NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
Now that the draft has come and gone, the instant analysis is pouring in. Who are the ‘Winners’ and ‘Losers’ are the big hot button topics discussed in draft talk nationwide. But truly, how do we know who the true winners and losers are?
Fact is, we don’t. We make educated guesses, sure. But at the end of the day none of us have a crystal ball. The only thing better than a mock draft is a re-draft, and as the top players from the 2011 draft approach the end of their rookie deals, we’re going to take a look at the real winners of the 2011 draft.
The Rules: Simply stated, if teams knew then what they know now, how would their selections be different? To make this clear, this isn’t a “who’s the best 32 players” of 2011. I made an effort to fill needs as related to the teams 2010-11 rosters, just to avoid confusion. First is the original pick of the team, and in bold is the player I believe would have been their pick today. Without further ado, let’s get this show on the road.
1) Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton – Cam Newton (Rd. 1, #1)
The 2011 Draft, as you will see, had both quality and quantity. There are many players who are deserving of the #1 pick this year. Nonetheless, I believe Carolina would make this pick again. The Heisman winner from Auburn has helped lead Carolina to two division titles in four years. It’s a quarterback league, and Cam has provided a legitimate presence as both a runner and a passer. He needs to continue his development, but to this date, Carolina re-takes their former #1 overall pick.
2) Denver Broncos: Von Miller – JJ Watt (Rd. 1, #11)
Von Miller has had a very good career so far with Denver, so they aren’t complaining too much about this pick. But could you imagine that team with JJ Watt, arguably the league’s best overall player? The versatile defensive lineman has an absurd 57 sacks in just four years. Any team in the league would love to have Watt, making him an easy selection here.
3) Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus – Richard Sherman (Rd. 4, #23)
Much like the previous pick, I don’t think the Bills are too upset by their selection. Dareus has given the Bills, in a sense, exactly what they thought they were getting in a physical presence on the defensive interior bolstering the run defense while adding a little something in pass rush. That being said, Richard Sherman is the pick here. Whether you’re on Team Revis or Team Sherman in the best cornerback in the league debate, Sherman is at worse the second best at his position. He is a human shadow on his receivers who has shown excellent ball skills. Rex Ryan, if he inherited Sherman, would be talking Super Bowl or bust in Orchard Park.
4) Cincinnati Bengals: AJ Green – AJ Green (Rd. 1, #4)
The Bengals nailed their fourth overall pick. They pegged Green as a difference maker from the get-go and couldn’t have been more spot on. Green is one of the five best receivers in the league, and without a great quarterback or any other legitimate threats at receiver has proven un-coverable through most of his career.
5) Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson – Patrick Peterson (Rd. 1, #5)
Kudos to the scouting departments so far, as three of the top five picks in the first round would have been the same some four years later – and it isn’t stopping there. Peterson has proven to be one of the top cornerbacks in the game while also giving the Cardinals a dynamic playmaker on special teams early on in his career.
6) Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones – Julio Jones (Rd.1, #6)
The Falcons probably overpaid for Julio, but I loved the trade then and I still do now. At the time they felt they were one to two players away from a Super Bowl, and Julio fits the billing as a guy that could get them over the top. Problem is, they overestimated the rest of their squad. Anyway, Julio is one of the toughest match ups in the league and should be a main stay at the Pro Bowl for years to come with Matt Ryan throwing him the ball. AJ Green and Julio Jones both have lived up to expectations and then some to top the 2011 WR class.
7) San Francisco 49ers: Aldon Smith – Von Miller (Rd. 1, #2)
Aldon Smith has proven to be worth the top 10 pick talent wise, but he’s also been a headache. Not that Von Miller hasn’t been a headache, but I’d rather take the former Texas A&M Aggie who has compiled an unreal 49 sacks in his first four seasons – even after missing 8 games in that stretch. Smith has also been very productive, just slightly less reliable which is why Miller gets the nod.
8) Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker – Tyron Smith (Rd. 1, #9)
The first real big blunder of the 2011 draft. Locker has already called it a career, while Smith has risen to stardom and in my opinion is the game’s best left tackle. Instead of getting their signal caller of the future, I’m giving the Titans the next best thing – a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle for over a decade.
9) Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith – Randall Cobb (Rd. 2, #32)
Missing out on their guy by one selection, Jerry Jones does what Jerry Jones likes to do: draft fun and shiny things. Randall Cobb has outperformed most expectations, and makes a big jump up the draft board from last pick in the second round to a top 10 selection. Cobb would have joined a young Dez Bryant and Miles Austin making the Cowboys trio of receivers an absolute headache for years to come.
10) Jacksonville Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert – Colin Kaepernick (Rd. 2, #4)
Another big swing and miss in the top 10 on a quarterback. Who knows, Kaepernick may prove to not be worth this pick in a re-draft either. Two things here though. JAX desperately needed a quarterback this year (explaining the reach on the Mizzou product Gabbert) and Kaepernick still provides the BOOM upside teams are looking for. Fact is, Kaepernick lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance already and is still one of the most dynamic dual threat quarterbacks in the league. The Jags would have to shuffle their offense around to fit the skill set of Kaepernick, but it’s easy to do that when there isn’t much to work with back in 2011 anyway.
11) Houston Texans: JJ Watt – Marcell Dareus (Rd. 1, #3)
It’s safe to say the Texans had the best value pick of the first round back in ’11. With Watt off the board, the former Alabama Crimson Tide stud is the play at #11. Dareus won’t be the pass rush presence of Watt, but help solidifies the front and would be considered a good value at #11.
12) Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder – Muhammad Wilkerson (Rd.1, #30)
Stop reaching on quarterbacks, people! My Lord. Anyway. Wilkerson has proven his worth in the league in just four years as a top player. He can sometimes get lost in the conversation with the talent on the Jets front, but make no bones about it, Wilkerson is a dynamic player who broke out in 2013 starting all 16 games recording 10.5 sacks. Stop reaching on quarterbacks – your daily PSA.
13) Detroit Lions: Nick Fairley – Robert Quinn (Rd. 1, #14)
Strongly considered leaving Fairley with Detroit here at #13, but Quinn has proved to be too big a difference maker to be passed up. It can be argued his production is so high due to the vast talent throughout the St. Louis line. After watching Quinn for four years, I argue his stats would actually be better without the likes of Chris Long, Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald tallying sacks as well. Quinn has been everything St. Louis could have hoped for and more with 45 sacks in four years (10.5 in 2014), and could have been lethal off the edge with Suh dominating the middle these last few years.
14) St. Louis Rams: Robert Quinn – Nick Fairley (Rd. 1, #13)
Ryan Kerrigan and Justin Houston were tempting, but Fairley would have fit their scheme a little better and gets the nod. Fairley has been very productive – when healthy – these last four years for the Lions compiling 13.5 sacks in 46 games these last four years. Lucky for St. Louis they will have both Quinn (#13 in the re-draft) and Fairley on the defensive front this year, as Fairley was signed earlier this offseason to a 1 year deal in St. Louis.
15) Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey – Mike Pouncey (Rd. 1, #15)
Pouncey has been a great selection for the Fish, as they just extended their marriage together by the likes of a five-year, $52.15M extension. He’s made two Pro Bowl appearances in four years, and will likely finally move to his natural position of center after playing guard much of his first four years in the league.
16) Washington Redskins: Ryan Kerrigan – Ryan Kerrigan (Rd. 1, #16)
Kerrigan has been exceptional for the Redskins these last four years and only seems to be improving. He has started every game since he was drafted (64/64) and has a steadily rising sack total year to year starting with 7.5 in 2011 to 13.5 in 2014. The Redskins are lucky that this draft was so talented, as Kerrigan was and still is an excellent value at #16.
17) New England Patriots: Nate Solder – Justin Houston (Rd. 3, #6)
Solder drew some flak when he was drafted, but he has been a steady anchor for Tom Brady these last four years (even though there have been some underwhelming moments), so I view the pick as a success. However in this scenario, I’m going with Justin Houston for the Pats. Houston exploded onto the national stage last year with 22 sacks, but the fact is that he has been a productive player in this league from day one. Overlooked on draft day in 2011, Houston has proved his doubters wrong tallying 48.5 sacks in four seasons. Houston would have been a transcendent talent for Bill Belichick’s defense these last four years.
18) San Diego Chargers: Corey Liuget – Jabaal Sheard (Rd. 2, #5)
Liuget has been arguably the Chargers best defensive linemen in recent years, so it is tough to argue with the pick. I view Sheard as an upgrade in talent however, so he gets the nod. Sheard was asked to play a variety of roles in a variety of schemes during his tenure in Cleveland (which should make his transition to New England seamless) which definitely hurt his overall statistics. Looking past the stats however, Sheard was a force for the Browns as a pass-rusher while improving his all-around game as well.
19) New York Giants: Prince Amukamura – Julius Thomas (Rd. 4, #32)
Thomas didn’t do much in his first two seasons, as a matter of fact it was next to nothing only playing in nine games and catching one pass. However in his third and fourth season with the Broncos, Thomas thrived catching 108 passes for 1,277 yards scoring 24 touchdowns. It remains to be seen what Thomas’ production will look like without Manning, but the 6’5 250lbs tight end from Portland State is a matchup nightmare for almost anybody and certainly would have looked good with Big Blue.
20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn – Pernell McPhee (Rd. 5, #34)
McPhee is scheme flexible and has played both defensive end and outside linebacker in his career. McPhee has earned his way from a compensatory fifth round selection of the Ravens to a five-year, $38.75M contract with the Bears. McPhee has been much more reliable in terms of durability than Clayborn as he has only missed four games in his four year career. 2014 was McPhee’s best season, recording 7.5 sacks.
21) Cleveland Browns: Phil Taylor – James Carpenter (Rd. 1, #25)
This may be a reach – in a re-draft no less – but Carpenter gets my nod here to help what has been a struggling offensive line in Cleveland. Carpenter has been hampered by injuries, but when healthy has proven his worth on championship caliber rosters. With LT already filled, Solder is overlooked for some interior help. Phil Taylor hasn’t been an absolute bust in Cleveland, but I’m sure they’d like to have this pick back.
22) Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo – Nate Solder (Rd. 1, #17)
Castonzo has been one of the most consistent offensive line performers for Indianapolis over the last few years, so certainly not a swing and miss by any stretch of the imagination. I just view Solder as the better player, and a good value here at #22. Solder has had some rough patches, but overall has proven to be a legitimate blindside protector to a Hall of Fame quarterback.
23) Philadelphia Eagles: Danny Watkins – Jurrell Casey (Rd. 2, #13)
So far, Casey is the steal of the first round. Casey has proven durable (63/64 games played) and highly productive (21 sacks) in his time in Tennessee, and if only he had just a little help the stats could be even better. From the DT position he gives you a great run defense presence as well as an up the field rusher who can collapse the pocket, what more could you ask for? Casey will be an absolute stud for years to come.
24) New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan – Cameron Jordan (Rd. 1, #24)
The Saints needed to bolster the pass rush in 2011 more than anything, and Jordan helped filll the need. He didn’t make an immediate impact, but in the last three seasons he has tallied 28 sacks giving the Saints a legitimate threat off the edge. Other players were considered, but I’m staying put with Jordan.
25) Seattle Seahawks: James Carpenter – Kyle Rudolph (Rd. 2, #11)
Durability has been a major issue for Rudolph lately, unless he would have probably gone higher in this re-draft. Rudolph showed real promise in his second year when he played in all 16 games catching 53 passes for 493 yards and 9 touchdowns.
26) Kansas City Chiefs: Jon Baldwin – Andy Dalton (Rd. 2, #3)
Jon Baldwin’s tenure in Kansas City was, less than forgettable, to put it lightly. Self-proclaimed draft experts such as myself actually liked Baldwin a bunch coming out of Pittsburgh. I’ll chalk that one up in the ‘L’ column. Kansas City didn’t necessarily need a QB with Kyle Orton on the roster, but adding the Red Rocket would have been wise. I’m not an Andy Dalton believer, but he is still better than 10-12 NFL starting quarterbacks, which is something some teams would die for.
27) Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Smith – Torrey Smith (Rd. 2, #26)
See what I did there?! The Ravens select their second round choice in ’11 in this redraft at #27. Jimmy Smith has been a good player for them, but hasn’t evolved into the elite physical press-man corner they were hoping for. Enter: the Maryland deep threat that provided some memorable moments for Ravens’ fans before inking a bigtime deal with the 49ers this offseason.
28) New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram – DeMarco Murray (Rd. 3, #7)
The Saints kept their first selection in this re-draft, but will take a different bell cow here at #28. Ingram of late has finally proven his worth earning a Pro Bowl nod, but I’m sure there isn’t much debate who the more talented runner is. As a matter of fact, Murray arguably had more talent than the Heisman winner from Alabama in college, he just couldn’t stay healthy at Oklahoma which scared off most teams. It would have been fun to watch Drew Brees with the powerful DeMarco Murray these last few years.
29) Chicago Bears: Gabe Carimi – Byron Maxwell (Rd.6, #8)
Carimi, to put it nicely, didn’t live up to expectations. Enter a cornerback opposite of Peanut Tillman to help slow down Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. Maxwell has proven his worth to the rest of the league in just four years, turning a 6th round selection into a six-year $63M contract this season with the Eagles.
30) New York Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson – Adrian Clayborn (Rd.1, #20)
The Jets hit a home run here with Wilkerson. With their man off the board, they take the talented but not so durable Adrian Clayborn. When healthy, Clayborn has proven his worth as a first round pick in this league. Problem is, he’s already missed the better part of two seasons with a wide variety of injuries, sliding him down the draft a little.
31) Pittsburgh Steelers: Cameron Heyward – Cameron Heyward (Rd.1, #31)
The Steelers got good value here with Heyward, and although other guys such as Corey Liuget and Brooks Reed were considered, Heyward is still the best fit so he’s the pick. Heyward started slow, but had a breakout 2014 campaign where he started all 16 games in the regular season (first time of his career) and tallied a career best 7.5 sacks.
32) Green Bay Packers: Derek Sherrod – Shane Vereen (Rd.2, #24)
Shane Vereen didn’t have the immediate impact most Patriots’ fans were hoping for, but he was a major difference maker on the most recent Super Bowl Champions – particularly in the Super Bowl itself. He’s a better runner then most give him credit for and is just like a receiver coming out of the backfield – a great fit for a team that had just James Starks, Ryan Grant and Brandon Saine.
And a bonus pick!
If only New England took advantage of the first pick on Day 2 of the 2011 NFL Draft.
33) New England Patriots: Ras-I Dowling- Chris Culliver (Rd.3 #16)
Due to the fact that the Patriots had the #33 pick, I threw one extra pick in for my readers (Hold the applause until the end please!). Dowling will go down as one of Belichick’s biggest swing and misses during his tenure with New England. I remember wanting a trade down desperately here for the Pats, but you could see why the pick was made. In 2011, the Patriots cornerback situation looked worse than it does now. A rookie Devin McCourty headlined the group who also had Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, Tony Carter and an injured Leigh Bodden. Ras-I just could never stay healthy, and when he got his chance did nothing with it. Enter the South Carolina Gamecocks’ product in Chris Culliver. Culliver has good ball skills who is a solid man to man corner, and he isn’t afraid to hit you either. Patriots’ fans would have fallen in love with Culliver these last four years.
Tags: 2011 NFL Draft, AJ Green, Andy Dalton, Byron Maxwell, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Chris Culliver, Colin Kaepernick, Dallas Cowboys, DeMarco Murray, Denver Broncos, JJ Watt, Julio Jones, Julius Thomas, Jurrell Casey, Justin Houston, Marcell Dareus, Muhammad Wilkerson, New England Patriots, Patrick Peterson, Randall Cobb, Shane Vereen, Torrey Smith, Von Miller