Mel Kiper decided to go ahead and issue the last update to his mock draft this evening instead of waiting until tomorrow morning. There were a couple changes but he kept his selection of QB Cam Newton for the Panthers:
1 (1) QB Cam Newton
Is he the top player on my Big Board? No. But it's hard to blame a franchise in Carolina's position for falling in love with the extremely high ceiling of Newton. As I said when I projected him here before, there are immediate needs, and there is a decision that you believe will change the direction of your franchise for years to come. While I'm not certain Carolina isn't still listening for the right offer for this pick -- if you're heard me at all lately, you'll know I see this is one of the more unpredictable top 10's I can ever remember -- if the Panthers really see Newton as a transformative player who can be both a Pro Bowl quarterback and face of the franchise who draws a lot of buzz, they make this pick. If talent alone was all they were concerned with, Newton would be an easy choice. But this pick also requires a belief in his development and maturity. Will the Panthers have the patience to let him develop on the bench?
It's the high ceiling that the Panthers have fallen in love with. I remember watching this guy during Auburn's run to the BCS title and being amazed at his athleticism. At this moment I choose to believe that is the Newton we are going to get. Though I don't expect him to light the league on fire as a rookie I still expect him to get on the field by mid season. I'm not buying this stuff about him sitting a year.
More analysis of his top 7 after the jump...
Are You Smarter Than The Experts?
Correctly predict the first 32 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft and you’ll win $10,000,000!
BEST ROUND EVER IN PRIMETIME
Enter at facebook.com/BudLight
Here We Go
Enjoy Responsibly ©2011 Anheuser-Busch, Inc., Bud Light® Beer, St. Louis, MO. ©2011 NFL Properties LLC. All NFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the National Football League. No Purchase Necessary. Contest open to U.S. residents (except CA) 21+. Contest begins 12AM CDT on 4/1 and ends 5:59:59PM CDT on 4/28. See Official Rules for complete details. Void where prohibited.
Here's the remainder of Kiper's top 7:
2 - Denver - LB Vonn Miller
This would make more sense if the Broncos had stayed with their 3-4 defense. Miller's pass rushing ability will be marginalized at the MLB spot or even WLB in a 4-3. I'm not feeling this one.
3 - Buffalo - DT Marcel Dareus
Dareus will be able to play 3-4 NG or DE depending on the down. He's a good fit for the defense starved Bills
4 - Cincinnati - WR AJ Green
Might Chad Johnson be out the door with this selection?
5 - Arizona - CB Patrick Peterson
I have a hard time believing the Cardinals will pass on QB Blaine Gabbert here.
6 - Cleveland - WR Julio Jones
If Gabbert should be on the board here expect someone like the Vikings to move up to get him. Jones might still be on the board at #12.
7 - San Francisco - QB Blaine Gabbert
Gabbert doesn't seem to be a fit in SF so again I'm not seeing this pick happening.
So what do you think if Kiper's final mock?