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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.