The NFL Coaching Carousel's Effect on the Draft
By: Justin Onslow
February 17, 2011
Ron Rivera
Five of the top eight teams picking in the NFL Draft this year will be employing a new head coach for the next season of action. Whether that is the 2011 or 2012 season is yet to be determined, but the draft will happen regardless, and those teams will need to decide toward which direction they are to steer. This week's spotlight will focus on those teams, and what their draft strategy may be on day one.

The Carolina Panthers landed premier defensive coordinator Ron Rivera from San Diego this offseason to be their new head coach, but don't be surprised if the Panthers look for offense in the first round this year. A.J. Green has long been in the discussion to go number one overall this April, and that is still a good possibility. Green's talent is incredible, and with the stagnation of Carolina's offense last season and a new quarterback at the helm, the Panthers may look to Green to take pressure off Steve Smith on the outside and turn Smith into a production machine again. Of course, Carolina's defense wasn't much better than its offense last season, so Nick Fairley is a legitimate possibility as well. They are committed to a base 4-3 defense, and Fairley is a great candidate to play defensive tackle in that scheme. Regardless of the direction they wish to take this April, both players can have a huge immediate impact.

John Fox
The Denver Broncos gave up on the Josh McDaniels experiment a little too late it appears, but it's never too late to turn things around. John Fox got the boot from Carolina after a string of futility. That said, Fox is a coach widely respected around the league for his coaching ability, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Denver is currently in talks with premier veteran corner Champ Bailey regarding an extension, but it seems those discussions are not going well. Luckily for Denver, LSU's Patrick Peterson is an elite cornerback prospect who could easily go second overall and fill a hole in the Denver secondary. Denver has used a lot of picks in recent years on offensive players -- including Tim Tebow, Demaryius Thomas and Knowshon Moreno in the first round -- so defense is a good possibility this year.

Pat Shurmur
Cleveland cleaned house this year after another disappointing season, starting with head coach Eric Mangini, who was replaced by West-Coast offense guru Pat Shurmur. Luckily, the Browns have a pretty solid WCO quarterback in Colt McCoy, and although they are thin at the receiver position, no one seems like the right fit at pick number 6 unless A.J. Green slips this far. Along with a new head coach, the Browns also parted ways with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Their defensive scheme is up in the air, but they made a point to release veterans Shaun Rogers, Eric Barton, David Bowens and Kenyon Colemna, which is a sure sign they wish to rebuild the front seven this offseason. At number six, there are a slew of viable candidates to start immediately in a revamped Browns defense. Among those prospects are Alabama's Marcell Dareus, Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers and North Carolina's Robert Quinn. Each has the potential to play in several systems and add a game-breaking element to a defense in need. Expect the Browns to take the safe route and address their need in the front seven.

Jim Harburgh
San Francisco replaced Mike Singletary with former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh this offseason, but they have other worries than those concerning a smooth transition at head coach. The Niners were among the biggest underachievers in the league last season, despite a core of talented young players. San Francisco drafted well last season, but still need some help at the quarterback position. In fact, they need a lot of help. Former first overall pick Alex Smith has never reached the precipice of his potential, and Troy Smith does not appear to be the answer either. That said, new head coaches don't tend to want to hitch their wagons to rookie quarterbacks, and it's hard to imagine Harbaugh will want to latch on to a project like Cam Newton next season. The Niners need an immediate answer, and there is a good possibility Missouri's Blaine Gabbert will be available when they are on the clock. Harbaugh may be holding out hope for his former star quarterback Andrew Luck next year, however, so don't be surprised if the Niners take advantage of value with this pick and snag a top defensive back such as Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara to shore up their secondary.

Mike Munchak
The Titans, like many teams in the NFL this offseason, are in desperate need of a jumpstart. Step one was the axing of longtime head coach Jeff Fisher. A Vince Young return is out the door, and a defensive front that was once dominant is slowly falling apart. Tennessee could go a number of directions through the draft based on availability. Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Marcell Dareus have all been in the discussion as possible future Titans. All make sense, but just like with San Francisco, it's hard to believe Tennessee will want to gamble on any of the top quarterbacks in this year's class to be the franchise quarterback of the future. The Titans need to get back to stopping the run and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Dareus and Robert Quinn are intriguing choices for the Titans at number eight if they are both available. Dareus fits well in the 4-3 front as a three-technique tackle, while Quinn could provide a multitude of options on the outside.

(May 1) -- The NFL Draft is in the books and Sideline Scouting would like to thank our visitors for making this our most successful year to date. We hope you enjoyed our coverage. Sideline Scouting will be back next year and better than ever. We have some big changes planned that we hope will make your visits here even more enjoyable.

*Cameron Newton
QB, Auburn
Von Miller
LB, Texas A&M;
*Marcell Dareus
DE, Alabama
*A.J. Green
WR, Georgia
*Patrick Peterson
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