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Doing the QB shuffle

Uncertainty reigns even more than usual entering the 2011 NFL draft because of the lack of sure-fire No. 1 overall picks and the great need for quarterbacks by many teams.

The top QB in the draft, Auburn's Cam Newton, comes with more question marks than Sam Bradford, who went No. 1 overall last year to St. Louis. The top defensive lineman, Marcell Dareus, isn't quite as highly rated as last year's top defender, Ndamukong Suh, taken No. 2 by Detroit. The top offensive linemen aren't as highly rated as last year's top two -- Trent Williams and Russell Okung.

"There's no consensus No. 1," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said on a media conference call. "Everybody's all over the place with who the No. 1 should be."

Here's a forecast for Round One:

1. CAROLINA. Needs: QB, DT, CB. The Panthers are starting over with new head coach Ron Rivera, who has a quality resume. He's a defensive guy. He's burdened by the fact the Panthers gave up the 33rd pick this year to draft athletic Armanti Edwards, a man without a position. The Panthers were last in yards and last in points last year. How are they ever going to get ahead in a division with star QBs like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman? It would not be a shock if they went defense. Nevertheless, the pick is: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn.

2. DENVER. Needs: DT, DE, LB, S, TE, RB. New Broncos head honcho John Elway has four picks in the top 67 but would like to move down and add more. Fired coach Josh McDaniels left the cupboard bare with a series of bad moves. Even though Elway is not sold on QB Tim Tebow, Denver needs defense. The pick: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M.

3. BUFFALO. Needs: DE, ILB, OT, OLB, QB, CB. The belief is the top two on the Bills' board are Newton and Marcell Dareus. If Carolina does not take Newton, General Manager Buddy Nix would be hard-pressed to pass him up. Dareus instantly would make everyone on the Bills' defense better. Is there anyone unaware the Bills ranked 32nd in run defense? If Newton and Dareus go 1-2, the decision gets cloudier. Is it Texas A&M's Miller or Missouri's Blaine Gabbert? Close call. Our sources say Gabbert is very much in the mix. The fact Florida State QB Christian Ponder might not last to No. 34 plays into the decision as well.

The pick: Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama.

4 Cincinnati Needs: QB, WR, S, OL, RB, CB. QB Carson Palmer says he never will set foot in Bengal-land again. The suspicion here is the Bengals will look for a veteran stop-gap while trying to get Palmer to change his mind. Terrell Owens is a free agent and Chad "85" Johnson may be gone. The pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia.

5 Arizona Needs: OLB, QB, ILB, G, WR. The Cardinals need immediate help for their 29th-ranked defense. The pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU.

6 Cleveland Needs: DE, DT, WR, OT. The Browns are switching to a 4-3 and have no defensive ends. They could use a WR like Julio Jones. The pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina.

b7 San Francisco Needs: OLB, QB, NT, CB, WR. It's hard to see Gabbert falling much farther than this. The Niners have said they would like to bring QB Alex Smith back. But new coach Jim Harbaugh likely wants to start fresh at the position. The pick: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri.

8 Tennessee Needs: QB, DT, DE, LB, S. The Titans need a QB since Vince Young is history. Receiver is a possibility, too. New coach Mike Munchak is a trenches guy. The pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn.

9 Dallas Needs: DE, OT, S, DE. The Cowboys would be willing to trade down. They have an aging O-line with RT Marc Colombo, RG Leonard Davis and LG Kyle Kosier all turning 33 this year. Caution: Dallas never has used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman since Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989. The pick: Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal.

10 Washington Needs: QB, NT, OLB, OT, WR. There have been rumblings of a QB pick by the 'Skins. We don't buy it. Washington's defense ranked 31st. Quinn is a slam dunk if he's on the board. The pick: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama.

11 Houston Needs: OLB, CB, FS, SS, WR. Defensive chief Wade Phillips needs a rush man for the Texans' 32nd-ranked pass defense. The pick: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri.

12 Minnesota Needs: QB, S, CB, DE, DT. This looks too early for the Vikes to take a QB. The D-line can use an assist. Big Pat Williams is not expected to return. The pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, California.

13 Detroit Needs: OLB, CB, OT, WR, RB. Coach Jim Schwartz is open to trading on draft day. Detroit needs a true No. 1 corner. The pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska.

14 St. Louis Needs: WR, DT, OLB, RB, CB, S, DE. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo can do a lot with D-line talent, like he had with the Giants. The pick: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois.

15 Miami Needs: RB, C, QB, WR, TE. Miami was 30th in scoring. It needs a running back in the worst way, but the draft is deep in backs. The pick: Mike Pouncey, C, Florida.

16 Jacksonville Needs: DL, S, LB, CB, G-C, WR, QB. The Jaguars were 28th in sacks last year and 32nd in 2009. The pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue.

17 New England Needs: DE, OLB, G, RB. New England has three picks in the top 33 and six in the top 92. A defensive end here makes sense, and Cam Jordan could be the pick. However, they catch a break with a draft slider. The pick: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson.

18 San Diego Needs: DE, ILB, WR, RT, CB. The Chargers are in a good spot to get a quality 3-4 defensive lineman, no matter how the draft breaks. The pick: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin.

19 N.Y. Giants Needs: G/C, OLB, OT, S. The Giants' line is getting older. The pick: Anthony Castonzo, T, Boston College.

20 Tampa Bay Needs: DE, MLB & SLB, RT, CB. The Bucs' pass rush ranked 30th last year. Stylez White led the team in sacks with 4.5. Kerrigan or Cal's Jordan would fit. Not sure this choice fits. The pick: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa.

21 Kansas City Needs: LB, WR, NT, OG-C, OT, QB. General Manager Scott Pioli likes to take low-risk, solid, high-character players. Here's one that fits the bill. The pick: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin.

22 Indianapolis Needs: OT, DT, S, WR, G. Run defense or run game? Both are needs. The Colts will opt for more protection for The Man, Peyton Manning. The pick: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado.

23 Philadelphia Needs: CB, OT, DE, WLB. The Eagles allowed a franchise-record 31 TD passes last year. The pick: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado.

24 New Orleans Needs: OLB, DE, DT, RB, TE, C, OT, S. A defensive lineman, like Clayborn, makes the most sense. The pick: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple.

25 Seattle Needs: OL, QB, DE, DT, CB, RB. Here's where a trade gets more likely. Seattle would like to move down. If Colorado's Smith is off the board, look for the 'Hawks to deal. If they stay, go with Mark Ingram. But the pick here is for someone to move up and take: Jake Locker, QB, Washington.

26 Baltimore Needs: CB, DE-OLB, WR, OT, C. The pass rush produced only 27 sacks last year. The pick: Cam Heyward, DE, Ohio State.

27 Atlanta Needs: DE, WR, CB, OT, CB, RB. The pick: Jon Baldwin, WR, Pitt.

28 New England This is the Pats' second pick. Look for one of the QB-needy teams (Minnesota or Tennessee?) to move up. Call it Minnesota's pick: Andy Dalton, QB, Texas Christian.

29 Chicago Needs: OT, DT, LB, WR, CB. Offensive tackle, defensive tackle, cornerback are options. The pick: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas.

30 N.Y. Jets Needs: NT, LB, WR, S. The Jets don't have a second-round pick. Behemoth Kris Jenkins has suffered season-ending knee injuries two straight years. The pick: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor.

31 Pittsburgh Needs: CB, OT, DL, WR. The need is at corner. Go with the best player available. The pick: Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State.

32 Green Bay Needs: Not many. The Pack won the Super Bowl with 15 players on injured reserve. The pick: Danny Watkins, G, Baylor.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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