Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NFL Mock Draft: Picks 1-10

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With the NFL Draft coming up tomorrow night, this will be my first of a two-part segment on the first round of the NFL Draft. Today, I will break down who I feel each team in top 10 takes, why they take them and who they should take or would take if the draft played out like I think it should.

1. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

Why they take him: Despite spending a second-round pick on Jimmy Clausen last season, the Panthers don't believe he's the answer after an atrocious rookie performance. They seem to really like the do-it-all skill set Newton can bring to the table, especially with a dearth of talent along their offensive line and in their receiving corps, especially if Steve Smith has played his last down as a Panther. I like Newton more than most, but I don't think he's the right pick here.

Who they should take: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

There is no Ndamukong Suh in this draft (or even a Sam Bradford), but Dareus is the best player on the board. Carolina also has serious issues on the interior of their defensive line, so Dareus represents a need as well as the best value. I also think Clausen deserves another season to prove himself. If he fails, the Panthers might very well end up with the first pick in 2012 as well and the rights to Andrew Luck, Stanford's can't-miss quarterback prospect.

2. Denver Broncos - Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

Why they take him: As I just said, Dareus is the best player in a weak draft. The Broncos have all sorts of issues defensively and while Patrick Peterson could also help them, they just re-signed Champ Bailey for another four years.

Who they would take: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

If the Panthers were smart enough to take Dareus and not reach on the quarterback position like so many other franchises do in the draft, the Broncos would jump all over Peterson as Bailey's heir apparent. Von Miller and A.J. Green would be options if Denver didn't spend a 2009 first-round pick on outside linebacker Robert Ayers and a 2010 first-round pick on receiver Demaryius Thomas.

3. Buffalo Bills - Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

Why they take him: It's rare to see an outside linebacker go this high, but this year's draft is weak and Miller is one of the consensus top-four players available. The Bills need serious help in their front seven and with Dareus gone, Miller is easily the best pick and one of the few the Bills hopefully don't screw up.

Who they would take: Miller. The Panthers pick should not affect Buffalo's decision unless they take Newton and the Broncos take Peterson, in which case Buffalo should be ecstatic to draft Dareus. Newton should not be a consideration here with the other players available. Ryan Fitzpatrick can win football games and while he's likely not a championship quarterback, the Bills can improve their record with him under center.

4. Cincinnati Bengals - A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

Why they take him: With Terrell Owens and likely Chad Ochocinco gone, the Bengals need a wide receiver badly. Green will be the best player on the board in most scenarios and maybe adding him could convince Carson Palmer to stay in Cincinnati. Green has star written all over him.

Who they would take: Green. There are rumors that the Bengals want to trade out of this pick, move down and draft a quarterback with all the uncertainty surrounding Palmer but if they stay at #4, Green should be their man.

5. Arizona Cardinals - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Why they take him: John Skelton and Max Hall were drafted last season but unlike Clausen, they were late picks who the team didn't invest much into. Skelton has the arm strength and physical ability to develop into a starter down the line but if the Cardinals don't believe he can take the reigns this season, they will likely go with Gabbert.

Who they should take: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. If picks one through four go Newton, Dareus, Miller and Green, I think the right pick for Arizona would be Peterson. I like Gabbert but a secondary with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Peterson along with Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson might be the NFL's best. The Cardinals can always bring in a veteran quarterback to start while they wait on Skelton and if he doesn't develop, they can draft one next year or the year after. Gabbert isn't a no-brainer. Peterson is.

6. Cleveland Browns - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

Why they take him: The Browns do have a need at defensive end and, with both Robert Quinn and Da'Quan Bowers available at this spot, could go in that direction. Cleveland spent a first-round pick on Joe Haden last season, so Peterson is out of the discussion, but the Browns have a young quarterback to develop in Colt McCoy and zero receiving talent to help him progress. Jones is a need pick for this team if they want to get the best out of McCoy this season and down the line.

Who they would take: Jones. None of the players the Browns covet seem likely to go in the top five, but it would be difficult to fault them taking either Quinn or Bowers. I just think if they pass up Jones, they are leaving McCoy in a no-success situation.

7. San Francisco 49ers - Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Why they take him: Peterson is the best player available at a position of need for San Francisco. Nate Clements is 31 years old and on the downside of his career; he's a better fit as a second corner at this point. This is a pick that 49ers fans will love for years to come.

Who they would take: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. If Peterson is unavailable, which is unlikely but possible, the options become Quinn, Bowers and Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara. I like Amukamara but he's not Peterson and probably isn't one of the top seven players in this draft. San Francisco will have multiple options here, but I think Bowers is the right pick over both Amukamara and Quinn. I really think they'll get Peterson though.

8. Tennessee Titans - Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

Why they take him: Three months ago, the Titans never thought Fairley would be available at this spot: There were many experts projecting him as the top overall pick. But his stock has fallen since then and rightfully so; he had one good season in college and isn't a completely clean prospect. The Titans have been looking for somebody to replace Albert Haynesworth and Fairley seems like their guy.

Who they would take: Fairley. There have been rumors of the Titans going quarterback with this pick and they like both Jake Locker and Andy Dalton. I can definitely see Tennessee trading into the back of round one to pick Dalton or taking Locker here, considering he would have gone over Bradford to the Rams last season if he came out. But Tennessee would rather get both Fairley and Dalton than Locker.

9. Dallas Cowboys - Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Why they take him: Dallas' offensive line is a mess and after watching Tony Romo go down last season, the Cowboys will want to protect his blind side. Enter Smith, the best lineman in this draft. Amukamara is also a possibility at this spot to replace Mike Jenkins and while I believe he's a better prospect than Smith (barely), the Cowboys have a bigger need at left tackle.

Who they would take: Smith. None of the top eight teams will take Smith so if he's who the Cowboys want, he's who they get.

10. Washington Redskins - Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

Why they take him: The Redskins' defense was terrible in all facets last season, finishing in the bottom five against the pass and bottom ten against the run. Amukamara is again a possibility here but with D'Angelo Hall and Carlos Rogers locked into their starting roles, Washington likely passes. This pick could also be UNC defensive end Robert Quinn.

Who they would take: Cam Newton, QB. If Newton falls out of the top nine, which I think should happen but don't think will happen, he becomes an intriguing pick for the Redskins. I said I like Newton more than most and see a decent amount of Daunte Culpepper in him, hopefully minus the injuries. Newton shouldn't fall out of the top ten, but it seems likely he won't fall out of the top one.

Coming tomorrow: The rest of Round One.

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