The annual 2011 NFL mock draft run by the TST community is underway. Naturally, it includes a few surprises with it. First and foremost, I've got to give ram_rod big props for wrangling this thing...it's no easy task so be sure to drop some gratitude on our man. While the double-R continues to roll out the picks, I thought I'd take a look back at the first round, starting with picks 1-16.
Let's get to it.
1. Carolina Panthers - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri (link): Really, it's between Gabbert and Cam Newton for Jerry Richardson's team. Those are the two players I'd be looking at, though I like the idea of Newton's abilities to get around their NFC South rivals.
2. Denver Broncos - Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU (link): The Broncos do need a defensive lineman, but it's hard to argue with the notion that Peterson is the best player in the draft this year. A backfield with Peterson and Champ Bailey will make their front four more effective.
3. Buffalo Bills - Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M (link): Again, hard to argue with this one. Yeah, maybe there's Cam Newton, but they can get by with Ryan Fitzpatrick. A better defense will make them more competitive right away.
4. Cincinnati Bengals - A.J. Green, WR, Georgia (link): Could a revived receiving corps entice Palmer out of retirement? Maybe, it sure would be hard to pass on Cam Newton for a team in that situation. Since he's still on the board in this mock draft, that's who I probably would have gone with, but they do need receivers with T.O. and OchoCinco leaving. I'd be concerned about the effects of a QB transition on a rookie receiver, like Green, who still needs some refinement.
5. Arizona Cardinals - Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina (link): Arizona needs lots of things...a quarterback, offensive linemen, etc. Despite some of the big names on their defense, it's not as good as it should be. If Quinn can make the transition to OLB in their 3-4, this could be a fearsome unit.
6. Cleveland Browns - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama (link): Another pick that makes a lot of sense...no matter how much it hurts as a Rams fan. Jones fits nicely into Shurmur's WCO, giving them a receiver that can stretch the field by sheer physical force. He's also the kind of target Colt McCoy will appreciate, the kind of target Sam Bradford so richly deserves.
7. San Francisco 49ers - Cam Newton, QB, Auburn (link): I'm more bullish on Newton than most, so I like this pick...but I kind of hate it too. Think of what Troy Smith did to the Rams defense, and then imagine Cam Newton in there. If the Rams don't address their need at OLB and find some players to pressure the middle, Cam could do some damage to their division hopes.
9. Dallas Cowboys - Gabe Carmini, OT, Wisconsin (link): Tyron Smith gets all the talk for Dallas lately, but I think Carmini's the better pick...maybe not as high of a ceiling. Anyone notice that Prince Amukamara is still on the board?
11. Houston Texans - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska (link): There he is. Wade Phillips will be transition this team to a 3-4 defense (wackiness ensues!) but with this pick they get a player who'll make a difference right away and won't be dramatically impacted by the shift.
12. Minnesota Vikings - Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn (link): Now this is a steal. They may need a QB, and that might be the most realistic direction. However, the decline of their defense was overlooked amidst all the hub-bub over the decline of another player.
13. Detroit Lions - Tyron Smith, OT, USC (link): What happened to Matt Stafford gave the Rams a frightening vision of what might have happened had they put off address the OL until after drafting a QB. If I'm Detroit, I'm hoping it's not too little, too late.
14. St. Louis Rams - Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri (link): - As bad as I'd like to see them get Julio Jones, it just doesn't seem possible. This is a great pick in and of itself though. Smith may be a little raw as a red shirt sophomore, but he doesn't have to step into a three-down role right away with James Hall still playing. Smith is the perfect complement to Chris Long on the DL, but the Rams still desperately need to think about adding a DT in the middle. It's not unthinkable that they come out of this draft with two defensive players in the first two rounds.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars - Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson (link): An absolute steal for the Jags who need DL help. No doubt all the talk about Bowers' knee will cause some slippage. Most rational analysts seem to think he'll be fine though.
Most surprising pick: The fall of Nick Fairley and Marcell Dareus...the two best defensive tackles in the draft and maybe the two best defensive linemen, but they could very well fall a little bit this year.
Best pick: The Niners taking advantage of Cam Newton's fall.
Worst pick: Miami taking Jake Locker. The funny thing is, there really is a lot of talk about the Phins drafting a QB.