1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
New regime, new quarterback. Newton has the greatest upside of any QB in this draft.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Build throught the trenches. Dareus is the safest pick and brings versatility and toughness to a porous Denver defense.
3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Might have struck out on Aaron Maybin in ’09, but Miller is the real deal. Best pass rusher in the draft and a perfect fit as a 3-4 OLB.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Perhaps the top talent in the draft, Green has the size, hands and body control to be a No. 1 receiver from day one. Would round out a very nice young group of pass catchers.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Dominant cornerback with great return skills. Don’t see the Cardinals reaching for Gabbert, so Peterson is the highest guy left on the board.
6. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Colt McCoy has no weapons at his disposal. Jones is a physical receiver who has shot up boards with an impressive combine performance. Would be an instant starter from day one.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
New coach Jim Harbaugh tried recruiting Gabbert while he was at Stanford. Could be a good player down the line, but has lots of questions in terms of adjusting to NFL offense.
8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairely, DT, Auburn
After the 2010 college season ended, there was no doubt Fairely was the most dominant player in the country outside of Newton. Character concerns have caused his stock to drop, but he’d be a nice piece on a young Titans defensive line.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Dallas has a huge need at right tackle and Smith was very good at that position in college. Has upside and athleticism to play on the left side.
10. Washington Redskins: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Quinn could have been the first pick in the draft if he played last season. He’d be a great fit opposite Brian Orakpo, solidifying the outside linebacker spots in the Redskins’ 3-4 defense.
11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, OLB/DE, MissouriWith the Texans switching to a 3-4 defense, the biggest need is a pass rusher. Smith has the length and athleticism to excel as an edge player.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers’ stock has dropped with growing concerns about his right knee. While he isn’t a quick-twitch athlete, Bowers would be a steal at No. 12.
13. Detroit Lions: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The Lions would be doing backflips if Amukamara falls into their lap. He’d be an instant upgrade and day-one starter on an improving Lions defense.
14. St. Louis Rams: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Chris Long is a solid defensive end, but coach Steve Spagnuolo is known for drafting pass rushers early. Liuget is under the radar, but is definitely a top-25 talent.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
Dolphins are in a bad spot here. Unless they want to reach on a quarterback like Ponder or Mallet, they might just go with Pouncey as an upgrade at guard and a future center.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Hard-working, productive player in the Big Ten. Would complete a strong defensive line that features Tyson Alualu, Terrance Knighton and Aaron Kampman.
17. New England Patriots: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Versatile five-technique who would be a welcomed addition to a defensive line without a true stud outside of Vince Wilfork. He also has the flexibility to play from a two-point stance and rush the passer.18. San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Big frame and good athleticism. Would be a starter immediately and upgrade San Diego’s front seven.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Most experienced offensive lineman available. Good athleticism and a solid all-around tackle.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Houston, DE, Georgia
Opinions vary about Houston’s fit at the next level, but he would probably be best as a 4-3 weak-side end. He would complete a talented, young d-line with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Scott Pioli loves to build from the trenches (see Logan Mankins, Richard Seymour, Wilfork, Ty Warren). Carimi would be an instant starter at right tackle and could play the left side.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Underrated, athletic and intelligent left tackle who would be a day-one starter. Colts need someone to keep Manning upright.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Perhaps the second most talented corner in the draft, Smith falls due to character concerns. A duo of Smith and Asante Samuel could be tremendous.
24. New Orleans Saints: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Some concern about Erb’s Palsy and senior year production cause Clayborn to drop, but defensive end is the Saints’ biggest need and he is the best one available.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Muhammed Wilkerson, DT, Temple
Huge upside to go along with impressive size. Don’t love this pick since Seattle has so many needs, but building a strong d-line is a great way to rebuild a team.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Hard-working, blue-collar type who would be utilized all over the Ravens’ d-line. Would be a prototypical five-technique with the ability to kick inside next to Haloti Ngata in pass-rushing situations.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Danny Watkins, G, Baylor
With no 4-3 end available at this spot, the Falcons could look to upgrade the offensive line which may lose up to three starters. Watkins is a tough, nasty player who would help open holes in the run game and keep Matt Ryan upright.
28. TRADE via New England: Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Patriots will trade this pick for Tennessee’s 2012 1st-round choice and maybe a late-round selection. Locker has upside although I don’t like his chances of becoming accurate enough at the next level.
29. Chicago Bears: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Once thought of as a top-15 pick, Solder’s inexperience has been exposed during the offseason. However, he has a ton of upside due to his elite athleticism and size.
30. New York Jets: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
A perfect replacement for Kris Jenkins. Could line up at 3-4 end or nose tackle.
31. TRADE via Pittsburgh: Cincinnati Bengals: Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Steelers don’t have a ton of needs, and there isn’t another consensus first-round corner or offensive lineman available. Bengals can move up a few spots ahead of Buffalo or another team interested in trading up and get their guy, Ponder.
32. Green Bay Packers: Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona
Reed has drawn comparisons to Clay Matthews Jr. – the Packers’ stud OLB. Reed is overrated in my opinion, but would be successful playing opposite Matthews in Green Bay’s aggressive 3-4 defense.