Evan Silva

NFL Draft Preview

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Draft 2011: NFL Mock 3.0

Monday, March 28, 2011

The NFL's labor impasse continues with no resolution in sight, leaving the Rotoworld news page focused on draft-eligible reports and player updates gleaned from coaching interviews. If free agency had occurred as normally scheduled, we'd be preparing to kick start our initial 2011 fantasy magazine.

But, barring a miraculous turnaround, free agency and trades won't happen before the draft. We may not see large-scale player movement until late in the summer. NFL teams are prepared for this, and will use April 28-30 to address need areas without being able to count on veteran additions.

Talent will still prevail, though, and there isn't a more gifted football player at a position of greater value than Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. Newton is the heavy favorite be the first pick in the draft.

Around the NFL, the other lock for April 28 is considered to be Marcell Dareus to the Broncos. With those picks all but established, this expanded, two-round mock spins us through possibilities for the next 62.

1. Panthers: Cam Newton, quarterback, Auburn.

Newton presents bust factor, but he's the most dominant talent in the draft at the sport's most important position. The Panthers are leaning toward a quarterback with the No. 1 overall selection, and Newton outplayed Blaine Gabbert by a massive margin at the college level.

2. Broncos: Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle, Alabama.

NFL Network's Mike Mayock reported this week that "everybody in the league" believes it would be an "upset" if the Broncos didn't use the No. 2 pick on Dareus. The best defensive tackle in the draft according to Mayock, Warren Sapp, and Rob Rang, Dareus is a no-brainer pick for Denver.

3. Bills: Von Miller, linebacker, Texas A&M.

Chan Gailey sent out indications at last week's owners meetings that he's head over heels for Newton and Blaine Gabbert. We're not buying it from a coach who specializes in turning non-premium quarterbacks into productive passers. Miller is everything that Aaron Maybin isn't..

4. Bengals: Blaine Gabbert, quarterback, Missouri.

If Carson Palmer skips the season (likely) and there's no pre-draft free agency (also likely), who's going to play quarterback in Cincinnati? Palmer is in physical decline anyhow, so even stubborn Bengals owner Mike Brown can't afford to pass on perhaps the highest-rated passer in the draft.

5. Cardinals: Robert Quinn, linebacker, North Carolina.

Arizona has made its interest in Gabbert clear, but he's not getting by the Bills and Bengals after the Panthers draft Newton first. The Cardinals' pick then comes down to Patrick Peterson and Quinn, and the latter plays a more needy position while also offering a higher long-term upside.

6. Browns: A.J. Green, wide receiver, Georgia.

Green is a top-five player on film, and Colt McCoy's potential to be a franchise quarterback will be significantly reduced if Cleveland rides the status quo at receiver. A game-breaking deep threat, Green is exactly the sort of "home-run hitter" club president Mike Holmgren is pining for.

7. 49ers: Patrick Peterson, cornerback, LSU.

Peterson will receive consideration from teams drafting second through sixth, but cornerbacks have little history of going so high. He's certainly worth the No. 7 selection for a 49ers team that ranked 24th against the pass last year and is likely to part with overpriced veteran Nate Clements.

8. Titans: Nick Fairley, defensive tackle, Auburn.

Concerns about Fairley's "bust factor" are real, echoed last week by both Mike Mayock and Todd McShay. While defensive tackle is a position of relative strength in Nashville, the new coaching staff would struggle to justify passing on the best player available with its defense-first mindset.

9. Cowboys: Tyron Smith, offensive tackle, USC.

The Cowboys are known to have Peterson atop their draft board, and might trade up once they see him slip a few spots. If not, Jerry Jones should be happy to "settle" for one of the draft's most athletic, longest offensive linemen. Smith would start in place of Marc Colombo at right tackle.

10. Redskins: Jake Locker, quarterback, Washington.

Rex Grossman is a free agent, and Donovan McNabb won't see a dime of his $10 million roster bonus after flopping in his first year under Mike Shanahan. Shanahan's system requires an athletic quarterback, and Locker is at his best throwing outside the pocket. He could "develop" for a year behind Grossman.

11. Texans: Ryan Kerrigan, linebacker, Purdue.

Kerrigan's stock is rising to the point where he's likely to go in the top 15. The Texans would prefer Miller or Quinn, but behind them Kerrigan is the safest pass rusher available. He'd team with Connor Barwin and Mario Williams to give Houston a real chance at 45 sacks.

12. Vikings: Da'Quan Bowers, defensive end, Clemson.

Bowers could push his stock back into the top ten with a big April 1 Pro Day, but for now he's got too many medical red flags, on top of one-year wonder concerns, to be considered a lock to go that high. The Vikings are in danger of losing left end Ray Edwards to free agency.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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