After a strong pro day outing last Thursday, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert's 2011 NFL Draft stock is buzzing - to the point where he's now widely considered a legitimate candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers. In our latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft, however, we still have the Panthers targeting Gabbert's chief positional competition for that honor.
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. The Panthers continue to insist that they're keeping an open mind with this pick, but if they're convinced there's a good quarterback option, then that's the position they'll draft. The smart money, for now, is still on Newton.
2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama. It seems a near-certainty that Denver will look to upgrade its defensive line with this pick. There's a chance that Nick Fairley is the pick, but Broncos brass will need to be convinced about his maturity issues. Dareus is a safer investment, and a great talent.
3. Buffalo Bills: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. Buffalo has always done things their own way in the draft, and GM Buddy Nix is one to prioritize talent he's convinced about over a questionable talent at a bigger need position. The Bills need corner help, and Peterson is this year's safest bet.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. As the Carson Palmer situation continues to hover over the organization, the Bengals need to take a quarterback if they can get one. If they can land a talent like Gabbert, expect a veteran acquisition to bring the rook along slowly - just as they did with Palmer.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M. We've said it before, and we'll say it again: this is a perfect match of team, need and talent. Miller would be an absolute terror off the edge in Arizona's one-gap 3-4, and their biggest defensive need is at rush linebacker.
6. Cleveland Browns: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. Either receiver, A.J. Green or Julio Jones, would be a smart pick here as the Browns build around Colt McCoy. That said, either of the two pass rushers - Bowers or Robert Quinn - would be equally difficult to pass on as the Browns move to the 4-3.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska. San Fran is a bit of a wild card in the Top 10, with several legitimate directions the team could take. We keep coming back to Amukamara, a safe prospect in an area of need for Jim Harbaugh's club.
8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. Things are a bit different in Tennessee, where the coaching staff has changed, and Jim Washburn is no longer tutoring defensive linemen. Despite Albert Haynesworth comparisons, Fairley may prove too talented for the Titans to pass on.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. Dallas is a prime spot to entertain the idea of a trade, because their needs don't match up with the talent likely available to them. A BPA route may be in order if they stand pat, and Quinn is arguably that here.
10. Washington Redskins: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia. If talent alone dictated how the first round falls into place, there's no way Green makes it this far. The Redskins will be looking hard at quarterbacks, but Green is such a dynamic talent that it'd be near impossible to let his fall continue.
11. Houston Texans: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri. Some question whether or not Smith is capable of playing 3-4 outside linebacker. In Wade Phillips' one-gap system, his natural athleticism and pass rushing ability would be at the forefront.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Jake Locker, QB, Washington. It's entirely possible that the Vikings look to go the veteran route at QB and continue to develop Joe Webb. Even if that's their mindset, they'll think long and hard about a high-upside, high-intangible guy like Locker.
13. Detroit Lions: Tyron Smith, OT, USC. The Lions are getting there, but they won't actually get there until they can keep Matthew Stafford healthy for a full season. That argument could work against the super raw Smith, but his upside makes him solid value here.
14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. Jones is the player that the Rams absolutely will not pass on if he's there. He's the true No. 1 target that Sam Bradford needs to continue his development.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. Though Dolphins fans still seem lukewarm to the idea, and though many question Ingram's speed translating to the pro game, this is still the best decision for Miami if a quarterback doesn't fall into their lap (or if they don't feel like moving to get one).
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Cameron Jordan, DE, California. This pick has two appealing aspects to it: Jordan is a former teammate of defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, and the Jags have a need at defensive end. Win-win.
17. New England Patriots: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin. Bill Belichick has been gradually injecting youth to his defense over the past few years; adding the guy Mike Mayock calls the best five-technique end he's ever scouted seems like a good way to continue that process.
18. San Diego Chargers: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa. Clayborn continues to fly under the radar in a deep defensive line class, but he makes a lot of sense as a pass rusher from the 3-4 end position for the Chargers.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College. The Giants are aging up front, Castonzo's draft stock has consistently risen all off-season, and the Tom Coughlin connection makes this a logical choice.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue. The Bucs will take any defensive end they can get their hands on; Kerrigan's hustle will make him a nice fit in Raheem Morris' Tampa 2.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State. He's not a classic fit for the two-gap 3-4 that the Chiefs employ, but brutal strength and solid quicks will make him a nice fit as a nose guard in that scheme.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois. Offensive tackle is still a distinct possibility for the Colts, but Liuget is such a perfect fit for them defensively that it's tough to let him slide beyond this pick.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado. Andy Reid is all about the offensive line, and though Solder isn't perfect, he's pretty close athletically. Reid can work with him.
24. New Orleans Saints: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia. The oft-overlooked pass rusher out of Georgia has experience playing in space thanks to Georgia's 3-4, and his versatility will be a big selling point for coordinator Gregg Williams.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado. It's possible that the Seahawks could reach on a quarterback here - Christian Ponder would make a lot of sense - but it's more likely, for now, that they'll look to upgrade their secondary if Smith is available.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin. Jared Gaither's future is in doubt, and though the Ravens found respectable play at right tackle last year, a true bookend to Michael Oher would be a good idea.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida. Starting right guard Harvey Dahl is an impending free agent, and center Todd McClure is 34. Pouncey is an excellent athlete that gives the Falcons depth and options inside.
28. New England Patriots: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA. People have been put off by Ayers' pedestrian athletic workouts this off-season, but he's an instinctual, versatile defender - which makes him perfect for New England.
29. Chicago Bears: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State. For whatever reason, Sherrod isn't highly valued amongst the draftniks out there. He's an instant starter at left tackle in Chicago.
30. New York Jets: Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona. Rex Ryan collects pass rushers and cornerbacks like trophies, and his sack production has been lacking through two years as a Jet. Reed has elite potential off the edge.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Ijalana, OT, Villanova. A post-season injury has prevented Ijalana from working out, allowing him to stay squarely under the radar. He has the look of a potentially dominant guard, with the athleticism to play tackle - and the Steelers need line depth badly.
32. Green Bay Packers: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple. The Packers have built nice depth along its defensive line, but as they're poised to lose Cullen Jenkins in free agency (whenever that may be), it'd be wise to fill his place with a high-upside five technique end.