Now that we are through the combine and moving into pro days on campus, here is how I see the top ten of the 2011 NFL Draft playing out.
1. Carolina Panthers: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley gives Carolina real talent up front.
There is QB talk in Carolina with the No.1 overall pick, but I see the Panthers building up front on defense under new head coach Ron Rivera in 2011. Fairley is the best defensive line prospect in the draft and displayed his overall quickness and athletic ability at the combine, plus Auburn’s pro day. Becomes an opening day starter in Carolina.
2. Denver Broncos: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
John Fox could look at LSU CB Patrick Peterson when the Broncos are on the clock, but after the new four-year extension for veteran Champ Bailey, I see Denver addressing a much-needed upgrade to the defensive line. With Bowers, the Broncos get one of the top edge rushers in the draft and start to build their overall talent in the front seven. And, if he clears medically at his pro day, I expect his stock to rise quickly.
3. Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Defensive coordinator George Edwards needs players—and that starts with Dareus up front. The DT can play as a DE in the 3-4 front or slide inside as a 3 technique in a 4-3 front. The Bills ranked dead last in the NFL vs. the run in 2010. Time to make some changes to their front seven if they want to compete in the AFC East. With Fairley off of the board, Dareus is the right pick at No.3.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
The more you hear about Carson Palmer, the more you start to believe he has played his last game as a Bengal. There will be veteran options for Cincy once we see a new CBA on the table, but Newton’s unique talents at the QB position are hard to ignore. The Auburn QB will need pro coaching to start, but he could develop into a dynamic player in the NFL.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
The Cardinals need a OLB to play in their 3-4 scheme. I got to watch Miller’s athletic abilities on display down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. He looks fluid in his pass drops, can attack the line of scrimmage in the run game and will provide that edge pressure for the Cardinals. With a 4.49 40-yard dash at his pro day (and game tape to back it up) Miller is the right pick in Arizona.
6. Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
ICONGreen is an immediate upgrade to the WR position in Cleveland.
Green is an immediate upgrade to the WR position in Cleveland and provides the Browns’ offense with opportunities to flip the field. The Georgia WR didn’t generate the amount of buzz that we saw from ‘Bama’s Julio Jones at the NFL combine, but when you turn on the tape there is no question that he is the more polished route runner. A legit No.1 WR that can win on the outside.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
With Peterson slipping to No.7, it should be easy for San Fran to take him off of the board. Size (6-0, 219) and elite top end speed (4.34) at the CB position. Plus, he can have an immediate impact in the return game. The 49ers need better play out of their secondary, and with Peterson we may be looking at the top overall prospect coming out in the draft.
8. Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Vince Young is on the way out and Rusty Smith isn’t going to win a division title in Tennessee. New head coach Mike Munchak needs a QB, and although going the free agent route for a veteran is a safe play, the Titans need to start developing a player that can lead this franchise for the future. With a solid pro day, Gabbert should cement himself as a top ten pick.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Cam Jordan, DE, Cal
Another top talent I saw in Mobile, Jordan is versatile enough to play as a 5 technique in the Cowboys 3-4 front or align in multiple positions when Dallas brings its defensive sub packages onto the field. Quick, explosive power out of his stance and vertical ability to get up the field. An upgrade for the Cowboys’ defensive front.
10. Washington Redskins: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Mike Shanahan and the ‘Skins may look for opportunities to trade down from the No.10 spot, but with Quinn they address a need at the OLB position opposite Brian Orakpo in Jim Haslett’s 3-4 scheme. The former Tarheel didn’t play a down in 2010 (NCAA suspension), but you can’t deny his talents. True speed and power that translates to a rush linebacker in Washington.
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