ESPN's Mel Kiper has released his first 2011 NFL mock draft of the year and it looks similar to others that we've seen with Missouri Tigers QB Blaine Gabbert going in the top 10. Kiper has Gabbert headed to the Arizona Cardinals with the fifth overall pick.
Going first to the Carolina Panthers is Auburn DT Nick Fairley, second to the Denver Broncos is LSU CB Patrick Peterson, third to the Buffalo Bills is Alabama DE Marcell Dareus and fourth is Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers to the Cincinnati Bengals.
And then there Gabbert at No. 5. Here's what Kiper had to say with that pick:
The Cardinals were a mess at quarterback in 2010, and while Max Hall and John Skelton showed glimpses, both are projects, and there's no real solution in place for next season outside of a trade. Gabbert will be under the microscope during the testing process perhaps more than any other player, but at this stage he's the most NFL-ready QB in the draft. Arizona is in a tough spot: If the Cardinals pass on Gabbert, there won't be a QB who can do more for them sooner than Skelton or Hall later in the draft. Gabbert offers a strong arm, protoype size, reads the game well and has a lot of upside.
Kiper's last point is a good one -- if they don't go with Gabbert now, they're basically committed themselves to Skelton and/or Hall next year, which would be a problem.