1. Carolina Panthers — Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
*The most talked about player in this year’s draft class is the first player off the board. Panthers add excitement to an offense that was desperate for it.
2. Denver Broncos — Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
*The draft’s best defensive player is the first defender called. Denver’s defense was horrific in 2010. This is a nice first step toward a dramatic improvement in 2011.
3. Buffalo Bills — Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
*Run-stuffing presence in the middle of the defensive line will bolster Buffalo’s front. Rumors had him as high as No.1 and no lower than third.
4. Cincinnati Bengals — AJ Green, WR, Georgia
*I had a scout tell me there wasn’t a player in this draft class they were more confident in than AJ Green. The Bengals just called Carson Palmer’s bluff by drafting him a new toy.
5. Arizona Cardinals — Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
*The Cardinals now have two lock-down cornerbacks. Now they’ve got to go sign a veteran quarterback so that they can compete in the mediocre NFC West as early as this season.
6. Atlanta Falcons (via trade from CLE) — Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
*The Falcons needed a game-breaker on offense and they just added one. An annual playoff team with a young core, Atlanta must’ve thought they were a weapon away from making a title run.
7. San Francisco 49ers — Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
*This is the first surprise. Smith was considered the second best defensive end / linebacker convert on the board according to most. Most mock drafts had him going just outside of the top-10.
8. Tennessee Titans — Jake Locker, QB, Washington
*Wow. This happened. Not even sure what to say other than that the Titans liked Locker more than most teams did. And Blaine Gabbert may have just fallen to the Redskins.
9. Dallas Cowboys — Tyron Smith, OT, USC
*Highest upside offensive lineman in the draft class should anchor the right side of Dallas’ front this season and the left side for the next decade.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (via trade from WSH) — Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
*The Redskins move back six spots and pick up a second round pick. The Jaguars get the passer of the future that has been alluding them.
11. Houston Texans — JJ Watt, DL, Wisconsin
*Big defensive lineman with a relentless motor. Run-stuffer who can eat space with the potential to generate quarterback pressures. Nice pick for a team trying to bolster its defense.
12. Minnesota Vikings — Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
*Four of the top 12 players off the board are quarterbacks. Ponder wasn’t going to last until the end of the round so the Vikings jumped on him.
13. Detroit Lions — Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
*Fairley and Suh. What a duo. Now the Auburn product has to prove the knocks on his hustle and consistency were unfair.
14. St. Luis Rams — Robert Quinn, DE, UNC
*Quinn was considered the top pass-rushing defensive end in the draft class. Several teams were toying with the idea of standing him up as an OLB.
15. Miami Dolphins — Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
*Best center in the draft class. Now they just need a quarterback for him to protect.
16. Washington Redskins — Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Purdue
*The Redskins have a compliment for Brian Orakpo and Jim Haslett has a new play-maker to add to the 31st ranked defense in the league last season.