I'm doing this draft just as the NFL Combine is getting under way. I'm very excited there's a lot of great players from Central Texas. Von Miller from Texas A&M looks to go in the top 5 and Aaron Williams of University of Texas may be chosen late in the 1st round. In addition to that, Cam Newton, one time student at Blinn College, just East of Austin, West and North of Houston, vies for the top pick, #1 over all. Has Cam Newton ever lost in College Football?
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB Auburn - With the new CBA, there will be a cap on rookie salaries. I don't know what that entails, surely #1 QBs will still make Sam Bradford money, but perhaps there will be more insurance. Top QBs won't be too expensive for the Panthers, and fans need to have a reason to believe their franchise is committed to winning. Cam Newton has legit top of draft measurables. He's played on 3 different championship teams the last three years. Literally, Florida, Blinn and Auburn. 3 for 3. He's got some odd baggage but is dedicated to winning. Think about what he did vs Alabama and tell me he doesn't deserve #1.
2 .Denver Broncos: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn - Auburn goes 2 for 2 with 2 former JUCO transfers, who both only finished their Junior year. I've never seen JUCO's make such a large impact on one team. These two players are what propelled Auburn to the National Title this year. The only guy close is Michael Bishop of Kansas State, class of 99 or so, who also went to Blinn like Cam did. In Nick Fairley the Broncos get a monster inside presence. Look for them to line him up in an undertackle position, so he gets one on one with the guard, while the other DT forces the center on himself. This is Warren Sapp's old position. Broncos are returning to a 4-3. It's either Fairley or fellow SEC alum DaQuan Bowers
3. Buffalo Bills: DaQuan Bowers, DE Clemson - you need talent to win no matter what scheme you run. I am confident that Chan Gailey would have chosen Cam Newton over anyone here. While the Bills have all the needs, you need to start by building a defense by getting players who disrupt plays. He led the nation in sacks, has the measurables that project well, will help ... honestly I have no idea what the Bills are doing. I never hear about them. Bowers gets bunches of sacks and will replace the retired Aaron Schobel.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: AJ Green, WR, Georgia - from what I understand Palmer the QB there is sick of the circus atmosphere of the Bengals and wants to leave, or the team to change. I think Chad Johnson and TO will be gone. I think the age of the prima donna WR is ending. New WRs are very serious about their craft: Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Miles Austin. Bengals will need a new target for Carson Palmer and move forward with a new face on the WR corps. Green is considered by many to be the best talent in the draft.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M - New defensive coordinator from Pittsburgh. Will he carry on the Pittsburgh tradition of mid-round OLBs? That's just about the only thing that could stop him from selecting Von Miller, who by estimates, grades out as the best pass rushing talent in this draft. You combine his speed, agility, arm length, and consistency and realize he's going to have a 10 year run getting 10+ sacks a year. He'll play where DeMarcus Ware plays in this 3-4; on the QB's left side, usually away from the TE. At A&M though, he was usually on the strong side, as I recall, rushing in to the passer's face rather than from his blind side. That is a testament to his talent.
6. Cleveland Browns Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU - A great pick here. The Browns last year drafted Joe Haden and he had a great year. This pairing of great CBs would rival the Jet's group. I thought real heavily about Quinn, because they need a bona fide pass rusher.
7. San Francisco 49ers Blaine Gabbert - QB - Missouri - It's hard to see what direction San Fran will go in. New regimes usually come to power when there are lots of problems. This team needs a QB to get this offense moving. The defense is littered with holes. On the whole this draft features junior QBs with little experience. I've read that San Fran coach Jim Harbaugh had recruited Gabbert to play at Stanford. He knows he can't just hope to get Luck next year by tanking this season. So I say Harbaugh goes with the other horse he knows. Gabbert has the measurables to go this high.
8. Tennessee Titans Marcell Dareus - DT - Alabama - He played a 5 technique for the Crimson Tide, that is a DE in a 3-4, and for the Titans he'll play as a DT. There's a lot of change afoot in Nashville, it's hard to see what direction the team will go in. They need a QB, who knows what new philosophy they will have. Marcell Dareus, I think, will have a better career than Fairley, with more consistency year after year. The Titans were looking at Haynesworth returning, so clearly they need a DT.
9. Dallas Cowboys Tyron Smith, OT, USC - Dallas gets the best tackle in the Draft. He has physical attributes that will make him a mismatch against most opponents from Day 1. The combine may see Smith rise higher than this. He only played the right side in college, only by serendipity. Dallas needs a functioning, clean Tony Romo to win. They lost to the Redskins on opening day because of the holding on the right tackle. They can't invest enough in protecting Romo. Smith is also an investment in the running game. He is as fleet footed as the nimble Doug Free, and is able to block all over the field.
10. Washington Redskins Robert Quinn - DE - N Carolina - He was suspended by the NCAA for this year and sadly too late to enter the supplemental draft. Quinn was suspended for 2010. In 2009 he was a beast, a dominating pass rusher. That great film keeps him a top choice. The Redskins will pair him with Orakpo as a frightening pair of pass rushers. They'll form a very respectable sacking duo for the 3-4 the Redskins run. I cannot fathom why Mike Shannahan switched to a 3-4 -- he'd never run one in Denver. But he did. Now after the 2nd year they get the talent to make it worthwhile. I'd put Phillip Daniels back in a 3 point stance, where he'll be out sized but I think he'll be an effective Pass Rusher from the 3-4 DE position.