1. Detroit Lions: Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia
The Lions were easily one of the five worst teams in NFL history and their record reflects this. Going 0-16 had never been achieved before and stability at the quarterback position amplifies the problem. Matt Stafford is an elite prospect with his arm strength, size, pocket presence, intangibles, and starting experience. If the Lions somehow pass him up on draft day it will be a tragedy.
2. St. Louis Rams: Michael Oher, LT, Mississippi
The Rams were targeting Jake Long in the 2007 NFL Draft to shore up their offensive line. Unfortunately for them the Dolphins snagged him and made the playoffs. The Rams are stuck at 2-14. Things look up though as Michael Oher is easily a better pass blocking prospect than Jake Long was or will be. Oher is overshadowed by fellow SEC West left tackle Andre Smith but don’t be fooled. Oher’s pass blocking and athleticism trumps Smith’s.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: Andre Smith, LT, Alabama
The Chiefs can go in many different directions in the draft, including my No. 1 overall prospect Michael Crabtree. The one thing the Chiefs have been missing since Willie Roaf and Will Shields retired has been a stable offensive line. Branden Albert did not impress me as a left tackle in his rookie season and should move back to left guard. This would open up a gaping hole that only a man of Andre Smith’s size could fill. At 6’5, 350 lbs. he is a mauler in the run game and is an exceptional pass blocker. His stamina and footwork need to be improved but other than that he is a top five lock.
4. Seattle Seahawks: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
I currently have three ELITE prospects in this draft: My No. 3 overall player Matt Stafford, my No. 2 overall player Michael Oher, and my No. 1 overall prospect Michael Crabtree. Crabtree has everything you look for in a top receiver with hands, size, toughness, and adequate speed. If he runs in the low 4.4’s he will solidify himself as one of the top receiver prospects this decade next to Calvin Johnson.
5. Cleveland Browns: Brian Orakpo, OLB, Texas
The Browns could go a number of ways with the 5th overall pick. They can select a top corner like Malcolm Jenkins, a top pass rusher like Brian Orakpo, or a top running back like Chris Wells. I see them currently going after the heart of a 3-4 defense which is a pass rushing outside linebacker. All great 3-4 defenses have a dominant pass rusher (Demarcus Ware, Shawn Merriman, Terrell Suggs, James Harrison, etc.) and the Browns should be no different.
6. Cincinnati Bengals: Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
I currently have Knowshon Moreno ranked one spot higher (No. 11 as opposed to No. 12) on my big board but this pick looks to make more sense. The Bengals need to establish a long term run game and Chris Wells can do just that. A local product out of Ohio State, Wells would provide a better fit for the Bengals power run scheme than Moreno and has more upside.
7. Oakland Raiders: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
The Raiders cut star cornerback DeAngelo Hall half way through the season. This is coupled with the possibility of losing All-World cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Even if they do somehow retain Asomugha they need a starting caliber corner on the other side of the field and that man is easily Malcolm Jenkins. At 6’1, 210 lbs. he is a very fluid athlete and runs in the low 4.4’s. He was an All-American at Ohio Stateand should be an impact player from day one with Oakland.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Rey Maualuga, MLB, USC
The top linebacker in this class, Maualuga brings the tenacity and power to a game that only Ray Lewis can. Other team needs include cornerback, offensive line, and defensive tackle but for now the Jaguars can settle with a game changing linebacker.
9. Green Bay Packers: Eugene Monroe, LT, Virginia
When Chad Clifton went down against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, Tony Moll was thoroughly embarrassed by a struggling Bears defensive line. Moll was more suited for the right side any how but he exposed a huge weakness in the Packer line.
The Packers have no depth or future plans for the star bookend tackle tandem of Clifton and Mark Tauscher. Eugene Monroe is a pure pass blocking tackle and is a perfect placement at left tackle. He has the athleticism to play in the Packers zone blocking scheme.
10. San Francisco 49ers: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Even though Pete Carroll blasted Mark Sanchez for declaring as a junior for the NFL Draft, it was a very wise move seeing as he will be the second quarterback off of the board and a top 10 pick.
Sanchez has a huge arm and all of the raw talent in the world. He needs to do a better job protecting the ball and using his mobility wisely. Overall the 49ers need to get a quarterback of the future and Sanchez fits the bill.
11. Buffalo Bills: Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
The Bills will most likely lose starting strong-side linebacker Angelo Crowell to free agency, especially after a shaky IR placement in the pre-season. Curry is the best player left on the board and is a legitimate top 10 selection. A pass rusher could trump this on draft day with either Everette Brown or Aaron Maybin, but overall they missed out on Patrick Willis two years ago so whiffing on a major linebacker prospect like Curry would be foolish.
12. Denver Broncos: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Let me start out by saying they placed seven running backs on IR this year. SEVEN! If that’s not bad enough not one of them could scratch the potential a running back like Knowshon Moreno would have in a zone blocking scheme. Moreno has the best vision, cutback ability, and toughness in the draft. He has decent speed and power for his size. Denver needs defense but Moreno would be a perfect fit in the Mile High City.
13. Washington: Jason Smith, LT, Baylor
The WashingtonRedskins had a terrible end to a brilliant start as they missed out on the playoffs. The Redskins may have more pressing current needs but the offensive line is, to put it lightly, old. Chris Samuels, Jon Jansen, Pete Kendall, and Randy Thomas are all above 30 and their ages show. Jason Smith is arguably the most athletic lineman available and could very well play other positions (guard for example) until he is ready to replace Samuels.
14. New Orleans Saints: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
No team could possibly be angrier at Taylor Mays staying for his senior year than the Saints. They need an impact safety and though William Moore is on the board, I am becoming spectacle of his ability in coverage.
The Saints have invested two first day picks in corners the past two drafts but it’s time to end that problem once and for all. Vontae Davis has some of the rawest talent in the draft and has the speed to keep up with any receiver in the league.
15. Houston Texans: Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
The Texans can go a number of ways with the 15th overall pick including defensive back, defensive end, or tight end if Owen Daniels bolts in free agency. Andre Johnson is easily one of the top three receivers in the NFL, but the Texans have no one opposite of the field to take away the attention he receives every game. Percy Harvin has the speed to go the distance every time he touches the ball and would be a perfect compliment to Johnson.
16. San Diego Chargers: B.J. Raji, NT, Boston College
Nose tackle is not a sexy position to pick in the first round. If Knowshon Moreno or Chris Wells falls to them at 16 they will be the selection, but unfortunately that is not the scenario in this mock.
B.J. Raji will easily be the most coveted nose in this draft and is a legitimate first round selection. Big Jamal Williams has been the best at his position for a number of years but he is getting up there in years and will need to be replaced. This is as smart of a selection the team can make come draft day.
17. New York Jets: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Darrius Heyward-Bey is one of the least known receivers in this draft nationally because of the ineptitude of his head coach to exploit his abilities. D.H.B. has the size to be a possession receiver but the speed to be a deep threat. The Jets could use a safety like William Moore or a corner like D.J. Moore but to truly maximize their offense the Jets need a big time receiver.
18. Chicago Bears: Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
Wait, a defensive end? What about Alex Brown and Mark Anderson? The Bears defensive line failed to generate a pass rush this year and is a major reason they missed out on the playoffs. Wide receiver is needed as well but nobody in this draft has as quick of a first step as Everette Brown. Brown is a pure pass rusher and can reek havoc on a quarterback and provide a spark to an aging defense.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
The Bucs need a quarterback in the worst way and Mark Sanchez might be worth trading up for, but for now they need to stick to their No. 2 need and that is a receiver. A lot of draft “experts” out there believe Jeremy Maclin can give Michael Crabtree a run for his money as the top receiver. I must be missing something.
Maclin has a very thin frame and is one dimensional at this stage of his career. Crabtree, Percy Harvin, and Darrius Heyward-Bey provide more immediate help on offense. With that said Maclin could challenge D.H.B. for the most long term potential as Maclin can run in the low 4.2’s and is a terror on special teams.
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas Cowboys): Eben Britton, LT, Arizona
Eben Britton declared a year early after a monster season at Arizona. Some people question Britton’s ability to play left tackle but I heard the same talk about Sam Baker, the Atlanta Falcons 2nd first round pick (21st overall) in last year’s draft. Even if this is a gamble, the Lions need to kick Jeff Backus to left guard and try to solidify their horrid offensive line.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
L.J. Smith is the most overrated tight end in the NFL and needs to be replaced. Brandon Pettigrew is the most complete tight end in the draft and is more old fashion than the Vernon Davis’ of the NFL today. The Eagles did a good job last year snagging DeSean Jackson in the 2nd round last year and needs to continue building a solid core of young pass catchers for the Kevin Kolb era.
22. Minnesota Vikings: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
Let me begin that this was almost a coin flip between D.J. Moore and Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman would easily be the selection if he would have shown more consistency at the college level. He will probably fly up draft boards come April and will be this selection but his troubles at K-State are, well, troubling. Mooreis a solid corner and a pure playmaker and should help out a secondary built around Antoine Winfield.
23. New England Patriots Aaron Maybin, OLB, Penn State
Few players have come out of nowhere like Aaron Maybin did this year for Penn State. After a great campaign in his redshirt sophomore year he declared. I think this move may not be the best but striking while the iron is hot is never a bad idea.
The Patriots need a corner, but there is no value there at this point of the draft and a top pass rushing outside linebacker-defensive end is exactly what they need to revive an aging defense. Maybin along with Jerrod Mayo and Brandon Merriweather would give Patriot fans hope.
24. Atlanta Falcons: William Moore, FS/SS, Missouri
The Falcons would love it if B.J. Raji fell to them at 24 and that very well might happen. But a nice consolation prize would be the No. 1 safety in the draft. William Moore did not have a spectacular senior year like his junior campaign which included 126 tackles and 8 interceptions. Still, he can play free safety or strong safety and would be a huge addition to the Falcons safety. Brandon Pettigrew could also be the pick if he falls.
25. Miami Dolphins: Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
Ted Ginn Jr. proved this season that he can be a number one receiver in Miami, but he needs help from other receivers to draw attention from him. Kenny Britt is a huge, 6’4 target that is exactly what the doctor ordered. Michael Johnson would be the pick as an outside linebacker, but he will have to prove he can play the position at the combine or at his pro day.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
Chris McAlister is on his way out and Samari Rolle is going to be 33 next season so a replacement at corner back is a dire need. I have Alphonso Smith as fringe first rounder (late first, early second) because of his height. What could propel him to this spot is his amazing ball skills and his vertical. As long as these things check out on film for teams and he runs and jumps well at combine I believe he will solidify himself as a first rounder.
27. Indianapolis Colts: Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
The Colts were ousted in the first round of the playoffs this season and might look at addressing the offense more in the next couple of drafts. With that said, they were hurting at defensive tackle all season long and it showed. Peria Jerry is a fine fit at the three technique in their Cover 2 scheme and has cemented himself as a Day One pick after an All American season. To lock himself into the first round he will probably need a strong Senior Bowl and stay in shape but he could very well hear his name in the first round on draft day.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina Panthers): Duke Robinson, OG, Oklahoma
So much for that “horrible” trade last April. The Panthers traded this first rounder to Philadelphiafor their current starting right tackle Jeff Otah. That trade looks like a pretty good swap as Philly would love to have Otah to replace Jon Runyan.
Anyways, Duke Robinson had a terrible national championship game and his stock took a hit because of it. He may not be a first rounder come April but he is a very good run blocker and if Shawn Andrews doesn’t come back they’ll need a top guard.
29. New York Giants: Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
Brian Cushing’s stock seems to fluctuate like the stock market. He was mentioned in the top 15 preseason, knocked out of the first round in most mocks by mid season, and he’s now back into the mid to lower first round mix. Cushing reminds me a lot of an Adalius Thomas type football player that can play defensive end, outside linebacker, middle linebacker, and possibly strong safety in a pinch. Cushing would give the team versatility with Mathias Kiwanuka.
30. Tennessee Titans: James Laurinaitis, MLB, Ohio State
This is a great value pick for the Titans who had a very disappointing end to a 13-3 season. James Laurinaitis is a very solid football player that can play all three linebacker spots. Keith Bullock is Pro Bowl material, but the other linebackers for Tennessee leaves a little more to be desired. Wide receiver is easily a No. 1 need but they seem to ignore it every year.
31. Arizona Cardinals: Alex Mack, C, California
Hmm? The Arizona Cardinals. In the Super Bowl? WOW. Didn’t see that coming at all.
Even with all of these incomplete sentences, the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl but they do have a number of needs. Michael Johnson would be the pick, but again he needs to establish that he can stand up in a 3-4 scheme. Until then, Alex Mack will be the pick for the Cardinals. He is one of the best center prospects ever with his leadership and overall blocking balance. Arizona has done a good job of rebuilding their line and this will be solidifying it.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Max Unger, OL, Oregon
The Steelers have established themselves as the best team in the NFL and one of the best defensive units of all time. Their offensive line, on the other hand, is very porous. Their starting tackles are going to be free agents and even they are pretty average. Max Unger can play all but left tackle on an offensive line and is the type of player the Steelers like. Unger needs to work on his one on one pass blocking but he won’t have to worry about that if he plays in the interior.