Despite the uncertainty of the quarterbacks in this year's NFL Draft, there is speculation that as many as seven quarterbacks could go in the first round. Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Ryan Mallett, and Christian Ponder have all received first round hype from some outlet or another.
Kaepernick was invited to the draft in New York City, indicating that he is likely the top quarterback on some teams' boards. Ponder is the number one quarterback in the draft per the National Football Post, and Andy Dalton is the guy that everyone seems to be saying "Team X" will trade back into the first round to get.
Seven quarterbacks in the first round might be unlikely, but we will put the over/under at 5.5 right now.
There is speculation that Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor could drop out of the first round due to a foot injury that people did not know he had previously. Taylor performed well enough at the Senior Bowl and Combine to warrant a first round grade from a lot of people, and he is playing a premium position that not a lot of guys in this draft play. He could go as high as 21 to the Kansas City Chiefs, and is also said to be of significant interest to the New York Jets, who pick 30th.
I have been told that the Chicago Bears are targeting three players: Florida G/C Maurkice Pouncey, Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi, and North Carolina DT Marvin Austin. The Bears could also look to the best player available, but they do not expect anybody but Austin possibly to be there when they pick, and thus I have learned that they are a serious candidate to trade out of the first round. The last time the Bears traded out of the first round all together, they picked up one of the best return specialists in the history of the league--Devin Hester.
Staying in the NFC North, I have heard that the Minnesota Vikings really like the defensive ends in this year's class, and are looking at Robert Quinn, Ryan Kerrigan, and Da'Quan Bowers. The Vikings would like to replace Ray Edwards with another sack artist at the strong-side defensive end position.
Perhaps more importantly regarding the Vikings, I have heard they have significant interest in Donovan McNabb, and it might end up being that they play their draft as though they have the best chance of obtaining him. Minnesota has two young quarterbacks right now in Rhett Bomar and Joe Webb, but they could also look to draft one as well. The name I keep hearing regarding the Vikings and quarterback is Jake Locker.
I think the Washington Redskins are more in the market for a quarterback with the 10th pick in the draft than people think. While they might also look to a guy like Julio Jones, they are a trade-down candidate if there ever was one, and I think they really like Jake Locker. John Elway recently said that no other quarterback in this year's draft reminds him of himself than Locker, and perhaps Mike Shanahan will agree and take a chance on the hard-nosed Washington star.
Of the four NFL draft experts I interviewed over the weekend, every single one of them said the Cincinnati Bengals are either going to take Blaine Gabbert or A.J. Green, but they all said they are leaning toward Green right now. The Bengals like Gabbert, but offensive coordinator is enamored with TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, and though it's unlike Cincinnati's front office to trade up in the draft, there is a chance they could buck that trend this year to get the quarterback of their liking. Dalton could be the perfect fit for their offense, and throwing to Green would be a good way to start his career.
I have heard that the Cleveland Browns are looking at A.J. Green with their first round pick, but if he is not there, they might look to the best defensive player on their board. The two names I heard mentioned were Patrick Peterson and Robert Quinn. Quinn is a defensive end who would play weak-side for the Browns, and would cause trouble for opposing quarterbacks. He is quite possibly one of the best overall athletes in the entire draft.
I heard that Tyron Smith to the Dallas Cowboys is a near lock. The USC offensive tackle is reportedly high on their board, and after watching what happened to Tony Romo last year, it's probably for the best that they get back to protecting him as a top priority.
The one player who everyone is keeping quiet on? Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara. Amukamara was once considered a top five prospect and now everyone seems to be sleeping on him. I would bet on him going no further than Detroit, where he would play with his former Husker teammate Ndamukong Suh.
One of the biggest issues with the CBA means there will likely be a lack of trades, but I have been hearing otherwise. I have heard that the Denver Broncos are in the market to trade down, but it could be tough to find a partner. I think the most likely team to trade down in the first round, as I mentioned earlier, is the Washington Redskins. If Julio Jones is still on the board, a team like St. Louis might want to move up with the Redskins and take him, and then Washington could get the quarterback of their choosing.
If you believe everything you hear, this is your top ten as of right now:
- Panthers: Cam Newton, Quarterback, Auburn
- Broncos: Marcell Dareus, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
- Bills: Von Miller, Linebacker, Texas A&M
- Bengals: A.J. Green, Wide Receiver, Georgia
- Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback, Missouri
- Browns: Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, LSU
- 49ers: Robert Quinn, Linebacker, North Carolina
- Titans: Nick Fairley, Defensive Tackle, Auburn
- Cowboys: Tyron Smith, Offensive Tackle, USC
- Redskins: Julio Jones, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Obviously, the most notable omission from this top ten is Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers, who people are still skeptical of because of a knee issue. Bowers was once projected as the best player in the entire draft. He won't fall much further than Detroit, in all likelihood.
One insider told me it would be "great for the league" if the New England Patriots mortgaged all their picks and moved into the top 10 for an elite player like Von Miller or A.J. Green. The Patriots hold two first round picks, two second round picks, and two third round picks.
SI.com insider Peter King says the Cardinals are targeting either A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, or Blaine Gabbert with the fifth selection in the draft.
The Baltimore Ravens, I'm told, would NOT pass on Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward if he was available with their first round pick. We will see if that holds true or not on Thursday.