The first round of the 2011 NFL draft is over and it's time for the second guessing to begin. This draft lacked the enthusiasm of years past because of the labor strife between the owners and the players, but there was still quite a bit of intrigue. There were some great picks, statement picks, and players left on the board who had 1st round potential. Here are my draft day observations.
Marcell Dareus - Buffalo. The Buffalo Bills had the worst run defense in the league last year and drafted the best defensive tackle available. He will fit into their system and start to pay dividends immediately. Marcell is a can't miss prospect.
Blaine Gabbert - Jacksonville. Blaine has the luxury of coming into a situation where he is not expected to start right away. David Garrard is the incumbent, but he doesn't have a lot of margin for error. If the Jaguars get off to a good start Blaine will most likely sit his rookie season. If they struggle look for him to make his debut in week 9 or 10.
Nick Fairley - Detroit. At one time Nick Fairley was projected to go as high as #1, but now he gets to play with Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Detroit's defensive line reminds me of the Philadelphia Eagles back in the day with Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, and Jerome Brown. If Matt Stafford can stay healthy, the Lions will make the playoffs.
AJ Green - Cincinnati. Might this pick signal the end of the Chad Johnson's Bengal career? The Bengals generally don't trade disgruntled players, but word on the street is they are tired of Chad's antics and are ready to cut their losses. This pick echoes that sentiment.
Julio Jones - Atlanta. Atlanta moved up 21 spots to get this guy. Obviously the front office decided the Falcons need more explosive play makers on offense and Julio Jones fits the bill. I guess Roddy White isn't quite on that level.
Mark Ingram - New Orleans. This pick officially ends the Reggie Bush era for the Saints. Although Reggie Bush is a dynamic player with great versatility, his career has been plagued by injuries and questions about his ability to run inside. Not to worry, his former USC coach will be giving him a call.
Best Players still available:
Akeem Ayers - UCLA. Since I'm a Husky alum I got a chance to see Akeem play quite a bit. He has uncanny football instincts and great athleticism. He could excel in a 3-4 defense for sure.
Andy Dalton - TCU. Andy Dalton is an accurate passer that would be perfect to run the west coast offense. His draft stock has fallen out of the first round because of questions about his size. I'd be surprised if he lasted 10 more picks though.
DaQuan Bowers - Clemson. DaQuan was originally projected to be a top 5 pick before questions about his knee began to surface. The NFL guys do a lot of evaluation prior to the draft so they may know something I don't, but if his knee isn't as bad as they think someone will be getting a steal in the next 2 rounds.