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NFL Mock Draft: Version 1
Round 1
Version 2 - 4/9/09
Version 3 - 4/23/09
Round 1 | Round 2

Round 1

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 Forest
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, Ohio State
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 Tech
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, USC
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, Florida State
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, Alabama
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 State
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 State
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, USC
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, Northern Illinois
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 Butler, Connecticut
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 Butler.

21. Philadelphia – RB Knowshown Moreno, Georgia
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, Ohio State
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 at LB.

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 ability.

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, Maryland
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 this stage.

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, South Carolina
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 Carolina
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 consistent target.

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.