It's 2011 Senior Bowl week, a game in which 2011 NFL Draft prospects have a chance to prove themselves to NFL scouts. And no single player has more to gain - or perhaps "re-gain" is the correct term - than Washington quarterback Jake Locker. Though he struggled as a senior in the face of massive expectations, Locker's physical talents could still afford him first-round consideration - and a strong showing in Mobile could really boost his stock.
This latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft is set from picks 1-30, with the final two picks determined, of course, by the result of Super Bowl XLV. With all due respect to Green Bay and its fans, we're listing the Pack as the Super Bowl loser based solely on regular season record.
1. Carolina Panthers: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. Ron Rivera would like to toughen up Carolina's defense as his first order of business, and adding the disruptive Fairley would be the easiest - and perhaps best - way to begin that process. Fairley's character concerns will need to be checked, but he's the best mesh of talent and need available.
2. Denver Broncos: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. Denver will likely move back to the 4-3 defense with John Fox at the helm, and they'd do well to add any defender that can make plays. Quinn is still flying under the radar having missed the entire 2010 season, but has a shot to go this early if teams are comfortable with him off the field by the time April rolls around.
3. Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama. Under coordinator George Edwards - and new Assistant Head Coach Dave Wannstedt - the Bills are committed to a hybrid defense featuring 3-4 and 4-3 looks. They also need to improve against the run. Dareus is a disruptive force that has the versatility to be an every-down defender in that hybrid look.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia. Not even a second's hesitation here. The Bengals are re-tooling their passing attack around , need more weapons, and Green is not only the best player available here, but perhaps the best prospect in this draft class.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. Quarterback will be a consideration here, but without a sure thing at the position, the Cardinals will instead add the best player available in Peterson. He'll team with to give Arizona one of the league's best young cornerback tandems.
6. Cleveland Browns: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. Dick Jauron is in the fold as Cleveland's new defensive coordinator, so in addition to needing weapons for , now they need to import 4-3 personnel. Bowers is a traditional 4-3 end that would be the cornerstone player in the team's new defensive system.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska. Jim Harbaugh needs a quarterback. No debate there. There is debate, however, that he'll like any of the available QB prospects this year. Amukamara fills the team's biggest secondary need with elite talent and top-notch intangibles. He's a Harbaugh guy.
8. Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. I had here a week ago, but have re-considered the idea that the Titans would take a player with character concerns after dealing with Vince Young. Gabbert is a nice value here, though it's not certain that Jeff Fisher can wait for a young guy to develop.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M. Dallas desperately needs to address its secondary, but may need to trade up if it wants a top-flight corner. Miller would add speed to their front seven; the idea of blocking up Miller and on the same down is quite formidable.
10. Washington Redskins: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. With Gabbert off the board, it's anyone's guess which of the remaining QB prospects Mike Shanahan might prefer. He couldn't go wrong advocating for Jones; the team really needs a top wideout, and some believe Jones is the best receiver available this year.
11. Houston Texans: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State. Wade Phillips is famous for running his 3-4 under, which requires a highly talented front seven capable of disruption across the board. Paea is a unique prospect in that he doesn't have classic zero-technique size, but can play that role because of unusual strength. He's ideal as a nose guard in Wade's system.
12. Minnesota Vikings: , QB, Auburn. Newton is simply too talented to last past this point. Leslie Frazier is the ideal personality type to let Newton be Newton, while keeping him focused on the team. There are other quarterbacks the Vikings will consider, but none are as strong a fit as Newton.
13. Detroit Lions: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA. Detroit needs to continue to concentrate on building its defense, particularly in the back seven, where their current personnel is a coverage liability almost to a fault. Ayers is a versatile player that can not only cover well, but also rush the passer if need be.
14. St. Louis Rams: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri. Steve Spagnuolo's defensive system is predicated on pressure. is making strides under Spagnuolo's guidance, but the team has replaceable talent everywhere else along the defensive line. Smith is a local product in need of a lot of polish, but his upside is tremendous.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. It didn't matter who Miami's new offensive coordinator was (it's Brian Daboll, by the way); Miami needs to address its bread and butter: the running game. They'll address their interior offensive line only after adding one of the most underrated running back prospects in recent memory.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue. has become injury prone over the last couple of years, and to say that has been a disappointment would be a severe understatement. Kerrigan fits the Gene Smith mold, and could start at end from day one in Jacksonville.
17. New England Patriots: Cameron Jordan, DE, California. Once one of the league's prominent true 3-4 fronts, Bill Belichick has used more 40 front over the past couple of years. In Jordan, he gets a five-technique player for his 30 front that can play the edge or inside when he goes even.
18. San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin. San Diego doesn't have many glaring needs, but they could most definitely use an infusion of talented youth along their defensive line. Watt is an ideal five-technique defensive end whose hustle and grit would be a welcome addition to an already-good defense.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College. The Giants need to begin grooming a better long-term replacement for at left tackle; has been a disappointment. Tom Coughlin's BC connection is well-known, and Castonzo is a sound technician that could start on either side - but perhaps not right away.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa. There is no more obvious need for the Bucs than defensive end, where they have a dearth of talent. Clayborn is arguably the best player left on the board, and helps fill that huge need for the NFC's best up-and-coming team.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin. Kansas City has several need areas on both sides of the ball, but offensively, wide receiver and right tackle stick out like sore thumbs. Carimi fits the Scott Pioli mold, is the best run blocker available this year, and would slide right into the starting lineup.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado. Bill Polian has done a lot of things right throughout his career - that's putting it mildly - but he made a mistake not addressing Indy's porous offensive line. Solder has as much upside as any pass protector this year, and has the quick feet needed to play left tackle in Indy's pass-happy offense.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL). Andy Reid needs to re-tool his offensive line in an urgent manner, but the Eagles have problems defensively, too - specifically in the secondary. Harris is an excellent value pick here, and he's talented enough to start opposite Asante Samuel as a rookie.
24. New Orleans Saints: Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois. The Saints won a Super Bowl title when they were able to run the football consistently offensively, taking some pressure off of Drew Brees. They have some players at the position, but lack direction there; Leshoure is a very talented, big runner that would add physicality to that offense.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB, Washington. Pete Carroll has made it very clear that Matt Hasselbeck will be his starting quarterback heading into the 2011 season. Locker is a highly talented, local prospect that the team can groom behind Hasselbeck as its long-term starter.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State. Ozzie Newsome is incredibly adept at continually replenishing his depth defensively, and Heyward would simply be the latest example of that genius. A mature young man and a heck of a football player, he'd fit seamlessly into Baltimore's defensive scheme.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh. For whatever reason, the Falcons continue to get outstanding production out of Roddy White despite the complete lack of a receiving threat opposite him. Baldwin has huge upside and will be a Combine star; White would serve as an on-roster mentor to keep Baldwin's questionable work habits in check.
28. New England Patriots: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia. With a five-technique guy in Cameron Jordan already on board, Belichick can continue to build his young defense by taking a solid pass-rushing OLB to team up with 2010 second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham.
29. Chicago Bears: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State. For all of the good that Chicago accomplished this past season, their offensive line, at best, was just a hair below adequate. Sherrod might not be ready to start from day one, but has the potential to be a solid long-term blind side protector for Jay Cutler.
30. New York Jets: Allen Bailey, DE, Miami (FL). This is the type of player that the ultra-creative Rex Ryan would find ways to use; Bailey is a 285-pound end-tackle 'tweener with the speed to play outside and the strength to play inside. He'd be a jack-of-all-trades in Ryan's system.
31. Green Bay Packers: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas. Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have done some outstanding things this year, but Williams is a good value here, and he's an absolutely perfect system fit. He'd be long-term insurance to 34-year-old Charles Woodson.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tyron Smith, OT, USC. The Steelers continue to win football games despite a patchwork offensive line that lacks athleticism across the board. Pittsburgh's program would allow the highly talented Smith the time he needs to bulk up and hone his technique.