Now that the 2011 NFL Draft season is officially upon us, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are fully dragged out of the woodshed much like the groundhog. They've turned draft prognostication into a year-round business, but post-bowl season is when they start to make more and more appearances on ESPN.com and on Sportscenter. I bring all this up because Mel Kiper released his first official NFL mock draft of 2011, while Todd McShay and Scouts Inc. released their second.
DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina
It's an understatement to say that Quinn will be fresh. After sitting out his entire junior year at Chapel Hill, it's a testament to Quinn's talent that he's this high on the draft board. And make no mistake -- scouts think extremely highly of Quinn. If his preparations for the draft process are up to par, at this spot he offers the Niners a pure pass-rusher at defensive end that can only be matched by Bowers.
I realize Quinn is a talented player, but I have serious reservations about selecting a player who sat out the 2010 season. Quinn was part of the group of players busted for taking improper benefits and was ruled permanently ineligible. I'm less concerned about the lying to the NCAA even if that raises character issues. It's hard to judge a 20-year old kid in that kind of situation. The real issue is lack of serious playing time. How much can we trust his draft preparations when he's not seeing normal player contact?
For informational purposes, the first six picks in Kiper's mock:
1. Nick Fairley, DT
2. Patrick Peterson, CB
3. Marcell Dareus, DE
4. Da'Quan Bowers, DE
5. Blaine Gabbert, QB
6. A.J. Green, WR
DT Marcell Dareus, Arkansas
New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio brings a 3-4 scheme with him, and Dareus proved his effectiveness in three-man fronts under Nick Saban at Alabama. Dareus is quick, strong and mobile and would further upgrade a defense that already ranks in the top 10 against the run.
Kiper lists Dareus as a defensive end while McShay lists him as a DT. I'd imagine the 49ers would envision Dareus in a defensive end role given it sounds like the team wants to bring back Aubrayo Franklin and has Ricky Jean-Francois as a backup. This will of course all likely change drastically over the coming months, but it's still interesting to consider how this develops between now and the draft.
For informational purposes, the first six picks in McShay's mock:
1. Da'Quan Bowers, DE
2. Nick Fairley, DT
3. Blaine Gabbert, QB
4. A.J. Green, WR
5. Patrick Peterson, CB
6. Robert Quinn, DE