2011 Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft

EXTRA, EXTRA!!! IT'S OUR ANNUAL JIM SEZ NFL MOCK DRAFT - AND HERE'S AN INSIDE LOOK AT HOW WE SEE THURSDAY'S FIRST ROUND PLAYING OUT

By Jim Hurley:

Hey, isn't it great that there's actually Football to talk about right here/right now and it doesn't have anything to do with "lockouts"or "work stoppages"?

The National Football League Draft is - without a doubt - one of the most fun sports events of the calendar year and so let's have a lot of fun here in today's Jim Sez column with our NFL Mock Draft Round I selections.

And they shall come your way in just a moment but keep in mind the following note:

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THE NFL DRAFT - THE FIRST ROUND LOWDOWN

1. CAROLINA PANTHERS - CAM NEWTON, QB, AUBURN
No doubt the Panthers - coming off an ugly 2-14 season in 2010 - need a major "name"player to be tabbed here and nobody's a bigger name in this draft than last year's Heisman Trophy winner who also just so happened to play for the BCS National Championship team. Newton is by no means a lead-pipe cinch to be a star in the NFL and note that the Scouts, Inc. folks list him at #16 overall in terms of the top 32 players in this draft. Still, Carolina's not sold on last year's rookie QB Jimmy Clausen (the 2010 Panthers' offense averaged a scant 12.2 points a game) and so Newton gets the nod over any/all top defensive linemen here.

2. DENVER BRONCOS - MARCELL DAREUS, DT, ALABAMA
Those aforementioned Scouts, Inc. people list this 'Bama star as the top player in this year's draft - and who are we to argue? The 320-pounder is a major disruptive force who kayoed Texas QB Colt McCoy from the national title tilt two years ago and who should be a double-digit sack guy right out of the starting gate. The Broncos (4-12 in 2010) allowed 27-or-more points in nine games last year and must batten down the hatches and especially against fellow AFC West foes who scored a whopping 205 points in six games last season (that's 34.2 ppg).

3. BUFFALO BILLS - A.J. GREEN, WR, GEORGIA
Here's a gut feeling that a third consecutive Southeastern Conference player will be tabbed at the very start of this draft and this one figures to be a surprise because most mock drafts believe the Bills will opt for defense. Hey, the fact is Buffalo was held to 14 points or less in nine games last year and the acrobatic and sure-handed Green offers a "home run"threat that the Bills have not had in years (and we're not counting WR Terrell Owens a couple of years ago!). Better believe this pick will irk the Cincy Bengals who are up next.

4. CINCINNATI BENGALS - JULIO JONES, WR, ALABAMA
How about four straight SEC players right out of the ole draft chute? The Bengals sorely wanted Green and may toy with the idea of tabbing a quarterback here 'cause veteran Carson Palmer wants out but maybe by drafting this long-ball threat they can soothe Palmer's angry emotions. In any event, Jones probably thought he'd fall into the 10-to-15 pick range but the Bills' choice up above will catapult this former Crimson Tide star into the top five and don't be shocked if he's the Bengals' top pass-catcher in 2011 (providing Palmer is still there, of course).

5. ARIZONA CARDINALS - VON MILLER, LB, TEXAS A&M
The NFC West figures to be an up-for-grabs division again in 2011 - remember how Seattle won it at 7-9 last year - and so an impact player here or there for the Redbirds may give them a big draft-day edge and last season's Butkus Award winner is atop everyone's draft-day list of top linebackers. Miler - who is listed at #2 among "top prospects"by the Scouts, Inc. folks - figures to start right away for a team whose current LBs are growing old in the tooth (see Joey Porter and Clark Haggans). Good, solid pick and the Cards will be lucky he's still on the board.

6. CLEVELAND BROWNS - ROBERT QUINN, DE, NORTH CAROLINA
Maybe Browns fans wish their team would go offense here - remember that Cleveland scored a grand total of 55 points in the team's final five games last year - but it's more important to grab a top-flight pass rusher and so this AFC North crew opts for Quinn over Auburn's Nick Fairley and Wisconsin's J.J. Watt and they also leave star CB Patrick Peterson (LSU) on the board ... hmmm.

7. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS - PATRICK PETERSON, CB, LSU
Okay, so here's yet another SEC star getting plucked in the top 10 picks of this draft and you can bet your bottom dollar that the 49ers were stunned that this do-it-all player (he'll also see time on the San Fran special teams) was still available here. The Niners (just 6-10 last year) know they're in a pass-first division with St. Louis QB Bradford and Arizona's tendency to chuck the ball and so getting an impact player in the D-backfield is key and SF's not bothered that it missed out on a deluxe pass rusher here.

8. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS - PRINCE AMUKAMARA, CB, NEBRASKA
Okay, so here's our only draft-day trade into Round One as we project the Pats will swap first-round picks with the Tennessee Titans plus N'England will sweeten the deal with a couple of mid-rounders being sent away to Nashville but the key here is Bill Belichick "gets his man"as he desperately needed to shore up his secondary and this former Cornhuskers star was the "best available"DB. There are many draft folks that believe he's a top five talent here and so the man in the hoodie makes his shrewd move and gives up some of his many stockpiled picks.

9. DALLAS COWBOYS - DA'QUAN BOWERS, DE, CLEMSON
The truth of the matter is the Cowboys could go in any direction here (including entertaining trade talk for anyone that's looking for Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert) but instead decide to leap at this sack specialist (nation-leading 15 ½ sacks last year) who most draft prognosticators believe will go in the 18-to-25 range. Bowers is dealing with questions regarding an injured knee but the 'Boys feel strongly that he's best value at this pick.

10. WASHINGTON REDSKINS - BLAINE GABBERT, QB, MISSOURI
You might wonder why the Cowboys didn't make a deal so that someone outside the NFC East would draft this Big 12 gunslinger but instead the draft's top rated quarterback lands in the Redskins' lap (they otherwise would have taken Washington QB Jake Locker, if you trust the reports) and you know head coach Mike Shanahan and his son are tickled pink to be getting this highly accurate passer with mad skills.

11. HOUSTON TEXANS - AARON WILLIAMS, CB, TEXAS
If you check out most boards, they'll place this former Longhorns star somewhere in the lower few picks in Round I but the Texans desperately need DB help and both Peterson and Amukamara are long gone and so this AFC South crew doesn't blink and tabs the in-state star who was a workout warrior for NFL teams in recent weeks. Keep in mind, folks, that Wade Phillips is Houston's new defensive coordinator.

12. MINNESOTA VIKINGS - J.J. WATT, DE, WISCONSIN
The Vikes will stay "local"with the selection of this Big 10 mega-star as Minny looks to add pieces to head coach Leslie Frazier's pride-and-joy defense. Trust us, there will be some talk about drafting Washington QB Locker here but the Vikings won't bite and instead go for the best available pass rusher while looking to give DE Jared Allen some help on the other side.

13. DETROIT LIONS - ANTHONY CASTONZO, OT, BOSTON COLLEGE
Most mock draft boards believe the Lions will opt for an O-lineman here and conventional wisdom says it will be USC's offensive tackle Tyron Smith but Motowners' brass fools 'em all and instead grabs cerebral Castonzo who started a school-record 51 games in his career. A rock-solid pick.

14. ST. LOUIS RAMS - KYLE RUDOLPH, TE, NOTRE DAME
Maybe considered a slight reach here (note that Rudolph's listed at #25 on the Scouts, Inc Top 32 board) but fact is the Rams want to add weapons to QB Bradford's stable and St. Loo doesn't think he'll be there with the team's second-round choice at #47.

15. MIAMI DOLPHINS - TYRON SMITH, OT, USC
No question the Fish didn't think this granite block would still be sitting here in the middle of Round One and so the AFC East crew leaps at him and thus passes up possibility that Miami would take a wide receiver in light of the recent Brandon Marshall stabbing incident.

16. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - NICK FAIRLEY, DT, AUBURN
Here's a guy who had top 10 stamped all over 'em a couple of months back but he missed some team workouts/interviews and thus his stock fell but Jaguars - who surrendered 29.8 ppg in the final month of play last year (that's one win and three losses) - had to bone up the D-line and he's the best player still available here.

17. TENNESSEE TITANS - MIKE POUNCEY, C/G, FLORIDA
Remember that we had Tennessee swap first-round picks here with New England and so the Titans dropped down a total of nine spots in all and still bagged high-quality O-lineman as they look to protect QB Vince Young a bit better in the sack-happy AFC South.

18. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS - CAMERON JORDAN, DE, CALIFORNIA
Last year's non-playoff season - the first for the Bolts since 2005 - really rubbed folks the wrong way 'round these parts and so the belief is that stepping up the pass rush is the numero uno priority especially with two games a year now against Denver's Tim Tebow and Kansas City's Matt Cassel.

19. NEW YORK GIANTS - GABE CARIMI, OT, WISCONSIN
Last year's Outland Trophy's winner is a perfect fit for the Jints who - if truth be told - would have loved to get their hands on the aforementioned Pouncey but no doubt Tom Coughlin's club needs to address an aging offensive line that had major breakdowns a year ago en route to a non-playoff, 10-win season.

20. TAMPA BAY BUCS - BROOKS REED, OLB, ARIZONA
Okay, so it won't take long for ESPN's Mel Kiper to declare this pick a "reach"but Bucs need some energy players on defense who can be plugged into a couple of different positions and this former U of A Wildcats star fits in just right with Raheem Morris' current stop unit that loves to raise some heck.

21. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - AKEEM AYERS, OLB, UCLA
There will be some talk that the Chiefs should add pieces to the offensive side of the ball after KayCee scored just 7 points in that one-sided playoff home loss last year versus Baltimore but GM Scott Pioli opts for the biggest impact player left at LB and thus Ayers gets the nod over Georgia's Justin Houston.

22. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - MUHAMMAD WILKERSON, DT, TEMPLE
The Colts would like to spend their first two picks - that's here and than at #53 - on offensive and defensive lineman and so GM Bill Polian goes against his pre-draft judgment and makes defense the first order of the day with this 6-foot-4, 315-pound force.

23. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - RYAN KERRIGAN, DE, PURDUE
Here's a player whose motor never shuts down and so Andy Reid's club - at least for now - ignores glaring offensive line help and snags this 2010 Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year winner who could have some field days against reshuffled OLs in Dallas, New York and Washington.

24. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - MARK INGRAM, RB, ALABAMA
If Sean Payton and Company wanted to send up any "smoke screens"when it comes to this draft, than consider those major successes as most folks believe the 2009 Super Bowl champs would opt for D-line assistance but instead N'Orleans believes it's found a major cog - how's two Heisman Trophy-winning RBs on one roster (remember Reggie Bush)?

25. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - BRANDON HARRIS, CB, MIAMI
There's been talk that the 5-foot-10 Harris will drop to Round II because of size issues but we won't believe the hype as the 'Hawks want a shutdown corner in the worst way and super-aggressive ACC star will be a perfect fit for a Seattle side that surrendered 34, 38, 36 and 35 points in four of its final five games last year.

26. BALTIMORE RAVENS - CAMERON HAYWARD, DE, OHIO STATE
Lots of talk that the Ravens like Temple's Wilkerson here but GM Ozzie Newsome can't get his mitts on him and instead takes bull-rushing former Buckeyes star that helps give Baltimore an embarrassment of riches along the D-line ... but then what else is new?

27. ATLANTA FALCONS - COREY LIUGET, DT, ILLINOIS
The Falcons are whispering that they'll be happy with any sort of defensive players here but they cannot ignore the fact that Liuget is generally rated a mid first-round pick and thus offers better value than the likes of Pittsburgh DE Jabaal Sheard and/or Missouri DE Aldon Smith.

28. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS - ADRIAN CLAYBORN, DE, IOWA
There are some questions as to why Clayborn regressed in his final season in college - a medical condition called Erb's Palsy could be one factor - but the Patriots' second pick in Round One will be a defender that can wreck havoc on the likes of New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez.

29. CHICAGO BEARS - NATE SOLDER, OT, COLORADO
It's high time the Bears offered better protection to newly-engaged QB Jay Cutler and this 6-foot-8, 320-pounder should eventually nail down the left tackle spot and thus keep the tattered-and-battered Cutler in the upright position. P.S., he could spend Year One in the pros at right tackle.

30. NEW YORK JETS - JUSTIN HOUSTON, OLB, GEORGIA
The bad-boy J-E-T-S are not about to get spooked over reports that this former Bulldogs star smoked pot in the days leading up the draft as all head coach Rex Ryan sees here is a kid that secured 10 quarterback sacks last year and note that NYJ is in dire need of a playmaker at this position ... 'nuff said.

31. PITTSBURGH STEELERS - CURTIS BROWN, CB, TEXAS
The Steelers would have liked to go here with tallish corner Jimmy Smith from Colorado (he's 6-foot-2, 212 pounds) but past drug arrests means this AFC North club literally X'ed him off their wish list and so instead Mike Tomlin's guys gobble up the former Longhorns star who sported wonderful workout numbers.

32. GREEN BAY PACKERS - DENNY WATKINS, OG, BAYLOR
The Super Bowl champs would like to mix in more runs so that QB Aaron Rodgers isn't a "sitting duck"in the future and this blue-collar blocker is just the right call as G-Bay shrugs off any/all calls to trade up for Alabama RB Ingram ... it just ain't happening, folks!
 

NOTE: Catch our NBA Playoff coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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