I’m not of the philosophy that every time a player produces a solid bowel movement, his draft stock changes, though the combine is a pretty important bowel movement and will have much more drastic implications.
There are a handful of guys that I’d like to get into the first somehow, namely Ron Brace, Tyson Jackson, Kenny Britt, and Alex Mack. It could happen after the combine, but for now, they are not in the first.
Most of the changed picks have extended explanations.
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 year’s draft, but he 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.
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 that they had.
3. Kansas City: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
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 that he's been thrust into but definitely hasn't shown the consistency necessary to deter the Chiefs from taking a quarterback here.
However, what could ultimately change this selection is the hiring of Scott Pioli. While Pioli shared personnel duties with Bill Belichick, it’s doubtful that Pioli will completely abandon the “build from the trenches out” philosophy he used in New England.
In three of the first four drafts, while Pioli was in New England, the team took defensive linemen in the first round. He took Richard Seymour sixth overall, Ty Warren 13th, and Vince Wilfork 21st. Those are respective picks and note that the draft pick gets higher each year, indicating increased success.
The Chiefs used a high pick on Glen Dorsey last year, but Dorsey will not play nose tackle, if the team converts their defense to a 3-4. Raji has picked up some buzz in recent weeks.
While I’ll try to avoid overstating or overvaluing this, Pioli did spend nearly the past decade in Massachussets where Raji starred at Boston College. If Raji’s worthy of the buzz he’s receiving, undoubtedly Pioli knows.
Previous Pick: Mark Sanchez
4. Seattle: Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
Many people feel the Seahawks will draft 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: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
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.
Curry has the potential to be a dynamic playmaker in the Browns' line backing corps but is perhaps also the team’s safest pick. He’s got the ability to play both inside and outside, and if he bulks up, it’s possible that his lowest projection would be that of a player in the Joey Porter mold.
If 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.
Previous Pick: Malcolm Jenkins
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.
If Curry fell to the Bengals, they’d take him, despite drafting Keith Rivers last season and worry about where to play him later.
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-five running back and quarterback both struggle in 2008, it’s apparent that the Raiders need some help on the offensive line.
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 ages, he’ll need a reliable target soon.
Any team with 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: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
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. The team is converting to a 3-4 defense in 2009 and probably don’t have adequate personnel. Also, the team’s secondary is aging.
If Mark Sanchez falls this far, this pick is certain to become a hot commodity, as teams in the late teens and early 20s will not have a truly viable option at their draft spot, and San Francisco is presumed to be coveting a quarterback.
Much to some Packers' fans’ dismay, Ted Thompson has employed a “best player available” draft strategy.
While the strategy has netted the team some good players at a good value, Thompson will be haunted by the drafting of Justin Harrell for some time, though Harrell may blossom as a 3-4 end.
Jenkins is probably the best prospect on the board and can play either safety or corner as needed.
Previous Pick: Aaron Curry
10. San Francisco: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
The 49ers 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 49ers 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.
Sanchez is an ideal fit in a WCO and should find early success under Jimmy Raye, the 49ers' new offensive coordinator, who got the job, in part, because of his propensity to run the ball.
The 49ers need offensive line, wide receiver, and secondary help, but Sanchez is a nice fit and probably the top QB on the board for San Francisco.
Previous Pick: Jeremy Maclin
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. 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 skeptical of the draft stock of a lineman listed between 220-246 lbs.
14. New Orleans: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
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.
While the Saints desperately need help on defense, a seemingly perennial projection and perhaps an unspoken need is at wide receiver.
Marques Colston played 11 games last season, catching 47 balls for 760 yards and five scores. Those numbers don’t seem concerning, but upon closer inspection, while Colston played three games with 100 yards or more, he also had three games with 30 yards or less.
He played five games where he caught three or fewer passes, including a game with only one reception, albeit a 70-yard touchdown catch.
The team will likely lose either Lance Moore or Devery Henderson in the offseason, both of whom stepped up in Colston’s absence, but both are free agents this offseason—Moore of the restricted variety.
The Saints drafted Robert Meachem in the first round in 2007, but Meachem missed the entire 2007 season due to injury and caught only 12 passes in 2008, though three were for touchdowns.
Previous Pick: Vontae Davis
15. Houston: Brian Cushing, LB, USC
Houston's defense is a mess, as it has been for quite some time. A year ago, it seemed like this pick would be a running back, 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 line backing 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, Laurinaitis falls to the mid-first round.
17. New York Jets: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
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.
As many defensive-minded coaches like to do, Rex Ryan may try to employ a ball-control running style in New York, similar to that of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens team that won the Super Bowl that Ryan coached for.
Thomas Jones is getting old, and to this point Leon Washington hasn’t been given an opportunity to carry the load.
Previous pick: Darrius Heyward-Bey
18. Chicago: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
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.
I don’t know what to make of the Bears. The offseason after a Super Bowl appearance, was one of the team's ugliest offseasons in recent memory.
After an extended stint on the bench, Kyle Orton stepped up in 2008 and played pretty well but did so throwing to a bunch of scrubs. The Bears leading receiver was drafted as a cornerback.
Previous Pick: Eben Britton
19. Tampa Bay: LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh
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.
McCoy should turn some heads at the combine. There is a possibility that Beanie Wells goes here, but I have him slipping considerably.
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.
Previous Pick: Knowshon Moreno
20. Detroit: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
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.
Britton may not be able to replace Jeff Backus, as there are questions as to whether or not he can play left tackle. However, Detroit’s offensive line, all the way around, could be pronounced with a long O, and no one would take offense, get it?
Previous Pick: William Beatty
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: Vontae Davis, CB, Clemson
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 Favre or 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.
Previous Pick: D.J. Moore
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 line backing corps.
With Rodney Harrison going down midseason, a need for a safety became apparent.
Had Myron Rolle entered the draft, it’s entirely possible that the Pats would draft him and sit on him for a year or two. That's moot now.
Clint Sintim can fill in on the inside or outside for now, until he solidifies himself at a position of his own.
24. Atlanta: Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
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.
With the 36-year-old Grady Jackson starting at DT for the Falcons, they could use some youth to put next to Jonathan Babineaux, Jerry provides that.
Previous Pick: B.J. Raji
25. Miami: Aaron Maybin, LB, Penn State
With Bill Parcells at the helm in Miami, it’s 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: Larry English, OLB/DE, Northern Illinois
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, WCO teams specifically, 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 plus yds, five plus tds, producing tight end to a tight end that hasn't produced that in the past two years combined.
However, with Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs primed to hit the free agent market, this pick could largely depend on which of the duo the Ravens have to replace. English would serve as Suggs replacement—call that a free agent projection.
Previous Pick: Kenny Britt
27. Indianapolis: Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
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, it’s 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.
Two seasons ago, the Colts drafted Anthony Gonzalez as the heir apparent to Marvin Harrison, as Reggie Wayne transitioned to the team’s go-to receiver. As Harrison continued to regress physically, Gonzalez regressed with him.
Nicks fills out the receiving corps and could supplant Gonzalez for the No. 2 receiver spot by season’s end.
Previous Pick: LeSean McCoy
28. Philadelphia - from Carolina: Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Ohio State
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 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. However, there may not be a linebacker here who is worth a pick here.
By the end of 2009, Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook will both be on the wrong side of 30-years-old. Both have carried the ball far less than the average 30-year old running back that has started in the NFL but for very different reasons.
Buckhalter has missed three full seasons in his eight years with the Eagles, while Westbrook spent the beginning of his career behind Buckhalter and Duce Staley on the Eagles’ depth chart.
If Buckhalter leaves in free agency, the Eagles can’t pass up Wells, if he slips this far, despite his questionable commitment to football. He’d fill Buckhalter’s role in the present, and if Westbrook suffers a serious injury, he could be a starter for a good portion of 2009, as well as the future.
Previous Pick: Michael Johnson
29. New York Giants: Micheal Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
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.
Though the team will lose one or both of Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, in all likelihood, the team has had very good success drafting running backs in later rounds, with the two aforementioned, Ahmad Bradshaw and Ryan Grant, to their credit since 2004, even though Grant was an undrafted free agent.
The team really didn’t see a big drop off on defense, despite all the injuries. They had 10 less sacks than 2007 but had more interceptions. Even at 10 less sacks, the team still had a very respectable 42 sacks.
Despite that, with Umenyiora coming back on an unsure knee and Kiwanuka playing out of NFL position, the team adds depth and another “bullet in the clip” here—one with great potential.
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: Shonn Greene, RB, Iowa
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.
Greene is a limited prospect. He’ll never be a homerun threat, but he catches the ball well and is shifty enough to avoid contact though big enough to initiate it.
Previous Pick: Chris “Beanie” Wells
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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