The NFL is apparently officially locked out. Given that the players' association doesn't exist, but what's left of it will have to fight the lockout - and then antitrust after - there will not be free agency before the draft.
That changes the NFL's landscape of how it will go about picking the new players - most teams expecting free agency won't have the luxury, and no team will have the luxury of knowing whether they'll get to keep anyone (Carolina, for instance, could go from having two free agents to 25+, depending on whether 2010 rules or more traditional FA rules apply).
I haven't talked much about the draft yet, and so far most of the info has surrounded quarterbacks - Andrew Luck when available, and Cam Newton adversely taking that space, right or wrong. At 90% of the time since December started, I've been against taking a quarterback. That's not meant to be a ringing endorsement of Jimmy Clausen, as much as it is a lack of great options. A veteran is needed anyway, so despite the want, you can't reach for an ill-fitting malcontent like Newton.
I can come up with valid reasons to not choose any number of various players, and rarely many reasons otherwise. It's harder to say what I'd do. So what would I do?
I'd pick Marcell Dareus, as of right now. He's not really worse than Nick Fairley, who entered the offseason higher, and has a lot smaller downside and more versatility. But does that mean he's not explosive? Not at all. He doesn't have the higher ceiling Fairley does, but he's better, has been better, and probably will be better long term.
Since most people only saw Fairley in the national championship game this year, consider where Fairley was last year when Dareus was in that championship - winning defensive MVP, returning an INT for a TD and knocking Colt McCoy out of the game. Fairley, like most, watched from home, but not as an Auburn player, as a community college player. Fairley's been more explosive, and for longer.
And, he fits into the pro multiple defense, as I explained in an earlier post. DaQuan Bowers is a left end, Robert Quinn a right end. Fairley is a 3-technique DT. Dareus can play even-front DT, nose, 3-technique under tackle, 5-technique (3-4 DE, lining up on the OT), and in a pinch, 4-3 DE. He's a fluid athlete that can pursue down the line, but has the strength and body type to be disruptive against the run as well.
And it fits a need. Dareus would be the versatile Richard Seymour type player you need in a pro multiple defense, a true 3-down DL, that would round out the power needed in the new defense. An offensive player would be great, if the right one's there, but better to hit on a huge need with a great player than reach for a lesser one.