ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both released their latest mock drafts on Wednesday, and their projections are identical for the top five picks in the draft. They agree that Cam Newton will be the first quarterback chosen and will be selected number one overall by the Carolina Panthers. After that, the Denver Broncos select Alabama's Marcell Dareus, the Buffalo Bills draft Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, the Cincinnati Bengals grab Georgia receiver A.J. Green and the Cardinals take Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert with the fifth pick.
Kiper says this about the selection:
I could also see Arizona getting creative and looking for a veteran arm such as Kolb, but Gabbert is the quarterback in the draft most likely to help a team soonest, and if he's available here, it might be tough for Arizona to pass on him. He offers elite size, accuracy, athleticism and the smarts to pick things up quickly at the NFL level. This is a pick I could see going in several directions, but if Arizona isn't confident they can get a suitable veteran fix in at quarterback, Gabbert is a good choice.
McShay has this to offer:
With Miller off the board, Gabbert is a no-brainer here. The Cardinals might have a trying season in 2011 with a rookie quarterback at the helm but the team cannot believe that Max Hall or John Skelton is the long-term answer at the position. Gabbert might not be the first quarterback off the board but I believe his combination of intangibles, mental makeup and accuracy will make him the best quarterback from the 2011 class when all is said and done.
With Arizona filling their quarterback need with their first selection, they are projected to address their need of an outside pass rusher in the second round. Kiper projects that Arizona Wildcat Brooks Reed will be that guy, while McShay says that the Cards do take a Pac-10 player, but UCLA LB Akeem Ayers.
The one thing that some could question is passing on LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, who falls to the 49ers at number seven. CB is not an obvious need, as the team has Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Greg Toler, whom the coaching staff believes in. If the Cards were to go that route, they might feel that they need to draft a QB in the second round. History shows drafting a QB in the second round is not a good idea.
Obviously this should be seen as a successful pair of picks. The coveted choice of Von Miller is unavailable, so he was not an option. The team takes care of its two most glaring needs by selecting players that many are high on. It is hard to fault them for that. They certainly could do worse (they have done that in the past).