2011 NFL Draft: Julio Jones Headlines Falcons-Browns Blockbuster Trade

The 2011 NFL Draft hits TV at noon, but the draft itself begins at 7:00 CDT. For up-to-the-minute updates refresh this storystream.

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2011 NFL Draft Results: St. Louis Rams Broaden Sam Bradford's Arsenal Day Two

If the 2011 NFL Draft results in fewer three-yard dump-offs to Danny Amendola in 2011 it has to be considered a win for Sam Bradford, the St. Louis Rams, and anyone who particularly appreciates the forward pass. After snaring Robert Quinn in the first round, the Rams used both of their day-two picks to add to Bradford's war chest, selecting pass-catching tight end Lance Kendricks in the second round and grabbing wide receiver Austin Pettis in the third. They'll go into 2011 still short an iconic downfield threat, but after the anemic threat they posed in 2010 a new look can't hurt. 

Kendricks is going to be the lynchpin, with 2010 pick Michael Hoomanawanui, of a two-tight-end system designed to compensate for the Rams' downfield shortcomings. It's a nice example of Josh McDaniels tailoring his offense to the roster's strengths and weaknesses, if not a great example of value-based drafting. 

As for Austin Pettis, with Mardy Gilyard still an unknown quantity going into his second season expectations have to be low for the Rams' newest mid-round wide receiver pick-up. Pettis and Gilyard got similarly great results in college, but the process was much different for the Boise State product—Pettis is a big, physical receiver who makes up for his average speed with great hands. Which sounds like a nice compliment to Donnie Avery, if he ever gets healthy. 

The Rams probably didn't draft a future Pro Bowler on day two, but they did draft two receivers who could help Sam Bradford make the Pro Bowl someday. That's not a bad haul. 

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2011 NFL Draft Results: Marvin Austin Joins Teammate Robert Quinn In Draft

UNC’s scandal-ridden football team left defensive standouts Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin ineligible for an entire year of college football, but now both have been chosen in the 2011 NFL Draft, with massive DT Marvin Austin going to the New York Giants with the 52nd overall pick. There aren’t a lot of results to go on, but it’s hard to argue with his talent and potential.

Austin’s a great athlete for his size and a had a solid 2009 before the suspension wiped him out. But Austin’s work ethic and desire aren’t as well-evidenced as ex-teammate Robert Quinn, and some worry about his ability to translate his obvious talents to game-day situations.

The Mocking the Draft 2011 mock had him going considerably earlier to the Denver Broncos, at the start of the second round, so the Giants might have gotten a steal here if Austin’s 2010 absence didn’t effect his desire to play football.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: Da'Quan Bowers Finally Goes To Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Finally Da’Quan Bowers is off the board: 51 picks into the 2011 NFL Draft, the erstwhile potential No. 1 pick and one of the top defensive ends in a draft full of them has gone to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that has never met a defensive bargain it didn’t like. The Clemson star has been bothered by knee injuries and rumors of knee injuries—specifically a degenerative one that would require surgery and eventually end his career.

The Buccaneers, wisely, perhaps, realized that eventually something would end all of these players’ careers. Bowers has an extraordinarily high ceiling for a second-round pick, and while he’s healthy he could become a real force on the Buccaneers’ defensive line.

Bucs Nation is nervous about the pick, which is the definition of high-risk, high-reward. Bowers could be the biggest bargain in the 2011 NFL Draft, or he could be our of the NFL in three years. That’s implicit with most second rounders, but with Da’Quan Bowers it’s always right on the surface.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: Da'Quan Bowers Still Adrift In Second Round

The 2011 NFL Draft continues apace Friday night, but almost 15 picks into the second round top DE prospect Da’Quan Bowers of Clemson still hasn’t found an NFL home. The rumors about Bowers’s arthritic knee have proven to be much more damaging to his draft stock than anybody could have anticipated—despite most teams claiming to have given him a clean bill of health prior to the draft, 12 defensive linemen were picked in the first round without Bowers.

Some team will have to take a chance on Bowers eventually; he’s just too good, and we’re just too far into the 2011 NFL Draft. Even if he lasts five years, five years of a first-round caliber defensive end are worth more than eight years of the average second-rounder.

Bowers is going to make some team very happy—and very nervous. And he’ll likely do it before the end of the second round. But then, I thought it would be before the end of the first round.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton Lead Quarterbacks In Second Round

The 2011 NFL Draft and its early run of quarterbacks continues: Colin Kaepernick will keep Alex Smith looking over his shoulder with the San Francisco 49ers, while Andy Dalton will keep the Cincinnati Bengals from breathing down Carson Palmer’s neck—after fewer than five picks on Friday the second round continued to reshape the NFL at the quarterback position.

Andy Dalton could start as soon as this year; Colin Kaepernick’s future depends on the resolution of the Alex Smith situation for the 49ers, which should be easier to understand when the NFL lockout is worked out.

The NFC West’s strange quarterback situation mostly remains unresolved—Matt Hasselbeck is still alone with the Seattle Seahawks, and the Arizona Cardinals went for a running back instead of a quarterback when they made Ryan Matthews their second-round pick. But the 49ers, should Alex Smith and Jim Harbaugh not get on, have taken a step toward matching the Rams’ seemingly solid situation there.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: Jake Locker Changes Course Of First Round

The Tennessee Titanssurprising selection of Jake Locker proved to be the turning point among 2011 NFL Draft picks Thursday night, causing a run on quarterbacks that led to a fall for Blaine Gabbert, an early selection of Christian Ponder, and a restructuring in the glut of defensive linemen that dominated the first round of the draft. Nick Fairley, former consensus No. 1, fell all the way to 13; Robert Quinn went 14th, and Corey Liuget, expected to go 14th, went 18th. 

More interesting in the long term is how many of these draft picks at quarterback will develop, and when. Cam Newton will dominate the spotlight no matter how quickly he assumes the starting role, and Jake Locker's early selection has turned him into the likely focus of the Tennessee Titans' 2011 season. Blaine Gabbert might have the best situation of all—he'll have some time to develop while backing up David Garrard with the Jacksonville Jaguars. As for Christian Ponder, the Minnesota Vikings' pick smacked of desperation with Locker off the board, but as a team they've got so much offensive talent that Ponder could hide, Mark Sanchez-style, behind Adrian Peterson and company for a while, if necessary. 

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Julio Jones Escapes Rams' Clutches In The 2011 NFL Draft, Joins Atlanta Falcons

Few people expected the St. Louis Rams to draft Julio Jones, their white whale, by Thursday afternoon, but the particular way the 2011 NFL Draft engineered Jones’s escape from the Rams’ 14th pick was even more unexpected—the Atlanta Falcon’s incredibly steep trade to get up to the sixth pick validated almost nobody, except the Cleveland Browns’ management. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay had Jones going that early, but most people expected Jones to become a member of the Washington Redskins at the 10th pick.

Instead, the Falcons gave up a hundred different picks to move up from No. 27 to No. 6, in the end trading their first, second, and fourth picks of this year and their first and fourth in 2012. Most teams were high on Julio Jones following his NFL Combine breakout, but I don’t think anyone else was that high on him.

Matt Ryan is a great quarterback to deal with as a rookie, but expectations on Jones will be high, given the price of his acquisition. He’ll be expected to become a major contributor from Week 1, whenever that is.

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: Nick Fairley, Defensive Linemen Dominate First Round

The 2011 NFL Draft’s first round will be remembered for plenty of individual picks, but the depth at defensive line proved to be its defining characteristic Thursday night. Between Marcell Dareus to the Buffalo Bills and Cam Heyward to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 12 defensive linemen were picked in 32 chances, and that was with Da’Quan Bowers slipping all the way out of the round. Aldon Smith went early, going to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 7, but prospects like Nick Fairley, Robert Quinn, and Cameron Jordan fell further than anyone could have expected.

The big winners in the draft were able to upgrade from defensive prospect to defensive prospect thanks to the early run on quarterbacks. The St. Louis Rams expected Corey Liuget and got Robert Quinn; the Washington Redskins were able to trade down and grab Robert Kerrigan, and the New Orleans Saints were able to get a mid-draft talent in Cameron Jordan deep into playoff-team territory.

Should these players pan out as advertised, NFL quarterbacks will have a lot more to worry about than they did in 2010.

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2011 NFL Draft Results: Green Bay Packers Pick Derek Sherrod To End First Round

The Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers capped the 2011 NFL Draft’s first round by drafting OT Derek Sherrod, their second first-round offensive lineman in as many years. Aaron Rodgers has to feel loved, if nothing else; Sherrod joins Bryan Bulaga on the list of extremely large Secret Service agents out to protect the Packers’ mustachioed superstar.

The Packers definitely play to their strengths with this pick, but in their defense it’s hard for the defending Super Bowl champions to attempt to rectify a glaring weakness they don’t have. At Acme Packing Company most of the fans seem on board with the pick, even if they might have had other priorities—mainly some added pass rushing—going into draft day. It’s hard to argue with extending Aaron Rodgers’s career, as a general rule.

So concludes a wild first round for the 2011 NFL Draft. The second and third rounds begin Friday, and will prove just as ubiquitous on ESPN and the NFL Network. For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Results: New York Jets Pick Muhammad Wilkerson 30th Overall

In a 2011 NFL Draft teeming with defensive linemen the New York Jets grabbed one more DT from the pile, picking Muhammad Wilkerson of Temple with the 30th overall pick. Wilkerson, a junior, will have some time to develop behind Kris Jenkins according to Andy Hutchins, which should help him whip his 6’5", 305-pound frame into NFL shape. Teams worry about his conditioning, but they love his size.

Mocking The Draft was a fan in their scouting report last month, seeing a lot of projectability in his frame and his technique. They’d like to see him “learn to play with his natural length advantage” to improve his pass rush, but they like his ability to get into the backfield.

Gang Green Nation likes the pick, and thanks the early run on quarterbacks for making it possible, although blogger John B reports some chants of “Da’Quan Bowers!” before the pick was finally made.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Results: Chicago Bears Grab Offensive Lineman Gabe Carimi

Jay Cutler should be happy—with the 29th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Chicago Bears drafted offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, who should be a major boon to the Bears’ beleaguered quarterback no matter where on the line he ends up playing. A four year starter at Wisconsin, he’s regarded as a safe bet, according to our own Joel Thorman.

Given how important offensive linemen are in Mike Martz’s system, which is notoriously hard on quarterbacks, Carimi could be one of the most important picks of the draft, even coming 29th overall. If he makes a difference immediately, we could see the Jay Cutler Chicago fans have been expecting for the last two years; if he doesn’t, we could see Jay Cutler run out of Chicago on a rail.

Windy City Gridiron gives Carimi an A grade right now, which is a good start; Jay Cutler gives him an A++, according to sources close to the least-popular man in Chicago.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Trade: Mark Ingram Picked By New Orleans Saints

The 2011 NFL Draft saw yet another trade Thursday night when the New Orleans Saints made a deal with the New England Patriots to grab Heisman-winning running back Mark Ingram with the 28th overall pick. The Saints had a lot to give up in trade, trading the Patriots this year’s second-rounder and next year’s first round pick for the privilege of taking the top running back in the draft.

The player the Saints get doesn’t have any one spectacular physical tool, but NFL scouts love his well-roundedness and his exceptional play in college. Advanced statistical analysis is more skeptical, both of his future and the position’s worth in the current NFL.

The Saints have a deep backfield already, but this could mean the end of the New Orleans road for one of Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, and Chris Ivory. That’ll be an interesting storyline once teams are actually allowed to trade players…

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Results: Baltimore Ravens Shore Up Defense, Pick Jimmy Smith

After failing to trade their No. 26 pick to the Chicago Bears—or do anything with it—in time for their pick to be called the Baltimore Ravens forfeited it to the Kansas City Chiefs, so with the 27th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft they did… well, presumably exactly what they would have done with the last one, selecting Colorado DB Jimmy Smith to shore up their already-strong pass coverage. Odd process, unaffected results. The Ravens are renowned for their focus on defense, and the draft, it seems, is no exception.

Baltimore Beatdown looks forward to a tougher secondary with Smith involved, one less likely to be outmuscled by opposing offenses. I also like this joke: “With the 26th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select… the 27th pick!” It’s really the easiest way there is to trade down.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Results: Kansas City Chiefs Take Jonathan Baldwin With Ravens' Pick

The 2011 NFL Draft just got a little stranger, with the Baltimore Ravens failing to make their No. 26-overall pick and passing the baton to the Kansas City Chiefs, who selected Jonathan Baldwin with it. Baldwin, a player with nearly as much physical talent as Julio Jones and A.J. Green, has received poor grades for his drive and competitiveness, as well as run-ins with his coach while at Pitt.

Matt Cassel and the Chiefs often found themselves with little in the way of passing options besides Dwayne Bowe, who figures to appreciate some help downfield on offense a year after leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns. Their second and third-best receivers last year were a tight end and running back Jamaal Charles, so Baldwin will probably find himself learning on the job.

Picking 27th, the Baltimore Ravens did manage to get a pick in. So unless Baldwin was the object of their desires—no harm, no delay of game foul.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Results: Seattle Seahawks Surprise With James Carpenter

Expected by many 2011 NFL Draft watchers to take a quarterback with Matt Hasselbeck on the decline, the Seattle Seahawks instead took a player many didn’t even have near the first round—offensive lineman James Carpenter of Alabama, who Mel Kiper saw as a second rounder. Carpenter’s young and has good size, but it looks like the Seahawks, after trying to trade down, just decided to go for their man anyway.

Field Gulls appreciates his ability to hover but is worried about all the other players who were available at this spot. All things considered, the Seahawks were just in an awkward place—forced deep into the draft by a surprise playoff berth and unable to get deeper when none of the top players appealed to them, they had no choice but to take the player they liked, no matter where he was slotted. The offensive line did improve, Field Gulls concludes, no matter who ends up behind it.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft: Indianapolis Colts Pick Anthony Castonzo To Block For Peyton Manning

The Indianapolis Colts are in no hurry to upgrade at quarterback, but in the 2011 NFL Draft they might have found a way to make Peyton Manning even better, selecting offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo to protect their Hall of Fame quarterback’s blind side. A pass-blocking specialist, Castonzo has great size and will help Manning run the Colts’ offense immediately.

Stampede Blue loves this pick, suggesting it was well past time that the Colts relied on somebody other than Manning himself to protect perhaps the best quarterback in NFL history.

Castonzo comes purpose-built for that; some teams are worried about his deficiencies against the run, but there are few better situations for a player like that than in the Colts’ pass-heavy offense. They’re ready to see him start immediately, and they’re unlikely to be disappointed.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft: Indianapolis Colts Pick Anthony Castonzo To Block For Peyton Manning

The Indianapolis Colts are in no hurry to upgrade at quarterback, but in the 2011 NFL Draft they might have found a way to make Peyton Manning even better, selecting offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo to protect their Hall of Fame quarterback’s blind side. A pass-blocking specialist, Castonzo has great size and will help Manning run the Colts’ offense immediately.

Stampede Blue loves this pick, suggesting it was well past time that the Colts relied on somebody other than Manning himself to protect perhaps the best quarterback in NFL history.

Castonzo comes purpose-built for that; some teams are worried about his deficiencies against the run, but there are few better situations for a player like that than in the Colts’ pass-heavy offense. They’re ready to see him start immediately, and they’re unlikely to be disappointed.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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Madden 12 Cover-Boy Peyton Hillis Announces Browns' Selection Of Phil Taylor

Thanking his lord Jesus Christ instead of his commissioner Roger Goodell, Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis—most recently named surprise cover-boy of Madden 12—announced their selection of Phil Taylor with the 21st pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. A popular choice for the Kansas City Chiefs in Mock Drafts, the Browns decided to cut out the middleman and trade for the Chiefs’ pick to get their man. The Chiefs will get the Browns’ third-round pick for the privilege.

Taylor, a massive nosetackle for the Baylor Bears, is one of the most accomplished run-stoppers in the 2011 NFL Draft class. It’s hard to run through a hole if there isn’t one, and Mocking the Draft notes that Taylor’s strong base and “violent hands” will make him tough on running backs all over the NFL.

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Select St. Louis Native Adrian Clayborn

St. Louis native Adrian Clayborn is the latest defensive lineman to walk the stage at the 2011 NFL Draft, going 20th overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a fine career with the Iowa Hawkeyes. Clayborn had 11 sacks in 2009 and found himself named the MVP of the 2010 Orange Bowl.

Clayborn was born with Erb’s Palsy, a serious nerve condition that makes him one of the more unlikely players to emerge in the first round of the NFL Draft; he’ll never have full range-of-motion or strength in his right arm, but he’s managed to overcome that to become one of the most decorated college defensive players on the board.

He’s a great story and a great prospect, and the Tampa Bay fans at Bucs Nation seem satisfied so far. For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft: Prince Amukamara Falls To New York Giants At 19

Prince Amukamara, who some 2011 NFL Draft watchers had going as early as No. 9, to the Dallas Cowboys, fell all the way to the New York Giants, who happily grabbed him up at No. 19. Considered by many to be the second-best cornerback in the draft, behind only Patrick Peterson, Amukamara is unpolished at the position—he’s a converted running back—plays the football extremely well already, and ran a 4.37 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine.

College teams were reluctant to throw his direction during his Nebraska career, so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do when he’s being targeted. The New York Giants have some depth in the backfield already, but when a former Top 10 guy nearly falls out of the Top 20 it’s hard not to pick the best player available.

So far, the New York Giants fans at Big Blue View appear to love the pick. For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation’s NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft: San Diego Chargers Pick Corey Liuget, Popular Mock Ram

Corey Liuget was one of the most popular Mock Draft picks for the St. Louis Rams at No. 14, but a glut of defensive stars in the middle of the first round had him slide all the way to No. 18, where he’ll help to anchor the San Diego Chargers’ defensive line.

The Illinois product has a very refined technique and plays with a motor that impressed Mocking The Draft, among other NFL Draft motor-inspectors. He’s not as spectacular as a guy like Nick Fairley, but there are fewer questions about his drive. Some are worried about his size, but the Chargers weren’t among them. Maybe they noticed that he’s listed at 6’3", 300 pounds.

As a St. Louis-based regional blog, I’d like to say a personal goodbye to the St. Louis Rams’ first-rounder who never was. He’d been selected by so many mock-Rams, including Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, that I’d begun to think of him as a real Ram. He’ll always play for the St. Louis Fake Rams in my heart…

For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis, and for more draft coverage check out SB Nation's NFL Draft hub.

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: New England Patriots' First First-Rounder OL Nate Solder

The New England Patriots’ first first-round pick of the 2011 NFL Draft—this one from the Oakland Raiders—has them picking Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder, a 6’8" converted tight end who’s considered extremely raw at the position. That’s the kind of pick the Patriots, with their serious NFL depth and massive quantity of draft picks, can afford to make; Solder might not contribute immediately, but he’ll have time to mature in the position.

The Patriots remain as unpopular as ever among the NFL fanbase at large—the pick was announced to a chorus of boos nearly as strong as the one that greeted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. That’s right: The Patriots are almost as unpopular as the NFL lockout. Tom Brady is almost as unpopular as Jerry Jones. Bill Belichick is almost as unpopular as—well, everybody knows Bill Belichick is extremely unpopular.

The Patriots will use their original 2011 NFL Draft pick next, at No. 28 overall. For a full recap of the 2011 NFL Draft to date, follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis.

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2011 NFL Draft: Ryan Kerrigan Goes To Washington Redskins After Jaguars Trade

The Washington Redskins were expected by some to choose a wide receiver or a quarterback 10th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, but when the Redskins traded down to allow the Jacksonville Jaguars a shot at Blaine Gabbert they decided to go defense-first with their new first-rounder, selecting Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue as the fourth defensive end off the board.

Kerrigan starred for three years at Purdue, picking up 32 sacks between 2008 and 2010 in the course of being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.

You can read a great scouting report on Kerrigan at Mocking the Draft, who love his quickness off the line and his “non-stop motor and hustle”, particularly as a quarterback chaser. Kerrigan’s a polished and popular pick more than an NFL project, even though he has struggled in the past against the run; the Redskins will expect solid pass-defense from him from day one.

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2011 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins Bolster Offensive Line, Pick Mike Pouncey 15th

Mike Pouncey, twin brother of star 2010 rookie Maurkice Pouncey, became the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft Thursday night when the Miami Dolphins chose the versatile offensive lineman over the fifth quarterback in the draft so far or common mock draft pick Mark Ingram. Chad Henne, who was sacked 30 times in 14 2010 starts, will appreciate Henne no matter where he ends up; he’s played all over the offensive line, though he’s primarily a center.

Brother Maurkice was among the best centers in football after just one season on the job, making the 2010 Pro Bowl and starting all 16 games as a rookie. Mike is unlikely to be quite so strong from the beginning, but being the second-best Pouncey in the NFL is, in this case, not such a bad thing.

The Dolphins’ offensive line allowed 38 sacks in 2010, and neither Ronnie Brown nor Ricky Williams found himself able to reach his previous heights at running back. Instead of upgrading at quarterback or running back the Dolphins have attempted to upgrade at both.

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2011 NFL Draft: Nick Fairley Falls To Detroit Lions In Possible Coup

Nick Fairley was once the consensus No. 1 talent in the 2011 NFL Draft, but questions about his drive and his consistency caused him to fall all the way to the Detroit Lions at No. 13, which could prove to be one of the most impressive picks in the draft so far. Fairley, who picked up 12 sacks in his 2010 season after barely registering in 2009, is one of the most imposing defensive presences in the draft, and if he can harness that talent in the pros, he and 2010 draft pick Ndamukong Suh will immediately become one of the most dangerous defensive line duos in the draft.

Fairley could well have been the St. Louis Rams’ pick if he’d fallen one more spot, but the Detroit Lions were ready to make their move and did it. One of the most interesting ongoing stories in the NFL Draft will be how Fairley plays compared to the 12 guys ahead of him.

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: Minnesota Vikings Take Quarterback Christian Ponder

The 2011 NFL Draft’s quarterback onslaught continues following the Tennessee TItans’ stunning selection of Jake Locker in the Top 10—the Minnesota Vikings, mock drafters’ consensus Locker destination, found themselves scrambling to find a Brett Favre replacement with the 12th-overall pick in the NFL Draft. Drafting for need instead of going after the best player available, the Vikings selected Florida State’s Christian Ponder, the fourth quarterback to go in the first 12 picks of the draft.

Ponder is an accurate, intelligent quarterback without any exceptional tools who was not expected to go this early. He was a possible 2010 draft selection before a separated shoulder ended his 2009 season and forced him to return to the Seminoles for his senior year.

The Vikings could still go after a veteran quarterback if the NFL lockout restrictions on free agency lift any time soon, but their considerable offensive weapons might make Ponder’s transition to the NFL easier than it is for the average rookie quarterback.

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2011 NFL Draft: Houston Texans Pick J.J. Watt To Tighten Porous Defense

Few teams were more likely to make a pick on one side of the ball than the Houston Texans, who combined one of the league’s most dynamic offenses with one of the league’s least-intimidating defenses. J.J. Watt, junior defensive end from Winconsin, is their first step in changing that, a famously intense “motor” guy who also happens to have a number of defensive talents to his name. His size and quickness will help him “punish” opposing tight ends, according to ESPN’s on-the-floor analysts.

The Houston Texans finished ninth in the NFL in points scored, thanks to quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Arian Foster, but finished 29th in points allowed, sacking the quarterback just 30 times and allowing 33 touchdowns through the air. Watt sacked the quarterback seven times in just his second season on the defensive side of the ball after a college career that began at tight end.

You can find a great J.J. Watt scouting report at Blogging the Boys, SB Nation’s Dallas Cowboys blog.

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2011 NFL Draft Trade: Blaine Gabbert Goes To Jacksonville Jaguars Via Washington Redskins

The Carolina Panthers decided against Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but their fellow expansion team the Jacksonville Jaguars have decided to trade up to pick their quarterback of the future, even as David Garrard remains the likely quarterback of the present.

Gabbert, who fell behind teammate Aldon Smith following a surprise first-round slide, is a prototypically sized and talented NFL quarterback, but Missouri’s hyper-fast spread offense left a few NFL teams concerned with his immediate pro-style prospects. Garrard’s solid performance in 2010 makes this a perfect situation for Gabbert, who can work for a while in Garrard’s shadow.

It’s quite a difference from the situation he would have faced as the Carolina Panthers’ first overall pick, if they hadn’t gone with Cam Newton. Gabbert is the third quarterback selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, and it might turn out that he’s the third quarterback to start full time in the NFL.

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2011 NFL Draft: Tyron Smith Is Cowboys' Pick, Tony Romo's New Friend

Jerry Jones wanted his Dallas Cowboys to play a home game in last year’s Super Bowl, underneath Cowboy Stadium’s new jumbo-jumbotron. Instead they’re choosing ninth in the 2011 NFL Draft, and selecting Tyron Smith, offensive tackle from USC, to keep Tony Romo in double-digit games played in 2011.

The Cowboys were expected by many to address their defensive backfield with the first-round pick, but Prince Amukamara remains on the board and the Cowboys have decided to address their gimpy offense first. It’s an interesting and controversial choice—though perhaps less controversial than it might have been, coming right after the Titans selected Jake Locker eighth.

The Dallas Cowboys’ season was really and truly cursed when Jon Kitna emerged to start nine games for the Cowboys—and actually play as well as Tony Romo. A guy like Smith could keep the often-beleaguered Romo healthy in 2011, which could go a long way toward the Cowboys reaching the Super Bowl. Though I’m not sure Jerry Jones is ready to build another stadium in time for that next home game.

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2011 NFL Draft: Tennessee Titans Surprise, Select Jake Locker Eighth Overall

Jake Locker was supposed to have hurt his NFL Draft stock by sticking around for his final season at Washington, but the Tennessee Titans liked him as much in 2011 as most teams did in 2010, selecting him ahead of Blaine Gabbert with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Titans, with Vince Young out of the picture and Kerry Collins’s baby pictures appearing in faded black and white, had a wide-open quarterback situation to go with their first coaching change since becoming the Titans in the first place.

Locker struggled with an unheralded supporting cast in Washington and a low completion percentage all four years with the Huskies, but teams love his arm, his athleticism, and his intangibles—just about everything except his college stats. He wasn’t expected to break up the Cam Newton/Blaine Gabbert stranglehold on NFL Draft news, but the Titans remembered last year’s hype—or just ignored this year’s anti-hype—and chose the player they wanted all along.

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: San Francisco Giants Snag Missouri's Aldon Smith

The San Francisco 49ers selected a Missouri Tigers star in the 2011 NFL Draft, but their pick wasn’t quarterback Blaine Gabbert—it’s star quarterback hawk Aldon Smith, who could play at defensive end or outside linebacker for a rebuilding 49ers squad. Smith, a Missouri sophomore, is just 22, and has a lot of room to grow, and a few positions at which to try it.

The San Francisco 49ers didn’t expect to have a Top 10 draft pick this year, with beleaguered No. 1 quarterback Alex Smith losing time to Troy Smith in an offense that at times neared total collapse. Smith might have another year to prove himself if he can stay healthy, because the 49ers decided to spend their first-rounder on defense.

The 49ers went for potential here—Smith isn’t the most polished defensive force in the draft, and was expected, at times, to fall into the middle of the draft, toward the St. Louis Rams, but few players have more obvious upside.

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NFL Draft Trade: Julio Jones Headlines Browns-Falcons Trade, Atlanta Bound

St. Louis Rams dream-pick Julio Jones will go to the Cleveland Browns at No. 6 overall as part of the first major trade of the 2011 NFL Draft—Jones will go to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for the Falcons’ first, second, and fourth picks this year, and first and fourth picks next year. It’s an enormous bounty for the Browns, who will trade a major target for Colt McCoy in exchange for a fleet of picks that could totally remake their team in one offseason.

Julio Jones was the star of the 2011 NFL Combine, running a 4.3 40-yard dash on a broken foot, and moved into the Top 10 right afterward. He’s a fast, immensely physical wide receiver who struggles with his hands and has had problems staying healthy, but with a trade like that he’ll be expected to contribute to Matt Ryan’s offense immediately—and not just with his outstanding blocking.

The Falcons were a major surprise in the Julio Jones sweepstake, but such is the nature of the NFL Draft, especially with the lockout curtailing free agency.

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NFL Draft 2011: Patrick Peterson Arizona Cardinals' Pick

Patrick Peterson, the consensus best player in the NFL Draft for 2011, is the Arizona Cardinals’ pick. An astoundingly talented physical cornerback described almost exclusively as a “freak”, Peterson won’t sell as many tickets as a guy like Blaine Gabbert, but he’ll terrify quarterbacks and special teams immediately as a cornerback and a kick-returner.

The Cardinals’ NFC West collapse was based as much on their terrible defense as their post-Kurt-Warner offense. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Cardinals’ top cornerback, is coming off something of a down season after being the Cardinals’ first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

This makes the Cardinals somewhat more likely to choose a quarterback like Kevin Kolb in free agency, to give John Skelton some competition at the position immediately.

Kudos to the Cardinals, who refused to draft for need despite having so many of them. Blaine Gabbert would be a big pick for Cardinals fans dreaming about tomorrow, but Patrick Peterson will help this defense today.

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: Cincinnati Bengals Select A.J. Green Fourth Overall

The Cincinnati Bengals, with iconic quarterback Carson Palmer threatening to retire rather than play there another season, decided to bolster their wide receiving corps Thursday night, selecting A.J. Green fourth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Green is the most polished wide receiver in the NFL Draft, a 6’4" number-one wideout with great hands who should be able to catch passes no matter who’s throwing them his way.

The Bengals’ aging wide receiver corps, which featured Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens last year, just got considerably younger and considerably less likely to appear on reality television, at least at the moment.

The question is whether Green will actually play with Carson Palmer, who now has a much different set of weapons than he did when he threatened to retire. Green is the rare wide receiver who could make a major offensive difference as soon as this year—both as a player and a chit in the ongoing game of quarterback chicken the Bengals are playing with Carson Palmer.

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2011 NFL Draft Picks: Buffalo Bills Select Marcell Dareus To Build Run Defense

Marcell Dareus was the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft Thursday night, going to the Buffalo Bills, who allowed an incredible 2714 yards and 18 touchdowns from opposing running games. Dareus, the top combination of skill and polish at defensive lineman in the draft, was the consensus pick for the Bills in most mock drafts of late, after it became clear they wouldn’t select a quarterback in the first round.

The Buffalo Bills, fighting a rough rebuilding effort while at the same time worrying about a potential relocation out of their small-town home, found themselves in an awkward position heading into the 2011 NFL Draft; they had a lot of holes, so drafting for need was either out of the question or missing the question entirely.

A relatively strong finish to the season after a terrible start promises good things for the Bills and former St. Louis Rams backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, their surprisingly dynamic starting quarterback.

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2011 NFL Draft: Von Miller Goes Second Overall To New-Look Denver Broncos

Tenacious Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller is the second overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, going to John Fox and the new-look Denver Broncos a year after picking up 10.5 sacks, even while fighting an ankle injury, as a senior with the Aggies. He combines major size with unbelievable speed. ESPN’s immediate comparisons are to Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.

Current St. Louis Rams Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels, former Denver Broncos head coach, was perhaps less likely than most coaches to go after a defensive player in the first round, so the Broncos have a lot of catching up to do.

Miller peaked with 17 sacks as a junior at Texas A&M, and won the Butkus award in 2010 for his play at linebacker. He’s the kind of player the Broncos will be able to plug into their defense system immediately, and the kind of rookie out of which they should be expecting big things. Quarterbacks will have to pay attention to him as soon as the 2011 NFL preseason, should it actually happen.

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Roger Goodell Booed To Open 2011 NFL Draft

A noticeably uncomfortable Roger Goodell stepped up to the podium to begin the 2011 NFL Draft Thursday night, booed uncontrollably and murmuring asides to an unhappy crowd before he finally got a few on his side with “Let’s get back to some football.”

With every selection he received similar boos, even with Cam Newton on the stage with him. Goodell’s unctuous performance with the fans is unlikely to earn the NFL owners any new fans in the continuing NFL lockout controversy, especially if they’re finally granted their stay to continue the lockout.

Goodell is likely to see more boos this weekend—I’m not sure what he could do about it to change the situation, short of ending the lockout and committing ceremonial seppuku on the floor of Radio City Music Hall or announcing that the Carolina Panthers have successfully selected Peyton Manning with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft. Goodell isn’t lined up with the players people might see as greedy on Thursday—he’s lined up with a bunch of rookie who are happy to be there.

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Cam Newton No. 1 Overall Pick In 2011 NFL Draft, To Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton was selected first overall by the Carolina Panthers in Thursday Night’s NFL Draft; 2011’s first pick is yet another quarterback—the 11th in 14 years—just a year after the Panthers drafted their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Clausen. Newton’s an extraordinarily talented player with a lot of “intangible” risks based on his extra-legal and extra-regulatory adventures as a college star. The St. Louis Rams understand the sensation, having selected Sam Bradford number one overall in the 2010 NFL Draft after some serious shoulder questions.

The Panthers wasted no time selecting Cam Newton—just a few moments passed from Goodell’s boo-laden opening to the NFL Draft to Newton joining him on stage to yet more boos.

Newton is likely to get some early experience at the position in 2011, with just Jimmy Clausen sitting between him and the starting position. He’s expected to have problems learning the playbook, but the Panthers are so far in on him that they’ll really need to shape the playbook around him, to some extent.

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NFL Draft 2011 Streaming Live On NFL.com

The 2011 NFL Draft will be streaming live online this year, in addition to being broadcast on ESPN and NFL Network, so if your TV schedule is too packed, if you’re at work, if you’re sneaking glimpses while doing something important—well, there’s no excuse not to be able to watch, if you can see this page. Click here to stream the draft live with Rich Eisen, Roger Goodell, and a crowd of people kind of pissed off about the NFL lockout, whether it’s over or not.

For added stereotypical NFL superfan bonus points, try to watch the ESPN, NFL Network, and NFL.com feeds simultaneously, perhaps while attempting to form a psychic link with Mel Kiper at the same time.

Of course, there are other, less intense options, some of which involve this very website. If you’re watching on a TV instead of your ThinkPad’s display, be sure to refresh our stream for live updates and analysis all through the first round of the NFL Draft. We’ll be updating all night, come Jimmy Clausen or high water.

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