Well, here it is! This may very well be my final revision. The first mock can be found at the link below.
I can definitely say that this year's draft class was much more difficult to predict from last year. Last year it almost seemed like teams didn't care much if they were predictable. This year, it seems that teams are more interested in throwing up smokescreens than the actual draft itself. But I can understand why. Many of my picks remain unchanged from the first version but you will also find some surprises as well.
There are definitely some shockers here. I'm not particularly favorable to the QB's in this year's draft. I also think that many teams feel the same way I do...that Stafford and Sanchez offer more risks than upside. The most obvious thing you will notice is that neither Stafford or Sanchez will go in the top 10. I think with two picks between 10 & 20, the Broncos have the luxury of taking Sanchez and still come away with a marquee defensive player. The Jets, who could settle making out of the first round with Sanchez or Josh Freeman, would be happy to land Stafford.
:ast year, I nailed 7 picks. This year, it may be zero. But it was fun putting this together. Feel free to comment or flame and best of luck on draft day.
1) Lions - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor – I’m not convinced that Stafford is the pick here. The Lions indicated that they hope to get a deal done before this pick is made. Between QB and OT, who do you think has the better chance of signing first for less money? It’s going to be Jason Smith. Current LT Jeff Backus could be moved back to RT or RG to make room for Smith. Some consider Aaron Curry the safest pick. But the safest pick is not going to be a guy that could potentially be off the field on third down. Smith will play every offensive snap while Curry may be out in nickel or dime situations. The Lions have greater needs because of their #32 ranked defense last year, but a quality defense player can be had at #20. Smith proved at the combine that he has all the tools to become a fixture at LT for years. If Stafford wants to be picked here, he better offer the Lions a steep discount. Otherwise, it’s a going to be a long slide for him.
2) Rams – Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia – Like the Lions, the Rams have plenty of immediate holes to fill. Signing Spagnuolo as a coach provides an instant upgrade to the defense where his aggressive, attacking scheme should bump the sack totals up from 30 last year even if the personnel doesn’t change. I originally had Curry here but came to the realization that the O-line still isn’t good enough. Bulger is becoming more brittle with age. I don’t think there are very many options at QB so protecting Bulger will be key. The Rams can have Alex Barron and Jacob Bell penciled in as their starters, but how long will these two last? Barron has not done well on the right side and does anyone really believe that he will fare better on the left? Bell is probably more suited for guard. Enter Monroe. You can probably rotate between Monroe and Jason Smith as the top two tackles in this year’s draft. With Smith off the board, the Rams draft Monroe.
3) Chiefs – B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College – Pioli’s building from the ground up. Some say Curry here, but I don’t think he offers enough value to match Pioli’s drafting style. Pioli’s history with the Patriots is to build the defense and that has started with high picks on the defensive line. Pioli will know that he may not get another chance to draft this high again. It’s much more difficult to find a quality NT in the later rounds of the draft versus an impact LB. Just look at how many first round picks Pioli has spent on D-linemen versus LB’s. Last year’s #1 Glenn Dorsey didn’t have enough impact. Raji’s presence will change that. These two combined will make all the LB’s play better.
4) Seahawks – Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest – Even without Julian Peterson, OLB is not in bad shape. But GM Ruskell is the conservative type, kind of like Pioli above. He won’t gamble on a QB or WR this high so you can rule out Sanchez or Crabtree. Curry is not a bad pick here. He is an instant starter and would add depth to the LB corp overall. Curry is the safest pick at this point and the Seahawks will take the best player on the board here.
5) Browns - Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas – The Browns get the award last year for the team that regressed the most. The Browns finished 10-6 in 2007 only to follow up with a 4-12 finish in 2008. There needs to be improvement on both sides of the ball. A lot of the offensive failures could be attributed to the health of their QB’s and Braylon Edward’s case of the dropsies. Those issues will need to be addressed but defensive talent could stand to use an improvement. Orakpo has 3-4 versatility. Mangini hopes to get better results out of Orakpo over what he received last year from Vernon Gholston. The difference between Orakpo and Gholston is that Orakpo has the college production to match his combine #’s. The Browns need a RB too, but that can come in the second round.
6) Bengals – Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech – The Bengals are not known for making sound decisions in the draft. But to their credit, they have done OK in the Marvin Lewis era compared to the previous 10 years before him. If Crabtree falls, they will be faced with a difficult decision. I originally had Andre Smith here but Crabtree is just too tempting. The Bengals are not in poor shape at WR after drafting two in rounds 2 and 3 last year. But neither of those picks showed much in their rookie years. Chad Ocho Cinco is still in the picture, but how much does he have left? Maybe two or three years? Crabtree will give the Bengals another decade at the position. So you can’t fault the Bengals for taking the best player available here.
7) Raiders – Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri – IT’S ALL ABOUT TIMED SPEED! At least according to Al Davis when it comes to skill positions. But Maclin is not a bad pick here. The Raiders have a legitimate need for a playmaking WR and Maclin can be that type of player. Maclin ran a 4.40 on his pro day. Combine that number with soft hands and good size makes this a good pick for the Raiders. If Al Davis goes Maclin here, then I won’t be scratching my head…for once.
8) Jaguars – Andre Smith, OT, Alabama – I really think the Jaguars will trade this pick to a team targeting Sanchez. If not, Andre Smith would fill the next greatest need. The Jaguars would be hopeful to have Raji drop here, but it’s just not going to happen. The Jaguars success hinges upon strong line play on both sides of the ball. They are the epitome of physical football. Andre Smith would bring that nastiness to the offensive line. To be honest, they can use the help. Odds are slim that 3 O-line starters will go down in the first game like last year. But Smith would be an instant upgrade.
9) Packers – Everette Brown, DE/OLB, Florida State – The Packers are switching to a 3-4 scheme. They need a NT and a rush OLB. They were hoping that Raji would be here but it doesn’t work out that way. Brown has a good first step which should allow him to bring heat from the outside. There are concerns about FSU pass rushers (and the Packers should know), but Brown’s talents are too good to pass up. The Packers are also in love with Tyson Jackson but pass rushers have priority.
10) 49ers - Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi – Contrary to popular belief, the 49ers will not go with a QB or WR here. QB was addressed after Alex Smith's contract was restructured and Damon Huard was signed. The team is confident that there is still a future with Smith and he will be given a chance to win back the starting job in camp…and they expect him to win. The team had a need for a vertical threat WR but the signing of Brandon Jones eliminates the need to draft a WR here. FS could also use an upgrade, but Malcolm Jenkins has already stated that he doesn't want to play safety. There are greater needs for a pass rusher and RT. The 49ers have their eye on Andre Smith but the Bengals snagged him at #6. Oher probably has the highest potential over any OT in this year’s draft. Oher is projected to be a future franchise left tackle but can step in early and play RG or RT and stay at either position. Oher is a solid athlete but can he learn the playbook? Sure, it's not Martz's offense anymore. Marvel Smith recently signed. But he has recent injury history and Oher is the long-term answer at the position. If the 49ers are hell bent on best player available, then Oher is their guy.
11) Bills – Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn State – The Bills need help at TE and pass rush. The defense performed admirably finishing #14 in yards allowed but the 24 sacks are disturbing. Regardless where he lines up, Maybin will bring speed off the edge. The Bills like Brandon Pettigrew too. But he would be more of a reach here. Pass catching TE’s can be found in the later rounds. The same can’t be said for pass rushers with an explosive first step.
12) Broncos – Mark Sanchez, QB, USC – Wow! If this happens, what would the Broncos do? The Broncos have stated that they would go defense with this pick. But they also didn’t count Sanchez or Stafford being available at this point. It’s no secret that McDaniels has a man-crush on Matt Cassell. Sanchez is almost cast from the same mold. The Broncos could even ride Kyle Orton for a year before letting Sanchez take over. Stafford was the better prospect over Sanchez, but Sanchez goes to the Broncos because McDaniels will see him as a better fit in his system.
13) Redskins - Brian Cushing, OLB, Southern California – D-line still needs help with Jason Taylor and Demetric Evans gone but Albert Haynesworth makes this line look better. Cushing fills need at OLB with Marcus Washington’s release. Cushing is perhaps the best athlete in this year’s draft with regards to the LB position. OLB does fill a need, but I’m not sure he’s the right pick here. What can I say, the Redskins haven’t had a first round pick in a while. The Redskins also need to address OT but there are none worth reaching for here.
14) Saints – Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State – “Beanie’s” stock has risen since his pro day. I no longer have him projected to go past #20. This will be good value for the Saints. Apparently, they want to use a committee of 3 RB’s which include Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and soon to be Wells. There are concerns about Well’s toughness. This makes him an even better fit for a team that uses RB by committee. Now there is no pressure to start or shoulder the primary workload.
15) Texans – Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State – You can never have enough corners in the AFC South where you have to play against Peyton Manning twice a year. Jenkins is a surprise drop here, but poor combine numbers and interviews can do you in like that. Jenkins also provides insurance if Dunta Robinson doesn’t return next year.
16) Chargers – Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia – The Chargers are taking Moreno seriously. But how much longer does L.T. have? Can the Chargers sign Sproles to a long-term deal? There are more questions at the RB position than answers. Fortunately, the Chargers don’t have very many short-term needs and preparing for life after L.T. is possible. Moreno is almost a mirror image of L.T. so he should be a great fit. They may beat themselves up for not taking a marquee MLB like Maualuga or Laurenitis but Merriman will be back next year and that hole in the middle will hardly be noticeable.
17) Jets – Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia – The Jets would be ecstatic to see Stafford drop this low. The Jets entertained the notion of Sanchez and Josh Freeman, but if Stafford is here, than this is the pick. The Jets have few needs and this could even be treated as a luxury pick for a position that could use an upgrade over Kellen Clemens. Sorry Jets fans, but QB is a strong possibility here.
18) Broncos – Tyson Jackson, DE/DT, LSU – The Broncos could’ve used the #12 pick on Jackson. So this would be good value for the Broncos here. With QB out of the way, now they can truly focus on defense. The Broncos are another team making the switch to a 3-4 scheme and Jackson will make a good 3-4 DE. Some say Jackson will be drafted in the top 10. But unless you are a true NT, sacks get you drafted in the top 10...and Jackson doesn't have that.
19) Buccaneers - Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi – Nobody really knows what going on with the QB position but anyone that watched the Bucs play the run in the second half of the season knows that there are serious problems with this unit. Jerry can be an impact player as part of the D-line rotation. He can slice into the backfield and stop plays before they begin. He can handle double teams as well. Jerry needs to work on some techniques but should find a way to contribute immediately.
20) Lions (from Cowboys) – Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC – After grabbing Smith with their first pick, the Lions can now focus on defense. Maualuga is the best player here, but he also fills a need at MLB. Not bad. They get a stud on the offensive line and a MLB to build the defense around. QB Josh Freeman will be there in the second round.
21) Eagles – Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State – The Eagles addressed a huge need at OT by acquiring Jason Peters. Now they can focus on other needs. The defense is always exciting in Jim Johnson’s scheme and was hardly a problem last year. They could stand to use depth but the biggest need here is going to be TE. The loss of L.J. Smith is not particularly viewed as a huge blow, but in the West Coast offense, you need more than one reliable TE. Brent Celek came through as a good pass catching TE late, but Pettigrew will add blocking to go along with the catching.
22) Vikings – Percy Harvin, WR, Florida – I originally pictured the Vikings upgrading their line because of the loss of Matt Birk. It seems that they are content for now. The team seems to be spending a lot of energy researching top WR’s. The Vikes also have their eye on Heyward-Bey too. Harvin gives up a little bit of size, but may be the better receiver when week 1 arrives. The question is "can Harvin stay off the pot?". The Vikings have gambled on risky players in the past. The Vikings will need to address O-line depth in the later rounds.
23) Patriots - Larry English, OLB, Northern Illinois – Mike Vrabel is gone. There is a hole at OLB that needs attention. Bill Belichick said some nice things about English. Belichick will also rely more on game tape versus triangle numbers. Belichick could be bluffing. But he is a defensive genius. Need I say more?
24) Falcons – Evander Hood, DT, Missouri – The Falcons had to know Hood would be here with this pick when they traded away Grady Jackson. Hood can come in and be an immediate starter. You won’t expect him to rack up sacks and penetrate, but Hood should be able to hold multiple blockers at the point of attack consistenly.
25) Dolphins – Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut – The Dolphins didn’t have stellar corners last year. Then they let one of their best ones (Andre Goodman) leave via free agency. Butler will be better than Goodman and any other corner that the Dolphins currently have. After Jenkins, Butler’s name could be mentioned as the second best corner in the draft. He has the skills to become a franchise, lockdown corner. This is a Parcells’ type of player.
26) Ravens – Robert Ayers, DE/OLB, Tennessee – The Ravens are going to work on their LB unit. They’ve had a series of defections in the LB corp through the secondary. It’s hard to imagine this defense picking up where they left off…especially with the loss of Rex Ryan. It’s rumored that the Ravens want to convert a DE into an OLB like they did with Terrell Suggs. I can see Ayers here because of his athleticism. He doesn’t have Suggs’ great first step but Ayers will make it up with hustle.
27) Colts – James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio State – This was pretty much a coin flip. I still see Polian drafting a WR here. Historically, he drafts good WR’s near this spot (Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez). I believe if Harvin was still available, then he would be the pick. But he’s gone. The Colts still have a glaring need for run defenders. DT would be ideal also but there is none worth reaching for. Laurinaitis has good size to play the middle and the value is too good to pass up. He doesn’t have top line speed but has good agility. His slide ends here. The Colts will need to try to fill DT in the later rounds. But Polian has got value there in the past.
28) Bills (from Eagles, from Panthers) – Eben Britton, T, Arizona – It’s fitting that the Bills use this pick on an OT to replace the one they traded away (Jason Peters) to gain this pick. Britton comes with high upside. He doesn’t come with the same polish as the top 3 OT picks but can have just as successful of a career.
29) Giants - Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina – Plax is gone. Without Plax, Eli didn’t have another consistent receiver to throw to. Giants have burners but do not have another solid all around receiving option outside of Burress. Nicks has good hands and is a solid route runner. Nicks is also a model citizen…something Plax was not. Nicks didn't have a good pro day. But wait until that hamstring heals. The Giants are eyeing Kenny Britt too. It may come down to a coin flip.
30) Titans - Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest – Albert Haynesworth is irreplaceable. There isn’t anyone in this year’s draft conceivable of replacing him. The Titans could use additional corners. Like the Texans, the Titans have the unfortunate task of facing Peyton twice a year. Smith is a physical corner and not afraid of contact. He is a proven playmaker. He may be short, but has the other characteristics that Fisher can appreciate. Smith will compete for time opposite of Cortland Finnegan. At the minimum, he should garner attention in nickel situations. The Titans also need a top WR and MLB but the best ones are gone.
31) Cardinals – Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut – The Cardinals were a Super Bowl team last year. It’s not easy to improve on that. The priority was to bring Warner back and they did that. But it would be wise to get some help for Warner. Teams will be gunning for him. The Cardinals will need to improve on their regular season #32 ranked running game from last year. Brown can be the explosive back that the Cardinals envisioned when they signed Edge. Brown would make a nice compliment to Tim Hightower.
32) Steelers – Alex Mack, C, California – The Steelers haven’t taken an offensive lineman in the first round since 1998 (Alan Faneca). Mack could be the best lineman on the board at this spot. The Steelers are currently rolling with incumbent Justin Hartwig. Mack would provide an upgrade to a very thin C position or Mack can be used to beef up the interior line.