1. Carolina: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri — Even though Panthers GM Marty Hurney drafted Jimmy Clausen last year, with a new coaching staff/regime in place in Carolina, I think the Panthers will take Gabbert to be the new face of the franchise. I like Gabbert a lot – his game reminds me a lot of Aaron Rodgers – but he needs to hold the clipboard in Year 1 as much as possible. This works well since the Panthers already have Clausen, who can start for this team on opening day.
2. Denver: Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama — Dareus shot up draft boards after an excellent showing at the combine. Given his near-prototype size at defensive tackle (6’3, 319), he’d be an outstanding centerpiece for John Fox to build his newly-installed 4-3 defense around. Also remember that Fox’s first draft selection when he came to Carolina was also on the defensive line (Julius Peppers).
3. Buffalo: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn — The Bills haven’t had a franchise quarterback to build & rally around since the days of Jim Kelly, and there are increasing whispers that the Bills front office is intrigued by the idea of drafting Newton. To me, the Bills need a player will get people talking about the franchise, drive up ticket sales, and put the Bills “back on the map.” Newton is as talented as any player in this draft, but comes with just as many red flags as virtues to build upon.
4. Cincinnati: AJ Green, WR, Georgia — Once the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is completed, the Bengals are officially & finally going to cut ties with Chad Ochocinco, as well as end the Terrell Owens experiment. That doesn’t give Carson Palmer – who isn’t going to be traded – a whole lot to work with. As a receiving prospect, Green has it all: size (6’4), speed (4.48 at the combine), great hands, and solid route-running mechanics.
5. Arizona: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M – The Cardinals have a need at linebacker, and Miller is the type of guy who could come in and start at the Sam ‘backer position from day one. I really don’t think the Cardinals are going to try and draft Gabbert or Newton, because the veterans like Larry Fitzgerald just won’t buy into the excuse of letting a young quarterback develop while they waste their athletic primes. There’s too many quarterbacks potentially available (Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb, Matt Flynn) whom the Cardinals could acquire as an immediate starter.
6. Cleveland: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn — At one point in time, it seemed like Fairley could very well have been the first overall pick in this draft. But after the scouting combine, there were some concerns around Fairley’s lack of size as a defensive tackle prospect (he’s around 291 lbs). Still, anyone who watched Auburn football this year knows that Fairley simply dominated games, at times. He reminds you a lot Albert Haynesworth: all the potential in the world, but the occasional propensity to take a few plays off. But, he’d be a centerpiece player in the Browns new 4-3 defense.
7. San Francisco: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU — Possibly the best defensive prospect in this entire draft, Peterson is as athletically gifted as any cornerback to enter the draft since maybe Champ Bailey. With “the big two” quarterback prospects gone already, the 49ers would almost have to make this pick Putting Peterson opposite Nate Clements in the secondary would give the 49ers an excellent pair of corners.
8. Tennessee – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska — In a division that features passing offenses like those of the Colts and Texans, the Titans can’t go wrong with acquiring another top-flight corner. Amukamara has all the physical tools to be a lock-down corner in the NFL, but also has the ability to play Safety at a very high level. He’d be a great fit for the Titans defense.
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