Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN's draft expert, just released version "2.0" of his 2011 NFL mock draft. Not a lot changed drastically, but Cam Newton is a hotter commodity. He previously projected that the Arizona Cardinals would select Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the number five pick and that Newton would go tenth to the Washington Redskins.
Kiper's latest projections (you can see the entire first round if you are an ESPN Insider) have the Cardinals looking elsewhere besides quarterback with their first-round pick. He has Cam Newton, previously going tenth to the Redskins, now being selected third by the Buffalo Bills, thus allowing more time for him to develop behind Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Gabbert, who was previously projected to go to the Cardinals, now is thought to slip to Washington at number ten.
Kiper projects that the Cardinals will go on the defensive side for their fist pick, selecting Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller. Here is Kiper's take on the pick:
Joey Porter is unlikely to be back, and Miller would represent an immediate pass-rushing upgrade on the edge of Arizona's 3-4 scheme. The Texas A&M standout made his name in 2009 as a sack artist but developed a range of skills in 2010 and has become a complete player. He stands up well against the run and drops into coverage seamlessly.
While we all know that quarterback is an obvious need for Arizona, selecting Miller would be a great move. With the fifth pick in the draft, ideally you should get a guy who can make a major impact. The Cardinals, though, need a guy who can do that from day one. No quarterback is going to be able to do that from the start like Miller or another of the high-quality defensive picks in this year's draft class.
Miller also has the potential to have a longer-term impact, as well. There is nothing not to like about selecting Miller, except perhaps that he isn't a quarterback.
While Ken Whisenhunt does not like to start rookie players right away, he showed that he will give them playing time. All of the rookies on last year's squad got meaningful playing time and all of last year's draft picks who stayed on the team (except O'Brien Schofield) started at some point in the season.
Say what you want about getting a quarterback, if Von Miller is available, it would be hard not to take him.