LB Akeem Ayers
If he's still available at No. 26 overall in Round 1, then the Ravens have to take Akeem Ayers.
Terrell Suggs has been a terrific player in this league since he "slid" to 10th in the 2003 NFL Draft and ended up in Baltimore, recording 68.5 sacks in 125 games and making his way to the Pro Bowl four times -- including this past season. But it's been a while since Suggs had Adalius Thomas on the other side of the formation at outside linebacker, as Jarret Johnson only contributed two sacks and isn't enough of a threat to command extra blockers from the opposition. If the Ravens had a more effective pass rusher at that position, then not only would some pressure be taken off Suggs, but a pass defense that fell all the way to 21st in 2010 wouldn't have to cover receivers so long.
Ayers, a 6-3, 254-pounder out of UCLA, disappointed in terms of pure athleticism at the Scouting Combine, but just remember how foolish it was eight years ago when teams downgraded Suggs because of a poor time in the 40-yard dash.
QB Cam Newton
If he's still available at No. 4 overall in Round 1, then the Bengals have to take Cam Newton.
While Cincinnati swung and missed in the first round on quarterbacks David Klingler (1992) and Akili Smith (1998), Carson Palmer ended up being a home run in 2003 because he quickly developed into a Pro Bowler. Nevertheless, we're talking about a franchise that has only been to the playoffs twice during his tenure and won just four games in two of the last three seasons -- Palmer has finally had enough and is threatening to retire if he's not traded. Even if owner Mike Brown has repeatedly said that he's not going to move the 6-5, 230-pounder, it's time for a contingency plan at the game's most important position since Palmer hasn't backed off his demand.
Newton, a 6-5, 248-pounder out of Auburn, could end up being there if the Panthers decide to go a different direction at No. 1, and even if the Heisman Trophy winner is an unfinished product under center, his talent is undeniable.
WR A.J. Green
Kevin C. Cox/Getty
If he's still available at No. 6 overall in Round 1, then the Browns have to take A.J. Green.
Colt McCoy sure didn't light the league on fire as a third-round pick out of Texas, completing 60.8 percent of his throws with a TD-to-INT ratio of 6-to-9 and a passer rating of 74.5, but apparently he's done enough to be anointed the starting QB in Cleveland. While McCoy is fortunate to have a tremendous running game at his disposal with Peyton Hillis in the backfield, a receiving corps featuring Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie and Chansi Stuckey -- plus whatever Josh Cribbs can do when not returning kicks -- isn't going to take this offense to the next level. When a 30-year-old tight end like Ben Watson is your best playmaker in the passing game, that's not a good sign.
Green, a 6-4, 211-pounder out of Georgia, may not be as polished as the other premier pass catcher in this draft, Alabama's Julio Jones, but he can go up and get it with the best of them and would instantly be McCoy's primary target.
CB Aaron Williams
If he's still available at No. 31 overall in Round 1, then the Steelers have to take Aaron Williams.
All you have to do is turn on the tape of Super Bowl XLV to understand what Pittsburgh's biggest need is going into 2011, as Packers passer Aaron Rodgers picked apart an overmatched secondary -- Defensive Player of the Year or not, a hobbled Troy Polamalu was totally ineffective. The best corner in the Steel City, Ike Taylor, will be an unrestricted free agent once we have a fresh CBA, and the rest of the depth chart (Bryant McFadden, Anthony Madison, William Gay) is average at best. Sure, Polamalu will be good as new the next time he takes to the field, but it may also be time to replace his partner in crime at safety, Ryan Clark.
Williams, a 6-0, 204-pounder out of Texas, appears to be just what the doctor ordered for the Steelers because he has corner skills in a safety's body, so no matter where he ultimately lines up, he should make their DBs better.
|John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|