to Fariley’s fall down the board. The Cardinals will take Fairley at the discounted price.
6. Cleveland Browns: Robert Quinn Defensive End North Carolina Tar Heels
Defensive line is the position that has the most talent in this year’s draft. Robert Quinn is a huge pickup in this spot for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns can improve their defensive line with this one key pick and Quinn can make an immediate impact. As a defensive line position player Quinn could be worked into the lineup slowly and then make a huge impact by the end of the season.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Jake Locker Quarterback Washington Huskies
Jake Locker struggled through a rough season with the Washington Huskies but it was a learning experience for the young quarterback. Those scouts that are hammering Locker on his decision making will be kicking themselves when Locker is throwing touchdowns within one season of entering the NFL.
Locker was the proceted No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick in 2010 and Jim Harbaugh played against Locker and he is familiar with the strong armed quarterback. He will not take a chance of waiting until the second round to grab his quarterback.
8. Tennessee Titans: Julio Jones Wide Receiver Alabama Crimson Tide
There are not many standout wide receivers available in the NFL Draft and Julio Jones will be taken early. The Tennessee Titans have been desperate to land a wide receiver in the last few years and Julio Jones is a perfect pickup in this spot.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Blaine Gabbert Quarterback Missouri Tigers
Blaine Gabbert has received accolades from all quarters entering the NFL Draft but on draft day he will fall farther than many of the NFL Draft experts expect. The Dallas Cowboys will be the perfect fit for Gabbert. Remember when Aaron Rodgers fell all the way to the Green Bay Packers?
This will be a similar situation for Gabbert. He can sit on the bench and learn for three years under Tony Romo and then he can save the day for the Cowboys organization once Romo is out of the picture.
10. Washington Redskins: Prince Amukamara Cornerback Nebraska Cornhuskers
Speed is big in the NFL and although Mike Shanahan is an offensive minded coach, he will not let Prince Amukamara to slip past him in the ten spot. There will be other talented defensive players available in the No. 10 spot but Amukamara is the fit for the Redskins.