The biggest news Thursday was that Stanford QB Andrew Luck would return for his redshirt junior season. Good decision or not, there is now a huge discussion for the first pick.
Will the Panthers take a quarterback? Will they trade down? Who will trade up? So many scenarios can pop up. With Wild Card Weekend slowly approaching, let's take a look at how picks 1-20 could play out.
1. Carolina Panthers- AJ Green, WR, Georgia
I don't have a lot of background on Green, who is a junior receiver who was suspended for the beginning of the 2010 season. However, with many people calling him the best WR prospect next to Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss? Carolina a bunch of good #2 WR, but they don't have an alpha dog. Clausen would LOVE to have a big target to throw to, and it would take pressure off Steve Smith, who is still a very good receiver.
2. Denver Broncos- Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
The Broncos still need a head coach, and ultimately that coach will decide if Denver stays in a 3-4 or goes back to a 4-3. Bowers would easily give Denver a huge boost in the pass rush. Also, it would be hard to rule out Peterson or Amukamara, since Champ Bailey could leave this off-season.
3. Buffalo Bills- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
AJ Green would have been a phenomenal fit here. Besides that, I had a hard time with this pick: Robert Quinn could be Aaron Maybin 2.0; and, Fairley doesn't fit their scheme. Rule #1 for drafting in the top 5: NEVER, NEVER reach to fill a position of need. Peterson is one of the best CB prospects ever, plus he is an accomplished punt returner. If they could find a trade partner, I'm sure they would love to move back and get a 3-4 guy.
4. Cincinnati Bengals- Robert Quinn, DE, UNC
Is he better equipped in the 3-4? Boy, it would have been nice to know if the guy played in 2010. I'm skeptical of putting him here, but since Carson Palmer is still the quarterback, you can't peg Gabbert or Newton yet. He has the most ability out of any pass rusher in this draft, but I really think he can be a good fit in Cincy, where they tend to give guys like Quinn a second chance.
5. Arizona Cardinals- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
We have our first QB sighting! Arizona was awful last year, and probably wouldn't have been as bad with Matt Leinart at the helm--boldest statement of the article. Also, I'm not too high on guys coming out of spread offenses, but he does have the physical skills to be good, although I hate junior quarterbacks.
6. Cleveland Browns- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Cleveland didn't really go anywhere this year; they went 5-11 just like last year, but they found a bruising tailback in Peyton Hillis and maybe a solid QB in Colt McCoy. However, their passing attack is garbage. Jones fits in perfectly with this offense and can be the go-to-guy immediately. He's not a huge vertical threat, but he has the toughness and hands to be a reliable target.
7. San Francisco 49ers- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Nate Clements could leave because of his huge cap number, leaving a big void in the secondary. Amukamara helped lead one of the best pass defenses in the country in 2010, and he's right up there with Peterson for best CB in the draft. I want to see if he plays in the Senior Bowl--I think that could only help him.
8. Tennessee Titans- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
In 2009, Albert Haynesworth left Tennessee and stole a $100 million contract from the Washington Redskins. In 2 years, it hasn't been the same for the Titans. Fairley was one of the most dominant interior defenders in 2010 and could recreate some of that magic Big Albert used to bring to the team. Unless, Fairley decides to hold out for an extended period of time, fail a conditioning test six times, then do what a rookie defensive tackle does and take time to adjust and get his head on straight.
9. Dallas Cowboys- Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida
It wouldn't surprise me if Dallas traded up to 6 to get Amukamara--the trade would make sense for both teams. However, the Cowboys need secondary help bad. Jenkins has great anticipation and ball skills, which would make him a good fit in Dallas. However, it's his tackling and effort that would really separate him.
10. Washington Redskins- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Come on...too obvious. An obnoxious owner who makes brash decisions taking a quarterback who isn't polished as a passer, but could be a better runner than Vince Young? The last time they took an Auburn QB in the 1st round was Jason Campbell. He wasn't terrible, but he had zero support. Have fun not having a career for 4-5 years, Cam! Karma is making a trip to DC!
11. Houston Texans- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
They took Kareem Jackson last year, a corner who was part of a national championship team, and had one of the worst passing defenses ever. Let's try it again by taking a versatile lineman who can take pressure off Mario Williams. But, honestly, would it surprise you one bit if Houston switched to a 3-4 now that Wade Phillips is the defensive coordinator? How can the worst defense become even worse?
12. Minnesota Vikings- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Could the Vikings have been a team that was a QB away from a playoff berth? Probably, especially because Favre played terrible and the receiving corp was banged up. Look for help at the defensive tackle spot, but the Vikings could go into the season with just Joe Webb as a QB. Mallett would be a solid QB for them, and it would create the one of the best potential divisions for QBs (Rodgers, Cutler, Stafford).
13. Detroit Lions- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Jim Schwartz likes big, fast linebackers, which is why he traded midget Ernie Sims to the Eagles. Now, getting a linebacker who can solidify the 4-3 and rush the passer on 3rd down, the Lions continue to build a respectable franchise.
NOTE: That is not a misprint. Seriously, the Lions could be a .500 team in 2011. However, we are talking about the Lions, which means Stafford will lead them to a 4-2 start before tearing his ACL.
14. St. Louis Rams- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
A six win improvement and a near division title? Looks like things are turning around in St. Louis. I was highly critical of Sam Bradford during this time last season, but he has the mental makeup and accuracy to be a great QB. Even with bad QB play, Floyd had another great year and capped off his great college career by sticking it The U. He has the height and deceptive speed to be a really good player. No linebacker here would be good value for the Rams.
15. Miami Dolphins- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
3 Alabama players in the top 15. Ingram is the most highly decorated amongst the 3 after winning the 2009 Heisman Trophy as a sophomore. He wasn't as gaudy number-wise in 2010, but he was efficient and showed improvement in pass catching and blocking. With both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams potentially gone, the Dolphins need a steady back. That, or someone to wire Chad Henne correctly so he can develop into a great QB.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars- Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
Jacksonville reaching to take a player they really like and fit a glaring need? What is this, 2010? Tyson Alualu was the top 10 shocker of the 2010 draft, but he ended up having a really solid rookie year. Jacksonville desperately needs a safety with some talent. I know Reggie Nelson was hyped in 2007, but weren't a lot of Gators, especially their defensive ends?
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland)- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
I have to root for Rob Ninkovich--he played at my high school and I've quietly followed him since he was drafted in 2006. But, Bill Bellichek is the master of getting players who fit his style and can play multiple systems. The rich get richer, and Tom Brady will probably play until he's 40.
18. San Diego Chargers- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Many pegged Adrian Clayborn as the most complete DE prior to the 2010 season. Defenses keyed in on him more and he wasn't as dominant as people thought, but he still led a very tough Iowa defense. He is built well for this defense. The biggest question: can he play special teams?
19. New York Giants- Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
The Giants have a great roster, so it's really hard to make a choice here. The Giants have been a team that lets the draft come to them and take a player with great value--see JPP, Nicks, Kenny Phillips, Aaron Ross. Paea is a monster in the middle, and if you put him on that defensive line, watch out; they could knock out even more QBs in 2011.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Jaash Freeman (yes, I'm stealing this from Bill Simmons) made huge strides this year, the rookie class was amazing, and Tampa almost made the playoffs. If they continue to add impact players, they might be able to contend with the big boys in the NFC South.
Next on the list for drafting...
Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida
Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Honestly, I would appreciate any feedback on the players & teams. I'm not an expert on the draft prospects or the team, so help me out and give me a more desirable outcome.
It's pointless and time consuming if you put something like "You have no idea what Team X's needs are". Thanks for reiterating a point I just made. Have fun reading!!!