Created – 2/7/2011
Selections 1 – 16
Part II found here
This year’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy recipient is the natural choice for Carolina for several reasons; he’s a Julius Peppers type talent that plays a position of need that also carries first overall value. A defensive tackle hasn’t been taken first overall since Courtney Brown. A wide receiver hasn’t been taken first since Keyshawn Johnson. A cornerback has never been selected first and I don’t think we’ll see that happen this year either. The process of elimination leaves Bowers.
Champ Bailey is set for unrestricted free agency this offseason so cornerback becomes an acute need for the Broncos. This year’s Thorpe winner has a superb collection of instincts, size, agility, and speed that make him a special prospect, worthy of being drafted this early.
Ralph Wilson has undertaken a quest to make his team more exciting. Drafting Cam Newton certainly achieves this. The Heisman Trophy winner offers a natural fit in a Chan Gaileys offense that’s seen far less talented quarterbacks like Tyler Thigpen achieve a high level of production. Newton’s arm strength suits the wintry climes of Buffalo and his mobility pairs well with C.J. Spiller to form the most dynamic backfield in the league.
Fairley’s rough on-field affect already screams “Bengal,” but this is a situation where best player available also meets a need. Fairley’s performance this season was nothing short of remarkable–shades of Ndamukong Suh his junior year. Like Suh, the Lombardi Award winner projects as a dominant three technique in an even front. He joins a Bengals defense that is loaded in young edge rushing and back seven talent and puts them over the top as a dominant unit.
Arizona is a bit of a wild card, but this is an instance where BPA should win out over other considerations. They should quickly become competitive again through trading for Kevin Kolb. Unfortunately, Airzona’s biggest need is for a quality offensive tackle but there are none worthy of being taken this high. Arizona’s offense functioned best in the past when it had another dominant wide receiver to pair opposite Larry Fitzgerald and Green helps them recapture that form. Green also provides a buffer should Fitzgerald decide to leave for free agency down the line.
The Browns are surprisingly well stocked with young talent across the roster for a team that finished so poorly. The offensive line is filled with talent and the secondary is excellent. Peyton Hillis blossomed into a quality starter and Colt McCoy is worth seeing through. A defensive lineman like Marcell Dareus could be a strong option here, but I think it makes more sense for Cleveland to help McCoy by getting him a special receiver like Jones to catch his passes.
Some project Quinn strictly as a defensive end in an even front, but I believe he has the athleticism to stand up and play outside linebacker as well. The 49ers don’t have a lot of needs, but they could certainly use an elite edge rusher to complement the type of pressure Justin Smith generates. Quinn would play as the stand-up defensive end in San Francisco’s odd fronts and then move to the right end position when they shift to their 4-3 alignments.
Mike Munchak might look for his quarterback at this selection, but since Tennessee is a veteran team that’s built to win now, I’d expect them to search instead for a veteran starter among the many that should be available this offseason. Amukamara offers BPA at a position of need. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year came into the season as the top ranked senior prospect and nothing has changed as he’s the first senior to be taken.
Three of Dallas’ four defensive ends are set for free agency this offseason, so it’s possible that the position could become a distinct need. Dareus offers a nice fit at three and five technique in Dallas’ one gapping 3-4 front, and even offers some relief at nose tackle on longer downs when Jay Ratliff needs to be spelled. This is another case where BPA meets a need.
Selecting Gabbert at ten is pretty much the best case scenario for the Redskins, who finally get their stud quarterback to center their rebuild around. Gabbert fits Kyle Shanahan’s offense nicely as a smart, mobile play-maker capable of handling a complex playbook and an offensive system that taxes it’s quarterbacks ability to run and make vertical plays on the move. There’s a lot of Aaron Rodgers to Gabbert’s game. Washington likely constitutes his floor on draft day.
Miller has been getting a lot of positive attention following a strong Senior Bowl performance, but Adam Schefter’s gleeful remarks that Miller is a top 5 lock seem overeager. Miller is a nice “ROLB” prospect in a 34 front who projects as a smallish, Clay Matthews-style edge rusher. He’s still a bit of a one trick pony at this point, which is why he’s excluded from the first ten selections. But he offers a nice fit in the Wade Phillips front the Texans have curiously decided to install, helping them along in their transition and giving them another formidable defensive weapon to compliment Brian Cushing and Mario Williams.
A quarterback like Ryan Mallett could be an option here if he shows up well throughout the rest of the pre-draft process. Who’s to say that will happen though, and Watt is too good to go much lower than this in the draft. Ray Edwards is set for free agency and the Vikings can let him walk if they come away with Watt. He’s an ideal base end in their front who, much like Kevin Williams, can play multiple positions along the line if need be. He forms a really nice compliment to Jared Allen because of his ability as a run defender, and he keeps their defensive line a strength even as the unit ages.
Smith would probably be a top 5 pick if he were 25 pounds heavier and played on the left side for USC. Instead he’ll slip farther than he should on draft day despite his talent. This year’s Morris Trophy recipient was one of the few players able to slow Cameron Jordan during the season, and he’s an ideal fit as the anchor for Detroit’s soft offensive line. Matt Stafford, despite his immense talent, won’t pan out if he dislocates his shoulder every season because his line can’t keep him clean. Detroit needs to protect their investment in him, and let that dynamic offense get untracked. Finding a solution at left tackle is an immediate priority, and there won’t be many years where they can get the top prospect in the class picking thirteenth.
Rams fans are praying Julio Jones makes it all of the way to them at this pick, that’s unlikely to happen. The team has built a solid foundation for a winner however, and can afford to start adding talent to the holes within their defense. Spagnuolo’s scheme emphasizes the defensive end position, and Clayborn offers a complete package like Spagnuolo enjoyed with Michael Strahan in New York. He creates a dynamic tandem along side the smaller, quicker Chris Long, who is a blossoming star in his own right. Together, they form the core of a defense on the rise.
Since there are no available quarterback prospects worthy of this selection, Miami is better off going BPA and looking for a solution at the position in a later round. Miami caught a bum rap when Jared Odrick went down for the season. His return and the addition of Jordan creates a Miami defense replete with young, impact talent at each position group. By drafting Jordan, the Dolphins would become stronger along the edges of their defense than anyone else in the league, and give them the horses to slow down the balanced and potent offenses of the upper echelon AFC teams.
In a class less potent than this one, Jimmy Smith would probably be among the top ten selections. Such is his talent and he enters the draft following a dominant individual season, including a stifling performance against A.J. Green. He’s a physical press coverage corner who compares favorably to New England’s 2010 first round selection Devin McCourty. The Jaguars have a profound need for help in their secondary following the stark decline of Rashean Mathis. This is yet another fortunate pick where BPA fills a position of need.