1. Panthers: Auburn QB Cam Newton
Newton might not be that polished passer in the pocket, which is what every successful quarterback in the NFL must turn into eventually, but Carolina was pushed into a corner after Jimmy Clausen's disastrous rookie season. Getting the running game going again can at least take some of the pressure off the 6-5, 248-pounder.
2. Broncos: Texas A&M OLB Von Miller
While Miller is quite capable of double-digit sacks right out of the gate and competing for Defensive Rookie of the Year, new coach John Fox runs a 4-3 and not a 3-4. Denver already has one undersized pass rusher in Elvis Dumervil, who is coming back from injury, so its rush defense could still be a problem with another one.
3. Bills: Alabama DT Marcell Dareus
Dareus appears to be a tremendous fit playing the five-technique position next to Pro Bowl nose tackle Kyle Williams, one of the more underrated defensive players in the league. Dareus was listed as a tackle and could have also been a big help to a 4-3 team, but Buffalo's 3-4 just got a whole lot better in the trenches.
4. Bengals: Georgia WR A.J. Green
Even if Green isn't going to showcase flawless route-running ability, he can go up and get it with the best of them and was a playmaker from the moment he stepped foot on campus in Athens. With both Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens most likely departing Cincinnati, getting Green is one way to talk Carson Palmer into staying.
5. Cardinals: LSU CB Patrick Peterson
Arizona gets the best player in the draft after four others had already been taken off the board, which is never a bad thing. Cornerback wasn't a desperate need, but not only was Peterson too good to pass up, this was clear evidence that the Cardinals weren't sold on Blaine Gabbert.
6. Falcons: Alabama WR Julio Jones
Rolling the dice like no other franchise Thursday night, Atlanta surrendered a handful of picks to Cleveland both this year and next year in order to land Jones. Unlike Green, who may have to do it on his own in Cincinnati, Jones gets to look across the formation and see Pro Bowler Roddy White.
7. 49ers: Missouri DE Aldon Smith
Another ballclub desperate for help under center but electing to pass on Blaine Gabbert, San Francisco made the first reach of the evening when selecting Smith. He's a serious athlete and can get to the passer both inside and outside, but assuming he can make the switch to stand-up linebacker in a 3-4 is a leap of faith.
8. Titans: Washington QB Jake Locker
While it may not been a complete surprise to see Locker go this high in the draft, the fact that he came off the board before the free-falling Blaine Gabbert catches everyone by surprise. If the lockout had people second-guessing whether or not Vince Young would find his way back to Tennessee, the Locker selection ended that argument.
9. Cowboys: USC OT Tyron Smith
Dallas really wanted to trade this pick, probably because owner Jerry Jones has never drafted an offensive lineman in Round 1 since they're not sexy, but a willing partner was nowhere to be found. "Settling" for Smith isn't settling at all, as he's a starter at right tackle immediately and might develop into an All-Pro left tackle.
10. Jaguars: Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert
Dealing their second rounder to Washington in order to move up six spots, Jaguars fans are rejoicing since it looks like the David Garrard era may finally be drawing to a close. Jacksonville's offense does incorporate spread-option elements to accommodate some of Garrard's skills, so this may be the right destination for Gabbert.
11. Texans: Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt
No question about it, Houston has spent a lot of high draft picks and a lot of free-agent dollars on its defensive line in recent years, but Pro Bowl pass rusher Mario Williams is the lone success story. Switching to the 3-4 now, Watt might be the high-motor guy that finally takes some of the burden off Williams.
12. Vikings: Florida State QB Christian Ponder
Nothing short of a shocker when announced, as Ponder had a second-round grade in the eyes of many talent evaluators, the pick does make some sense because Minnesota is a West Coast offense and he is a West Coast quarterback. Trading down may have been too risky for the Vikings with so many teams needing QBs in a weak QB draft.
13. Lions: Auburn DT Nick Fairley
Maybe the best value selection in all of Round 1, Detroit ignored some glaring needs at cornerback and along the offensive line with Fairley still available. When he's paired with reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh, they could be every bit as good as the Williams Wall was in Minnesota all those years.
14. Rams: North Carolina DE Robert Quinn
What St. Louis really needed was for Julio Jones to fall because Sam Bradford could use a legitimate No. 1 receiver, but Quinn has a ton of natural ability and may turn out to be special rushing the passer. Previously a candidate to play outside linebacker in a 3-4, now Quinn can just do what he does best in the Rams' more traditional 4-3.
15. Dolphins: Florida C Mike Pouncey
Very rarely do interior offensive linemen come off the board this early, but Miami knows Pouncey is going to help immediately whether he ends up at center or guard -- guard is more likely since he's not his twin brother, Maurkice Pouncey. It remains to be seen if passing on Mark Ingram means Ronnie Brown is brought back to South Beach.
16. Redskins: Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan
Kerrigan was a 4-3 defensive end in college but worked out for a lot of teams as a 3-4 outside linebacker since that's such a coveted position in today's NFL. The Redskins are banking on Kerrigan being able to make that transition, although a five-technique tackle like Cameron Jordan or Muhammad Wilkerson may have been the way to go.
17. Patriots: Colorado OT Nate Solder
Another draftee that was a bit of head scratcher, especially with Boston College product Anthony Castonzo still on the board, Solder could be the heir apparent to Matt Light at left tackle. His footwork is incredible since he was a tight end once upon a time, but he's a little lean and might have leverage problems.
18. Chargers: Illinois DT Corey Liuget
Liuget seemed destined for the Rams at No. 14 during the evaluation process leading up to the draft, but the fact that he ended up in San Diego means his career could turn out quite differently. While he's destructive inside, the Chargers need him to line up at the five-technique spot instead in their version of the 3-4.
19. Giants: Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara
If it's not Fairley going No. 13 to the Lions, than Amukamara going No. 19 to the Giants has to be the steal of Round 1. No way could the G-Men have imagined a top-10 talent at the cornerback position still hanging around when they were on the clock, so the best-player-available approach works out beautifully.
20. Buccaneers: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
Desperate for a pass rusher since this defense could not sack the quarterback in 2010, a lot of people wondered if this is where Da'Quan Bowers would finally hear his name called. Clayborn is a much safer pick for the Buccaneers, who swung and missed on Bowers' mentor just a few years ago, the late Gaines Adams.
21. Browns: Baylor DT Phil Taylor
Originally trading out of No. 6 to No. 27 but then dealing back up to No. 21, the Browns caught many by surprise when they took Taylor, billed as the best candidate to play nose tackle in a 3-4. Cleveland is switching back to the 4-3 this year since the 3-4 experiment didn't go well, meaning Taylor will be asked to be a one-gap player.
22. Colts: Boston College OT Anthony Castonzo
Indianapolis couldn't believe its luck at this point of the draft, rushing the card up to the podium as quickly as possible in order to select Castonzo. Probably the most NFL-ready left tackle prospect available this year, Castonzo won't have to hold his blocks for very long since Peyton Manning gets rid of the ball so fast.
23. Eagles: Baylor G Danny Watkins
Philadelphia could have helped its defense get back to elite status with an end like Cameron Jordan or a cornerback like Jimmy Smith, but Watkins got the call instead. The Eagles are banking on Michael Vick continuing the second act of his career in brilliant fashion, so they had better protect him at all costs.
24. Saints: California DE Cameron Jordan
Arguably the best player on display during Senior Bowl week, Jordan goes to a potential Super Bowl contender that really needs help at the end position. Because he's such a versatile defender, Jordan can line up outside on running downs and then slide inside on passing downs.
25. Seahawks: Alabama OT James Carpenter
A reach, plain and simple, Carpenter unexpectedly comes off the board in the first round even though he appeared to be at best a second-round talent. At the Scouting Combine, the two-year starter at left tackle told everyone he wouldn't mind moving inside to guard, which doesn't say much about his confidence at the next level.
26. Chiefs: Pittsburgh WR Jon Baldwin
Kansas City moved down from No. 21 to No. 27 in a deal with Cleveland, but after failing to jump back yet again, a decision had to be made and Baldwin turned out to be the guy. Dwayne Bowe had an incredible 2010 catching all those TD passes from Matt Cassel, and now he has a partner in crime.
27. Ravens: Colorado CB Jimmy Smith
Some confusion revolving around a potential trade with the Bears allowed the Chiefs to make their pick before the Ravens finally did, but all three teams eventually got the guy they wanted. While Smith has character concerns, which have been well documented, he goes to a strong locker room featuring Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
28 Saints: Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Trading back into the first round to get Ingram, the Saints may finally have that between-the-tackles pounder they have been looking for to pair with Drew Brees and the passing game. It cost them their first-round choice in next year's draft, so Bill Belichick strikes again for New England.
29. Bears: Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi
A lot of mock drafts had Chicago settling for Derek Sherrod, who was the fifth and final offensive tackle given a first-round grade, so being able to get Carimi this late was a pleasant surprise. Jay Cutler has every measurable skill you need in a quarterback, but protecting him has been a dilemma for the Bears.
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30. Jets: Temple DT Muhammad Wilkerson
Rex Ryan's defense was one of the league's best this past season despite a line that didn't scare anyone after Kris Jenkins was lost to injury. Wilkerson, with talent begging to be unleashed, should be able to play the five-technique position rather well and has plenty of upside.
31. Steelers: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward
While the Steelers could have most certainly taken an offensive tackle like Derek Sherrod, a corner like Aaron Williams or a safety like Rahim Moore, Heyward brings youth to a defensive line that is getting long in the tooth. Aside from 2009 first rounder Ziggy Hood, everyone else of consequence is at least 30 year old.
32. Packers: Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod
Remember, Aaron Rodgers had some concussion issues last year and even missed a start as a result, so getting him another blocker is a wise investment for the Packers. 2010's first-round selection, Bryan Bulaga, appears entrenched at right tackle, and now Sherrod can eventually unseat Chad Clifton at left tackle.
|John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|