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It’s never too early…

04.28.10 at 8:23 pm ET
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That’s a lie. I’m borderline disgusted with myself, but when you’ve done a mock draft every Wednesday for as far back as you can remember, this is the type of stuff that happens. Presenting an outrageously early look at the 2011 NFL draft (after all, there was enough buzz this weekend to keep everyone wanting more from Radio City Music Hall):

1. Buffalo – Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Locker may have battled Sam Bradford had he come out a year early, and with the Bills neglecting foundational positions early once again, they can expect to pick approximately eight picks higher than they did last week.

2. St. Louis – Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: We heard plenty of the Suh vs. Bradford debate at No. 1 this year, and even though they made the responsible decision by taking a franchise quarterback, that defensive line is even worse off with the trade of first-round bust Adam Carriker.

3. Tampa Bay – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: The team began the defensive line overhaul with Gerald McCoy and should continue the youth movement with Quinn, who has the size and strength to be a force at defensive end.

4. Cleveland – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: How slowly will the Browns bring Colt McCoy along?  Hopefully so slowly that he doesn’t see the field until the team has gotten him some weapons. Jones and Georgia’s A.J. Green will likely battle it out for the top receiver slot in the draft class.

5. Carolina – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Panthers didn’t have a first-round pick, but wound up barely missing a beat by taking a guy people expected to go in the Top 10. Even so, the Jimmy Clausen pick doesn’t help a bad team now, so they can expect a Top 5 pick they can secure some offensive line help with.

6. Detroit – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch are the first pieces in the long process that is restoring some semblance of an NFL defense. Third-round pick Amari Speivey isn’t a real No. 1. Peterson is.

7. Kansas City – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: The 2010 draft gave Matt Cassel some toys at both running back and tight end, but the team still needs a game-changer to complement Dwayne Bowe or even supplant him on the depth chart.

8. Patriots [from Oakland] – Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State: The Patriots drafted well, but that hole at right defensive end is still there. Maybe they can do a patch-up job for the forthcoming season, but using the pick from the Richard Seymour trade on the next long-term star at the position would only be appropriate.

9. Pittsburgh – Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: Here’s where it gets a little interesting. What happens if Byron Leftwich struggles out of the gate? What if the team is in an irreversible funk by the time Ben Roethlisberger returns? The team could very well finish as one of the bottom teams. If they do, there’s only one person and position to blame.

10. Jacksonville – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Nobody will ever know whether the Jaguars would have taken C.J. Spiller at No. 10 were he available, but the intrigue of an upper-echelon running attack comprised of Ingram and Maurice Jones-Drew might leave them looking at Ingram next year.

11. Arizona — Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina: It will be interesting to see how seriously the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Austin will be taken by 3-4 teams. The Cardinals got a real steal with Dan Williams and Austin could fit nicely next to him.

12. Chicago — Adrian Clayborne, DE, Iowa: Corey Wootton’s career may be wasted in the 4-3 and the Bears may realize they used their fourth-round pick stupidly by next year’s draft. Clayborn is a much better fit and would combine with Julius Pepper to give Chicago a scary pass-rushing tandem.

13. Cincinnati – Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia: Brandon Ghee was a terrific pick at the bottom of the third round, but they should remain focused on building a secondary with the “Leon can’t do everything” mindset.

14. Denver – Joseph Barksdale, OT, LSU: You can’t say the Broncos don’t have direction. (Also, a gentlemanly sneer to anyone who disagreed with my longstanding insistence that a team would trade into the late first round to get Tim Tebow.) The offensive pieces are starting to fall into place. As long as they’re protected, Tebow should eventually be fine.

15. Miami – Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina: Working Carter in the rotation with Koa Misi will really give the Dolphins some legitimacy at outside linebacker. The Dolphins are a few pieces away from having one of the better young defenses in the league.

16. Seattle – Greg Romeus, DL, Pittsburgh: Romeus would be a great fit with the Seahawks, playing on the inside or outside of the defensive line. If Pete Carroll’s coaching matches his draft-day moves, this team should be on the upswing.

17. Philadelphia — Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: The Eagles now have a defense that don’t need major upgrades anywhere, but with Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning, and Tony Romo frequent foes, they can never be too safe at cornerback. With any hope Amukara works out better than the last first-round cornerback from Nebraska (Fabian Washington).

18. Washington — Allen Bailey, DL, Miami: Speaking of McNabb, the offense should be on track (We’ll see — the offensive line is still questionable). How the team transitions to the 3-4 may be the biggest question of the year. Assuming something goes wrong (it’s the Redskins, after all), we’ll give them one of the better five-technique prospects in the country.

19. San Francisco – DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma: The 49ers upgraded their offense substantially by adding one of the better tackles (Anthony Davis) and the best guard in the draft (Mike Iupati) to the strong side. If that offensive line isn’t the best in the league within three years, something went wrong. As for the rest of the offense, we have all learned by now that Frank Gore can’t be counted on for 16-plus games.

20. New York Giants — Greg Jones, ILB, Michigan State: The Giants made their defensive line a hell of a lot better, but the way things are looking, either Jonathan Goff or Phillip Dillard is going to be their starting middle linebacker.

21. Tennessee – Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: The undersized and underwhelming Jovan Haye shouldn’t have a future in Tennessee. Putting Pea to the right of Derrick Morgan will give the line a punch it hasn’t had since the days of Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch.

22. Atlanta – Deunta Williams, S, North Carolina: The Falcons had a very good draft, but it was surprising that they didn’t go after a safety in the earlier rounds. Sixth-round pick Shann Schillinger likely won’t develop into a starter so the team will have to place a higher priority on the position next year.

23. Patriots – Michael Pouncey, G, Florida: No, I didn’t accidentally put Maurkice Pouncey in a 2011 mock draft. It’s his brother. The Patriots love drafting Gators and depending on how things shake out with Logan Mankins and the looming retirement of Stephen Neal, they could be in the market for a guard.

24. Minnesota — Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: The passing on Jimmy Clausen might just mean the team doesn’t love Clausen. They can’t expect Favre to play forever and Luck would be a steal.

25. Baltimore – Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: Brown has late-first round talent and it’s likely that playing with Deunta Williams will make him look even better.

26. Houston – Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech: The Texans did the right thing by taking a corenerback last Thursday, but the Texans are developing into a far too legitimate offense to not have a lead back.

27. Dallas – Mark Herzlich, OLB, Boston College: Could this really happen? Yes. It won’t be easy, but if Herzlich proves that he is the same player he was two years ago, he should be held in such regard.

28. Green Bay – Evan Royster, RB, Penn State: Aaron Rodgers is one of the more outstanding quarterbacks in the league, and though the team got him some protection the form of Bryan Bulaga, he can never have too many weapons.

29. San Diego – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: The Chargers re-wrote the book on reaching by trading up to No. 12 for Ryan Mathews. A selection of Floyd would be a reversal in fortune in that he’d be a great value.

30. New York Jets – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: This would be a luxury pick, but Solder is a giant at 6-foot-9 and would take over for Damien Woody in a year or two at right tackle.

31. Indianapolis – Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: Not sure the secondary couldn’t use another body or two with big-play ability even after adding Kevin Thomas.

32. New Orleans – DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson: Similarly to the Falcons, it was surprising that safeties weren’t targeted early by the Saints. The team has so much depth throughout the roster that it could really go for the best player.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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