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NFL Top 10 Mock Draft v 1.0

1. Carolina- Nick Fairley DT Auburn:  Since Andrew Luck decided to return to Stanford, Carolina’s new regime faces an extremely difficult decision with what to do with the number one pick. Their realistic options at this point are QB Blaine Gabbart, WR AJ Green, DE D’Quan Bowers, DT Nick Fairley, or CB Patrick Peterson. Since they have needs all over the depth chart, they can take the player best able to build a team around. With Rivera presumably installing a defense-first mindset and Blaine Gabbart being ridiculously overrated, I don’t believe the Panthers will go in that direction. Peterson is arguably the most talented player, but do you know when the last DB to go #1 was? Never. AJ Green has been hyped as the best WR prospect since Randy Moss (save Calvin Johnson), but the success of high-pick receivers has been too inconsistent for a new regime to take a risk like that. That leaves Bowers and Fairley as viable options. The only problem with Bowers is inconsistency, a cardinal sin for a potential franchise-savior. After seeing how Ndamukong Suh energized Detroit’s defense this past season, and after seeing Fairley’s performance in the BCS Championship, Carolina will go with Fairley as its top pick. It’s not the sexiest of selections, but the Panthers have to start somewhere, and Nick Fairley is a good somewhere to start.

Or Ron Rivera could just forfeit this pick and sign free agent RB Tim Biakabutuka, who my sources tell me is not currently on an NFL roster.

2. Denver- Patrick Peterson CB LSU: Denver holds 3 of the top 47 picks and 4 of the top 67 come draft day, so the new Johns in charge (Elway & Fox) are going to have a good opportunity to get this franchise back on track. The Broncos obviously need a lot of help on both sides on the ball, and they do have a fair amount of cap space as well in case they want to make a big splash in free agency. Having the flexibility they have, they can afford to take the best player available, which I believe will be Patrick Peterson. With Champ Bailey approaching 33 and the rest of the secondary in flux, Peterson would stabilize the pass defense as well as possibly give Champ Bailey a reason to stick around. If they don’t go Peterson, their other options would be DE D’Quan Bowers, DT Marcell Dareus and OLB Von Miller.

While Patrick Peterson might be a shutdown corner, experts say the Virgin Mary is tougher than Butkus and faster than Lawrence Taylor. On the other hand, there's always the possibility of the rapture, and then the organization would be without their last two first round draft picks, as her and Tebow are "saved". Also, she showed up to the combine overweight *red flag*

3. Buffalo- Von Miller OLB Texas A&M: Chan Gailey and his staff got a first-hand view of some of these prospects, coaching the South squad in the Senior Bowl to a victory. This, along with OLB Von Miller’s meteoric rise up draft boards due to his performance in Mobile, have led a lot of pundits to prognosticate Miller to Buffalo. Even Miller has gotten in on the love-fest, remarking “It would be a true blessing to go play for the Bills, but whatever team picks me up, I’ll be happy to play for them.” While Buffalo could possibly select Marcell Dareus, Miller is just too salivating a 3-4 rush linebacker prospect for Buffalo to pass on, especially when considering Buffalo’s only Pro Bowler in 2010 was DT Kyle Williams. While the Bills have their issues on both lines, their linebacker corps are even less equipped, and the choice will be Von Miller.

Chan Gailey did once use a 1st round draft pick on a guy named Ebenezer...so if he goes that route again, they could potentially save some money before their inevitable move to Toronto or Los Angeles.

4. Cincinnati- D’Quan Bowers DE Clemson: The Bengals are, to say it nicely, in a state of disarray. Firing Bob Bratkowski was a step in the right direction, but Mike Brown still owns the team, and Marvin Lewis is still the coach. Apparently a 4-12 season when expected to contend is good enough in Cincinnati. Carson Palmer is demanding a trade or he threatens retirement, but I think it’s much more likely he sticks around and plays for the Bengals in 2011. Ochocinco-Johnson and Terrell Owens are almost assuredly gone, and Cedric Benson is a free agent. If Cincinnati doesn’t retain Benson, that is an egregious mistake. No matter how the Palmer situation shakes out, I just cannot see a QB being the pick here. It comes down to three players for this pick:  AJ Green, D’Quan Bowers, or Marcell Dareus. AJ Green would be the most fan-coveted of all the prospects, but at the end of the day, D’Quan Bowers is going to be the guy. He, alongside Domato Peko and Antwan Odom, would make Cincinnati’s D-line one to be reckoned with.

I mean, this guy is the owner. There had to be a mix-up at the hospital when he was born. I refuse to believe Mike Brown carries Paul Brown's genes in his shoddy, sunken body. His jeans, however...I'll accept.

5. Arizona- Prince Amukamara CB Nebraska: With Max Hall and John Skelton not seasoned enough to start 2011, Blaine Gabbart seems like a panacea for a team just a QB and 24 months removed from Super Bowl XLIII. There’s only one problem, and that’s the fact Blaine Gabbart hasn’t shown what it takes to be a franchise signal-caller in college. He has the measurables (6’5″ 235 lbs), but was less successful in a college-oriented offense than Brad Smith and Chase Daniel were. If you cannot throw more than 16 TDs in a gimmick offense, how do you expect to translate that into NFL success? I’m not saying he cannot be successful, just that Ken Whisenhunt will not be impressed enough to use a top 5 pick on him. A lot of people see Von Miller going here if Buffalo passes, but since he is gone in this mock, the pick is Amukamara, an extraordinary talent who will immediately upgrade Arizona’s pass defense.

Mock...yeah...ing...yeah...Amukamara....?....

6. Cleveland-AJ Green WR Georgia: With the anticipated switch to the 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, DE Robert Quinn and DT Marcell Dareus are options, but when you look at Cleveland’s offensive weapons, it is imperative they upgrade that side of the ball. AJ Green, in my opinion, is either the best or second best player in this draft, and draws comparisons to Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson, among others. While I mentioned earlier that wide receivers are a risk this early in the draft, Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren are savvy enough to know that Mohamed Massaquoi is not a number one receiver, and Colt McCoy needs somebody to throw to. If Green is gone, it will be either a defensive lineman or Julio Jones.

While the number one name in the world...not a number one receiver in the NFL. CFL maybe!

7. San Francisco– Robert Quinn DE UNC: Unless Jim Harbaugh loves Blaine Gabbart’s upside, it would behoove San Francisco to upgrade their defensive front. Dareus could be the pick, but with Aubrayo Franklin already anchoring the inside, I think Quinn’s combine performance will be enough to convince the Bay Area Brass that he’s worthy, even with missing all of 2010.

Unbeknownst to 49ers fans, these guys are now running the team after serenading the DeBartolo family with some hip tunes

8. Tennessee- Blaine Gabbart QB Missouri: This pick is pretty impossible to project given that the Titans are in the process of an entire organizational upheaval, but new regimes mean new quarterbacks. Unless Cam Newton blows away the new staff, Gabbart gets the pick, and will be given time to learn under vet Kerry Collins. Marcell Dareus, trading down, OT Nate Solder and DE Cameron Jordan are all possibilities with this pick as well.

If only the Titans could draft this guy again...

9. Dallas- Tyron Smith OT USC: While the Cowboys would love Prince Amukamara to fall to them, that more than likely just isn’t happening. A lot of people seem to think DE Cameron Jordan is the pick here, but Dallas biggest needs are CB, S, OL, RB, and Jordan would have to be very impressive at the combine to persuade Jerry Jones to use a top 10 pick on him. I think OT Nate Solder and CBs Jimmy Smith and Brandon Harris are all in play, as is (dark horse) Mark Ingram. In the end, I think the offensive line need wins out, and Jerry will be happy to have his pick of the crop. I think Smith’s athleticism and upside will make him the pick.
10. Washington- Cam Newton QB Auburn: After a tumultuous 2010, Dan Snyder and Mike Shanahan are poised to make perhaps the biggest splash of draft day and select Cam Newton at number ten. He is a project, but he will sell tickets and jerseys. Shanahan is bullheaded enough to believe he can make Newton into a superstar at the pro level, the question will be whether he will get enough immediate results from a rabid fan base to see the project through.

They can actually pay you now, son!