Mock the Bengals.com Media Mock Draft if you must because it's so early on.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett haven't even teed it up yet at their Pro Days (Tuesday is soon enough), the first pick is 52 days away, and already we're charging at the three NFL beat men to make a call for the teams picking in front of the Bengals at No. 4.
Darin Gantt of *The Charlotte Observer *taps Newton for the Panthers, Mike Klis of *The Denver Post *takes Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller for the Broncos and Mark Gaughan of *The Buffalo News *calls Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus for the Bills. Which means this is the most wide open top five draftnicks like Jerry Jones can remember. The experts say the talent teeming at the top is not only bountiful, but overflows into the rarest positions.
"Vegas ought to take this board," Jones says. "There are going to be a lot of mistakes trying to project it."
And Jones, the former Cincinnati pharmacist who has been the publishing his draft survey "The Drugstore List" since Ross Browner (1978), is a lot like everyone else in the guru game right now.
"Take your pick," Jones says.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had a mock before the NFL scouting combine of Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, and Newton 1-2-3. On Sunday, Rob Rang, senior analyst for nfldraftscout.com, posted Newton, Peterson and Dareus. The FoxSports.com board takes Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers with Peterson then Dareus.
Take your pick, indeed.
Newton would seem to be the one constant. He won't be there when the Bengals pick, right? But the one constant in this top five is there is no constant.
"Newton is going to have to pass their character test," Gaughan says. "And if he doesn't, (the Bills) could easily go with the two defensive linemen, Dareus or Bowers. But they've got two months to figure it out."
Like we said, it's early.
Gantt is hopping in his car Monday night and following Panthers head coach Ron Rivera to Auburn for Newton's Pro Day.
"He must be going there for a reason," Gantt says. "I think they were so set on Andrew Luck coming out (of Stanford), they're not going to wait. They need a quarterback."
But Jones says Newton isn't the guy. He's got him somewhere around Nos. 10-11.
"There's no question about his athleticism," Jones said. "He's a great one. But if you look at his progressions, it just seems like No. 1 is the primary receiver, No. 2 is run, and then when it breaks down he looks like a lost soul."
Jones isn't the only one that thinks Missouri's Blaine Gabbert is the top quarterback. He's got company with Kiper and NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. But, like Mayock, Jones doesn't automatically pair up Gabbert with the Bengals. Before Jones obtained a higher profile in the media, he had been allowed to sit in on the Bengals draft rooms in the early '90s, and this one doesn't have a QB feel to it.
Of course, neither did '92 when the Bengals stunned the world and picked Houston quarterback David Klingler.
"There is far less risk up here with the non quarterbacks than there usually is," Jones said. "Peterson isn't polished but it's usually that way with a corner. He's going to be a solid pick. You've got a pass rusher in Bowers, a linebacker in Miller that's a great pass rusher and is a top five pick, and a D-tackle in Dareus that can play all four spots on the defensive line."
Jones, now retired in St. Simon Island, Ga., for the past decade, admits he is biased when it comes to his pick for the Bengals. Another top five lock. Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. Jones has no problem with the notion that no one has any idea who exactly might be trying to throw Green the ball.
(There are always going to be Kevin Kolb rumors, but first there has to be a CBA if there is going to be a trade and second the Bengals don't have a track record for giving up draft picks for a quarterback with seven NFL starts.)
"He had a redshirt freshman throwing to him this year and he was phenomenal," Jones says of Green. "He's big, he can run, he becomes the No. 1 for them. (Wide receiver) Jordan Shipley is a marvelous player and Jermaine Gresham is going to be a great tight end. They've already got a fine core. A.J. Green just about tops it off for them."
But Jones admits anybody there at No. 4 but a quarterback is virtually risk-free. How deep is this thing? The Post's Klis says even though the Broncos cut two defensive linemen last week, everyone knows teams can get a down guy anywhere in this draft from one to 35. But Miller is far and away the best backer with his 17 sacks from 2009 getting more interesting for teams as the draft draws closer, and is a linchpin for the Broncos as they move out of a 3-4 to a 4-3.
"Usually, the draft starts to open up around No. 20," Jones says. "But this one is going to open up right away and it's because the quarterbacks are such a gamble. And one will still probably go in the top five. Maybe two in the top 10. And the draft will be dictated by where they go."