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Mock Draft, Take 6: Could Robert Quinn go first overall?

03.21.11 at 12:14 am ET
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We’ve got a new No. 1 pick in the latest edition of the WEEI.com mock draft, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it continue to change as we get closer. That’s generally the kind of madness that occurs when there isn’t a quarterback worthy of the top pick in a given year. Last year, it was only a matter of time before people realized Sam Bradford should have been the first overall pick. This year, there isn’t that simple solution, as Blaine Gabbert is very good, but not special.

Meanwhile, two of the Patriots’ first three picks are different from the last edition, and Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo is moving up.

Robert Quinn was suspended last season, but he makes sense for the Panthers. (WEEI.com photo)

1. Carolina (2-14) Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina Da’Quan Bowers was hanging on by a thread to the top spot, and with word emerging that teams are concerned with his knee, he drops out of this position for the first time. Some have Cam Newton going in this spot, but I don’t buy it. The last time the Panthers were in this situation was 2002. They had to choose between a quarterback who was not a slam-dunk (Joey Harrington) and a star pass-rusher (Julius Peppers). Marty Hurney and the Panthers chose correctly last time, and they would be correct to go with the pass-rusher (who just so happens to be a local guy) this time.

2. Denver (4-12) Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU If you can come out of a draft with the best player, it’s not a bad thing at all. That’s exactly what will happen for the Broncos if they opt to grab Peterson. He would start alongside Champ Bailey immediately, and take over as the No. 1 when the 32-year-old (he’ll be 33 at the start of next season) decides to retire. Given his talent, it wouldn’t be surprising it all to see Peterson have as big an impact as Bailey has had over the course of his career.

3. Buffalo (4-12) Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M Not to ogle a linebacker’s 40 time, but a sub-4.5 40 at Miller’s Pro Day only confirms that the Butkus Award winner can get to the quarterback in a hurry. Miller’s addition would give the Bills a type of exciting player on defense that they simply don’t have. The only question is his size, but he hasn’t been stopped in the past. With the Bills planning on being scheme diverse this season, Miller should be able to fit in both the 3-4 and 4-3.

4. Cincinnati (4-12) Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri Perhaps ignored in the midst of the whole Cam Newton debate is how good Gabbert actually is. He is by no means a top-tier quarterback, but he is the only signal-caller in this draft that seems a safe bet to be a solid starter in the league throughout his career. In a quarterback class this weak, that goes a long way. Carson Palmer apparently means business with his demand to be moved, so if the Bengals end having to do so once a new CBA is in place, it makes sense to grab a quarterback here.

5. Arizona (5-11) Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama There isn’t much not to like about Dareus, but because he’s clearly this draft’s best five-technique prospect, he might be a better choice for a 3-4 team. Some like him to go as high as No. 1 overall, but since Ron Rivera is sticking with a 4-3 defense, Quinn makes more sense for the Panthers than Dareus if they want an end. That being said, the Cardinals would have to be ecstatic to see Dareus available at No. 5.

6. Cleveland (5-11) Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson This could benefit both sides. Adding Bowers would strengthen the line in Cleveland as the Browns move to a 4-3, while it could provide Bowers with some incentive to prove teams wrong. He was in the mix for the first pick (he still may be), but recently concerns about his knee and one-year wonder status have gotten more attention.

7. San Francisco (6-10) Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Nate Clements will have to rework his mammoth deal (eight years, $80 million) to stick around, but regardless of whether he stays, the 49ers could use a real No. 1 corner like Amukamara. He would be able to contribute right away in a group that includes Shawntae Spencer and may or may not include Clements.

8. Tennessee (6-10) Nick Fairley, DL, Auburn What the Titans really need is a quarterback, but is it worth taking Newton here? Not for a team that was a victim of the last chance they took on a boom/bust quarterback in Vince Young. Fairley would not be a “need” pick for the Titans, as they have two good, young defensive tackles in Sen’Derrick Marks and Jason Jones. Still, Jones is a free agent after next season, and if the Titans like Fairley’s limitless potential, they might not hesitate.

9. Dallas (6-10) Cameron Jordan, DE, California The Cowboys had hoped to play a game in the Super Bowl, and after an enormously disappointing season, they have to find their way back to contender status. Drafting Cam Newton when they already have Tony Romo is not exactly the way to go about that. Instead they can opt for a stud defensive end like Jordan, who could replace Stephen Bowen.

10. Washington (6-10) A.J. Green, WR, Georgia With both Newton and Green on the board, the Redskins would be wise to choose the sure thing and potentially have one of the top receivers in the league. Questions remain as to whether Santana Moss will be back.

11. Texans (6-10) Brandon Harris, CB, Miami Defense should be the pick here, and while Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense could use another pass-rusher, there is no bigger need than a cornerback to help out Kareeem Jackson. One more note on the Texans’ 3-4: Keep an eye on former WEEI.com draft binky Connor Barwin. He hasn’t crushed it as a defensive end, but now that he can finally play outside linebacker, he could end up warranting his second-round selection two years ago.

12. Minnesota (6-10) Cam Newton, QB, Auburn This space isn’t a place for Newton bashing, but there’s no denying the guy is outrageously overrated. His athletic ability is undeniable, but what quarterback characteristics of his say “franchise quarterback?” This is a risk/reward pick that could pay huge dividends for the Vikings or whichever team takes Newton, but he has a lot to learn, and people seem to be overlooking that.

13. Detroit (6-10) Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College I had Tyron Smith here in the last edition, and while Smith has one of the higher ceilings out of the tackles in this draft, why wouldn’t the Lions go for the Boston College guy? Gosder Cherilus has proven capable when healthy, and with Jeff Backus 33 years young (34 in September), getting a top left tackle for the future would do wonders for a team that needs Matthew Stafford to essentially play in a protective bubble.

14. St. Louis (7-9) Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

There is no pick in this draft more obvious than this one if Jones is still on the board at No. 14. Jones tests off the charts and would provide Sam Bradford with an elite weapon for the prime years of his career

15. Miami (7-9) Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

Is selecting a running back early in the draft a good idea? History says usually not, but the Dolphins project to have a gaping hole in the backfield with potentially both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams gone next season, and Ingram is the best back on the board.

16. Jacksonville (8-8) Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue

Having Kerrigan on one side and a healthy Aaron Kampman on the other makes for a scary pass rush. It also makes for confirmation that trading up 18 spots for Derrick in 2008 may have been a mistake, but who’s counting?

17. New England [from OAK (8-8)] Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri The decision between Smith and J.J. Watt would be a very tough one, and though Watt might have a more successful NFL career, the Patriots might not get a crack at a top pass-rusher if they wait until 28th pick rolls around to address it. The concern for a guy like Smith is the one-year wonder tag, and he’ll need to convince 3-4 teams like the Patriots that he’s capable of playing outside linebacker at the next level.

18. San Diego (9-7) J.J. Watt, DL, Wisconsin Watt would be a tremendous value for the Chargers if he’s still on the board at No. 18, and his selection would provide San Diego with a big upgrade at defensive end over the likes of Travis Johnson and Jacques Cesaire. As to whether the Patriots would give him a hard look, his alignment with Tom Condon should be noted, but shouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker, especially if a rookie cap is in place.

19. New York Giants (10-6) Tyron Smith, OT, USC Where Smith ultimately goes will be interesting, as he’s been linked to teams picking in the Top 10 as well as teams who, like the Giants, are picking in the late teens. Smith only benched at the combine due to a knee injury, so people will pay close attention to his March 30 Pro Day.

20. Tampa Bay (10-6) Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa Clayborn will never be mistaken for a scheme-diverse player, but he’ll fit just fine with the Bucs’ four-man front. The St. Louis native had 11 sacks in 2009 as a junior, and putting him on the same line as Gerald McCoy would give that defense some real star power.

21. Kansas City (10-6) Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida Pouncey has expressed a preference to play center at the next level, but the guess here is teams will express to the Florida lineman that he’ll play where they want him to. He’d be able to get his wish with the Chiefs, though, as Casey Wiegmann will be 38 at the start of next season.

22. Indianapolis (10-6) Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin The Colts have been able to make luxury picks in the first round in years past, but they could clearly use a tackle (or two). Charlie Johnson doesn’t cut the mustard on the left side and Ryan Diem’s $5.4 million price tag has some wondering if he’ll be brought back.

23. Philadelphia (10-6) Nate Solder, OT, Colorado Solder isn’t as polished as some of the other top tackle prospects, but defensive linemen who played against him in college gave him very high praise at the combine. The 6-foot-8, 319-pound Solder would make sense on the right side for a team with a left-handed quarterback such as the Eagles.

24. New Orleans (11-5) Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois This may be higher than you’ll find Wilson in the average mock draft, but he is this year’s class does not include a strong group of inside linebacker prospects, so Wilson should stand out. He can play both inside and outside, and the Saints could use an inside linebacker.

25. Seattle (7-9) Jake Locker, QB, Washington Welcome back, Mr. Locker. This pick speaks volumes to just how much Ryan Mallett has been hurt since we started learning about his personality (No lie: Von Miller said Mallett once yelled at him to “calm down” after Miller sacked him). Given that none of the teams for the rest of the first round have a need at quarterback, the Seahawks could probably afford to move down either later in the first round or into the second to take Locker or Christian Ponder.

26. Baltimore (12-4) Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Georgia The Ravens are scheduled to meet with Houston this week, and the news shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Houston would be a perfect fit as an outside linebacker in Baltimore, and in a year that features so many defensive one-year wonders, Houston has a résumé that boasts strong sophomore and junior campaigns.

27. Atlanta (13-3) Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State There is a drop-off from the first tier of tackles in this class (Castonzo, Smith, Smith, Carimi, Solder) but that doesn’t mean teams won’t be willing to invest a first-rounder on a guy like Sherrod. It remains unclear whether he’ll play left or right tackle in the NFL, but drafting him would allow the Falcons to potentially move Sam Baker to the right side if they were so inclined.

28. New England (14-2) Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State The Patriots took a tight end coming off back surgery last year, so this would be a boring class if it didn’t include a defensive lineman coming off Tommy John surgery, no? Heyward doesn’t have the same potential as Watt, but he has the NFL bloodlines, carries himself in a very professional manner and would be a fixture on the defensive line with Vince Wilfork and a healthy Ty Warren.

29. Chicago (11-5) Benjamin Ijalana, OT, Villanova We had Mikel Leshoure going in this spot last week, but opting for Ijanala might ultimately make more sense. After playing left tackle in college, Ijalana has been projected to potentially move to right tackle or guard at the next level, so positional versatility might help his case to be a late first-rounder.

30. New York Jets (11-5) Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor Taylor has been projected to the Jets since our very first mock of the season, and there’s no reason to move him from this spot now. Taylor had character issues before being booted from Penn St., so perhaps Rex Ryan might welcome the task of keeping him in line.

31. Pittsburgh (12-4) Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor Baylor teammates being drafted back-to-back in the first round? We’ll have to call the WEEI.com stat truck to see if that’s ever happened before. Watkins is 26 years old and has limited experience playing football, but luckily for him, he’s good at it and he plays a position that requires the maturity he so clearly has.

32. Green Bay (10-6) Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA Ayers did himself no favors at the combine, and he’ll have to show early on that teams that passed him over should have looked at more game tape. Given that testing proved he isn’t as speedy as he looked in college, he would be a risk in the early-to-mid first round, but he’d be a fine pick here.

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33. New England [from Carolina (2-14)] Aaron Williams, CB, Texas People can agree on the most obvious needs when it comes to the Patriots: pass-rusher, defensive end, and offensive linemen. From there, the next biggest need is up for debate, and with the top eight offensive linemen off the board, they might have to pursue another position rather than reaching. The team could use another running back, so don’t rule out Leshoure, Jordan Todman or Ryan Williams here. If you ask me, adding another cornerback who could start down the road would really help the defense in the long-run.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, A.J. Green, Aaron Williams, Aldon Smith Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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