NFL Mock Draft: Before Free Agency Strikes
With Free Agency starting in a week, I thought I’d break down the first three rounds of the draft.
Team needs, best available athlete and possible connection of NFL teams to college programs where all taken into consideration.
- Miami Dolphins: Chris Long DE Virginia…Hard working player who played for a former Parcells associate, Al Groh, and has a Hall of Fame Dad in Howie Long. All of that adds up to a Bill Parcells type player.
- St. Louis Rams: Jake Long OT Michigan…No team got decimated more with offensive line injuries than the Rams last year and its obvious Orlando Pace can’t play forever. Long will be the future leader of this group and should have a Pro Bowl career.
- Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan QB Boston College..Time to turn the page for this franchise and get a new identity. Ryan may not start from Day One but is the type of guy to lead this team back to respectability. (Granted, some questionable hires in Atlanta haven’t instilled great confidence so far).
- Oakland Raiders: Glenn Dorsey DT LSU…The perfect replacement for Warren Sapp. Dorsey gives them the player to build their defense around as they continue to try to become respectable again. (They may want to get a new owner too).
- Kansas City: Ryan Clady OT Boise State…Chiefs needed to upgrade talent on the offensive line if they hope to get any kind of return on the Larry Johnson extension. Clady should be an instant starter.
- NY Jets: Sedrick Ellis DT USC..Mangini continues to tinker with the defense and needs a disruptive force up the middle for teams to think twice about trying to pound the ball down their throats. Ellis should create that force for them having started on a great USC defense and become a perennial Pro Bowler for many years for the Jets.
- New England Patriots: Mike Jenkins CB South Florida…With Samuel and Gay free agents and no LBs warranting this pick, it makes it very easy for Bill to add this young talent to the secondary. Jenkins should be a starter no later than mid-season.
- Baltimore Ravens: Brian Brohm QB Louisville…Need to give up on the Steve McNair and Kyle Boller years and start to groom someone to become a real QB for this team. Brohm is a smart QB who can make all the throws.
Cincinnati Bengals: Vernon Gholston DE Ohio State…Cincinnati knows they need to bring the heat and Gholston has only started to scratch his potential. Should be a great student for Marvin Lewis (hopefully Lewis will be in Cincinnati for more than the 2008 season).
New Orleans Saints: Leodis McKelvin CB Troy…Saints need to improve secondary and McKelvin is the next great thing coming from the University of Troy (see DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora). McKelvin played well at the Senior Bowl and excels in special teams too.
- Buffalo Bills: Malcolm Kelly WR Oklahoma….The perfect fit for the Bills. Kelly is that big target they desperately need to balance out Parrish, Reed, and Evans. Should have a huge impact on the offense early this season.
- Denver Broncos: Chris Williams OT Vanderbilt…Broncos need to upgrade the offensive line to give Jay Cutler a fighting chance and adding Williams to the line will improve both the passing and running game.
- Carolina Panthers: Derrick Harvey DE Florida…With Mike Rucker's career winding down (at least in Carolina) and Julius Peppers a major question mark, the Panthers can add a guy like Harvey to start and rebuild the defense around for the future.
- Chicago Bears: Darren McFadden RB Arkansas If Dmac starts to slide this far a certain owner in TX may be burning up the phones. Assuming they stay here the Bears can add two-time Heisman runner up to the offense and move Cedric Benson back to the role as #2 tailback.
- Detroit Lions: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB Tennessee State.. With the constant quest in the NFL for shut down corners the Lions would be wise to snatch up one of the hottest players this off-season. DRC performed well at the Senior Bowl and looks poised to jump into the first round.
- Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Stewart RB Oregon…...Suddenly Edgerrin James has been looking for old and JJ Arrington hasn't distinguished himself enough to be trusted. Stewart played in the spread offense at Oregon and can certainly be a dual threat and great addition to the offense.
- Minnesota Vikings: DeSean Jackson WR California…Explosive player who will give them an outside threat for their offense and go great with ROY Adrian Peterson.
- Houston Texans: Rashard Mendenhall RB Illinois…Need a #1 HR threat behind Schaub and since Ahman Green couldn’t stay healthy, landing Rashard at this spot is a steal and should help the offense significantly.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Jeff Otah OT Pittsburgh…Philly is a hard team to predict but with the tackles getting older, adding a bodyguard for McNabb and Westbrook would be a nice addition.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: James Hardy WR Indiana…Checkered past might scare some teams but not Gruden. Hardy is a freak of talent and will bring an added dimension to the offense.
- Washington Redskins: Calais Campbell DE Miami (Fla.) …Skins will be looking for a big wideout but a talent like Campbell is hard to pass up. Will alter passing game without even getting near the QB because of his long arms. He’s a basketball player playing football.
- Dallas Cowboys: Felix Jones RB Arkansas…Jerry gets to make this call and jumps to add another Arkansas player to the roster. Perfect #2 to go with Barber and can help with the struggling special teams.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Collins OT Kansas..Steelers offensive line needs some new talent with Fancea and Starks likely leaving. Collins showed what he could do this season as he helped Kansas have their best season in several decades.
- Tennessee Titans: Early Doucet WR LSU…..To fairly grade Vince Young you need to give him some real weapons and Doucet is the kind of guy that will be making the phrase “Vince Young has really stepped this season improving his accuracy” heard throughout network sports TV.
- Seattle Seahawks: Sam Baker OT USC…The running game has struggled and the Seahawks need to improve the talent in front of the backs as much as they need a new back. Baker is a West Coast guy who got outstanding coaching college and contrary to some “experts” I think will be a starter early on.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Phillip Merling DE Clemson..Still need consistent pressure for the end and Merling is under the radar a little and should make an early appearance in the starting line up in Jacksonville.
- San Diego Chargers: Kentwan Balmer DT North Carolina…SD could really go a lot of way with this pick but getting a guy like Balmer to rotate with the rest of the line will make running against SD that much tougher. (Remember NC coach Butch Davis and Norv Turner where on the Cowboys staff together).
- Dallas Cowboys: Antoine Cason CB Arizona…Terrance Newman will be a free agent next year and Dallas is losing any depth behind him this off-season. Cason is a special talent who should make an immediate impact on the defense and special teams.
- San Francisco 49’ers: Andre Caldwell WR Florida…Mike Martz needs wide receivers and Caldwell showed what he’s about at the Senior Bowl. Would be a steal at this point and a candidate for Rookie of the Year.
- Green Bay Packers: Kenny Phillips FS Miami (Fla.)…GB needs to improve the secondary especially safety position and Phillips has show all characteristics to be a great QB for the defense.
- NY Giants: Keith Rivers OLB USC…With Mitchell and Torbor free agents the G-Men will need to add some talent to the LB core. Rivers is a boom or bust player that the Giants can roll the dice with and if he plays close to his potential may be the steal of the first round.
- Miami Dolphins: Gosder Cherilus OT Boston College. Instant starter from day one. Battle tested and a cornerstone for the line to build around.
- St. Louis Rams: Lawrence Jackson DE USC..Perfect player to line up next to last year’s #1 pick to give the defense some teeth.
- Atlanta Falcons: Martellus Bennett TE Texas A&M….With Crumpler gone Martellus will be a starter from day 1.
- Oakland Raiders: Mario Manningham WR Michigan….HR threat Al Davis loves.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Aqib Talib CB Kansas…Mix reports on Talib some have higher than this spot but will start for KC.
- NY Jets: Dan Connor ILB Penn State…Perfect addition to the Jets LB core. Smart player who won’t be caught out of position.
- Baltimore Ravens: Quentin Groves OLB Auburn…Steal at this spot but because of injury history should be there when he selects.
- San Francisco 49’ers: Carl Nicks OT Nebraska….Entire offense needs overhaul and Nicks is nearly starter ready level having had Callahan as his coach at Nebraska.
- New Orleans Saints: Ali Highsmith OLB LSU..Great motor who will be a fan favorite.
- Buffalo Bills: Reggie Smith CB Oklahoma…Buffalo just needs to stay the course and continue to add best available athletes with each pick. Smith should start in 2008.
- Denver Broncos: Pat Sims DT Auburn…It’s about time the Broncos start to draft defensive lineman rather than continue to take from the scrap heap.
- Carolina Panthers: Chad Henne QB Michigan….Will contend with Matt Moore as QB of the future.
- Chicago Bears: Andre Woodson QB Kentucky..If they can get a good vet to sit in front for two years Woodson could be the answer for the next 12.
- Detroit Lions: Chris Johnson RB East Carolina…Need a back to either replace or compliment Kevin Jones depending on his health.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Fred Davis TE USC….Need to improve the “quality” of people on this roster and Davis is finally legit threat at TE for Carson Palmer.
- Minnesota Vikings: Darrell Robertson DE Georgia Tech….With the reports of Kenechi Udeze situation this becomes a need pick. Robertson is a solid player who benefited from terrific coaching at Georgia Tech.
- Atlanta Falcons: Red Bryant DT Texas A&M…Coach Smith gets him a man that will remind him of the big boys he left behind in Jacksonville.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Charles Godfrey CB Iowa…Philly always seems to draft replacements a year before needed. Godfrey will be a nickel this year and take over one of the spots next season.
- Arizona Cardinals: Cliff Avril OLB/DE Purdue….Avril is another young LB who would be perfect for the current regime to mold into a Pro Bowler in Arizona.
- Washington Redskins: Devin Thomas WR Michigan State…The big WR they desperately need.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Xavier Adibi OLB Virginia Tech…The defense is get old and Adibi could replace Derrick Brooks as the new ringleader for the unit.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Jamaal Charles RB Texas..Everyone knew when Willie Parker went down the Steelers where done. Charles would be a legit #2 threat and eventual starter.
- Tennessee Titans: Terrell Thomas CB USC…Anytime Coach Fisher gets to add a USC player it’s a good day for him.
- Seattle Seahawks: John Carlson TE Notre Dame…Another great addition to revamping the Seahawks offense. Carlson has had two years of NFL caliber coaching now at ND and should be a starter from day 1.
- Cleveland Browns: Erin Henderson OLB Maryland…Browns need to get adding talent to the defense so every game doesn’t end up a shoot out.
- Miami Dolphins: Trevor Laws DT Notre Dame…Another clog in the middle for the revamped Miami defense.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Limas Sweed WR Texas…With Wilford leaving via free agency and Matt Jones possibly being cut the Jags need to add another big target. Sweed fits that role and just needs to stay healthy.
- Indianapolis Colts: Brandon Albert OG Virginia…Appears the Colts will have an opening at one of the guard position and Albert is a nice prospect who can be groomed into an eventual starter.
- Green Bay Packers: Tracy Porter CB Indiana…Porter will be a nice player to groom to replace Al Harris.
- Dallas Cowboys: Donnie Avery WR Houston…Terry Glenn’s career may be over and Avery is that threat the team missed last year. Steal at this point.
- New England Patriots: Jerod Mayo ILB Tennessee…Pats need to improve the linebackers on this team. Mayo should be a contributor to both the defense and special teams.
- NY Giants: Simeon Castille FS Alabama…While the Giants caught fire in the playoffs they were still a team that got beat during the season by the Packers, Patriots and twice by Dallas due to an average secondary. Castile will be the new QB of the secondary.
- Miami Dolphins: Earl Bennett WR Vanderbilt..Parcells likes smart players who will do their job and not embarrass him or the franchise. Bennett is a player who has yet to reach his potential but could be a starter by the end of the season.
- St. Louis Rams: Mike Pollak C Arizona St.....The Rams could to built up the depleted offensive line.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Roy Schuening OG Oregon State…Similar to the Rams, KC needs new bodies on the 0-line.
- New England Patriots: Bruce Davis OLB UCLA…Time to stock pile some replacements for the aging LBs.
- Atlanta Falcons: Steve Slaton RB West Virginia…Warrick Dunn’s eventual replacement.
- NY Jets: Ray Rice RB Rutgers….Should work well with Thomas Jones to create a two headed monster in NY. Popular pick with the Jets faithful.
- San Francisco 49’ers: Marcus Howard OLB Georgia…Need to improve talent base and with the cutting of Derek Smith, linebacker now because a bigger need.
- Buffalo Bills: Martin Rucker TE Missouri….Smart, talent player who shared the spotlight with Coffman at Missouri but should flourish in the NFL. Mike Rucker’s brother.
- Buffalo Bills: Dre Moore DT Maryland…Big guy to fill up the middle on the defense.
- Minnesota Vikings: Joe Flacco QB Delaware…Won’t push to start year 1 but may be the long term answer at QB.
- Carolina Panthers: Eddie Royal WR Virginia Tech..Dual threat that has great speed but had only average senior season.
- Chicago Bears: Heath Newberry OT Newberry…Small school prospect that could develop into something special.
- Detroit Lions: Kendall Langford DE Hampton…Another small school talent that would be a nice fit for the Lions defensive scheme.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Shawn Crable OLB Michigan…This team needs linebackers and a big time Big Ten LB is a nice addition.
- New Orleans Saints: Tavares Gooden ILB Miami…Very under-rated prospect who will work well for Coach Payton.
- Houston Texans: Brandon Flowers CB Virginia Tech….A player who should be starting by 2009 but will be a great addition to nickel packages and certainly special teams.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Johnny Dingle DE West Virginia…Need Defensive Ends with Kearse and Howard leaving. Dingle has great skills and should adapt quickly to Jim Johnson’s scheme.
- Arizona Cardinals: DeJuan Tribble CB Boston College…Up and down senior season but should become a starter early in his career.
- Minnesota Vikings: Jermichael Finley TE Texas…Vikings need better weapons to be able to get a fair assessment of any QB and Finley gives them a legit TE target.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Matt Forte’ RB Tulane….Nice pick for Tampa. Replace Mike Alstott in a lot of sets.
- Washington Redskins: Oniel Cousins OT UTEP…Skins need some youth on the offensive line. Cousins can be groomed to replace Jansen down the road.
- Tennessee Titans: Kevin Smith RB Central Florida..Steal this late but should become a dependable starter for the Titans. Could be a special player.
- Seattle Seahawks: Frank Okam DT Texas…Need that big guy up the middle. Just need to make sure he’s motivated.
- Cleveland Browns: Chris Ellis DE Virginia Tech..Keep adding to the defense. Ellis has a great motor and should play quite a bit his rookie season.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: John Sullivan C Notre Dame.. As noted before Steelers need to improve the offensive line. Sullivan had the advantage of top coaching and should start early.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Dwight Lowery CB San Jose State..Always need depth at CB.
- Chicago Bears: Phillip Wheeler ILB Georgia Tech…With Briggs moving on the Bears will need to add another LB to their core group.
- Green Bay Packers: John Greco OT Toledo…Can play guard and should see action often in his rookie season.
- Dallas Cowboys: Marcus Griffin FS Texas…Great addition at this point and should replace Keith Davis in a lot sets and on special teams.
- Indianapolis Colts: Geno Hayes OLB Florida State…Colts always looking to upgrade defense and Hayes is the perfect fit for Dungy’s system.
- New England Patriots: Jamar Adams SS Michigan…Eventual replacement for Rodney Harrison.
- NY Giants: Mike Hart RB Michigan…Reuben Droughns is moving on and Hart is the tough runner that should work great in their system.
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