Last week's Scouting Combine revealed more insight into NFL teams' thinking about the 2011 draft class. Some players helped and hurt their stock
based on workouts, but the most important things we learned were not necessarily derived from forty times and bench press totals.
Teams are not as high on Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
as the media was led to believe pre-February 24. There is a divide among teams regarding this year's top quarterback, although Cam Newton
seems to have the slight edge
. Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
and North Carolina DE Robert Quinn
's stock could be heavily influenced by their medicals.
Knowing at least a slight bit more than we did two weeks ago, let's take another crack
at projecting the top 32.
1. Panthers: Cam Newton
, quarterback, Auburn.
Carolina's new coaching staff doesn't seem to believe in
2010 second-rounder Jimmy Clausen
, and the front office is "not sold
" that any of this year's defensive linemen are worthy of the No. 1 overall pick. Newton has difference-making talent and is capable of rejuvenating the NFL's worst team.
2. Broncos: Marcell Dareus
, defensive tackle, Alabama.
Dareus has bypassed Nick Fairley on most teams' draft boards
as this year's top defensive tackle, and a quick glance at Denver's depth chart
reveals the worst interior line in football. At 319 pounds with incredible quickness and short-area explosion
, Dareus is a no-brainer pick at No. 2.
3. Bills: Da'Quan Bowers
, defensive end, Clemson.
The Bills would likely prefer Cam Newton
, but they won't have a chance at him barring a trade up. While Blaine Gabbert
should also be considered, the NCAA's sack and tackle-for-loss leader will be difficult to resist for a club that ranked 27th in the league in sacks
last year. Ala Darnell Dockett
in Arizona, Bowers would play end in the Bills' 3-4 defense and focus on rushing the passer.
4. Bengals: Blaine Gabbert
, quarterback, Missouri.Carson Palmer
is serious about retirement
, and brotherly backup Jordan wouldn't make most NFL rosters as a third-stringer. Without free agency on the horizon, there's no way the Bengals can afford to pass on an elite quarterback. Gabbert is this year's top-rated passer in the eyes of many.
5. Cardinals: Von Miller
, linebacker, Texas A&M.
," uses NFL Network's Mike Mayock to describe Miller. "Defies. Gravity. Bends parallel to the ground. This guy comes off the edge and it's scary how quick he gets to the quarterback." The Cards could use some of that with Joey Porter
and Clark Haggans
both 34 years old.
6. Browns: A.J. Green
, wide receiver, Georgia.
While he didn't generate quite the buzz
fellow receiver Julio Jones
did in Indianapolis, Green remains the clear-cut No. 1 wideout in this year's draft class. The Browns are committed to Colt McCoy
, but have to know he'll never realize his potential without an improved supporting cast
7. 49ers: Patrick Peterson
, cornerback, LSU.
Peterson's talent probably deserves to go higher, but there hasn't been a corner drafted in the top five in eight years. The 2010 Thorpe Award
winner as college football's top defensive back, Peterson's addition would allow the Niners to comfortably part with overpriced Nate Clements
8. Titans: Nick Fairley
, defensive tackle, Auburn
The Titans are targeting a quarterback, but Blaine Gabbert
and Cam Newton
shouldn't get out of the top four. Instead, they can end Fairley's mini-freefall by reuniting him with college position coach Tracy Rocker
. Fairley didn't have a good Combine
, and his measurables (e.g. size, 10-yard split) aren't top-five caliber
9. Cowboys: Prince Amukamara
, cornerback, Nebraska.Terence Newman
is going on 33 and was abused in coverage
last season, so it's hard to imagine the Cowboys paying his $8 million non-guaranteed salary for 2011. The secondary is Dallas' greatest weakness by a good margin, and Amukamara is by far the best defensive back available.
10. Redskins: Julio Jones
, wide receiver, Alabama.
Owning no third- or fourth-round pick
, the Redskins are prime candidates to trade out of the tenth spot with a team hungry for pass rushers. If coach Mike Shanahan is forced to stand pat, he must select an immediate starter at either quarterback, wide receiver, or in the defensive front seven.