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A long-overdue selection


We're going to try not to get too punchy with this today.

Getting punchy and losing our way would be easy to do, because here we are at the No. 24 selection of the 2011 reader mock draft, and that means we're eight selections away from No. 32 – close to the end, but still with a lot of work to do.

So, we must stay focused.

That wasn't always easy this past week, not with the readers spending time on why the senior writer was writing in the third person, and with at least one abandoning the process for reasons that two days later, frankly, are a bit hard to recall.

But here we are . . .

It's Friday, with the weekend ahead of us and the New Orleans Saints on the clock. The Saints are a team out of the Jaguars' division, from the other conference, which may have been reasons there wasn't a tremendous amount of passion among the readers for this selection. And then there's that other realistic factor:

The final selections of the first round?

They're just, plain hard to pick.

It was that way with Philadelphia at No. 23, and it was that way with New Orleans, too, but lest anyone started taking the mock less-than-seriously, JaguarsGator9 weighed in with a reminder/plea.

"John, don&39;t screw this pick up," JaguarGator9 wrote, adding, "I&39;m using the entry of this mock draft in the Bud Light $10 million challenge."

Thus refocused, the senior writer set about helping JaguarGator9 in his quest, and quickly realized his suggestion of Akeem Ayers for the Saints likely wasn't going to be heard any more than many of his other first-round ideas.

Ayers, a linebacker from UCLA, has endured the same fate in the reader mock as many linebackers in recent drafts. Highly-rated within his position group, and considered a promising prospect, Ayers seems to be slipping into the second round. This often happens with linebackers – and on offense, with running backs – for reasons that have nothing to do with the player but everything to do with the position not being one general managers like to choose early except for players of unique, core-player ability. The linebacker and running back positions just aren't premium anymore, and the '11 reader mock certainly reflects that.

"I think they definitely go DT," Joshua Terrell wrote, adding, "(Saints defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams needs big DT&39;s to take up space and give his DE&39;s space to work. and LB&39;s room to run around and create havoc. I think it&39;s either (Corey) Liuget (of Illinois), (Muhammed) Wilkerson (of Temple), or (Phil) Taylor (of Baylor). Taylor looks like more of an attacking guy which I think they&39;ll want. So, Phil Taylor is my choice."

Upon reflection, defensive tackle makes a lot more sense than Ayers, and that's where most of the readers focused – although Taylor somewhat surprisingly got little support.

There was a gurgling of support for Liuget's teammate, Mikel LeShoure, but while the Saints do appear in need of a running back few believed New Orleans would address it in the first round. Linebacker Justin Houston of Georgia got his usual brief mention, and Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson got enough mentions that you figure he'll be going off the board in this draft sooner rather than later.

But when it came time to make a selection, Day 24 was a day for a player to go off the board who upon reflection was long overdue to do so.

"Liuget makes a lot of sense here," Brian Levenson wrote, adding, "I&39;d consider him BAP at this point, and I&39;m not sold on Akeem Ayers."

Liuget is projected by most analysts to be one of the Top 22-to-24 players who are considered first-round locks, and it's very likely that on draft day he'll go in the Top 20.

"The Saints grab Corey Liuget from Illinois," Geoff Robbins wrote, adding, "He is a base-hit type player, who is dominant against the run, which the Saints need (ranked 16th), but also can bull-rush the passer. He also possesses good football IQ which (Saints Head Coach) Sean Payton will appreciate."

That made as much sense as any, so in the interest of a calm, non-punchy Friday, the Saints go with Liuget, which makes the board look like this:

No. 1 | Carolina | Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

No. 2 | Denver | Patrick Peterson, CB, Louisiana State

No. 3 | Buffalo | Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

No. 4 | Cincinnati | Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

No. 5 | Arizona | Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

No. 6 | Cleveland | A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

No. 7 | San Francisco | Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

No. 8 | Tennessee | Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

No. 9 | Dallas | Tyron Smith, OT, Southern California

No. 10 | Washington | Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

No. 11 | Houston | Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

No. 12 | Minnesota | Jake Locker, QB, Washington

No. 13 | Detroit | Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

No. 14 | St. Louis | Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

No. 15 | Miami | Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

No. 16 | Jacksonville | Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

No. 17 | New England | J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

No. 18 | San Diego | Cameron Jordan, DE, California

No. 19 | New York Giants | Mike Pouncey, G, Florida

No. 20 | Tampa Bay | Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri

No. 21 | Kansas City | Adrian Clayborn, OLB, Iowa

No. 22 | Indianapolis | Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

No. 23 | Philadelphia | Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

No. 24 | New Orleans | Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

That brings us to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 25, where the senior writer will offer up cornerback Aaron Williams of Texas. You also wonder if the Seahawks won't take a look at the quarterback position, so we'll get some conversation there.

Have at it. 

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