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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Latest Projections Include Cam Newton, Pass Rusher For Cardinals

The 2011 NFL Draft is yet approaching and soon upon us is the NFL Combine, where draft-eligible players will show off their stuff and NFL team scouts and officials observe, interview and probe potential contributors to their football teams. Players like Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Von Miller and Nick Fairley are all expected to go early, but draft experts keep changintg their projections for the top of the draft.

Our Arizona Cardinals have needs that are well documented, perhaps none more than the glaring need at quarterback. Previous draft projections have the Cardinals taking Missouri's Blaine Gabbert or skipping the quarterback need altogetherand selecting highly-touted cornerback Prince Amukamara.

However, the most recent mock draft has a different pick for the Redbirds and also projects the second round, as well. This mock draft has Arizona taking care of its two biggest needs with these picks -- quarterback and pass-rusher.

It projects that the Cardinals will select Auburn's Heisman winning Cam Newton with the fifth pick overall, making him the first quarterback selected in the 2011 Draft.

With their second-round selection, Arizona is projected to draft a defensive end from down south in Tucson -- Arizona's Brooks Reed.

These selections on paper make a lot of sense. It would take care of the team's two biggest holes, but I am hesitant at selecting a quarterback that high. Cam Newton is very intriguing, as has been documented here before, but it seems very unlikely that Ken Whisenhunt would draft a quarterback that high who is still considered very raw.

I am warming to the idea of Blaine Gabbert, but he lacks the same sort of buzz that Sam Bradford had last year. We saw with the St. Louis Rams just how quickly things can turn around when you draft a guy like Bradford to be your quarterback.

Another thing to consider is the possibility of Kevin Kolb. Now, with the labor dispute in the league, a trade is impossible right now, but it would seem unwise to draft a quarterback that high and then go after Kolb, who would ideally be the starter for years to come. The team already has a pair of prject quarterbacks in John Skelton and Max Hall.

With a pick as high as the Cardinals have and with as many needs as they have on the team, it would seem that the best way to go is to select the guy that will have the most impact. You want a guy who will be an impact from day one. A stud defensive back like Amukamara or Patrick Peterson would be great lining up on the opposite side of the field from Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie. Any linebacker or pass-rusher that could be a game-changer from day one on defense would be the smarter choice. Any quarterback would likely not be a difference maker for at least a season, maybe two.

Acquiring Kolb would eliminate the need to draft a quarterback high. It would allow the team to focus on playmakers on both sides of the football.  

Even still, Kolb or not, the Cardinals are in a position that allows them to go a lot of different directions. They could go with any number of players have have it be a good choice. That is what happens when you are a bad team and have lots of holes to fill. It makes it easier to find a guy who will be an improvement.

While the draft is still more than two months away, and even without seeing any of these guys in their workouts, it will be exciting to see what direction the Cardinals take. With the possibility of a lockout that could viably take away actual games, the draft may well be the only thing to cheer for in 2011.