2011 NFL Mock Draft: Cam Newton a good fit for Redskins at No. 10
Nick Fairley's the hot name now, but quarterback is still the safer bet at No. 1
Prince Amukamara makes sense for cornerback-needy Cowboys at No. 9
Alabama's Julio Jones may need a fast 40 time to remain a top 20 prospect
With the early entries list now official and the Senior Bowl practice kicking off next week, it's time to update our mock draft:
1. Carolina Panthers -- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Gabbert is training right now and will wow NFL teams over the next two months. If the NFL owners get their rookie wage scale, it's too hard to pass on the top-rated passer and a potential bargain for the next five years. Remember, quarterbacks have gone No. 1 overall eight out of the past 10 years.
2. Denver Broncos -- Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
John Fox's first pick as Carolina head coach was Julius Peppers. The 6-foot-4 Bowers led the nation with 15.5 sacks last season and could have a Peppers-like impact on a defense that ranked last in the NFL in sacks.
3. Buffalo Bills -- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
The Bills ranked last in the NFL in rush defense and getting tough in the middle will be their No. 1 priority. They could very well have a shot at Fairley despite the chatter he could go No. 1 overall. That's post-BCS title game euphoria, combined with appreciation of DT Ndamukong Suh and how he transformed the Lions defense. Fairley is great, but Suh appears to be a once-a-decade type player. A defensive tackle hasn't gone No. 1 overall since Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson in 1994.
4. Cincinnati Bengals -- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
The Bengals defense needs a solid presence in the middle after taking a step back last season.
5. Arizona Cardinals -- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Assuming the Cardinals are intent on addressing the quarterback situation via free agency, they could take the top cornerback. Right now, that appears to be Peterson, but Prince Amukamara could rise ahead of him during the pre-draft process.
6. Cleveland Browns -- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
New head coach Pat Shurmur likely will want to make several personnel changes as he installs his West Coast scheme. They need someone who scares defenses, and Green is a good route-runner who should be effective in that offense.
7. San Francisco 49ers -- Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Jim Harbaugh likely thinks he can get a quarterback later in the draft and turn him into a star. So the Niners will go defense and take the best available player here, even if he doesn't fill the biggest need.
8. Tennessee Titans -- Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
Wait until after the Combine to scratch your head at this pick. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Smith will emerge as a Jevon Kearse-type and fit in well with Jeff Fisher's defense.
9. Dallas Cowboys -- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Cowboys might be interested in a flashier name like Peterson, but Amukamara is probably the best cover corner in the draft. He didn't have any interceptions last year because no one threw his way.
10. Washington Redskins -- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Teams seem to be fascinated with Newton's ability to keep defenses off-guard with his running ability. After Mike Shanahan watched Michael Vick eviscerate his defense last season, he could be interested in giving Newton a shot.
11. Houston Texans -- Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
Ayers can cover and rush the passer, and would fit in well in Wade Phillips' defense. And he can make the big, game-changing plays this defense rarely comes up with.
12. Minnesota Vikings -- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Mallett needs a lot of work on his footwork and has character issues in his past. He really needs a strong showing in team interviews and workouts. Mallett throws the prettiest pass in the whole draft, but not if a pass-rusher is in his line of sight. New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave helped turn Matt Ryan into a star in Atlanta and possibly could be intrigued by the challenge Mallett presents.
13. Detroit Lions -- Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
The Lions won't see the cornerback they want here unless they fall in love with Texas' Aaron Williams. Instead, they can add more talent to an offensive line that improved last season.
14. St. Louis Rams -- Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Everyone thinks the Rams will take a receiver here to help Sam Bradford, but they do get Donnie Avery back next year, and Danario Alexander can be a star if he's healthy. Throw Mark Clayton and Danny Amendola into the mix, and they should be OK. They could use some new life in the middle of their defensive line.
15. Miami Dolphins -- Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The Dolphins need a right tackle and could take this left tackle prospect even though they have Jake Long. Smith will be one of the most scrutinized prospects of the draft evaluation period and could rise even higher.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
The Jags need to bolster their defensive backfield, but the right player might not be available at this spot. Mike Sims-Walker is a free agent, and the Jags' receivers aren't keeping defensive coordinators up at night. A lot depends on how Jones runs the 40 at the combine -- he could fall if he lands outside the 4.5 range.
17. New England Patriots (via Oakland) -- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Patriots didn't get to Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez once in their divisional round playoff loss, so upgrading their defensive front seven will be the No. 1 priority. The under-recruited, hardworking Watt seems like the Patriots kind of guy.
18. San Diego Chargers -- Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Miller is projected higher in several mock drafts, but is he big enough to be a factor against the run. He'd be a great addition to a defense that is already established and needs a strong pass-rusher.
19. New York Giants -- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
The Giants want to reinvigorate their aging offensive line and their coaching staff is strongly linked to Boston College.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Bucs have to be excited there are so many quality defensive ends in this year's draft. Clayborn entered the season as the top defensive end prospect, but only had four sacks his senior campaign.
21. Kansas City Chiefs -- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Carimi fell throughout the course of the year in some draft experts' eyes, but he's big and tough, and fits the mold of a Chiefs lineman.
22. Indianapolis Colts -- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The Colts should go for the best offensive lineman available to help protect Peyton Manning.
23. Philadelphia Eagles -- Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Opponents too easily picked on whoever wasn't being covered by Asante Samuel last season. The Eagles would be very happy if the Longhorns corner was still available.
24. New Orleans Saints -- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
With Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush possibly on the way out of town, they need a solid rusher to take pressure off Drew Brees. Ingram should be the first running back taken in April.
25. Seattle Seahawks -- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
This could be a good spot for hometown hero Jake Locker, but since Seattle is saying it wants Matt Hasselbeck back, it could go best player available to toughen up the defense.
26. Baltimore Ravens -- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Harris could learn under the tutelage of fellow Hurricane Ed Reed and help solidify one of Baltimore's weak spots.
27. Atlanta Falcons -- Cameron Jordan, DE, California
After Aaron Rodgers tore the Falcons apart in the divisional round, Atlanta will look to remake its defensive line.
28. New England Patriots -- Justin Houston, LB, Georgia
Houston might not be versatile enough to be a Patriots linebacker, but they have to figure out a way to get to the quarterback more.
(Picks 29-32 will be determined as the NFL playoffs unfold.)
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