1. Detroit Lions- QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia
If I were in charge, the Lions would be going defense here and selecting either NT B.J. Raji, LB Aaron Curry or DE Brian Orakpo, but unfortunately the allure of selecting a “franchise” QB is just too great. I’d personally value Stafford as a middle first round prospect and Sanchez as a late first, but both will be drafted higher given the need at the position for several teams.
2. St. Louis Rams- OT Jason Smith, Baylor
The Rams really must go OL here. There is some speculation that they will move OG Jacob Bell to RT and move incumbent RT Alex Barron to the left side, however switching sides will not help Alex Barron remember a snap count and there is little historical evidence that Bell can play outside at this level. A smarter move would be to solidify the left side of their offensive line for the foreseeable future and take the top OT prospect in this draft class.
3. Kansas City Chiefs- LB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
Curry is likely the best all around player in this draft, but still, this is a little early to take any LB in my opinion. Curry does offer a level of safety at this spot though, because he can fit into pretty much any scheme and the Chiefs figure to be either making a permanent transition to a 3-4 alignment or to be playing some sort of 4-3/3-4 hybrid setup. Personally, their personnel fits better into a 4-3, but all their acquisitions point towards them making the switch.
4. Seattle Seahawks- OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
Whether Hawks fans like to admit it or not, lock Hall of Fame LT Walter Jones is on his last legs and coming off of off season micro-fracture surgery. If Jones is able to come back and play at a high level this season, Monroe could easily move to the right side or even potentially to the interior of the line to wait his turn to play LT.
5. Cleveland Browns- DE/OLB Brian Orakpo, Texas
The Browns seriously need to upgrade their pass rush and Orakpo is just what the doctor ordered. Realistically, the Browns could have gone with a variety of defensive players here, however with Curry off the board and a sub par post season from CB Malcom Jenkins, Orakpo or Everette Brown make the most sense. Orakpo should be slightly higher on most teams’ draft boards.
6. Cincinnati Bengals- OT Andre Smith, Alabama
The Bengals find themselves somewhat bent over a barrel. They desperately need help along their offensive line, however the off season has seen nothing positive happening for the next pair of OL prospects, Andre Smith and Michael Oher. The Bengals could also use help at some other spots, however their need along the OL is so great it has almost completely forced their hand. They take their chance on the big man from Alabama.
7. Oakland Raiders- WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Ol’ Al Davis could not be happier that the draft has fallen in the manner it has. Al could have been picking 1st and still would have taken Crabtree. From all outward appearances, this is the easiest and most obvious pick thus far. Skeletor is happy.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars- WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
The Jags could use an infusion of talent at pretty much every offensive position. At this point, they simply take the best offensive player on their board and he should be able to offer a level of explosiveness that the Jags haven’t had in their passing game in a long time, along with a lot of versatility. Some may consider this pick a reach, but Maclin is every bit as talented and is equally as versatile as Ted Ginn, Jr., a former 9th overall pick of the Dolphins who had a reasonably successful year last season.
9. Green Bay Packers- DE/OLB Everette Brown, Florida St.
The Pack are making the transition to a 3-4 defensive alignment this off season. Whether they did that or not, a serious upgrade to their pass rush was an absolute necessity. Brown represents the best available pass rushing prospect, combined with a player that has the versatility to play standing up. He also represents adequate value.
10. San Francisco 49ers- NT B.J. Raji, Boston College
Many folks have the Niners taking a QB here, but I’m simply not buying it. New head coach Mike Singletary, a former LB, knows the importance of keeping his ‘backers clean and there is no better NT prospects in this entire class than Raji. They have many other defensive pieces in place and it is time to add the most important piece to their 3-4 alignment.
11. Buffalo Bills- DE Robert Ayers, Tennessee
The Bills are caught in an awkward spot, as they don’t have too many needs, but their needs are very specific and none of the players at the position really fit in terms of value. I do see them trying to trade back, but projecting trades properly in a mock is simply impossible and you’re better off simply not mocking trades. Ayers has the ability to play both DE spots and even potentially move inside on some passing downs in certain packages. They also might consider someone like Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech, but the Bills would rather take a chance on Ayers as he plays tougher and they stand to play some cold weather games.
12. Denver Broncos- LB Rey Maualuga, USC
This pick hinges largely on what happens with the Jay Cutler situation. If Cutler is traded and a long term QB prospect is not acquired in the deal, look for USC QB Mark Sanchez to be the pick here or look for someone to try to move in front of Denver to get him. Denver would much rather have NT B.J. Raji, but with him off the board, they add another player who will suit them well in their transition into a 3-4 alignment (a recurring theme this off season, it certainly is a copy cat league). Maualuga will offer a level of physicality the Broncos D hasn’t seen since Steve Atwater.
13. Washington Redskins- OT Michael Oher, Ole Miss
The Skins are really the first (and one of few) teams in this draft that really don’t have any major needs. They could stand to add depth and youth to both their offensive line and defensive front 7, but can afford not to reach for anyone. With an offensive minded head coach, I expect this pick to be OT Michael Oher, as he could contribute right away at several spots along the line. But don’t think for a second that the Skins couldn’t go into next season without a change on their roster and not be competitive in the east.
14. New Orleans Saints- CB Malcom Jenkins, Ohio St.
The Saints will be the benefactor from what mostly just measures up as a poor 40 yard dash time. Jenkins is a top 5 talent who slides because of questions about his long speed, however 40 times are overrated and they get the top CB prospect in the draft at a great value and couldn’t be happier.
15. Houston Texans- LB Brian Cushing, USC
The Texans have a few trouble spots, namely SLB and SS, along with a couple smaller issues at C and short yardage RB. The only spot that really matched up in terms of both need and value among the players on the board is SLB, making this a no-brainer.
16. San Diego Chargers- DE Tyson Jackson, LSU
The Chargers could use a more consistent (primarily a healthier) option at DE opposite Luis Castillo. As overrated as Jackson appears to me, he is the top 3-4 DE prospect currently and should fit nicely with the Bolts.
17. New York Jets- QB Mark Sanchez, USC
Brett Favre left a gaping hole at the most important position on the field with his off season retirement. Kellen Clemens is quite possibly the worst QB in the league (no really, he is) and is a prime example for why arm strength is extremely overrated. Sanchez may not have the greatest arm strength, but he is a solid long term option. They really should look for a veteran QB to come in and keep them competitive this season and let Sanchez take over next. That would also allow them to cut ties with Clemens. When will people learn to stop drafting signal callers from Oregon?
18. Chicago Bears- WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland
A big post season has seen DHB’s stock rise greatly and deservedly so. He may have some bust potential, but the potential reward is so great that he is well worth a look here. He should help WR Devin Hester stretch the field and allow the Bears to keep defenses loose in order to open things up for the running game and 2nd round gem RB Matt Forte from last seasons’ draft class.
19. Tampa Bay Bucs- QB Josh Freeman, Kansas St.
To call Freeman a 1st round prospect is a joke. He is only up this high because this QB class is so weak at the top. He certainly has the right sort of brain to run an NFL offense, but you could build a house in the amount of time it takes for him to let go of the ball. Either way, the Bucs need a long term option at the position and options are really already running thin. They have a bevy of other needs, but they start with a QB as so many teams have done in the past. The Bucs are clearly rebuilding.
20. Detroit Lions (From Dallas)- CB Vontae Davis, Illinois
Davis is the best athlete amongst this years’ CB crop and is also the best pure man CB, although he can get lost in zone coverage at times. That, however, doesn’t figure to be a huge issue as the Lions will likely be playing more man coverage in their new defensive scheme under Jim Schwartz. Davis also represents solid value here.
21. Philadelphia Eagles- RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
The Eagles are another team with very clear and defined needs, primarily at RB, TE and OT. Fortunately for the Eagles, they have a lot of good options in the late first and 2 picks to spend. Moreno represents the most versatile of the top backs in this class and, as a result, is the ideal fit for the Eagles pass-heavy offensive scheme. He also has stellar work ethic and intangibles and is a steal at 21.
22. Minnesota Vikings- OT Eben Britton, Arizona
Whether they’d like to admit it or not, the Vikes would have loved to see one of the top 2 signal callers slide to their spot, however they’re plenty happy to nab Britton. Britton would have likely been taken much higher in a weaker OT class, so he does represent good value and could easily slide into the starting spot in the right from day 1. He also could be a long term answer at LT, potentially replacing the inconsistent Bryant McKinnie.
23. New England Patriots- LB Clay Matthews, USC
Mike Vrabel 2.0? Maybe. Matthews is an ideal fit in Foxboro due to his versatility, his attitude, his work ethic and his bloodlines. I don’t think the Pats would have traded Mike Vrabel if they didn’t think they had a shot at this guy or someone like him.
24. Atlanta Falcons- DT Peria Jerry, Ole Miss
Jerry isn’t the ideal DT for the Falcons, but they do have a need along the defensive front and he is just too great of a value for them to pass over. Look for Jerry to get playing time at both the nose and under tackle positions.
25. Miami Dolphins- OG Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
Parcells knows the identity of his team- run the ball and play great defense. Robinson is an absolute mauler at the G position and could play on either side. Parcells likes to build his teams from the trenches.
26. Baltimore Ravens- CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest
The Ravens are paper thin at the CB position and, while they certainly have other needs like LB, WR and others, they really must look here first. Smith doesn’t have ideal size, but he plays with the physicality and swagger that seems to be a prerequisite for playing on the Ravens D.
27. Indianapolis Colts- WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina
The Colts like to spread the field, but you have to have the right personnel to do it. Nicks offers an immediate upgrade over any of their WR not named Wayne or Gonzalez and should also develop into a solid number 1 WR with time. There are questions about his work ethic after coming to his pro day overweight, but the way he plays on the field screams Indianapolis Colt.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (From Carolina)- TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma St.
The Eagles would love a more productive TE for their west coast scheme and, while Pettigrew isn’t perfect, he should be an upgrade over anything the Eagles have had in recent memory. Look for him to have a similar impact as TE Zach Miller in Oakland, as they have similar games (and similar question marks coming into the draft for that matter).
29. New York Giants- WR Kenny Britt, Rutgers
The implosion of Cheddar Plax last year really hurt the Giants chances as they just didn’t have that size mismatch that Eli Manning loves. Don’t expect them to take chances on that this year. With Plax expected to face potential jail time or at the very least league suspension, they need to add that physically dominant player to their WR corps, even if it is just as insurance. With minimal needs, there is also minimal risk for them here.
30. Tennessee Titans- WR Percy Harvin, Florida
Harvin represents great value here. After Chris Johnson showed that speed kills last season, expect them to try to keep with that theme and nab as much offensive speed as possible- and Harvin was a great place to start.
31. Arizona Cardinals- RB Lesean McCoy, Pittsburgh
This might be kind of a puzzling pick with Ohio State’s Chris Wells still on the board, but the Cards have the thunder element to their rushing attack in Tim Hightower and are looking to add the lightning, especially after the departure of J.J. Arrington in the off season via free agency.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers- OC/OG Alex Mack, California
The Steelers are a team with few needs, however their line was criticized frequently last season and I look for them to try their best to bolster that unit. Mack offers the versatility to play any of the interior positions and offers the mauling style that the Steelers are known for. Alex Mack is the ideal Steelers OL prospect.
1. Detroit Lions- NT Ron Brace, Boston College
The Lions need a big body to replace Shaun Rogers and they are few and far between in this seasons’ draft class, which should increase their value. Brace may not grade out as a borderline 1st/2nd sort of guy, but the impact he can have on a team grades out as high. If there is anyone who knows what kind of impact a good NT can have, it’s Schwartz.
2. New England Patriots (From Kansas City)- S Louis Delmas, Western Michigan
Delmas is nearly a carbon copy of current Pats S/CB Brandon Meriwhether. Why would you want another one you ask? Why wouldn’t you? Both are versatile S that can play some CB when needed, but also play well in the box and can blitz. Delmas also could play a rover type position as well and give them a playmaker anywhere on the field.
3. St. Louis Rams- LB James Laurinitis, Ohio St.
The Rams could use help at numerous positions, so the best available player approach (outside of RB, one of few places without a need) could be a likelihood. Laurinitis is a great value here and has the brains to step in from day 1 and start.
4. Cleveland Browns- RB Chris Wells, Ohio St.
The slide is finally over. Wells was thought of as a top 10 pick at one point, but an injury-plagued senior season, along with the devaluation of the RB position due to the 2-Back system and the fact that most the teams looking RB early weren’t looking for big grinders, but instead small, versatile backs, has definitely cost Beanie Wells. At the very least, he doesn’t have to move far and Cleveland gets their heir apparent at the RB position. After all, they can’t ride Jamal Lewis forever.
5. Seattle Seahawks- S/CB Sean Smith, Utah
Some may question the selection of Smith over some of the other S prospects, however his fit in Seattle cannot be questioned. From all outward appearances, the Hawks will be swinging back towards a true Tampa 2/Cover 2 type scheme after abandoning it somewhat last season. Smith is very similar to Tampa Bay S Tanard Jackson. Smith could also drop down to play CB against some of the more physical WR in the league, like Larry Fitzgerald, whom the Seahawks play twice a year.
6. Cincinnati Bengals- DE Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech
That’s 2 boom or bust picks in a row for the Bengals, but they just can’t pass up a DE with Johnson’s level of athleticism and size at this point in the draft, especially considering their complete lack of a pass rush last season. Clearly, at this point, they could either be having the best or the worst draft thus far depending on how their 2 uber talented but still questionable picks pan out.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars- CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt
While the Jags could use more offensive talent, don’t expect them to ignore the D either, especially considering they have a defensive minded head coach. The Drayton Florence experiment failed miserably and the Jags MUST find someone to play opposite Rashean Mathis.
8. Oakland Raiders- LB Clint Sintim, Virginia
Sintim offers quite a bit of versatility. Versatility that the Raiders could really use. Look for him to line up at SLB on 1st and 2nd down and potentially slide in to play some DE on pass rushing downs. The Raiders could use both another LB and another pass rusher and may have gotten both in one pick. Al Davis with 2 good picks in a row? Maybe I should lay off the sauce….
9. Green Bay Packers- DE/DT Fili Moala, USC
The Pack continue their transition toward the 3-4 (luckily they really don’t need much on offense) with this selection. Moala projects to DE in their new scheme. The Pack are one of the few teams converting lucky enough to have solid options at NT, so don’t look for them to stretch for one here.
10. Buffalo Bills- OL Max Unger, Oregon
The Bills know they could use help in the interior on the OL, but they also could use a backup OT as well. Unger can be both. With the departure of Derrick Dockery, the underperformance of the C position last year and the lack of depth at OT, you couldn’t find a better prospect for the Bills than Unger and they’re glad he fell in their laps here.
11. San Francisco 49ers- OLB/DE Aaron Maybin, Penn St.
Maybin is an undersized pass rusher best suited to the 3-4. The Niners run a 3-4. The Niners could use a pass rusher. It’s a pretty natural progression, especially when one considers that many project him to be a 1st rounder. I don’t think the Niners can afford to pass him up here.
12. Miami Dolphins (From Washington)- CB Darius Butler, Connecticut
A small school prospect that fits in nicely to the Dolphins defensive scheme and fills a need. The Phins are one of the more enigmatic teams to try to mock, because of the type of football brain Bill Parcells has- he just doesn’t see the game like many others (trust me, that’s a good thing). You can trust him to take good football players and this pick is no exception.
13. New York Giants (From New Orleans)- LB Marcus Freeman, Ohio St.
You really can’t expect the Giants to go into another season with the group they have at LB. They may have been able to cover up some of its deficiencies with stellar play along the line, but why continue to do that when you don’t have to? Freeman can play any LB spot and will be a great long term addition to the Giants defense.
14. Houston Texans- S Patrick Chung, Oregon
Houston badly needs to add a talented S to the mix. Chung would be a great fit at SS opposite incumbent S Eugene Wilson. He may not be the best athlete at the position in this class, but he is a quality football player.
15. New England Patriots (From San Diego)- CB Victor Harris, Virginia Tech
The Pats tend to run a lot of zone and Harris is an ideal fit and a quality long term replacement for CB Asante Samuel. Look for Harris to duplicate the success of former college teammate Brandon Flowers in Kansas City.
16. Denver Broncos- NT Terrence Taylor, Michigan
Is this a bit of a stretch? Probably, but the options on the nose are slim this year and there will be quite a few teams looking for a quality NT. Taylor is the last of them, so it kind of forces the Broncos hand.
17. Chicago Bears- OT/OG Jamon Merideth, South Carolina
Merideth isn’t the ideal fit for what the Bears have looked for along the OL historically, as he is a little smaller and quicker, but they could use a lineman with his versatility. Look for him to compete for an OT spot, but even if he loses out to Williams and Tate, he may start to supplant some of the interior players.
18. Cleveland Browns (From Tampa Bay)- CB Coye Francies, San Jose St.
The Browns hit on a risky pick at the position before in Eric Wright and now they attempt to duplicate that pick. Francies, like Wright, has had some off the field problems, but is a very talented player physically. Mangini won’t mind the risk, as he knows good corners are hard to find.
19. Dallas Cowboys- WR Brian Robiskie, Ohio St.
This may not be the biggest need for the Boys, but it certainly is a need. It should seem Jerry Jones is realizing that putting talent on the field doesn’t necessarily make you a winner- you need a great team, not just a bunch of great individuals. Robiskie is a technically sound prospect, son of NFL coach Terry Robiskie, and is a quality team player. Jones knows this is the direction he needs to start going with greater frequency.
20. New York Jets- RB Donald Brown, Connecticut
Thomas Jones is looking for a new contract, but even if he gets it, he is not the long term answer. Jones is into his 30s now and that is normally where a RB will hit the wall in terms of his production. Brown is a versatile ball carrier who can certainly carry a load, so the Jets are fine with spending a pick on him here- even if he doesn’t start until 2010.
21. Philadelphia Eagles- OT William Beatty, Connecticut
Beatty isn’t the beefy monster that the Eagles usually go for along the OL, however he does have the best feet amongst the remaining OT prospects- a must considering he will likely be the long term protector of the blind side of whomever is taking the snaps for the Eagles (whether that is McNabb, Kolb or someone else).
22. Minnesota Vikings- DT Evander Hood, Missouri
Hood very well could have gone earlier had the teams with a need for an UT not had bigger fish to fry. The Vikings, however, have to be concerned with the potential suspension of Pat and Kevin Williams, their dynamic duo at DT. A player like Hood, representing great value here, could at least help cushion the blow, along with being a quality long term rotational player (if not better).
23. Atlanta Falcons- TE Jared Cook, South Carolina
The Falcons could use a reliable possession target for star QB Matt Ryan and Cook fits that role perfectly. The Falcons also do not have an incredibly large number of needs, so it’s okay for them to make such a luxury pick reasonably early. Look for them to add a LB or two and also a DB or two later in the draft.
24. Miami Dolphins- LB Darry Beckwith, LSU
The Phins could use some help at the ILB spot, even after resigning Crowder, depth is still a notable issue. Beckwith provides them with a solid long term option and an instant upgrade in terms of depth and he will be a long term upgrade over Ayodele and Torbor.
25. Baltimore Ravens- WR Brandon Tate, North Carolina
There is certainly a risk to taking a guy like Tate, especially this early, but his upside is tremendous and the Ravens are in a position where it is okay to make this sort of pick. Adding a more dynamic element to their offense is a long term must.
26. New England Patriots- OG Andy Levitre, Oregon St.
Adding depth to the interior OL is something the Pats will be looking to do. Given the number of picks they have in the early part of this draft and the relative lack of any pressing needs, even their minor needs can be addressed early, like interior OL depth. Levitre is a solid prospect with solid mobility and eventually could replace Stephen Neal as a starter.
27. Carolina Panthers- QB Nate Davis, Ball St.
The Panthers make their first selection in this draft knowing that poor QB play cost them a chance to advance in the playoffs. Delhomme is a solid veteran who can play another year or 2 while Nate Davis watches and learns. Davis will also be pushed by returning backup Matt Moore, giving the Panthers plenty of options at the leagues’ most important position in the future. Look for the Panthers to add DL help soon after.
28. New York Giants- RB Javon Ringer, Michigan St.
The Giants lost RB Derrick Ward in free agency. Look for them to replace the “Wind” in their Earth, Wind and Fire ensemble reasonably early, given the injury history of Brandon Jacobs and the laundry list of off the field issues that follow around Ahmad Bradshaw.
29. Indianapolis Colts- DT Sen’Derrick Marks, Auburn
The Colts could use help along the interior of their DL. Look for them to add a smaller, penetrating DT as that is what suits their scheme best. Marks is currently the top player on the board at the position and is a natural fit for the Colts.
30. Tennessee Titans- DT Ricky Jean-Francois, LSU
The Titans must start looking for a replacement for Albert Haynesworth, who has left a gargantuan hole in their DL. This pick wont fill the hole, but it is a start. Look for the Titans to potentially add 1 to 3 more players to their DL in this draft class, as Jevon Kearse isn’t exactly young and the Titans will still need more beef to help stop the blood loss from the Haynesworth departure.
31. DE/OLB Larry English, Northern Illinois
English should provide a much needed boost to the Cards pass rush. The Cards didn’t get the impact they were looking for from free agent acquisitions Travis LaBoy or Clark Haggans last season and Chike Okeafor is on his last leg in the NFL. A long term solution at the position is a must.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers- DE/DT Jarron Gilbert, San Jose St.
Gilbert isn’t the most polished DL prospect in the draft, but he might be the most athletic. The Steelers are solid at both DE spots, but are getting a little older, so a selection like Gilbert makes a lot of sense even though it will take him time to develop.