NFL draft first-round selections

Not much is predictable about the NFL these days, but this move was telegraphed:

The Carolina Panthers opened the 2011 draft by selecting Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, addressing their No. 1 need by taking the Heisman Trophy winner.

That marks the second consecutive year the Panthers have chosen a quarterback with their top pick, having selected Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen in the second round a year ago.

The Clausen experiment hasn't panned out so far ? Carolina finished 2-14, leading to the firing of coach John Fox ? and now the Panthers will move on to the 6-foot-5, 248-pound Newton, who threw for 30 touchdowns last season and ran for 20 more. He comes to a Carolina team that ranked at the bottom in total offense and scoring in 2010.

The draft, which is taking place at Radio City Music Hall, begins with only the opening round tonight, followed by Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.

This is a particularly stressful and confusing time for the NFL, which is locked in a labor battle with its players and -- on the orders of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson -- must lift the lockout it imposed seven weeks ago. The NFL said Thursday that it will open its doors to players Friday, enabling them to use team facilities again, and the league intends to release information as soon as Friday on the start of the free-agency period.

First round selections:

1. (Carolina Panthers) QB Cam Newton, Auburn

Newton won the Heisman Trophy in his only season at the school, leading the Tigers to a 14-0 record. He passed for 2,854 yards with a school-record 30 touchdowns and rushed for an SEC-best 1,473 yards with 20 touchdowns. Farmer's comment: For the 11th time in the last 14 years dating to Peyton Manning, a quarterback went first in the NFL draft. And the Panthers needed one.

2. (Denver Broncos) OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M;

Miller won the Butkus Award last season as the nation's top linebacker. He finished with 33 career sacks and 10 forced fumbles. He is the only college player named as a plaintiff in the players' antitrust suit against the NFL. Farmer's comment: Miller will instantly improve a defense ranked last in the league in 2010, one that had a league-low 23 sacks (without Elvis Dumervil).

3. (Buffalo Bills) DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama

The marquee defensive tackle in a draft loaded with talented ones, Dareus was named defensive MVP of the BCS championship game. He scored his only career touchdown in that game, running back an interception 28 yards in the first half. Farmer's comment: The Bills were last against the run in 2010 and have been in the bottom 11 the last six seasons. They needed a big man in the middle.

4. (Cincinnati Bengals) WR A.J. Green, Georgia

Green is third in Georgia history with 166 career receptions for 2,542 yards. He's second in the school record books with 23 touchdown receptions. Farmer's comment: The Bengals passed on a chance to fill their need at quarterback, assuming Carson Palmer won't be back, to grab top target.

5. (Arizona Cardinals) CB Patrick Peterson, Louisiana State

Widely regarded as the top cornerback in this draft and maybe the safest pick for anyone, Peterson is versatile enough to play any position in the secondary. In his three years at LSU, he finished with seven interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) with one fumble forced and another recovered. His numbers weren't overwhelming, but he's considered an all-around shutdown corner. Farmer's comment: Patrick Peterson was the top player on some boards. Cardinals were in the market for a quarterbac,k too, but corner was irresistable.

6. (Atlanta Falcons via trade with Cleveland Browns) WR Julio Jones, Alabama

A big receiver at 6-4, Jones ranks second in Alabama history with 179 receptions for 2,653 yards. In 2008, he became only the 11th true freshman in Crimson Tide history to start the season opener. Farmer's comment: The Falcons wanted a deep threat who could really stretch the field and Jones is that kind of player. They got aggressive to get him.

7. (San Francisco 49ers) DE Aldon Smith, Missouri

Although he played defensive end in college, the 6-4, 258-pound Smith is built more like an NFL outside linebacker. He had 17 sacks in his three years with the Tigers. Farmer's comment: Aldon Smith is going to be an outside linebacker for the 49ers and will bump up their pass rush considerably. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert falls another notch.

8. (Tennessee Titans) QB Jake Locker, Washington

The ultra-tough Locker entered his final season at Washington as a Heisman candidate but struggled with his accuracy. He did lead the Huskies to three consecutive victories at the end of the season, however, and directed them to his first bowl game, where Washington posted a win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. Farmer's comment: With Vince Young gone, the Titans needed a quarterback. Locker is tough and fiery, even though he's struggled with accuracy in the pocket.

9. (Dallas Cowboys) T Tyron Smith, USC

Smith played right tackle for the Trojans, but he's one of those rare athletes who's capable of switching to left tackle in the pros. He has extremely long arms, so long that he has to have his shirts specially tailored. Last season, he was the only Pac-10 lineman to record 100 knockdown blocks. Farmer's comment: The Cowboys might move Smith to left tackle. He's extremely athletic and has never played at heavier than 290.

10. (Jacksonville Jaguars via trade with Washington Redskins) QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

Gabbert was 18-8 in two seasons as a starter, ranking third in the school's record books with 6,822 yards passing and 7,280 yards in total offense. His passing-efficiency rating of 132.59 is second in Missouri history. Farmer's comment: Gabbert's tortuous wait in the green room didn't last long. The Jaguars clearly are looking for an upgrade, but David Garrard has his positives.

11. (Houston Texans) DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

A former tight end at Central Michigan, Watt developed into an outstanding defensive end at Wisconsin. In two seasons with the Badgers, he had 106 tackles and 11 1/2 sacks. Farmer's comment: Texans would have loved Aldon Smith at this point, but Watt is a solid strong-side DE who has great feet, being a converted tight end.

12. (Minnesota Vikings) QB Christian Ponder, Florida State

Ponder answered any lingering doubts about the strength of his injured throwing arm and shoulder with an MVP performance at the Senior Bowl. He started 11 games in his final season at FSU, throwing for a single-season career high of 20 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Farmer's comment: Taking Ponder this early is a surprise. He's a mobile quarterback and will need to be ? the Vikings are shaky along the offensive line.

13. (Detroit Lions) DT Nick Fairley, Auburn

Fairley won the 2010 Rotary Lombardi Award, presented to the nation's top offensive or defensive lineman. He set an Auburn single-season record in 2010 with 11 1/2 sacks, winning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. Farmer's comment: Fairley is a great inside pass rusher. Pair him with star DT Ndamukong Suh and Detroit has some serious firepower up front.

14. (St. Louis Rams) DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

An extremely talented pass rusher, Quinn comes with his share of questions and concerns. He was banned from college football for life for accepting cash and gifts, and he has a benign brain tumor that's too close to his spine to remove. Farmer's comment: Quinn is much better rushing the passer than stopping the run, and he should be blistering fast on that artificial turf in St. Louis.

15. (Miami Dolphins) C Mike Pouncey, Florida

Mike is the twin brother of Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, the first-round pick, and 18th overall, of the Steelers last year. To help his team, Mike moved to the defensive side of the ball in 2007. Farmer's comment: If Pouncey can have the type of season his twin brother had in Pittsburgh last season, the Dolphins will feel great about passing on a running back.

16. (Washington Redskins via trade with Jacksonville Jaguars) DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

Kerrigan ended his Purdue career as the NCAA's active leader with 14 forced fumbles, and second among active players with 33½ sacks. He was the first unanimous All-America selection at Purdue since 1980. Farmer's comment: The Redskins found their bookend to Brian Orakpo. Kerrigan had 43 1/2 sacks the last two seasons, leading conference both years.

17. (New England Patriots) OT Nate Solder, Colorado

Solder is enormous at 6-8, 319,yet he's agile enough to play left tackle in the pros. He's a converted tight end, so he's quicker than he looks. He's good in both run and pass blocking. Farmer's comment: Tom Brady isn't getting more mobile, and Solder is a towering tackle who's strong in pass protection. Noteworthy that the Pats passed on BC tackle.

18. (San Diego Chargers) DT Corey Liuget, Illinois

He started all 13 games at strong-side defensive end, and was listed as the most underrated down lineman in the Big Ten by the NFL Draft Report. He had 125 career tackles with 8 1/2 sacks. Farmer's comment: The Chargers need to bolster their pass rush, and Liuget will play end as a good replacement for Jacques Cesaire (only 1 1/2 sacks last season).

19. (New York Giants) CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

In 2010, he was selected a consensus All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. His parents named him Prince in honor of his royal lineage. His grandfather was king of the Awo-Omamma village in Nigeria. Farmer's comment: A bit surprising because the Giants needed an offensive lineman, but Amukamara is a big hitter, and New York has had injuries in its secondary.

20. (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

An All-Big Ten first-teamer the last two seasons, Clayborn had 192 career tackles, 19 sacks and blocked two field-goal attempts. Farmer's comment: The Buccaneers want to build around Gerald McCoy. Clayborn has been outstanding despite a nerve condition that has weakened one shoulder.

21. (Cleveland Browns) DT Phil Taylor, Baylor

Taylor, who can play either defensive tackle or nose tackle, helped the Bears last season reach their first bowl game since 1994. He's huge at 6-3, 337, and is coming off a year in which he had a career-best 62 tackles. Farmer's comment: Reports of foot problems scared some teams away from Taylor, who looked great in the Senior Bowl. A gift for new coordinator Dick Jauron.

22. (Indianapolis Colts) OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

Big, tough and smart, Castonzo started all four seasons for the Eagles and was a Rhodes Scholar candidate in his final year. Farmer's comment: The Colts' offensive line has been in a downward spiral and now it gets a guy who started 54 consecutive games and can protect Manning's blind side.

23. (Philadelphia Eagles) G Danny Watkins, Baylor

Watkins, from Canada, is 26 and worked as a part-time firefighter in his hometown of Kelowna, B.C. He didn't play football until 2007 at Butte College in Oroville, Calif. He was selected fourth overall in the 2010 CFL draft by the B.C. Lions, but opted to return to Baylor for his senior season. Farmer's comment: Eagles want to rebuild the right side of their offensive line. Watkins, who started football late, really impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl.

24. (New Orleans Saints) DE Cameron Jordan, Cal

The son of former Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowler Steve Jordan, Cameron had 16 1/2 career sacks and 34 tackles for loss. He played defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. Farmer's comment: Surprising that Jordan tumbled to this point, but the Saints are getting a terrific player. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams must be doing something right.

25. (Seattle Seahawks) T James Carpenter, Alabama

A left tackle in college who will move inside to guard in the pros. Many people thought he was more of a second-round selection, but the Seahawks clearly saw what they liked. There's no denying this junior college transfer had an excellent Senior Bowl. Farmer's comment: Two guards in the first round? Interesting that the Seahawks opted not to take a quarterback (Andy Dalton) or tackle Gabe Carimi.

26. (Kansas City Chiefs) WR Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh

Mel Kiper describes Baldwin as "a faster Mike Williams" and praises his ability to go up and get the ball in traffic. Farmer's comment: The Chiefs have Dwayne Bowe and ? and? Baldwin, who's almost 6-5, knows how to make plays down the field. Big for Matt Cassel.

27. (Baltimore Ravens) CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado

Regarded as the third-best corner in this draft, Smith reportedly failed three drug tests in college and, according to the same report, told teams that at one point he had abused codeine. Farmer's comment: Smith gives the Ravens a big corner, something they sorely lack. They don't have any experienced corners taller than 6 feet. He's very physical.

28. (New Orleans Saints) RB Mark Ingram, Alabama

The son of former NFL first-rounder Mark Ingram, Mark Jr. is the first player in Alabama's history to win the Heisman Trophy, and just the third sophomore to win. He finished with 3,976 all-purpose yards, third in school history. Farmer's comment: This marks the second consecutive year two Heisman winners have gone in the first round ? Newton and Ingram. Last year, Bradford and Tebow.

29. (Chicago Bears) T Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

The massive Carimi (6-7, 314) is an excellent run blocker who can play either right tackle or move inside to guard. Farmer's comment: Carimi could be a very good right tackle or guard for the Bears, who have addressed their biggest area of need. Offensive line coach Mike Tice has to be pleased.

30. (New York Jets) DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple

The 6-5, 305-pounder is a handful in the middle of the line, capable of making plays. Farmer's comment: With Kris Jenkins gone and Shaun Ellis on the backside of his career, the Jets needed a big, disruptive player up front. Won't have to blitz so much.

31. (Pittsburgh Steelers) DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State

The son of late NFL running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, Cameron is a talented and versatile end. He suffered an elbow injury in the Sugar Bowl and underwent surgery that caused him to miss the combine. By his pro day, he had full range of motion with the arm. Farmer's comment: Heyward's dad played for the Pitt Panthers. Now, Cameron is heading to the Steelers, who have coped with a lot of injuries on their defensive front.

32. (Green Bay Packers) T Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State

The Chula Vista, Calif., native, who was the Mississippi high school player of the year in 2007, is a 6-5, 321-pounder that led the Bulldogs' potent running attack. Farmer's comment: Chad Clifton is on his last legs ? he'll be 35 this summer ? and this allows Packers to eventually move Bulaga to the left side.

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