As the season comes to a close and the college season over, our draft prospects are really starting to shake out. As always I look forward to your questions, comments, and conversation.
1. St. Louis Rams: Jimmy Clausen QB, Notre Dame
This pick is not going to change from QB unless the Rams find a QB in free agency like Jason Campbell. Their number one priority has to be to find a new Quarterback. There’s no debate about it. In the last two years they have passed on Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez. Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh is a great player but he’s not going to single-handedly wins games for them. Clausen had a great season despite his teams overall poor play and scouts will love the fact that he plays in a pro-style offense under center. Heading into an uncapped year means the Rams can dump Marc Bulger’s salary without any future consequences.
2. Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh DT, Nebraska
What the Lions need most is an impact player. This team needs playmakers everywhere other than QB and TE. They need a cornerstone LT to protect their 40 million dollar man in Matt Stafford but Suh is too great a player to pass on. After watching Suh absolutely dominate Texas’ lineman in the Big12 championship to the tune of 4 & ½ sacks and being the first defensive player since 1997 to be invited to the Heisman ceremony, he looks to be the best defensive lineman prospect since Warren Sapp. At this pick, they only other options I can see them going with are Russell Okung or Eric Berry. But if Suh is available they would be crazy to pass on him.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy DT, Oklahoma
The Bucs messed themselves up by winning just enough games to take them out of the Suh sweepstakes. Unfortunately he is no longer available but getting McCoy is not a bad option. Many consider him to be the most technically sound DT in this draft, even more so than Suh. Not having a need for a QB or LT means that this pick would pretty much only be Eric Berry or perhaps even Derrick Morgan if they decide to not go with McCoy. Trading back with a pick this high isn’t really much of an option as other teams will not want to pay the amount of guaranteed money expected to a top 3 pick.
4. Washington Redskins: Sam Bradford QB, Oklahoma
Regardless of whether or not you’re a Jason Campbell fan the fact remains that this team is not winning with him. I know a lot of the problems are because of the injuries to the offensive line but Snyder is going to go with a flashy, big name like Bradford, especially now that Jim Zorn has been fired and Mike Shanahan has been hired as the new head coach. As ESPN has reported, Bradford is having his shoulder operated on by the renowned Dr. James Andrews, who also just happens to be the Redskins team doctor. So Snyder will definitely have the inside track on whether Bradford’s shoulder is going to hold up. If Snyder doesn’t think Bradford’s shoulder will hold up they will target Russell Okung or Bruce Campbell since no other QB is worthy of a pick this high now that Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett has stated that he will stay in school for his junior year.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Russell Okung OT, Oklahoma State
Matt Cassell needs a LT that will give him enough time to throw the ball down field. KC spent a lot of money on Cassell and it would be nice if they got a return on their investment. It would also allow them to move 2008 1st round pick Brandon Albert to LG, his natural position, since it doesn't seem like he can make it playing on the outside. Okung is the top OT in the draft and would be a great addition to the Chiefs O-line. He's athletic, uses his hands very well, and has quick feet to get out in front of speed rushers. If they are somehow still confident that Albert can play LT then this pick could change to Eric Berry or even Terrence Cody. This would be extremely high for Cody but GM Scott Pioli has shown last year with Tyson Jackson that he isn’t afraid to draft on need over value.
6. Seattle Seahawks: Bruce Campbell OT, Maryland
The Hawks find themselves in position to grab one of the top OT’s in the draft to replace the aging and oft-injured Walter Jones. Many consider Campbell to be the top OT, ahead of Okung. Now look for the Hawks to find an heir apparent to often injured Matt Hasselbeck later in the draft such as Old Miss. QB Jevan Snead or Texas’ Colt McCoy. If Campbell is taken before the Hawks pick, this pick will turn to Eric Berry or Derrick Morgan.
7. Cleveland Browns: Eric Berry S, Tennessee
Cleveland needs help everywhere except for LT where they have Joe Thomas. A lot of draft lovers think they will target a QB, but I’m not sure the franchise is quite ready to give up on Brady Quinn. Not only myself but every draft pundit you hear, including Mel Kiper and Todd McShay of ESPN, have said that Berry is an absolute stud and top player of this draft. He's drawing comparisons to Ed Reed, which is just about the best compliment a safety can get. Berry is a nightmare for opposing QB's. College teams don't even throw in his direction. He's got a nose for the ball and is a serious threat to take a pick back to the house every time.
8. Oakland Raiders: Taylor Mays S, USC
As many who have read my mock draft before already know, I’m not very high on Mays. He plays without discipline, has stiff hips, takes poor angles, and is usually more worried about laying someone out rather than holding his coverage. He will stumble out of the top 10 to 15 on draft day if he falls past Oakland. Unfortunately with Clausen and Bradford gone Oakland won’t get a replacement for the failed JaMarcus Russell experiment. Don’t be surprised if Davis goes with Florida DE Carlos Dunlap, whose freakish measurables Davis with also love. If Joe Haden can run a sub 4.4 at the combine he would immediately jump to the top of Oakland’s/Al Davis’ list.
9. Buffalo Bills: Rolando McClain ILB, Alabama
Without any of the elite OT’s left to fill the gaping hole left by the Jason Peters trade to Philly, look for the Bills to find someone to help that horrendous run defense. McClain is a natural leader who turned in a great performance in the BCS Championship. At this point the only option I can see this pick going is perhaps Anthony Davis or maybe even Bryan Bulaga. There’s an outside chance they may pick Derrick Morgan but it’s unlikely since they selected pass rusher Aaron Maybin in the first round of last years draft.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Morgan DE, Georgia Tech
The Jags young receiving corps has come on this year and as such seems to be no longer a dire position of need. This team needs a DE as the Jags make the transition back to after a woeful attempt at using a 3-4. Morgan has distinguished himself as the top DE for a 4-3 as he is an excellent pass rusher. Florida QB Tim Tebow may become are real option for them, especially since team owner Wayne Weaver had said previously that he would draft him given the opportunity. They could really use a big name to lure fans to the game so they don’t eventually become the L.A. Jaguars. I know he isn’t a first round talent but picking him wouldn’t be about talent, it would be about selecting a local hero who will bring fans to the game.
11. Denver Broncos(via Chicago Bears): Dan Williams NT, Tennessee
Look for the Broncos to take the best defensive player available. Williams is the top DT prospect projected to play NT in a 3-4 defense and would help the Broncos defensive front. The Broncos have very few holes to fill as they have plenty of young talent that will develop over time. But after going 6-0 they have been exposed for their lack of the deep ball. If given the opportunity they may look to go QB with this pick as they really need a strong armed QB that can sling it downfield, especially with a receiving core of Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley, and Brandon Marshall, but only if Bradford manages to slip this far. Other considerations would be Florida’s Joe Haden or WR Dez Bryant since they make look to trade troubled receiver Brandon Marshall.
12. Miami Dolphins: Dez Bryant WR, Oklahoma State
This is the first time I have mocked the Dolphins a WR. Team Architect Bill Parcells typically doesn’t draft WR’s in the first round but none of the talent available that fills a position of need is worthy of this pick. With the secondary shored up in last years draft I wouldn’t expect them to take Joe Haden. They could trade back and target PSU’s Navarro Bowman who would fill their greatest position of need. Previously I’ve had them taking Alabama’s Terrence Cody but Parcells may not look favorably on Cody’s weight issues The suspension of Bryant for lying about conversations with Deion Sanders will not hurt is draft stock. He’s got all the intangibles you look for in a receiver and looks a lot like Andre Johnson did when he came out of Miami. He’s the type of receiver who would be perfect for the progression of young QB Chad Henne considering their patience has worn thin with supposed no.1 Ted Ginn.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Joe Haden CB, Florida
Haden is the top CB prospect in this draft, the only one who would be considered elite, and the 49ers need someone to shore up their secondary. If Joe Haden is gone at this point I would expect them to target a RT which is their biggest need but they will fill that with their second 1st round pick as this draft has a lot more top shelf OT’s than CB’s. They may also consider taking Terrence Cody considering current nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin will be a free agent.
14. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos): Anthony Davis OT, Rutgers
I know it seems ridiculous that the Seahawks would use both of their first round picks on OT’s but that has really been the major weakness for them over the last couple of years. Neither Walter Jones nor Sean Locklear can seem to stay healthy, with Jones retirement seeming like a certainty at the end of the season. Taking Davis, who has continued to shoot up draft boards due to his enormous potential, would give the Hawks a great pair of book ends for years to come. They may also look for a RB, especially since the electrifying Spiller is still on the board, but they should be able to grab either Cal’s Jahvid Best or Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer in the second round at a greater value.
15. New York Giants: Earl Thomas S, Texas
Selecting Thomas would fill a big need for the G-men. They could also use a replacement for Kareem McKenzie who is over 30 and starting to show his age. They may also follow the trend and continue to stockpile defensive linemen in which case Carlos Dunlap would be an option. MLB Antonio Pierce’s play has dropped of considerably this year but with McClain already off the board they will have to wait as this is too high for Brandon Spikes.
16. Tennessee Titans: Carlos Dunlap DE, Florida
Who would have thought that after a 0-6 start that Vince Young would salvage their season? They have multiple needs but Young’s play means they won’t be looking for a QB. Cornerback is their biggest need but without one worthy of this pick they’ll address their D-line which has been exposed by the loss of Albert Haynesworth to free agency. Anyone who’s read my mock draft before knows I’m not big on Dunlap and I have likened him to Vernon Gholston. But there’s no denying his physical gifts and maybe the Titans can get him to mature.
17. San Francisco 49ers(via Carolina Panthers): Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
The 49ers biggest need is for a RT. Bulaga has had a down season with injuries and a thyroid condition but would be a perfect fit at RT at the pro level with his work ethic and run-blocking ability. He continuously handled top 10 pick Derrick Morgan all night during the Orange Bowl and proved his worth as a first round pick.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Terrence Cody DT, Alabama
Without question the Steelers greatest need is in the secondary but with Earl Thomas already of the board this pick has to be Cody. Current NT Casey Hampton is 32 years old and with two Super Bowl rings already on his chubby fingers he may seek a big pay day somewhere else. Cody has managed to lose almost 50 pounds in the last year and keep the weight off so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could continue that positive trend into the NFL, especially with the right guidance. He will definitely need to lose another 30lbs. to play for Coach Tomlin. Weight issues or not, we’re going to need someone large enough to anchor our defense so our linebackers can continue to flow freely to the opposing QB. Cody did exactly what I expected him to do in the BCS Championship in that he stood his ground taking on blockers. It was unfortunate that Bama took him out during obvious passing downs. The Steelers also really need a safety who would eventually replace Ryan Clark given that he’s in the final year of his contract and he’s over 30 years old, and replace Tyrone Carter who played horribly week in and week out in Troy Polamalu’s absence. I’m positive Ryan Clark will take a discount to finish his career in the Burgh which would allow any safety we draft the time to learn the Steelers complex scheme. In the event that they don’t draft a safety in the first round there’s still going to be some talent in round two such as South Florida’s Nate Allen and Georgia Tech’s Morgan Burnett, or in the third with Georgia’s Reshad Jones. Cornerback could also be another option considering none of the rookies from last year have seemed to distinguish themselves, although it’s definitely too early to tell. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Steelers trade up and target Joe Haden. The offensive line for the most part has gotten better every week and no longer seems like a dire position of need. Idaho’s Mike Iupati could fill the one weak point at RG where Darnell Stapleton and Trai Essex are lacking and rookie Craig Urbik didn’t show much during the off season. He’s a big road grader and could possibly slide over and play RT if Willie Colon leaves via free agency. Although this is a little high to consider any lineman other than tackle. Of course there’s also a chance the Steelers may be able to get him or Alabama OG Mike Johnson in the second or third round. To a lesser extent would be to find an eventual replacement for James Farrior. His play declined dramatically this year, he’s 34 years old, and since it takes a couple years for linebackers to learn the system anyway it would be nice to find his replacement now. Keyarn Fox has filled in admirably at ILB for Lawrence Timmons but is not a permanent solution. Besides, Fox is too valuable as a special teamer. If he’s available we should definitely take Rolando McClain or even try to trade up for him. A lot of people are high on Florida ILB Brandon Spikes, who may be great against the run but is somewhat of a liability in zone coverage. An option in the third round would be TCU ILB Daryl Washington. A player I really like in the later rounds would be Baylor’s ILB Joe Pawelek although I suspect the Steelers would rather target a homer like PSU’s Sean Lee. After watching him in the Orange Bowl, I really like Iowa’s Pat Angerer in the later rounds as well. Clemson RB C.J. Spiller would be a slightly long-shot option. Willie Parker is most likely not going to be resigned in the off season and Spiller would be a great speedy compliment to Mendenhall’s power for a lot less cost than Parker. One player I would love for the Steelers to take in the second or third round would be Stanford RB Toby Gerhart, who has become my official man-crush, regardless of whether the Steelers need him or not.
19. Atlanta Falcons: Travis Lewis OLB, Oklahoma
The Falcons will take the best defensive player available, particularly an OLB or DE. Previously I had them taking Ole’ Miss. DE Greg Hardy but he has some injury issues the last two years and wasn’t even able to finish out this season. Having already hit it big with one linebacker from Oklahoma in Curtis Lofton, the Falcons get another great one with Travis Lewis. Lewis is only a redshirt sophomore and in the event that he decides to stay in school look for the Falcons to target Sergio Kindle, Jerry Hughes, or Navarro Bowman.
20. Houston Texans: Damian Williams WR, USC
The Texans need help in multiple areas, specifically on defense if they let the unhappy Dunta Robinson leave via free agency, but without any of the top safeties or Joe Haden available look for them to add to an already potent offense. They also have needs in the interior defensive line after sending former 1st round pick Travis Johnson to the Chargers earlier in the year but there is no talent available to them with Dan Williams and Cody both gone already. Damian Williams would pair nicely with Andre Johnson, and fill a position of need if Kevin Walter isn’t resigned. He’s considered the most polished receiver in the draft and would give an immediate boost in the return game.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Brandon LaFell WR, LSU
The Bengals only real needs are for WR’s and safeties and with the talent currently available they will opt for LaFell to help make their offense more explosive. Outside of Chad OchoCinco, none of their WR’s has had much of an impact this year. They may also take a hard look at DT Brian Price to replace the aging Tank Johnson and solidify their front seven. If LaFell is off the board at this point they would certainly consider Jermaine Gresham as well.
22. New England Patriots: Sergio Kindle DE/OLB, Texas
The Patriots need more youth and depth in their linebacking corps. Kindle lines up all over the field for Texas and is the sort of versatile player Belichick loves. He had a great showing in the Championship game and solidified himself as a first round pick. It wouldn’t shock me to see them draft Tim Tebow if he slips past Jacksonville. He could be their QB for life after Brady. And yes I know this is high for a QB who could be a back-up for a few years, but he can also serve as an H-back and be put in for trick plays such as the Wildcat. He also has that air of smugness that reminds me of Brady that I hate so much. Given how much the Patriots like to trade back, it would actually surprise me if they keep this pick, especially considering how deep the talent pool is in this draft.
23. Green Bay Packers: Charles Brown OT, USC
Fortunately because of such a deep draft class the Packers are lucky enough to get Brown here. They have had to compensate for the lack of talent at OT by adjusting their scheme to keep TE’s in to block. Adding some OT depth would really help open up that potent offense. They may look to add an OLB to replace Aaron Kampman who’s in the final year of his contact and clearly not comfortable after making the switch from DE to OLB. Green Bay also needs to start looking at replacents for their aging secondary but will find better value for that in the next 2 rounds.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: Navarro Bowman OLB, PSU
Without any tackle prospects left to replace the often injured Shawn Andrews, look for the Eagles to take the top DE or Linebacker prospect available. They need to fill the DE spot opposite of Trent Cole but may find better value for that in the second round. Bowman is often overlooked but had an absolute beast of a season and would be a great addition to this defense.
25. New York Jets: C.J. Spiller RB, Clemson
Unfortunately the Jets biggest needs, particularly a corner to play opposite Darrell Revis and at DT where Kris Jenkins had the second season-ending injury of his career, do not match up with the talent that is currently available. Thomas Jones will be 32 years old before the start of the 2010 season and Leon Washington will be a free agent. The Jets may also consider USC WR Damian Williams if he’s available, whom QB Mark Sanchez had a great re pore with during his last year in college and will almost assuredly lobby for.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Jermaine Gresham TE, Oklahoma
This is a toss-up between a WR and Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham. Todd Heap has been surprisingly healthy this year which is the first time in a long time. They could really use a WR replace the aging Derrick Mason. Even though Gresham has been out with a knee injury for the year, he will have plenty of time to rehab before the NFL combine. A lot of people will think that the Ravens will draft a CB, especially considering how badly they have been torched through the air, but the Ravens draft on value and there won’t be any other first round CB’s left.
27. Arizona Cardinals: Trent Williams OT, Oklahoma
Arizona’s biggest need is for a LT. They drafted Levi Brown a couple years ago to be a RT when they thought Matt Leinart, a lefty, would be the QB of the future. Well he hasn't been so far and Warner is suffering because of it. Williams hasn’t fared so well on the left side this year so they may also consider a rush linebacker like Sean Weatherspoon or Jerry Hughes.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Golden Tate WR, Notre Dame
The cowboys find themselves in a bad spot because their needs, ILB’s, Safeties, and OT’s, do not line up with the talent at this point. Their biggest need is an OT to replace the aging Flozell Adams who’s just too old to hack it anymore. Tate is just the sort of flashy pick that team owner Jerry Jones will love and give an instant boost to the passing game. With that talent pool starting to drop at this point it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jones attempt to trade up for a higher profile impact player.
29. Minnesota Vikings: Greg Hardy DE, Ole’ Miss.
Without too many major holes the Vikings have the luxury of bolstering the strength of their team, the defensive line. The one weak link is the end spot opposite Jared Allen. Hardy has some injury issues but is adept at playing both the run and the pass. They will also consider OLB Sean Weatherspoon, DT/DE Jared Odrick, or OG Mike Iupati.
30. San Diego Chargers: Arrelious Benn WR, Illinois
Assuming they resign LT Marcus McNeill and in all probability franchise tag OLB Shawn Merriman, what they need most is a NT to replace the aging Jamal Williams who was put on IR at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately the only two DT’s who project to play NT in the NFL have already been taken. Their second need is for DE’s that can play in a 3-4 but there aren’t any of those either. Malcolm Floyd will be a free agent and the Bolts will need someone to keep the coverage off of Vincent Jackson. Even if they do retain Floyd, Benn would be another weapon for Pro-bowl QB Phillip Rivers to have at his disposal. This is too high to find a replacement for LaDainian Tomlinson with Spiller already gone.
31. New Orleans Saints: Sean Weatherspoon OLB, Missouri
With an already potent offense the Saints will look to upgrade a defense that has been hot and very cold all season long. Weatherspoon is probably the best OLB suited to play in a base 4-3 defense and would be a great addition to the Saints.
32. Indianapolis Colts: Brian Price DT, UCLA
As usual, the weak point of this team is its defense. The Colts could get a real steal with Price at this pick, who had an awesome season where he lead the nation in tackles for losses and would be a great fit in a cover 2 scheme. They could also really use an OT since Tony Ugoh has been a disappointment after a promising rookie year and his replacement Charles Johnson will be a free agent. The Colts will also consider a CB such as Wake Forest’s Brandon Ghee or GT free safety Morgan Burnett.