This is a different take on the 2008 draft. In this mock draft (which took way more effort than it should have) the concept of BPA was completely removed from the equation and teams drafted to fill their most desperate need with the best player for their scheme and system. The results were very different from most of the projections which I have seen and very different from many of them which I have made.
The idea here was less about predicting the draft, an exercise which is self-defeating, as teams take seemingly random and irrational action (or over rational, in defiance of the 'experts' in the case of choosing Mario Williams over Reggie Bush) and more about scripting the needs of the team vs. the available talent and the likelihood of filling particular needs in the subsequent rounds vs needs that can't be filled with quality players in the middle rounds.
With that overly complicated explanation out of the way, here is what I came up with:
1. Miami Dolphins - Jake Long, OT, Michigan - Aside from being a dominant OT, aside from having a great combine, aside from only allowing one sack in his senior season, Miami only has two tackles on their roster and neither of them is great. Having a rock at LT has been the in road to building championship teams (cite: St. Lewis with Orlando Pace). Jake Long makes the fins better on the offensive side of the ball, protects their young QBs (Either Beck or McCown). Chris Long is the sexy pick here, and he is a good one, who I wouldn't be shocked to see the Dolphins take here, but statistically the value added from offensive linemen makes them the safest pick in the top five.
2. St. Louis Rams - Chris Long, DE, UVA - With Jake Long going at #1 this offers a huge opportunity for the Rams to make improvement to their ailing Defense. Again, the sexy pick has Jake Long going to the Rams here, but I have issues with that, even if he is still on the board. The Rams really haven't shown a loss of faith in Orlando Pace nor do they seem interested in a complete rebuilding project.
3. Atlanta Falcons - Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC - Ellis and Dorsey have flip-flopped all over draft boards around the league as the number one and number two DTs. Atlanta released one of its starting tackles, apparently positioning for this pick. While Dorsey may be the better of the two on pure talent, Ellis is a safer pick for an organization that just got burned badly and needs to retool a whole franchise. Players from USC have been quality contributors to other franchises (New Orleans, Arizona, Kansas City, Seattle) and Dorsey has some question marks about lingering injuries.
4. Oakland Raiders - Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State - Many have prognosticated that Raiders continue their tradition of F*#%ing themselves in the draft by taking DMac here, but I have some faith that with the vertical passing game Al Davis covets just around the corner that the silver and black make a pick that actually improves their team. Does Clady deserve to be drafted this high? Probably not, but Oakland needs help on the line to protect their new QB. As a bonus, this pick screws the Chiefs out of much needed O-Line help...
5. Kansas City Chiefs - Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU - With both of the premium OTs off the board and nothing among the WRs that merit a pick in the top 5, the Chiefs get put in a tough position. They can't fix their woes, so they console themselves with Dorsey and the hope that he can be a compliment to DE Jared Allen and put some bite back into the interior defensive line.
6. New York Jets - Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas - This one is going to make Jets fans happy. Though OLB/DE Vernon Gholston would probably be the better fit, the chance to take a potential RB here is too much to pass over. Though there are questions about his durability and draft genius Mike Mayock has concerns about his ability to get yards after contact, the simple fact that the Jets need an infusion of offense makes this a pretty good gamble for them.
7. New England Patriots - Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas - Sure mike Jenkins rates a little higher on most draft boards, and Gholston adds to their aging corps of linebackers, but Talib offers some help in a secondary that was decimated by free agency, gives the pats another option in the punt/kick return game and has the size and versatility to make the move to FS which is something the Pats might need.
8. Baltimore Ravens - Matt Ryan, QB, BC - This couldn't have worked out better for the Raves if they got to plan the draft. As soon as Miami and Atlanta take anyone other than Ryan off the board it will be a party in Baltimore. Not that drafting Ryan is going to fix everything that is wrong with the Ravens, but it will give them a better chance to win than Boller, and provide some much needed excitement for a team that has been on the decline since their 2000 Superbowl.
9. Cincinnati Bengals - Philip Merling, DE, Clemson -- The Bengals have a festival of needs all over the field. Fortunately for them there is nothing tempting on the board at this point that couldn't help them. Merling is the best fill in for Justin Smith, who they lost in free agency, and offers the possibility of generating so much needed pressure off the corner. In theory Cincinnati could come out of this draft with a retooled defense and added depth on the O line. (note: This pick could easily be DE Derrick Harvey from Florida, depending on who rates higher on the Bengal's draft boards)
10. New Orleans Saints - Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma - The Saints tidied up their defense a bit with free agents, adding Randall Gay to the secondary and trading for Jonathan Vilma from the Jets, taking care of most of their glaring needs. One of the things that has been an ongoing issue for New Orleans has been the absence of a play makers in the passing game. Kelly gives Brees another big target and opens the offense enough to let the Saints running game exist again.
11. Buffalo Bills - DeSean Jackson, WR, Cal - Buffalo needs something to go along with Lee Evans. DeSean Jackson isn't ideal, but he does have the speed to open up the field and give opponents something else to worry about. The Bills also need to address some needs in their secondary, but in this draft quality receivers are at a premium while CBs are going to be available into the later rounds.
12. Denver Broncos - Dan Connor, LB, Penn State - With the release of Ian Gold and the generally poor play of their defense a year ago, the Broncos need to look for a LB who can come in and play from day one, and is durable enough to play exposed until they can do something about the interior of the defensive line. Conner is a sure tackler and smart player who will fit into the Denver system.
13. Carolina Panthers - Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh - The most glaring need on the Panthers roster is the absence of depth and talent on the O-Line. The interior held up well enough, but the collapsing edges took some of the bite out of their running game. John Foxx wants to get back to the sort of power running attack that got them to the Superbowl and repairing the leaks on the O line is the first step to doing just that.
14. Chicago Bears - Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt - The Bears were just awful to watch in 2007. They couldn't run they cound't throw and they couldn't make any of the three QBs they have work with the offense. There were three HUGE issues they need to address in this draft. 1) Fix the O line and do it fast. 2) Get play makers on the offensive side of the ball and 3) Draft a new QB. Since neither #2 or #3 can be taken care of at this spot, the Bears that Williams as a possible part of #1.
15. Detroit Lions - Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida - Though the Lions have HUGE issues at RT, there is nothing available that merits a first round pick that is left on the board. Fernando Bryant is about the closest the Lions get to a cover corner, they need another one. Jenkins is one of the better cover guys available in the first round and should make immediate impact. Of course, seeing Aaron Rodgers, Tarvaris Jackson, and Rex Grossman twice apiece should make their secondary look a little better.
16. Arizona Cardinals - Vernon Gholston, DE/OLB, Ohio State - Arizona has some pretty glaring needs in the secondary, and the Coach wants a running back to split time with James, but it is impossible to pass over an impact player like Gholston. Though Okeafor and the newly acquired LeBoy are already on the roster, depth at the DE and OLB spots are a concern for the Cardinals and Gholston can answer both spots. As a Cardinals fan I would rather see a CB or OLB Keith Rivers fill this spot, but Gholston is just too good to pass over.
17. Minnesota Vikings - Kenny Phillips, S, Miami - The Vikings looked stalwart against the run in 2007 and with heavy dollars already tied up in two first round picks at DE the Vikings, who also need an impact receiver, address the hole in their defensive backfield and hope their defense will be able to hold while their young QB goes through his growing pains.
18. Houston Texans - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State - Like many teams in the middle of the draft, Houston has serious issues in the secondary. Star CB Dunta Robinson is coming off a season ending injury that may not be fully recovered by the start of the year. Houston adds a player with the size and speed to be an opening day starter, who also comes with the ball skills to generate some much needed turnovers for the Texas improving defense.
19. Philadelphia Eagles - Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida - Philly has called an end to their time with Jevon Kease, leaving an opening on their defensive line. While The Eagles have a serious need for another WR and some help on the O line, their entire defense is predicated on getting QB pressures out of the DEs and LBs making this an essential pick.
20. Tampa Bay Bucs - Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy - Tampa gets a great deal on a guy that many have projected into the top 10-15 players taken. Tampa has some other pretty serious needs but getting younger in the secondary and adding speed are going to be at a premium.
21. Washington Redskin - Quentin Groves, DE, Auburn - Washington's defense had a hard time getting pressure on the QB all through the 2007 season. Adding a Rush specialist who isn't totally lost against the run is a sure way to improve the production of an otherwise ordinary group of defenders on the line. Washington has enough defensive concerns that their need for an additional receiver will get pushed into the 3rd or 4th round to address.
22. Dallas Cowboys - Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois - Dallas wants another back to go along with Marion Barber and Rashard is a good compliment. Though he is not a game breaker, Mendenhall has what Dallas wants: size, strength and secure hands. With Julius Jones on the way out, repairing the depth issue at RB is the only real need for the NFC's best offense from 2007.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers - Branden Albert, G, Virginia - Filling the holes on the O line is going to be the top issue facing the Steelers in the Draft. They haven't made any major free agent moves (as of yet), leading me to think they are going to use the draft to address these needs. At 315 lbs. Albert is not the model athletic guard, but his strength and drive should be a welcome addition to the Steelers running game.
24. Tennessee Titans - Limas Sweed, WR, Texas - Tennessee has more needs than than it is easy to keep track of, but the biggest two are rebuilding a defensive line that has lost 2 starters, and is likely to lose another DE before free agency is done ,and adding a play maker on offense. Vince Young had almost no help from his receivers, tight ends, or backs in the passing game. Given the streaky nature of VY's passes, a rangy receiver that can go get a ball that isn't pin-point accurate is a necessity for the Titans. Sweed is a bit of a gamble, nursing injury problems, but he puts more on the table than Mario Manningham.
25. Seattle Seahawks - John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame - Though there is a lot of thought that Seattle might go RB here, I think they are going to try to juice another year out of Alexander before selecting his replacement. They also have some age and depth issues on the offensive line, but getting a TE that will catch passes and not vanish in the blocking assignments is going to be the biggest concern for a Seahawks team that is getting towards the back end of their window to make a return to the Superbowl with their current core players.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars - Calais Campbell, DE, Miami - The Jags suffered some losses to the D Line in free agency with both McCrae and Stroud gone from the year before. While not the pinnacle DE in the class, Campbell is the kind of giant size DE that Jack Del Rio prefers, he gives a big body on the line that can play the run and still get upfield after a passer and close throwing lanes with his long arms. Campbell looked a little slow shedding blockers and working against the outside run, and would be a rough project, but offers quite a bit of potential upside. Most importantly, he fits the Jags system, and will allow them to continue doing what they did well in 2007.
27. San Diego Chargers - Reggie Smith, S, Oklahoma - Marlon McCree wasn't much of a performer, and with others lost to free agency, the Chargers will need to beef up the defensive backfield. Smith played both corner and safety at Oklahoma which makes him valuable as a swing guy that could project at FS, CB or Nickle. Fortunately for the Chargers, no one in the AFC west is likely going to have enough of a passing attack to really challenge their weakened secondary.
28. Dallas Cowboys - Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona - Dallas doesn't have too many needs, CB is one of the few glaring ones. Adding a good sized corner who ran under 4.4 is the perfect fit for the Dallas secondary, which is going to need to add depth and youth. As a side note, I hate the Cowboys and am appalled that they are doing so well in MY mock draft...
29. San Francisco 49ers - Trevor Laws, DT, Notre Dame - San Fran has made a serious effort to revamp their D line following the departure of Bryant Young. Laws is the kind of inside presence that will help out, drawing double teams away from DE Justin Smith, and occupying space in the middle of a 3-4. While Laws lacks ideal size for a NT, he is the best on the board and will be a solid performer for the 49ers for years to come.
30. Green Bay Packers - Keith Rivers, OLB, Southern Cal - The Packers need to add depth and youth to their secondary and their linebacking corps. It is a complete fluke, due to teams having more pressing needs, that Rivers would even be available here, and this dream for Packers fans could be foiled by one team going BPA earlier in the day.
31. New England Patriots - This pick was taken away as league punisment for violating fair play rules.
32. New York Giants - Xavier Adibi, OLB, Va Tech - There isn't much that this team needs to add. The departure of two starters at LB mean they have to add some depth here and Adibi fits that mold to a tee.