I’m extremely distrustful of information that appears in the last couple weeks before the draft. Teams have reviewed tape for months, poked and prodded the prospects in person at the combine, but are just now sweetening or souring on a prospect? If you didn’t hear rumblings of it before or in the immediate aftermath of the combine, don’t trust it now. Trying to keep that in mind, here’s my take on how the draft goes down in two weeks.
1. Carolina Panthers- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
There isn’t a clear #1 overall worthy prospect in this class, but none of the QBs are even close to worth it. Cam Newton strikes me as the lovechild of Tim Tebow (big, strong and mobile) and Vince Young (riding one strong season capped with a title to a top draft spot) while Blaine Gabbert was a much less effective passer than his undrafted predecessor Chase Daniel. Dareus and AJ Green are the two sensible choices here. Green is the safer pick with the talent, production and polish to succeed quickly in the NFL, but Dareus could be the capstone of a excellent defense. The Panthers had a top 10 pass D by DVOA last year but didn’t get much pressure from the interior and were below average against the run. Even with AJ Green their offense will still be bad, but with Dareus their D could be great.
2. Denver Broncos- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The Broncos could use some front 7 pieces for their switch to a 4-3 defense, but they can’t pass up the best defensive player on the board after finishing bottom 4 against the pass and the run. John Fox has the Denver job because the defense in 2010 was intolerably bad, he can’t be choosey about where Denver adds defensive talent.
3. Buffalo Bills- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
The Bills leading sacker was NT Kyle Williams with 5.5. All the Bills linebackers combined for less than 10 sacks. This from a 3-4 defense! Miller is a fearsome pass rusher who has both the athletic skills and college production of a top prospect.
4. Cincinnati Bengals- AJ Green, WR, Georgia
Green should be able to contribute quickly to an offense that has several good young complimentary targets but was dragged down by Owens and Ochocinco performance falling far short of their fame.
5. Arizona Cardinals- Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina
Peterson or Miller would be ideal, but with both gone and the top QBs not worth the pick the Cards add a badly needed edge rusher. The Cards starting OLBs were the 33 year old Joey Porter and Clark Haggens who had 5 sacks a piece. There are a lot of questions around Quinn, but he’s got the talent to justify a top 5 selection.
6. Cleveland Browns- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
The Browns front 7 needs serious work, but their need at WR is just as big. The Browns had no WRs with more than 500 yards, 40 catches or 3 TDs last year. If their offense is going to function under Colt McCoy they need better targets.
7. San Francisco – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Niners need to bring their pass D up to a level closer to their run defense if they are going to stay in games. Prince is better value than any of the edge rushers left and while both were below average, the pass rush outperformed the overall pass D.
8. Tennessee – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley’s stock has been slipping as his performance in the national championship game faded from memory a bit, allowing everyone to remember that while he was dominant this past season, he was a non-factor previously. Add in being outshone by the much larger, stouter and more versatile Dareus and he’s no longer a serious contender for the top spot. Putting up a season that stacks up to Suh’s last year of college however, is going to get you drafted in the top 10.
9. Dallas – Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Jordan is ideal for and experienced in a 3-4 D. The Cowboys got very little impact up front from players not named Ratliff. Jordan improves the D all around.
10. Washington – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
While I think it’ll be a horrible mistake, someone is going to pull the trigger on Cam Newton in the top 10, probably earlier than this. Washington is supposedly trying to move up for him, which is exactly the kind of short-sighted big name chasing you’d expect from them.