1. Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
One constant you see in NFL teams that make the playoffs year in and year out is a franchise quarterback. Of the quarterbacks on the Lions roster, not one fits that bill. Matt Stafford does. Stafford comes in with loads of experience considering he started three years for a top flight program in the SEC.
His greatest attribute is his rocket arm which ranks up there with JaMarcus Russell and Jay Cutler. Add that with good downfield accuracy and great pocket poise, he will be the Lions pick in April.
2. St. Louis Rams: Eugene Monroe, LT, Virginia
I’m going to stop being delusional. Michael Oher should be the number two pick for many reasons but Eugene Monroe is the safest pick among the “Big 4” offensive tackles. He has fantastic pass blocking skills and has the size to play the spot.
He needs to work on his run blocking and getting built so he doesn’t have such a huge curve physically like D’Brickashaw Ferguson back in 2006.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Wait. Not Mark Sanchez or Aaron Curry? Explain.
Well for starters, neither player is on the level of Michael Crabtree. Crabtree is the number one overall prospect in this draft because of his unique size, strength, hands, and balance. The other thing you have to look at is the head management.
The Chiefs are run by a best player available guru in Scot Pioli and head coach Todd Haley, who by the way coached Larry Fitzgerald. To Haley, paring Crabtree with Dwayne Bowe would be Fitzgerald and Boldin all over again.
4. Seattle Seahawks: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
I didn’t want to go with the cliché pick of B.J. Raji so I decided to make a small prediction. Malcolm Jenkins will manage to run a great forty yard dash at the combine and will be a hot commodity.
A shutdown corner, Jenkins is the total package with his ball skills and size. He also brings versatility; he can play free safety early on if the Seahawks need him to.
5. Cleveland Browns: Brian Orakpo, OLB, Texas
If there’s one thing we’ve all come to realize, the biggest impact on a 3-4 defense comes from the pass rushing linebacker. DeMarcus Ware, James Harrison, and Terrell Suggs have all shown how they can change the game with their ability and Brian Orakpo is no different.
He is a workout warrior but don’t label him that; the man is as productive on the field as any defensive end in the nation last year. He should end up being a top 10 pick by April.
6. Cincinnati Bengals: Andre Smith, LT, Alabama
Two reasons why Andre Smith will be picked over Michael Oher and Jason Smith at his point: 1. He fits their power run scheme perfectly and 2. He brings the most glamour of the Big 4 offensive tackles.
Smith is a beast of a tackle and can bulldoze his opponents. Andre will need to work on his feet but his kick step is solid and should be able to start on the line from day one.
7. Oakland Raiders: Michael Oher, LT, Ole Miss
Since Tom Cable was their former offensive line coach, look for them to target a new right tackle. Kwame Harris is a bum and shouldn’t be employed. Michael Oher is a small project but his ability is infinite.
The kid’s ceiling is unparalleled to any other player in the draft. He has some minor kinks to work out but a bookend combination of Oher and Mario Henderson should be set for years to come.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jason Smith, LT, Baylor
Jack Del Rio said in Mobile during the Senior Bowl that he was targeting offensive lineman. Look no further than Jason Smith. He is the number one tackle on some draftniks boards (most notably NFL Network’s Mike Mayock) and for good reason.
He is very athletic and is a very good pass blocker. Some problems I have with him are his size, run blocking dominance, and experience at the position. Overall, he is worth a top 10 selection and could crack the top five.
9. Green Bay Packers: B.J. Raji, NT, Boston College
I’m not a huge fan of B.J. Raji’s and I have made that known, but I don’t see another player that fits the overall package of need, value, and ability here.
He is a perfect fit at nose tackle in the Packers new 3-4 to go along with the pass rushing ability that the Packers desperately need.
And a note to Dom Capers: I might not like you for switching our D, but at least I’m not a Chiefs fan. They’re switching to a 3-4 and, like Walterfootball.com’s Matt McGuire pointed out on his blog, will set their defense back years and shows a wasted pick at number five with Glenn Dorsey.
10. San Francisco 49ers: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
After the combine either one of two things will happen. Mark Sanchez will show off so much that teams will be jockeying to trade up for him in the top five. The other scenario is having an average or subpar day and dropping to the late teens.
San Francisco will probably be the team most interested in his services and in both of these situations they would be pretty well off. Sanchez has a rocket arm and great overall talent, but he only has a year’s worth of starting experience to work with.
11. Buffalo Bills: Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
Aaron Curry would be a HUGE grab for Buffalo at 11th overall. He has top 10 ability but I don’t see a spot right for him in there. Curry has the size, speed, strength, and production to be an elite linebacker at the next level and fills a need for the Bills once Angelo Crowell bolts in free agency.
12. Denver Broncos: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
The Denver Broncos defense is atrocious. They are switching to a 3-4 and need a lot of player personnel to fill the new system. But I think the value, need, and fit for the system is a perfect fit. He has the vision, cutback ability, toughness, and agility to be a top flight running back in the league someday.
13. Washington Redskins: Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
With the recent release of star linebacker Marcus Washington, I was very tempted to give them Brian Cushing, who could run a 4.4 40-yard dash at the combine. But with the lack of a pass rush last season, Everette Brown would be somewhat of a steal here.
Some would say it was the interior line with the lack of a pass rush and Peria Jerry is the right pick as well but with the value here, Washington would be foolish to pass Brown up.
14. New Orleans Saints: Rey Maualuga, MLB, USC
The Saints are in a pretty good spot at 14. Their offense is in good shape and their defensive line is pretty set. Their back seven needs a ton of work and with Jonathan Vilma hitting free agency; they will need to get an impact linebacker.
Rey Maualuga has all of the tools to be an elite football player in this league. He has the intensity and tenacity that you look for in a linebacker and lays the wood on a running back like no other.
15. Houston Texans: Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
They had fantastic luck last year drafting an undersized, blazing, injury prone player in Steve Slaton. Percy Harvin is the second best wide receiver in this draft, plain and simple. He has all of the tools you look for in a receiver and can run with the best with him.
Vontae Davis or even Tyson Jackson is a realistic possibility here but Harvin is too good to pass up.
16. San Diego Chargers: Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
I don’t care if the Chargers used the non exclusive franchise tag on Darren Sproles; the Chargers cannot go without a solid safety option behind rapidly declining LaDanian Tomlinson.
Chris Wells is one of those talents that make you drop your jaw. 6’1, 235 pounds, runs a 4.4 40-yard dash, and has a lethal stiff arm. He’s amazing. San Diego can afford to use a luxury pick on Wells.
17. New York Jets: Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
Tyson Jackson has not been in my first round yet but I had a little time and rethought his spot in my draft. Hey may not be that lethal pass rusher everybody looks for but he will be an elite strong side end for years.
He will be an elite five technique for years with the Jets and will give Rex Ryan another toy in his soon to be elite defense.
18. Chicago Bears: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Nathan Vasher didn’t have the season many were hoping he would have and their defense suffered pretty heavily. Their pass rush was also horrendous and Michael Johnson, Larry English, and Aaron Maybin are all also viable options as well but a talent like Davis maybe too tempting to pass up, especially if he can play some free safety.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
The Bucs have a defense loaded with talent and I mean LOADED! Gaines Adams, Barrett Ruud, Aqib Talib, and Tanard Jackson are cornerstones of a defense that should be in the top 10 for years. This would be a case of the rich getting richer.
Peria Jerry is a pass rushing three technique that will need a double team, which means Adams will be one on one with left tackles. Scary.
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas Cowboys): William Beatty, LT, Connecticut
William Beatty is pretty raw when it comes to his technique. At the Senior Bowl he left his hands down on too many blocks and tackled the guy more than anything. With that said, he is a pure left tackle. He has a great kick step and can compete with the top pass rushers.
He also has a big frame that can fill out over time. He needs to develop quickly for Matt Stafford if this scenario plays out.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Rashad Johnson, FS, Alabama
The Philadelphia Eagles can go many ways with their first of two first round picks and a minor reach could very well happen. Rashad Johnson has proven to be a pure playmaker in college, as he was the leader of one of the top defenses in the FBS this past season.
The Eagles are going to need a replacement for Brian Dawkins eventually and why not pick a guy filled with intangibles to learn from one of the best safeties in the past 20 years?
22. Minnesota Vikings: Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
Even though he hasn’t done anything in the past couple of months, his stock is rapidly rising. I’ve heard scenario’s landing him to San Francisco at No. 10? Seriously?! This is the same guy that was extremely inconsistent at Kansas State and struggled with accuracy.
But he has a lot of things going for him. He’s 6’6", has a rocket arm, is very mobile, and played in a pro style offense at K-State. The only thing that could hamper this pick would be Brad Childress’ job status. Which is a good thing for Vikings fans.
23. New England Patriots: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
The Patriots need a corner in the worst way and D.J. Moore can easily fill that need. He has all of the athleticism in the world to go along with great ball skills and a want to be the best. Aaron Maybin is also a strong possibility here and would be a wise choice if they want to increase their pass rush.
24. Atlanta Falcons: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
Brandon Pettigrew is a great blocking tight end and will be perfect for their run first system. He is not the fastest tight end in the draft and no team will confuse for Dustin Keller but he is a sure handed receiver, gets the first down, and is a red-zone threat.
25. Miami Dolphins: Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
The more I evaluate Brian Cushing, the more I like him. He has the size to play inside in a 3-4 and the athleticism to play the pass rush OLB spot. With Joey Porter and Cushing in Miami, they could very well repeat as division winners. Look for a big wide receiver like Kenny Britt or a corner like Alphonso Smith as backup options.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Joe Flacco had very impressive rookie year and proved many doubters, including myself, wrong about him. With that said his numbers were not outstanding and I think the lack of playmakers at the wide receiver position is a big reason why.
Darrius Heyward-Bey is a complete monster. He is a typical physical freak at 6’2", 200 pounds, and reportedly running in the 4.3’s in the 40. He is a local product and I think the value is there to easily justify this pick.
27. Indianapolis Colts: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
I don’t care about what other people may think about Jeremy Maclin, I have my reservations. He is extremely fast but that’s all I see. He has hot and cold hands, he is very thin, and is not the most durable player in the world.
He is extremely talented though and would be a great fit in Indy, especially with Marvin Harrison likely being a cap casualty this offseason. With Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, and Maclin, I believe the Colts will be just fine.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina Panthers): Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
The Philadelphia Eagles are facing life without Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan and their depth could use a boost. Winston Justice should be able to take over at one tackle spot but they will need another guy to play the other bookend.
Eben Britton is a guy who will likely play the right side for them and might be able to start right away.
29. New York Giants: Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgurs
With Plaxico Burress likely heading out of New York, Eli Manning will be missing a huge target. Kenny Britt doesn’t have the experience Plaxico does but he certainly has the talent. At 6’5", Britt has everything you would want in a star receiver.
His hands are above average and his red zone ability rivals that of Michael Crabtree. His 40 may hurt him but it could also propel him into the top 15. Keep an eye on him.
30. Tennessee Titans: Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
Trust me; I am very aware the Titans refuse to pick receivers. But this is a different case. Hakeem Nicks is not as high profile as the other five receivers taken before him.
He is just a pure competitor and has the tendency to make the spectacular catch when need. Also look out for a top nose tackle in case Albert Haynesworth bolts in free agency.
31. Arizona Cardinals: Larry English, OLB, Northern Illinois
I know running back is their weakest position at the moment but it may not be come April. Their outside linebacking core is extremely thin and they are lacking that true 3-4 terror guy that offenses cower at.
Larry English is the type of guy that can ease to the transition of a base 3-4 defense that Arizona has tried to get to for years. If English gets the opportunity to start, I can see him posting 10 sacks his rookie year.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
Forget such pesky numbers as 5’9". Look at the No. 21. That’s how many interceptions he had in his career at Wake Forest. He has beaten the best receivers and quarterbacks the ACC has had to offer without difficulty.
Mike Tomlin will surely recognize this and would not hesitate on picking him with the 32nd pick overall given the chance.
Stay tuned for my Post Combine Draft update, which will likely feature a huge shakeup in the top 10!