A ton of new changes in this mock draft, including six new picks in the top seven.
1. Carolina Panthers: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
I had Fairley going here, but Bowers doesn’t have the character red flags that are so important to Jerry Richardson and defensive end Charles Johnson did not receive the franchise tag although he’s expected to be retained. Also, the last time Carolina picked in the top 5, they took Julius Peppers, another freakishly athletic local pass rusher.
2. Denver Broncos: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
This pick could go in any number of directions as Denver will be looking for help anywhere they can get it defensively. Nick Fairley would team with Justin Banaan and Elvis Dumervil to create a pretty solid defensive line. Robert Quinn could be the selection as well if he lights up the combine.
3. Buffalo Bills: Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina
I’m not ready to hop on the Cam Newton train yet. He simply has too many holes in his game and the Bills simply have too many holes in their defense. A premier pass rusher to team with Kyle Williams and Paul Posluszny will go a long way for the Bills.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Blaine Gabbert is an option if the Bengals decide to trade Carson Palmer, but I have a feeling that Mike Brown will do everything in his power to satisfy his quarterback. That means getting rid of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens and adding another top young receiver. Green is definitely worth the fourth overall pick as well.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM
I doubt the Cardinals will draft Blaine Gabbert here because they already have so many promising young guys on their team. They really need to replace the difference makers they lost defensively in Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle, so look for the dynamic Von Miller to be the pick here.
6. Cleveland Browns: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Cleveland really needs some impact defensive linemen for their switch to a 4-3 scheme, and Marcell Dareus would be a phenomenal 3-technique to play next to Ahtyba Rubin.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
San Francisco’s corners are old, overpaid, and average. They need to find some long-term answers this offseason. If Patrick Peterson falls to them at seven, you can pretty much mail the pick in.
8. Tennessee Titans: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
The Titans aren’t going anywhere unless they find a quarterback, and I still believe that Gabbert will make it past Arizona, San Francisco, and Cincinnati.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Last time the Cowboys picked in the top ten, they took a big 12 corner in Terence Newman, and that occurrence is likely to repeat itself this year as Amukamara will fill a big need either at cornerback or free safety.
10. Washington Redskins: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
The Redskins will miss out on Blaine Gabbert, so they will look to add another defensive player here. One area where they really need better production is at rush linebacker, and Aldon Smith’s potential is very intriguing to scouts. Don’t be surprised if he is taken earlier than expected.
11. Houston Texans: Jimmy Smith, CB, Nebraska
The Texans seem satisfied with their defensive line, so this pick will either be an edge rusher or cornerback, probably the latter. Jimmy Smith is rising up draft boards and probably will not make it past Detroit at 13.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton seems to rise higher and higher up people’s mock drafts for no apparent reason. If he gets past Buffalo, he should fall to Minnesota, who just loves those mobile quarterbacks.
13. Detroit Lions: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Nate Solder looked great at the combine and I’m sure somebody will be willing to spend a premium pick on him. Detroit could be that team because they desperately need to upgrade their pass protectors.
14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Last year, Josh McDaniels took a big, physical receiver in the first round to help along a top young quarterback. It won’t be hard to persuade the Ram front office that Julio Jones is the way to go here.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
I expect Miami to address the running back position in free agency by bringing in either Pierre Thomas or DeAngelo Williams, but I don’t like to make assumptions in mock drafts. Ingram is very talented and fills a big need.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Jacksonville is never afraid to go after defensive linemen on draft day if the need for one is there. They certainly need some difference makers off the edge heading into 2011, and Kerrigan seems like a perfect fit in north Florida.