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Russ Lande: Fairley No. 1 Overall? Not So Fast

There are thousands upon thousands of mock drafts this time every year and this year is no exception. For the most part, they all say the same things. Again, this year is no exception. Most of the mock drafts this year have Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley being drafted with the No. 1 overall pick by the Carolina Panthers and the Bengals, in most of these drafts, are taking Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green with the No. 4 overall pick.

Like many of Cincy Jungle's readers, I fell in love with Fairley during the three hours it took for him to completely destroy the Oregon Duck's backfield in the BCS National Championship game. Unfortunatley, like most of you, I just figured that he was out of the Bengals' reach. Ah, but is he?

The Sporting News NFL writer Russ Lande thinks that it's possible that the Carolina Panthers may find a safer defensive lineman to take with the first overall pick in this year's draft.

With the top pick of the draft, look for the Carolina Panthers to ultimately decide among three defensive tackle prospects — Auburn’s Nick Fairley, Illinois’ Corey Liuget and Alabama’s Marcell Dareus. Though Fairley and Liuget might have more upside because of their elite athleticism, Dareus is the safest pick because he was highly productive in a complex scheme that required him to play with excellent technique, patience and smarts.

Panthers new coach Ron Rivera can’t afford to miss on this pick if he hopes to become a fixture in Carolina, so Dareus is the choice.

Now, in Lande's mock draft, he still has the Bengals drafting A.J. Green with the No. 4 pick. It makes sense why he would do that too. It is looking more and more like the Bengals are going to let both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco leave Cincinnati, and, if they do, they could use a big-play receiver like Green to help move the ball down the field.

On the other hand, though, we should remember how well the Bengals offense moved the ball without TOcho when they played the Chargers. Could Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham be enough for Carson Palmer, or whoever is taking the snaps for the Bengals, move the ball down the field? If so, wouldn't they be better served drafting Fairley with their first-round pick?

The Bengals defense has had good and not so good years under defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. One thing that they've lacked over the years, though, is that one player that Bengals fans love and fans from other teams love to hate. The Ravens and the Steelers have them: Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu. Fairley's "dirty player" attitude could allow him to be that guy for the Bengals. He could add that much needed spark on the defensive line and for the defense on a whole.

Lande has Fairley falling to the eighth pick in the draft, being selected by the Titans. Do you think he would, or should, fall past the Bengals?