JAN. 22 UPDATE: No surprise, but I still have Matt Stafford No. 1. I received an e-mail or two asking why I don’t have Mark Sanchez going first. Matt McGuire did a great job explaining this in his blog. Stafford’s arm is much more powerful than Sanchez’s, so he presents the Lions with more upside. Also, Stafford has much more starting experience than Sanchez. After going 0-16, the Lions can’t afford to whiff here, and taking a signal caller with one real year of starting experience is really risky.
JAN. 15 UPDATE: With Sam Bradford electing to come back for his redshirt junior season at Oklahoma, the Lions might as well begin printing up Matt Stafford jerseys. Stafford’s a near-lock to be chosen first overall.
DEC. 31 UPDATE: Still Matt Stafford. I’ve seen a few mocks with Sam Bradford on top, but I don’t think Bradford is coming out. He’s just a red-shirt sophomore, and Roger Goodell just announced that there won’t be a pay decrease next year.
For more on the Stafford-offensive tackle debate, check out one of the past few entries from my 2009 NFL Draft Mailbag.
DEC. 25 UPDATE: Despite numerous e-mails from Lions fans insisting that the correct course of action would be drafting an offensive tackle, I’m still calling for a quarterback. Detroit needs a face for their franchise. They can’t get a quarterback with Dallas’ selection, but they’ll be able to grab a tackle with that pick.
Also, Lions owner William Darth Clay Sidious Ford doesn’t really care about winning. He just wants money. What brings in more money than a rookie signal caller? Everyone in Detroit will be lining up to buy the new Matt Stafford jersey, especially if he appears to be as promising as Matt Ryan.
PREVIOUS UPDATES: I’m not saying a left tackle isn’t a possibility, but like the Falcons last year, the Lions need a face for their franchise. Right now, that face is Matt Millen, even though he was fired a few months ago. When people think about the Detroit franchise, they think about how Millen helped ruin it.
The Lions can get a quality tackle with Dallas’ choice or in the No. 33 slot. Assuming most of the junior quarterbacks remain in school, they won’t have the chance to secure a top-rated signal-caller in the 2009 NFL Draft.
JAN. 22 UPDATE: It looks like this is going to come down to Andre Smith and Eugene Monroe. Steve Spagnuolo said in his introductory press conference that he wants to really emphasize the running game. Also, Orlando Pace is still under contract for three more years. I don’t know if he’ll last that long, but he’ll at least be back for 2009. If the Rams take Monroe, what are they going to do with two left tackles? Smith makes more sense because he can man the right side until Pace’s tenure in St. Louis is finished.
JAN. 8 UPDATE: No surprise that Andre Smith declared for the NFL Draft. He won’t be downgraded for his suspension in the Airborne Formula Sugar Bowl. Michael Oher could be chosen here, but I went with Smith because the Rams need an upgrade at right tackle until Orlando Pace moves on. At that point, Smith could shift over or just stay at his position.
PREVIOUS UPDATES: It’s been widely publicized that the Rams were ready to pounce on Jake Long if he slipped past the Dolphins. That’s understandable, as the injury-ridden Orlando Pace (yes, he’s hurt again – what a surprise) will turn 34 during the early stages of the 2009 season, while oft-penalized Alex Barron looks like he’s getting benched in favor of guard Jacob Bell, yet another bust acquisition by the Rams. St. Louis needs to draft an offensive tackle as early as possible.
JAN. 22 UPDATE: This isn’t as much of a lock as Matt Stafford going first or the Seahawks taking Michael Crabtree, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that the Chiefs select Mark Sanchez. A new regime usually means a new quarterback, and Sanchez is way too talented to pass up.
Some may argue that new general manager Scott Pioli has never taken a quarterback this high. That may be true, but it’s fairly obvious why – he had Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady in New England. Why would he use a first-rounder on a signal caller? I doubt Pioli read Andy Reid’s NFL Drafting for Dummies.
All the talk regarding New England’s pick last season was that Pioli and Bill Belichick never spent a top-10 choice on a linebacker. Well, they drafted Jerod Mayo, didn’t they?
PREVIOUS UPDATES: With Sam Bradford going back to school, this selection has become a lot more difficult to predict.
I have a feeling that a lot of mocks in the 2009 NFL Mock Draft Database will have Aaron Curry going here. I don’t see that happening. The last time a player who wasn’t a quarterback, running back, receiver, offensive tackle, defensive end or under tackle was chosen in the top three selections was LaVar Arrington (Redskins, 2000). I think Scott Pioli is a slightly better drafter than Daniel Snyder, don’t you think?
Assuming the Chiefs go to a 3-4 with Pioli, Curry would be an inside linebacker for them. With trading down nearly impossible at No. 3 (no owner will want to trade up and pay tons of money to an unproven player in this economy), it’s safe to say Curry won’t be chosen.
So, that leaves us with the following options:
Best offensive tackle available
Chris Wells/Knowshon Moreno
Brian Orakpo/Everette Brown
With Larry Johnson still on the books, I think you can eliminate Wells and Moreno. Wide receiver isn’t a prime need, so the Crabtree selection becomes unlikely. A left tackle could happen – the Chiefs would move Branden Albert inside.
Orakpo is probably out because he struggled against Alex Boone in the Doritos Fiesta Bowl. Brown is a stronger possibility if he has a great performance at the Combine. The Chiefs are likely to switch to the 3-4, and Brown, a nasty pass rusher coming off a huge year, would fit in perfectly.
However, I’m going with Sanchez. A new regime almost always equals a new quarterback. Sanchez is a hot commodity, coming off a brilliant performance at the Rose Bowl, sponsored by Kraft. The knock on him is the lack of experience, but going 28-of-35 for 413 yards and four touchdowns against Penn State pretty much quelled those concerns.
By the way, I’d like to say that this 2009 NFL Mock Draft is based on what I think will happen; not on what should happen.
If I were running the Chiefs, I’d continue to go with Tyler Thigpen. Thigpen did a remarkable job as the full-time quarterback, commanding Kansas City’s offense to 21.6 points per game since Oct. 26. I know he was guilty of a lot of turnovers, but this was essentially his rookie year. He also had a weak running game and a pedestrian offensive line. He’ll continue to get better.
It’s pretty much a lock that the Seahawks will choose Michael Crabtree with this selection. Bobby Engram, 36, will be hitting free agency. Deion Branch, who is always hurt, could be a cap casualty. Nate Burleson stinks and is coming off a torn ACL. The rest of the wideouts are terrible. If the Seahawks don’t address the position, they can have fun struggling offensively next year.
With the hiring of Eric Mangini and the continued use of the 3-4 defense, it looks like this selection will come down to one of three players: Brian Orakpo, Aaron Curry or Everette Brown.
The Browns need help throughout their linebacking corps, so either one of the three would make sense.
I’m saying it’ll be Curry, who will be an instant upgrade in the middle of the 3-4. Orakpo didn’t play well in the Doritos Fiesta Bowl, while Brown at No. 5 will be a bit of a reach unless he blows everyone away at the Combine.
I have trouble seeing this selection as anything but a left tackle. With that in mind, the four candidates for this pick are Andre Smith, Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher and Jason Smith.
With the first Smith off the board and Monroe establishing himself as the top pure left tackle in this class, chances are the Bengals go with the Virginia product. I had Oher here earlier, but some questions have arisen about his consistency in pass protection – something the Bengals struggled with all year. Cincinnati’s front surrendered 51 sacks on the year.
Pick change; previously Michael Oher, OT
If Michael Crabtree somehow makes it past Kansas City, Seattle, Cleveland and Cincinnati, which is very unlikely, the Raiders will draft him. Unfortunately for the Silver and Black faithful, that’s not very realistic.
Oakland needs to improve its offensive line. Mario Henderson played well at the end of the year, so Michael Oher will fit in nicely as a punishing run-blocker on the right side. And if Henderson disappoints in 2009, the Raiders could slide Oher over to the blind side.
One guy I’m keeping a watch on is Everette Brown. I know Brown is strictly 3-4, but since when have Al Davis’ draft picks made sense? If Brown dazzles with a great 40 at the Combine, Undead Al might go with the Florida State defensive end.
Pick change; previously Eugene Monroe, OT
David Garrard’s interception total has soared from three to 13 in just one year. But don’t blame him. He was knocked down more than any other quarterback this season. And according to the sacks totals allowed by NFL left tackles, Khalif Barnes was one of the league’s worst, surrendering 7.5 sacks.
Jacksonville must take care of its franchise quarterback. The team desperately needs to upgrade Garrard’s blind side. Jason Smith, Mike Mayock’s No. 1 offensive tackle, makes too much sense at this spot.
With the hiring of Dom Capers, the Packers will be switching to a 3-4. The centerpiece to any 3-4 is a monstrous, run-stuffing nose tackle – something Green Bay currently lacks.
Matt McGuire has done an excellent job with his 2009 Senior Bowl Updates. In them, you can read all about how B.J. Raji has debacled opposing offensive linemen all week. Raji has really risen his stock, and luckily for him, there’s a team at No. 9 that could really use his services. An alternative here would be Everette Brown.
Pick change; previously Malcolm Jenkins, CB
Manny Lawson has been a bust in terms of his ability to get to the quarterback. While Parys Haralson evolved into a dependable pass-rusher, Lawson has compiled six career sacks in 32 games. Terrible.
It’s time for the 49ers to move on in terms of finding a dynamic sack artist. Everette Brown would be a nice solution; he fits the scheme and he finished the year with 21.5 TFL and 13.5 sacks.
One of the reasons Buffalo collapsed from a 5-1 record and maintained the same draft position it had in April 2008 is its lacking pass rush. The team finished with 24 sacks on the year, and no player had more than four. I know Aaron Schobel missed most of the season, but the Bills had similar problems even when he was in the lineup.
Though he somewhat struggled in the Doritos Fiesta Bowl, Brian Orakpo had a brilliant senior campaign, finishing with 15.5 TFL and 10.5 sacks in 11 games.
Josh McDaniels was just hired as the head coach, and he brought on Mike Nolan as his defensive coordinator. Nolan will implement his 3-4 defense, meaning the Broncos will be busy scouring for the right personnel to fit that scheme in the next two drafts.
They can start by selecting Rey Maualuga, the top pure 3-4 inside linebacker on the board. Maybe he can help the team rank outside the bottom five in defense for the first time in ages.
The Redskins have major problems at right tackle. Jon Jansen, who turns 33 in January, is playing on his last legs. Jansen will be back with the team, but it’s clear that Washington will be looking for a major upgrade at the position.
Eben Britton would fit in well on the right side, and could potentially slide over to the blind side once Samuels’ time is up.
Thanks to Jonathan Vilma’s recent arrest, the Saints will have better luck retaining him. There was no alcohol involved, so it’s clear that Vilma wasn’t training to be Cedric Benson’s disciple, but teams could hesitate to offer the stud linebacker a massive contract.
New Orleans will have to wait until the free agency period begins to re-sign Vilma. If they manage to do that, they can move him over to weakside linebacker and draft James Lauriniaitis to man the middle. The Saints could also keep Vilma in the middle and have Laurinaitis on the weak side. Either way, there’s a good chance New Orleans goes with the Ohio State defender.
This could be a spot where the Texans trade down. William Moore hasn’t exactly been lighting it up at the Senior Bowl, as other safeties are starting to close in on him. Any team desperate to obtain Chris Wells or Knowshon Moreno could move up to this selection.
Either way, there’s a good chance that the Texans land William Moore. Houston’s secondary has been an abomination for years and has always missed a ball-hawking leader. Moore can be that guy. Malcolm Jenkins is also a major option if Dunta Robinson is let go.
It’s amazing how much can change in half a year. In August, LaDainian Tomlinson was going first in nine out of 10 fantasy football drafts. Now, there’s speculation that Tomlinson could be let go. RotoWorld, meanwhile, reported that several NFL executives don’t believe LT2 is even worth a Day 1 selection at this point.
With Darren Sproles also hitting free agency, the Chargers may look to secure a top-tier running back in April’s draft.
A few days prior to the Jets-49ers game, I wrote a short column for USA Today’s Sports Weekly, opining that Shaun Hill was a great fantasy start that weekend. My reasoning was that the Jets gave out 240-yard passing performances like candy on Halloween. Hill went on to throw for 285 yards and two touchdowns. That’s one of about 5,000 examples that proves the Jets desperately need corner help.
Pick change; previously Vontae Davis, CB
The Bears really need help at receiver, and with mega-talents like Jeremy Maclin and Percy Harvin on the board, choosing one of them is a possibility. But I doubt Chicago does that. The Bears will upgrade their perennial strengths – the offensive line and defense – before anything else.
It sounds weird to say this, but the Bears need help at defensive end. Prior to playing the Rams, who count more as a Big XII team than an NFL squad, starters Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye had just five combined sacks in 10 games. Mark Anderson, meanwhile, recorded only one sack. Chicago needs to upgrade its pass rush.
Everyone talks about Michael Johnson not performing up to his physical talents, but the athletic end recorded 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks and seven passes broken up.
When Cadillac Williams went down with yet another injury, I immediately thought of giving the Buccaneers a running back at No. 19. With Earnest Graham coming off injury, Warrick Dunn turning 34 and Cadillac a virtual unknown, Tampa Bay really needs help at running back.
Knowshon Moreno is a steal here. He and Chris Wells would be top-10 prospects if the need for running backs hadn’t diminished.
If Moreno isn’t available, this could be a spot where Josh Freeman comes off the board.
Is this a bit of a reach? I think so. But as we saw last year, the offensive tackle position is in such high demand that teams don’t really have a choice but to target those players early. See Sam Baker and Duane Brown as prime examples.
The Lions surrendered 52 sacks in 2008. They desperately need a dominant left tackle, allowing Jeff Backus to slide inside.
With Brent Celek’s 10-catch performance in the NFC Championship, Andy Reid can focus on upgrading the offensive line in the first round.
Alex Mack is the top lineman on the board. As Matt McGuire pointed out in his outstanding 2009 Senior Bowl Updates, Mack has distanced himself from Max Unger in terms of being the No. 1 center on the board.
Center is not a weakness for the Eagles, but it’s certainly not a strength. Getting a potential All-Pro like Mack would really bolster Philadelphia’s pedestrian rushing attack – assuming Big Red actually decides to run the ball.
Pick change; previously Phil Loadholt, OT
I really want to give the Vikings an offensive tackle, but with all of the top-tier players at that position off the board, Minnesota could look to address its second greatest need, which is cornerback. Cedric Griffin has had an up-and-down season, and Minnesota simply needs more consistency in its defensive backfield.
This is also another spot where Josh Freeman will be considered. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Minnesota went that direction in an effort to find an upgrade for the horrendous Tarvaris Jackson.
Pick change; previously D.J. Moore, CB
Bill Belichick added a young inside linebacker to his roster last April. He may look to upgrade the exterior this time around.
The Patriots struggled to put pressure on the quarterback at times (31 sacks) and Mike Vrabel, though still dependable, will be 34 in August. Something has to be done about this.
Could you imagine how lethal Atlanta’s offense would be if the team somehow acquired a dynamic tight end? Matt Ryan would be unstoppable.
With Brandon Pettigrew going as high as No. 11 in some mocks, the Falcons will be very fortunate if they manage to get the top-rated tight end down here.
Pick change; previously B.J. Raji, NT
The Dolphins can take care of a huge hole at left guard by drafting Duke Robinson in this spot. With Jake Long and Robinson on the left side, Miami would boast one of the elite rushing attacks in the league.
Mark Clayton has started playing really well lately, but with Derrick Mason, who just turned 35, a year away from hitting free agency, it’s time the Ravens begin developing their next No. 1 receiver for Joe Flacco.
Both sides of Indianapolis’ run defense has to be addressed. Defensive tackle has always been a problem for the Colts, especially after the Ed Johnson marijuana scandal. I could see the Colts taking the best available player in terms of a running back, defensive tackle or offensive tackle.
Brian Dawkins is adored by all Eagles fans, but the future Hall of Fame free safety turns 36 in October. Even if Dawkins re-signs with Philadelphia, the team will need to find his successor soon because he’s somewhat of a liability in coverage. It’s clear that Quintin Demps isn’t the answer after his horrific performance in the NFC Championship.
Louis Delmas has really shined at the Senior Bowl and put himself into first-round consideration.
Pick change; previously Brandon Pettigrew, TE
This pick really depends on what the Giants do with Mathias Kiwanuka once Osi Umenyiora comes back. If they bring Kiwanuka back to strongside linebacker, they’ll likely take a defensive end in Round 1. If they keep Kiwanuka up front, they’ll choose a linebacker like Clint Sintim or Brian Cushing.
Wide receiver is also an option, but this draft is so deep at the position that the Giants can take someone like Kenny Britt or Hakeem Nicks in the second round.
Pick change; previously Greg Hardy, DE
Yeah, I know… the Titans don’t draft receivers. Hey, miracles can happen, and maybe they’ll be embarrassed because everyone made fun of them for not taking one last year.
In all seriousness, Tennessee has proven in the past that they look for skill-position players with great 40 times. Percy Harvin would qualify for that.
The Cardinals were somehow able to run the ball during their unexpected playoff surge, but that doesn’t change the fact that they need an upgrade in the backfield. Edgerrin James’ days in Arizona are numbered, while Tim Hightower does too much dancing around.
With tons of talented offensive linemen off the board, the Steelers may choose to add the best available player to their defensive line. That would be Tyson Jackson, who will eventually take Aaron Smith’s spot in the lineup. Smith turns 33 in April.
Pick change; previously Alex Mack, C