A couple of notes before we dive in:
(Note: With the dozens of mock drafts being published every day, an original title is in high demand. I am not sure how Monroe can "take a fall," seeing as how this is the first version of this particular mock draft. Anyway, whatever was going on in my brain is besides the point.)
(Note: This is "how they should draft," not necessarily "how they will draft." For example, the Lions will probably pick Curry, only because he is the safest pick in the draft, and any member of that front office doesn't want to hitch his career on a quarterback right off the bat.)
Let's get started!
1. Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
This pick has gone back and forth more times than I can count. Either the Lions need a quarterback, or an offensive lineman to protect said quarterback.
Rare is the first-round quarterback who actually pans out to what he was hyped to be, but Stafford played in a very pro-like system in Georgia and showed great maturity and leadership in the pocket and out of it.
For those of you who worry about Stafford not having an offensive line to protect him, let's not forget that Detroit also has the 20th overall selection in the first round. With that pick they can still get an elite tackle prospect.
Whatever the case, Detroit is in a rebuilding mode. That fact cannot be debated. The Lions have a few great players on their roster, but are still a few players away from the end of incompetence.
That being said, Detroit can't ignore this opportunity to draft a potential franchise quarterback. They can't pass up on Stafford with hopes of drafting another franchise-caliber quarterback next year.
The Lions will improve with their first overall pick, no matter which way they decide to go. They are almost guaranteed not to receive the first overall pick of next year's draft. They need to jump on this chance and build a whole new team around Stafford. Who cares if he sits out for the first year or two?
2. St. Louis Rams - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Anyone doubting the value of a combine showing obviously didn't watch any of Jason Smith. This offensive tackle had a magnificent performance on the biggest stage, and his paycheck will be his reward.
The St. Louis franchise is a mess. They need a superstar wide receiver, so Crabtree will be heavily debated in the Rams' war room. When it all boils down, though, an offensive tackle is one of the most important positions of a successful football team.
The Rams need a face for the franchise, and Crabtree could provide that. If the quarterback throwing balls to him doesn't have adequate protection, however, all is for naught.
The second overall pick is an extremely valuable commodity, and the Rams could "get rich quick" if they choose to unload it.
Quite frankly, what they need most is depth and new faces. If they traded down they could still get an elite tackle and grab an extremely capable receiver in a later round.
3. Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry, ILB, Wake Forest
Many people have jumped on the Curry bandwagon following a super 2008 campaign and a great Combine showing. Some even go so far as to project him as the first overall pick, but I would beg to differ.
Aaron Curry is one of the safest picks in the entire draft. There is little doubt that he will be a Pro-Bowl caliber linebacker, and would improve any team.
That being said, certain positions have more value than others; a team with a need at every position would take a quarterback or offensive tackle over an inside linebacker any day of the week.
The Chiefs have glaring needs at other positions, but Curry is just too talented to pass up.
This pick is seen by many as a pure value pick, but the Chiefs do have a need at inside linebacker after their switch to the 3-4, and few people doubt Curry's ability to perform well in any defensive system.
4. Seattle Seahawks - Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Some people think that the addition of Housmandzadeh means the Seahawks are clearly out of the running for Crabtree. That is untrue. Housh will be 32 years old by the 2009 season, and isn't a long-term solution in any sense of the word. They need a receiver for the next decade, and if you think Deion Branch is that option, quit making me laugh.
On the other hand, Matt Hasselbeck will be 34 years old for the majority of the 2009 season, and a replacement at that position is inevitable. With a new management coming in, a new approach is also inevitable.
What better way to turn a franchise around than drafting a franchise quarterback? Unlike the Lions, there is no need to rush Sanchez to the field as a rookie, so he can spend at least two years under the tutelage of Hasselbeck before he rides into the sunset.
Eugene Monroe is another possible option here, and is probably the second option for the Seahawks after Crabtree. Again, Sanchez is who they should take, not who they will take.
5. Cleveland Browns - Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas
Last year, new addition Shaun Rogers had 4.5 sacks. That is a respectable amount for a defensive tackle, but the fact that he led the team in that category is ridiculous and inexcusable.
The Browns could not get to the opposing quarterback in 2008, and that is one of the biggest reasons they have the fifth overall pick.
Mangini would surrender an appendage for Curry with this pick, but he is off the board. Orakpo is a superb defensive player and would provide some much needed relief for this defense.
6. Cincinnati Bengals - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
After the departure of Houshmandzadeh, the Bengals are left with Chad Johnson, and all the baggage that comes with him. The smart thing for Cincinnati to do would be to send Johnson to someone who would want and overpay for him (Al Davis comes to mind) and then draft Crabtree.
Crabtree is the best receiver in this draft, and the Bengals could start wiping their roster clean if they added him. Cincinnati has other needs, such as offensive tackle, but to pass up on Crabtree would be a mistake.
7. Oakland Raiders - Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Once Al Davis finishes crying big wet tears at the absence of Crabtree, he will most likely draft a running back or receiver with a quick 40 time. (Chris Wells or Jeremy Maclin come to mind.)
The sensible thing for the Raiders would be to *gasp* address a need. Monroe is an excellent pass defender and will fill a huge hole in Oakland.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars - B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Until recently, offensive tackle was the biggest need on this squad, but the signing of Tra Thomas blew out that candle.
The Jaguars also need a cornerback badly. They could easily go for a guy like Vontae Davis in this scenario, but they shouldn't pass up a talent like Raji.
Raji was phenomenal at the Senior Bowl, and climbed up draft boards across the nation. He will solidify the defensive line of the Jaguars for years to come.
9. Green Bay Packers - Everette Brown, DE/OLB, Florida State
Vontae Davis will be extremely tempting here, but McCarthy has expressed his desire to remain with Woodson at cornerback. They should probably address another need with this high pick.
The biggest news out of Green Bay this year has probably been the fact that they are going to switch to the 3-4 defense. Kampman will become a linebacker, but they still need another of that position to compliment him.
Brown is a great athlete and will provide some much-needed quarterback pressure to a team that lacked in that department last year.
10. San Francisco 49ers - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
If there is one guy I feel sorry for in this upcoming draft, it's Mike Singletary. The 49ers need a quarterback, and may not have another opportunity to get one.
With an elite quarterback prospect under center, though, his busting is inevitable with the offensive line that San Francisco boasts.
The defense of the 49ers is also very worrisome. The one thing San Francisco needs is a sure thing, and, until recently, Smith was just that. His disastrous Combine appearance hurt both his future paycheck and his position on draft boards. While the intangibles of Smith may be in doubt, his skill set is a sure thing.
While the 49ers may be drafting a headcase with a poor work-ethic, Andre Smith has the ability to shore up a rebuilding team.
11. Buffalo Bills - Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
After the release of Terrell Owens, I was expected a huge media circus and the ensuing soap opera Owens would feel compelled to deliver.
Within hours, however, the Bills agreed to terms with the disgruntled receiver. That move will make Lee Evans a super option for the Bills, and return the Buffalo air threat to a high level.
There is still no real tight end on the team, but they shouldn't feel the need to grab Brandon Pettigrew with this pick. They can scoop up a guy like Jared Cook or Shawn Nelson in the later rounds.
Jackson would provide an instant impact on the Bills' defensive line. Aaron Schobel spent most of the season injured and the defensive end need should have been elevated to "urgent."
I was tempted to go with Aaron Maybin, but his inability to carry added weight scares me. Buffalo should stick with a sure thing.
12. Denver Broncos - Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn State
The way the Denver Broncos defense performed last year was an atrocity. No fanbase should ever be forced to watch that.
They surrendered the fourth most yards per game, second most yards per play, and the third most points per game in the entire league. Without a doubt, that needs to improve if the Broncos want to win more games.
Maybin removed himself from any top-ten discussion when he showed up to the Combine overweight and unable to carry himself effectively.
Brian Cushing and Vontae Davis would be possibilities here, but Denver needs to solidify their defensive line first and foremost.
13. Washington Redskins - Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
With the release of Jason Taylor, the Redskins find themselves with a dire need at the right tackle position. They signed Albert Haynesworth to a record-setting deal on the other side of the trench, but the fact remains that any quarterback without an offensive line cannot reach his full potential.
Oher hurt himself with his poor showing during the Combine, but his talent is still very evident.
14. New Orleans Saints - Malcom Jenkins, CB/FS, Ohio State
Three words: Harper, Bullocks and Kaesviharn. Those guys were the starting safeties for the Saints last year, and the world would most likely end if they were allowed to start again in 2009.
The Saints need desperately to help that secondary, and Jenkins is a perfect fit.
Jenkins has the versatility to play both cornerback and safety, but he would be drafted for the bigger need; which became free safety after the signing of Jabari Greer.
Jenkins didn't play the best at the Combine, but still has a great skillset.
15. Houston Texans - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Once again, this probably isn't the move the Texans will make. Houston has a need at safety, offensive line, and linebacker, but picking any player at those positions would be dipping into second-round talent. Picking Moreno here would be a safe choice.
As evidenced by the Minnesota Vikings, a team with a great running back duo can still be very good despite a few holes. The Vikings have arguably the best running duo in the game, but an average offensive line, poor secondary, and horrible quarterback. Despite that, they made the Playoffs.
With Steve Slaton and Moreno in the backfield, the Texans will make numerous appearances in the nightmares of the Colts.
16. San Diego Chargers - Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
The Chargers are in a tough spot with this pick. They desperately need a right tackle, but picking a guy like Eben Britton would be a reach. They need safety help, but Louis Delmas is also not worthy of the pick.
Jeremy Maclin still on the board is a bit of a shock, but the Chargers shouldn't feel the need to bite.
Cushing has the ability to fit both inside and outside and would provide San Diego with excellent versatility. Rey Maualuga will be tempting, but the Chargers should opt for the former home-town kid.
17. New York Jets - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
With the departure of Brett Favre, a hole is created at the quarterback position, but it is not as huge as people believe.
Clemens is not a great quarterback, that much is obvious. He can manage a team and throw the ball downfield, however.
Any quarterback option right now would not be worth the pick for the Jets. Josh Freeman remains on the board, but I am not sold on his ability to be a franchise quarterback.
Anything that would improve Clemens is a good thing for Jets fans. Coles was cut this offseason, and someone is needed to play alongside Cotchery. Maclin is worth a top 15 pick, but for him to fall into the Jets' laps here is a gift they can't pass up.
18. Chicago Bears - Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
John St. Claire is waiting patiently in free agency for a team to sign him, and that means the Bears are desperate for a right tackle. Britton may be a bit of a reach, but he certainly fills a huge need.
For those fans who would like to see Chris Wells drafted here to form a "great, dynamic rushing duo," well, it just doesn't work that way.
The Bears could also go defensive end or wide receiver here, but they need a tackle more than ever. If St. Claire is re-signed, this pick will obviously change to someone like Harvin or even Pettigrew.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
I'm convinced that Freeman is the third best quarterback in this draft, but he could still be an effective "face of the franchise."
Tampa Bay has lacked that element for a long time, and they need a young quarterback.
With a new management coming in, the Buccaneers will not want to play football for long with "another guy." They want a quarterback of their own choosing, and Freeman fits that description.
20. Detroit Lions - William Beatty, OT, Connecticut
If the Lions don't take an offensive lineman after drafting Stafford, I will consider starting a rally of protest and demand a redraft.
I could see the Lions going offensive tackle with the first pick, and then hope one of Sanchez or Freeman falls to them here, but that isn't the case in this mock.
Tampa Bay will take a quarterback, and the chances of Sanchez or Freeman falling past 18 teams is very slim.
Beatty is a solid offensive tackle, and that is exactly what the Lions need most. If they draft a quarterback with the first pick, I cannot imagine them going any other direction with this pick.
21. Philadelphia Eagles - Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State
The Eagles need to address their offensive line with one of their first round picks. Alex Mack is a possibility here, but that would be a bit of a reach. With a talent like Wells still on the board, the Eagles can't pass.
Westbrook was recently extended, but he has had problems staying healthy, and Wells would provide a great insurance policy. My guess is that Andy Reid would disagree with this pick, but he will probably get out-voted in the war room.
22. Minnesota Vikings - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
The Vikings are one of five teams with a need for a quarterback in the first round, and at 22 they will probably find themselves looking straight at a season with Rosenfels under center.
Unless they trade up (which is a strong possibility) the Vikings need to address either right tackle or the secondary. With no tackles on the board worth the pick, they should grab Davis before he falls any further.
23. New England Patriots - Clay Matthews, OLB, USC
After unloading Cassel's salary to the Chiefs along with linebacker Vrabel, the Patriots are in need of an outside linebacker. Matthews is not a huge reach here, and he fills perhaps the biggest New England need.
The combination of Mayo and Matthews scares me, and it should also frighten any other team in that powerful division.
If New England somehow manages to trade up and draft Curry, I'll almost concede to them an appearance in the Super Bowl. As it is, with Matthews the AFC East is their's for the taking.
24. Atlanta Falcons - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
Matt Ryan is just a few players away from becoming an elite quarterback. With a weapon like Pettigrew dropping to them at 24, Atlanta will do its part and help out their young quarterback.
Pettigrew has hands of glue, and is great after the catch. When that is coupled with his blocking skills, the Falcons will have another playoff-caliber season in 2009.
They could easily go with someone to bolster their offensive line, but besides Alex Mack there really is no option worthy of this pick.
25. Miami Dolphins - Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
The Dolphins were the surprise of last year, and the feel-good story of the season. Chad Pennington led them to the Playoffs, but there were still a few holes on their roster. Perhaps the biggest of those was in the secondary.
The one thing Miami could use more of out of their secondary is turnovers. Butler may be a reach, but he fills a need and will be moved right into the starting position beside veteran Will Allen.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
Ray Lewis, perhaps the most feared defender in the league, is getting up in years, and without him the Ravens do not the same defense they are known for.
There are other needs on this team, namely receiver and tight end, but Maualuga is a top-20 talent and fills a need for Baltimore.
Harvin will be extremely tempting, as will Nicks, but they shouldn't pass up a great player like Maualuga.
27. Indianapolis Colts - Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
The Colts need a receiver, and most fans want a receiver, but the smart thing for Indianapolis would be to shore up their defensive line. They need to be able to stop the run if they want to keep up with the rising Houston Texans.
Jerry is not a reach at this point, and he fills a hole.
28. Philadelphia Eagles - Alex Mack, C, California
The Eagles need another big body for their offensive line sometime in this first round, and Mack is a good option here at 28.
Mack is the kind of center you can build your team around for the next 15 years. The Eagles may be reaching a bit simply because of Mack's position, but they should be able to justify themselves.
Center is not necessarily the position they need, but Philadelphia could use an upgrade there.
Another option, should they not go the offensive line route, would be an offensive threat. A tight end is needed, but at this point there is none worthy of a first-round pick.
29. New York Giaints - Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Thanks to excellent front office work, the Giants have no real needs heading into the draft. Once they are on the clock, they will have the luxury of being able to select the best player available.
Plaxico Burress should not be trusted with the No. 1 receiver role after his "accident." Harvin will provide much versatility and can help the Giants in more ways than one.
If New York has one need this offseason, it is at the receiver position, and Harvin fills that hole completely.
30. Tennessee Titans - Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
The Titans are also in a great position come this draft. They needed a receiver, but after signing Nate Washington they should get depth at another position with this pick.
Alphonso Smith is a very underrated prospect, and should pan out well in the Tennessee system.
Cornerback Nate Smith is going to be 34 years old come next season, and his replacement needs to be found. The Titans will build for the future with this pick.
31. Arizona Cardinals - Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
The Cardinals need a running back. With both Moreno and Wells off the board, however, there really is no other option worthy of a first-round pick.
LeSean McCoy is a possibility, but he is most likely a second-round pick.
The Cardinals should trade Boldin while his value is high. They could get more picks to add the one thing they need most: depth. If they trade Boldin, they need to draft a receiver to draw safeties away from Fitzgerald, and Nicks fits the bill.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Darrius-Hayward Bey, WR, Maryland
The Steelers are in a great position this draft, and will be able to draft the best overall athlete.
They really have no needs, but could stand for some improvement in their secondary. Sean Smith or Coye Francies are options, but I think the Steelers go for another offensive playmaker.
Bey had the fasted 40 time at the Combine this year; which is not very impressive considering how poorly literally everyone ran at that event.
Still, his speed is unquestionably great, and he will be a field-stretcher for the defending World Champions.
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