2011 NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Patrick Peterson to the Bills?

University of Alabama quarterback TC McCarney (8) runs for a first down past Louisiana State University cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana November 6, 2010. LSU won the game 24-21. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

It’s amazing that it’s been over a month since I last compiled a mock draft. I mean, with all of the free agency rumors flying around the web these days, I find my decision not to release an updated mock rather irresponsible.

Oh wait, that’s right: There is no free agency. Thank YOU, NFL players and owners…you unbelievable bums.

With a week left to go, here’s my latest crack at predicting the first round of 2011 NFL Draft. I’ll send out one final mock next week before we do the damn thing at Radio City Music Hall on April 28.

View NFL Mock Draft 3.0

1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
The Panthers have been tight-lipped about who they’re taking, and they should be. Hey, it’s not like they can fire up contract talks with Newton’s agent seeing as how there’s no CBA currently in place. It’s time for the Panthers to settle on a franchise quarterback and even though there are plenty of warning signs surrounding Newton, I believe he’ll be their pick.

2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
The Broncos have several needs, including safety, tight end and running back. But John Fox is a defensive-minded coach and defensive tackle is arguably the team’s biggest need, making Dareus the pick here.

3. Buffalo Bills: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Is cornerback a pressing need for the Bills? No. Was running back a pressing need for the Bills last year when they took C.J. Spiller? For the second year in a row, I think GM Buddy Nix will take the best player available, regardless of position. And seeing as how Peterson is viewed as the most complete player in the draft, I like his chances of winding up in Buffalo.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
The Bengals seem dead set on bringing back Carson Palmer, even though he seems dead set on retiring if the team doesn’t trade him this offseason. T.O. won’t be back next year and Chad Ochocinco’s days in Cincinnati are running out as well. Jones has really impressed teams this offseason with his blend of size, speed and route-running ability. Some believe he’s a better prospect than Georgia’s A.J. Green.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Miller might be gone by this pick but if everything breaks right, I like Arizona selecting him at this spot. The Cardinals desperately lack a pass-rushing presence at the linebacker position and Miller can really get after the quarterback. So you do the math, buck-o.

6. Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Mike Holmgren is slowly adding pieces to his West Coast Offense and it’s time for him to find his Jerry Rice. Jones would arguably be a better fit for the Browns because of his blocking ability, but Holmgren wouldn’t complain if Green fell to him here. The former Georgia product can help aid in the development of Colt McCoy.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
This team is hard to figure out. They would seemingly like to bring back Alex Smith for one year and take a QB in one of the first two rounds to groom this season. But they could always wait and draft their signal caller of the future next year. San Fran also has needs along the defensive line and at linebacker, making Nick Fairley and Robert Quinn possibilities at this pick as well. They would do back-flips if Peterson fell to them here, but with him off the board they’ll go with the next best thing in Amukamara.

Defensive team MVP Auburn Tigers defensive tackle Nick Fairley celebrates on the victory stand at the BCS Championship game at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona on January 10, 2011. Auburn beat Oregon with a last second field goal 22-19. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
There’s a possibility that he could fall out of the top-10 altogether, but Tennessee would be hard-pressed to pass on a talent such as Fairley. Of course, quarterback is a bigger need and with Blaine Gabbert still on the board, there’s a good chance he won’t fall past Tennessee at this pick.

9. Dallas Cowboys: Tryon Smith, OT, USC
The Cowboys’ biggest need is cornerback, but with Peterson and Amukamara off the board they choose to address their right tackle position with this pick. The ‘Boys need a replacement for Marc Colombo and the 20-year-old Smith is an extremely intriguing prospect. He’s a candidate to start as a rookie, no matter where he winds up.

10. Washington Redskins: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
It’s probably a stretch to think that Gabbert would fall this far, but I like the fit. The Redskins reportedly like Gabbert, Christian Ponder and TCU’s Andy Dalton, so if Gabbert doesn’t fall to this spot watch for the Skins to take UNC’s Robert Griffin and try to nab Ponder in the second.

11. Houston Texans: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
The Texans’ biggest weakness last year was their secondary, but there aren’t any safeties worthy of this spot and they do like their young corners. One way to help a struggling secondary is to beef up the pass rush, which is exactly what Houston does with the selection of Quinn. Granted, he might not fall this far but there appears to be mixed opinions on the former UNC product, who missed all of 2010 due to a suspension.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
There’s growing sentiment that the Vikings will draft and start a rookie quarterback. Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett isn’t really a fit for Minnesota, but Locker is. Even though he’s coming off a poor senior season, the former Washington product has great athleticism and sound intangibles.

13. Detroit Lions: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
The Lions’ biggest need is at cornerback but seeing as how they also need to address the offensive tackle position, I can’t see Detroit passing on someone like Costanzo for Brandon Harris, Curtis Marsh, Jimmy Smith or any other cornerback prospect. If Amukamara falls, I think he’s the Lions’ pick. If not, they go tackle.

14. St. Louis Rams: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
This one might seem too obvious seeing as how Smith played in the Rams’ backyard at MIZZOU, but this is a fit nonetheless. Smith might not fall this far (he could go No. 11 to Houston), but if he does he seems like a logical choice for head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who won a Super Bowl in New York with a fierce pass-rush.

University of Alabama’s running back Mark Ingram (22) celebrates his touchdown run against the University of Kentucky during the second half of play in their NCAA football game at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky, October 3, 2009. REUTERS/John Sommers II (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)

15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
I’ve had Ingram slated to Miami in all three of my previous mocks and I’m not going to change now. Running back is the Dolphins’ biggest need and while Ingram’s stock seems to be slipping the closer we get to the draft, I really like the fit. Of course, the Fins could address their need at tackle at this spot and taking a running back later.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
The Jaguars are trying to rebuild their defensive line and Kerrigan fits the mold that Gene Smith is trying to go with in younger players. Kerrigan has a non-stop motor and displayed more athleticism at the scouting combine than scouts were expecting.

17. New England Patriots: Cam Jordan, DE, Cal
There’s a possibility that Jordan won’t fall this far but it would be like the Patriots to land a potential top-10 prospect in the middle of the first round. Of course, knowing Bill Belichick he probably won’t hang onto this pick either.

18. San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Chargers have needs at receiver, cornerback and offensive tackle, but adding another pass-rusher will be a top priority. At 6’6” and 292 pounds, Watt has the versatility to play as a defensive end in either a 4-3 or a 3-4.

19. New York Giants: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
There are many draft observers who think the G-Men will wind up with running back Mark Ingram at this spot, although offensive tackle is a much bigger need in my eyes. And they’ll have their pick between Carimi, Derek Sherrod, Nate Solder or possibly Anthony Castonzo if he falls.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Da’Qaun Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers is one of the many intriguing mysteries surrounding the 2011 draft. Once viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick, teams may be scared off by the health of his knee. In fact, there’s a good chance that he could even slip out of the first round entirely. But the Bucs have a huge need for a pass-rusher and if he medically checks out, then what a steal Bowers would be at this pick.

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida
The interior of the Chiefs’ offensive line is aging and Pouncey has the versatility to play either guard or center at the next level. Given the success his brother had as a rookie starter in Pittsburgh last year, there’s a possibility that the younger Pouncey is a tad overrated. But the kid has loads of talent and I like him a tad more than Penn State’s Stefen Wisniewski.

22. Indianapolis Colts: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
The Colts have ignored the offensive tackle position long enough. Their OL has been in steady decline over the past couple of years and given Peyton Manning’s struggles during a nasty three-game stretch last season (which was a combination of his poor decision-making and poor O-line play), the Colts would be wise to go OT here.

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Ayers’ stock appears to be falling the closer we get to the draft, but the Eagles need an impact player on defense. Ayers has the ability to get after the passer and could be used in a couple of different roles in new DC Juan Castillo’s system.

Iowa defender Adrian Clayborn (L) sacks Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt in the second quarter during play in the FedEx Orange Bowl BCS NCAA football game in Miami, January 5, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

24. New Orleans Saints: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Saints’ lack of a pass-rush was apparent last year and while they could use an upgrade at outside linebacker, safety and defensive tackle, I don’t see them going in any other direction besides defensive end.

25. Seattle Seahawks: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Jake Locker seems to be a popular pick for the Seahawks these days, although I have him going to Minnesota at No. 12 so obviously he’s not an option. With Russell Okung looking like a solid contributor on the left side, it’s time for the Hawks to address the position opposite him. Solder could be a nice upgrade over Sean Locklear.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
I could definitely see the Ravens addressing their offensive line with this pick, although my belief is that they like Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod, whom I have going to Indy at No. 22. Wilkerson gives Baltimore’s defensive line a much-needed pass-rusher.

27. Atlanta Falcons: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
The Falcons like guys that can play different positions along the defensive line, which fits Heyward, who can play in either as a defensive end or defensive tackle in obvious pass-rush situations. After speaking with him around the Super Bowl, I can say firsthand that Heyward is a tremendous kid with great character and I think he’s going to do very well in the NFL. His dad, “Ironhead” Heyward once made his home in Atlanta, too.

28. New England Patriots: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
At 26-years-old, Watkins has the majority of a veteran in his prime. And if he were a couple of inches taller and a couple of years younger, he probably would have gone much higher than this. The interior of the Pats’ O-line could use an upgrade and if they hold onto this pick, Watkins would appear to be a good fit.

29. Chicago Bears: Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn State
Lovie Smith has been adamant that the Bears will bring back the 34-year-old Olin Kreutz, but the veteran really struggled last year and will need to be replaced at some point. Smith doesn’t like playing rookies anyway, so Wisniewski could learn the ropes for a couple of years and become Chicago’s center of the future.

30. New York Jets: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
It’s funny, most mock drafts didn’t have Liuget going in the first round a couple of months ago. I had him going No. 14 to the Rams in my first two mocks, but now have him falling later in the first round. (I just see things breaking differently, which is why I have him listed here.) Either way, Liguet’s stock continues to rise and he’s a player that can play end in a 3-4 or slide inside on passing downs in Rex Ryan’s defense.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Benjamin Ijalana, OT, Villanova
I think the Steelers like the combination of Max Starks and Willie Colon, but both are coming off injuries and they could play with the idea of moving Colon inside to upgrade the position at guard.

32. Green Bay Packers: Justin Houston, LB/DE, Georgia
Houston may not fall this far due to his ability to get to the quarterback but if he does, he’s an intriguing fit for Dom Capers and the Packers. Green Bay doesn’t have a lot of needs, but one thing Ted Thompson may look to add is a pass-rusher. Houston is probably better with his hand in the dirt but if the Packers could get him up to speed as an OLB, he and Clay Matthews could dominant quarterbacks for years to come.

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