The 2010 NFL season is over and it's unclear if and when the 2011 season will start, but I have good news for Ravens fans (well, besides the Steelers losing to the Packers in the Super Bowl).
That's right, it's mock draft season, which means we'll be glued to the TV whenever ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay scream at each other about what college students look like with their shirts off or we'll be digging up information about a random punter from Idaho just because some yahoo on the Internet said the Ravens will take him at No. 26.
Between now and April's draft -- yes, there will be one no matter what -- I'll pump out a few mock drafts, too. Feel free to let me know your thoughts, but remember, they are purely speculative and shouldn't be taken too seriously. Well, unless I end up getting some of my picks right.
1. Panthers: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. I wouldn't have faulted the Panthers for tanking the 2010 season to get Stanford QB Andrew Luck, but if that was their game plan, it appears that karma took over. Luck returned to Stanford -- insert your own luck/Luck pun here -- so the Panthers will have to regroup and find a new No. 1 pick. Right now I think it will be Bowers, who will attempt to fill the void left by the departure of Julius Peppers.
2. Broncos: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. The Panthers will consider Fairley, but if they pass, the Broncos will get to choose between Fairley and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. Either player would help John Fox rebuild the defense, but Fairley is a nasty lineman who could have a Ndamukong Suh-sized impact in 2011.
3. Bills: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia. The Bills have bigger needs at quarterback, offensive tackle and on the defensive line, but it will be hard for them to pass up this tantalizing talent, whose skills are reminiscent of Calvin Johnson.
4. Bengals: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. A freakish athlete with character concerns, Newton is a prototypical Bengals draft pick -- and he could be the team's long-term answer at QB should they decide to trade Carson Palmer.
5. Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. The Cardinals have two young quarterbacks in Max Hall and John Skelton, but neither was particularly impressive last season. The Cardinals need a replacement for Kurt Warner and they need one fast if they want to convince Larry Fitzgerald to stick around.
6. Browns: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. After sitting out this past season, Quinn is a mysterious prospect who could rise to the top of the draft before all is said and done. The Browns will find a way to put his vast skill set to use.
7. 49ers: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. Peterson, a potential shutdown corner and electrifying returner, will likely get drafted before this. But hey, this is how it shook out in this mock draft and there's no turning back now. Trust me, though, Peterson won't last past the 49ers, who need to upgrade their secondary.
8. Titans: Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama. Dareus played in a 3-4 scheme in college, and I've seen him going to teams with 3-4 defenses such as the Bills and 49ers in other mocks. But the Titans could use a little beef and Dareus will make plays wherever you put him.
9. Cowboys: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska. With dangerous wideouts such as Hakeem Nicks, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in the NFC East, the Cowboys have to upgrade their secondary to win this division. Amukamara is seen a top-10 pick and scouts rave about his instincts.
10. Redskins: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. A lot of people think the Redskins drafting Newton will be a slam-dunk, but they're probably going to have to move up to get him. If they stay at No. 10, they should consider Jones, who should blossom into a fine starter in the NFL.
11. Texans: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M. Defense was Houston's downfall into 2010. Miller can do a little bit of everything, especially rushing the passer, so he should help.
12. Vikings: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado. Jonathan Ogden and Jared Gaither have company; Solder is six-foot-nine and somehow still has pretty good footwork. The Vikings need to replace that Favre guy, but taking Jake Locker would be a reach and they need help here, too.
13. Lions: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA. Detroit is slowly building a beastly defense. Adding an athletic linebacker of Ayers' ilk will help speed up the process.
14. Rams: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa. He had a disappointing senior season, but the Rams could use another pass rusher to bookend the line opposite Chris Long.
15. Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. Ricky Williams is probably taking his talents away from South Beach and the talents of Ronnie Brown are vastly overestimated, so Ingram makes sense for the Dolphins, who want to run the rock so Chad Henne doesn't have to throw it.
16. Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue. He's one of those "high-motor" guys who somehow finds his way to the ballcarrier.