NFL Draft 2011

For a brief time at the end of this week, millions will gather around their television sets to witness a moment of elegance and regality that will captivate the hearts of people around the world as a new era begins.

We’re talking about the annual NFL Draft, of course.

Some 224 college players will hear their names to officially join the game’s biggest stage.

LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton are among the top players in this year’s draft.

Fans in this area will undoubtedly have their eyes on the TV screen when Roger Goodell makes his way to the podium, as the Buffalo Bills (3) and the Cleveland Browns (6) both have top-10 picks. The Pittsburgh Steelers control pick No. 31, as they come off of their loss to Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV.

Experts agree that the Bills and Browns have multiple needs on both sides of the ball.

With new management headed by President Mike Holmgren, the Browns could go in a variety of directions, and are being careful not to show their hand.

The most likely scenario for Cleveland will likely yield a defensive lineman, as the Browns switch to a 4-3 defense.

Many Cleveland fans are clamoring for the Browns to select a wide receiver, such as Georgia’s A.J. Green or Alabama’s Julio Jones. But the West Coast offense the Browns are trying to implement make an early receiver selection an improbability, as the scheme requires precise route runners in place of tall, athletic wide outs.

Buffalo’s most glaring need lies underneath center. Although Ryan Fitzpatrick performed admirably after coming into an unfavorable position a year ago, the Bills unquestionably need a spark on offense, and a long-term solution at quarterback should be expected.

If Cam Newton or Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert is off the board at three, look for the Bills to try to improve a pass rush that was often lacking in 2010.

Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller, who lit up the combine by running a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, would be a good fit in the Bills’ 3-4 defensive scheme.

Pittsburgh has the least amount of work needed, and has a lot of freedom to take a chance on a high-risk player. The Steelers have a rich history of developing late-round draft picks, so it would be beneficial to see who they select on Friday and Saturday.

Pittsburgh has so many options open, that Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert has even hinted the Steelers may trade down.

When the Carolina Panthers go on the clock with the first overall pick, the hundreds of mock drafts will finally be rendered irrelevant. The only thing for sure is that Jets fan will hate their pick.

JOE CUNEO

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