1. Detroit Andre Smith OT Bama – Most online mocks either have Smith or Stafford in this spot. Since Stafford is a guy that will need some time to develop it makes a whole lot more sense to take the lineman now and find a QB somewhere later on. Smith is an outstanding tackle, who may just be so big that he’ll have some issues with pure speed rushers, nevertheless this is a guy you can feel very comfortable taking #1 overall and manning your LT spot for many years to come.
2. St. Louis Michael Oher OT Ole Miss – Just the second pick and already a bit of a surprise. Many draftnicks have Monroe ahead of Oher due mostly to character concerns with Oher. Anyone who has read Michael Lewis’ excellent book, The Blind Side, can tell you that Oher is an absolute physical freak, there aren’t any DL in the NFL who will find bull rushing Mr. Oher very easy. Monroe may have more polish than Oher, but I think Oher’s upside is what gets him up this high.
3. Kansas City Eugene Monroe OT Virginia – Speaking of Eugene Monroe, I have the third OT of the draft going, well, third. With Scott Pioli taking over in KC he will take a quick glance at his roster and see quite a bit less talent than he had in Boston. The Patriots were always built on solid line play on both sides of the ball, and with guys like Tamba Hali, Glenn Dorsey and Tank Tyler on the defensive side there is some young talent there. The O-line, on the other hand, has last year’s top pick Brandon Albert, veteran guard Brain Waters and no one else worth mentioning. Monroe has worked at right guard as well as LT and has shown good strength as well as good pass pro technique, so he should be able to slide into whatever spot the Chiefs need him at
4. Seattle Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech – I have yet to see a mock that had the hawks taking anyone else. Crabtree looks like the closest thing to Larry Fitzgerald we have seen since the original product, having everything you want in a receiver aside from game breaking speed, and if you look at Larry Fitz – his lack of speed hasn’t really slowed him down, if you get my drift. I will be looking forward to watching this man on Sundays, he should be a special one.
5. Cleveland Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest – This may be a bit high for a LB to be going off the board, especially one that won’t be asked to mostly a pass rusher, which makes me think guys like Aaron Maybin and Everette Brown are real possibilities here as well. However, Curry is an excellent prospect that has the ability to play in any scheme and at any LB spot. He and D’Qwell Jackson would form a fear inducing MLB duo in Cleveland. (Michael Jenkins would also make a lot of sense here as Brandon McDonald is better suited for a nickel role, and Jenkins is something of a local product)
6. Cincinnati Jason Smith OT Baylor – Yes, another OT off the board, and unless you have been doing a lot of draft research or went to Baylor you probably haven’t heard too much about this guy. A converted tight end that is still rather new to the OT position, he has been shooting up draftnicks boards recently thanks to some excellent play of late. He has the making of a very good LT, and the versatility to line up at a number of different spots.
7. Oakland Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri – If there were still any OTs left I think they’d be silly not to take one, Kwame Harris and Cornell Green as your bookends just ain’t gonna cut it. Since all of them are gone you gotta go with what the old crypt keeper likes best of all – speed. They were starting Johnnie Lee Higgins and some guy named Chaz (Hey, Ma! The meatloaf! We want it now! Fuck!) as their wide receivers, so an upgrade at the position is certainly merited. Maclin is one fast hombre, he will need to work hard to become a true receiver and not just a gadget guy, but should be electric in the return game and can even work out of the backfield although Oakland’s is a bit crowded at the moment.
8. Jacksonville BJ Rajii DT BC – Another team disappointed by the early run on OTs, Khalif Barnes was horrible last year, so if one of the OTs is still here look for them to pounce on him. Since they are all gone in this mock the Jags decide they really lost their team identity when the dealt Marcus Stroud last year, and Rajii is easily the closest thing to a Marcus Stroud in this draft and has been shooting up boards of late. A man of monster size he actually moves extremely well for such a giant, in fact he had 7 sacks this past year. With Rajii and Henderson in the middle and the 2 DEs from last year’s draft, Harvey and Groves, the Jags would have the makings of one dangerous DL.
9. Green Bay Malcolm Jenkins CB Ohio St. – An easy choice for the Pack. They have an excellent CB tandem in Al Harris and Charles Woodsen, but both those guys are one knock away from retirement and it’s time to start looking for their replacements. Jenkins has the look of a young Charles Woodsen, so it would be fitting for him to learn from C-Dub, both big and physical corners who like to support the run but can also turn and run with the best of them. I foresee many pro bowls in this man’s future.
10. San Francisco Mark Sanchez QB USC – Finally a QB goes off the board, but wait this isn’t the one that was supposed to go first. Sanchez has been surging up boards since his Rose Bowl performance and for good reason, the guy has all the tangible skills you want in a QB and despite what Pete Carroll says, he has plenty of qualities you want in a leader. San Fran is also smart enough to know that the Hispanic Cali native would be a huge draw for their team. Also, despite only starting one year, he looks to me to be further along in his pro development than Stafford.
11. Buffalo 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.
12. Denver Rey Mualaga LB USC – A slight reach, though not by much, and it fills Denver’s biggest glaring hole which is MLB. Nate Webster may have been the worst starting MLB in football last year and it showed. Despite having an excellent high powered offense Denver couldn’t win with their terrible defense dragging them down. Mualaga is such a big upgrade from Webster that the difference should be instantly noticeable. The guy is like a bigger Lofa Tatupu, flying to the ball and making some truly devastating hits.
13. Washington Brian Orakpo DE Texas – The Skins expected to have a very good pass rush last year after dealing for future HOFer Jason Taylor and returning DE Andre Carter coming off a 10+ sack season in ’07. Well things didn’t turn out the way they hoped and both DE’s severely underperformed. With Taylor getting up there finding his replacement and maybe someone who can do his job a bit better than he can is a must. Orakpo is seen as the best DE in the draft by many, though he disappeared at the end of the year. He is still a great talent and should help get the skins some more sacks.
14. New Orleans Vontae Davis CB Illinois – New Orleans secondary has been getting torched for more years than I can remember, and Davis has the looks of a can’t miss cornerback prospect. He could have the same kind of impact that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has had for the Cards this year, The Saints offense is so good one can’t help but think this team may be a couple defensive adjustments away from playing in next year’s super bowl. With a super talented big corner like Davis they’d be making the right first step in that direction.
15. Houston Michael Johnson DE Ga Tech – 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. By teaming the speedy Johnson with the super duper freak Mario Williams they could have a DE duo that is the envy of just about anyone. Johnson has a strange frame at 6’7” and 260 you’d think he was another giant DL but he looks more like a basketball player and plays more like a speedy rush end, he has some great natural pass rush ability that should help free up Super Mario on the other side.
16. San Diego William Moore S Mizzou – There will be a clamoring for SD to take a RB here as many are speculating that LT’s days in San Diego are numbered. However with the emergence of Darren Sproles and having taken Jacob Hester recently, there are some replacements on the roster already. Moore is easily the best safety in a very weak safety class and would represent a huge upgrade from Clinton Hart. Eric Weddle proved to be one of the top young safeties in the league this past year and pairing him with this physical freak would give them the best young duo in the league and the best secondary in football.
17. NY Jets Mathew Stafford QB UGA – So here’s the big surprise of this mock, and I admit it is quite a fall, but history tells us it’s very possible. There have been more than a few hotshot QBs who have had high early projections only to find themselves waiting longer than expected come draft day, Brian Brohm, Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers all were in discussion for high first round grades the past 3 years and all went later than 17. Football scouts all love Stafford, he’s got that ‘if I could build the perfect QB he would look like this’ quality about him. He’s got the size, the strength, the speed, excellent throwing mechanics, and most importantly, a cannon for an arm. My problem is every time I saw him I came away somewhat unimpressed, I saw all those things the scouts like, but I didn’t see a guy who was operating at a level above all the other guys, and that’s really what you want in a first overall pick. He could easily be a great QB in time, but he will need some time to get there.
The Chiefs and The Lions would both feel obligated to get this kid into the line-up sooner rather than later if taken with such a high pick, especially after the success of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco this year. Both of those teams are under the leadership of new, better personnel management, and these guys probably realize their teams are just too far away to be thinking about taking a QB who can’t play right away, they are better served getting a good line in place and then hoping to get a Bradford or a Tebow come next draft. San Fran has a chance to take Stafford, but passes on him for the more polished and more accomplished Cali kid. Aside from those teams, all the other franchises picking up to this pick have QBs in place that they like, so barring a trade which I don’t want to try and guess on, The Jets are the next team with a question mark at QB. Who knows what Brett Favre is going to do, and at this point who really cares. Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff are both young QBs with some talent who haven’t proven a thing, bringing in a guy like Stafford would give these 2 a shot to show what they can do while Stafford acclimates to the pros.
18. Chicago Eben Britton OT Arizona – The Bears took Chris Williams in the first round last year and while the jury is still out on Williams, the other tackles on The Bears roster are either pretty old or pretty lame. Britton is a guy moving up a lot of boards, he has an excellent frame and good athleticism, he’s also started 37 games in college at both right and left tackle. The Bears found a good one in Matt Forte, now it’s time to give him some guys who can help open some holes.
19. Tampa Bay Percy Harvin WR UF – Tampa has to be ecstatic with this pick. The Bucs offense grew kind of stale under Jon Gruden, thanks in part to a lack of any gamebreakers, well that is just what Percy Harvin is – a gamebreaker. Like Maclin, Harvin has some work to do to become a complete WR and not just a part time player, but while he learns he can still help his team in a number of ways, as a return man, a part-time back, a QB in a wildcat formation – he can do it all. It also doesn’t hurt that he played for a team in college that’s only a couple hours away from Tampa. If he’s on the board the new Tampa Bay regime should be running up to the podium.
20. Detroit Aaron Maybin DE Penn St. – Detroit gets lucky and has one of the most talented players in the draft fall to their second pick in the first round. Maybin has the skills, the burst, the technique that scouts drool over, and this past season he finished the year with 12 sacks. Maybin is young though, he also lacks the bulk to be a full time DE in the league right now. He can be used as a situational pass rusher for awhile till he gets big and strong enough to hold up to a full time gig. Detroit has the time to wait for him to fill out, while they fill their roster with talent.
21. Philadelphia William Beatty OT UConn – This may be a slight reach, but it’s a great fit. Philly has long had a propensity for picking linemen early in the draft, a concept that has worked well for them. Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are both just plain old, and neither are the players they once were. Beatty is an extremely athletic tackle with a nice big frame, his biggest weaknesses are a lack of strength and a lack of exposure to top talent playing across from him, if taken by Philly he could back-up Thomas for a year and then take over at LT for many years to come.
22. Minnesota James Laurinitis LB Ohio St. – The Vikes have had a sub-par LB group for a long long time. If you pair Laurinitis with Chad Greenway all of a sudden you have one of the better LB duos in the league, and 2 guys who could wreak havoc with the Williams boys keeping blockers off them up front. Laurinitis isn’t a guy who jumps out at you from the screen, but he’s a guy who is always in the right place and always makes the tackle, which means he can make an impact right away.
23. New England Beanie Wells RB Ohio St. – As a confirmed Patriots-hater it was hard for me to give them this pick, but they would be too smart to pass up on this one. Wells is one of the most freakish backs to enter the league in some time, he tips the scales at around 240 LBs, and yet still runs a reported 4.4 4o yard dash time. He really should not fall this far down the board, but so many teams not only have 1 back they like, but most have a couple runners they like these days. Laurence Maroney is so up and down its hard to know what to think of the guy, Wells however is exactly the type of back that Belichek loves. He can hand him the rock over and over and have him plow through the middle of the line to keep the chains moving. Wells is not a pass catcher at all, but with the Pats system and the always under-rated Kevin Faulk still around that’s not that big an issue.
24. Atlanta Ron Brace DT BC – One of the biggest reaches thus far, as most mocks have Brace grading out as a second rounder at best. This is a classic case of a guy that fits what a team needs, as The Falcs are desperate for help on the inside of their D Line. There was no bigger surprise in the NFL this year than these Falcs, but their defense was nowhere near as good as their offense and is in desperate need of some help at some key spots. The Falcons starting DTs last year were the talented Jon Babineaux and the super old Grady Jackson, Babineaux is a UFA though he is expected to re-sign and Grady is 37 and may retire. Babineaux is a slippery guy and does a good job of penetrating and making plays in the backfield, but he lacks bulk and really needs a space-eater next to him to maximize his abilities. Brace is easily the best mammoth nose tackle type on the board, and while not as athletic as teammate BJ Rajii, he can move well for a man his size and should help anchor an improving young defense for many years.
25. Miami Alphonso Smith CB Wake Forest – The fins were a big surprise this past season as well, led by an offense that brought back the old wildcat formation. The defense was better than expected, but still has some holes many of which are in the secondary. Andre Goodman and Will Allen as your starting corners is not very confidence inducing. Smith is a tad under-sized at 5’8”, but he plays much bigger. Smith went up against some of the best receivers in college and shut them down, not only that but he is a big time playmaker, getting his hands on lots of balls. He can also help on special teams.
26. Baltimore Tyson Jackson DE LSU – The Ravens always take the best player on the board, and it has almost always worked out for them. Jackson is enormous and absolutely man handles offensive linemen, he also has the versatility that can be well utilized in this defense bouncing back and forth from 3-4 and the 4-3.
27. Indianapolis Peria Jerry DT Ole Miss – Jerry is the most athletic DT in the draft and can do all the things the Colts like in their defensive linemen, namely penetrating the backfield and disrupting plays. This past season the Colts were starting a 270LB and a 255LB DT in their middle, so Jerry and his 295 LB frame will look like a giant next to those guys. This is a pretty slam dunk pick if he is still on the board here.
28. Philadelphia Knowshon Moreno RB UGA – Could the beastly kid from the jersey shore really last this far? Like I said before, there are a lot of teams with 1 or 2 backs that they really like, and as was also mentioned this is a particularly deep draft for running backs which can lead to teams deciding to pass on one of the top 2-3 backs because they think they can get a good back later on. The Iggles already have one of the best running backs in the league in Brian Westbrook, and even have a couple other backs they like in Buckhalter and Booker, but Knowshon is too good a talent for them to pass up here. Westbrook and Buckhalter both have major injury issues, so Knowshon would make for one heck of a back-up. Also, because of Westbrook’s versatility both backs could line up on the field together. All this said I think if Knowshon started to fall this far I would look for someone to move up and snag him.
29 NY Giants Brian Cushing LB USC – Cushing fell a little, but not without reason, the guy has had a lot of injury issues in school. He is an excellent talent though and fits the mold of the big physical LBs with pass rush ability that the Giants like, and would be a big upgrade from Danny Clark or Gerris Wilkenson and allows them to leave Kiwanuka at DE.
30. Tennessee Darius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland – Tennessee’s lack of a receiving core has been well documented and Heyward-Bey would be a huge upgrade over anyone on the roster. He may need some time to adjust to the pro game as he played in a system in college that didn’t get him the ball very often. He is, however, by far the best size/speed receiver in the draft, and should be a jump ball beast from day one.
31. Arizona Lesean McCoy RB Pitt. – Seems like a match made in heaven. I personally like McCoy best of all the backs in this draft, he has a little bit of Chris Johnson in him – though not quite as fast as Johnson he is a very polished receiver and can make lots of plays in space. McCoy and Hightower would give the Cards the kind of thunder and lightning attack that has become so popular in today’s game.
32. Pittsburgh Alex Mack Center California – Everyone knows Pitt’s weak link is their O-line and Mack is easily the best lineman left on the board, when a center gets first round grades from most draftnicks you know he is a special player and its true about Mack. He was awarded the Draddy Trophy given to the nation’s top scholar-athlete, and when he wasn’t hitting the books he was hitting the weights as his weight room exploits are well known in Cali. Sounds like a fixture of whoever’s line he ends up on.