Five years ago, my MOCK draft had Cam Newton dabbing in the AFC South.
By: Elias McMillan
The 2011 NFL Draft might prove to be one of the best draft classes of all time based on overall talent. Almost half of the players taken in the first round have at least been to one Pro Bowl. The top two picks in that draft, QB Cam Newton and OLB Von Miller, will face off next weekend in Super Bowl 50. Coincidentally, I completed my very first NFL MOCK draft that year. Link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/10150228171096343/
Lets revisit my selections now just to see how much I could have screwed up the very landscape of certain NFL franchises, as we know them now.
1) Carolina Panthers
My Pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Actual Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Off the bat, I’m off to a great start. Going into this draft, there were a lot of questions about Cam’s off the field issues and his actual talent on the field. Was Cam just another great running college QB? Was he just a one-year wonder? Can he make all of the throws? I thought that the question marks around his ability to be an accurate passer in the league would stop him from becoming the top pick in this draft. Patrick Peterson was being hyped as a mixture of Darrelle Revis and Deion Sanders. And with the state of the QB position in the NFC South (Good thing Josh Freeman didn’t pan out), I thought Carolina needed to combat that with an elite defender. Both Peterson and Newton ended up great players in this league but obviously, the Panthers made the correct choice.
2) Denver Broncos
My Pick: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Actual Pick: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
3) Buffalo Bills
My Pick: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Actual Pick: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
So, I actually ended up flip-flopping these two next selections. The Broncos and the Bills both ended up with two of the top defenders in this draft. I wonder if Miller ended up a Bill, would they still be running a 3-4 defense in upstate New York. Marcell Dareus doesn’t get the attention that Von Miller gets but he is still a great player in this league in his own right.
4) Cincinnati Bengals
My Pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Actual Pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Ha! Here’s my first correct selection! It was a forgone conclusion that the Bengals were ready to move on from the Ochocinco/T.O. regime. Green has been killing it for the Bengals ever since. Great selection. An obvious home run.
5) Arizona Cardinals
My Pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Actual Pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Wow. What a massive bullet avoided by the Cardinals here. But what in the hell was I thinking having Gabbert picked over Cam Newton?!?! The knock on Gabbert going into this draft was how he was more “NFL ready” than Newton and a much more polish passer. This would have been an absolute disaster for Arizona who didn’t actually have the chance at Newton but instead got a really good player in Peterson who was my top pick in this draft.
6) Cleveland Browns (Traded to Atlanta Falcons)
My Pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Actual Pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
So, I got the player correct at the six slot and Jones ended up being another great player in this league along with fellow WR A.J. Green. But I have to wonder what the hell Cleveland was thinking making this trade? I know that the draft picks they got in return ended up as nothing. I guess that’s why the Browns are the Browns. Julio Jones must wake up every morning thanking God that he isn’t a Cleveland Brown.
7) San Francisco 49ers
My Pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Actual Pick: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
I knew that the 49ers would go defense with this pick but I got the wrong player. Nick Fairley was being hailed as the next Warren Sapp after his great performance in that National Title game. But ultimately, he wouldn’t have been a fit for Jim Harbaugh’s defense. Instead, San Fran went with Smith who was a great pass rusher for a few seasons before becoming a guy to just finds trouble off the field.
8) Tennessee Titans
My Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Actual Pick: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Well, I knew that the Titans would have a QB penciled in at this pick. Could you imagine if Newton was still available at this selection? Talk about a potential franchise changer! No one really knew how good Newton would end up being but having him drop all the way down to 8 is just embarrassing on my part. Honestly, the evaluation of Locker wasn’t that far away from Newton’s. Locker was a great athlete in college who happened to play QB. Locker wasn’t nearly the player Newton was at Auburn and concussions pretty much shorten his playing career. But again, imagine how different the NFL would be today with Newton as a Titan? Tennessee would be contenders right now instead of dwelling in the AFC South basement.
9) Dallas Cowboys
My Pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Actual Pick: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Taking an offensive lineman seemed so boring to me at the time, I guess. The Cowboys needed to upgrade their pass rush opposite of DeMarcus Ware at the time. But they ended up making the wiser decision that ultimately ended up extending Tony Romo’s career. Smith is probably one of the best if not the best left tackle in football today while Quinn is an elite passer in this league as well.
10) Washington Redskins (Traded to Jacksonville Jaguars)
My Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
Actual Pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Gabbert is still in the league as a back up but its known that this plan didn’t work out for the Jags. Or for Washington. I cant tell you what they ended up doing with those extra picks from this trade. But both teams missed out on getting a pretty good defensive lineman.
11) Houston Texans
My Pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Actual Pick: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Considering that Watt is now the face of the franchise in Houston and the best defensive player in all of football, Houston made out pretty well with this selection. I mean, the Texans did need secondary help and Amukamara is one of the better defensive backs in football today. But the Texans obviously made the right choice here.
12) Minnesota Vikings
My Pick: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Actual Pick: Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Again, I was right on the position but wrong on the player. This was a shocking pick went it happened and it still kind of is. I don’t think anyone had Ponder as a first rounder before the draft. Ponder was a decent athlete in college but not on a level as a Newton or even a Locker. I was high on Ryan Mallett for this draft. He had the big arm that looked great on film. I didn’t think the character issues were a big deal but it turned out that those issues did seriously affect his rep around the league. Minnesota would have to wait longer to find its potential franchise QB.
13) Detroit Lions
My Pick: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Actual Pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
This was another shocking pick when it happened. Fairley along with Suh was destined to rule the line of scrimmage against the NFC North for years. Fairley and Suh did make up for a great defensive front for the Lions for a few seasons but both have left the team since then. If Tyron Smith was available at this pick, QB Matt Stafford might be even better than he already is right now.
14) St. Louis Rams
My Pick: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Actual Pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Here is an instance where I thought the Rams would pick based on need and not based on the best player available. The Rams didn’t value outside linebackers in a 4-3 defense at the time. Instead they wanted to get as many pass rushers as possible and that strategy worked out for them with the Quinn selection. Ayers has bounced around a few teams since this draft and has never been voted to the Pro Bowl. But in a strange twist, Quinn and Ayers are now teammates in St. Louis. Oops. I mean, Los Angeles. I’m going to have to get used to that eventually.
15) Miami Dolphins
My Pick: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Actual Pick: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
Its hard to decide which selection would have been better for the Dolphins at 15. I wasn’t high on Mike Pouncey at all going into this draft. He had an awful final season at Florida without his brother and accounted for multiple muffed snaps. Ingram may not have been worth a top 15 pick but he is currently a decent runner in this league. Mike is one of the leaders on the offensive line for Miami. This was truly a toss up.
16) Jacksonville Jaguars (Traded to Washington)
My Pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Actual Pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
After trading down with Jacksonville, Washington ended up with a decent defensive end in Kerrigan but they could have drafted a better player in Cameron Jordan. The Jordan pick for Jacksonville made sense to me at the time because the Jags already had his Cal teammate, Tyson Alualu. Clearly, I should have been Washington’s GM.
Imagine a world where J.J. Watt and Rob Gronkowski are teammates.
17) New England Patriots
My Pick: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Actual Pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Could you imagine Watt lasting all the down to the evil Patriots?!?! I wonder how that could have affected Watt’s likability and marketability around the league. He would have made the defense in New England instantly better and he would be hoisting a couple Super Bowl trophies instead of wasting his talents away in Houston. Of course Watt wasn’t there for the Pats at pick 17. Instead, they got some offensive line help with Nate Solder who is still a starter on that offensive line.
18) San Diego Chargers
My Pick: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Actual Pick: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Blah. Nothing to report here. Liuget is still in San Diego. They extended his contract so he must be okay. I thought they would go with some offensive line help for Phillip Rivers.
19) New York Giants
My Pick: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
Actual Pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
I don’t think I realized that Houston was a pass rushing linebacker who didn’t fit New York’s 4-3 defense. But he still would have significantly helped this Giants team that seemed to not have enough of pass rushers at one time. Taking Prince Amukamara worked out for them as well though.
20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
My Pick: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Actual Pick: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Da’Quan Bowers was hyped in this draft as a possible top five selection. But then, questions about his health dropped his stock and he ended up becoming a Buccaneer but not until the second round. Tampa did go defensive end at pick 20. Adrian Clayborn was an unstoppable force at Iowa but injuries have prevented that to be a reality at the pro level.
21) Kansas City Chiefs (Traded to Cleveland Browns)
My Pick: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Actual Pick: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
Cleveland screws up again. At least Carimi is still in the league. Taylor had a decent rookie season but then, it all went downhill from there.
22) Indianapolis Colts
My Pick: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Actual Pick: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
These two names link up again. Check out my selection for the Chargers at 18. Both are still starting for their respective teams.
23) Philadelphia Eagles
My Pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Actual Pick: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
Jimmy Smith is currently a decent corner in the NFL when healthy. Danny Watkins is currently a firefighter in Texas. That’s actually a cooler story than Smith’s. But my point, this didn’t pan out for Philly.
24) New Orleans Saints
My Pick: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
Actual Pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
The Saints hit a home run with this pick, as Jordan is a top pass rusher in the NFL. Smith went earlier to the 49ers but either way, the Saints were gonna grab a great pass rusher. It really worked out for the Saints when you think about all the trouble Smith could of gotten in New Orleans.
25) Seattle Seahawks
My Pick: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Actual Pick: James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
Locker would have been a great story if taken by his hometown Seahawks but Seattle would have to wait a couple more years to find that athletic QB phenom. The pick of James Carpenter actually worked out for Seattle as he started on that offensive line during Seattle’s Super Bowl runs in the last two seasons.
26) Baltimore Ravens
My Pick: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL)
Actual Pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
I had the Ravens penciled in for some secondary help at pick 26. Brandon Harris was probably a bit over hyped going into this draft and I thought that his ties to “Da U” would be his road to the Baltimore Ravens. Instead, Baltimore got a better corner in Smith.
27) Atlanta Falcons (Traded to Cleveland, then Traded to Kansas City)
My Pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Actual Pick: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
This is a lot to digest because all of the trades. First, Atlanta got their guy in the top ten in Julio Jones but Kerrigan would have helped their struggling pass rush. Baldwin did not pan out at all for the Chiefs in Kansas City. And the Browns are still the Browns. Any questions?
28) New England Patriots (Traded to New Orleans Saints)
My Pick: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Actual Pick: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
The Saints finished out a great 2011 draft by trading back in the first round to land the best RB available. I already stated that the Pats needed offensive line help, which they actually got with their first selection.
29) Chicago Bears
My Pick: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
Actual Pick: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
The Bears did end up getting offensive line help but at a different position. I wasn’t big on Pouncey’s pro prospects, which was why I barely had him going in the first round. Pouncey did end up panning out in Miami while Carimi is still a starter for Jay Cutler’s offensive line in Chicago.
The Jets were going to get help for their defensive line at pick 30. It could have been Hayward who instead went to Pittsburgh at pick 31.
30) New York Jets
My Pick: Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State
Actual Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
I knew that the Jets were looking for more help along that defensive line. Wilkerson and Heyward ended up pretty decent players in this league. Wilkerson just established his all-pro status before Heyward did but still, they are both really good at what they do.
31) Pittsburgh Steelers
My Pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Actual Pick: Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State
No loser here at this selection. The Steelers opted to find offensive line help later and instead took Heyward who really became a dominant player this past season.
32) Green Bay Packers
My Pick: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
Actual Pick: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
This pick was just a disaster for the Packers and myself. I told you earlier about Watkins’ new profession. But the actual selection, Sherrod, was doomed during his rookie season when he suffered a broken leg. He never could become the player that he was coming out from college after that injury. What a sad story to end the first round.
So, what is the moral of all of this? I think it is how myself and other draft forecasters really know nothing about anything when it comes to the draft. But its still fun to guess and speculate which is why I still do. Two biggest things to take away from here: Cam Newton as a Tennessee Titan and J.J. Watt as a New England Patriot. Man, that would have made things so different in the NFL currently.