Originally Published: November 10, 2010
Andrew Luck just above top defenders
Underclassmen and defensive prospects dominate the top of the initial 2011 mock draft
McShay By Todd McShay
No, it's never too early for a mock draft. The 2010 college football season is 10 weeks old and we at Scouts Inc. have had plenty of time to watch film and shuffle our board, so why not take a stab at a first-round projection?
Stanford QB Andrew Luck has established himself as the top prospect on the board and looks like a slam-dunk for the quarterback-starved Buffalo Bills, but after Luck, defensive prospects dominate the top of the board with four defensive linemen and two cornerbacks filling out the next six spots.
The rest of the top 10 features an offensive tackle, another quaterback and the rare early-first-round wide receiver.
Here's how it all shakes out at this very early point in the pre-draft process. Things will change a lot between now and April, but based on what we've seen so far in 2010, this is our best early projection. The order is based on the inverse NFL standings. Ties between teams with the same record are broken using opponents' winning percentage, with teams with the lower percentage getting the earlier pick.
Andrew Luck*, QB, Stanford
Luck is the complete package. He would quickly provide Buffalo with the most efficient quarterback play it has seen since the Jim Kelly era.
Marcell Dareus*, DT, Alabama
The Panthers once-vaunted defensive front seven is a mess. The good news is that Dareus is one of several defensive linemen worthy of top-20 consideration in this year's draft.
Da'Quan Bowers*, DE, Clemson
Marcus Spears might not be long for Dallas but the Cowboys need to figure out their defensive scheme before locking in their personnel. However, Bowers is a stud and can fit in any defensive scheme. He leads the FBS in sacks and is blessed with a rare combination of size and athleticism.
San Francisco 49ers
Patrick Peterson*, CB, LSU
Peterson is the closest thing you will find to a shutdown cover corner in college football. He's also shown remarkable return skills in 2010 in his first year on the job.
Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Denver needs a stud defensive lineman more than it needs a cornerback but Amukamara is more talented than any available prospect who would fit the team's three-man front. Champ Bailey's days with the Broncos could be numbered so bringing in a young talent like Amukamara would make sense.
Robert Quinn*, DE, North Carolina
Quinn is a naturally gifted pass-rusher with an enormously high ceiling but he will enter the NFL having not played football in more than a year. The Bengals have never shied away from risk, though, so why start now?
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
This might be a bit high for Clayborn, but the top two cornerbacks (Peterson and Amukamara) are off the board and it's never a bad idea to stockpile young talent along the defensive front.
Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Tough call here. Locker's stock is clearly dropping but it will ascend again between now and April. A quarterback with his natural tools, work ethic and competitiveness rarely lasts beyond the top 20 picks. If it's not the Vikings who pull the trigger, the Cardinals and Jaguars are the next two quarterback-needy teams in line.
Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The Cardinals could be gun shy about spending first-round money on a quarterback so soon after the Matt Leinart debacle. If Luck and Locker are off the board, it would be a no-brainer to look in a different direction. Solder is the most complete talent in a pedestrian group of 2011 offensive line prospects.
A.J. Green*, WR, Georgia
The Browns have needs along the defensive front but at this spot they cannot pass up on the most complete wide receiver prospect to enter the NFL draft since Calvin Johnson (Lions).
San Diego Chargers
Akeem Ayers*, OLB, UCLA
Ayers is a great fit as an outside linebacker in the Chargers' 3-4 scheme. He's not quite a young Shawne Merriman but he's a talented pass-rusher nonetheless.
Ryan Mallett*, QB, Arkansas
Taking Mallett here would be too rich for my blood, but the Jaguars are in dire need of an upgrade at quarterback and Mallett's riffle arm will be pretty tempting.
St. Louis Rams
Stephen Paea, D, Oregon State
There is not another receiver worth drafting in the top 25 picks, so the Rams can use this pick to continue rebuilding the defense. Paea's nonstop motor, quickness and power would fit nicely along one of the league's most improved defensive fronts.
Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
There's no Eric Berry- or Earl Thomas-like safety prospect in the 2011 class, so the Seahawks might need to settle for one of the top offensive linemen. Castonzo is a good athlete for a player with his long frame and he continues to add bulk and strength.
Janoris Jenkins*, CB, Florida
There's no wide receiver or quarterback worth drafting at this spot. Running back is another need area, but do not expect a Mike Shanahan-coached squad to use a first-round pick on one. Jenkins is the most underrated defensive back in the 2011 draft and his smooth cover skills and ball-hawking ability would be welcome additions to the Redskins' secondary.
Allen Bailey, DE, Miami
It's entirely too early to press the panic button on 2010 first-round CB Kareem Jackson, but the Texans still wouldn't mind seeing Jenkins fall this far. With him off the board, why not take the best available talent on the board? Bailey's versatility and interior pass-rushing skills could help Houston's underachieving defensive line finally turn the corner.
Mark Ingram*, RB, Alabama
It's never easy pulling the trigger on a running back in Round 1, but given Ronnie Brown's struggles and Ricky Williams' age -- and the fact that both hit free agency after this season -- the Dolphins would have to consider Ingram in this scenario.
New England Patriots (via 5-4 Oakland)
Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Kerrigan is probably higher on our board than on most others, but very few players with his toughness, pass-rushing savvy, nonstop motor and passion for the game fail to contribute in the NFL. Something tells us coach Bill Belichick would find a place for him to fit.
Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Julio Jones might be the popular pick here, but it's too early to draft a second-tier wide receiver prospect. The Bears would be better served to draft a right tackle who can help keep QB Jay Cutler upright.
Kansas City Chiefs
Jeremy Beal, OLB, Oklahoma
The Chiefs need a legitimate edge rusher and Beal has the type of size and versatility that they look for in an outside linebacker.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Miller has a freakish combination of size, speed and athletic ability. Strongside linebacker in a 4-3 defense could be the right fit for him. Regardless, Miller can get after the quarterback and the Bucs are in the market for that exact skill.
Aaron Williams*, CB, Texas
Williams is one of many talented underclass cornerbacks who could be jockeying for position in the bottom half of the first round. His instincts in coverage and his experience playing both inside and outside will only help his cause.
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Sherrod is a big and strong right tackle prospect who could also move inside to guard in the NFL. His feet and consistency in pass pro are still works in progress.
Nick Fairley*, DT, Auburn
No player in the country has improved his stock more this season than Fairley. He is a bit light in the lower body but that doesn't bother the Colts, who are far more focused on his explosive first step and relentlessness as a pass-rusher.
Green Bay Packers**
Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Some teams view Heyward as a good fit at the five-technique in a three-man front. Others think he's best suited to play a three-technique for a Tampa 2 style defense. He has the natural ability to warrant Round 1 consideration but it will be interesting to see which team likes him enough in their scheme to pull the trigger.
New Orleans Saints**
Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
Nevis struggles to get off of blocks, which ultimately could prevent him from being a first-round pick. However, few defensive tackles in the country have his first-step quickness and ability to disrupt plays in the opposing backfield.
New York Giants
Demarcus Love, OT, Arkansas
The Giants are looking for the toughest, most NFL-ready offensive lineman available at their spot and Love fits the description.
New England Patrtiots
Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Jordan is a perfect fit as a five-technique in a three-man front and has experience playing that role. He's not as quick as former college teammate Tyson Alualu, but Jordan is a good athlete for his size and he can anchor versus the run.
New York Jets
Julio Jones*, WR, Alabama
Receiver is not a top priority at the moment, but Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Brad Smith are all free agents after this season. Providing QB Mark Sanchez with a young weapon like Jones would be a difficult decision to dispute.
Rahim Moore*, S, UCLA
If Moore elects to leave school early, he could be the top safety off the board. While he's not an elite talent like Berry or Thomas, Moore does have excellent range and ball skills in deep-zone coverage. The time has come for the Ravens to plan for life after Ed Reed.
Brandon Burton, CB, Utah
Burton is an under-the-radar cover corner who is rumored to be eyeing the 2011 NFL draft. Burton will be competing with the likes of Williams, Virginia's Ras-I Dowling, Miami's Brandon Harris and Texas' Curtis Brown for a few spots near the bottom of the first round.
Mike Pouncey, G, Florida
The Pouncey twins won a national title together at Florida, so who says they can't win a Super Bowl together in Pittsburgh? Mike has a similar skill set to that of his brother Maurkice, a 2010 first-rounder who is currently the starting center for the Steelers.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.