With the surprise announcement of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck staying in college to earn a degree, this year's NFL draft prospects may see a new team as a destination to start their professional career. Despite the unavailability of Luck, Florida safety Janoris Jenkins, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden—some of the top prospects that were expected to enter the draft this year, NFL teams will be glad to know that this year's draft is still flourishing with top talent.
Due to Andrew Luck returning to Stanford, the Carolina Panthers will look to give Jimmy Clausen one more year to prove himself. What better way to help him out than with the number one receiver in the draft, AJ Green. The 6'4" 212 pound bulldog is a quick physical receiver that can catch anything thrown his way. With 166 receptions, 2619 yards, and 23 touchdowns throughout his career at Georgia, Green proved to be the go to guy—just what Clausen needs to succeed.
If the Panthers select A.J. Green, the Broncos would be insane to pass on the best defensive lineman in this year's draft. NickFairley was unstoppable in the National Championship game and with his 6'5" 300 pound size he will look to be a punisher and the force behind the Denver Broncos defensive line next season.
Unfortunately for the Buffalo Bills, Auburn DT Nick Fairley won't be around by the third pick leaving them still needing a defensive lineman after a season in which they allowed over 200 yards rushing in eight games. Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers is a powerful athletic defensive end that can add highly needed talent to a lackluster group.
The Cincinnati Bengals defense struggled this season.Defense begins with stopping the run game and the Bengals need a strong defensive lineman to fill gaps on the line and create piles. Marcell Dareus is a big guy that makes plays. With 6.5 sacks in 2009 and 4.5 this past season he will look to help anchor that line and help the Bengals win more games next season.
Following a season where Arizona ranked 23rd in pass defense, look for the Cardinals not only to take the best player available in the draft at this point but also a guy that can fill a void in their defense. Partick Peterson is a ball hungry defensive back that can also come up and make much needed tackles. Peterson can also add that X factor as a dangerous return man.
With 2010 draft choice Joe Haden as one of their corners, the Cleveland Browns will hope to add Prince Amukamara for the opposite side of the ball to spruce up their defense. Amukamara has good size at 6'1" 205 pounds and will be thrown in the mix early as Browns new coach Pat Shurmur will be looking to his defense to control the game.
After a season where the San Francisco 49ers hoped to win the division and end a playoff drought, they struggled and showed the need for franchise quarterback. With the hiring of Jim Harbaugh, they will look to give their new coach a player he can shape into the future of the franchise. Cam Newton shone this season taking home a Heisman trophy and National Championship win, making him the perfect guy for the job.
Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams already signaled that Vince Young's time in Tennessee is over as he chose to keep Jeff Fischer and do away with the struggling Young. This means the Titans will need a new quarterback to man their offense. Blaine Gabbert has a strong arm and the ability to pick apart a defense. Look for him to work hard in the off season to be ready to start game one.
The Dallas Cowboys, despite not making the playoffs, don't have a lot of needs. If there's one place though that they could use help is the offensive line. Tyron Smith will undoubtedly be the top lineman prospect in the draft making him the ideal candidate. At 6'5" 280 he will look to add quickness to their big offensive line.
Mike Shanahan will need a quarterback for next season with the departure of Donovan McNabb. Despite Jake Locker not being overly successful in college, he is a prototypical NFL quarterback. He possess a strong football IQ and phenomenal vision. Shanahan is just the coach for him as he is known to transform average players into superstars.
With Wade Phillips taking over as defensive coordinator look for the Houston Texans to add Akeem Ayers to compliment Brian Cushing, making them a force to be reckoned with. Phillips' 3-4 scheme will be a perfect fit for Ayers, giving him the opportunity to use his 6'4" 255 pound size to rush the quarterback as well as drop back in coverage.
With the always shaky Brett Favre retirement chances, the Vikings will need a quarterback they can rely on for years to come and Tavaris Jackson is not that guy. Hopefully for them, Ryan Mallett is their future. He lacks the mobility they might like, but brings an outstanding arm and the hunger for victory. If he's still around at this pick, I'd say he's a lock for the job.
The Detroit Lions, although having a better season than recent years, still struggled and primarily defensively. Von Miller is an outstanding player with tremendous speed and a nose for the ball. Look for him to help their defense stop rushers from tearing them apart every week.
The St. Louis Rams had a chance to make the playoffs but did not. Regardless, Sam Bradford showed he has the potential to be a star in the NFL and that all he is lacking is top notch wide receiver. Julio Jones is big and able to catch any pass could become Bradford's go to guy in years to come.
Miami Dolphin fans might be upset this off season with the potential loss of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams but shouldn't worry because Mark Ingram is a Heisman winning, hard nose and smart back that Tony Sparano can look to implement in other ways than just behind the quarterback. He had a stellar career at Alabama and will look to carry that into the pros.
At 6'5" and 255 pounds, Robert Quinn could be that speedy outside rusher the Jacksonville Jaguars lack. He could be used to help get in the backfield and slow down the passing of quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub. He proved to be a play—maker and is just what Jacksonville needs to bolster their defense.
The New England Patriots love guys that are less noticed and under recruited—making J.J.Watt the ideal selection for them at pick #17 from Wisconsin. Watt is a play-maker, perfect to add depth to their big strong defensive line. Watt proved this season how much of a hard worker he can be, which should mean he will be able to put up with the craziness that is New England.
The San Diego Chargers defense is solid but in a league that is known for strong run games, adding a top defensive lineman can never hurt. Stephen Paea is a big force in the middle and can fill gaps along with providing a strong rush to the quarterback.
The New York Giants want to keep Eli Manning as protected as possible after some nasty hits he took this year. Nate Solder is a big powerful offensive lineman that can add depth to the line and help ensure Manning's safety. Look for him to start if he proves himself during training camp.
The Tampa Bay Bucs need a pass rush. Adrian Clayborn of Iowa is the logical choice here after a tough season that he entered as the top defensive line prospect. Clayborn's size is what helps him and his 6'4" 285 pounds frame gives him the ability to be agile on the line.
The Kansas City Chiefs seem to be putting everything together these days. They have a strong quarterback, running back and wide receiving core. The one thing they are lacking is a solid offensive line to give Matt Cassel time to throw and Jamaal Charles room to run. Gabe Carimi is a big offensive lineman from Wisconsin, a place known for breeding lineman.
Peyton Manning needs protection from his offensive line as he is a non mobile quarterback. Anthony Castonzo proved he can block in any scenario, making him a likely choice for the Indianapolis Colts at pick #22. With improved blocking and time for Manning to throw, the Colts can go further in the playoffs next season.
Offenses looked to attack the other corner opposite Asante Samuel this year, meaning the Philadelphia Eagles need a solid defensive back on the other side of the ball. Aaron Williams had a strong career at Texas and knows how to read quarterbacks. His speed will help him keep up with the wide receivers of the NFL.
The New Orlean Saints had trouble this year getting to the quarterback, evident in their surprising loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs this season. Cameron Heyward is a speedy defensive end with the ability to chase down running backs out of the backfield— a desirable trait among defensive ends.
Picks 25-32 will be determined later as the playoffs unfold but lucky for those teams, this draft will still be filled with exceptional talent.