It’s impossible to grade professional sports drafts immediately after they’re done. It’s easy to just play armchair general manager the next day. The NFL team that drafts the most popular players from teams with the largest college football fanbases, get the highest draft grades. No one is giving a team an A+ to a team that drafts interior linemen.
I recently completed a reDRAFT re-do of the 2010 NFL Draft and think I need to pump out the 2011 version. These two draft classes are quite different from a talent standpoint, but do have one thing in common, it wasn’t a very good quarterback class. Cam Newton was on another level compared to the rest of the group with Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor and Colin Kaepernick on the next level down.
In a draft class with Cam Newton, J.J. Watt, Von Miller, Richard Sherman and Julio Jones, which player gets taken first overall?
Which players would be taken in the first-round in a re-do of the 2011 NFL Draft?
1. Cam Newton – QB – Auburn Tigers (Newton was drafted #1) – There was some great talent in this draft, but I think Newton would still be taken #1 overall. If you had J.J. Watt here, I would understand. I believe Newton’s best football is still ahead of him. He has already had a ton of success in the NFL, but he needs to win a Super Bowl…and stop being so damn pouty in press conferences after his losses.
2. J.J. Watt – LB – Wisconsin Badgers (Watt was drafted #11) – Watt is a special defensive player. He’s still a young man, but he may have already earned his spot in the Hall of Fame. When healthy, he has been arguably the best defensive player in the NFL since his second year in the league. He can just make things happen, plain and simple.
3. Von Miller – LB – Texas A&M Aggies (Miller was drafted #2) – Miller is a sack machine and has helped anchor a top-ranked defense in Denver. Miller makes his secondary and linebackers look great due to all the quarterback pressure and attention he gets from the offensive line. It’s amazing how fast an average defense can turn into an excellent one, just with constant pressure.
4. Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU Tigers (Peterson was drafted #5) – Man, the 2011 NFL Draft was stacked. I wouldn’t argue with you if Peterson was your #1 overall draft pick. He’s a stud in the secondary and is a fantastic kick/punt returner. It’s a lost art these days.
5. Marcell Dareus – DT – Alabama Crimson Tide (Dareus was drafted #3) – Dareus has been exactly what the entire league thought he would turn into as a pro. He’s a huge-bodied cog that ruins running backs. He can also break free and get to the quarterback. He’s the best defensive tackle in the league. I have him ranked higher than Ndamukong Suh, who gets way more press than Dareus.
6. Richard Sherman – CB – Stanford Cardinal (Sherman was drafted #154) – Some people may have Sherman going higher than #6, but I think his perceived talent is greater than his actual talent. As a corner, sometimes that’s all you need. Take Darrelle Revis for example, he had two great years, than quarterbacks quit passing towards him. It took years for Revis to start seeing passes in his direction…but when they started, he was found out. Sherman started to get ‘found out’ a little last year. He’s still an insanely great talent, but I like Patrick Peterson over him.
7. Julio Jones – WR – Alabama Crimson Tide (Jones was drafted #6) – Jones is almost indefensible. He’s a big dude who is fast as hell. He could have been the #1 overall pick out of college, but Alabama wasn’t exactly airing it out then. Wide receivers can get stuck in an offense that doesn’t suit them, like Demaryius Thomas at Georgia Tech (who only had 120 total catches in three seasons). Jones jumped right in a passing offense and showed what he could do right away.
8. A.J. Green – WR – Georgia Bulldogs (Green was drafted #4) – You could flip-flop these receivers and I wouldn’t have much of an argument. I slotted Jones higher due to his physical gifts. Green also could have been a #1 overall candidate if he wasn’t declared ineligible at Georgia for selling his jersey. Green should keep piling on ridiculous numbers and eventually end up with a mustard yellow jacket after his career ends.
9. Tyron Smith – OT – USC Trojans (Smith was drafted #9) – Smith is arguably the best tackle in the NFL on the best offensive line in the league. The Cowboys started to build their fantastic line with this draft. Dallas needs to make sure they keep him healthy and happy to ensure a long career there.
10. Ryan Kerrigan – DE – Purdue Boilermakers (Kerrigan was drafted #16) – Kerrigan is excellent, but this is where the talent gets bumped down a peg. I couldn’t argue if any of the top nine guys went #1 overall if a team needed to fill one of their positions. I couldn’t see anyone taking Kerrigan first. He’s been a fantastic player for the Redskins and is underrated since he doesn’t play for the Cowboys or the Giants.
11. Muhammad Wilkerson – DE – Temple Owls (Wilkerson was drafted #30) – He was a beast on the Jets and was one of the big reasons why the Jets stayed in games, even though their offense was shit. The Jets are rebuilding and traded DT Sheldon Richardson to Seattle…which will make Wilkerson’s job even more difficult. I hope Wilkerson eventually ends up with a contender.
12. Andy Dalton – QB – TCU Horned Frogs (Dalton was drafted #35) – The 2010 and 2011 NFL Drafts weren’t the best for quarterbacks. Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were drafted in-between Cam Newton and Dalton. Scouts didn’t know if Dalton would find success in the NFL since TCU was in a smaller conference at the time. They were a great program, but didn’t face BCS-level competition every week. He’s a perfectly fine quarterback, but can a team win a Super Bowl with Dalton as the QB? That team would need a fantastic defense and a solid running game.
13. DeMarco Murray – RB – Oklahoma Sooners (Murray was drafted #71) – Why were running backs Ryan Williams, Shane Vereen, Mikel Leshoure & Daniel Thomas drafted before Murray? He struggled to stay healthy at Oklahoma. He also wasn’t carrying the full load with the Sooners. Teams didn’t want Mr. Glass carrying the football. He followed Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma, so he had huge shoes to fill. Murray should end his career with the most rushing yards in this draft class.
14. Justin Houston – LB – Georgia Bulldogs (Houston was drafted #70) – I have to be honest, I wasn’t high on Houston coming out of college. I thought he was a solid OLB and flew under my radar a bit. He jumped back on it in 2014 when he had 22 sacks to lead the league. He has been bit by the injury bug the last two seasons, but I think he still has a lot left in the tank.
15. Randall Cobb – WR – Kentucky Wildcats (Cobb was drafted #64) – I watched a lot of Kentucky games when Cobb was there. I thought he had a future as a quarterback, but he clearly made the right decision to switch positions. He has turned into one of the most explosive wide receivers in the NFL. He is deadly with yards after the catch. He’s elusive and can break a long play if he’s given a block or two.
16. Rodney Hudson – OG – Florida State Seminoles Hudson was drafted #55) – Hudson is a full-blown stud. He’s a top-five center in the NFL. He has the athletic ability to play center and both guard positions. He played every, single offensive snap last season for the Raiders. Teams would cut off their legs in hopes of that sort of durability.
17. DE Robert Quinn – North Carolina Tar Heels (Quinn was drafted #14)
18. C Mike Pouncey – C – Florida Gators (Pouncey was drafted #15)
19. CB Byron Maxwell – Clemson Tigers (Maxwell was drafted #173)
20. DT Jurrell Casey – USC Tojans (Casey was drafted #77)
21. CB Chris Harris – Kansas Jayhawks (Harris went undrafted)
22. WR Doug Baldwin – Stanford Cardinal (Baldwin went undrafted)
23 TE Kyle Rudolph – Notew Dame Fighting Irish (Rudolph was drafted #43)
24. RB Mark Ingram – Alabama Crimson Tide (Ingram was drafted #28)
25. C Jason Kelce – Cincinnati Bearcats (Kelce was drafted #191)
26. OT Anthony Castonzo – Boston College Eagles (Castonzo was drafted #22)
27. DE Cameron Heyward – Ohio State Buckeyes (Heyward was drafted #31)
28. QB Colin Kaepernick – Nevada Wolfpack (Kaepernick was drafted #36)
29. OT Nate Solder – Colorado Buffaloes (Solder was drafted #17)
30. QB Tyrod Taylor – Virginia Tech Hokies (Taylor was drafted #180)
31. TE Julius Thomas – Portland State Vikings (Thomas was drafted #129)
32. QB/WR Terrelle Pryor – Ohio State Buckeyes (Pryor was drafted in Supplemental Draft)
Notables that did not make the cut: WR Torrey Smith, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, QB Blaine Gabbert, CB Prince Amukamara, DE Cameron Jordan, DE Jabaal Sheard, DE Brooks Reed, DE Pernell McPhee, RB Shane Vereen, LB K.J. Wright, TE Charles Clay & CB Marcus Gilchrist