1. Carolina Panthers Cam Newton QB Auburn
- New coach Ron Rivera has primarily been a defensive coordinator throughout his career, so you can’ completely rule out someone like Marcel Dareus or Patrick Peterson, but ultimately I think they go Cam Newton here if they can’t trade out. Newton has the highest upside of any of the quarterbacks in the draft. He’s a winner, has good accuracy, had experience in a pro style offense in high school and at Blinn Junior College, and is very athletic. Prototypical size and measurables.
Current NFL Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
2. Denver Broncos Marcel Dareus DT Alabama
- New coach John Fox still gets a high pick despite switching teams. New football operations boss, the legendary John Elway, and GM Brian Xanders have been meeting with all of the top quarterback prospects despite having Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, and Brady Quinn on the roster. Ultimately, I think they pass on a QB, at least in round one, and take the best defensive player available, Marcel Dareus. He’s scheme diverse, and should do well as a 3-technique in Denver’s new 4-3 defense.
Current NFL Comparison: Richard Seymour, Raiders
3. Buffalo Bills Von Miller LB Texas A&M
- GM Buddy Nix telegraphed picking C.J. Spiller last year. This year, while the Bills have visited with Newton and Gabbert, I think they learned their lesson from last year. The Bills switched to a 3-4 and made a star out of NT Kyle Williams. They have a solid secondary with youngster Jarius Byrd at FS. The one thing they lack is a dominant pass-rusher. Von Miller represents the best pure 3-4 OLB in the draft. He’ll have to develop some coverage skills, but he’s one of those guys that won’t have to play in reverse all that much. If Buffalo finds someone solid across from him, he’ll be really dangerous.
Current NFL Comparison: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys
4. Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green WR Georgia
- Mike Brown’s holding hostage of Carson Palmer muddies the water with the Bengals, who are unpredictable at times as it is. Unless Brown drastically changes his stance, which history tells us he won’t, Carson Palmer will be “retired” in 2011. That said, I don’t think the Bengals are that fond of Blaine Gabbert. They want someone to go downfield, and Cam Newton’s already gone. They can take A.J. Green here and have a weapon for whomever is quarterback. Green is as safe a bet as a WR prospect there’s been since Calvin Johnson in 2007.
Current NFL Comparison: Reggie Wayne, Colts
5. Arizona Cardinals Patrick Peterson CB LSU
- The Cardinals really want Von Miller to slide past Buffalo, but I don’t think he will, which makes them a team that might be looking to trade back. I don’t think Blaine Gabbert fits what they want at quarterback, and they might even be convinced to try and develop Max Hall or John Skelton before taking another quarterback. I think for right now, Patrick Peterson, who is the best player in the draft, is a good placeholder for them. They can use him at CB opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or at FS as Kerry Rhodes eventual replacement. But I still think they look to trade back.
Current NFL Comparison: Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders
6. Cleveland Browns Robert Quinn DE North Carolina
- Pat Shurmer, another new head coach and football boss Mike Holmgren are switching to the 4-3. The Browns lacked a true passer for the 3-4, so they’ll try and use their personnel in a switch for the 4-3. Matt Roth can handle strong side DE duties, but they need a pass-rusher. North Carolina’s Robert Quinn is truly dynamic and looked outstanding at his pro day and at the Combine despite being suspended for the year. Cleveland could also target a receiver such as A.J. Green, or even a bit more dark horse here, but Julio Jones to give Colt McCoy a new weapon. For now, Quinn is the pick.
Current NFL Comparison: Elvis Dumervil, Broncos
7. San Francisco 49ers Blaine Gabbert QB Missouri
- The 49ers could go in a bunch of directions. Many project LSU’s Patrick Peterson falling here, and he’d fit in really well playing behind Patrick Willis. However, Alex Smith and Troy Smith are probably not what Jim Harbaugh wants long-term. Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert fits what Harbaugh did at Stanford decently well. While he take his lumps learning the nuances of dropping back, setting his feet properly, play action fakes, etc. he can lean on the running of Frank Gore and Vernon Davis in the seam.
Current NFL Comparison: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
8. Tennessee Titans Nick Fairley DT Auburn
- Mike Muchak would love for Blaine Gabbert to fall to the 8th pick, but I doubt that will happen. The Titans defense certainly lost some bite when Albert Haynesworth left for Dan Snyder’s money bags in D.C. Jason Jones is a freak in the middle, and Jovan Haye is serviceable, but Sen’Derrick Marks has yet to make the progress they expected. They go to the Auburn well again here with Fairley who is an outstanding one-gap penetrator in the 4-3. He should fit into the defense very well and make an immediate impact.
Current NFL Comparison: Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers
9. Dallas Cowboys J.J. Watt DE Wisconsin
- Under Bill Parcells, the Cowboys had a feared defense with DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis coming off the edges. Marcus Spears and Stephen Bowen are serviceable, but an upgrade is needed. J.J. Watt is better than any 5-technique end that’s come out in the past few years. He’s got a non-stop motor, strength at the point of attack, and he’s very athletic - his numbers are better than last year’s top 3-4 DE Jared Odrick (28th overall). Watt gives the Cowboys some more teeth up front, but you can’t count out an offensive lineman, or a trade down. Florida’s Mike Pouncey recently tweeted he’d be the pick, so who knows what Jerry Jones has going on.
Current NFL Comparison: Luis Castillo, Chargers
10. Washington Redskins Julio Jones WR Alabama
- Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb had a rocky first season together. McNabb had virtually no weapons aside from Chris Cooley. The running game died out, and they’ve got some young linemen protecting for McNabb. Since they probably won’t reach for Mark Ingram, the best available weapon is Alabama’s Julio Jones. Jones tore up the Combine with a broken bone in his foot, and should be 100% by the time the season rolls around. I’ve seen Jones in person, and while’s not that 4.39 speed guy, he’s plenty dominant and can catch everything.
Current NFL Comparison: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
11. Houston Texans Prince Amukamara CB Nebraska
- The Texans secondary was one of the worst in the history of the NFL last year. First round pick Kareem Jackson and Dolphins re-tread Jason Allen struggled, and the Texans have little speed at the S position. With Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara on the board, the Texans have to take them. Many would say, why not draft a front seven player for the new 3-4 defense? Well, with the NFL being such a pass-first league now, you can’t pass on someone like Amukamara, especially if he falls here.
Current NFL Comparison: Tramon Williams, Packers
12. Minnesota Vikings Ryan Mallett QB Arkansas
- The Vikings have been known to take some risks in the draft (see Troy Williamson) and with the quarterback position in general (see Brett Favre). Having learned enough about Ryan Mallett to thwart some of the off-field rumors, the Vikings get the draft’s best pure passer. The Vikings have a win-now roster so they need to solve the quarterback issue pronto. They have little depth on the defensive side, so you can’t quite rule that out here, but the golden rule of drafting is don’t pass on a franchise quarterback if you don’t already have one.
Current NFL Comparison: Philip Rivers, Chargers
13. Detroit Lions Tyron Smith T USC
- The Lions don’t get lucky enough to have a top cornerback fall to them. They have a lot of holes, but are an improving team. However, Matthew Stafford can’t seem to stay upright, and drafting a franchise left tackle is a smart strategy. By drafting Smith, you can plug him at his natural RT spot and slide Gosder Cherlius inside to G while Smith gets adjusted. Or, you can put him on the blind side from day one and move Jeff Backs to RT or G. Either way, the Lions won’t continue to improve if Matthew Stafford isn’t on the field. Da’Quan Bowers is a dark-horse for me here as well.
Current NFL Comparison: Jermon Bushrod, Saints
14. St. Louis Rams Da’Quan Bowers DE Clemson
- The Rams lose hope after Julio Jones gets tabbed by the Redskins; they’ll have to wait to get Sam Bradford a weapon. The Rams have some holes on their defensive line, and Da’Quan Bowers falls to them. I think I take him over any DT in this draft. Bowers can play opposite Chris Long to give the Rams some more teeth on the defensive line. Bowers does have knee issues, but when healthy, he can be flat out dominant at times. A trade down wouldn’t be out of the question either, but I think the Rams get a quality player at #14 regardless of position.
Current NFL Comparison: Will Smith, Saints
15. Miami Dolphins Mike Pouncey C Florida
- If there’s any team, other than the Patriots, that’d I’d bet on to trade down in the first round, it’s the Dolphins. They don’t have a 2nd round pick as a result of the Brandon Marshall trade last year, so I think they’ll open shop to move down. If they stay however, I don’t think any of the quarterbacks represents an upgrade over what Chad Henne already is, at least this year. Mark Ingram isn’t the dynamic type of back that you draft early, so if they stay, I think they go with Mike Pouncey to play C or G and give an injection of athleticism to their statuesque interior of their offensive line.
Current NFL Comparison: Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers
16. Jacksonville Jaguars Christian Ponder QB Florida State
- The Jaguars take the quarterback the Dolphins pass on to be the heir to David Garrard. The Jaguars certainly know how to “shock” people (Tyson Alualu at 10 last year), but Ponder is a great fit for their system. He’s pretty similar to Garrard, and he’s already got a good grasp on a pro-style offense coming from Jimbo Fisher’s system in Tallahassee. The Jaguars have said quite a few times that they’re happy with Garrard…but you can’t trust teams this time of year. I think there’s some fire with that smoke here in Jacksonville, and a local guy would help put people in the seats.
Current NFL Comparison: Chad Pennington, Dolphins
17. New England Patriots Cameron Jordan DE California
- No team plays the draft game better than New England. However, the Patriots wheeling and dealing hasn’t gotten them that many solid players over the past few years. Ty Warren is coming off a serious injury and they traded away Richard Seymour, so they have to re-tool the D-line to get their defense back to the level it was at during their Super Bowl years. Cameron Jordan is an outstanding 5-technique player who can move. He’s not quite as big as J.J. Watt, but he’s proven he can get to the passer notching 17.5 over his career at Cal.
Current NFL Comparison: Kendall Langford, Dolphins
18. San Diego Chargers Aldon Smith LB Missouri
- The Chargers, another team known for trading on draft day to get who they want, would love to leapfrog New England as they too have needs in their front seven. While they miss out on a 3-4 DE, they can add a pass-rusher to go across from Shaun Phillips. Smith has absolutely violent hands and uses them well (Vernon Gholston take notes). He’s got speed off the edge, and he’s a solid run defender. He’ll have to take some time to transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4, but he should be able to start ahead of Larry English and Antwan Applewhite.
Current NFL Comparison: Bryan Thomas, Jets
19. New York Giants Anthony Castonzo T Boston College
- The Giants played musical chairs with their offensive line last year and it cost them…almost as much as their rookie punter kicking to DeSean Jackson. David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie are both aging at tackle, and though they’ve drafted players of the future (William Beatty), they may need a starting-caliber option now. Castonzo is a long, lean prospect who excels at pass blocking. He’s very smart and should be able to adjust to the pro game pretty quickly. I think Gabe Carimi could get some consideration here given the Giants physical running style, but ultimately, I don’t think Carimi pass-blocks well enough to warrant the nod over Castonzo at this point.
Current NFL Comparison: Sam Baker, Falcons
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Adrian Clayborn DE Iowa
- One of the youngest teams in the NFL is on the rise. The Bucs have an outstanding young QB in Josh Freeman, and they’ve begun retooling their defense. Gerald McCoy does need help on the defensive line, and the Bucs haven’t had a pass-rusher since the late Gaines Adams days. Adrian Clayborn had an up and down 2010, but when he’s going full bore, he’s a very good player. I think he fits well into the Bucs Cover 2 scheme and can play that strong side DE position opposite Stylez G. White (formerly Greg White). Clayborn’s production dipped as a senior, but I think he’ll regain his 2009 form in Tampa Bay’s system (20 TFL’s, 11.5 sacks).
Current NFL Comparison: Antwan Odom, Bengals
21. Kansas City Chiefs Phil Taylor NT Baylor
- The Chiefs were the NFL’s big surprise turnaround team in 2010. If they don’t want to fall back, as those teams tend to do, they need to get a NT to anchor their defense. Shaun Smith and Dion Gales leave a lot to be desired, and Baylor’s Phil Taylor can fill the void. Taylor’s been a fast-riser since the Senior Bowl and has gotten his weight down, yes down, to 334lbs. The former Penn State recruit is somewhat raw in technique and doesn’t always play as big as his size, but his best football is still ahead of him. I give Taylor the nod over Stephen Paea due to Paea’s knee injury.
Current NFL Comparison: Jamal Williams, Broncos
22. Indianapolis Colts Nate Solder T Colorado
- Colts GM Bill Polian said he was going to address the OL after losing to the Saints in the Super Bowl. Colts fans are still waiting. Charlie Johnson fared well playing at left tackle, but he’d better serve the Colts by kicking inside to guard. The Colts offense certainly isn’t physical, and passes more than it runs, so Nate Solder is the pick here to protect Peyton Manning’s blind side. Solder is more finesse than physical despite his 6’8” 319lbs frame. A converted tight end, he’s pretty athletic and is still learning the nuances of the position.
Current NFL Comparison: Jason Peters, Eagles
23. Philadelphia Eagles Akeem Ayers LB UCLA
- The Eagles always seem to draft well and get production out of their rookies. Ellis Hobbs’ retirement leaves a hole at CB, but I can’t see the Eagles taking someone who has character issues like Jimmy Smith of Colorado. They relied on Moise Fokou and Akeem Jordan at strong side LB last year. UCLA’s Akeem Ayers represents a big upgrade here. He’s big, can run, and makes plays behind the line (24.5 TFL’s the past two years). He’s also solid in coverage as well. Keep an eye on Philly to trade as well as they always seem to be in the market for acquiring future picks.
Current NFL Comparison: D.J. Williams, Broncos
24. New Orleans Saints Mark Ingram RB Alabama
- The Saints potent offense suffered a shutdown of sorts in the running game last year. Pierre Thomas got injured and is a free agent. Reggie Bush has never been capable of being an every down runner in the NFL, and Chris Ivey, while productive, might be a one-year wonder. Enter the former Heisman Trophy Winner Mark Ingram. Ingram gives the Saints a better inside runner to replace Pierre Thomas, who is also versatile enough to be in the passing game. This will help the Saints move Reggie Bush around and continue to get something out of him. D-line depth could also be in the cards here.
Current NFL Comparison: Shonn Greene, Jets
25. Seattle Seahawks Ryan Kerrigan DE Purdue
- The Seahawks would normally be picking in the top half of the draft, but the NFC West is so bad, Seattle made the playoffs. A future QB could be an option here, but I just can’t picture Jake Locker going this high with his accuracy issues. Seattle could use a pass-rusher to play opposite Chris Clemons. Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue has really skyrocketed up boards lately having notched 23.5 sacks the past two years and 37.5 in his career. While not the greatest athlete, he plays downhill with excellent technique and figures to be what Seattle thought they were getting when they drafted Darryl Tapp.
Current NFL Comparison: Chris Long, Rams
26. Baltimore Ravens Jimmy Smith CB Colorado
- GM Ozzie Newsome is always known for sticking to his draft board and pulling in quality players. Jimmy Smith, if not for off-field issues, might be a top 15 pick in this year’s draft. If there’s one weakness to the Ravens defense, it’s at the cornerback position. Smith has size, speed, and is pretty good in run support…when he wants to be. He doesn’t always play up to his skill set and it’s been rumored that many teams are turned off by his personality and his failed drug test. That said, if there’s a team that is willing to overlook that, it’s Baltimore (see Sergio Kindle).
Current NFL Comparison: Charles Woodson, Packers
27. Atlanta Falcons Cameron Heyward DE Ohio State
- The Falcons laid a major egg in the playoffs against the Packers and part of the reason is because they couldn’t get to Aaron Rodgers. Jamaal Anderson has been a major bust a DE and John Abraham is getting older. Kroy Biermann plays well in spurts, but they could use some help. Cameron Heyward had a down year as a senior, and got manhandled by Gabe Carimi, the best tackle he faced all season. That said, Heyward offers versatility with the ability to play strong side end better than Anderson, and he can slide inside in passing situations.
Current NFL Comparison: Tyson Jackson, Chiefs
28. New England Patriots Brooks Reed LB Arizona
- The Patriots went 14-2 with Tully Banta-Cain and Rob Ninkovich as their OLBs last season. I think they have something for the future with Jermaine Cunningham to team with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, which leaves a pure pass-rusher remaining. Arizona’s Brooks Reeds is pretty similar to Clay Matthews, who was also picked in this area in 2009. Reed’s 6’2” and 263lbs and has a non-stop motor. He’s got the ability to come off the edge and can play the run well. New England could also look to get help on the offensive line as Matt Light is a free agent, Logan Mankins wants out of town, and Stephen Neal retired.
Current NFL Comparison: Clay Matthews, Packers
29. Chicago Bears Corey Liuget DT Illinois
- Tommie Harris didn’t regain his top form after he regained his job for the Bears this season. Anthony Adams is solid, but doesn’t offer much pass-rush potential. Matt Toeaina impressed me with some solid flashes, but the Bears could still use a dominating presence in the middle. Corey Liuget would make the Bears defense, already good, even better. Liuget has a solid build with room to get bigger, and he really came on in 2010 with 12.5 TFL’s and 4.5 sacks. He fit’s the scheme and it’s an area of need. An offensive lineman like Danny Watkins could be a possibility as well.
Current NFL Comparison: Tank Johnson, Bengals
30. New York Jets Muhammad Wilkerson DE Temple
- The Jets defense isn’t nearly as good as people make it out to be. It’s more smoke and mirrors than anything else. They don’t have a premier pass-rusher, and I think GM Mike Tannenbaum will hold some reservations with Justin Houston stemming from the Vernon Gholston pick. The Jets have an aging front with Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce. Wilkerson is one of those under the radar players from a MAC school. Wilkerson has excellent size and a good frame. He’ll be able to be a rotational player for a while, but he should be better than Mike DeVito in the long run. OLB is another area of need.
Current NFL Comparison: Marcus Spears, Cowboys
31. Pittsburgh Steelers Gabe Carimi T Wisconsin
- The Steelers could use a corner, but I think they finally have to address their offensive line. Losing Willie Colon hurt, and Flozell Adams isn’t he answer. Chris Kemoeatu is solid at LG, and Maurkice Pouncey is outstanding at C, but they don’t have a top-shelf tackle to protect Ben Roethlisberger, even if Max Starks comes back healthy. Carimi could play LT for the Steelers and help make their offensive line even better. One dark horse pick here could be Illinois ILB Martez Wilson to eventually replace James Farrior.
Current NFL Comparison: Andrew Whitworth, Bengals
32. Green Bay Packers Aaron Williams CB Texas
- GM Ted Thompson is always about drafting the best player available, regardless of position. Charles Woodson is nearing the twilight of his career and while Sam Shields was serviceable, the Packers can use someone to team with Tramon Williams in the future, especially if Woodson is going to get some snaps at FS. Williams has size and speed, and broke up 12 passes as a junior as many teams threw away from his side of the field. An offensive tackle like Derrick Sherrod or a defensive lineman such as Christian Ballard could be in order here.
Current NFL Comparison: Jabari Greer, Saints