- Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. Marty Hurney needs to hit a home-run with this selection. The best players in the draft class are on defense, but that’s where the Panthers have the most talent already. Newton has weapons to support him and leadership qualities that could galvanize the franchise.
- Denver Broncos – Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama. Denver needs help on its interior defense, where they play in a division chock full of quality running backs. The offense has enough firepower to win games, but John Fox needs to build a defense that will allow his offense to take the field more frequently.
- Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M. The Bills’ problems are on the defensive side of the ball. They’d like to take an interior lineman here, but there will be value at the position later in the draft. The Bills need to find a way to frustrate Mark Sanchez and Tom Brady if they’re going to return to relevance in the AFC East.
- Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia. The Bengals aren’t willing to invest in another quarterback when they’re on the hook for Carson Palmer, and a rookie QB couldn’t succeed with the present tools in the Bengals’ arsenal. A.J. Green will be an immediate contributor and playmaker who can open holes for Chad Johnson.
- Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. Very, very quietly the Arizona Cardinals have cleared the deck at the CB position, with no legitimate players following Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and Greg Toler. Peterson will challenge for the punt return job behind shaky second-year player Andre Roberts and be an immediate contributor in nickel and dime packages in the secondary. Peterson is also insurance if DRC fails to embrace more zone concepts in the future.
- Cleveland Browns – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. Reports are the Fairley is falling down draft boards, but GM Mike Holmgren remembers have to prepare for John Randall and Warren Sapp and knows the challenges that a great three-technique DT can present. The draft class at this position is thin, and the Browns get an immediate contributor as they transition to a 4-3 defense.
- San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. San Francisco has done a good job of picking up sliding prospects in the first round. The cupboard is shockingly bare at the QB position in the North Bay, and Gabbert possesses the qualities that new head coach John Harbaugh likes in a player. The offensive line in San Francisco may be able to keep a clean pocket around Gabbert and allow him to succeed.
- Tennessee Titans – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. Current DEs Jason Babin and Jacob Ford are not long-term solutions to the pass rush, but they will be starters while Quinn adjusts to the NFL after a year away from football.
- Dallas Cowboys – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin. This isn’t a flashy pick, and the Cowboys may want to trade down to get some value at the offensive line. Watt is an excellent prospect at the five-technique DE spot and could pair with Igor Olshansky for the best 3-4 DE tandem in the NFL.
- Washington Redskins – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. The Redskins get great value for this pick. Their WR corps is solid right now, but it is aging. Jones will be an excellent West Coast wideout for Mike Shanahan.
- Houston Texans – Prince Amukamra, CB, Nebraska. The Texans are terrible in the secondary. They get a player that will be good for them in Wade Phillips’s 3-4 defense.
- Minnesota Vikings – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. Minnesota can’t believe their luck that a player who was widely expected to be drafted in the Top 5 falls to them all the way at #12 overall. Bowers can learn behind Jared Allen or immediately contribute on the strong side. Bowers is not a speed rusher in the mold of Julius Peppers, but he is a good technician who can contribute quickly.
- Detroit Lions – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado. The character concerns about Jimmy Smith are overstated, and frankly the Lions defense could use some attitude. Jimmy Smith is an elite athlete who can be a cover corner in the mold of Darelle Revis.
- St. Louis Rams – Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal. The Rams are in a position to trade down from this spot without great value at a position of need. Instead Steve Spagnolo goes back to his Philadelphia roots and drafts the best lineman on the board and will plug him in wherever he’s needed.
- Miami Dolphins – Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal. Smith will be able to stay at right tackle for the Dolphins, where Miami has a gaping hole currently occupied by Lydon Murtha.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri. Smith presents good value here for a team that needs to protect its secondary with a productive pass rush in a division that features Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub.
- New England Patriots – Corey Luiget, DL, Illinois. Quietly, the Patriots have been transitioning to more and more 4-3 defensive looks. Luiget presents great positional versatility for Bill Belicheck.
- San Diego Chargers – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College. Castonzo will help protect Philip Rivers as he ages and solves an offensive line problem across from Marcus McNeill.
- New York Giants – Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida. The Giants need to add fresh bodies to their aging offensive line. Pouncey is a better story than he is a talent in this draft, but he’ll be a solid contributor who will have time to learn from the veterans ahead of him.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue. Kerrigan presents the best value to a Tampa-2 team, and ends up in a position where he can be the most successful.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin. Carimi can play the right or the left side for the Chiefs, and will open holes in the run game that made the Chiefs a playoff team in 2010.
- Indianapolis Colts – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado. The Colts have an offensive line problem, and they have to protect their franchise player in Peyton Manning. Solder will give them more opportunities to protect Manning and open holes in the run game.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa. The Eagles keep getting better by drafting good athletes for their offensive and defensive lines. If there is a run on offensive linemen, don’t be surprised to see the Eagles move up a little.
- New Orleans Saints – Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA. Ayers give Gregg Williams a nice versatile athlete to play the strong side of his defense.
- Seattle Seahawks – Aaron Williams, CB, Texas. At this point in the draft, and without a third-round pick, the Seattle Seahawks would probably like to trade down. Lacking that option, they take Williams, who will help out a secondary in need.
- Baltimore Ravens – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi. The Ravens need help on the offensive line, and Sherrod will give them an able replacement at the RT position and allow them to move Marshall Yanda back to the inside where he was a dominant player.
- Atlanta Falcons – Justin Houston, DE, Georgia. The Falcons need to find a future replacement for John Abraham. It might seem like the Falcons are reaching here, but if Houston develops, it won’t matter two years from now.
- New England Patriots – Mark Ingram, RB, Arkansas. New England would love to trade out of this spot to the team that feels like Jake Locker will be the answer and pick up some 2012 picks. Ingram is a productive player who should be able to excel in the elements and have a quick transition to the pro game.
- Chicago Bears – Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor. The Bears have to do something about their offensive line to protect the investment they’ve made in Jay Cutler.
- New York Jets – Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh. The Jets need to manufacture a pass rush somehow. Sheard is a prospect who will give them a chance to do that.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple. Wilkerson can play DE in the Steelers 3-4 defense and gives them great depth at the position. Excellent value selection as two-gap DTs always fall in the draft.
- Green Bay Packers – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State. The Packers have had terrible luck selecting two-gap defensive linemen before hitting a home run with B.J. Raji. Heyward will be able to keep the Packers’ excellent LB corps clean.
- New England Patriots – Jake Locker, QB, Washington. The likelihood that New England exercises this pick is extremely low. Teams will have some 16 hours to make inquiries about the availability of this selection. Whoever ends up at this spot will take Locker.
- 34. Buffalo Bills – Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor. After addressing the pass rush at the top of Round 1, Buffalo comes back and addresses the run defense at the top of Round 2. Taylor will eat space in the middle of the line and become a poor man’s John Henderson.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Mikel LeShoure, RB, Illiniois. Cedric Benson was showing some wear on his tires last season. LeShoure will help continue the remaking of the Bengals’ offense.
- Denver Broncos – Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame. Rudolph is a risk/reward pick here, but both Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow are used to operating with playmaking tight ends..
- Cleveland Browns – Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland. There’s a lot of pent-up demand for wideouts at this point in the draft. Smith will provide depth to a relatively talentless WR corps.
- Arizona Cardinals - Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona. The Cards lose out when there’s a string of pass rushers taken toward the end of the first round, but Reed is a passionate player who will do whatever is asked of him.
69 – Kendrick Ellis, DT, Hampton. The Cards go to another small school in the third round. Ignorant fans will project Ellis as a backup NT, but he should be successful as a two-gap DE in wave packages for Darnell Dockett or Calais Campbell.
103 – Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State. Excellent value with this pick. The Cards get s better version of Steve Breaston here, and will give Stephen Williams some competition.
136 – Alex Green, RB, Hawaii. Green knows how to pass protect, run routes, and catch the ball from his experience in the spread offense at Hawaii.
171 – Nick Bellore, LB, Central Michigan. Should develop into the SILB that the Cards need to pair with Daryl Washington.
184 – Anthony Gray, NT, Southern Mississippi. 5’11”, 330 lbs. He’s the definition of the kind of fire hydrant nose tackle that is needed for the 3-4 defense.
249 – Jarriel King, OL, South Carolina. The kind of developmental OT prospect with massive size that the Cards like to develop.