Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
I never fault a team for trying to secure a franchise quarterback, but the Panthers are stuck with a high-risk player. It would be hard for me to take that chance on a player who struggles going through progressions which is very important at the NFL level.
At least he gets to compete in the NFC South as opposed to earlier projections which put him in Buffalo where the Jets and Patriots would have taken him apart four times per season.
Denver Broncos: Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
There are always sudden changes at the last minute, and in an effort to get it right, I have to swap my second and third picks. The Broncos will hope everything Von Miller showed at the Senior Bowl in a 4-3 continues in his professional career.
Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
The Bills have to improve their defense, especially against the run. Now, with the third pick they get a terrific player worthy of being the top selection. Smart move if they pull the trigger.
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
For reasons that should be fairly obvious at this point in the process, A.J. Green is an easy fit here. The Bengals have parted ways with Terrell Owens. Chad Ochocinco has one foot out the door - or both feet on the soccer field come to think of it.
There are complementary options on the roster, but Green is an elite player to build around. Passing on Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert is a financial decision. They do not want to get caught paying an early pick plus the salary of disgruntled "retiring" incumbent starter Carson Palmer.
Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Players like Patrick Peterson do not come around too often. Also keep in mind that while I do not see them adding more youth at the quarterback position, the Titans at No. 8 have to be called if they are interested enough in Missouri's Blaine Gabbert. If the Cardinals think Gabbert is elite, they obviously take him, but if they are unsure at least they can keep him out of the hands of their division rival the 49ers.
Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
We are going to find out if Mike Holmgren feels strongly enough about North Carolina's Robert Quinn, or will brush aside his tendency to pick up wide receivers later in the draft. I am crossing my fingers on this one and preparing to yell at my television screen if they pass on Julio Jones.
The pick obviously makes sense because Jones immediately becomes the top target for young Colt McCoy, but do they want another star receiver prone to dropping passes?
San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
I am going against Matt Maiocco here. He says they will take Prince Amukamara and I don't buy it. Whether it is a smokescreen hoping teams do not trade ahead of them or flat out inaccurate, I would be surprised to see new head coach Jim Harbaugh bypass his shot at quarterback here given the expected frenzy to follow.
If anything the 49ers are going to work the phones and trade down a half dozen spots for a different quarterback, but them walking out of the first round without one if Gabbert is on the board at No. 7 would be shocking.
Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
I have danced around changing this pick to Washington quarterback Jake Locker. They could pick him, but another possibility is trading up for Arkansas lightning rod Ryan Mallett. His big arm to throw deep balls would come in handy and the threat of Chris Johnson in the backfield could minimize his lack of mobility.
As for Nick Fairley, this pick has been explained for a while now. He is an elite talent if he is motivated. Tracy Rocker is there to keep him going. If he sells the team on him, this is an easy choice. If he doesn't, then Fairley would be in for a tumble to Detroit or St. Louis.
Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
There are really three possibilities for the Cowboys. Tyron Smith, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, and Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt. Ultimately they have to keep Tony Romo protected and it's not often you can get your choice of offensive tackles with the ninth choice overall.
Washington Redskins: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
The medical status of Robert Quinn has been questioned, but the Redskins have to take a chance. They have an opportunity to put another player in their front seven with Brian Orakpo and make every opposing quarterback dread playing them.
Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
Wade Philips is now in control of a defense that was taken apart through the air to the tune of 4,280 passing yards and 33 touchdowns against just 13 interceptions. His new 3-4 will need some pieces up front to work.
The prevailing sentiment on Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara falling to them is that another early pick will not cure what ails them in the secondary. Those reinforcements will come later on.
Here they need to find someone capable of getting after Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. The Texans are already having to depend on mostly untested Connor Barwin manning one outside linebacker spot. They can't afford to go bargain hunting for a candidate to play opposite of him.
Minnesota Vikings: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
I have been saying for a while there will be a run on quarterbacks and this is the first big reach. The Rams at No. 14 could provide them a little relief in the form of a trade down if Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones is on the board, and because I do not think the Dolphins are interested in Jake Locker, they can work the phones a little bit lower than that as well.
Reaching for a quarterback is going to be a necessity for several teams in this draft. The Vikings did not prepare for Brett Favre retiring. Maybe if they had retained Sage Rosenfels they would be slightly less desperate, but going a full season with Joe Webb is not something they are looking forward to.
Locker struggles with accuracy which makes this a hard pick defend, but it looks like they are going to do it.
Detroit Lions: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
I will have a pit in my stomach when the Lions pick and Prince Amukamara is still on the board because I truly believe a defensive lineman is going to be the pick. However, this is a huge need and Amukamara is worth the pick. We will see if it makes enough sense to actually happen. California's Cam Jordan would be my preference.
St. Louis Rams: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
No one really has a handle on what the Rams are going to do with this pick unless they move up for Alabama's Julio Jones. Since I have him off the board at No. 6 that is not a possibility. They really like Corey Liuget and while I would rate my confidence in this pick low this is what I'm going with.
Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida
It does not look like the Dolphins will be going after a quarterback so I am back to Mike Pouncey who addresses a gaping need on their interior offensive line. The running game gets an immediate boost and he is one of the safer picks.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue
Hopefully this is this year's Malcolm Jenkins to the Saints in the middle of round one that almost everyone has in their final mocks. That one happened and this might too.
The surprising choice to take Cal's Tyson Alualu No. 10 paid off by setting them up on the inside of their defensive line and if Aaron Kampman can stay healthy this addition sets up their line to create problems for the man in charge of the AFC South. That's Peyton Manning if you're living under a rock next to the guy from the Geico commercial.
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