1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
At this point, indications are pointing towards Cam Newton. He is reportedly Carolina’s top-rated quarterback, and if they believe he will be a special player, there’s no way they pass him up.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Transitioning to a 4-3 defense, the Broncos will need to rebuild their defensive line in this draft. Marcell Dareus is widely regarded as the top lineman in this class.
3. Buffalo Bills: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
With Cam Newton off the board, expect Buffalo to take the best player available. Von Miller is an option here, but Patrick Peterson is generating an amazing amount of buzz among talent evaluators and should go very, very high.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Carson Palmer’s return seems doubtful at this point, and the Bengals have nothing behind him. If they believe Gabbert will be a franchise quarterback, they will select him here. Admittedly, the availability of A.J. Green complicates things a bit.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM
The Cardinals have no pass rush, and a player like Von Miller is just what the doctor ordered in the desert. I believe Miller is atop Arizona’s wish list for this draft.
6. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
With enormous needs at receiver and on the defensive line, the Browns have a huge dilemma as Nick Fairley, Robert Quinn, and A.J. Green are all still on the board. However, defensive line is a much deeper position in this class than receiver, and Jones gets the nod because he’s a better fit for Pat Shurmur’s west coast offense.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
While the 49ers will be looking to strike gold with a defensive end here, they are more desperate for an elite cornerback. Prince Amukamara will be a valuable piece of a secondary that needs to cut some aging, overpriced players.
8. Tennessee Titans: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
The Titans need to revamp their defensive line. Jason Babin could follow in Albert Haynesworth and Antwan Odom’s footsteps and bolt via free agency and he will need to be replaced. Robert Quinn has elite athleticism and pass rush skills and presents good value at eighth overall.
9. Dallas Cowboys: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
This sounds like a crazy pick, but it could happen. Jerry Jones loves receivers, and will go for an elite one whenever he can get his hands on one (T.O., Roy Williams, Dez Bryant). Patrick Crayton was traded early last year, Roy Williams is expected to be cut, and the Cowboys are becoming very concerned about Dez Bryant’s off-the-field issues. So, Miles Austin is left as the only good receiver that Dallas can truly count on to produce next season. If Green makes it down to nine, Jones will be quite tempted at the very least.
10. Washington Redskins: Nick Fairley, DE, Auburn
With so many needs all over the field and only two picks in the first four rounds, I expect Washington to draft the best player available. In this case, Nick Fairley is that guy.
11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
As the Texans make the switch to the 3-4 defense, they will need a top pass rusher. Aldon Smith has the elite length, burst, and athleticism that teams look for in pass rushers.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The biggest difference between the 2009 Vikings and the 2010 Vikings was not Brett Favre’s play but the play of the offensive line. Tyron Smith looks like a franchise left tackle at the next level and could even sit behind Bryant McKinnie or Phil Loadholt for a season if need be.
13. Detroit Lions: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
At this point, the Lions must realize that their offensive line must be improved for their talented skill players to flourish. Anthony Castonzo is the long, high-effort type of tackle that they look for in Detroit, and could allow Jeff Backus to slide over to the right side.
14. St. Louis Rams: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Nobody knows quite how far Bowers will fall after showing that his knee is a mess at his private workout. The Rams could be the team willing to take a chance on him, as they will have James Hall for at least one more season in case Bowers isn’t quite healthy. He and Chris Long could be quite the defensive end duo down the road.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Unless free agency miraculously takes place before the draft and the Dolphins acquire a stud running back, it’s tough to envision a scenario where Mark Ingram is not selected here.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
I’m sure the Jaguars will consider a quarterback here, but with such talented defensive linemen still on the board, I don’t buy the Ponder or Locker chatter here.
17. New England Patriots: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
With the 5-technique being such a pressing need, New England would be thrilled if Watt were still on the board here. He’s a prototypical Patriot defender who can do a little bit of everything and make plays in unexpected ways.
18. San Diego Chargers: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple
It seems as though the Chargers have their hearts set on a defensive end in the first round. The only question is, which one? Jordan is the consensus top prospect available, but Muhammad Wilkerson is probably a better fit for their system.
19. New York Giants: Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida
The Giant offensive line is getting quite old, and unless they want to end up like the Redskins, they will take a talented, young, and versatile lineman with this pick. Pouncey is a great fit here.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
When you get compared with Clay Matthews often enough, your draft stock will rise considerably. Don’t believe me? Ask Brooks Reed, who seems like the best player to bolster the Buc pass rush on the board.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
Scott Pioli always prioritizes the defensive line on draft day, and the Chiefs need a new nose tackle. Phil Taylor is a first round talent who, unlike many other recent nose tackle prospects, is on top of his weight.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Solder, OT, Coloardo
The Colts have expressed an awful lot of interest in Solder recently, and it’s not hard to see why when you look at Solder’s incredible frame and natural athleticism.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Offensive line is arguably the biggest need for this Eagles team, and coincidentally, Andy Reid loves to take linemen in the first round. I’m buying the comparisons between Carimi and Jon Runyan as both are tall, thick, and nasty players who are more tough than gifted. He’s definitely not a reach at 23, at while he doesn’t have the most upside in the world, he’s a much safer pick than say Jimmy Smith or Brandon Harris.
24. New Orleans Saints: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The way the Saints are built, the pass rush is extremely important. Therefore, they need to find a sack artist to pair with Will Smith. Adrian Clayborn is very much in the mold of Smith and Charles Grant, and should intrigue the Saints at 24th overall. Akeem Ayers and Justin Houston are strong possibilities as well.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
The Seahawks could go in any number of direction with this pick, but they need a big defensive end who is strong at the point of attack. Cam Jordan, who is remarkably still on the board, fits the bill and his slide ends here.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
The vaunted Ravens defense is getting a little easier to crack every year. A lot of that has to do with inconsistent pass rush as Baltimore really only has one reliable rusher in Terrell Suggs. Justin Houston has extensive experience in a 3-4 defense and knows how to get to the quarterback.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
This isn’t the sexiest pick, but Corey Liuget is a very, very solid football player and Atlanta needs defensive linemen to complement and eventually replace John Abraham.
28. New England Patriots: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
Bill Belichick loves drafting safeties high, and they could conceivably do so again. Brandon Meriweather is headed for some serious legal troubles, and they could use a stud to replace him.
29. New York Jets: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Antonio Cromartie is unlikely to return, and Jimmy Smith is pretty much a carbon copy of him. Don’t expect Rex Ryan to be scared away by his character concerns here. He’s a top 10 talent.
30. Chicago Bears: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Aaron Rodgers abused whoever wasn’t named Charles Tillman in the NFC Championship Game, and Tim Jennings needs an upgrade if the Bears expect to beat teams like the Packers, Falcons, and Eagles on a consistent basis. Brandon Harris is a tough cornerback who fits very nicely into Chicago’s cover 2 scheme.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
The run on corners continues as the list of teams destroyed by Aaron Rodgers and his weapons grows. Pittsburgh counts one good cover cornerback in Ike Taylor, who may not even return next season. Williams is a long, physical defensive back who would be a good fit in black and yellow.
32. Green Bay Packers: Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
This is essentially a luxury selection for the Packers. Akeem Ayers presents good value and could be an upgrade across from Clay Matthews or make overpaid inside ‘backers A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett expendable. His versatility will be perfect for Dom Capers’ innovative 3-4 scheme.