This year's NFL Draft begins with Round 1 on the night of Thursday, April 28. Rounds 2 and 3 will then take place on Friday, April 29, with the remainder of the draft concluding on Saturday, April 30.
Sam Bradford was the No. 1 selection in last year's NFL Draft, going to St. Louis, where he helped orchestrate a dramatic turnaround that nearly landed the Rams in the playoffs. Detroit took Ndamukong Suh, the league's likely Defensive Rookie of the Year, No. 2. Click here for a look back at the 2010 first round.
Carolina holds the top selection in this year's draft. The Panthers' highest pick last April was No. 48 overall -- they used that selection to take QB Jimmy Clausen out of Notre Dame. Clausen struggled with the injury-depleted Panthers offense this season, though, opening the door for Carolina to take another QB this year.
Check out our first mock below, and let us know what you think in the comments.
- 1. Panthers: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Luck still has to officially throw his name into the 2011 draft, but if he does, it'd be stunning to see Carolina pass on him here. Jimmy Clausen doesn't really look like the answer.
-- Chris Burke
- 2. Broncos: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Champ Bailey's future in Denver is up in the air -- and even with Bailey, the Broncos are still about 10 men short of being a quality unit. Amukamara, who could also be a shutdown cornerback from Day 1, would step in and, if Bailey returns to Denver, immediately give the Broncos the best corner tandem in the league.
-- R.J. White
- 3. Bills: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Ryan Fitzpatrick was better than expected in 2010, throwing for 3,000 yards and 23 TDs after coming on as the Bills starter in Week 3. But the QB position has long been a thorn in the Bills' offense, and the team needs a franchise guy. Mallett could be the next Ben Roethlisberger, which should be enough to pique Buffalo's interest.
- 4. Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The T.O./Ochocinco experiment imploded in Cincinnati -- shocker, right? -- so Carson Palmer still needs a WR to throw to. And this looks like a pretty safe pick at the position. Green could wind up being the best player to come out of this draft.
- 5. Cardinals: Nick Fairley, DE/DT, Auburn
Fairley's got a bit of a mean streak on the field, but you can't debate his ability. The bonus with Fairley is that he can play inside or outside, so no matter where Arizona winds up with its game plan in the future, the Auburn product should fit right in.
- 6. Browns: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Blackmon, a redshirt sophomore, led the country in receiving in 2010. If he declares for the 2011 draft, his mixture of his great hands, great route-running, and great production should cause him to jump off the board quickly. Cleveland needs a playmaker to add to the offensive core of the rough-and-tumble Peyton Hillis and the quickly-developing Colt McCoy.
- 7. 49ers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Alex Smith isn't coming back, Troy Smith isn't good enough and the next coach of the Niners can't build anything without a quarterback. Newton isn't a sure thing, but he's too tempting to pass up at this point.
-- Josh Alper
- 8. Titans: Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama
Tennessee could be another in the long line of teams that consider taking a first-round QB, depending on the future status of Vince Young. But Dareus is a nice value at the No. 8 spot and fits in well with the 4-3 defense.
- 9. Cowboys: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Not sure how this happened, but arguably the best player in the draft is still on the board at No. 9. And for a team like Dallas that was one of the worst in the league against the pass, Peterson would be a godsend.
- 10. Redskins: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Is he a better prospect than Blaine Gabbert? Maybe not, but there's something about his mix of big arm and big speed that will appeal to Mike Shanahan.
- 11. Texans: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
No question that the Texans need to find some help in the secondary, but Bowers falling to 11 puts that plan on hold. Bowers and Mario Williams on the opposite ends of Houston's line would cause nightmares for the rest of the AFC South.
- 12. Vikings: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Another guy that fits the versatility bill, Quinn sat out the 2010 season after being ruled ineligible just before North Carolina's first game for receiving benefits from an agent. Put the character issues aside, though, and Quinn's a potential game-changing force on defense. Is he worth the risk, though?
- 13. Lions: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Detroit needs cornerback help and probably a couple bodies at linebacker. But the Lions also like to go with the best-player-available philosophy -- and when one of the best guys out there fits a huge need, then things fall into place. Detroit must protect Matthew Stafford better in the future and Sherrod could help.
- 14. Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
How great would Sam Bradford's rookie year have been if he had a little more help from the guys catching the ball down the field? We'll never know, but the dynamic Jones will make sure we don't have to ask the question again in Bradford's second season.
- 15. Dolphins: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
The Dolphins haven't taken a quarterback in the first round since Dan Marino. And they also haven't had a good answer at quarterback since Marino. Gabbert changes one streak; his size and ability give him a good shot at changing the other.
- 16. Jaguars: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Clayborn was an absolute beast in 2009, recording 70 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 11 1/2 sacks in his junior year. But after posting a mediocre senior season, Clayborn needs a solid combine to remind teams that he's going to be a good defensive lineman for a long time. The Jaguars tried to address the DE position in 2008 by selecting Derrick Harvey, but that hasn't worked out so well.
- 17. Patriots (from Raiders): Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
The rebuilding of the Patriots' defense has gone well. All they need now is a guy who can get after the passer. Ayers fits the bill and adds three-down capability to boot.
- 18. Chargers: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
This might seem like a step back given San Diego's selection of OLB Larry English in the 2009 draft, but English didn't exactly excel in his first two years -- and Miller brings a lot of the things to the table that the Chargers liked in English.
- 19. Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
David Diehl belongs inside and Shawn Andrews can't stay healthy, which means the Giants need a left tackle. Castonzo has the size and ability to do the job. The fact that he went to Boston College, formerly coached by Tom Coughlin, is the icing on the cake.
- 20. Buccaneers: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Gerald McCoy looks like a long-term answer in the interior of Tampa's defense, so pairing him with a pass-rushing monster like Kerrigan could put the Bucs in great shape up front. If this scenario plays out, Tampa Bay would gladly choose between Kerrigan and Wisconsin's J.J. Watt to fill one of its biggest needs.
- 21. Seahawks*: Allen Bailey, DE/DT, Miami (Fla.)
Whether it's on the outside or the inside of the defensive line, the Seahawks need players that can get after the quarterback. Bailey, who has the size and speed to excel either rushing from the edge or from the interior, should be an instant upgrade at any of the four spots along Seattle's line.
- 22. Chiefs*: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
After receiving high marks in their last few drafts, the Chiefs have started to hit their stride. They still need to add one more playmaker on offense, someone to draw double coverage away from Dwayne Bowe. Big and fast, Baldwin will be able to consistently stretch opposing defenses, giving the running game even more room to work.
- 23. Colts*: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Even though the Colts managed to win the AFC South again, their offensive line is a disaster. The mediocrity up front even started to affect the normally unflappable Peyton Manning. With Detroit snatching Sherrod earlier, the Colts turn to Solder, a fine consolation prize.
- 24. Eagles*: Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida
Asante Samuel gets hurt too often, Dimitri Patterson gets burnt too often, and that means the Eagles need a cornerback to slow down the passing offenses in Dallas and New York. Jenkins works well, especially if he remains willing to step up and help against the running game.
- 25. Packers*: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Charles Woodson has continued to be brilliant long after the Packers could have imagined, but it's time for Green Bay to prepare for life without the star cornerback. Tramon Williams has shown a nose for interceptions, which would pair well with Aaron Williams' potential to lock down receivers.
- 26. Saints*: Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
There aren't many better fits in the first round than this one would be. New Orleans could use another impact body on its front line, and Nevis, the local boy, certainly fits the bill.
- 27. Bears*: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Wisconsin's offense preps linemen well for the rugged NFC North, even if Chicago sticks with Mike Martz's West Coast offense into the future. Carimi's a guy who can definitely get to the second level in the run game, but he's also versatile enough to slip out and pave the way for Matt Forte and Chester Taylor in the screen game.
- 28. Jets*: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The dirty little secret of Rex Ryan's defense is that it can't get after the quarterback. Watt should help that as both an every-down end and a player who can slot inside in other schemes.
- 29. Ravens*: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata make up two-thirds of a pretty daunting defensive line, but the team could be looking for an upgrade on veteran Corey Redding. At the very least, Heyward will add depth to a thin group of linemen, and he should be challenging for a starting role no later than 2012.
- 30. Steelers*: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida
Picking a Pouncey in the first round worked out excellently for the Steelers in 2010 -- Maurkice Pouncey earned a Pro Bowl berth at center in his rookie season. Now the Steelers can double their passel of Pouncey's by picking Maurkice's twin brother, Mike. Although Mike snapped for Florida this year, he's a better fit at guard in the NFL, which works out fine for the Steelers since Maurkice is the team's long-term answer at center.
-- J.J. Cooper
- 31. Falcons*: Jared Crick, DE/DT, Nebraska
Crick's another guy that hasn't officially thrown his name in the 2011 draft ring yet, but if he does, he figures to be a fast-riser. He closed the year strong at Nebraska and can play anywhere on the line. Atlanta doesn't have a ton of immediate needs, but someone that can help generate pressure would be welcome.
- 32. Patriots*: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Just what New England needs: a potential superstar running back. The Patriots went 14-2 with Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead carrying the load in 2010 -- one can only imagine what a former Heisman Trophy winner could do for the offense.