Mathew Stafford QB Georgia – All indications seem to point to the Lions taking the big armed kid from Georgia with the top overall pick. The Lions let Dan Orlovsky walk in free agency and traded Jon Kitna to the Cowboys, and I feel pretty safe in saying that Daunte Culpepper is not the long term solution at the QB spot. Stafford may not be as game ready as last year’s top QBs, but his upside is through the roof, he can make every throw in the book and he has that extra oomph he can put on the ball that only the guys with the really strong arms (think Brett Favre or Jay Cutler) can do. The Lions have maybe the most dynamic talent the wide receiver position has ever seen in Calvin Johnson, but to truly take full advantage of CJ’s talents they need a QB that can really get the ball downfield and that is what Stafford is. There is always a risk in taking a QB this high, and the safer play would probably to take one of the OTs, but The Lions have a new front office, and a new head coach and they need to get rid of the bitter taste the Matt Millen era left in the fanbase’s mouth – no better way to do that than bring in a big armed young gun that they can plaster on the billboards. Hopefully management realizes that their O-line is swiss cheese and lets Culpepper take the abuse for a year while Stafford holds a clipboard, but its going to be tough not to throw the kid in there, especially if their epic losing streak continues.
2. St. Louis
Jason Smith OT Baylor – No one made themselves more money at the NFL combine than the former tight end from Baylor. Smith showed he was the best athlete of all the LT prospects, showing good agility and strength – qualities that are highly prized in left tackles. The only issue is that he is a bit raw as a prospect as he has only been a lineman for 3 years and a left tackle for 2. He still needs to add bulk and functional strength to become a presence in the run game, but his athleticism should allow him to be solid in pass pro right away. With the recently signed Jason Brown and Smith on their line, Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger should feel much better about their chances of not getting creamed all season long.
3. Kansas City
BJ Rajii DT BC – Scott Pioli is insistent on making The Chiefs into a clone of The Patriots and did a great job of robbing a couple of his favorite Pats players in Matt Cassell and Mike Vrabel from his former squad. Unfortunately he is also insisting on installing a 3-4 scheme on defense that is similar to the one the Pats use, the reason its unfortunate is that the team’s defensive personnel couldn’t be a worse fit for the 3-4, meaning he will have to completely remake the defensive roster to get a group of players who fit his scheme. Rajii is the best DT in the draft, hands down, and he can fit almost any scheme with his combination of size and athleticism, in The Chiefs new 3-4 he would play the role of NT that Vince Wilfork plays for The Pats, and in Wilfork we have a good comparison in terms of the player Rajii could/should be as a pro. The NT spot is probably the most important position in the 3-4 as he is responsible for drawing double teams and keeping blockers off of his backers, and in Rajii The Chiefs would have the most important piece in their transition to the 3-4.
Michael Oher OT Ole Miss – Seattle went in to the offseason needing to get a true go to receiver, a big DT to play in their rotation, and needed to figure out what they were going to do at SLB. So they went out and signed TJ Houshmazilly (Championship!), DT Colin Cole, and placed the franchise tag on Leroy Hill making sure he wouldn’t leave in free agency. They now have a pretty well rounded roster, even if its starting to look a little long in the tooth. Oher is arguably the OT with the most upside in the entire draft, though he didn’t blow people away at the combine his combination of athleticism, size, and aggressiveness is unmatched in this author’s opinion. He is still a bit raw having come to football somewhat late in life, but with old man Walter Jones still manning the LT spot for the Hawks Oher can ease into NFL life playing RT or one of the guard spots which he did early in his career at Ole Miss, while learning from one of the top technician’s in the game.
Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest – In my first mock draft that I did, I gave The Browns Curry and almost instantly second guessed myself and yet here we are again. Cleveland may have bigger holes to fill, but its not like they have a loaded linebacking corps by any stretch of the imagination. Most analysts seem to have voted Curry as most likely to succeed in this draft class and I am apt to agree with them. He is everything a team wants in a linebacker prospect and could play any position in The Browns 3-4 system as he is equally adept at pass rushing and at taking on the run. Curry absolutely owned the combine ranking at or near the top in every measurable test and impressed scouts with his maturity and football IQ. Mangini is a defense first guy and Curry is the best defender in the draft, a better prospect than last year’s rookie of the year Jerod Mayo, if Curry is still on the board at this pick I have to believe the Browns would be ecstatic to get him.
Eugene Monroe OT Virginia – The Bungles O-line was a major problem last year and after losing starting RT Stacey Andrews to the Eagles things are only getting worse. Monroe is an elite left tackle prospect, possessing the size and agility that is craved from franchises for the position. He was talented enough that he forced The Chiefs current LT Brandon Albert to play guard in college. He was an elite high school prospect and is one of the rare guys to completely live up to his hype, he would instantly upgrade The Bengals line which will come as a big relief to Carson Palmer who has taken way too many hits the past few years.
Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech – It pains me to send Crabtree to the gigantic mess that is the Oakland Raiders, but if he is available here I am almost sure the crypt keeper will jump all over him. If Jamarcus Russell is going to succeed as a QB he needs better targets than Ashley Lelie and Chaz Schilens, to say the least. Crabtree may have lost a little traction during the combine when he begged off most of the tests due to a stress fracture in his foot and his height was found to be a decent amount shorter than he was believed to be. Despite those issues Crabtree is without peer in this wide receiver class and well worth a top ten pick investment. He is simply a playmaker that has the instincts, agility, and football IQ that separate star wide receivers from the rest of the pack. Many compare his skill set to Larry Fitzgerald and if he can live up to that comparison he will make whoever picks him very happy.
Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri – Jax would probably jump on Crabtree if he were here, but with him gone they may get a guy who is actually a better fit for their team. Maclin is the same size as Crabtree at 6’1” 200 lbs., but he is a whole heck of a lot faster, a true deep threat who can take it to the house on any play. He doesn’t have the polish that Crabtree has, but he is more than just a go deep guy, he has shown a willingness to go across the middle and can break tackles thanks to his solid size. Jacksonville is loaded up with tall receivers, so Maclin would be a nice complement who can keep defenses worried about the deep pass. He also is an electrifying return man and can be used in all sorts of gadget and trick plays.
9. Green Bay
Tyson Jackson DE LSU – Some may see this as a bit of a reach, but Jackson is moving up a lot of boards, as big versatile DE’s are very in vogue in the league right now – especially with so many teams making the move to the 3-4, including the Packers. Jackson is the perfect 3-4 end as he has the length, size, and athleticism to keep his backers clean whilst still providing an ability to get in the backfield and make plays. He was a team captain and is said to be a very mature young man,a quality that is a must to play for the pack. Orakpo and Everette Brown are also possibilities here, though it seems unlikely the team would want to have both OLB’s learning the position on the fly as Aaron Kampman is making the switch from DE to OLB as well.
10. San Francisco
Mark Sanchez QB USC – If Sanchez stayed in school he had a very good chance of being a top 3 if not first overall pick next year, but with only one season of starting it scares many front offices as they don’t have a lot of games to evaluate him in. That said the games we did see him in he looked awfully good. He throws really well on the move and has an extremely strong arm. I was blown away by his performance in the rose bowl where he looked like everything you want in a QB, and if that game is a good preview of what he can/will do The Niners would have a superstar QB on their hands, and one that’s from their state and comes with a huge latino following which can not be ignored, especially by the owners.
Everette Brown DE FSU – Buffalo’s starting DE’s generated 6 sacks this year, and while Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney seem like nice guys, that number ain’t cutting it. Some think Brown may be a bit under-sized and is better suited to a 3-4 as a rush LB. But as a huge FSU fan I watched him all year and he sure looked like a pro DE to me, he’s just as big as Orakpo and actually plays a good deal bigger than Michael Johnson, so I feel he will make a fine DE. With Aaron Schobel set to return from injury, he and Brown could really change the Bills defense.
Brian Orakpo DE/OLB Texas – coincidence Denver is one of the many teams making the conversion to the 3-4 defense and in doing so need to find a few new players that fit the new scheme, near the top of the list is an athletic edge rusher to pair with elvis dumervil, and Orakpo fits the bill to a tee. Orakpo tested extremely well at the combine and has a very well defined physique. He dominated the Big 12 his senior year and won all sorts of hardware after a season that saw him collect 11.5 sacks. His athleticism and strength should allow him to make the move to a stand up rusher a fairly easy one.
Andre Smith OT Alabama – Andre Smith’s loss is the Redskins gargantuan gain. Nobody fell further at the combine than Smith, whether it was his or his agent’s fault is unknown, what we do know is he simply left the combine without participating in any drills and without telling any of the teams he was leaving. There were already many pundits who were saying that Smith is a bit of a fatty who doesn’t have the agility to hold up as a blindside protector in the NFL – and with him carrying at least 340 lbs. it has to give at least a small pause for concern. However, this is a young man who was being considered for the top overall pick at the end of the football season and for good reason, he gave up 1 sack the past 2 seasons for an Alabama team that played against and beat some very good football teams. The Skins desperately need to get younger on their O-line and whether Smith ends up at LT or RT he will be a huge addition to their team.
14. New Orleans
Peria Jerry DT Ole Miss – The Saints began fixing their defensive deficiencies last season by bringing in Jonathan Vilma and drafting Sed Ellis and have continued the makeover this year bringing in Jabari Greer to help the secondary. Their other DT spot is currently manned by Kendrick Clancy and Hollis Thomas and could really use an upgrade, which Jerry surely is. Jerry is a similar player to Ellis and is the type of DT the Saints have shown a predilection towards, he is stout but extremely athletic and can get in the backfield and disrupt plays and take down QBs. Jerry would fill out their D-line and give them an imposing front line. He will be a 25 year old rookie and has some injury issues, but he is easily the second best DT in the draft and his skill set is a perfect fit for The Saints.
Brian Cushing LB USC – The Texans still have a number of holes to fill, but took some big strides this year in terms of becoming a truly competitive team. They added Antonio Smith in free agency to free up Mario Williams, but still have work to do on defense. Cushing would be a huge upgrade over what they currently have at the OLB position, and would pair with Demeco Ryans to give them a very good young LB duo. Cushing is a physical specimen and has played nearly every position on the field in college showing off his high football IQ. He does have some injury concerns but his future still seems very bright as a pro, he is big and explosive and with a good line in front of him should be able to make a lot of plays.
16. San Diego
Malcolm Jenkins CB/S OSU – If Jenkins falls this far The Chargers are surely in luck. Some feel that Jenkins somewhat slow 40 times means he will have to convert to safety as a pro, which would work just fine for The Chargers as they are in need of a better safety to pair with Eric Weddle. Jenkins was a top notch cover guy in college and could very easily be a very good corner in the pros which may work for the Bolts as well, since there is some question as to Ant Cromartie’s future in San Diego. Whether Jenkins ends up safety or cornerback he is the most talented DB in the draft and The Chargers would be ecstatic if he was still on the board at this pick.
17. NY Jets
Eben Britton OT Arizona – The Jets have done a great job so far this offseason picking up players that fit the defense new coach rex ryan is installing, and there aren’t many holes on that side of the ball. The offense has a big question mark at QB and almost as big a question at receiver. Since the two elite QBs are already off the board and the two elite receivers are also gone, the Jets may look at filling a less glaring, but maybe a more important hole. D’Brickashaw Ferguson does a good job against speed rushers, but has had a rough time against DE’s with a big bull rush and he has a hard time getting a push in the run game; plus RT Damine Woody is a bit short armed and is probably best suited as a interior lineman. Britton has a big frame at about 6’6” 310 lbs., but has the athletic build that could easily put on 15 more pounds and still be able to handle the quicker DE’s in the league. Britton has played a lot of games in college and can play either side of the line, giving the Jets great value here, while they can look for a receiver in round 2.
Darrius Heyward Bey QB WR Maryland – Chicago is in desperate need of a true go to receiver and has been for some time. While Heyward Bey is still a bit of a project, he has the kind of world class athleticism that can easily make him into a star WR one day. Heyward Bey blew scouts away at both the combine and his recent pro day, running a 4.3 forty yard time and looking agile and quick in his cuts. Maryland was a primarily run based team and didn’t throw the ball to Darrius as much as scouts would have liked to see, but they did find ways to get him the ball on gadget plays and he excelled in those opportunities. He may not do much for a season or 2, but his ceiling is extremely high and Chicago could use some of that on offense right now.
19. Tampa Bay
Percy Harvin WR UF – This was my pick for the Bucs in the first mock and he’s not moving. A lot of draftnicks have QB Josh Freeman going here on the idea that the Bucs don’t have a proven QB and that new head coach Raheem Morris was his coach at K State for a year. I am just not that big a fan of Freeman and he seems like too much of a project to go this high, I also really want to see want to give McCown a real shot to prove himself. I have no idea what the new administration is thinking, so I’m just going with my gut here. Harvin is the type of weapon that any offense can find a use for. He’s a dynamic player that can line up all over the field and make plays in the run game and the passing game, not to mention his abilities in the return game. He is the dynamic player and the gamebreaker that the offense is sorely lacking right now, not to mention he already has a huge local following thanks to UF’s proximity and the team could use a new fan favorite after unceremoniously dumping Derrick Brooks this off-season. He needs polish as a receiver, but has the athletic gifts and drive to make those adjustments to his game.
William Beatty OT UConn – Detroit has had a nice off-season thus far and has brought in some good players and in this mock I have them taking Matt Stafford with the top choice. It has recently come out that the Lions are one of the interested teams in the extremely disgruntled Jay Cutler. Whether its Stafford or Cutler or someone else one thing is for sure, the Lions O-line needs a lot of help and no spot is more glaring than LT. Jeff Backus has held down the gig for a long time now and I would call his play pedestrian at best, he would probably be better off playing inside where his lack of athleticism isn’t such a problem. Beatty on the other hand is not lacking in athleticism by any means, he can hang with just about any speed rusher thanks to very quick feet and excellent hand eye coordination. Beatty will need to bulk up to become a force in the run game and more importantly will have to learn to play every down at 100% as he has been noted as a guy who takes plays off. Some may say this is a bit of a reach, but after watching guys like Sam Baker last year its obvious teams will reach for an athletic LT prospect who they think can be molded into the blindside protector they need.
Knowshon Moreno RB UGA – Brian Westbrook is the vehicle that makes the Eagles offense go, but the little guy has been carrying a big load for a long time now and he has dealt with a lot of injuries over the past few years. Moreno is not a Westbrook clone, but he can do a lot of the same things B-Dub does and gives the Eagles another dynamic offensive player. Thanks to Westbrook’s versatility the Iggles could even use both players on the field quite often. Moreno is a special running back who plays with a lot of physicality and blew the opposition away in the college ranks. Beanie Wells could also go here if the team wants a guy that compliments Westbrook’s game more suitably, but I’m going with the guy that more seamlessly takes over this offense when Westbrook inevitably starts winding down.
Phil Loadholt OT Oklahoma – Many may consider this a reach, but if there is a position that gets reached for more than others it is offensive tackle. Loadholt played both the right and left sides in college but it destined for the right side in the pros as his gigantic frame is just too big to handle the elite edge rushers in the NFL. That said he makes a lot of sense for a Vikings team that has the best running back in the league and a very weak right side of their O-line. Loadholt is an absolute mauler in the run game and would allow the Vikes to run to the right side a lot more often, which is something they have shied away from with mckinnie and hutch on the left side. Loadholt has had some discipline problems and makes some mental mistakes on the field, but his kind of size and strength is hard to find, with some good coaching he could be one of the best RTs in the league.
23. New England
Rey Mualaga MLB USC – The Patriots had very many holes going into the offseason, with receiver and corner being the spots they looked the weakest – of course the Pats were able to fill those needs with some good cheaper guys who fit their scheme in Greg Lewis and Joey Galloway at receiver and Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden at corner. After filling those holes they are free to continue to re-make a LB core that had grown old. Mualaga is a studly MLB who can learn from one of the best ever in Teddy Bruschi while also giving the old man a lot more of rest time. Mualaga and Jerod Mayo would give belichek 2 extremely talented and smart ballplayers that can excel in every aspect of the position.
Brandon Pettigrew TE OK St. – This seems like a good spot for Pettigrew to go. The Falcons are attaching their hopes to Matty Ice and in doing so need to keep putting talent around him. Pettigrew is the unquestioned top TE in the draft despite not having very good speed, but he has excellent size and plays with a mean streak in the blocking game – something that will help both Michael Turner and Matt Ryan. Pettigrew also has soft hands and uses his frame well as a receiver, making him a QB’s best friend. As long as Peria Jerry is off the board and Pettigrew is here at this pick I’m pretty confident he’s a Falcon, seems like a perfect fit.
Vontae Davis WR UNC - The Fins have major needs at both the receiver and the cornerback positions. Davis is the best of the remaining prospects at either of those positions, and since Jenkins is mostly getting considered as a safety Davis is the top corner in the draft. He has all the athletic ability in the world to go with prototype size, and he was good enough as a junior to basically stop QBs from throwing in his direction. Davis also loves to play physically and is great in run support, qualities that have always been valued by the Big Tuna. He may have some mental make-up questions but that has never scared Parcells in the past, and getting a potential lockdown corner this late in the first round is too hard to pass up.
Hakeem Nicks WR UNC – Derrick Mason is 35, wants a new contract, and has had countless injuries during his career, so even if he ends up sticking around he isn’t going to have much tread left on the tires. Nicks is the best WR prospect on the board and has the polish in his route running to be a contributor in year 1. Nicks has big soft hands and excellent body control which has allowed him to make a lot of highlight reel type catches throughout his career. He isn’t the fastest or most explosive guy, but his football IQ, college production, and great attitude will go a long way in many team’s eyes.
Ziggy Hood DT Mizzou – The Colts most glaring weakness is a lack of bulk inside on defense as their starters from this past year came in at about 255 and 265 lbs. Hood is a legit 300 pounder and is still athletic enough to be effective in the colts aggressive front line. Hood has been moving up boards thanks to a strong pro day and the fact that the guy has a non-stop motor. He will work well with the more explosive DTs already on the roster, as he is more of a guy that uses technique and hustle to beat the man in front of him.
Jamon Meredith OT So. Carolina – Yet another bit of a reach for an OT, but a reach that makes a lot of sense and could end up being anything but a reach. Meredith is a quiet, studious type, who excelled in the classroom and the gridiron. He played both guard and tackle in college and has the body type and IQ to probably play anywhere on the line. He might be best suited to the Left Tackle spot where the Eagles would hope he could work out. Winston Justice was drafted a couple years ago, but there are many reasons to question whether he has the ability to hold up as an NFL blindside protector. Meredith has the type of athleticism, frame, and football IQ to become a very good pro LT, and if for some reason he can’t make it out on the island he can always move inside to guard.
29 NY Giants
Clay Mathews LB USC – The G-Men have a pretty well filled out depth chart and aren’t lacking for too much. They may want to move up in the draft and get one of the top receivers, but barring that move they can look to take the best player available, and Mathews is just that. Mathews also has the size and physicality that the Giants value in their defenders. He worked his way from unknown walk-on into a first round prospect, so we know the work ethic is there. He reminds some people of Mike Vrabel and has his kind of natural pass rush instinct, which should play well in this aggressive D.
Alex Mack OC Cal – Tennessee is first and foremost and power football team, they run the ball at you time and time again. What is amazing is that aside from old man Mawae none of the other interior linemen are above average, and while sometimes it seems like he can, Mawae can not go on forever. Some say Mack is the best center prospect in 15 years, which may be hyperbole, but he is a special player. He has the size/strength/smarts/instincts/leadership/whatever you look for in a center. He can also easily play guard for a year or 2 while learning from Mawae before he takes over as the best center in the game.
Beanie Wells RB Ohio State – Wells is a freak of nature who has outstanding size for the RB position and proved at his recent pro day that his athleticism and speed are hard to believe in a man his size. He come with some durability concerns, and will have to improve as a pass catcher, but those are small concerns next to his massive potential. In any other year Wells would be an early round pick, but we are in an era of the NFL where most teams have 1 and often 2 running backs that they really like. In Arizona he would team up with Tim Hightower who is a very good receiver, to form a formidable and punishing duo.
Alphonso Smith CB Wake Forest – While Pitt could use this pick on a lineman, there aren’t any tackles on the board here worth taking and they may have to look at filling that hole later. After losing Bryant McFadden to Arizona in free agency there is a need at corner. Smith is undersized at 5’9” and that fact holds him back at times, but that is really his only weakness. He has outstanding instincts and is a true ballhawk, coming away with 8 picks his senior year. He also is willing and able to come up in run support, while also having the speed and hip waggle to stay with almost any receiver. Smith started all 4 years and is well versed in the details of the position that should allow him to excel right away.