1. Detroit Lions – Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia*
This team is a total mess, and may very well be known as the worst team of all time. The best way to fix it is a complete image makeover, and what better way than with a franchise quarterback. Stafford looks to be competing with Sam Bradford as the top QB in the draft, that is if both do indeed declare. The Lions received another first round pick with the Roy Williams’ trade, and look for them to assess the LT position with that pick.
2. St. Louis Rams – Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss.
The Rams made it pretty well known that they wanted Jake Long last year, but instead had to settle with Chris Long. With 3 premier tackles in the draft, look for the Rams to grab one of them. The decision will come down to Oher and Alabama tackle Andre Smith. I am a huge fan of Oher, who is known to many fans because of his story, The Blind Side. Oher can also play guard. Expect by April for either Smith or Oher to separate himself as the elite tackle of the draft. Either one is good enough to make a Jake Long/Joe Thomas impact.
3. Kansas City Chiefs – Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma*
You know a team needs a franchise quarterback when they have started 3 QBs already. Tyler Thigpen has shown blasts of “potential” but the only thing that potential led to was losing. Chris Redman showed the same potential for Atlanta, and the Falcons still drafted a QB and that decision ended up being brilliant. In a weak year for quarterbacks, teams such as the Chiefs are going to have to draft their quarterback early. The Chiefs will probably take the quarterback that is left between Bradford and Stafford.
4. Seattle Seahawks – Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech*
I think if this 2008 college football season has taught us anything it is that Michael Crabtree is by far the best college football player, an has easily earned himself a top 10 draft pick. At 6-3, 215 lbs, he has the size QB’s dream of. A sure handed receiver, he has shown he is more than just a product of a system. The Seahawks have suffered from so many WR injuries this past season that a WR is needed, and only one deserving of a top 10 pick is Crabtree. CB Malcolm Jenkins is another possibility.
5. Cleveland Browns – Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State*
The Browns could look at DE/OLB Brian Orakpo or OLB Aaron Curry to help their outside pass rush, but instead take the local product in Wells. Jamal Lewis seems to be the near the end of a great career and the NFL has definitely shown us that it is a 2 RB league. All good teams now have at least 2 solid running backs and 3 if you are the New York Giants. Wells is the elite RB on the board, and as long as team doctors give the OK, he should be a top 10 pick. I was a big fan of Malcolm Jenkins at this spot, but Brandon McDonald has shown much improvement as the 2nd CB for the Browns.
6. Cincinnati Bengals – Andre Smith, OT, Alabama*
If Carson Palmer is making this pick, then this decision should take less than 5 seconds. Palmer has been banged up because of his struggling offensive line, and to make matters worse is LT Stacy Andrews, the current franchise player, could leave via free agency. Smith should be able to make an immediate impact just like Joe Thomas did. This pick could also be OT Michael Oher or even Eugene Monroe, depending who is available come draft time. The Bengals may consider Chris Wells if he is here, but look for them to try to sign Cedric Benson in the offseason.
7. Oakland Raiders – Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
The Raiders really need to bolster their OL and Monroe would be the smart choice. But we all know Al Davis isn’t very conventional with his choices and loves the athletic specimens, so don’t be shocked if he takes the 6-7 DE, with 4.65 speed in Michael Johnson. However, for now, I say the Raiders take the smart choice as the Raiders have shown glimpses of potential especially behind its two RB’s in McFadden and Bush. Monroe would allow Kwame Harris to be moved to RT.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars – Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
Just imagine 6-7, 335 John Henderson teamed up with 6-5, 375 Terrence Cody. Well that image went away once Cody said he was coming back for his senior year. So the Jags go to plan B and draft one of the top 3 OTs, well that went away with all 3 off the board, so the Jags go to plan C and draft the top CB to complement Rashean Mathis. With Jenkins, the Jags would be getting a top 5 player in this draft and the top CB drafted LAST draft if he had declared. He is one of the most NFL ready CB prospects in the past 10 years. He combines great size (6-1) with great speed (4.40), something needed for a premier CB. He would be an upgrade over Brian Williams and Drayton Florence. LBs Rey Maualuga and Brian Curry are other possibilities.
9. Green Bay Packers – Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
The Packers have a great pass rusher in Aaron Kampman, but severely need someone to complement him on the opposite side of the line. It is unusual for the top DE to fall all the way to the 9th spot, but if Orakpo does indeed look for the Packers to jump on him. Orakpo was the big winner this past season in college’s post season awards, and with his 10.5 sacks showed why. He is physical enough to play on the line, but also has the athletic ability to play some OLB if needed.
10. San Francisco 49ers – Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois*
This decision was extremely difficult, with the 49ers with all sorts of needs including QB, OT, OLB, and CB. I made my decision based on value and depth at the position. Vontae Davis is an elite CB and besides Malcolm Jenkins is the only other one considered a lock to go in the first round. Davis is the ideal shutdown cornerback at 5-11, and 4.35 speed. He is what NFL junkies label “playmaker.” Flashier than Malcolm Jenkins, but probably not as consistent. Even though Jenkins will most likely be drafted first, Davis has a higher ceiling and probably will be the better pro. Davis would team up with Nate Clements to create a solid CB duo and also be on the same team as his brother Vernon. Aaron Curry, Rey Maualuga, and OT Jason Smith are also possibilities.
11. Buffalo Bills – Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
The Bills have a few routes they could go: OLB, TE, and DE. At this slot, I believe the best value is Aaron Curry. Curry is the draft’s top OLB and could be an immediate upgrade over current starter Keith Ellison. I believe this pick is too high for a TE, and believe the depth at DE allows the Bills to wait. After Curry and Brian Cushing, there is a major drop off at the OLB position. At 11, I would consider Curry an almost no brainer.
12. Denver Broncos – Taylor Mays, S, USC*
RB Knowshown Moreno would be perfect here, but if I have learned anything it is that the Broncos don’t draft RB’s in the first round. So until I learn otherwise, I will assume they will stick with strategy. The Broncos’ defense was horrible this past season and with Mays and Maualuga still on the board, the Broncos have their pick of USC Trojans. With safety needing a major upgrade, I think the Broncos go with the safety in Mays. At 6-3, 230, Mays is certainly a physical specimen and would be an immediate upgrade over Marquand Manuel.
13. Washington Redskins – Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
The Redskins’ experiment with Jason Taylor has not gone as planned so the ‘Skins finally get their DE in Johnson. Johnson is the top ranked pure DE in the draft, and I actually rank higher than Brian Orakpo. Johnson is an athletic specimens at 6-7 with 4.65 speed. Johnson has the potential to be one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL and definitely will be an upgrade. Could develop into a Mario Williams/Julius Peppers type DE.
14. New Orleans Saints – Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
Hmmm, Johnathan Vilma is set to become a free agent creating a void at MLB and now Maualuga lands into their laps. This pick looks to be common sense. If Maualuga is off the board, look for the Saints to take James Laurinaitis. Both premier ILBs and both have ridiculously hard last names to spell.
15. Houston Texans – William Moore, S, Missouri
Steve Slaton has been a great surprise for the Texans and thus they can bypass the RB. This pick comes down to upgrading the safety position or giving a complement pass rusher to Mario Williams. With only 2 star power safeties in this draft, I believe the Texans take Moore. DE Greg Hardy or Everette Brown are tempting, but the Texans have been lacking a solid safety. Moore would be an instant starter and immediate help to a team who showed major improvement at the end of the season. After Moore, there is a major drop in safety talent, unless Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle does forfeit his scholarship for the NFL.
16. San Diego Chargers – James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio State
The Chargers could look at 3-4 OLB with Everette Brown in case Shawne Merriman’s recovery is still cloudy, but for now the Chargers could definitely upgrade its ILB position, and take James Laurinaitis. The Chargers always seems to be a team able to make value picks as they seem to have little holes. RB Knowshown Moreno is even a slight possibility.
17. New York Jets – Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia*
The Jets made it pretty obvious they wanted Darren McFadden last draft, but of course were unable to get him. Thomas Jones has been a great asset for the Jets, but he is already 30 years old. If Knowshon Moreno is available here, look for this pick to be a no-brainer. Moreno has the potential to be a superstar in the NFL, and it is amazing he could last to pick 17.
18. Chicago Bears – Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri*
Dear Chicago Bears do Kyle Orton a favor and draft a top wide receiver. Maclin is a true playmaker, and maybe the most exciting college football player to watch this past year. It may be a toss up with him and Percy Harvin. Maclin though may have trouble returning punts for the Bears as they have all-everything Devin Hester. The Bears could also continue to upgrade their OL in OT Jason Smith.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Peria Jerry, DT, Ole. Miss
Every year it seems the Bucs could possibly draft a receiver and every year I predict it, and every year I am wrong, so I should probably forget that idea. Percy Harvin or Darrius Heyward-Bey are tempting, but with the emergence of Antonio Bryant look for the Bucs to turn to their defense and draft a DT. Jovan Haye is an upcoming free agent and Chris Hovan is no superstar. Jerry will compete with Sen’Derrick Marks and B.J. Raji for the honor of being the top DT in the draft. The Bucs have a lot of cap money to spend in free agency, so this need and many of their other needs could be filled, so stay tuned.
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas) – Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
The Lions took the franchise quarterback with the first pick and now they need to protect him with a franchise LT. Last year the Lions invested in RT Gosder Cherilus, now they get his bookend in Jason Smith. The Falcons did this exact thing last year in drafting Matt Ryan first and then Sam Baker with their 2nd first round pick, and look how that turned out. DE’s Everette Brown and Greg Hardy are other possibilities.
21. Arizona Cardinals – Everette Brown, DE/OLB, Florida State
Arizona could look at RB and if LeSean McCoy declares then he could be a possibility here, but if not like he says, then I think the Cardinals upgrade its pass rush and take Brown. Brown can play on the line, or at the linebacker position. His stock has quickly risen the past few months. The Cardinals could also take the safe, but not sexy pick, in center Alex Mack of California.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Eben Britton, OT, Arizona*
Just like last year, expect a run on OL and prospects drafted higher than expected. Winston Justice has been a disastrous draft pick, Jon Runyan is 34 years old and Tra Thomas is 33 years old. Youth is needed on the line, and Britton is the best OT available. Versatile OL Max Unger is a possibility as is TE Brandon Pettigrew and OLB Brian Cushing.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Max Unger, C/G/OT, Oregon
The Vikings may look for a QB, but if they do it, it would be most likely in free agency or via trade. Matt Cassel or Derek Anderson anyone? The Vikings should look to improve its OL with Bryant McKinnie’s future with the team always in doubt and many questions at RT in addition to C Matt Birk being a free agent. With the top tackles off the board, the Vikings will take the versatile Unger who should come in and play center if Birk is not resigned or play RT, assuming McKinnie is next year’s LT. Unger is maybe one of the most interesting prospects in this draft.
24. New England Patriots – Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
Projecting what the Patriots will draft is projecting what Paris Hilton will do next. You just never know. If LeSean McCoy declares, he could be a possibility. For now though, I am going to focus on possibly the Pats’ weakest position, CB. The Patriots CB position was a mess that they even picked up the Bengals’ scraps in Deltha O’Neal. Smith as of now looks to be the 3rd best CB in the draft, and even though he is only 5-9, has great speed and would be a major upgrade for the Pat’s defensive backfield.
25. Atlanta Falcons – Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma*
The Falcons have been one of the best surprises in the NFL this year, and much of it has to do with its strong drafting the past few years. Players from last year’s draft such as Matt Ryan, Curtis Lofton, and Sam Baker are making a huge impact. The Falcons now can start adding to Ryan’s arsenal. One thing Ryan has missed is a stud TE to go to, and Gresham would be just the guy. DT is another possibility.
26. Miami Dolphins – Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
Since August, I have pegged the Dolphins with either ILB Laurinaitis or Maualuga, but with the phenomenal season the Dolphins have had, there is no way either will be available at pick 26, so the Dolphins take Maualuga in Brian Cushing. Cushing is the perfect 3-4 OLB, as he has played both DE and OLB for the Trojans. The Dolphins would love to upgrade its defensive backfield, but Cushing is far better value for now.
27 Baltimore Ravens – Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland*
The Ravens’ top receivers are the aging Derrick Mason, and former first rounder Mark Clayton who seems to be finally blossoming. Clayton looks to be a solid 2, but never a number 1 receiver. Joe Flacco is maturing before our eyes, and one way to continue his development with another weapon to throw to. Heyward-Bey is a 6-3 monster who also runs around a 4.40. He also is a local product out of Maryland, which should get Ravens’ fans excited.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina) – Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma St.
After addressing the OL with their first pick, the Eagles find L.J. Smith’s replacement. Smith was franchised this past season, but expect him to be a free agent. Brent Celek has been a dependable backup, but Pettigrew would be a major upgrade. At 6-6, 260, Pettigrew is that massive target quarterbacks dream of and I like to define as the “safety net.” Pettigrew lacks the speed of an elite TE, but makes it up in being a solid blocking TE, something that QB’s also desire. DE Greg Hardy is another possibility.
29. Indianapolis Colts – Sen’Derrick Marks, DT, Auburn*
The one position that could definitely need improvement for the Colts is DT. They kicked off DT Ed Johnson after a drug possession and tried to trade for John McCargo, but the trade fail through after he failed his physical. Also, DT Quinn Pitcock retired after 1 NFL season. DT B.J. Raji can also be considered.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Duke Robinson, G, Oklahoma*
I had a hard time deciding between Robinson and C Alex Mack. This seems to be a tossup, and the Steelers may actually instead take a tackle such as Phil Loadholt or Jamon Meredith. Robinson is the top guard in the draft and an instant starter for the next 10 years. Ben Roethlisberger has been banged up a lot this year, and the absence of his old LG Alan Faneca is the most logical reason. Roethlisberger gets his new LG in Robinson.
31. Tennessee Titans – Percy Harvin, WR, Florida*
The Titans have failed to draft a receiver the past few years, even though they have lacked the playmaking receiver. But things may change with Harvin because Harvin has something the Titans seem to crave: speed. With 4.3 speed, Harvin fits the mold of previous first round picks Chris Henry and Chris Johnson. Harvin lacks ideal size at 5-11, 195 lbs, but definitely is a speed burner who has been used at RB at Florida. His major negative is he has had some injuries during college.
32 New York Giants – B.J Raji, DT, Boston College
The Giants can go DE, OLB, or DT. Mathias Kiwanuka who moved to DE once Osi Umenyiora got injured could move back to OLB after the season. But if not, OLB Clint Sintim of Virginia is tempting. But I think the better value is instead to add depth and take the massive DT in Raji. Former Boston College coach Tom Coughlin would not be afraid to take another Eagle, he has done so in the past. Raji is a 6-1., 320 lb “filler.” He had some off the field issues 2 seasons ago, but after this past season looks to have boosted his draft stock. DE Greg Hardy and OLB Clint Sintim are possibilities.
Greg Hardy, DE, Ole Miss.
Chase Coffman, TE, Missouri
Alex Mack, C, California
Clint Sintim, OLB, Virginia
Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU