ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper released his latest 2011 mock draft, version 3.0 (the entire first round is only visible to ESPN Insiders). Although we are still over a month away from the actual draft, the combine is complete and the Pro Days have begun. Cam Newton showed off his stuff for Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and several other NFL coaches on Tuesday, while Ryan Mallett was having his in Arkansas the same day. Kiper's latest projections still have six defensive players being drafted in the top ten overall, the big news is that of where the quarterbacks go.
Before the Cardinals select at number five, both of the highest rated quarterbacks will be gone. Kiper projects Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert to be the first overall selection, going to the Carolina Panthers. Three picks later at number four, and just before the Cardinals, the Cincinnati Bengals are projected to select Auburn Heisman winner Cam Newton, perhaps looking to replace Carson Palmer, who is has threatened to sit at home in comfort with his $80 million in savings if he is not donning another team's uniform in 2011.
Kiper's Top Ten looks like this:
1. Carolina: QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
2. Denver: DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
3. Buffalo: DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
4. Cincinnati: QB Cam Newton, Auburn
5. Arizona: OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
6. Cleveland: WR AJ Green, Georgia
7. San Francisco: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
8. Tennessee: DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
9. Dallas: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
10. Washington: WR Julio Jones, Alabama
Here is what Kiper had to say about Miller as the Cardinals' draft pick:
I'm sticking with this selection from the last mock. Joey Porter won't be back and Miller would represent an immediate pass-rushing upgrade on the edge of Arizona's 3-4 scheme. Miller, who has come a long way since a junior year in which he was considered mainly a sack artist, could certainly provide a pass-rushing presence for the Cardinals, but also has a great deal of athleticism and should hold up for three downs in this system.
As for other notable selections, the Seattle Seahawks select Washington QB Jake Locker at number 25, keeping him in the Pacific Northwest (and also almost in the PAC-10, with Pete Carroll and Jom Harbaugh both now coaching in the NFC West).
As for Arizona ties, Brooks Reed, defensive end for the Arizona Wildcats, creeps into the first round, being selected with the 32nd and final pick of the round. He gets to go to the Green Bay Packers and play alongside Clay Matthews, Jr. and AJ Hawk. He had been projected in most other mock drafts to wind up in the second round, some even staying in state and playing for the Cardinals.
We will keep you posted with each mock draft we come across.