Monday, March 28, 2011

My Top 32 Prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft

Top 32 Players
2011 NFL Draft
March 28, 2011

This is my opinion of the incoming NFL draft class. I'm going with 32 players but this is not a mock draft. They are ranked in order of who I believe is the best NFL prospect. For the record I make exactly zero dollars for my skills as an NFL talent evaluator.

1. Patrick Peterson CB LSU
2010 Jim Thorpe Award Winner. 2010 Chuck Bednarik Award Winner. 2010 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. 2010 Special Teams Player of the Year. Stud.

Peterson followed up his outstanding junior campaign with impressive combine numbers running a 4.34 40 yard dash. This is a freakishly talented football player. Peterson can make plays from the cornerback position as well as in the return game. In today's passing league a cover corner with this much talent is very valuable. Peterson will make an immediate impact on whichever defense he ends up on and will become a "value pick" if he makes it out of the top three in this years draft.

2. Marcell Dareus DT Alabama
2010 All SEC First Team Defense with 34 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

Dareus is a disruptive force on the defensive line. He plays with superior strength and has incredible technique. Very solid fundamentally. Relentless. Dareus has natural ability to play inside in a 4-3 front and has experience playing the end in Alabama's 3-4 front. NFL teams will love the versatility and ability to make plays all over the defensive line.

3. Von Miller OLB Texas A&M
2010 Consensus All-American. 2010 Butkus Award Winner. Led the Big Twelve with 10.5 sacks in 13 games. 27.5 sacks over his final two seasons.

Miller is a pass rush beast. He is the best pass rushing outside linebacker in this draft and can get after the quarterback regardless of whether he plays in a 3 or 4 man front. Physical freak. Incredible first step seems to put him in the backfield at about the same time the football gets there. Attacks the quarterback with endless energy. Pass rushers are extremely valuable. Pass rushers who can excel in a 3 or 4 man front are very rare and will not stay on the board long.

4. Cam Newton QB Auburn
2010 Heisman Trophy Winner. 2010 Maxwell Award Winner. 2010 AP Player of the Year. 2010 Walter Camp Player of the Year. 2010 Davey O'Brien Award Winner. 2010 SEC Offensive Player of the Year. Threw for 2854 yards with 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Added 1473 yards and another 20 touchdowns rushing. Led the Tigers to the National Championship.

Cam Newton just put together one of the best seasons in college football history under immense national scrutiny. He will have no problem handling the pressure of being a high draft pick and franchise quarterback in the NFL. Physically the most gifted quarterback to come out of college since John Elway. Incredibly mobile with a cannon for an arm and under rated accuracy. Plays under control and displays excellent football sense. With the number one pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Carolina Panthers select...

5.A.J. Green WR Georgia
2010 Walter Camp All-America Second Team. 2010 All SEC Second Team. 2010 Biletnikoff Award Semi-finalist.

Green put up career highs in touchdowns and receptions in 2010 despite missing four games due to suspension. Play maker who can score from anywhere on the field. Dangerous with the football. Green is thought to be the most NFL ready prospect and is expected to contribute early. Despite the combine show that Julio Jones put on, Green is by far the best wide receiver on the board and will not make it out of the top five of the NFL draft.

6. Da'Quan Bowers DE Clemson
2010 Bronko Nagurski Award Winner. 2010 ACC Defensive Player of the Year with 63 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 17 quarterback pressures and 15.5 sacks.

Best pass rushing defensive lineman in the draft. Put up incredible numbers in his junior season despite playing through a knee injury. Scouts love the toughness. Prototypical 4-3 defensive end who can shut down the run and excels at rushing the passer. Dominant player that only has to prove his knee is healthy after offseason surgery.

7. Nick Fairley DT Auburn
2010 Consensus All-American with 60 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.

Fairley was just as much the leader of the Tiger defense as Cam Newton was the leader of the Tiger offense. Explosive, disruptive defensive tackle who can stop the run and create pressure up the middle. Fairley is not viewed as having the versatility to play in a 3-4 front but looks to have an outstanding skill set as a 4-3 tackle.

8. Prince Amukamara CB Nebraska
2010 Big Twelve Defensive Player of the Year.

Amukamara is just a notch below Peterson at the corner position. In most classes Amukamara would stand out as the best corner but Peterson is just that big of a freak. Amukamara is a shut down corner who has the talent to cover number one wide receivers in the NFL. He will not make it out of the top ten.

9. Julio Jones WR Alabama
Set Alabama single season records for receptions and yardage in 2010 with 78 receptions for 1133 yards.

Jones has great NFL size and speed. Incredibly elusive for a player his size, he is able to create yards after the catch and make defenders miss. Adjusts well to the ball and has a tendency to make the amazing catch look easy. Also a very capable and willing down field blocker. Coaches will love that often overlooked element of Jones game.

10. Robert Quinn DE/OLB North Carolina
ACC. Did not play in 2010 due to NCAA rule violations.

Quinn is considered a pass rusher first and foremost. Considered versatile enough to create pressure as a 3-4 edge rushing outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end. Quinn is a physically gifted player who plays with a nonstop motor. Quinn may fall to the middle of the first round due to not playing last season but he will have more of an impact than players that will go ahead of him. Difference maker.

11. J.J. Watt DE Wisconsin
2010 Lott Impact Trophy Award Winner. Finished 2010 with 61 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks.

Watt impressively finished in the top five of every defensive lineman drill at the NFL combine. Versatile defensive lineman that has the talent and physical ability to play inside or outside in either a 3 or 4 man front. Has an outstanding work ethic and is a leader on the field and in the locker room.

12. Blaine Gabbert QB Missouri
Passed for 3186 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2010. Added 232 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing while leading Missouri to a 10 win season.

Most talking heads consider Gabbert the safest quarterback prospect in this years draft while viewing Cam Newton as a boom or bust guy. I obviously disagree with this assessment. I see good things when I look at Blaine Gabbert, good arm strength, good NFL size, makes good decisions. I just don't see franchise quarterback when I look at the game tape. Everything is there except the tape and he played in the Show Me state. He could be one of those guys that develops into a capable starter or he could be a career backup. At best I see Matt Schaub, at worst, Elvis Grbac. Time will tell.

13. Aldon Smith DE/OLB Missouri
2009 Big Twelve Defensive Freshman of the Year. 2010 Big 12 First Team. Broke the Missouri single season sack record as a freshman.

Smith has a high ceiling as a pass rusher in the NFL. The physical tools are all there to be an outstanding edge rusher. Most scouts seem to think his skills fit better at outside linebacker in a 3-4 system than as a down lineman in a 4-3. Smith would have been better off with one more season in college but his potential as a big time pass rusher will get him drafted early.

14. Tyron Smith OT USC
2010 All-Pac Ten First Team. 2010 Morris Trophy Winner.

Smith may not be the most decorated offensive lineman in the draft but I believe he has the most upside. He is the most athletic and has the quickest feet of the bunch. Started two seasons at right tackle for the Trojans and was projected to slide to the left side at USC before turning pro. Has the physical tools and pure athletic ability to eventually man the left side in the NFL.

15. Ryan Kerrigan DE/OLB Purdue
2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. First Team All-Big Ten with 70 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Recorded 32 sacks over his final three seasons at Purdue.

Kerrigan is another guy who can play defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4. In the past these players were considered "tweeners". With the 3-4 being more utilized these guys are key players and very valuable to teams due to that versatility. Kerrigan would be a legitimate pass rush threat either way. He is at his best when allowed to harass the quarterback on every snap. He will not last past the top half of the first round.

16.  Cameron Jordan DE California
2010 Honorable Mention All-American. 2010 First Team All-Pac Ten.

Jordan has great NFL size and was a four year starter at Cal. At 6'4" and 290 pounds he can play any position on the defensive line. Excels at stuffing the run and demands double teams on nearly every snap. Also a very capable pass rusher. Jordan comes from a 3-4 base defense in college but has experience playing in a 4-3 as well. Versatile, strong and productive defensive lineman.

17. Mark Ingram RB Alabama
Rushed for 875 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010 despite missing the first two games with a knee injury. Set Alabama career record for rushing touchdowns with 42. Set Alabama single season rushing record in 2009 with 1658 yards. 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.

Ingram is far and away the best running back in the 2011 draft. Physical runner who can produce inside the tackles and has the speed to get outside. Patient runner with great vision. Capable receiver and pass blocker. Not only an every down back in the NFL but has the ability to be a very productive one. Talking heads like to tell you about his less than stellar 40 yard dash time but this guy is an excellent football player. He may fall down the draft board if he is being drafted for his track ability.

18. Corey Liuget DT Illinois
2010 Second Team All-Big Ten with 63 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries, 4.5 sacks and 3 passes broken up.

Liuget has excellent NFL size, strength and is a disruptive force at defensive tackle. Uses his hands extremely well. Quick and powerful. Can beat offensive lineman with quickness or an above average bull rush. Able to get in the back field consistently and makes plays when he gets there. Best suited for a 4 man front.

19. Nate Solder OT Colorado
2010 Big Twelve Offensive Lineman of the Year. 2010 Consensus All-American.

Solder is an extremely athletic lineman with excellent NFL size. Started every game at left tackle for Colorado in 2010 and did not miss a single offensive snap. True left tackle prospect who will be able to contribute immediately. Does not have the upside of Tyron Smith but has more experience coming out of college.

20. Muhammad Wilkerson DE/DT Temple
2010 All-MAC First Team with 70 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.

Wilkerson matches outstanding size and production with the versatility to line up at any position on the defensive line outside of nose tackle. Not only position versatile but scheme versatile as he can play in a 3 or 4 man front effectively. Wilkerson played primarily defensive tackle in a 4 man front at Temple but physically represents the perfect five technique in a 3 man front. Plays with superior strength and uses his hands very well.

21. Adrian Clayborn DE Iowa
2010 Consensus All-American. 2010 First Team All-Big Ten. Recorded 15 sacks over his final two seasons at Iowa.

Considered a top ten selection after his junior season he returned to school and his numbers slipped a bit. Clayborn has excellent size and above average strength. Strictly a defensive end he does not have the versatility of some of the guys ranked above him. He does however have the ability to play defensive end in a 3 or 4 man front and be very productive.

22. Jimmy Smith CB Colorado
2010 First Team All-Big Twelve.

In a pass happy conference Smith was only thrown at twenty times in 2010. He comes away with five passes defensed and one touchdown allowed on the season. Big Twelve quarterbacks avoided Smith like he was Deion Sanders. Unlike Sanders, Smith is a physical corner who is not afraid to put a hit on the ball carrier. Smith possesses incredible speed for a player at any size but that speed for a guy who is 6'2" is rare and worth a lot of money in the NFL.

23. Gabe Carimi OT Wisconsin
2010 Outland Trophy Winner. 2010 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. Consensus First Team All-Big Ten.

Carimi possesses the size and outstanding work ethic that NFL teams are looking for in an offensive tackle. People question his foot speed and whether or not he can play the left side at the next level. I believe he can be a very good left tackle. Worst case scenario with Carimi is a pro bowl caliber right tackle for the next decade.

24. Anthony Castonzo OT Boston College
Holds Boston College record for career starts with 54. 2010 Third Team All-American. 2010 All-ACC First Team.

Castonzo is a very physical offensive lineman. Played left tackle at Boston College but is projected as a right tackle prospect in the NFL. I do not believe he has the quickness to man the left side but believe he will be an outstanding right tackle for a long time to come.

25. Mike Pouncey C/G Florida
2010 Second Team All-SEC. Started every game at center in 2010. Leaves Florida with 41 career starts on the offensive line, 28 at guard and 13 at center.

Physically gifted player. Best interior offensive lineman in this draft. Can play any of the three interior offensive line positions with great effectiveness. Pouncey is a gifted athlete who will start from day one and for a long time.

26. Jake Locker QB Washington
2010 Honorable Mention All-Pac Ten.

Locker is an extremely athletic player at the quarterback position. He is also a tremendous leader on the field and in the locker room. Has the size and off the chart intangibles that NFL teams are looking for. Would like to see more accuracy from the pocket but I believe he has the ability to work on that and improve. Extremely accurate on the run and outside the pocket.

27. Justin Houston OLB Georgia
2010 All-American. 2010 All-SEC First Team with 67 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 44 quarterback pressures, 10 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries.

Houston made a successful transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker at the college level. Many NFL teams will be asking guys to do that as rookies, Houston has already done it and has the game tape to show for it. Posted a monster 2010 season as the primary edge rusher for the Bulldogs. Houston may just be scratching the surface of his talents at outside linebacker.

28. Akeem Ayers OLB UCLA
2010 Second Team All-American. 2010 First Team All-PAC Ten.

Ayers is an excellent all around linebacker. He does not possess the pass rush ability as some of the guys ranked higher but he may have the best all around game. Ayers can track down the ball carrier from anywhere on the field, he can drop back in coverage on the best tight ends and running backs and he is an adequate pass rusher. The guy does not have one glaring weakness in his game.

29. Cameron Heyward DE Ohio State
2010 First Team All-Big Ten. Four year starter at Ohio State.

Heyward is a physically dominating player. Commands double teams. Perfect five technique for 3-4 teams but versatile enough to line up inside or out in 3 or 4 man fronts. Like Wilkerson, can play every position on the defensive line outside of nose tackle. Some team at the end of round one will be getting a player who is capable of playing and contributing early.

30. Derek Sherrod OT Mississippi State
2009 and 2010 All-SEC selection. Started 47 of 50 games in his college career.

Sherrod plays with great technique and amazing strength. Excels at run blocking, will absolutely maul defenders. Does not have the quickest feet but is more than adequate in pass protection. Plays with a mean streak that coaches love in an offensive lineman.

31. Randall Cobb WR Kentucky
Set SEC single season record for all purpose yardage in 2010 with 2396 yards. Only player in the nation to rank first or second on his team in passing, rushing and receiving in 2010.

Explosive player who is incredibly dangerous with the football in his hands. Cobb is coming out after a junior season in which he caught 84 passes for 1017 yards and 7 touchdowns while rushing 55 times for 424 yards and another 5 touchdowns. Cobb is also capable as a return man and a wildcat option at quarterback. Cobb is the type of player that offensive coaches will find as many ways as possible to get the ball in his hands.

32. Phil Taylor DT Baylor
Consensus Second Team All-Big Twelve with 62 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 2 sacks in 2010.

Taylor is the top nose tackle prospect in this draft. Teams with a 3 man front love the mobility for a player his size. He is also capable of playing inside in a 4 man front. Manhandles offensive lineman regardless of which system he is playing in. The rare display of size and athleticism in combination with the growing demand for nose tackles should push Taylor up the board in April.


  1. Cam is going to be a bust.

  2. Cam Newton is a WINNER!

  3. Solid 32! I would love to here what u think of my boy, Jerrill Powe, DL outta Ole Miss.

    Cam is def a winner

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I like Powe a lot actually. He could be a really good nose tackle. His senior season could have been better but offensive line coaches game planned for the guy and he saw almost constant double teams.

  6. Nice write-up, but I agree with a previous poster that you're ranking Cam Newton too high. He's got impressive credentials, but certain people in the NFL analysis world have been openly critical of non-athletic fundamentals. Will the guy be first round? Of course. Will he be fourth, let alone first? I, for one, am increasingly convinced he'll be picked later. We'll see!

  7. People either love Cam or hate him. I think the guy is going to be a very good pro. The good thing is we will see in less than a month now.