2011 NFL Mock Draft 3.0: The Rise of Cam Newton

Auburn Tigers Heisman Trophy wining quarterback Cam Newton warms up for the Tigers game against the Oregon Ducks at the BCS Championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ, January 10,2011. UPI/Art Foxall

I’ll tell you what sports fans, I don’t know how anyone can compile a mock draft these days without wanting to slam his or her head on their desk about 25 times. I’ve made roughly 6,000 changes to this latest mock since the scouting combine wrapped up and I still hate it.

I hate it!

One thing I don’t hate is the addition John Paulsen has brought to Mock 3.0. He’s a statistical madman and recently thought of the idea to use players’ combine numbers to draw comparisons to prospects from previous years. He explains in more detail below.

More Draft Content: NFL Mock Draft 1.0 | NFL Mock Draft 2.0 | Ten Combine Winners | Ingram’s 40 Time an Issue? | Thoughts on QBs

John: I compared each prospect’s combine scores with players from the last six combines to determine the best athletic comparison. There are eight categories: height, weight, 40-yard dash, shuttle, 3-cone, vertical leap, broad jump and bench press. Not all prospects compete in all six tests, so certain comparisons are more confident than others.

Realize that we’re not suggesting that these players will turn into their comparisons – we’re simply saying that athletically, this is whom each prospect compares to based on their combine numbers.

All right, let’s rock out with our mocks out…what?

No. 1 Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
I’m not going to run from the fact that this is now the sexy mock pick, but it does make sense. Ron Rivera attended Newton’s Pro Day recently and the Auburn QB looked sharp. Blaine Gabbert is still a possibility here and so is Patrick Peterson but at the end of the day, the Panthers might as well go big or go home. There isn’t a more polarizing player in this entire draft than Newton, who is the very definition of “boom or bust.”
Combine Comparisons: Vince Young; Tim Tebow.

No. 2 Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
I had the Broncos taking Da’Quan Bowers with this pick in my second mock, but since then they’ve released Jamal Williams and, in a rather surprising move, Justin Bannan. Those moves open up a huge need at defensive tackle and Dareus’ stock continues to soar. The question is, will the Broncos look to trade this pick knowing that QB-needy teams draft behind them? They may lose the opportunity to take Dareus, but maybe they can trade back and still land Nick Fairley (a nice consolation prize).
Combine Comparisons: Marcus Thomas; Corvey Irvin; Red Bryant.

No. 3 Buffalo Bills: Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson
Dareus would certainly be an option for the Bills in this spot, as well as LSU’s Patrick Peterson. But with Dareus off the board, I think the Bills will address their needs on defense. Quarterback is also an option and I think Newton would be a nice fit in Chan Gailey’s offense. But in this mock, the Bills play it conservative and go with Bowers.
Combine Comparisons: Tim Jamison; Victor Adeyanju. (Bowers only participated in the bench press at the combine, so John was limited in his comparisons.)

No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Even though fellow WR prospect Julio Jones posted better numbers at the combine, Green is still the most NFL-ready player in this class. Assuming the Bengals don’t bring back T.O. and free themselves of Chad Ochocinco’s $6 million salary, I could see them targeting Green here and a quarterback like Christian Ponder later in the draft.
Combine Comparisons: Malcom Kelly; Limas Sweed; Hank Baskett.

No. 5 Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Miller might not slip past Buffalo at No. 3 but if he does, I think Arizona would love to pair him with O’Brien Schofield at outside linebacker. Miller is viewed as the best pass-rushing OLB in the draft, which is certainly a need for the Cardinals (especially after they release Joey Porter and his $5.75 million salary in 2011).
Combine Comparisons: Aaron Curry; Clay Matthews.

No. 6 Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU (Via Projected Trade w/Cleveland)
I usually don’t predict trades in my mocks but I love Peterson landing in Dallas and I needed the Cowboys to get ahead of the 49ers (who would love to have Peterson in San Francisco). It’s highly unlikely that Peterson would fall to No. 9 and No. 6 might not even be high enough for the Cowboys to secure the former LSU product. But if he does, Terence Newman would likely become a cap casualty this offseason.
Combine Comparisons: Brandon Ghee, Malcom Jenkins, Myron Lewis, Aquib Talib. As John notes, Peterson is faster than all four, although Talib is the best comparison in terms of size/speed. Another interesting comparison is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has the speed, but Peterson is almost 40 lbs heavier. Based on his 40, we really haven’t seen anyone with Peterson’s size/speed combination in the last six years.

No. 7 San Francisco 49ers: Robert Quinn, LB, North Carolina
My guess is that the Niners would love to take either Patrick Peterson or Von Miller, but with both players off the board in this mock, Quinn might be the next best thing. The former UNC product impressed scouts at the combine and is viewed as a top-10 pick, even though he served a season-long suspension in 2010. He would give the Niners a pass-rusher in their 3-4 alignment.
Combine Comparisons: Ricky Sapp; Barka Atkins; AJ Edds; Justin Cole.

Missouri Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert throws the football in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri on October 23, 2010. Missouri defeated Oklahoma 36-27. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

No. 8 Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Simply put, there’s no bigger need for the Titans than at quarterback and it’s not a stretch to think that Mike Munchak will want to start his coaching career in Tennessee by taking a quarterback to build around. The Titans can dump Vince Young, re-sign Kerry Collins for one year with the expectations that Gabbert will start in 2012.
Combine Comparisons: Jay Cutler; Dan LeFevour.

No. 9 Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama (Via a Projected Trade w/Dallas)
Even though he needs surgery to repair a fracture in his foot, it’s doubtful that Jones’ stock will fall after his impressive workout at the combine. GM Mike Holmgren says that he’s looking for a “home run threat” in this year’s draft and if that’s the case, Jones makes a lot of sense. The former ‘Bama star would be highly attractive to a West Coast team like the Browns because of his blocking and run-after-the-catch ability.
Combine Comparisons: Brian Robiskie; Vincent Jackson; Braylon Edwards; Laurent Robinson.

No. 10 Washington Redskins: Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal
The Redskins have a ton of holes to address, including quarterback, receiver and running back. But unless Mike Shanahan is willing to take Jake Locker at No. 10, then I don’t see the Redskins pulling the trigger on a quarterback. The most likely scenario is that they trade out of this pick but if they stay put, Jordan is a versatile player that can play in a two-gap system as a five-technique end. In other words, he’s a fit for Washington.
Combine Comparisons: C.J. Ah You; Victor Abamiri. (Only ran forty and performed in the bench press.)

No. 11 Houston Texans: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The Texans’ biggest need is arguably at safety but there aren’t any safeties worthy of the No. 11 overall pick. Corner is a need as well, but the Texans will allow Kareem Jackson to develop and they seem fine with Glover Quin as the other starter. That leaves linebacker as the most likely position to be drafted at this spot. Some will think this is too high for Ayers, but he’s versatile enough to play as a strong-side ‘backer in a 4-3 or as a rush guy in a 3-4. With Wade Phillips coming in to implement his 3-4, the Texans will look to give him more pieces and Ayers would be a nice start.
Combine Comparisons: A.J. Edds; Daryl Washington; Justin Cole.

No. 12 Minnesota Vikings: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
There’s a good chance that Fairley won’t fall this far but his stock seems to be dropping fast. (I had him going No. 1 before the scouting combine, not that that means anything…or does it? No, no – it doesn’t.) I’ve had this haunch for the last couple of months that the Vikings will look to address their quarterback position either via trade or later in the draft and thus, they won’t target someone like Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker with this pick. Fairley would fit two criteria: He fills a need and is the unquestioned best player on the board.
Combine Comparisons: Gerald McCoy; Turk McBride.

No. 13 Detroit Lions: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
I’ve done three mocks so far and every time Amukamara has fallen to the Lions at No. 13. I’m surprised because Amukamara is the second best corner in the draft and there’s a good chance he’ll be selected in the top 10. But in my mock, the Prince keeps winding up in Detroit. I think this pick will either be a corner or an offensive tackle. The Lions would be fine to fill either position.
Combine Comparisons: Aqib Talib; Antoine Cason.

Missouri Tigers Aldon Smith (85) returns an interception in the first quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri on October 23, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

No. 14 St. Louis Rams: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
The Rams should be well aware of Smith since he played in their backyard at Missouri. Chris Long is starting to look like the player they thought he would become when they drafted him with the second overall pick in 2008. James Hall is still a serviceable starter but he’s 34 and at some point the Rams will need to groom his successor. Steve Spagnuolo was highly successful as the Giants’ defensive coordinator before arriving in St. Louis because he had a ton of versatile defensive lineman. “Versatile” certainly fits Smith’s description.
Combine Comparisons: Greg Hardy; Jason Pierre-Paul.

No. 15 Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Ingram’s slow forty (4.62) is a concern, but the Dolphins will need a running back if Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have indeed played their last downs in Miami. Ingram will never be a back that relies on straight-line speed, but the kid has excellent vision, balance and instincts. He reminds me a lot of Emmitt Smith. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins traded this pick and addressed their need at running back later.
Combine Comparisons: Frank Gore (only did the 40, but very similar height, weight and speed); Benjarvus Green-Ellis; Ryan Torain.

No. 16 Jacksonville Jaguars: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Jaguar fans might be looking for more of an impact player with this pick, but cornerback is a need now and will becoming a bigger need next year when Rashean Mathis’ (31) contract runs up. Smith is one of the better press-corners in the league and I think his future is at corner – not safety (like some of contested).
Combine Comparisons: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah; Antwaun Molden; Antoine Cason.

No. 17 New England Patriots: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
There’s some thought that the Patriots won’t take Watt because they once had a falling out with his agent Tom Condon over Ben Watson’s contract. But that was five years ago and if Bill Belichick wants a player, he’s not going to let an agent stand in his way. Defensive end has been a problem area for the Patriots since they traded Richard Seymour and it’s time to find a young prospect to address the need. Watt can play in a 3-4 as a three-technique end, or a 4-3.
Combine Comparisons: Daniel Te’o-Nesheim; Mario Williams; Chris Long.

No. 18 San Diego Chargers: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
If the reports are true about the Patriots not wanting to take J.J. Watt because of his agent Tom Condon, then they could move down a spot and allow the Chargers to take the 3-4 defensive end they desperately need. If not, Clayborn isn’t a spectaular prospect but he’s a complete player.
Combine Comparisons: Victor Adeyanju; Derrick Morgan; Darryl Tapp.

No. 19 New York Giants: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Once again, I find myself scratching my head as to why I don’t have an offensive tackle going in the first 18 picks. But this is my mock damn it, and I’ll compile it as I see fit. Linebacker and cornerback are arguably bigger needs for the Giants, but they can do better than David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie (31) is entering the final year of his contract. At some point, the Giants need to draft an offensive tackle for the future, so why not now?
Combine Comparisons: Sam Baker; Joe Berger. (Smith only performed in the bench press.)

No. 20: Tampa Bay Bucs: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
So much for Kerrigan not being athletic: the former Boilermaker recorded one of the top 10-yard splits at the combine, registering a 1.65. He also ran the forty in an impressive 4.71 seconds and did 31 reps on the bench press. The Bucs’ biggest need is to address their pass rush and Kerrigan is the type of high-intensity player that could thrive in Raheem Morris’ defense.
Combine Comparisons: Chris Long; Lawrence Sidbury.

No. 21: Kansas City Chiefs: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
The Chiefs could go in a couple of directions here, including receiver, defensive tackle and even center. But at the end of the day, I could see GM Scott Pioli wanting to fortify his offensive line with the selection of Carimi, who would give KC an upgrade at right tackle. They could keep Branden Albert at left tackle and then plug Carimi (a strong run-blocker) on the right side.
Combine Comparison: Jamaal Brown.

No. 22 Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
It’s gotta be an offensive tackle right? When Peyton Manning suffered through that horrid three-game stretch, his offensive line wasn’t doing him any favors. Some believe Castonzo is a little overrated but there’s no question that the size and athleticism are there.
Combine Comparisons: Corey Hilliard; Kraig Urbik.

No. 23 Philadelphia Eagles: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Unless the Eagles sign Nnamdi Asmougha (a very real possibility) after the CBA is signed, cornerback will be addressed at some point this offseason. Patterson had his moments as a replacement for Hobbs but he’s more of a backup than a starter. Harris is a fluid athlete that plays under control and has more than enough make-up speed to be a solid starter in the NFL.
Combine Comparisons: Amari Spievey; Lardarius Webb; Alterraun Verner.

No. 24 New Orleans Saints: Justin Houston, DE, Georgia
Some see Houston as a potential OLB in 3-4 but this kid plays way better with his hand in the dirt. The Saints need a long-term answer at left end and Houston might be it. He’s an explosive pass-rusher who was highly productive in the ultra-competitive SEC.
Combine Comparisons: Brian Cushing; Clay Matthews; Aaron Curry; Sean Weatherspoon.

No. 25 Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Sure, why not. The Seahawks will be in the mix if Kevin Kolb becomes available via trade, so if they fill their need at quarterback with the current Eagle, then corner, receiver and running back are all possibilities for Seattle at this pick. But with Locker falling this far, he might be too good to pass up.
Combine Comparisons: Vince Young; Stephen McGee; Tim Tebow.

No. 26 Baltimore Ravens: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Depending on what happens with pending free agent Jared Gaither, the Ravens might look for an offensive tackle to play opposite Michael Oher. Sherrod is viewed as a left tackle, but obviously he would play on the right side in Baltimore. Marshal Yanada can then move back to right guard, which is his more natural position.
Combine Comparisons: Seth Olsen; Bryan Bulaga; Michael Toudouze.

No. 27 Atlanta Falcons: Titus Young, WR, Boise State
I tried hard to make Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan fall to this spot because he reminds me so much of former Falcon Patrick Kereny. He would also fit a huge need for the Falcons but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The Packers exposed two huge weaknesses for Atlanta in the playoffs last year: the ability to rush the passer and the ability to stretch the defense offensively. With most of the top pass rushers gone at this point, the Falcons fill their need to stretch the defense vertically with the speedy Young. The only thing I don’t like about this pick is that Young compares to Harry Douglas and seeing as how the Falcons already have Harry Douglas, why add another one? Depending on what they do about Justin Blalock, Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo, the Falcons may use this pick on an offensive lineman as well.
Combine Comparisons: Johnnie Lee Higgins; Harry Douglas.

No. 28: New England Patriots: Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois
The Patriots will probably trade one of the first round picks in order to acquire about 17 more middle round picks, but if they stay put I like the selection of Wilson here. He seems like the perfect Bill Belichick player in that he’s not a spectular prospect but he’s steady and versatile. He has a lot of potential to be a solid 3-4 rush linebacker on the outside.
Combine Comparisons: Clay Mathews; Aaron Curry; Gary Guyton.

No. 29 Chicago Bears: Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn State
I don’t fault anyone who is thinking offensive tackle with this pick because I’ve had similar thoughts. But Olin Kreutz is a 34-year-old free agent and unless the Bears plan on moving Roberto Garza to center (which is a possibility since he does have experience there), I think drafting Kreutz’s immediate replacement here makes a lot of sense. I thought long and hard about Stephen Paea too, although I think Jerry Angelo will go his typical route and draft defensive help in the middle rounds where he can actually spot talent (unlike in the first, where all of his picks are cursed).
Combine Comparison: Eric Wood.

No. 30 New York Jets: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
I’ll be honest: I struggled with this pick. But defensive end is definitely a position of need seeing as how the aging Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce are both free agents. Ellis will probably return, but the Jets need more bodies at this position and Heyward is arguably the best defensive end left on the board. He can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme and has a great attitude.
Combine Comparisons: Doug Worthington (height/weight only); Titus Adams.

No. 31 Pittsburgh Steelers: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
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. Or they could just draft Mike Pouncey seeing as how they had a ton of success with his brother Maurkice last season.
Combine Comparisons: Daryn Colledge; Adam Koets.

No. 32 Green Bay Packers: Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa
The Packers would probably love to add an outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews in Dom Capers’ zone blitz scheme, but there really isn’t a rush ‘backer worth taking at this spot. With Cullen Jenkins not expected to return, defensive end becomes a need and Ballard fits in nicely as an athletic five-technique player.
Combine Comparisons: Matt Roth; Kedric Golston (DE); Luis Castillo (DT).

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts