The 2011 NFL Draft was an all-timer, producing the 2015 NFL MVP, the Super Bowl 50 MVP and the best defensive player on the planet.
The 2011 draft class was stacked all the way from the first overall pick to undrafted players who have gone on to become premier players at their positions.
The New England Patriots had a solid class that year, taking Nate Solder with their first-round pick and adding running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the second and third rounds, respectively. Solder won’t be around when the Patriots are selecting in our 2011 re-draft.
Leading up to April 30, NESN.com will reset every NFL draft from 2011 to 2015. 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
It feels a little odd to not have the 2015 NFL MVP taken first overall, but Watt has been more consistently dominant than Newton since coming into the league. Watt is the best defender in the NFL — and it’s not particularly close — while Newton is a top-five quarterback. This was a close call, but Watt is otherworldly.
2. Denver Broncos: Cam Newton, quarterback, Auburn (No. 1)
Actual pick: Von Miller, pass rusher, Texas A&M
Newton doesn’t fall far in the 2011 re-draft. Miller is amazing and deservedly won the Super Bowl 50 MVP, but he’s not as dominant as Watt, and a quarterback like Newton is too valuable to drop from the second spot.
3. Buffalo Bills: Richard Sherman, cornerback, Stanford (No. 154)
Actual pick: Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle, Alabama
Choosing between Sherman and Miller here was extremely difficult. They’re both among the — if not the — top players at their respective positions in the NFL. Sherman has never missed an NFL game, however, while Miller was suspended six games in the 2013 season. With the possibility of a larger suspension down the road, Sherman edges Miller out.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Von Miller, pass rusher, Texas A&M (No. 2)
Actual pick: A.J. Green, wide receiver, Georgia
Miller comes off the board at No. 4 overall. Green has strung together five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, but he’s not the best wide receiver in his draft class.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, cornerback, LSU (No. 5)
Actual pick: Peterson
It was close between Peterson and Julio Jones here. The Cardinals have had so much success with Peterson, however, that there’s really no reason to pass him up.
6. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, wide receiver, Alabama (No. 6)
Actual pick: Selection traded to Atlanta Falcons, who took Jones
The Browns would have been much better off selecting Jones than trading down. The Browns wound up selecting defensive tackle Phil Taylor, wide receiver Greg Little, running back Owen Marecic, quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson with the picks acquired from moving down. None of those players remain on the Browns.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Tyron Smith, offensive tackle, USC (No. 9)
Actual pick: Aldon Smith, pass rusher, Missouri
The risk of taking Aldon Smith paid off in his first two seasons, but off-field issues have caught up since. He’s currently a free agent in the midst of a one-year suspension. Tyron Smith might be the best left tackle in the NFL.
8. Tennessee Titans: Muhammad Wilkerson, defensive lineman, Temple (No. 30)
Actual pick: Jake Locker, quarterback, Washington
Locker has already retired, while Wilkerson is coming off a 12-sack season and was franchised by the New York Jets.
9. Dallas Cowboys: A.J. Green, wide receiver, Georgia (No. 4)
Actual pick: Tyron Smith
The Cowboys got a steal in Tyron Smith, but grabbing Green at No. 9 overall isn’t too shabby, either.
10. Washington Redskins: Justin Houston, pass rusher, Georgia (No. 70)
Actual pick: Selection traded to Jacksonville Jaguars, who took Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
The Redskins made a smart trade by moving back and allowing the Jaguars to take Gabbert. Houston, despite a knee injury that could limit him in 2016, would go much higher than the third round in a re-draft.
11. Houston Texans: Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle, Alabama (No. 3)
Actual pick: Watt
Watt clearly was the steal of the draft. The Texans would have to settle for Dareus, another All-Pro defensive lineman.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Robert Quinn, defensive end, North Carolina (No. 14)
Actual pick: Christian Ponder, quarterback, Florida State
The 2011 NFL Draft was flush with elite pass rushers. Quinn might have gone a few picks higher here if he wasn’t coming off an eight-game, five-sack season for the Rams. Ponder was a bust.
13. Detroit Lions: Jurrell Casey, defensive lineman, USC (No. 77)
Actual pick: Nick Fairley, defensive tackle, Auburn
Fairley has been a solid NFL player, but he’s bounced around the league in recent years. Casey has been one of the league’s most versatile defensive linemen.
14. St. Louis Rams: Chris Harris, cornerback, Kansas (undrafted)
Actual pick: Quinn
It’s pretty incredible Harris went undrafted in 2011. He’s now one of the NFL’s premier cornerbacks and a two-time All-Pro.
15. Miami Dolphins: Cameron Jordan, defensive end, California (No. 24)
Actual pick: Mike Pouncey, center, Florida
Jordan and Pouncey both have been great NFL players, but top-tier pass rushers are tougher to find than interior offensive linemen.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Andy Dalton, quarterback, TCU (No. 35)
Actual pick: Selection traded to Redskins, who took Purdue linebacker Ryan Kerrigan
Dalton has had an up-and-down NFL career, but quarterbacks are hard to find. The Jaguars would be better off with Dalton than Blake Bortles.
17. Oakland Raiders: Nate Solder, offensive tackle, Colorado (No. 17)
Actual pick: Selection traded to New England Patriots, who took Solder
Solder struggled early in 2015, then missed most of the season with a biceps injury. He’s still a franchise left tackle, however.
18. San Diego Chargers: Randall Cobb, wide receiver, Kentucky (No. 64)
Actual pick: Corey Liuget, defensive end, Illinois
Cobb probably would have been selected higher if this re-draft was done last offseason. He was exposed a little in 2015 with Jordy Nelson out.
19. New York Giants: Doug Baldwin, wide receiver, Stanford (undrafted)
Actual pick: Prince Amukamara, cornerback, Nebraska
Baldwin had a better 2015 season than Cobb, but Cobb has had a more consistent NFL career. Baldwin has proven a lot of doubters wrong as an undrafted free agent.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Kerrigan, linebacker, Purdue (No. 16)
Actual pick: Adrian Clayborn, defensive end, Iowa
Clayborn was disappointing as a top-20 pick. Kerrigan hasn’t been a superstar, but he’s been dependable for Washington.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Cameron Heyward, defensive lineman, Ohio State (No. 31)
Actual pick: Selection traded to Browns, who took Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor
The Steelers showed how much they value Heyward when they locked him up to a six-year, $59.25 million contract last offseason.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo, offensive tackle, Boston College (No. 22)
Actual pick: Castonzo
Castonzo has been a solid but unspectacular blindside protector for Andrew Luck.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Pouncey, center, Florida (No. 15)
Actual pick: Danny Watkins, guard, Baylor
Watkins was a major draft bust at No. 23 overall. The Eagles would be happy to have Pouncey drop into their laps.
24. New Orleans Saints: Rodney Hudson, center, Florida State (No. 55)
Actual pick: Jordan
Hudson was a steal for the Chiefs at 55th overall. He’s been one of the NFL’s best interior offensive linemen.
25. Seattle Seahawks: K.J. Wright, linebacker, Mississippi State (No. 99)
Actual pick: James Carpenter, offensive tackle, Alabama
The Seahawks grabbed Wright early in the fourth round of the draft. He remains on the Seahawks, while Carpenter has moved on to the New York Jets.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Jabaal Sheard, pass rusher, Pittsburgh (No. 37)
Actual pick: Selection traded to Chiefs, who took Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin
Sheard was selected in the second round, but he proved to be a first-round talent last season for the Patriots.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Prince Amukamara, cornerback, Nebraska (No. 19)
Actual pick: Jimmy Smith, cornerback, Colorado
Amukamara isn’t quite on the same level as the top cornerbacks in this class, like Sherman, Peterson and Harris, but he’s a solid talent who’s been considerably better than Smith.
28. New England Patriots: Pernell McPhee, defensive end, Mississippi State (No. 165)
Actual pick: Traded selection to Saints, who took Alabama running back Mark Ingram
McPhee earned a five-year, $38.75 million contract with the Chicago Bears last offseason after proving himself as a situational defender with the Ravens. He started 12 games in 2015 and recorded six sacks while also providing stout run defense.
29. Chicago Bears: Marcus Gilchrist, safety, Clemson (No. 50)
Actual pick: Gabe Carimi, offensive tackle, Wisconsin
Carimi was a bust for the Bears, while Gilchrist successfully made the transition from college cornerback to NFL safety.
30. New York Jets: James Carpenter, guard, Alabama (No. 25)
Actual pick: Wilkerson
Carpenter performed well for the Jets as a free-agent signing last offseason. He was drafted as an offensive tackle but has found success inside.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: DeMarco Murray, running back, Oklahoma (No. 71)
Actual pick: Heyward
Murray struggled for the Eagles last season, but he showed enough in his first four NFL seasons with Dallas to still be worthy of a first-round selection.
32. Green Bay Packers: Jason Kelce, center, Cincinnati (No. 191)
Actual pick: Derek Sherrod, offensive tackle, Mississippi State
Sherrod was a bust for the Packers, while Kelce is a Pro Bowl-caliber starter for the Eagles.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Sep 20, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New England Patriots guard Josh Kline (67) and tackle Nate Solder (77) during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Patriots beat the Bills 40-32. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
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