1. Detroit: Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia
Detroit has set themselves up in interesting fashion. With a second-round draft pick committed to Drew Stanton two years ago, and a two-year contract entering its final year for Daunte Culpepper, quarterback wouldn't seem like the team's first conventional need.
This Lions team, however, is far from conventional. Perhaps the best player available, Michael Crabtree, is a receiver, a position that the Lions have drafted with their first picks in four of the past six years. The year previous to that they drafted Joey Harrington, who proved to be a bust.
The Lions took Calvin Johnson two years ago, and much like when the Colts drafted Peyton Manning a year after Marvin Harrison, drafting a franchise signal-caller to pair with an elite receiver could be the Lion's route to success.
2. St. Louis: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
It may seem logical for the Rams to draft someone like Michael Crabtree here. He's perhaps the best player in this years draft, but the may not fit into the Rams' plans.
Much of Torry Holt's struggles can be attributed to the struggles of Marc Bulger. So considering that, it would be another logical step to think that the Rams may draft a quarterback. However, a new quarterback isn't likely the answer.
Marc Bulger has been sacked over 100 times in the past three years. Only Jon Kitna shares that distinction.
The teams with the three best tackles of the last decade, St. Louis, Seattle, and Baltimore, will all be looking to replace the position with elite talent and duplicate the success they had.
3. Kansas City: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Kansas City will have to decide soon if Tyler Thigpen is going to be their quarterback moving forward. Thigpen has played well considering the circumstances he's been thrust into, but definitely hasn't shown the consistency necessary to deter the Chiefs from taking Sanchez.
The Chiefs have Dwayne Bowe in place already, and Tony Gonzalez is still a Chief and could remain there in 2009. Jamaal Charles is probably the team's running back of the future, or at least as far as Sanchez or Stafford's future are concerned, as he's a better pass catcher than Larry Johnson.
Kansas City would provide a soft landing for a young quarterback.
This pick could be a defensive end, perhaps Brian Orakpo from the University of Texas.
4. Seattle: Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
Many people feel the Seahawks will draft Michael Crabtree here; I tend to disagree. The Seahawks will have a healthy Deion Branch next year. In all likelihood, Nate Burleson will be cut, which should free up some salary for a couple of free-agent receivers, as Burleson will be on the books for a big salary next year if he's retained.
The Seahawks have Ben Obomanu, who has shown flashes of ability during his brief career. Also, while the Seahawks have likely burnt their bridge with Bobby Engram, after failing to extend him last offseason, Koren Robinson will likely be healthy and is very familiar with the West Coast Offense.
However, much like the Rams, the Seahawks will be looking to replace Walter Jones soon. He’s coming off an injury shortened 2008, and the team will need to find his replacement sooner rather than later.
Some criticize Oher, saying he’s probably a right tackle in the NFL. While I disagree, I think that if he doesn’t work out at left tackle, he’d make a good guard or right tackle, making this pick less risky.
5. Cleveland: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
It is no secret that the Browns defense has struggled in recent years. However, the addition of Shaun Rogers in the offseason helped to improve the defense while Rogers wasn't sucking wind on the sidelines.
The problem with that trade is that the Browns gave up Leigh Bodden in the process, depleting an already sub-standard secondary.
Malcolm Jenkins has potential to be a great corner in the NFL, a luxury that few teams can claim to have.
If Michael Crabtree fell to the Browns, he may be an option here, as Braylon Edwards could fall out of favor with Cleveland fans for his comments, and the Browns brass as a result of his inconsistency and inability to catch balls in critical situations.
6. Cincinnati: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
The Bengals were decimated by injuries on their defense as 2008 progressed. While that could point to a better effort in 2009, they probably wouldn't have had a great defense even without the injuries.
In Orakpo the Bengals get a guy who could help the team increase the NFL's second worst 16 sacks. Also, the team is giving up a ninth worst 126 yards per game on the ground.
7. Oakland: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Al Davis, despite his clear preference for players with elite athletic ability rather than elite skills, doesn't regularly draft receivers in the first round.
But after whiffing on Robert Gallery, and having his top-10 running back and quarterback both struggle in 2008, its apparent that the Raiders need some help on the offensive line.
Michael Crabtree is the sexy pick here, but Monroe is the smart one.
8. Jacksonville: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Jacksonville has set themselves up for mediocrity. After drafting Byron Leftwich, the team drafted Matt Jones and Reggie Williams in subsequent years.
Leftwich is a backup in Pittsburgh, while Matt Jones is a cokehead and Reggie Williams can't beat Dennis Northcutt for a starting spot. The team signed Jerry Porter in the offseason, and traded for Troy Williamson. Also, in 2007, the team drafted tight end Marcedes Lewis in the first round.
David Garrard needs someone to throw to for the next better part of a decade. With Jones inconsistency off the field, Williams and Williamson’s inconsistency on it, and Porter and Northcutt’s age, he’ll need a reliable target soon.
Any team with Dennis Northcutt as its most productive receiver is in trouble. Crabtree is a steal here, and probably steps in and starts from day one.
9. Green Bay: Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
Green Bay has very few needs for a 6-10 team. They have two very good receivers in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, a young, promising front seven, and a solid secondary.
However, the team's once good offensive line is aging, and Matt Taucher spent much of the 2008 season on injured reserve.
However, with the three top tackles off the board the Packers take Curry, perhaps the best prospect left, to shore up their linebacking corps.
10. San Francisco: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
The 49'ers have a lot of holes, including many on their defense, however, after hiring Mike Singletary as their head coach it would stand to reason that the team wouldn't draft a defensive player, as Singletary may feel he can mold his own defense.
The 49'ers are in desperate need of an NFL-caliber quarterback. While Shaun Hill performed well to close out the 2008 season, he's probably not a long term answer. However, there aren't any quarterbacks available here worth taking.
The 49'ers have Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson on the roster, as well as a few other hold-overs from the Mike Nolan era. However, none have shown tremendous success in a WCO, or an offense similar.
11. Buffalo: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
The Bills haven't taken an offensive lineman in the first two rounds since whiffing on Mike Williams in 2002. Also, the team has ranked 25th or worse in total offense in each season from 2003 and on, coincidence?
The team has gone 7-9 in each of Dick Jauron’s three seasons coaching the team, and has given up 111 sacks in that time.
Marshawn Lynch is averaging barely over four yards per carry, and even the "change of pace" back Fred Jackson, who was something of a home-run threat in 2008, did much of that on draw and deception plays.
12. Denver: Rey Maualuga, LB, USC
The Broncos have truly struggled at the linebacker position since the release of Al Wilson. Wilson never caught on elsewhere, but losing the former Pro-Bowler has really hurt Denver's defense.
In previous years, the Broncos were like clockwork come draft day. For the most part, the farther away from center a player lines up, the later in the draft the Bronco's would take him.
Things have changed, and Mike Shanahan's influence both on the field and in terms of personnel are both gone. This pick could be a toss-up at the running back and linebacker positions.
13. Washington: Everette Brown, DE/LB, Florida State
The Jason Taylor experiment failed miserably. Taylor is a poor fit in Washington. He's too light after his run on "Dancing with the stars," and perhaps too old also.
The Redskins only had 24 sacks last season, led by Andre Carter who had four sacks.
The Redskins sack total was fourth worst in the NFL, the three teams below them, the Chiefs, Browns, and Bengals had a combined 10.5 games (Bengals tie).
For those shouting for an Aaron Maybin pick here, I'm sceptical of the draft stock of a lineman listed between 220-246 lbs.
14. New Orleans: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
The Saints making this pick indicates that they chose not to re-sign Jonathan Vilma. What it also means, is that they think that a player available at this draft position will be an overall improvement to their team.
Besides, the Saints seem to be a good match for Vilma, and he could choose to sign with the Saints at the end of the offseason.
If all of that occurs, the Saints will still likely draft on the defensive side of the ball. The Saints are truly an average defense away from being among the league's elite.
This pick is probably a choice between James Lauranitus, Vontae Davis, William Moore, and Michael Johnson.
15. Houston: Brian Cushing, LB, USC
Houston's defense is a mess, as it has been for quite sometime. A year ago, it seemed like this pick would be a runningback, as Ahman Green would continue to age and the team would need a replacement.
In stepped Steve Slaton, former West Virginia standout, and it appears the Texans have found a long-term solution at the position.
Cushing is a guy who could shoot up draft boards as the draft inches closer. He’s got tons of measurable appeal, but not all the production a team could hope for when drafting him.
16. San Diego: James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State
The Chargers struggled to regain their defensive identity this season, after losing Shawn Merriman to a knee injury. Jyles Tucker, while he's shown promise in his first two seasons, is far from an equal replacement.
To compound the damage done by the loss of Merriman, the Bolts have had a proverbial revolving door on the inside of the linebacking corps.
Had Laurinaitis come out last year, there's a good chance he'd have been taken in the top-10, but with Ray Maualuga coming out in the same draft, Laurnaitis falls to the mid-first round.
17. New York Jets: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
With Eric Mangini fired, and question marks at the quarterback position, the semi-surprise Jets have more question marks than the average near-playoff, five-win improvement team.
Their first priority this offseason will be determining who will be under center. After a mid-season surge which led to several journalists picking the Jets as the AFC's Super Bowl representative, the streaky Brett Favre hit a cold streak, and the team lost four of its last five games.
The Jets best option is probably to name Kellen Clemens the starter early in the offseason, and begin finding him targets.
18. Chicago: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
For the past few years, people have been beating the drum for the Bears to get younger on their offensive line. The team has several needs, their defense is aging, Kyle Orton is the team's best quarterback, and they've needed a receiver since before Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad left.
Last season the Bears took Chris Williams, a tackle from Vanderbilt, and began to shore up their offensive line. This year, they need to find a younger solution on the left side.
While all their other needs are pressing, the Bears are a team that builds from the inside out, and are aware that the influence of a good offensive line can make a below-average quarterback look good, and ease the workload on an old, but still talented defense.
19. Tampa Bay: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
The Bucs have had a hard time at the running back position in the past two seasons. From a career threatening injury to Cadillac Williams, to the mid-2008 injury to Earnest Graham. The team spent a large portion of last season giving Warrick Dunn a large amount of their carries.
Knowshon Moreno is perhaps an ideal West Coast Offense back. He's got some size, he's low to the ground, he can catch the ball, and he's shifty.
The Bucs also need some youth on both sides of the ball, pretty much across the board, and may look to nab a quarterback here if a third QB proves to be worthy of a first round pick.
20. Detroit: William Beatty, OT, Connecticut
With Matt Millen's hand off the trigger, Detroit makes the second good pick of what should be a draft similar to that of the 2008 Kansas City, widely heralded draft.
Beatty is another guy who has seen his stock soar, though at less than 300 lbs he may not be an ideal fit everywhere.
21. Philadelphia: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
In every draft since 2000, a tight end has gone in the first round. The teams taking those tight ends, and the tight ends themselves have had extremely mixed success.
Donovan McNabb may be out in Philadelphia after this season, along with Andy Reid. However, no matter what happens, whoever is playing QB will need something that the Eagles haven't had since Terrell Owens left, a large, athletic, reliable target.
22. Minnesota: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
Minnesota needs a long term answer at quarterback. While Brad Childress is being retained, that retention could be short-lived if he's still entertaining the idea of Tarvaris Jackson as the team's long-term answer at the position.
There probably isn't a good option here, and the team will probably have to look at Brett Favre or Donovan McNabb going into 2009. Other options could include Seneca Wallace, Matt Leinart, Alex Smith, Chris Simms or another lesser prospect.
Opposing offenses completed over 61 percent of their passes against the Vikings defense, and with no quarterback worth a pick here, the Vikings improve their secondary.
23. New England: Clint Sintim, LB, Virginia
New England is one of a few teams who come into this draft with essentially no pressing needs. The team struck gold with Jerod Mayo in last year's draft, answering essentially any question marks in their linebacking corps. With Rodney Harrison going down midseason, a need for a safety became apparent.
Had Myron Rolle entered the draft, its entirely possible that the Pats would draft him and sit on him for a year or two. Thats moot now.
Clint Sintim can fill in on the inside our outside for now, until he solidifies himself at a position of his own.
24. Atlanta: B. J. Raji, DT, Boston College
The Falcons were a huge surprise in the NFL this season. The occasionally criticized Matt Ryan selection turned out well, to understate it. Michael Turner proved to be everything the Falcons paid for, to this point in his short career as a starter. Even the reach in drafting Sam Baker turned out well.
So what does a team with a talented, fast, young offense need? A better defense.
The Falcons seem to be committed to building a foundation in the trenches, both on offense and defense, as four of the team's last six first and second round draft picks have been in the defensive front seven.
Raji is an excellent value here, in a poor defensive tackle class, and slips this far simply because each year a position slips, seemingly, and it is usually a draft's position of weakness.
25. Miami: Aaron Maybin, LB/DE, Penn State
With Bill Parcells at the helm in Miami, its almost a certainty that while the Dolphins have needs at just about every skill position, they'll be drafting elsewhere.
Ted Ginn has yet to realize his potential, and the team's cornerbacks need re-vamping but in all likelihood, Parcells will be drafting on the defensive front seven.
Maybin will be an adequate rush linebacker this year, and could become a star as he begins to realize his potential.
26. Baltimore: Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
The Ravens have a new coach, a new quarterback, and one of the most complete, deep defenses in the NFL. What could a team like that possibly need?
When the Ravens whiffed on Kyle Boller, one of the major reasons was that the team committed to picking up WCO receivers. While other teams, other WCO teams drafted or signed receivers with size, Boller had one big target, Todd Heap.
Replacing Heap is a possibility here. Heap has gone from a 700+ yd, 5+ td producing tight end to a tight end who hasn't produced that in the past two years combined.
Kenny Britt is a big target, and one who can grow around Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason.
27. Indianapolis: LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh
While Peyton Manning recovered from two knee surgeries, the Colts remained a viable playoff team. Much of that had to do with the team's ability to slow opponents passing game.
The Colts gave up six passing touchdowns, best in the league. While the team doesn't have high profile names starting on the corners, its not likely the team takes a corner. Tony Dungy, and several other coaches who teach the Cover-Two have had success plugging in the right personnel, as opposed to the best athletes. Jim Caldwell will likely maintain the same scheme.
The Colts have made a habit in the past decade of reaching for second round talent in the first round. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes both averaged 3.5 YPC last season, and Addai showed a propensity for being injured.
28. Philadelphia - from Carolina: Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
The Eagles have some needs, but none pressing. The team has underachieved at times, and overachieved at others, but one mainstay has been the defense. From the beginning of the season, to the benching of Donovan McNabb, to the team's unlikely berth into the playoffs.
Jim Johnson loves to blitz, and the Eagles are so well known for their tendency to blitz, that they are often mistaken as a 3-4.
Truthfully, the Eagles would ideally take a look at an eventual Brian Dawkins replacement here, but Michael Johnson simply offers to great a fit and to great a value to pass up for the Eagles, as Johnson can play OLB or DE in the Eagles scheme.
29. New York Giants: Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
The Giants have been able to overcome a lot of adversity in the past few years. From the ugly departures of Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan and Jeremy Shockey, to the legal issues around Plaxico Burress, to the "lame duck" title given to Tom Coughlin and the problems that Eli Manning had.
The one, probably most devastating loss the team had was the knee injury to Osi Umenyiora.
While Justin Tuck built on an excellent Super Bowl performance for a very good 2008 season, and Mathias Kiwanuka returned to his original end position with success, the team lost pretty severe depth as both Strahan and Umenyiora were absent in 2008.
The Giants probably need a replacement for Plaxico Burress. However, when a team has a strength, and a strength at which they are deep, they don’t get that way by only drafting the position when they need it. Adding another good player to their D-line rotation could be appealing, as Peria’s an excellent value here.
30. Tennessee: Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Titans fans have been beating the drum for a wide receiver for what seems like forever. Last season, the Titans missed on the second round run of wide receivers, many of whom were thought to be first round prospects.
Fittingly, Limas Sweed, a former teammate of Vince Young's was taken right before the Titans picked in the second round. Young was subsequently benched, and while Kerry Collins had success in the standings, the Titans didn't have a go-to, or big play option in 2008.
This pick is the best receiver available, possibly even ignoring scheme fit.
31. Arizona: Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State
In the 2008 draft, had Jonathan Stewart fallen to the Cardinals, I'm convinced they'd have drafted the former Oregon Duck.
When Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, his bread and butter was the power running game. The Steelers controlled the clock better than anyone, and a lot of their defensive success can be attributed to their offense limiting their opponent’s possessions, and eventually forcing the opposing team to commit to the pass.
Edgerrin James isn't that guy, though Whisenhunt made due with him until Tim Hightower showed flashes of ability. After essentially being handed the starting job, Hightower reeled off five of eight remaining games where he averaged less than two yards per carry.
Beanie Wells is not as talented as Jonathan Stewart, but both are large backs, and if Wells can remain healthy he could be Whisenhunt's answer in the power running game.
32. Pittsburgh: Duke Robinson, G, Oklahoma
The Steelers have done an excellent job in recent years of re-tooling their team through the draft, or via free agent bargains.
When the team drafted LaMarr Woodley within a few dozen picks of Lawrence Timmons, they were widely criticized.
When they let Joey Porter leave, they were again criticized. Now, as Timmons and Woodley have played key roles in the team's recent success, critics on the matter have subsided.
Last offseason, the team let Alan Faneca, arguably the best guard in the NFL, sign with the New York Jets for an exorbitant amount of money.
Such frugality hasn't come without penalty. While the team's record is better this year, they've gone from the third best team in terms of yards per carry, to the 29th best, or fourth worst.
Robinson can probably step in and start from day one.
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