Magnificent Seven: Predictions for 2011

QB Cam Newton (Tom Hauck/Getty)

Who goes No. 1 in the draft? Which first rounder is destined to be a bust? Is Cam Newton another Ben Roethlisberger or simply JaMarcus Russell? Seven experts share their best guesses.

Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley is going to be the top pick in the NFL Draft if the team in Indianapolis has anything to say about it. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

1. Who is going to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft when it's finally time to hand the card to the commissioner?

New Panthers coach Ron Rivera is a defensive guy, so my money is on Auburn D-tackle Nick Fairley. (John Crist, NFL Analyst)

Nick Fairley. I think Da'Quan Bowers may be the best prospect in the draft, but there is more of a premium placed on D-tackles. So I'm going with Fairley. (Scott Kennedy, Director of Scouting)

New coach Ron Rivera is a defensive guy, so Nick Fairley makes sense. (Bill Huber,

Nick Fairley. Fairley is a franchise player the Panthers can build a defense around. (Jeremy Stoltz,

Nick Fairley. Because defense wins championships. (Jon Scott,

Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers. (Aaron Wilson,

Da'Quan Bowers. Pairing him with Charles Johnson could put the Panthers defense back in the game. (Tim Yotter,

2. Of all the first-round locks in the upcoming draft, who has the look of a bust that never lives up to the hype?

While everyone else seems to love him right now, I'm just not seeing it from Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller. (Crist)

Every single one of the QBs scares me for one reason or another. The proliferation of the spread offense makes the quarterback prospects bigger risks than ever. (Kennedy)

Cam Newton was an all-world college quarterback -- one of the best ever. But if you can't read a defense and throw it accurately at a consistently high level in the NFL, you've got no chance. (Huber)

Da'Quan Bowers. Extremely talented but only shined during his senior year. Could be a flash in the pan. (Stoltz)

It's impossible for Cam Newton to live up to the hype, but maybe not a total bust. (Scott)

Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. (Wilson)

Cam Newton. He's uber-athletic, but teams might not know how to use him and he might not know how to adapt. (Yotter)

3. Who replaces Brett Favre as the starting quarterback in Minnesota since we're (ahem) sure he's retiring this time?

The Vikings and Eagles have run a similar offense for years, which leads me to believe it's going to be Kevin Kolb following a trade. (Crist)

Who is a veteran that's on the block? Can they pull a trade for Kevin Kolb? (Kennedy)

I'm going with Donovan McNabb with Cam Newton holding the clipboard. (Huber)

Joe Webb. Tavaris Jackson is nothing more than a backup. Webb is raw but has all the physical tools to succeed. He's the lesser of two evils. (Stoltz)

The Vikings need a veteran, but Tavaris Jackson isn't the answer. Neither is Joe Webb -- at least not yet. (Scott)

Joe Webb or Marc Bulger. (Wilson)

Kevin Kolb. The Vikings stand a good chance of trading back in the first round and they might need a player to bridge the gap. This isn't ideal, but neither is putting too much pressure on a rookie QB that isn't ready. (Yotter)

4. Which new coach is destined for success? And which new coach is destined for failure?

Since John Harbaugh has done a great job in Baltimore, I'm guessing Jim Harbaugh can do the same in San Francisco. But across the Bay, Hue Jackson may be the next coach Al Davis runs out of Oakland quickly for one reason or another. (Crist)

Success? John Fox in Denver. Failure? Whomever Cleveland hired. (Kennedy)

Jim Harbaugh has some building blocks in San Francisco, starting with his offensive line. You need players to be a good coach and Ron Rivera doesn't have enough of them in Carolina. (Huber)

Success: Leslie Frazier, Vikings. There's still enough talent on this old team to compete well into the playoffs. Failure: Pat Shurmur, Browns. Even Bill Belichick couldn't win in Cleveland. Shurmur is no Belichick. (Stoltz)

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is putting together a solid club, while Raiders coach Hue Jackson will find it tough slogging along as Al Davis calls the shots. (Scott)

John Fox succeeds. Ron Rivera fails. (Wilson)

Success: John Fox. Not being new to the NFL game, Fox knows how to operate. If he can get the support of the front office, it could be the start of a long, enjoyable union in Denver. Failure: Pat Shurmur. Does anyone succeed with Cleveland? Look at the evidence over the past... well, too long. (Yotter)

5. Who are your early favorites for rookie of the year, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball?

Alabama running back Mark Ingram on offense, as he can be a real workhorse right out of the gate. LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson on defense, in part because he'll be great on special teams, too. (Crist)

Offense: Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. Defense: LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. (Kennedy)

A.J. Green looks like a star receiver. Then again, will he have a quarterback? To win the award on defense, you need stats. Sacks are easier to get than picks for a rookie, so Von Miller. (Huber)

Offense: Mark Ingram. NFL-ready back that could rack up 1,000 yards if put in the right situation. Defense: Patrick Peterson. Shut-down corner is most talented player in the draft. (Stoltz)

Mark Ingram of Alabama on offense and Von Miller of Texas A&M on defense. (Scott)

Offense? Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. Defense? Alabama tackle Marcell Dareus. (Wilson)

Mark Ingram and Von Miller. Running backs are usually the quickest of the skill guys to adapt and Miller has a chance to rack up some serious stats if used properly. (Yotter)

6. Is Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton closer to the next Ben Roethlisberger or the next JaMarcus Russell?

I suppose he's closer to Roethlisberger than Russell at this point, but I reserve the right to flip-flop if Newton strives to be the LeBron James of football. (Crist)

I think he's closer to Rothlisberger in terms of success. He has a much better work ethic than Russell ever did. (Kennedy)

The next Russell, unless he winds up in a great situation with a good coach and a great supporting cast. (Huber)

Roethlisberger. Newton's legs are his biggest asset and the reason he won't be a total bust. (Stoltz)

Newton is too talented to be another Russell so by default he'll be good at some point like Roethlisberger. (Scott)

I think he's closer to Roethlisberger. (Wilson)

Russell. He needs to have the work ethic and needs to find an innovative coach. He could self-destruct or simply be asked to be something he is not. (Yotter)

7. Which two teams are going to meet in Super Bowl XLVI for the right to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy?

It's never the teams you think it's going to be when forecasting 11 months in advance so take this with a grain of salt: Eagles and Ravens. (Crist)

The Jets, of course. Rex Ryan said so. They're the only ones that matter. They'll beat Green Bay. The Pack don't lose much on paper, and it's scary to think how banged up they were for much of this year. Seriously, though, I like Green Bay and New England. (Kennedy)

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Packers vs. Patriots. History says the Packers won't repeat, but if they can win the Super Bowl with that vagabond team, what happens when they're healthy? The Patriots were young last year and had a bunch of injuries so they should be better, too. (Huber)

Green Bay vs. New England. Packers are young and loaded with talent. Patriots' six picks in the first three rounds should propel them back to the top. (Stoltz)

Depending on the draft, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Packers return to face the Patriots, who have a boatload of picks to reload. (Scott)

New England and Atlanta. (Wilson)

Packers vs. Jets. Rex Ryan finally breaks through, at least advancing to the Super Bowl. (Yotter)

John Crist is an NFL Analyst for, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.

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