ESPN's Mel Kiper, everyone's favorite well-coiffed NFL Draft expert, has released his first 2011 NFL Mock Draft and, just like SB Nation's projection, Auburn's defensive tackle Nick Fairley is slotted in the No. 1 overall position.
Kiper, like everyone, would have had Andrew Luck atop his draft board, but when the Stanford quarterback opted to return to school, "dominos fell." The draft guru added that "in over 30 years of evaluating talent ... this year sticks out as one that could have a lot of movement throughout the process leading to the draft."
But knowing what we know now, Fairley is the No. 1 pick:
The No. 1 overall player on the Big Board, and one who can pay immediate dividends. Fairley isn't just a safe pick because of his excellent burst, violent hand action and ability to effectively penetrate and be a constant nuisance against both the run and pass; he also has the chance to be a dominant player regardless of system. Detroit and Tampa Bay drafted the top defensive tackles at Nos. 2 and 3 last year. Carolina should start earlier in 2011. A slight mean streak in a DT isn't the worst trait. Even Ndamukong Suh showed a bit of one this season.
Kiper also projects the Buffalo Bills to draft Marcell Dareus, a defensive end from Alabama, and a player that could immediately add to this pass rush -- and cause problems for Tom Brady and the Patriots: "Buffalo has started to assemble the pieces for its 3-4 defense and Dareus has outstanding pass-rush skills and fits as a defensive end in the system."
The complete 2011 NFL Mock Draft from Kiper is behind the ESPN Insider pay wall, but you can still see his top five picks.