NFL Draft: Is Da'Quan Bowers The Panthers' Choice?

For more on the NFL draft, check out Mocking The Draft.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Is Da'Quan Bowers Tops?

SB Nation’s latest NFL mock draft lists Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers as the likely top overall pick by the Carolina Panthers. That seems pretty likely. The Panthers were prepared to take Andrew Luck with the top overall pick, but since Luck decided to stay at Stanford, Carolina might as well just stick with young quarterback Jimmy Clausen and take someone who plays a different position. Bowers, who ranks among the top few picks in just about every mock, is as good a guess as any, although other mocks have suggested Carolina could take Georgia receiver A.J. Green instead.

As for the Steelers, this draft has offensive linemen Derek Sherrod, Gabe Carimi, Tyron Smith and Anthony Castonzo being taken before the Steelers pick, and suggests Pittsburgh will forgo an offensive lineman in the first round:

Allen Bailey, Miami (FL). The offensive line is clearly going to be a big priority for the Steelers when their season ends, but Bailey makes too much sense here — particularly with Aaron Smith’s durability in serious question.

That makes sense too. There seems to be a giant clump of offensive line talent right now and little agreement about how to differentiate it – Sherrod ranks as a first-rounder in pretty much every mock, and Castonzo and Smith are appearing more and more as well, but after that there are a lot of guys like Carimi and Mike Pouncey who could well slip out of the first round. So the Steelers could try to take a defensive end and hope someone from that class falls to them in the second.

The only area player listed in this mock is Pitt’s Jon Baldwin, who goes to the Ravens with the 28th pick.

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NFL Draft: West Virginia's Robert Sands Ready For The Pros

West Virginia junior safety Robert Sands says he will enter the NFL draft. Who knows where he’ll be drafted, but a couple of weeks ago he said he would only consider entering the draft if he were a likely first- or second-round pick, so it’s possible the NFL told him he would go in one of those two rounds. Sands almost never comes up in mock drafts as a potential first-rounder, but I could see him as a second-rounder. Mocking The Draft ranks Sands the 92nd-best prospect in the draft, but the NFL could think more highly of him.

Sands is the latest area football player to leave for the draft; it appears Pitt’s Jon Baldwin and Dion Lewis will go as well, perhaps along with fullback Henry Hynoski. Baldwin will very probably be a first- or early-second-round pick, while Lewis will be down the draft boards a couple of rounds.

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NFL Draft Order: With Playoff Departures, Four More Slots Set

With the departures of the Chiefs, Colts, Saints and Eagles from the playoffs, we now know where those teams will pick in the NFL Draft. So here's what we have so far. Left to be determined, of course, are seven of the eight remaining playoff teams: the Seahawks, Packers, Bears, Jets, Ravens, Steelers and Falcons. The Patriots will also have an extra pick near the end of the first round, although we also already know they will have the 17th pick, which they got from the Raiders.

1. Panthers

2. Broncos

3. Bills

4. Bengals

5. Cardinals

6. Browns

7. 49ers

8. Titans

9. Cowboys

10. Redskins

11. Texans

12. Vikings

13. Lions

14. Dolphins

15. Rams

16. Jaguars

17. Patriots (via Raiders)

18. Chargers

19. Giants

20. Bucs

21. Chiefs

22. Colts

23. Eagles

24. Saints

It has been fun following the mock drafts so far this year, but the draft is still wide-open, even moreso than it was last week when consensus top talent Andrew Luck announced he was returning to Stanford. I'm sure Seahawks fans will take their team's win over the Saints this week, but that win bumps them down at least four more spots in the draft, and they are a 7-9 team with plenty of needs. The Steelers had a bye this week, so we don't know any more about their draft position than we did before this week's games, but that doesn't necessarily matter much, at least not for predictive purposes - we know the Steelers are likely to at least think about picking an offensive lineman with their first pick, and there isn't yet much consensus about where the top offensive linemen will fall in the draft.

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