Pick: Cam Newton – QB Auburn
Cam Newton is one of the most interesting prospects in this draft. He is more physically gifted than any QB we have ever seen, but he doesn’t have the polish of almost every first round QB we have seen recently. Does he want to be an entertainment icon, or a Super Bowl winning QB?
Word out of Carolina is Ron Rivera love Newton, and wouldn’t think twice about taking him at the top of the draft. Panthers beat writer has also been saying Newton will most likely be the top pick. It’s no question the Panthers need a QB. After all, everyone did pencil in Luck before he pulled his name. This could either be a home run or a giant bust. The safer route would be to go Dareus, Peterson, or Fairley, but those probably won’t happen.
Pick: Patrick Peterson – CB LSU
This guy is the complete package at the corner position. He has unreal size and speed, he can cover and play the run, and on top of that he is a dynamic return man. Mel Kiper has him as the top player on his big board, and I can’t help but agree with him. He is the only can’t miss prospect in this draft, and is sure to be a top five corner by the end of next year.
The Broncos just signed Camp Bailey to an extension but they still have a huge need at the corner position. Peterson can come in and give the Broncos one of the best secondaries in the AFC. With QBs like Phillip Rivers, and WRs like Dwayne Bowe in your division, it’s never a bad idea to beef up your pass coverage. Denver just moved to a 4-3, so you could see them go with one of the top tackles or even Da’Quan Bowers here, but Patrick Peterson is almost too good to pass up on.
Pick: Marcel Dareus – DE Alabama
Coming into the combine everyone had Dareus as a top ten guy, but after his performance, and hearing what teams thought of him, he’s vaulted up to the top five. Dareus is a disruptive force on the line, and he can literally play any spot in any system other than the 4-3 DE. This kid is a near can’t miss.
The Bills have absolutely nobody at DE, and luckily for them there biggest need is also the best player on the board. Buffalo struggled against the run last year, and stopping it is one thing Dareus does very well. Two other needs here are CB and OLB. This is a tad bit too high for a guy like Prince Amukamara, but Von Miller is a big possibility here. I don’t see Buffalo going QB at this point, because Ryan Fitzpatrick is a good short term option. You could see Buffalo take a developmental guy like Colin Kaepernick in the second round.
Pick: Da’Quan Bowers – DE Clemson
Da’Quan Bowers is the top 4-3 DE prospect in this draft. He didn’t do himself any favors by putting up an average number in the only drill he did, the bench press, but he didn’t kill his stock either. Bowers is a freak of nature, and an absolute dominant force on that D-line. This is a guy that could easily go number one of two, but he falls to number four giving the Bengals a huge steal.
Cincinnati has a few needs here, and if Bowers isn’t available could go a couple ways. With Carson Palmer refusing to play for them anymore, you could see them go QB here, whether it be Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton if he somehow gets past Carolina and Buffalo. Another option is WR. With TOchocinco being gone they lack a number one threat. Some will argue Julio Jones has leaped A.J. Green for that top spot, but I still have Green miles ahead. He would be the third option here.
Pick: Von Miller – OLB Texas A&M
Von Miller is drawing many comparisons to DeMarcus Ware. While they are both great pass rushers, I’d have to say Miller more resembles Clay Matthews because of his cover skills. Miller put on an absolute show at the combine, showing great ability in every single drill he performed. The Cardinals are the furthest this guy will fall. As I said earlier, he might not even get this far if the Bills like what they see.
New Cardinals DC Ray Horton is licking his chops at the opportunity to coach up this great young talent. Arizona’s defense had almost no pass rush last year, and that led them to having one of the worst pass defenses in the league. If Patrick Peterson falls to five and Miller has been taken, he will be the pick here. Prince Amukamara is on their radar, but not at this spot. If Miller and Peterson are off the board at this point, look for the Cardinals to trade down. It is obvious QB is also a need, but don’t expect them to take one here. They would much rather trade for one, sign Bulger, or grab a guy like Mallett in the second round.
Pick: A.J. Green – WR Georgia
Before the combine there was a huge gap between A.J. Green and Julio Jones for the top receiver spot. Somehow the combine changed that, and people are starting to put Jones ahead of Green. Those people are crazy. Green might not be as athletic as Jones, but he is a better route runner, a harder worker, and has better hands. The guys making the picks know he’s better, and they’ll show that on draft day.
The Browns are desperate for a weapon on offense, and Colt McCoy needs more than what he has around him. If Green is gone, you could see them reach for Jones, but they have other needs to address here as well. They are making the switch to a 4-3, so Cleveland could use a DE or DT here, which makes Robert Quinn and Nick Fairley options. In the end, Mike Holmgren is an offensive guy, so he’ll make the value pick and grab Green here.
San Francisco 49ers
Pick: Blain Gabbert – QB Missouri
Blaine Gabbert is my top QB, but he doesn’t come with the same flash and potential of a guy like Newton. That is really the only reason he’s the second one off the board. Gabbert looked good at the combine even though he didn’t throw, and did very well during interviews. He looks like an NFL QB, and should do well for the 49ers.
San Francisco made a great hire in getting Jim Harbaugh this offseason. He is great at developing young QBs, so you know they will look to get one. The combination of Alex and Troy Smith last year is what inevitably kept them out of the playoffs. There are a couple other places they could go here. DE is a need, as well as rush line backer and CB. If they think Fairley can play the 3-4 he’ll go here, but I don’t think they will.
Pick: Nick Fairley – DT Auburn
What hurt Fairley’s status so much is he came into the combine 2 inches and 25 lbs smaller than we thought he was. We’ve also learned more about what NFL teams think about him. Yes, he did dominate last year, but it was only one year of solid play. His best fit is 4-3 DT, which I think is his only fit. I still think he could be a force though.
Tennessee gets the interior presence they have been looking for since losing Albert Haneswerth. Last year the Titans ranked near the bottom of the league in total defense. Fairley can come in and be a disruptive force against the run and pass. Tennessee is also in need of a QB. If Blaine Gabbert is available at this point I can almost guarantee this is where he will go. Another option is one of the many Des that are left on the board.
Pick: Prince Amukamara – CB Nebraska
After his performance at the combine, Amukamara got rid of any questions about his speed. He had zero interceptions last year, but that is because no one threw at him. He is the complete package at CB, and could easily go earlier than #9.
Dallas had an atrocious secondary last year, and grabbing an elite corner prospect will only solve some of their needs. They could also use a safety, but there is no one worth grabbing here. DE or NT could be needs, NT more so if they move Jay Ratliff to DE. If Dallas likes Tyron Smith enough he could be an option here, because Dallas has a hole at OT as well.
Pick: Julio Jones – WR Alabama
Julio Jones was the most impressive WR at the combine, and he had a stress fracture in his foot. The injury he had might do more for his draft stock than his amazing numbers did, just because people will wonder what he can do when healthy. Jones is still my number two receiver, but he has closed the gap between him and Green.
The Redskins had absolutely no weapons on offense last year, and that could be a huge reason Donovan McNabb looked so bad last year. No matter who their QB is in 2011, they’ll need to beef up that receiving core, which means multiple picks at this position like they did a few years back with Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelley, and Fred Davis. If they blow it like they did that year, it could mean two more years of bad receivers.
– Brent Mullis