The 2011 NFL Draft will be coming up in late April. Analysts have already begun doing mock drafts and picking who is rising and who is falling off the charts.
There are tons of draft stories to follow this coming year. There is the usual "Who goes No. 1." "Who falls the most?" "Which team reached the most with their pick."
There are even more intriguing stories to follow this year however.
How far will Cam Newton, and his haunting past, drop in into the first round and perhaps into the second?
In a draft loaded with defense, when will the first offensive player be picked?
What will New England do with their two first-round picks? They also have two picks in each of the first three rounds!
How did Andrew Luck miss out on tens of millions of dollars?
Here are some answers to these story lines in my complete first round NFL Mock Draft.
Hands down, Nick Fairley as of now, is the clear No. 1 choice for the Carolina Panthers. He is someone you can build a defense and a team around.
Fairley brings the physical tools and an attitude most comparable to Albert Haynesworth.
He absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage in the BCS Championship game and throughout the entire NCAA season.
I admire Andrew Luck and give him credit for going back to school for another year, but if he came out, he would've been the hands down pick for Carolina.
Expect the Panthers to stick with their current quarterbacks in Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore. Moore just finished his one-year contract but showed enough potential in 2009 to warrant another chance. They may find a veteran to bring in for a year or two as well.
All the talk going into the draft for Denver is what type of defense will the Broncos run under new head coach John Fox.
Chances are Fox will bring in his 4-3 defense. If that is the case, they will need to retool their defensive line that was last in the league in sacks last year.
Bowers is rising up the charts and is the No. 1 DE prospect on the board and No. 1 of Mel Kiper's big board.
The Bills wish they had 10 first-round picks because they sure need them. They have glaring needs at many positions, including QB, OL, DL and in the secondary.
I see the Bills either sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB or signing a veteran. They just have too many needs, and I don't think there are any QBs in this draft that are good enough to go in the top three.
The Bills also could grab a CB with this pick and take the No. 1 CB off the board in Patrick Peterson.
The Bengals were one of the more disappointing teams last year. After surprising us in 2009 and winning their division, they are now picking fourth in the 2011 Draft.
The Bengals have needs at OL and in the secondary.
However, with the likely departure of T.O., the Bengals need to find another complement to Chad OchoCinco (Johnson). Carson Palmer still can be a legit QB in the NFL if he has the targets and the protection.
OchoCinco is also getting up there in age as well, so with the selection of Green, the Bengals will have their No. 1 WR for years to come.
The Cardinals are taking a QB with this pick. They absolutely need one.
They can't keep bringing in QB after QB year in and year out and expect any kind of consistency. The Cardinals have a decent team and very good skill position players.
All they need is a staple at the QB position. They need someone to lead them. Someone like Kurt Warner did. Gabbert is that guy.
The Browns need a ILB the most, but in this case, Patrick Peterson is still on the board. If he falls to six, I can't see the Browns letting him slide anymore.
Peterson will establish a shutdown presence in the CB position.
The Browns offense is getting better, and now, it's the defense that needs to improve. Peterson will be the guy to start that trend, and his size and athleticism will be a QB's nightmare.
Robert Quinn is still on the board here, but the 49ers need a CB. They are set at the DE position.
They also could go with a QB here. God knows they need a new man to take the reigns and keep them.
Cam Newton and Jake Locker are still available here, but I don't think the 49ers go that route. They are a decent team that vastly under-performed this year and could easily win the NFC West with a veteran QB.
There are plenty of veteran QBs that can stand in and lead the 49ers out of the NFC West, including Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Moore and Rex Grossman.
It is obvious with Jeff Fisher gone, and Vince Young being released or traded that the Titans are in rebuilding mode.
Locker provides the team with someone to build themselves around. Locker took a step back this year and hurt his draft stock by not coming out last year. However, he still has the tangibles and abilities of an NFL QB.
He will also be helped by Chris Johnson and the Titans running game. That will take a little pressure off Locker.
Most drafts have Nate Solder as the first OL off the board. Unlike past drafts, there isn't top five or even top-10 talent from OL in this year's draft.
The Cowboys allowed 31 sacks last year, and they need to sure up an offensive line that wasn't that great last year.
Dallas could also go CB or DE with this pick.
Everyone's mock draft seems to have Cam Newton going to Washington.
The Redskins desperately need a QB. The McNabb era did not last too long, and I don't think Shanahan will go into another season with Rex Grossman.
The Redskins like taking risks, and Newton certainly is one, especially this high. The last Auburn QB they selected did not pan out too well for them.
Newton is different though. He is an explosive, elusive QB who has a gun for an arm.
Now with Wade Phillips taking control of the Houston defense, they are going to need another LB who can pressure the QB and handle coverage in a 3-4 defense.
Von Miller is their man. His coverage skills might be a little weak, but he is a very talented and athletic player who should develop into a good all-around LB.
The Vikings could go a lot of ways with this pick. It depends on what direction they want to go in. They could grab Tyron Smith or Gabe Carimi to sure up the OL.
They could also select for defense and go for Aldon Smith, Adrian Clayborn or Akeem Ayers.
In the end, I think they will go offense since their defense was not really the problem last year. I say they go with Smith here to sure up the OL. They are going to need someone to protect their new QB, whoever that may be.
If one of the top three QBs fall, I could also see the Vikings going after one of them. Ryan Mallet is a stretch to go this high though.
The Lions have glaring needs mainly on the defensive side of the ball. Expect most of their picks in the draft to be defensive. The Lions badly need LB and CB.
There isn't a CB that can go in this range so I think the Lions will take the value pick and take Ayers from UCLA. LB is just as important for the Lions to sure up so it won't be a waste.
This is another pick that you can take to the bank. Talk about a perfect player falling right into your lap.
The Rams need a WR they can team up with Sam Bradford. Bradford had a very successful rookie year with literally no help by his receivers.
The combo of Bradford and Jones could be a very good one for the Rams immediate and long-term future.
With the departure of Ricky Williams likely, the Dolphins may need to get another RB.
Ronnie Brown is still the main guy on the team, but he could benefit from Ingram taking a little of the load off his shoulders.
Ingram would fit nicely into Miami's offense. He fits the wildcat offense well.
Jordan is a player who has been rising up people's draft boards for awhile now. He had a good performance at the Senior Bowl, and his stock is sure to rise throughout the combine.
He is a pure athletic pass rushing DE who can get to the QB. Jacksonville needs a pass rush that will generate more than the 26 sacks they produced last year.
Whether it is Jordan or Adrian Clayborn, expect the Jags to go after a DE.
There are now three things guaranteed in life: death, taxes and the Patriots doing some swapping on draft day. As of now, New England sits at 17. That could very well change with having two picks in each of the first two rounds.
If they are to stay here at 17, the Pats will probably look to the DL or OL. There are plenty of DEs to choose from at this position. Clayborn, Watt and Kerrigan are all possibilities.
If they choose the OL route, Anthony Castonzo and Gabe Carimi would be good picks.
The Chargers need a DE, and they are quickly going off the board now.
Clayborn had a down senior season but still possesses the raw ability and athleticism to be a NFL pass rusher.
The Chargers, who had one of the best defenses in the league last year, will only get better with Clayborn's addition.
I don't know if Smith will fall this far, but if he does, expect the Giants to grab him. LB is one of the Giants needs, and he could be a great steal if he drops this far.
With Keith Bullock now a free agent, the Giants need to find his replacement. Smith is an athletic pass rusher who is quite good backing up into coverage.
The one thing that was very visible last year was the Bucs could not pull off a pass rush. They have struck out of that position the last few years in the draft and in free agency.
A pass rushing DE would make sense here and could propel Tampa Bay into the playoffs next year.
For how good the Chiefs played and for how well they finished the year, they have a surprising amount of needs. They can go TE, OL, DL or LB.
Man would this be a defensive line to reckon with. The Chiefs have former first-rounders Tyson Jackson and Glen Dorsey at the ends. Liuget is rated very high on the Scouts, Inc. draft board and could be a sleeper pick.
Gabe Carimi is a possibility if they go OL.
It is pretty apparent that all analysts are picking the Colts to select an OL here. The only question then is who will they pick.
The best OL left on my board would be Wisconsin star Gabe Carimi. He is projected to be a RT but don't be surprised and flip him around and keep him at LT to protect Manning's blind side.
You can also throw in the Eagles trading as a fourth thing guaranteed in life as well. They always seem to either trade up (Brandon Graham) or trade down (Kevin Kolb) when they are in the late teens to early 20s.
I think if the Eagles stay in this position, they will be more than happy to select Castonzo from Boston College. One glaring weakness was RT for the Eagles as Winston Justice choked in the playoffs.
The Eagles need to find someone like a Jason Peters on the other side to protect their new franchise QB Mike Vick.
The Saints may go with either a DE or a LB. So...why not go with someone who could potentially play both positions in the NFL.
Houston would provide solid pass rushing skills to either the defensive line or the linebacking corps. My guess is he will fit in as a LB in the New Orleans 4-3 defense.
The Seahawks need a franchise QB to build around for the long-term. They will be rebuilding with the possibly departure of Matt Hasselbeck. Even if they keep Hasselbeck, Mallett will be a good pick for Seattle.
They could groom him for a year or two and then he can take over. I can see Mallett falling this far because the teams in the teens and early 20s, do not necessarily need a QB.
With all the injuries the Ravens had at the CB position last year, their top priority would be CB. The only problem with that is there are no CBs left worth taking at this position.
I could see the Ravens trading up for Harris or trading down to select another CB.
If they do stay, I see them addressing their OL and selecting Derek Sherrod out of MSU.
The Falcons need someone who can rush opposite John Abraham. He is not putting up the great numbers he is used to because he is getting so much attention and double teams.
By drafting Heyward, the Falcons can take the pressure off Abraham as being the only pass rusher on the DL. It will also free up Abraham and will allow him to be the great pass rusher that he is.
After already addressing the DE, I see New England taking a CB and adding depth to a very young secondary here.
I see them taking Brandon Harris out of The U.
New England could also address the OL here, but I think Harris is the best value pick. All the projected first-round OL are gone by this point.
It is a bad break for Chicago because they miss out on their most important need which is the OL.
Another position they could draft for is the safety position.
Moore is a big physical safety with good coverage abilities.
After DT Kris Jenkins went down for a second straight year, it is time for the Jets to move on or to prepare like Jenkins won't be around all season.
Paea is the best DT left on the board, granted he falls this far. Paea is a 300-pounder who will only make the Jets run defense that much better.
Ryan Williams will fit the Pittsburgh running mold perfectly. He is a powerful runner but also very quick and elusive.
He can be a good change of pace back behind Mendenhall. Mendenhall can become the bruiser, while Williams can be the speed rusher on third down.
A CB could also be selected here. The next one off the board could be Aaron Williams from Texas.
Imagine having Clay Matthews coming on a blitz from one side. Then imagine a 300-pound pass rusher coming from the other end.
Sounds like a QB's nightmare. The Packers needs some depth at the DE, and Wilkerson fits their needs.
He seems like a perfect fit for a Dom Capers 3-4 defense.