2011 NFL Draft Reset: Patriots Can’t Grab Nate Solder, Take A D-Tackle

Nate SolderThe 2011 NFL draft should go down as one of the best ever.

That draft class already has produced many All-Pros and Pro Bowl selections, and it could have a few potential Hall of Famers. The draft was loaded from top to bottom — one of the best players in the NFL wasn’t selected until the fifth round.

The Patriots used the first-round pick they received from the Oakland Raiders to take Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder and traded down from their own selection. They got a steal in Solder, since he won’t be around when they’re picking in this redraft.

Leading up to May, NESN.com will reset every NFL draft from 2006 to 2013. See who would have been a first-round pick if NFL teams could redo the 2011 draft.

1. Carolina Panthers: J.J. Watt, defensive end, Wisconsin (drafted No. 11 overall)
Actual pick: Cam Newton, quarterback, Auburn

The NFL had no idea what was coming when Justin James Watt was taken with the 11th pick in the 2011 draft. Watt is the most dominant defensive player in the NFL, and his 31 sacks over the last two seasons are insane at his position (five-technique defensive end and sub-package defensive tackle).

2. Denver Broncos: Richard Sherman, cornerback, Stanford (No. 154)
Actual pick: Von Miller, pass rusher, Texas A&M

Sherman lives up to the hype that he creates for himself. He’s either the best cornerback in the NFL or the runner-up for that crown.

3. Buffalo Bills: Cam Newton, quarterback, Auburn (No. 1)
Actual pick: Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle, Alabama

There are better players left on the board, but great quarterbacks are so rare that the Bills would have to pull the trigger with Newton. The Pro Bowl quarterback took a big step forward in 2013.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, wide receiver, Georgia (No. 4)
Actual pick: Green

The Bengals get to keep their All-Pro wide receiver. Green is off to an incredible start to his career, and he’s only getting better.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Robert Quinn, defensive end, North Carolina (No. 14)
Actual pick: Patrick Peterson, cornerback, LSU

Quinn was good in his first two seasons in the league, but he was incredible in 2013. His 19 sacks led the NFL.

6. Cleveland Browns: Von Miller, pass rusher, Texas A&M (No. 2)
Actual pick: Selection traded to Atlanta Falcons, who took Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones

Miller is probably a better player than Quinn, but he’s also a much bigger risk. He was suspended in 2013 as part of the NFL’s substance-abuse program, and he tore his ACL in 2013.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Colin Kaepernick, quarterback, Nevada (No. 36)
Actual pick: Aldon Smith, pass rusher, Missouri

When given the choice between Kaepernick and Smith, the 49ers would have to take their offensive leader in the first round. San Francisco got a steal by acquiring its franchise signal-caller in the top of the second round.

8. Tennessee Titans: Aldon Smith, pass rusher, Missouri (No. 7)
Actual pick: Jake Locker, quarterback, Washington

The 49ers passed on Smith, so the Titans get to increase their pressure from the edge. He’s huge talent, but like Miller, Smith has some off-field issues to work through.

9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, offensive tackle, USC (No. 9)
Actual pick: Smith

The Cowboys got a great player with Smith in the top of the first round, so there’s no reason to pass on him here. Smith made his first Pro Bowl in 2013, and it won’t be his last.

10. Washington Redskins: Patrick Peterson, cornerback, LSU (No. 5)
Actual pick: Selection traded to Jacksonville Jaguars, who took Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert

Peterson falls a little bit in this draft reset, but that’s only because there are so many talented players in this class. Peterson can cover, catch, rush and return. He even has completed a 17-yard pass.

11. Houston Texans: Julio Jones, wide receiver, Alabama (No. 6)
Actual pick: Watt

The Falcons traded all the way from No. 27 overall to No. 6 to take Jones, but he falls to No. 11 here. Imagine Andre Johnson and Jones playing together. That’s scary.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Muhammad Wilkerson, defensive lineman, Temple (No. 30)
Actual pick: Christian Ponder, quarterback, Florida State

The New York Jets got a steal when they found Wilkerson at the end of the first round. He’d go much higher if NFL teams could do it over again.

13. Detroit Lions: Justin Houston, pass rusher, Georgia (No. 70)
Actual pick: Nick Fairley, defensive tackle, Auburn

Houston was a projected first-round pick before the draft, but then he reportedly failed a drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine and fell all the way to the third round. He’s lived up the first-round hype without the expected headaches.

14. St. Louis Rams: Nate Solder, offensive tackle, Colorado (No. 17)
Actual pick: Quinn

Solder is one of the best young offensive tackles in the NFL. The Rams would have loved for Quinn to fall to No. 14 again, but they’ll settle for Solder.

15. Miami Dolphins: Cameron Jordan, defensive end, California (No. 24)
Actual pick: Mike Pouncey, center, Florida

Jordan found his fit as a five-technique defensive end in the New Orleans Saints’ 3-4 defense in 2013, and he was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl selection. He’d be a great fit with the Dolphins, too.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle, Alabama (No. 3)
Actual pick: Selection traded to Redskins, who took Purdue linebacker Ryan Kerrigan

The Jaguars traded up for Blaine Gabbert in the real draft. The result of this draft reset is much more successful.

17. Oakland Raiders: Chris Harris, cornerback, Kansas (undrafted)
Actual pick: Selection traded to New England Patriots, who took Solder

Harris is the only undrafted player who winds up in the first round of the reset. He wasn’t invited to the combine and only performed OK at his college pro day.

18. San Diego Chargers: Jurrell Casey, defensive lineman, USC (No. 77)
Actual pick: Corey Liuget, defensive end, Illinois

Casey earned a well-deserved spot on the All-Pro second team in 2013. The former Trojan had 10.5 sacks from defensive tackle last season, which isn’t an easy accomplishment.

19. New York Giants: Torrey Smith, wide receiver, Maryland (No. 58)
Actual pick: Prince Amukamara, cornerback, Nebraska

Smith actually has more receiving yards than Jones since being drafted late in the second round three years ago. Smith had 65 catches for 1,128 yards in 2013.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Randall Cobb, wide receiver, Kentucky (No. 64)
Actual pick: Adrian Clayborn, defensive end, Iowa

Clayborn has been a decent first-round pick for the Buccaneers, but Cobb is dangerous when he’s on the field. He missed 10 games in 2013 with a broken leg and still caught 31 passes for 433 yards with four touchdowns.

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Nick Fairley, defensive lineman, Auburn (No. 13)
Actual pick: Selection traded to Browns, who took Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor

Fairley hasn’t completely lived up to the hype, but he still has the potential to be one of the most disruptive one-technique defensive tackles in the NFL. The Chiefs use a 3-4, but they could make Fairley fit.

22. Indianapolis Colts: Julius Thomas, tight end, Portland State (No. 129)
Actual pick: Anthony Castonzo, offensive tackle, Boston College

Thomas broke out in 2013 as one of the most dangerous tight ends in the league. He’ll force teams to keep going to the basketball well to find converted tight ends.

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Orlando Franklin, offensive tackle, Miami (No. 46)
Actual pick: Danny Watkins, guard, Baylor

Watkins was 26 years old when the Eagles drafted him, and he was released just two seasons later. The Broncos found a winner in Franklin, who’s one of the best right tackles in the NFL.

24. New Orleans Saints: Mike Pouncey, center, Florida (No. 15)
Actual pick: Jordan

The Saints got a steal in Jordan at No. 24. They would help shore up their offensive line with Pouncey, who can play center or guard.

25. Seattle Seahawks: Anthony Castonzo, offensive tackle, Boston College (No. 22)
Actual pick: James Carpenter, offensive tackle, Alabama

Castonzo hasn’t proven to be an elite left tackle, but he’s a starter and Carpenter is not. Seattle missed on the big Alabama offensive lineman.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Ryan Kerrigan, linebacker, Purdue (No. 16)
Actual pick: Selection traded to Chiefs, who took Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin

Kerrigan hasn’t quite lived up the hype, but he’s been a solid contributor for the Redskins. He has had 8.5 sacks in each of his last two seasons.

27. Baltimore Ravens: Jabaal Sheard, pass rusher, Pittsburgh (No. 37)
Actual pick: Jimmy Smith, cornerback, Colorado

Sheard hasn’t put up double-digit sacks yet in his three-year career, but he’s on his way. He can rush the passer from defensive end or outside linebacker.

28. New England Patriots: Corey Liuget, defensive end, Illinois (No. 18)
Actual pick: Traded selection to Saints, who took Alabama running back Mark Ingram

Many assumed the Patriots would take Liuget if he was available when they were picking. He was, but the Patriots took Solder instead. Solder has been fantastic, but big, talented defensive linemen who can rush the passer are always valuable.

29. Chicago Bears: Akeem Ayers, linebacker, UCLA (No. 39)
Actual pick: Game Carimi, offensive tackle, Wisconsin

Carimi has been a complete bust for the Bears. Chicago would have been better off taking Ayers at No. 29.

30. New York Jets: Jordan Cameron, tight end, USC (No. 102)
Actual pick: Wilkerson

The Jets could take quarterback Andy Dalton at No. 30, but his future as a “franchise” quarterback is uncertain. Cameron deservedly made his first Pro Bowl in 2013.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: DeMarco Murray, running back, Oklahoma (No. 71)
Actual pick: Cameron Heyward, defensive end, Ohio State

Heyward has worked out fine for the Steelers, but Murray has been better. He had his first 1,000-yard season in 2013, and if he can stay healthy, it won’t be his last.

32. Green Bay Packers: Phil Taylor, defensive tackle, Baylor (No. 21)
Actual pick: Derek Sherrod, offensive tackle, Mississippi State

Sherrod has been a bust for the Packers so far. Taylor is one of the best young nose tackles in the NFL.

Other NFL draft resets: 2006|2007|2008|2009|2010

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