Mock drafts are a dime a dozen. Hell, more like a dime a million. Everyone with a few minutes of time and a "Publish" button can put together a mock draft that will be about as accurate as you'll find from those folks who spend hours on TV talking about it.
But we'll go ahead and pick the first few selections: Newton, Dareus, Gabbert, Green, and Miller. Unfortunately, only three of these are smart picks.
Let's take look at where the Longhorns are expected to fare in the Year of our Lockout 2011 NFL Draft.
He'll be the first Longhorn to hear his name called. It's just a matter of whether it will be in Thursday's first round or early Friday. Many projections have Williams headed to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 31st pick. The Eagles are also showing some interest in the 23rd slot. That would make it seven out of the past eight years that Texas has had a player taken in the first round.
Williams could step in quickly at nickel to help the Steelers, who were picked apart by Aaron Rodgers in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert, head coach Mike Tomlin, and his entire defensive staff were on hand to see Williams run a faster 40-yard-dash at the Longhorns' Pro Day than he did at the NFL scouting combine (4.36 vs. 4.5). Even if you drop a tenth of a second for Texas' notoriously fast track, it's still an impressive number for a guy some team's want to line up at safety. Williams put on 10 pounds since the end of the season, coming in to the combine at 204 points, but dropped back to just under 200 for Texas' pro day.
While Williams has been the slick mafia boss of the Horns' secondary last, Curtis Brown was its gritty underboss, the Sammy the Bull to Williams' Gotti. Brown is expected to be the second Texas player selected, sometime in Round 2 or 3 on Friday. Ironically, if the Steelers pass on Williams in the first round, they could circle back around in the second round with the 63rd pick and grab Brown.
Brown was down with the flu at Pro Day, but his performance at the combine was enough to get the attention of NFL teams. He led all defensive backs with a 39.5 inch vertical and turned in a solid if unremarkable 4.53 in the 40. Some scouts have compared him to the Green Bay Packers' Tramon Williams, but he'll need to show he's got NFL-level physicality and is more than just an exceptional athlete. He could be a special teams guy right away, working his way into a regular corner spot in a couple of years.
Scouts are split on their assessment of the Longhorns' warrior-scholar. With size and speed that put him in between ideals for DE and OLB, the criticisms fall into one of two categories: "not stout enough against the run" or "not quick enough as an outside rusher". Depending on whether you're a optimist or a pessimist, Acho is either a versatile hybrid or a hard-to-peg tweener.
But you know you're getting a high character guy. He's done everything asked of him in preparation for the draft. Sam was named outstanding player for the South team at the Senior Bowl and turned in a solid performance at the combine, particularly in cone drills. Most projections have Acho going in the second or third round. While he's lauded for character and work ethic, people forget that Sam just loves to play football and he has always done so at a high level.
Returning to the secondary and straining that unit's La Cosa Nostra comparisons to their breaking point, Chykie was the capo with great earning potential who blundered at inopportune times. He's always had tremendous physical talent, but Longhorn fans who watched Brown over the past four seasons came to dread the ill-timed mental lapse. Pumpfake ... Chykie Noooooo!
His two key auditions for pro scouts followed the same pattern. At the combine, he dropped three passes, but then he rebounded at Longhorn Pro Day with surer hands and a better time in the 40 (4.35 vs. 4.5). Brown is expected to be picked sometime in the fifth to seventh rounds. He says he's talked with several teams, including the Ravens and Patriots.
Objectively, his size (6-7, 318) and experience (39 straight starts to close out his college career) will catch the eye of NFL talent assessors. And he put up decent numbers in the combine drills, including a surprising 32-inch vertical. But in practice, the same criticisms that Texas fans are familiar with begin to emerge: slow-footed, doesn't use his hands well, not aggressive. Some of that could have been the four years of coaching under the McWhorter regime, so he'll definitely need some work to catch on with a team. Maybe a sixth- or seventh-round pick, could fall to a free agent signing.
Meet your 2011 Free Agents: John Chiles, James Kirkendoll, Eddie Jones, Jared Norton, Michael Huey.
Some additional bits of intrigue to watch on draft day:
Who will the Titans take before they officially kick Vince Young out the door? Will they use the No. 8 pick for a quarterback or take a defensive stud instead and try to catch a QB in the next round at No. 39? Tennessee would love it if Missouri's Blaine Gabbert were still around, but most likely they'll grab Jake Locker or Colin Kaepernick in round two.
Can the Browns get Colt McCoy some help at receiver? You can bet Cleveland is hoping that Georgia's A.J. Green is around when they pick at No. 6. Pairing the Bulldogs' wideout with McCoy would loosen up the Browns' offense a little and provide more room for Peyton Hillis to run free. If Green is gone, the Browns will likely go defense and hope to snag a receiver later on.
The first person to pick the first player taken in the 7th round wins a BC tote bag signed by Roger Goodell.