It was a close race between Blaine Gabbert and A.J. Green, but in the end the Bengals drafted Green as a premier target in the receiving game. Of course, the question the Bengals face now is who to get to throw to their brand new receiver, because Carson Palmer doesn't seem to be coming back. This also leaves QB Blaine Gabbert on board for all the teams in the top 15 in need of a quarterback.
Today the Arizona Cardinals are up. Like nearly every other team in the top 10, the Cardinals have a huge need at quarterback. At the end of the year they were starting a UFL backup instead of an NFL starter. They must add talent, and it would make sense to do so early in the draft. At the same time they have a lot of other needs. Their O-line is shaky, they have no good edge rushers and their linebackers and defensive backs are far from good. The Cardinals could go a lot of ways with this pick, so who do you think they'll pick?
The draft so far:
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri: Gabbert is now the top QB in the draft. He's a good runner as well, and probably just as athletic as Cam Newton. But he doesn't have Newton's arm, nor does he have his accolades. He's been accurate, but he struggles on deeper passes. He doesn't have Cam Newton's upside, but he doesn't have his downside either. That's because he's completely clean on and off the field. The Cardinals have no one at quarterback and Gabbert is the best prospect at the position.
CB Patrick Peterson, LSU: Quite possibly the best pure talent in the draft. Patrick Peterson is a complete cornerback, physical with outstanding coverage and ball skills. He's probably at his best as a press-man cornerback, which shouldn't be a problem for the Cardinals. Some have also said that he may have to move to safety in the NFL because of his size, but I don't see that and it hasn't stopped his draft buzz. The Cardinals could certainly use a cornerback as their pass defense was horrible last year. They have Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at corner, and he's a good player if a bit of a gambler. But behind him they have no one noteworthy.
DT Nick Fairley, Auburn: Fairley was briefly in consideration for the 1st overall pick after his destructive NCAA National Championship Game against the Oregon Ducks. He's big, quick, strong and explosive, and could be a dominant defensive tackle at the next level. Unfortunately he's also really really raw, which is why he dropped out of the conversation for the first overall pick. He just doesn't use his hands, which means a big learning curve at the NFL level. He doesn't really seem to fit the Cardinals' needs, though, who have a pretty good group of interior lineman in Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell and Dan Williams.
DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson: Bowers is perhaps the best talent at defensive end in this draft. He had a ridiculous junior year with 15.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss. He's a strong run defender and a potent pass-rusher. But there are two concerns about Da'Quan Bowers: his junior year was his first strong year, and he could be a one-year wonder. Second, a knee injury has prevented him from working out and he still wasn't fully healthy at his pro day. if his knee doesn't check out at the Combine Re-check, he could fall a long way on draft day. But if he does check out, he would certainly fit the Cardinals' needs who need some edge rushers.
DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina: Robert Quinn was one of several North Carolina players who were suspended for the 2010 season for receiving improper benefits from agents. Then add to that some minor medical concerns over a benign brain tumor, and it would be easy to understand if Quinn dropped a long way on draft day. But Quinn is a unique defensive end talent, with great speed off the edge and good strength. He kept in shape during his time away from the game and performed well at the scouting combine and his pro day. Overall there are no questions about his commitment to football, and he may be even better than Bowers.
WR Julio Jones, Alabama: Julio Jones is a lot like A.J. Green, perhaps a bit more physical and intimidating but a little less reliable, as he'll drop some easy catches at times. But he's a terrific route runner and should make an immediate impact for whoever drafts him. There are no character concerns with Julio Jones and he's certainly in the running for a top pick. Of course the Cardinals already have Larry Fitzgerald and a solid receiving corps, so this doesn't really fit a need.