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With the No. 5 overall selection...


Finally, a defensive tackle sighting.

Through the first four days of the 2011 reader mock draft, a variety of positions – quarterback, cornerback, linebacker, defensive end – went off the board for very legitimate reasons. A result was that two potentially franchise-defining interior defensive linemen slid more than many might have expected.

For one player, the slide stopped on Day 5 – and it did so without a mammoth amount of debate.

The day also featured something else that has become a draft-defining trend, and that's the continued debate over/slide of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, long has seemed destined to be the focal point of the draft – no matter where he is selected. The Heisman Trophy was one reason. The off-field problems were another. And then, of course, there are the constant questions about just how well his game will translate to the NFL, and whether he is a safe selection.

So far the 2011 reader mock draft has reflected that, with readers discussing Newton – and many picking him – each day, but never enough to really form enough of a consensus to have him go off the board.

You get the feeling that's how it is for a lot of teams discussing him, too.

How far will Newton fall? Will he fall at all?

Where will value meet risk/reward?

"Cam Newton is the pick here,' Bran Ramsby writes, adding. "He is the next slash."

Considering the first Slash – Kordell Stewart – was a very good NFL player, but not necessarily a franchise quarterback, you can make the argument that Ramsby was arguing his own point a bit, Ryan Nearhood weighed around the same time with, "I don't see Cam Newton fitting in here."

Enough readers agreed here that Newton slipped at least one more day.

Newton's Auburn teammate, Nick Fairley, also slipped again, and a day after Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers went No. 4 overall to Cincinnati, there was fairly sizeable support for North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn – more support, even, than for Fairley.

There was nary a mention of Georgia wide receiver A.J. – yes, A.J. -- Green on Day 5, and while

Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara received his first mention, perhaps the most notable trend was a gurgling of support for Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett here.

"He&39;s not as mobile as Roethlisberger, but Kurt Warner, Derek Anderson and Max Hall aren&39;t exactly great athletes either," Ben Corny writes, adding, "Mallett&39;s huge and he&39;s got a Howitzer for an arm, two things (Cardinals Head Coach) Ken Whisenhunt loves in his QBs. Whisenhunt probably also figures that Mallett will be a choir boy compared to Roethlisberger, and he can handle any 'head case' issues that arise. . . .

"Does it make sense? No. Is it what I would do? No. But if you&39;ve spent a little too much time in the sun (and trust me, there&39;s no shortage of sun down there), Ryan Mallett is a low-risk pick at five overall, and he fills a need nicely."

Such logic, while entertaining, wasn't remotely enough to make Mallett the selection – not on a day on which Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus received such strong support.

"There's no way he'll keep a-sliding," Kristian Vandenburg Bach -- he of the name longer than his quote – wrote, and Shane Clemons didn't disagree.

"Dareus is the pick," Clemons wrote. "Whisenhunt has said that he wants a veteran quarterback so Newton&39;s out, and that defense needs all the help they can get. That being the case, Dareus is the best guy still on the board."

So, Dareus is the selection for Arizona, which makes the 2011 reader mock so far look like this:

No. 1 | Carolina | Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
No. 2 | Denver | Patrick Peterson, CB, Louisiana State
No. 3 | Buffalo | Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
No. 4 | Cincinnati | Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
No. 5 | Arizona | Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

The senior writer was a bit surprised Dareus made it this long, partly because of the value of defensive tackles in the top five and partly because Dareus in recent weeks has been one of the hot guys among draft gurus. But as we've mentioned quite a bit, the top of the draft is going to be brutally difficult to predict.

Overall, Dareus is a solid selection there. Hard to see him slipping much further, and it wouldn't be shocking if he doesn't slip as far as Arizona. There's a lot of time left before the draft, and there's a pretty good chance Fairley and Dareus could change positions a few more times at the top of the defensive tackle board.

Next up is Cleveland at No. 6. We'll offer up Fairley as a possibility here, and expect the Cam Newton conversation to resume in a big way when the San Francisco 49ers go on the clock next at No. 7.

But that's a conversation for another day. Let's work on No. 6.

Have at it.

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