2011 Final Mock Draft

FINAL Update: April 28, 2011

Carolina Panthers Cam Newton QB Auburn
Well, it looks like the Panthers have settled on their guy. I can’t stress enough how much of a mistake I think will be, but owner Jerry Richardson wants to save his floundering franchise and he’s willing to roll the dice on Newton. There’s a chance it works out, but Newton is a boom-or-bust prospect if there ever was one. There’s no middle ground for him. He’ll either become a superstar, or he’ll fizzle out like Vince Young and JaMarcus Russell.
2. Denver Broncos Von Miller DE Texas A&M
Rumors are floating that the Broncos may be “in love” with Patrick Peterson. I’m not buying it. Their decision comes down to Marcell Dareus and Von Miller. While I’m not nearly as confident with this selection as I am with the No. 2 pick in most years, I’m leaning toward Miller. John Fox values pass rushers more than interior lineman, and Miller could develop into a 10+ sack per year guy in his scheme.
3. Buffalo Bills Marcell Dareus DE Alabama
This is a make-or-break draft pick for Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey. If they pass on Gabbert and he goes on to be a star in Arizona or San Francisco, Nix/Gailey won’t survive for long in Buffalo. That said, it may be a smart move. Very few believe  Gabbert is a legitimate top-three talent, so waiting to address that need may be the way to go. If they pass on Gabbert, they can’t go wrong with Miller or Dareus.
4. Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green WR Georgia
I’ve gone back and forth between Green and Julio Jones, but I’ll stick with Green in the final mock. In my opinion there is no comparison; Green is an easy choice for the top receiver. But this is the Bengals we’re talking about, and they certainly could be swayed in a different direction. Either way, this pick has to be a receiver if Mike Brown is intent on convincing Carson Palmer to return. Unless they upgrade the weapons around him, he’s gone.
5. Arizona Cardinals Patrick Peterson CB LSU
The best quarterback or the best overall player? That’s the question for the Cardinals. Ken Whisenhunt pushed hard for them to bring in a veteran last year (other than Derek Anderson) and he’s likely singing the same song this time around. And with Larry Fitzgerald in the last year of his contract, I think they’ll go that route. With that decision made, they’re freed up to take the best available player here, which will likely be Peterson.
6. Cleveland Browns Julio Jones WR Alabama
I’ve been saying for weeks that the Browns will take Peterson. But now that it looks like Gabbert is falling, the chances of Peterson being off the board increase dramatically. That puts the Browns in a tough position -reach for a receiver, or reach for a pass rusher? Given the depth at defensive line I suspect the Browns will go with Jones here and wait for a lineman in the 2nd. I do think this is a reach, but there’s no denying the impact he’ll have on McCoy.
7. San Francisco 49ers Robert Quinn LB North Carolina
With Blaine Gabbert on the board, will Jim Harbaugh try to land his franchise quarterback? It may be tempting, but I believe Harbaugh is genuine in his desire to spend a year working with Alex Smith, if for no other reason than to keep open the possibility of landing Andrew Luck in 2012. That means this pick comes down to Quinn and Amukamara. Both would be good fits, but I believe the 49ers are more concerned with their pass rush than secondary.
8. Tennessee Titans Nick Fairley DT Auburn
Another team that could take Gabbert. And another team that I think would prefer to go with the combination of a veteran and a 2nd or 3rd round quarterback. The Titans know they can win without an elite quarterback thanks to Chris Johnson, but they can’t win without a dominant defense. Fairley would fill the void created by the departure of Albert Haynesworth two years ago and could have a Ndamukong Suh-like rookie year.
9. Dallas Cowboys Tyron Smith OT USC
Once Patrick Peterson falls to No. 5 the Cowboys will be on the phone with the Cardinals trying to trade up. If that falls through, they’ll stay put and settle for Smith. He has the highest ceiling of any offensive lineman in this class, and may be the only one from capable of playing left tackle at an elite level. There are some concerns about his readiness for the NFL, but the Cowboys are desperate to add youth to the offensive line.
10. Washington Redskins Blaine Gabbert QB Missouri
I’m going out on a limb here, but I believe Gabbert is in for a minor fall on draft day. The Redskins certainly aren’t holding their breath in hopes that he’ll be here, but if he does fall I don’t see how Shannahan could pass him up. I also wouldn’t rule out a possible trade up for Gabbert. Once he gets past Arizona, they may try to jump Tennessee and San Francisco in an effort to ensure he’s available for them to select.