Given what has transpired over the last two weeks most fans would be convinced that Cam Newton would be the overwhelming favorite to go #1 in the draft with Blaine Gabbert and Patrick Peterson being outside bets. Going by all the visits and the dinners, the Panthers seem like they can't wait to have him come in and start practicing. However, recent draft updates from the likes of Todd McShay remind us that we are still early in the process. What follows is a recap of these changes:
It began with surprises in Mike Mayock's post combine top 32. Mayock definitely seems to have developed a man-crush for Marcell Dareus who is #1 on his board. Additionally, Von Miller has been slotted ahead both Patrick Peterson and A.J.Green at #2. Most interestingly, Jake Locker (#20) continues to be rated higher than Cam Newton (#21).
Other surprises: OT Anthony Castonzo is at #11 - note that Mayock and Castonzo share the same alma mater. CB Brandon Harris and OT Derek Sherrod do not figure in the list.
Von Miller appears to be a lock in the Top 5 (via raindogzilla1)
Continued after the jump...
Mock draft updates from Russ Lande and Todd McShay over the last couple of days follow a similar pattern. Russ Lande has had Marcell Dareus going to the Panthers at #1 in his mock drafts and he continues to keep it that way:
Panthers GM Marty Hurney is sure to be tempted to take the ultimate gamble by picking Auburn QB Cam Newton, but in the end he should go with the much safer choice.
Todd McShay's also has Carolina taking Dareus in his update:
I would think long and hard about passing on Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert with this pick, but general manager Marty Hurney drafted Jimmy Clausen last year and signed Matt Moore in 2007 so there might not be as much support in Carolina for drafting a quarterback as there's rumored to be. Dareus, CB Patrick Peterson and OLB Von Miller are the cleanest of the elite prospects in the 2011 class and defensive tackle is Carolina's top need so Dareus appears to be the most logical choice with his size, quickness and versatility.
even more surprisingly he has Von Miller at #2, going to the Broncos as a 4-3 linebacker and Patrick Peterson falls out of the top 5.
Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki, who also has Peterson falling out of the top 5, is also on the Dareus bandwagon in his latest mock draft. He says:
Ron Rivera's defense starts in the middle, and there is not a more disruptive force on the defensive line in this year's draft than Dareus. He can play anywhere along the line and constantly draw double-teams, freeing up the rest of his linemates to create pressure, while allowing Jimmy Clausen a second year to prove his many critics wrong.
Not to be outdone, Wes Bunting's third mock draft has the Panthers taking Nick Fairley at #1. Bunting had the Panthers picking Fairley in his first mock draft and Cam Newton in his second one. It will no longer surprise us if Cam Newton is back at #1 in mock 4.0.
Michael Lombardi and Don Banks have harped on the Panthers' apparent dissatisfaction with Jimmy Clausen. we have had indications that the Panthers are excited about Cam Newton. Yet some experts are leaning towards DT again despite hints that the Panthers are not serious about a defensive lineman.
Is a DT worth the gamble? (via Daaka2)
Blaine Gabbert's pro day will undoubtedly have an impact on who McShay and Lande put on top of the draft in their next update. It would probably matter more to the draftniks than it would to the likes of Hurney and Rivera. I reckon there will be other revelations along the way that will sway the opinion of pundits. But for now they seem more confused than ever.