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A look into what mock drafts are saying: Part three

04.27.11 at 4:47 pm ET
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Tomorrow night is the kickoff of the draft, and things are starting to look a little clearer than at the beginning of the week. Cam Newton seems to be the consensus favorite for the Panthers at the top of the order, followed by Alabama’€™s Marcell Dareus, Texas A&M’€™s Von Miller, and the remaining usual names following them.

But outside of the top 10, things are still a little foggy. Where will Jake Locker land? Will he slip past Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton? And what about Ryan Mallet? These are all good questions that won’€™t have answers until this thing commences.

A few players that weren’€™t in the top round in any drafts have jumped up into the first 32 ‘€“ names not many people have heard mentioned among the Thursday selections.

For the first time during this draft search, Texas’€™ Aaron Williams appeared in the first round. Draftcountdown.com has Williams breaking onto the scene with the Steelers at pick No. 31. Williams, whose success is best recognized after his 106 tackles coupled with four interceptions in 2010, is a 6-foot-1, 195-pound cornerback who declared after his junior season.

Texas has produced some top-notch defensive backs in the last few years, and Williams should continue the trend, Draftcountdown.com states. If the Steelers were to grab Williams in the first round, it’€™s possible that the corner could get the starting nod with a solid summer camp. Although Ike Taylor is expected to resign with Pittsburgh, that isn’€™t a guarantee for the Steelers, who could be grasping for other options if that happens.

Draftcountdown.com is one of the only national mock drafts that has the Jets taking Akeem Ayers, an outside linebacker from UCLA. Most drafts pair Phil Taylor, the defensive tackle from Baylor, with the Jets. Kris Jenkins sat out for the second year in a row with knee problems, and a fresh set of legs anchoring the defensive front seems like the best route for New York to go.

The University of Pittsburgh’€™s Jonathan Baldwin emerges into the first round in newnfldraft.com’€™s mock at the Bears’€™ selection at pick No. 29. The large target would make a lot of sense for Chicago, since all of Jay Cutler‘€™s receiving weapons are short and speedy, minus Greg Olsen.

Baldwin has a lot to offer in Chicago. Cutler hasn’€™t been anything more than an average quarterback since being traded to the Bears two seasons ago, and some of that can be blamed on his receiving corps ‘€“ or lack thereof. Cutler’€™s first season was riddled with interceptions, and his 2010 campaign ended infamously with his exit from the NFC Championship Game. But his slow start in the windy city can’€™t be entirely blamed on the former first-round pick.

There’€™s a reason the Bears moved Devin Hester to wide receiver; part of it had to do with his speed and his hands, and part of it had to do with the receivers needing a lot of help. Adding Hester to a 2008 contingency consisting of Rashied Davis, Brandon Lloyd, Marty Booker, and Earl Bennett was a great move by the organization. But the tallest receiver out of that group stands at six feet. After acquiring Devin Aromashodu, the Bears’€™ receiving group got slightly taller. And adding Baldwin (listed at 6-foot-4, 228 pounds) gives Cutler a guy to throw the ball to who can go up and bring it down in close situations. The pick makes a lot of sense, even if most scouts have Baldwin as a mid-second round talent.

And finally, someone has Florida State’€™s Christian Ponder as a first round selection. Newnfldraft.com places Ponder with the Seahawks at pick No. 25, ahead of guys like Locker, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, and Ryan Mallett. Ponder outperformed all of the quarterbacks in the Senior Bowl, and has only continued to improve in offseason workouts.

Seattle would be a great fit for any incoming quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck gets another year or two to start, and Pete Carroll gets his quarterback of the future once Hasselbeck calls it quits. Unless Charlie Whitehurst catches fire this season, the future of the Seahawks could belong to Ponder or whomever Seattle takes.

Will things turn out the way experts predict? We’€™ll find out Thursday night.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Aaron Williams, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder
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