NFL Mock Draft IX Finds Nick Fairley Taking Over Cam Newton’s No. 1 Spot

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NFL Mock Draft IX Finds Nick Fairley Taking Over Cam Newton's No. 1 Spot The draft is a month away, and the running for the No. 1 pick is still as wide open as ever. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's two-week reign as the top pick has come to an end, and he is being relieved of that spot by his college teammate who was originally slotted as No. 1 in this series of mock drafts.

Three of the top-five picks have changed this week, the first time that has happened in two months of mocks, and that caused a lot of movement throughout the first round.

Let's open up Mock Draft IX, the ninth edition of 13 mock drafts that will run every Thursday until April 28.

1. Carolina Panthers
2010 Record: 2-14
Needs: Quarterback, defensive tackle, outside linebacker, guard, wide receiver, tight end, defensive end
The Pick: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
Previous Picks: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
Analysis: There are some real concerns about Fairley being a one-year wonder, and he's got below-average size. But the talent is real, and that might be enough for him to emerge as the top pick.

2. Denver Broncos
2010 Record: 4-12
Needs: Defensive end, cornerback, safety, outside linebacker
The Pick: Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus
Previous Pick: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
Analysis: Dareus would be a great fit for the middle of Denver's new defensive system.

3. Buffalo Bills
2010 Record: 4-12
Needs: Quarterback, tackle, defensive end, outside linebacker, tight end, cornerback, safety
The Pick: Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller
Analysis: Give quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick another year to prove himself. He's a short-term investment who played well in 2010, and maybe he'll keep improving in 2011.

4. Cincinnati Bengals
2010 Record: 4-12
Needs: Defensive end, quarterback, running back, wide receiver, inside linebacker, safety
The Pick: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
Previous Pick: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn
Analysis: The Bengals haven't had any problems taking a flyer on a controversial player in the first round, and, with Carson Palmer's sincere trade demands, the Bengals could be the first team to draft a quarterback.

5. Arizona Cardinals
2010 Record: 5-11
Needs: Quarterback, left tackle, guard, outside linebacker, cornerback
The Pick: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
Previous Pick: LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson
Analysis: This is the highest Gabbert has gone in this series of mock drafts, and it's also the first time Peterson has fallen past Arizona.

6. Cleveland Browns
2010 Record: 5-11
Needs: Wide receiver, tackle, guard, defensive end, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, cornerback, safety
The Pick: Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green
Analysis: Under this scenario, it would be surprising if the Browns didn't take Patrick Peterson, who could pair up with Joe Haden for years to come, but all signs point to the Browns taking a wide receiver.

7. San Francisco 49ers
2010 Record: 6-10
Needs: Quarterback, outside linebacker, defensive tackle, defensive end, safety, wide receiver, cornerback
The Pick: LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson
Previous Picks: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
Analysis: With Gabbert off the board, the 49ers take advantage of Peterson's slide and have their cornerback of the future.

8. Tennessee Titans
2010 Record: 6-10
Needs: Quarterback, inside linebacker, defensive end, guard
The Pick: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn
Previous Picks: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
Analysis: Quinn still has the advantage over Bowers for the top 4-3 defensive end on the board, and Quinn's slide bumps out Bowers this week in Tennessee.

9. Dallas Cowboys
2010 Record: 6-10
Needs: Tackle, defensive end, guard, safety, cornerback
The Pick: USC tackle Tyron Smith
Previous Picks: Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, Colorado tackle Nate Solder, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
Analysis: The Cowboys can develop the USC product as their left tackle of the future.

10. Washington Redskins
2010 Record: 6-10
Needs: Quarterback, right tackle, wide receiver, right guard, cornerback, safety, defensive end
The Pick: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
Previous Picks: Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, USC tackle Tyron Smith
Analysis: Bowers' pro day is Friday, and his performance — on the field and through medical tests — will play a major role in his draft stock. If he checks out, he'll be back in the running for the top pick.

11. Houston Texans
2010 Record: 6-10
Needs: Cornerback, safety, outside linebacker, defensive tackle
The Pick: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
Previous Pick: Miami cornerback Brandon Harris
Analysis: Amukamara has been the pick here for awhile. The Texans need to improve all three levels of their defense, but their secondary is the primary weak spot.

12. Minnesota Vikings
2010 Record: 6-10
Needs: Quarterback, defensive end, defensive tackle, left tackle, safety
The Pick: Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
Previous Picks: Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, Illinois defensive lineman Corey Liuget, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, Washington quarterback Jake Locker
Analysis: The momentum seems to have cooled on the chances of Minnesota taking a quarterback here, and Smith looks like a 4-3 stud.

13. Detroit Lions
2010 Record: 6-10
Needs: Cornerback, left tackle, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end
The Pick: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi
Previous Picks: Colorado tackle Nate Solder, Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
Analysis: This will be a good get for the Lions, who need to piece together a much better offensive line. Carimi would be the guy they build it around.

14. St. Louis Rams
2010 Record: 7-9
Needs: Wide receiver, right guard, outside linebacker, defensive tackle, safety
The Pick: Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones
Analysis: I came close to sending Jones to Washington this week, but for now, he's hanging on just long enough to go to St. Louis. Theoretically, eight teams in the top 10 could take a wide receiver, but if he makes it past Washington, he should easily slide to the Rams at No. 14.

15. Miami Dolphins
2010 Record: 7-9
Needs: Running back, quarterback, safety, wide receiver, tight end, offensive linemen
The Pick: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
Previous Picks: Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey, USC tackle Tyron Smith
Analysis: Quarterback Chad Henne might be improving his stock with the Dolphins by helping orchestrate team workouts this week. I wonder if that will keep the Dolphins away from taking a quarterback in the first round.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars
2010 Record: 8-8
Needs: Quarterback, defensive end, inside linebacker, safety, cornerback
The Pick: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
Previous Picks: Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
Analysis: With Smith off the board, the Jaguars go with another hardworking defensive end who could anchor the outside of their pass rush.

17. New England Patriots
2010 Record: 14-2
Needs: Defensive end, outside linebacker, tackle, guard, running back, wide receiver
The Pick: California defensive lineman Cameron Jordan
Analysis: Jordan has been the Patriots' pick for all nine mock drafts.

18. San Diego Chargers
2010 Record: 9-7
Needs: Defensive end, wide receiver, right tackle
The Pick: Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward
Analysis: Heyward has a mean streak, and he could be dominant in San Diego's system.

19. New York Giants
2010 Record: 10-6
Needs: Tackle, outside linebacker, defensive end, safety, running back
The Pick: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
Previous Picks: Illinois defensive lineman Corey Liuget, UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers
Analysis: I've gone back and forth between Houston and Castonzo for this spot, and Castonzo wins out for the second week in a row.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2010 Record: 10-6
Needs: Defensive end, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, guard, tackle
The Pick: Georgia defensive end/outside linebacker Justin Houston
Previous Pick: Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith, Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
Analysis: Houston would play at defensive end for the Bucs, who have a great pair of young defensive tackles and need a little help on the outside of the line.

21. Kansas City Chiefs
2010 Record: 10-6
Needs: Tackle, outside linebacker, defensive tackle, wide receiver, center
The Pick: Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor
Previous Picks: UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi
Analysis: Taylor has been the pick here for awhile. With a 6-foot-4, 340-pound frame, he's got ideal size for a nose tackle in this system.

22. Indianapolis Colts
2010 Record: 10-6
Needs: Tackle, guard, defensive tackle, safety
The Pick: Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod
Previous Picks: USC tackle Tyron Smith, Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
Analysis: Some analysts believe Sherrod is the best tackle in the draft, and others don't have him in the top five. He has been my fourth-rated tackle for about a month now.

23. Philadelphia Eagles
2010 Record: 10-6
Needs: Right guard, safety, cornerback, outside linebacker, right tackle
The Pick: Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith
Previous Pick: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey
Analysis: Despite the Eagles' need to improve their run blocking, they were still fifth in rushing yards last season. But they were 14th in pass defense and 29th in passing touchdowns allowed, which makes Smith a greater need.

24. New Orleans Saints
2010 Record: 11-5
Needs: Defensive end, outside linebacker, defensive tackle, running back, safety
The Pick: Illinois defensive lineman Corey Liuget
Previous Pick: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
Analysis: Saints fans love their unique T-shirts. Would they make some "Too Liuget to Quit" garb next season?

25. Seattle Seahawks
2010 Record: 7-9
Needs: Quarterback, running back, guard, center, safety, cornerback, defensive tackle
The Pick: Washington quarterback Jake Locker
Previous Picks: Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, Miami cornerback Brandon Harris
Analysis: If the rookie wage scale is in place, Locker would be a very inexpensive risk for the Seahawks at the end of the first round.

26. Baltimore Ravens
2010 Record: 12-4
Needs: Cornerback, right tackle, wide receiver, safety, inside linebacker, outside linebacker
The Pick: Colorado tackle Nate Solder
Previous Picks: Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, Miami cornerback Brandon Harris, Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod
Analysis: By adding a tackle in the first round, the Ravens would have the freedom to part ways with free agent Jared Gaither.

27. Atlanta Falcons
2010 Record: 13-3
Needs: Outside linebacker, defensive end, safety, offensive linemen, tight end, wide receiver, cornerback
The Pick: UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers
Previous Picks: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Georgia defensive end/outside linebacker Justin Houston
Analysis: The Falcons snag Ayers away from the Patriots again this week.

28. New England Patriots
2010 Record: 14-2
Needs: Defensive end, outside linebacker, tackle, guard, running back, wide receiver
The Pick: Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey
Previous Picks: Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston, Villanova offensive lineman Benjamin Ijalana, UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers
Analysis: If the Patriots draft Pouncey and manage to retain Logan Mankins, they could have the meanest combination of guards in the NFL. However, if Pouncey is still around at No. 27, watch for the Steelers to try to trade up.

29. Chicago Bears
2010 Record: 11-5
Needs: Tackle, guard, wide receiver, outside linebacker, defensive tackle
The Pick: Villanova offensive lineman Benjamin Ijalana
Previous Picks: Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod, Villanova offensive lineman Benjamin Ijalana, Colorado tackle Nate Solder
Analysis: Ijalana figures to have the versatility to play just about anywhere on the offensive line, which would be good for the Bears, who need to upgrade just about every position on the offensive line.

30. New York Jets
2010 Record: 11-5
Needs: Defensive end, outside linebacker, safety, wide receiver, defensive tackle
The Pick: Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson
Previous Pick: Purdue defensive end/outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan
Analysis: Wilkerson apparently was a little out of shape during his pro day last week, and that has probably capped his rising momentum.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers
2010 Record: 12-4
Needs: Right tackle, guard, cornerback
The Pick: Miami cornerback Brandon Harris
Previous Picks: Penn State interior lineman Stefan Wisniewski, Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod, Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith
Analysis: This was between Harris and Baylor guard Danny Watkins, and both players would fill a need for Pittsburgh.

32. Green Bay Packers
2010 Record: 10-6
Needs: Outside linebacker, running back, defensive end, guard, left tackle
The Pick: Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph
Previous Picks: Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, Penn State interior lineman Stefan Wisniewski, Baylor guard Danny Watkins
Analysis: The Packers might have a bigger need on the offensive line than they do at tight end, especially since they've already got Jermichael Finley, but Rudolph has been compared to Rob Gronkowski and would add a new element to Green Bay's passing attack.

33 (first pick of second round). New England Patriots
2010 Record: 14-2
Needs: Defensive end, outside linebacker, tackle, guard, running back, wide receiver
The Pick: Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure
Previous Pick: Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor
Analysis: Staying with the same theory here. The Patriots will be aggressive in adding a running back, and some believe Leshoure has the highest ceiling at the position in this class.

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