2011 NFL Draft Preview: Round 1, Picks 11-20

words // Brandon Richard

After kicking off this year’s 2011 NFL Draft Preview yesterday with Picks 21-32, let’s now take a look at Picks 11-20. Typically, the middle part of the first round is full of teams that may be one or two pieces away from contending for a Super Bowl. Teams like the St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and San Diego Chargers fumbled away their playoff hopes towards the end of the season. Who are some of the guys that they could be targeting to help them get back on track? Find out below.

The NFL Draft starts Thursday night at 8 p.m. EST. Be sure to check out Eastbay’s 2011 NFL Combine interviews with several of the top incoming prospects. These players may be the future difference maker for your favorite team.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Houston Texas

11. Houston Texans
2010 (6-10): I can’t think of a more strange season in recent NFL history. They flew to Brett Favre’s house to bring him in during the offseason, he agreed and then everything went downhill from there. Favre stunk and had some off-field troubles, their receiving core was banged up, a trade for Randy Moss absolutely backfired, the roof of the Metrodome craved in and they finally ditched Brad Childress.
Needs: Desperately need to improve their secondary and should be looking for pieces to fit Wade Phillips’ new 3-4 defense.
The Pick: DE Aldon Smith, Missouri. Prince Amukamara is still on the board, but there have been some reservations in Houston about taking a CB so high. The Texans struggled on defense, but have brought in Wade Phillips to spell those issues. Doing so means they need pieces  to fit the 3-4 defense and a dynamic pass rushers to really get the gears in motion. Aldon Smith could be the guy that plays Phillips’ new DeMarcus Ware with his impressive frame and speed.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Minnesota Vikings

12. Minnesota Vikings
2010 (6-10): I can’t think of a more strange season in recent NFL history. They flew to Brett Favre’s house to bring him in during the offseason, he agreed and then everything went downhill from there. Favre stunk and had some off-field troubles, their receiving core was banged up, a trade for Randy Moss absolutely backfired, the roof of the Metrodome craved in and they finally ditched Brad Childress.
Needs: They need a long-term answer at quarterback, their defense may have many holes after free agency and improvements at safety and the o-line.
The Pick: DE Cameron Jordan, California. DE isn’t a pressing need for the Vikings, but with pick #12, you have to draft for value. On top of that, Ray Edwards may be walking, which will make the acquisition of Jordan even more appealing. Cameron is a standout pro prospect that brings a mix of size, strength, speed and versatility to the table. He excels both as a pass rusher and run stopper. Check out Eastbay’s interview with Cameron Jordan for a closer look at what makes this young man such an intriguing prospect.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Detroit Lions

13. Detroit Lions
2010 (6-10): There’s still a lot of work to do in Detroit, but they showed some signs of great improvement. They ran off 4-straight wins to end the season, including a victory over the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.
Needs: The Lions need big upgrades at cornerback, depth at DE and LB and could bring in some new bodies for the offensive line.
The Pick: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska. The Lions desperately need help in the secondary and Amukamara lands in their lap. Some feel that there isn’t much separating him from Patrick Peterson, as he possesses the physical gifts that scouts look for in a shutdown corner. Should be able to come in and help out the Lions overall defense immediately.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: St. Louis Rams

14. St. Louis Rams
2010 (7-9): The Rams took a step in the right direction last season and Sam Bradford looked like the real deal. A win against the Seattle Seahawks in the final game of the season would have sent them to the playoffs, but they couldn’t quite get the job done.
Needs: To maximize Bradford’s effectiveness, the Rams need a play-making wide receiver in the worst way. Also expect them to make moves for a backup running back, right guard and defensive lineman.
The Pick: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois. Julio Jones would be ideal in this spot, but due to an impressive Combine, he’s probably off the board at this point. In that case, look for the Rams to go with the best player that fits one of their needs. They’ll be looking for new defensive line starters and Corey Liuget fits the bill. Liuget is a great athlete and gets quick penetration and causes a bunch of chaos when targeting the quarterback.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Miami Dolphins

15. Miami Dolphins
2010 (7-9): Another disappointing season for the Miami Dolphins, who finished 7-9 for the second-straight year. They still found themselves in playoff scenarios toward the end of the season, but quickly played themselves out with 3-straight losses to cap off the year.
Needs: Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are probably both walking when free agency hits. They’re quarterback play has been extremely underwhelming and they could an anchor for their offensive line.
The Pick: C/OG Mike Pouncey, Florida. Tony Sparano has a background as an o-line coach, so he understands the value of having a quality center as a foundation for everything you do. He also saw Mike’s brother Maurkise thrive in Pittsburgh a year ago. Pouncey will help the Dolphins spell some of their blocking woes.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

16. Jacksonville Jaguars
2010 (8-8): The Jaguars were on the verge of pulling off the unthinkable and taking the AFC South crown away from the Indianapolis Colts. At 8-5 and sitting in the division driver seat, the Jags lost 3-straight to finish the season.
Needs: Garrard is solid, but the Jags need to start thinking long-term QB. The pass rush suffered a setback with another Aaron Kampman injury and the secondary is way too inconsistent.
The Pick: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue. With Kampman’s future uncertain, the Jags would be picking up one of the hardest workers in the draft. Kerrigan is undersized, but comes equip with relentless effort and the intangibles you like to see in defensive ends.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: New England Patriots

17. New England Patriots
2010 (14-2): Once again the Patriots looked like the clear-cut front-runner for the Super Bowl heading into the playoffs and suffered a disappointing early exit. After embarrassing the New York Jets 45-3 in a Week 13 game, the Pats found themselves on the wrong end of a revenge game, falling to the same Jets 28-21 in the playoffs.
Needs: The Patriots could use some help with a rush linebacker, and though they’ve never needed a top-tier running back, could use a home-run hitter if one is available. Look for them to upgrade Tom Brady’s protection as well.
The Pick: OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College. Arguably the top OT available in the draft, Castonzo is a stud tackle that will give the Pats some flexibility when deciding what to do with free agent Matt Light.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: San Diego Chargers

18. San Diego Chargers
2010 (10-6): The Chargers dug themselves into another early-season hole. Only this time, they weren’t able to climb their way out. They missed the postseason for the first time in 5 years.
Needs: The Chargers will attempt to address pending vacancies at DE, shore up the linebacker crew and possibly look for some receiver help.
The Pick: DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin. Here’s another highly skilled lineman with carried-over athletic traits from playing tight end earlier in his career. Watt isn’t projected to be an elite pass rushers, but rather a highly disruptive force that can immediately improve the quality of the d-line. For more insight on what J.J. Watt brings to the locker room and huddle, check out Eastbay’s exclusive NFL Combine interview with the soon-to-be pro below.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: New York Giants

19. New York Giants
2010 (10-6): Once again, what looked to be a promising season for the Giants bottomed out at the end. They started a red-hot 6-2, but finished just 4-4 in their last 8 games. Like many other teams, their plans on making a postseason run were foiled by the Green Bay Packers.
Needs: Look for the Giants to revamp their offensive line, bolster the defensive tackle and linebacker groups and address depth issues at corner and safety.
The Pick: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin. The Giants will address their void at left tackle and Carimi gives them a perfect opportunity to do just that. Carimi is an experienced 4-year starter that provides playmaking ability as a pass protector and run blocker.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2010 (10-6): The Bucs turned a lot of heads last season, narrowly missing out on making the playoffs on the last day of the season. Josh Freeman showed great poise in leading Tampa to their first 10-win season since 2005.
Needs: With the pieces on offense falling into place, Tampa needs to re-tool their once dominant defense. They’ll look at DE, linebacker and safety.
The Pick: DE Da’quan Bowers, Clemson. Cha-ching! The only reason Bowers would fall this far is because of ‘need.’ He could realistically be chosen in the Top 10 as well. There are some concerns about his long-term health, but once tabbed as a guy who could go #1 overall, Bowers is a capable two-way starter on the left side.