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NFL Mock Draft: Version 3
Round 1
Version 1 - 3/11
Version 2 - 4/9
Round 1 | Round 2

Round 1

1. Detroit – QB Matt Stafford, Georgia
I’ve read a hundred different theories on the Lions strategy with the number one pick, but it makes the most sense to me that they go with the biggest upside of any player in the draft (since they’re also slotted at Nos. 20 and 33), and that’s Stafford.

2. St. Louis – OT Jason Smith, Baylor
He’s probably the best replacement for Orlando Pace among the talented group of tackles in the draft. While many mocks still have Smith going first overall, it’s imperative the Lions select a top-rate QB before they devolve into an Arena League franchise. The Rams could opt for Curry, but the glaring need for a stud left tackle is too great.

3. Kansas City – LB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
Curry has separated himself as the best defensive player in the draft. The Chiefs took care of their QB need with the acquisition of Cassel, and this Demon Deacon will be have a huge impact on their defense.

4. Seattle – OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
Could be the most NFL-ready lineman in the draft, and the Seahawks could use a healthy young body up front to replace their aging stars.

5. Cleveland – DE Brian Orakpo, Texas
Orakpo has great size and uses his hands well to shed blocks and make plays. The Browns need another DL component to make noise up front, and Orakpo certainly fits the bill.

6. Cincinnati – 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 has moved up draft boards ever since. And the Bengals need someone to protect Carson Palmer’s blindside even more than they need chaperones for off-field exploits.

7. Oakland – WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Crabtree is undoubtedly the best receiver in the draft and should be the first off the board, although Jeremy Maclin’s even faster and Al Davis is in love with speed.

8. Jacksonville – ILB Rey Maualuga, USC
If they’re smart, the Jaguars will make a move to replace underachieving MLB Mike Peterson and Daryl Smith with a long-term answer in Maualuga. They could trade down and still get the USC linebacker or even take Mark Sanchez here. But for me, Maualuga’s the best fit.

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 Michael Oher, Mississippi
The best of the remaining left tackles, Oher has as much promise as the Smiths or Monroe. And San Francisco – regardless of who’s playing QB, needs left tackle.

11. Buffalo – DE Tyson Jackson, LSU
The Bills need 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. They could also draft Aaron Maybin or Everette Brown 9if he slips) because they need a composite OLB/DE as well, but Jackson’s talent and size is hard to pass up.

12. Denver – DT B.J. Raji, Boston College
They could take QB Mark Sanchez, but I have a feeling Josh McDaniels is out to prove something with Kyle Orton. Here, they benefit from Raji’s fall – because of his positive steroid test at the combine – and get a very talented player.

13. Washington – OLB/DE Larry English, Northern Illinois
Washington made a big move by signing DT Albert Haynesworth. Adding this prototypical pass-rusher will help shore up the rest of its D-line and help them emerge as a much better defensive team.

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. I’m aware that Knowson Moreno has moved past Wells on many draft boards, but Wells seems to be the better fit.

15. Houston – CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
The best corner in the draft, hands-down, Jenkins could go a lot sooner than No. 15 overall.

16. San Diego – LB Brian Cushing, USC
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
Sanchez might not fall this far, and the Jets will be smart to make any moves necessary to get this ever-improving QB.

18. Denver (from Chicago) – DE/OLB Aaron Maybin, Penn State
Denver still needs a complete pass rusher/coverage LB and Maybin can handle the Mile-High pressure.

19. Tampa Bay – DE Robert Ayers, Tennessee
The Bucs could reach for a talent like Ayers here, even though the Tennessee product has some character issues.

20. Detroit (from Dallas) – DB Vontae Davis, Illinois
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, but the Lions can afford to take a shot at No. 20.

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 as I said before, Moreno is a hot commodity and could be gone by #21 as well.

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.

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 – C Alex Mack, California
A former high school wrestler who could be the best center in a very deep 2009 draft class, Mack is probably a first-round pick.

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. Buffalo (from Philadelphia via Carolina) – OT Eben Britton, Arizona
Britton isn’t as complete a prospect as the Smiths, Monroe or even Oher, but he was technically sound in the spread at Arizona and he has the size to make the transition to a pro offense – although probably not on the left side.

29. New York Giants – WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina
He’ll be the new Plaxico in New York if they select him, but I could just as easily see the Giants trading this pick to the Browns and walking away with Braylon Edwards.

30. Tennessee – TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State
Pettigrew is the most complete TE in the draft, and the Titans will be lucky if he falls this far. The team still needs to find a viable target for their QB -- so Vince Young, or whomever ends up being the starting QB in Tennessee -- will go through his progressions properly and develop rapport with a short-route safety valve.

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.

32. Pittsburgh – C Max Unger, Oregon
Easily one of the best offensive line prospects of the draft, this versatile 6-5, 309 lineman earned First Team All-Pac-10 honors at left tackle in 2005 and 2006 and at center in 2007 and 2008.