Roughly a calendar year ago - and lasting all the way through mid-January of 2010 - Washington quarterback Jake Locker, then a junior, was widely considered the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. When Locker made the decision to return to UW for his senior season, he was penciled in as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Now, with Andrew Luck in firm control of the destiny Locker once held, many people are openly wondering how far Locker might fall when the 2011 NFL Draft rolls around next April. It's entirely too early to roll out a 2011 NFL Mock Draft, but we're doing so today to explore that very question - not to mention spark a little debate.
Polish up your very best superlatives and diatribes, because we're hoping this 2011 NFL Mock Draft raises a few eyebrows. Shout-out to Dan Kadar of Mocking the Draft, SB Nation's NFL Draft affiliate, who assisted in putting this mock together.
1. Carolina Panthers (1-8): Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. Fans in Charlotte may crave Bill Cowher, but don't be surprised if they target the Stanford duo of Luck and Jim Harbaugh.
2. Buffalo Bills (1-8): Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama. Locker is a distinct possibility here, but Buffalo needs guys in its defensive front seven that can beat blockers. Pairing Dareus with Kyle "Meatball" Williams would do wonders for the league's worst run defense.
3. Detroit Lions (2-7): Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. Says Kadar: "It's always good when team needs match up with top talent. That's the case here."
4. Dallas Cowboys (2-7): Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska. Kadar: "Current starter Mike Jenkins apparently can't tackle. That is one of Amukamara's best assets."
5. Cincinnati Bengals (2-7): Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. Can Marvin Lewis survive yet another down year in Cincinnati? If he does, he'll likely look to upgrade his disappointing defense. Bowers is having a monster season.
6. San Francisco 49ers (3-6): Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. Kadar: "This is interesting because San Francisco seems to need a quarterback. A.J. Green would also be tempting. But the disruptive Fairley could immediately plug in opposite Justin Smith."
7. Minnesota Vikings (3-6): Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. This is the second team (after Buffalo) that should seriously consider Locker, but with Jared Allen slipping a bit, the Vikes won't feel too bad going BPA.
8. Arizona Cardinals (3-6): A.J. Green, WR, Georgia. Ken Whisenhunt might consider Locker, too, but the Cardinals have long been a BPA team, and Green would hedge the team's bets with Larry Fitzgerald.
9. Denver Broncos (3-6): Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue. Let's be honest: nobody knows what Josh McDaniels is going to do on draft day. We simply put the most logically illogical player in this spot; Kerrigan fits McDaniels' odd taste in 3-4 linebackers.
10. Cleveland Browns (3-6): Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. Kadar (who, by the way, is a Browns fan): "The Browns tried to beat the Jets by throwing to Evan Moore, Chansi Stuckey and Ben Watson. What's missing there? A No. 1 receiver."
11. St. Louis Rams (4-5): Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA. Ayers' coverage abilities will get him drafted early. Kadar, for the record, wasn't a fan of this pick: "It would be hard to pass on a wide receiver here, especially when the Rams quietly have one of the best defenses in the NFL."
12. Washington Redskins (4-5): Allen Bailey, DT, Miami (FL). If their performance against Mike Vick on Monday Night Football was any indication, Washington needs as much help defensively as it can get.
13. San Diego Chargers (4-5): Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa. This is a nice risk to take for the annually quirky Chargers. Kadar: "This is another place a wide receiver could go. However, San Diego still needs to replace Igor Olshansky."
14. Houston Texans (4-5): Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL). The league's most pathetic pass defense needs reinforcements. Kadar agrees: "Team him with Kareem Jackson for Houston's version of Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall."
15. Kansas City Chiefs (5-4): Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Dwayne Bowe is coming along nicely, but the Chiefs need more help for Matt Cassel. OC Charlie Weis will have great familiarity with his former ND recruit.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4): Jake Locker, QB, Washington. Finally, the purported 2010 No. 1 overall pick is off the board. Kadar: "Don't be fooled by David Garrard's performance Sunday. This is a good spot for Locker."
17. Tennessee Titans (5-4): Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida. Tennessee's no-name defense has sprung leaks of late. Kadar: "Alterraun Verner was a great choice this year, but is more of a third corner."
18. Miami Dolphins (5-4): Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. Chad Henne was benched, and Miami doesn't really have direction at QB once again. Kadar: "This could allow Newton to split quarterback snaps with Chad Henne and also be utilized as a runner or wide receiver."
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3): Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia. Despite his injuries, I love how Dowling fits into Raheem Morris' defense. Kadar, however, believes (correctly) the Bucs should target pass rushers. Plural.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (6-3): Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU. Andy Reid specializes in drafting massive offensive tackles to play guard, and Cannon has the looks of a potentially great NFL guard. Again, Kadar was not a fan of this pick, preferring Aaron Williams.
21. New England Patriots (f/OAK): Cameron Jordan, DE, California. The rich get richer. Kadar: "Talk about a hand-in-glove choice. Love it."
22. Seattle Seahawks (5-4): Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State. The Seahawks lack a degree of versatility along their defensive line. Kadar, again, is leaning more toward a pass rusher, here for Seattle's Leo position.
23. Chicago Bears (6-3): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. The redshirt sophomore has exploded onto the scene replacing Dez Bryant, and Chicago craves more impact from its receiving corps.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3): Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida. The Steelers need to continue to build young depth along their offensive front. I'll echo Kadar: "Why not reunite the brothers Pouncey?"
25. New York Giants (6-3): Justin Houston, DE, Georgia. Says Kadar: "The only thing I don't like about this is the offensive tackles available. How long can New York get by with Shawn Andrews at left tackle?" I just don't see OT value here.
26. Green Bay Packers (6-3): Aaron Williams, CB, Texas. Kadar says it all: "This would be a sensational pick if Williams is still there. He'd fit the Packers' scheme perfectly."
27. Indianapolis Colts (6-3): Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State. Indy is perpetually searching for help at defensive tackle, and Paea is very good value here. Kadar again points out that an OT is a possibility here.
28. New York Jets (7-2): Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M. They say Rex Ryan collects cornerbacks and pass rushers, and Miller is perhaps the most naturally gifted pass rusher in the nation. He should climb draft boards during February and March.
29. New Orleans Saints (6-3): Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. Kadar: "Another sensational pick where the player would fit right in."
30. Baltimore Ravens (6-3): Brandon Burton, CB, Utah. Ozzie Newsome is a value drafter, but he'd be filling a rather pressing need with this selection, as well.
31. Atlanta Falcons (7-2): Bruce Carter, LB, North Carolina. For a third time, Kadar points out that OT is a possibility here. The allure of teaming Carter with Sean Weatherspoon at OLB was too great to pass up.
32. New England Patriots (7-2): Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn State. Kadar to wrap this puppy up: "With the best linebackers gone, offensive line is a good way to go for New England. Wisniewski could play at guard or center."