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Defense will still rule; Allen Wilson's Mock Draft: Teams doing their due diligence on draft prospects have seen players' stock rising and falling for the NFL Draft on April 28-30.

In our first mock draft, we said everything was subject to change. Well, a lot has changed since the last installment.

Like every year, we are seeing players' stock rising and falling based on on-campus workouts, medical reports, off-the-field issues or shifting opinions. The closer teams study prospects, the more likely they are to either fall in love or be scared off by their findings.

After researching every team's needs, several of the picks are different from the first mock draft. We now have two quarterbacks among the first four picks and an offensive tackle has broken into the top 10.

One thing that won't change here or when the real draft commences in less than three weeks: defense will rule the selections.

1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn (3). Defensive tackle is a glaring need, but there is a growing belief that the Panthers are enamored by Newton's physical tools and long-term potential. Unless someone blows them away with a trade offer, he's the choice.

2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama (7). New coach John Fox believes in a stout defensive front. The versatile Dareus can play in any scheme and would be a disruptive force at tackle in Fox's 4-3 alignment.

3. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M (5). Quarterback wasn't the biggest need, but they would take Newton if the Panthers don't. There's no guarantee Shawne Merriman will regain top form, so taking arguably the best natural pass rusher in the draft is the smart move.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri (8). Whether disgruntled Carson Palmer gets traded or not, it's time to start thinking about his successor. Gabbert isn't a finished product, but his big arm and athleticism are appealing.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU (6). Can't go wrong taking the safest player and best athlete in the draft. Peterson has elite cover skills and offers great return ability.

6. Cleveland Browns: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia (4). It's hard to find a reason why they wouldn't take Green, whose big-play ability is sorely needed in this offense.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina (12). The Niners haven't been able to generate much of a pass rush. Quinn is more comfortable with his hand on the ground, but is athletic enough to bring pressure from a stand-up position.

8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn (1). Fairley makes a big drop from first mock, but that might work in his favor. His disruptive ability is a perfect fit in the Titans' 4-3 scheme.

9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT, USC (29). Their aging offensive line needs an infusion of youth. The fast-rising Smith is an athletic mauler who could develop into a top-flight left tackle.

10. Washington Redskins: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama (14). The Skins are the most likely team to trade up for a quarterback. For now, we have them taking a physically imposing receiver who can stretch the field.

11. Houston Texans: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska (9). The Texans don't want to draft a cornerback in the first round for the second straight year, but might not have a choice if the technically sound Amukamara is sitting there.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson (2). Bowers' stock has taken a hit due to concerns about his surgically repaired knee. But he's a top-five talent, so the Vikings would be overjoyed if this pass-rushing machine fell to them.

13. Detroit Lions: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado (no change). We're sticking with our original pick here. QB Matt Stafford has injury issues, but protecting him better would be beneficial to his health.

14. St. Louis Rams: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa (10). They covet Jones, but since he's gone they address the pass rush with Clayborn, a relentless pursuer of the quarterback.

15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida (21). Their interior offensive line needs work. Pouncey isn't as talented as twin brother Maurkice, but is good enough to start as a rookie.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue (18). The Jags got it right with DT Tyson Alualu last year and hope to nail their first pick again with Kerrigan, a top-flight pass rusher.

17. New England Patriots (from Raiders): Cameron Jordan, DE, California (NC). The Patriots desperately need to improve their pass rush. Jordan can do that and be stout against the run, too.

18. San Diego Chargers: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin (20). Watt is the perfect 3-4 defensive end. He could be to the Chargers what Aaron Smith has been for the Steelers.

19. N.Y. Giants: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple (new). The Giants want to get more athletic at linebacker, but a strong defensive line can cover up weaknesses on the second level. Wilkerson is an athletic space-eater whose stock is rising fast.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri (24). After addressing their interior defensive line last year, the Bucs look to improve their outside pass rush. Smith has explosiveness off the edge.

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin (23). They have to bolster their offensive line. Carimi gives them a young bookend opposite LT Branden Albert.

22. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College (NC). Peyton Manning hasn't had a legit blind-side protector since Tarik Glenn retired.

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State (32). Sherrod could be the answer to their problems at right tackle, which is Michael Vick's blind side.

24. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State (27). The Saints want to create more pressure up front. Heyward and another ex-Buckeye, Will Smith, give the team a nice pass-rushing duo.

25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB, Washington (NC). Despite a subpar senior year, he is loaded with potential. Patience with him could yield huge rewards down the road.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado (new). The Ravens have cornerbacks, just none that can play press coverage and support the run like Smith can. He has character issues, but Ray Lewis can keep him in line.

27. Atlanta Falcons: Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland (26). Outside of Roddy White, they don't have a receiver that scares defenses. Smith has blazing speed and can open up the field for QB Matt Ryan.

28. New England Patriots: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (15). Offensive line or outside linebacker are considerations here. Ingram's surgically repaired knee worries some teams, but with so many early picks the Pats can take a chance on upgrading their backfield.

29. Chicago Bears: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois (new). Offensive tackle is a consideration, but Bears go with a player who can collapse the pocket inside.

30. N.Y. Jets: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia (NC). It would be a mild surprise if Houston was still on the board this late. If he is, the Jets' pass rush would get a significant upgrade.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB Texas (NC). Super Bowl XLV showed why the Steelers need help in the secondary. Defensive coordinator Dick LaBeau would make good use of Williams' coverage skills and aggressiveness.

32. Green Bay Packers: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA (19). The Super Bowl champs don't have many holes, but a compliment to pass-rushing OLB Clay Matthews III wouldn't hurt.

eos e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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