Normally the NFL Draft is a joyous occasion for me; pondering which rookies will be drafted when, figuring out which ones will have a fantasy impact, and just the overall combination of two of my favorite sports, college and pro football. Unfortunately, this may be the last relevant piece of NFL action we get for the 2011 year, so let’s hope the two sides can settle their differences and let the rookies join the party.

Sure he isn't going first, but still - Awesome picture (www.nfldraftcountdown.com)

1.     Carolina – Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn. Is he the best player? No. Is he the best quarterback? Probably not. But is there anyone in this draft nearly as capable as taking over a game and a franchise? Nope.

2.     Denver – Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama. The Bronco defense was bad last year. Like, worst in the NFL in points and yards allowed per game. Literally any position on the defensive side of the ball could use an upgrade, so how about a defensive tackle to help sure up the newly-installed 4-3 defense?

3.     Buffalo –Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M. The Buffalo Bills mustered up 27 sacks last season. This draft is going to set the record for most defensive linemen taken in the first round, and this one might be the most athletic. Think Terrell Suggs type talent here.

4.     Cincinnati – AJ Green, WR, Georgia. AJ missed four games this year, but still put up All-SEC numbers for the third straight year. Talking heads say AJ Green is the most talented wide receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson… not a bad comparison. Then again, they could always take…

5.     Arizona – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. The Cardinals need a quarterback bad. Max Hall or John Skelton are not the long-term solutions. A high pick on a quarterback may be the only thing to keep Larry Fitzgerald in town.

6.     Cleveland – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. I personally think Dunlap is one of the most overlooked players in this year’s draft. Critics love to hate his off-the-field issues, but when it comes down to having him suit up on Sundays, he may have the most potential out of any defensive end in the draft.

7.     San Francisco – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. Peterson is without a doubt one of my favorite players in this draft. He’s big, fast, can cover, and can return kicks. In talent alone he’s top 2-3, but on need he’s top ten.

8.     Tennessee – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina. Not a bad gig for Quinn. He gets the year off as result of a suspension for agent relations in North Carolina and he is still a top ten pick based on talent alone? Yes, he is that good.

9.     Dallas – Tyron Smith, OT, USC. Wow, well where to start. Dallas went from a Super Bowl contender to the laughing stock of the league in a matter of about 10 weeks. They can trade back a few spots and still grab Tyron (a huge need) or trade up to get Patrick Peterson.

10.  Washington – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. My favorite wide receiver in the draft, Julio had a huge combine. He lacks slightly behind AJ Green in frame and ball skills, but he is still a can’t miss prospect.

11.  Houston – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. Injury issues have moved a potential first overall pick down out of the top ten, but I’m not sold on those rumors. Where he gets drafted will be a direct reflection on his health, not physical ability.

12.  Minnesota  – Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri. He is a young, quick, large speed rusher. Minnesota’s defense lost a step last year and it was largely the defensive lines fault.

13.  Detroit – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska. When it comes to Prince, he’s as good a corner prospect as you can get. When it comes to the Lions, they simply need as much defensive help as possible. It’s a match made in heaven.

14.  St. Louis – Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue. Trade up alert! I think the Rams will trade up to grab either AJ Green or Julio Jones to grow along with Sam Bradford, but Kerrigan could play a number of positions in the St. Louis front seven.

15.  Miami – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. Meet the only running back that should even be considered a first round pick. Ricky is over the hill and Ronnie has battled too many injuries in his short career.

16.  Jacksonville – Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA. Some may view this as too high, but Ayers can both play outside linebacker and defensive end. Jacksonville is another team that could trade up for a wide out as well.

17.  New England (from Oakland) – JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin. A man with an absolute motor. Not only can he stuff the run but he is quick enough to get to the edge. Last year, New England had one of the worst run defenses in the league.

18.  San Diego – Cameron Jordan, DE, California. Another extremely athletic defensive lineman, Jordan could anchor the defensive line along with Luis Castillo for years to come.

19.  New York Giants – Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College. I’m as sick as the next guy about saying someone from Boston is needed in New York, but it is true. Offensive line issues were a plague for the Giants last season.

20.  Tampa Bay – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa. A huge physical presence, he will join the two defensive tackles drafted in the first round last year (Gerald McCoy and Brian Price) to anchor the trenches for the next decade.

21.  Kansas City – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin. Kansas City needed a tackle last year but opted for Eric Berry (not a bad consolation prize). Now that their running game is in full stride, why not bring along a rookie to develop and let contribute?

22.  Indianapolis – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado. Besides Jeff Saturday, the Colts’ offensive line just isn’t that good. That’s not the best plan if you want to keep Peyton Manning healthy.

23.  Philadelphia – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado. Back to back Buffalos off the board. The Eagles defense last year was just bad – their offense is the only reason they are picking this late. Any defensive player will do.

24. New Orleans – Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Georgia. Will Smith has been solid for the Saints for many years. It’s about time they draft a young stud to play opposite him.

    25.  Seattle – Jake Locker, QB, Washington. Ah, the Matt Hasselbeck era has gone on for too long. Locker is extremely athletic and a gamer, but how well he progresses goes straight on to his coach, Pete Carroll.

    26.  Baltimore – Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida. In case you had any doubts about Mike this year, just take a look at his twin brother starting at center in the Pro Bowl for the Steelers. Mike is more of a natural guard, but the team that gets him will not mind.

    27.  Atlanta – Aaron Williams, DB, Texas. Williams is a guy you grab when your secondary is already decent so you can plug and play him. He’s a natural corner, but his value comes in that he can also play safety.

    28.  New England Patriots – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami. The Patriots need literally no help on the offensive side of the ball. Harris can team up with old Miami teammate Brandon Meriweather.

    29.  Chicago – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State. Want to avoid that entire Jay Cutler getting hurt situation again? Okay, draft an offensive lineman.

    30.  New York Jets – Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina. A super talented defensive tackle to replace the oft-injured Kris Jenkins? And he has run into off the field troubles stemming from agent relations? Where can the Jets sign up!?

    31.  Pittsburgh – Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame. Rudolph would go much higher if 1. He didn’t get hurt last year and 2. There was a bigger need for tight end. The Steelers have some depth across the board so they can afford to add a playmaker to the offense.

    32.  Green Bay – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State. An absolute monster with an NFL pedigree, the first round ends the way few have before: 13 defensive linemen taken. Heyward on the other side of Clay Matthews spells disaster for opposing offensive lines.