NFL Draft: Will Quarterbacks Reign?

Two AFC North teams will pick in the top ten in next year's draft.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Will Quarterbacks Reign?

Sports llustrated’s recent NFL mock draft is interesting, as it ranks quarterbacks higher and wide receivers lower than in most of the other mocks I’ve seen. Stanford’s Andrew Luck goes at No. 1, as expected, but Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert also goes at No. 3, to the Buffalo Bills. The 49ers take Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett with the seventh pick, and the Redskins take Auburn’s Cam Newton at No. 10. (The article points out that if Tim Tebow can be a first-round pick, then Newton can go this high.)

Among wide receivers, A.J. Green falls to the Titans at No. 8, Justin Blackmon goes to the Rams at No. 14 and Julio Jones falls to the Chargers at No. 18.

For Pittsburgh football fans, that might or might not mean that Pitt’s Jon Baldwin could fall further than the 20-25 range, where many previous mocks could place him. (The SI mock only covers the first 20 picks.) Also, the only offensive lineman in this mock is USC’s Tyron Smith, which could mean that the Steelers essentially could get their pick of offensive linemen if that’s what they want, whether that means Florida’s Mike Pouncey or someone else.

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2011 NFL Draft: Panthers Reportedly Will Pick Andrew Luck

ESPN.com reports that the Carolina Panthers have already decided to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft:

Luck is viewed as the top prospect in the country by most draft analysts and the Panthers don’t disagree with that assessment. The team officials said they wouldn’t even consider trading down in the draft if Luck is available …

“I think there are a lot of worse decisions you might have to make in life,” Luck said. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’d rather not address that subject anymore.”

It’s a little surprising that the Panthers would tip their hand, or that they would even have a hand this early on, but it isn’t surprising that they’d want Luck. Carolina already has a young quarterback in Jimmy Clausen, but Luck has a lot more upside and is regarded by just about everyone as the top talent in the draft.

I can’t remember seeing a mock draft in the past few weeks that didn’t have Luck at No. 1, but in case it weren’t clear, it sure looks like the Panthers will take him there. We’ll see where the dominoes fall after that.

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2011 NFL Draft Projections: Where Might Pitt's Jon Baldwin Be Taken?

Fans of NFL teams whose seasons are already over are looking forward to the NFL draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t one of those teams, fortunately, and we don’t yet know where the Steelers will draft. For local college players who might be drafted, however, such as West Virginia’s Robert Sands, Penn State’s Stefen Wisniewski, and Pitt’s Jon Baldwin, there are plenty of reasons to follow the rumblings about the draft.

Baldwin has only been modestly productive so far this year, but his body type and athleticism are the sorts of things that NFL teams dream on. It’s a very deep year for wide receivers, with Georgia’s A.J. Green, Alabama’s Julio Jones, Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, and possibly Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd likely to go in the first round.

Everything I’ve seen suggests that Baldwin will go somewhere in the middle to late first round. SB Nation’s Mocking The Draft ranks him as the 20th-best draft prospect. SBNation.com’s recent mock draft has Baldwin going 22nd overall to the Chiefs (whose overall draft position has yet to be determined. FanHouse’s new mock draft has him going to the Chiefs as well:

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.

It’s interesting that both SB Nation and FanHouse have Baldwin going to the Chiefs. With Green, Jones and Blackmon likely to go before him, it’s not at all clear yet that he’ll be the Chiefs’ top choice when their turn comes up in the draft, or that he won’t be off the board by then anyway. But it seems clear that a lot of folks think Baldwin is around the 20th to 25th-best talent available

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NFL Draft Order: Bengals To Pick Fourth, Browns Sixth

The Steelers and the other 11 NFL playoff teams still don't know exactly when they'll be picking in the 2011 NFL draft, but all the rest of the picks are set. The top AFC North pick will be held by the Bengals, who will pick after the Panthers, Broncos and Bills, respectively. Cincinnati could take Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. The Cardinals come next, followed by another AFC North team, the Cleveland Browns, at No. 6. SB Nation's latest mock draft has the Browns taking Alabama wideout Julio Jones.

The Ravens and Steelers, of course, will pick somewhere near the end of the first round. The Steelers really need offensive linemen, and have done well in the past at getting good value out of late first round picks (Heath Miller, Rashard Mendenhall, Maurkice Pouncey, etc.). There should still be top offensive line talents available late in the first round, so picking late shouldn't be the worst thing in the world for them.

The Patriots, unfortunately, will have two first-round picks, thanks to the Raiders - but, as SB Nation Atlanta points out, at least the Raiders are only the 17th pick this year.

1. Panthers

2. Broncos

3. Bills

4. Bengals

5. Cardinals

6. Browns

7. 49ers

8. Titans

9. Cowboys

10. Redskins

11. Texans

12. Vikings

13. Lions

14. Dolphins

15. Rams

16. Jaguars

17. Patriots

18. Chargers

19. Giants

20. Bucs

Playoff teams: Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Chiefs, Jets, Ravens, Falcons, Bears, Eagles, Seahawks, Packers, Saints

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