INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 1: Defensive back Patrick Peterson of LSU works out during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
In the penultimate 2011 NFL Mock Draft of the year, we project five trades in Round 1, and watch six quarterbacks fly off the board.
With the NFL less than four days away from draft day, this will be the penultimate 2011 NFL Mock Draft at SBNation.com for the season. Each year, I like to fold in at least one projection that features a few trades, and in order to put in a system of checks and balances to ensure nothing too crazy appears trade-wise, I built this mock draft with Dan Kadar of MockingTheDraft.com, SB Nation's NFL Draft blog.
In this projection, we've got five trades in the works, and -- perhaps much more importantly -- six quarterbacks off the board.
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. Some doubt about the certainty of this pick is starting to creep in, but Newton is still the favorite to be Carolina's pick.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama. Denver would really like to trade down, but may be out of most teams' price range. Dareus is an excellent consolation prize.
3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M. Newton and Dareus may rank higher than Miller on Buffalo's board, but the A&M sack artist is an excellent fit for the rush-needy Bills.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia. Right now, the smart money is on the Bengals passing on Blaine Gabbert, taking A.J. Green, and trying to move back up for a quarterback. That'd be a gamble, but may pay big long-term dividends. Green is a stud.
ARI gets: No. 9 overall, No. 40 overall (second round)
DAL gets: No. 5 overall, 2012 third-round pick
5. Dallas Cowboys (f/ARI): Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. Peterson is a guy that Jerry Jones would go up (relatively cheaply) to get. He's a perfect fit for Dallas. Arizona, meanwhile, can slide down, pick up another pick this year, and continue their re-build with more bodies at better value - even if they lose a third next season.
6. Cleveland Browns: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. Moving to the 4-3 under Dick Jauron, it's imperative that the Browns get better personnel there. Quinn is a potentially elite pass rusher.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska. There's a strong chance that Gabbert is the pick here if he's available, but we all know that Jim Harbaugh has another quarterback in mind.
8. Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. It's tough to imagine Gabbert's slide continuing past Tennessee, who may have the biggest need for a QB in the entire league.
9. Arizona Cardinals (f/DAL): Tyron Smith, OT, USC. After moving down from No. 5, the Cardinals missed out on quality at the rush linebacker position, but can address that area with one of their two second-round picks. Smith is a potentially elite left tackle prospect, and OT is a really underrated need for the Cardinals.
10. Washington Redskins: Jake Locker, QB, Washington. This might strike many as a risky pick, but Locker's a high-character kid that fits Mike Shanahan's offense extremely well.
11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri. Smith doesn't project perfectly as a rush linebacker, but in Wade Phillips' one-gap scheme, he'd have a lot of opportunities to blitz and get after the QB.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. The other big name to slide, Fairley would be an excellent fit in Leslie Frazier's defense alongside Kevin Williams. That is some serious pass-rushing ability inside.
DET gets: No. 17 overall, No. 74 overall (third round)
NE gets: No. 13 overall
13. New England Patriots (f/DET): Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. The Patriots aren't the type of team that looks to move up in Round 1, but for Jones, Bill Belichick might make a (cheap) exception. Jones is a plug-and-play receiver that would give the Pats a true No. 1 target on the edge, pairing with the likes of Deion Branch and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to make the Pats a true matchup nightmare. The Lions, meanwhile, slide down a few slots and pick up an extra third-round pick.
14. St. Louis Rams: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois. A team that someone coveting Jones will need to move in front of. If Jones and Aldon Smith are both off the board, as in this scenario, Liuget is the smart-money projection.
15. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas. Without a second-round pick, the Dolphins - who want a quarterback - will either take one here, or try to trade down, recoup a pick and get their guy anyway. Right now, Mallett is the hot name to the Dolphins.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Cameron Jordan, DE, California. The Jags are a threat to take a quarterback, but Cameron Jordan perfectly fits the talent and character traits that GM Gene Smith covets.
17. Detroit Lions (f/NE): Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. After moving down, the Lions would face an interesting decision here. A talent-first team in the draft, it's tough to envision them passing on Bowers to pair up front with Ndamukong Suh.
18. San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin. San Diego is another team that might like to move down, but in this scenario, they'd have a hard time entertaining that notion with Watt still on the board.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College. Tackle was a big problem last year. Tom Coughlin is a BC guy. Castonzo offers some guard versatility, and can play on either side. He's an excellent fit for the Giants.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue. In desperate need of a defensive end, the Bucs will value Kerrigan's intangibles and hustle over Adrian Clayborn with this pick.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA. There are a few ways the Chiefs could go with this pick, but getting a heady, versatile complement to Tamba Hali at OLB seems like a very smart move.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State. For whatever reason, Sherrod remains highly undervalued by the draft community. He's a plug-and-play left tackle in Indianapolis.
PHI gets: No. 35 overall (second round), No. 66 overall (third round), 2012 third-round pick
CIN gets: No. 23 overall
23. Cincinnati Bengals (f/PHI): Andy Dalton, QB, TCU. As we mentioned up top, the Bengals will likely try to move back into Round 1 for a quarterback in the likely event that they pass on Blaine Gabbert at No. 4. Philadelphia is a strong trade partner, as they love to move up and down the board. It'd cost the Bengals a pretty penny to get Dalton, whom Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is reportedly very high on, but if they do it, they'd have two really nice fits for Gruden's system.
24. New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. Ingram is sliding out of the first round in many projections, but the Saints still have Super Bowl aspirations, and an immediate contributor at running back could vault their offense back to the top of the league. Ingram is the durable workhorse that the team lacked last year as Pierre Thomas dealt with injury.
SEA gets: No. 35 overall (from CIN via PHI), No. 85 overall (third round)
PHI gets: No. 25 overall
25. Philadelphia Eagles (f/SEA): Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado. Again, Philly likes to move up and down the board, and word is the Seahawks would like to move out of the first round. Here, they'd get an early second-round pick (originally Cincinnati's) and an extra third, while Philly, through their two trades, would move up 19 spots in the third round and still get their guy in Jimmy Smith.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin. If Carimi lasts this long, he makes a lot of sense for the Ravens as an immediate starter, as they had a lot of question marks at right tackle a year ago.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida. Clayborn would be a serious consideration here, but Pouncey is a plug-and-play starter that could be the team's future at the center position, as well. He's a safer pick.
NE gets: No. 43 overall (second round), 2012 second-round pick
MIN gets: No. 28 overall
28. Minnesota Vikings (f/NE): Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State. If Ponder lasts this long, there could be a dogfight for his services, and Minnesota seems the most likely team targeting Ponder to cough up a future pick to a team that specializes in acquiring them, the Patriots. Ponder is a nice fit for the Vikings and coordinator Bill Musgrave, and is pretty solid value at this point in Round 1.
29. Chicago Bears: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor. Stephen Paea might be tempting, but it's pretty close to imperative that the Bears get a starting offensive lineman here. That's exactly what Watkins is.
30. New York Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple. Between Wilkerson and Phil Taylor, Rex Ryan gets his choice of solid D-Line prospect. Wilkerson offers better versatility and more upside.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas. Rather than reaching on an offensive lineman, it makes more sense for the Steelers to target Williams - a physical, ball-hawking playmaker for their secondary.
32. Green Bay Packers: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado. Bryan Bulaga seems to have settled in on the right side, so Solder could be an option as a long-term replacement for Chad Clifton on the left side.