1. Detroit – QB Matt Stafford, Georgia
The Lions have three of the first 33 picks in the draft, which means
they could easily opt for the best available talent with the #1
selection and fill a couple big needs at Nos. 20 and 33. Taking
Stafford or even Mark Sanchez #1 has its risks, but the Lions will
obviously be drafting a QB somewhere in the first couple rounds.
The real talent of the draft could be Michael Crabtree, but the
last thing the Lions should be doing is picking WRs early –
even with the departure of Roy Williams (trade to Dallas).
2. St. Louis – OT Jason Smith, Baylor
He’s a raw, athletic prospect with excellent speed who can
get to where he needs to go, showing excellent pulling and trapping
execution. Smith impressed during his workouts and made significant
improvement over the past two years at left tackle, solidifying
himself as a first round pick. The Rams need to find a suitable
replacement for Orlando Pace, and it could very well be Virginia’s
Eugene Monroe, Ole Miss’ Michael Oher (pronounced “oar”)
– a prototypical left tackle who’s been compared to
Pace for years, or even Alabama’s Andre Smith, who jettisoned
from the combine under suspicious circumstances. But Jason Smith
was the best of the bunch in the combine and Oher – the subject
of Michael Lewis’ book “The Blind Side,” was the
least impressive of the three who worked out in Indy.
3. Kansas City – LB Aaron Curry, Wake
The Chiefs squared away one major hole in their offense by trading
for Matt Cassel, but the defense still needs work. Curry had faced
some competition in his quest to be the first defensive player off
the board in ’09 – from a slew of capable DEs and the
fabulous, NFL-ready trio of USC linebackers. But Curry displayed
otherworldly skills and speed during the combine and is the biggest
defensive playmaker in the draft class. The Chiefs desperately need
an impact player who can wreak havoc both behind the line and in
coverage in the mold of Brian Urlacher or Keith Bulluck.
4. Seattle – DT B.J. Raji, Boston College
They’ve acquired T.J. Houshmandzadeh and squared away one
glaring team need, but there’s several remaining, including
mediocrity at RB and a need for a run-stuffing DT. The 6-2, 337-pound
Raji shined during the week of the Senior Bowl, and will be an asset
to any NFL defensive line based on his size and elite ability in
the trenches. But there are valid concerns about whether Raji is
mature enough to assume the workload of an NFL schedule; he missed
the entire 2007 season due to academic ineligibility. If they don’t
take Raji, they’ll look for another tackle, because you can
never have too many good tackles.
5. Cleveland – CB Malcolm Jenkins,
If the Shaun Rogers issue in Cleveland becomes untenable, the Browns
might scoop up Boston College’s B.J. Raji. Ideally, this organization
would draft a big-time running back in this slot, but there just
aren’t too many in this class worthy of being taken in the
top five. Since they probably should be able to snag a viable replacement
for Jamal Lewis with the 36th pick of draft, and I think the Mangini-Rogers
issue will be moot by April, I’m leaning toward Jenkins. He’s
versatile, can play any secondary position and is athletic, smart
and physical. Other possibilities include trading down for a couple
more picks or simply talking the best athlete available in Texas
Tech WR Michael Crabtree.
6. Cincinnati – OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
The Bengals will get the most immediate value out of a more refined,
NFL-ready tackle like Monroe, who could conceivably go 1st, 2nd
or 4th overall if his stock continues to rise. But for me, the team
who needs a quality offensive lineman without much risk (and maybe
settling for less upside) the most will land Monroe. And the Bengals
are probably that team.
7. Oakland – WR Michael Crabtree, Texas
Crabtree has it all – prototypical size, playmaking ability,
great hands, body control and speed. He runs great routes, secures
the ball quickly in his strong hands after the catch, and can take
it upfield in a flash. He’s undoubtedly the best receiver
in the draft and should be the first off the board.
8. Jacksonville – ILB Rey Maualuga,
The Jags have met with OT Tra Thomas, who could help solidify an
offensive line that was depleted to its core in 2008 due to injuries.
If Thomas signs, the Jags might not go for any of the big tackles
even if they make their way to the seventh slot. I think they’ll
probably look for a second-tier tackle with their next pick. I think
Quentin Groves could eventually work out as a pass-rushing OLB/DE,
but the outside linebackers they have (Clint Ingram, Justin Durant)
have played well. So the pick should be a replacement of the underachieving
MLB Mike Peterson and Daryl Smith – neither of whom is a long-term
answer – with Maualuga.
9. Green Bay – DE/OLB Everett Brown,
The Packers need a smaller, athletic pass-rushing tweener at right
DE who can make a difference, and Brown is an explosive player who
could excel in that position and take some pressure off Aaron Kampman.
10. San Francisco – OT Andre Smith,
The episode at the combine soured many scouts on Smith, but he could
be the most talented left tackle in the draft and will probably
be the best after Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe get selected –
unless somebody takes a crack at Oher. Despite the concerns about
Andre’s character, the 49ers should take a shot at this beast
– mainly because they desperately need one on the left side
of their line.
11. Buffalo – DE Tyson Jackson, LSU
He’s got the size and hustle Buffalo needs on its line and
would be an excellent fit on their defense, which needs a pass-rushing
end (or OLB) to make an immediate impact. Jackson will be a 4-3
pass rushing DT or a DE in a 3-4. The Bills could also draft Aaron
Maybin because they need a composite OLB/DE as well, but Jackson’s
talent and size is hard to pass up.
12. Denver – DE/OLB Aaron Maybin, Penn
If the Broncos don’t get B.J. Raji falling to them here, they
could trade down. Maybin is tall with a frame to add the requisite
10-15 pounds of upper-body muscle he’ll need to transform
into an NFL-ready body, so he shouldn’t be ignored too much
past the top 10-20 picks. IF the Bills move on Maybin, maybe even
Tyson Jackson would be a good choice here.
13. Washington – DE Brian Orakpo, Texas
Orakpo has been moving up the draft board a lot in the past few
weeks, and could easily go in the top 10. He’s got solid size
and uses his hands well to shed blocks and make plays. While he
may need to play on the strong side in the pros because of his awkward
vertical technique and lack of quick-twitch explosion, he’ll
fit into Washington’s scheme quite well.
14. New Orleans – RB Chris Wells, Ohio
Despite his struggle to stay healthy, Wells is an extraordinary
runner with both size and natural ability – and he’ll
make a good fit as the downhill back to complement the elusive style
of Reggie Bush. The Saints could also just stick with Pierre Thomas
and draft for defense, and if they do, the next player could be
their selection. It’s also possible a team like Philadelphia
trades up to select Wells here, but speculating too much on trades
can be counterproductive. In any event, I don’t see Wells
falling too far past the top 15.
15. Houston – DB Vontae Davis, Illinois
Another solid corner with the much-sought-after combination of size
and athleticism. The Texans could use another big body in the secondary,
and Davis is a physical tackler with big-league hitting ability.
There are some concerns that Vontae, like his older brother, Vernon
Davis, might be a bit of a head case without the inner drive to
reach his full potential in the NFL
16. San Diego – LB Brian Cushing, USC
The Southern California linebackers are all magnificent physical
prototypes, and Cushing may be the best. He’s also incredibly
versatile and can play strong safety, defensive end, strong-side
linebacker and even middle linebacker. The Chargers need a playmaker
other than Antonio Cromartie on defense, and Cushing could have
a major impact. He reads the quarterback well, can break on the
ball, and is a skilled pass rusher.
17. New York Jets – QB Mark Sanchez,
The Jet’s big experiment with Brett Favre could have worked
– if only Brett was a bit friendlier to his teammates and
a tad more conservative in his gun-slinging. Many believe the Jets
would have been better with veteran castoff Chad Pennington, whose
game-management skills – along with the genius of Bill Parcells
and Tony Sparano – transformed the Dolphins from a one-win
team to a division contender. The reviews on Sanchez have been mixed
when it comes down to natural ability and arm strength, but working
out of a pro-style offense during college gives him a much higher
floor. So it’s entirely possible he goes sooner than this,
but he’d make a good fit in New York and the Jets may even
trade up to land him.
18. Chicago – WR Percy Harvin, Florida
Jeremy Maclin may be more speedy and dynamic, but Harvin’s
the better fit in Chicago and would be a nice complement to the
receivers and runners already there.
19. Tampa Bay – OLB/DE Larry English,
Tampa needs a prototypical pass-rusher to shore up its aging defense.
English is a solid linebacker with a good build, a decent motor,
and the athletic ability to make plays. He may not be the most technically
sound tweener in the draft, but he’s a raw guy who could excel
at the next level if he learns the proper technique.
20. Detroit (from Dallas) – CB Darius
The Lions still need to find a CB who can shut down the opposing
team’s number one WR, and although Butler might not be that
guy, he’s a confident player with excellent body control who’s
effective at zone-coverage and can defend the run. Detroit would
love to have Jenkins or Davis at No. 20, but it’s not likely
to happen, and they can’t afford to pass up a solid CB like
21. Philadelphia – RB Knowshown Moreno,
I’m assuming they don’t draft up to pick up Beanie Wells
(and that the explosive back doesn’t fall this far) because
Wells is high on their priority list. But the Eagles wouldn’t
be any worse for the wear if they drafted either Moreno or Pitt’s
LeSean McCoy with this pick.
22. Minnesota – WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
Maclin will most likely be drafted sooner than 22nd, but it’s
also likely that the aforementioned teams will shore up other needs
before adding this speed burner. If Crabtree doesn’t fall
to Oakland, you can bet you’re your bottom dollar Al Davis
will take this guy. Minnesota would be a good fit for Maclin, it’s
just that the Vikes might just have to trade up to get him.
23. New England – LB James Laurinitis,
I can’t think of any reason Bill Belichick wouldn’t
land Laurinitis with this pick if he’s available. It’s
a match made in heaven and the Patriots obviously need to get younger
24. Atlanta – DT Peria Jerry, Mississippi
Jerry will be the best defensive tackle available at this point,
mainly because there’s no way Raji can fall this far. And
the Falcons desperately need a DT since they didn’t adequately
fill the gap in last year’s draft.
25. Miami – OT Michael Oher, Mississippi
The Dolphins need a tackle, and Oher will be the best available
if he slips this far. The guy’s story has been hyped since
he was a teenager, and the Dolphins could use a big body with natural
26. Baltimore – LB Clay Matthews, USC
The Ravens need to replace Bart Scott and Matthews is the obvious
choice. Matthews has a great NFL pedigree and could immediately
make an impact on this defense full of overachievers.
27. Indianapolis – WR Darrius Heyward-Bey,
I’m sure they’d love to land Maclin, but there’s
little chance the talented Missouri WR will fall this far. Unless
the Colts trade up, Heyward-Bey will be the best WR available at
28. Philadelphia (from Carolina) –
TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State
A solid replacement for L.J. Smith, Pettigrew is the most complete
TE in the draft. The Eagles could even take him sooner and hope
an RB falls to them here, but squaring away the RB slot seems the
intelligent thing to do with the earlier pick.
29. New York Giants – TE Jared Cook,
The Giants could definitely use a tall, athletic TE with big-play
ability, and Cook definitely brings that to the table. He ran a
stunning 4.5-second 40 and can immediately help the Giants offense
if he can develop some rapport with Eli Manning in camp.
30. Tennessee – WR Hakeem Nicks, North
Losing Albert Haynesworth hurts, but it’s difficult for me
to see the Titans drafting a DT that’s not named Raji or Jerry
at this stage of the game. Nicks has the requisite height and prototypical
bulk, but he’s not the fastest receiver under the sun. Still,
the Titans have gone too long without drafting a WR. They signed
Nate Washington, but he’s more of a big-play threat than a
31. Arizona – RB LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh
McCoy is a good all-around back who the Cardinals won’t let
fall into the second round. He’s a quick, complete runner,
but needs to work on his pass-blocking to be the feature back in
any systems. The Cards are losing Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower
is not a every-down RB.
32. Pittsburgh – RB Donald Brown, Connecticut
The injury debacle Pittsburgh faced at RB last season didn’t
keep them from winning the Super Bowl, which speaks volumes about
the rest of the team. I don’t know if Willie Parker has lost
a step, but he’s not the back he once was and there’s
no way of knowing what the story is with Rashard Mendenhall –
who struggled with fumbles and inconsistency before suffering a
season-ending injury. If the Steelers don’t opt for a tackle
here – which makes little sense considering the studs will
be long gone and the second round is a more opportune time to handle
that move – I think they’ll take a shot on the versatile
Brown, who with his compact build and elusive speed has moved ahead
of McCoy on some draft boards.