1. Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia
Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and the Lions need a good one. Stafford is a gunslinger who has the arm to make all the NFL throws. He will be the franchise quarterback that will get Calvin Johnson the ball for the next 10 years.
2. St. Louis Rams: Jason Smith, OT Baylor
It has been proven that the offensive line is irreplaceable, and offensive tackle (specifically left tackle) is the most important position on the line. Smith is a converted tight end who has great athleticism and is an elite pass protector. Smith will be penciled in to the offensive tackle spot for the Rams for the next 10 years.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: Aaron Curry, OLB Wake Forest
The Chiefs need help on defense, so they are going to take the best defensive player in this draft. Curry went under the radar for most of his college career at Wake Forest, but has seen his draft stock shoot up since the end of the season. He would be a good fit for a young defense looking for a leader.
4. Seattle Seahawks: B.J. Raji, DT Boston College
The Seahawks need help on a defense that was ranked 30th in the league last season. Raji is the only elite defensive tackle in this draft, and the most dominant defensive player besides Curry who is already off the board. Raji’s size and athleticism will help Seahawks’ linebackers to roam and make more plays.
5. Cleveland Browns: Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB Texas
The Browns had just 17 sacks last season, so they need some help in that department. Orakpo has solidified himself as the best 3-4 rush linebacker/lineman hybrid in the draft and he will be a nice complement (and future replacement) to Willie McGinest to form a much-improved pass rush.
6. Cincinnati Bengals: Eugune Monroe, OT Virginia
The Bengals need offensive line help, period. Monroe is a great pass blocker who has a great frame with long arms and a powerful lower body. He is very athletic, and also has the hands and technique to counter pass rush moves. Monroe is a great fit for Cincinnati because of their pass-based offense.
7. Oakland Raiders: Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech
The Raiders need a legitimate target for JaMarcus Russell to throw to, and Crabtree is widely considered the best wide receiver in the draft. While he’s not necessarily a burner, his adequate speed and the ability to go get the ball make him an elite receiver who will provide a target for JaMarcus Russell for the next 10 years.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jeremy Maclin, WR Missouri
The Jaguars need a playmaker at wide receiver, and with Crabtree off the board, Maclin is the second best bet. He was a very productive receiver at Mizzou, and his combination of great speed and good hands should help the Jaguars spread the field, and open up the run game for RB Maurice Jones-Drew.
9. Green Bay Packers: Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB Penn State
This is a close pick, coming down to Maybin and Florida State Hybrid DE/OLB Everrette Brown. But the Packers hired Dom Capers as their defensive coordinator, and they will be switching to a 3-4 defense, and Maybin is a more polished pass rusher at the time of the draft. Maybin could team up well with Aaron Kampman to form a formidable pass rush.
10. San Francisco 49ers: Everrette Brown, OLB Florida State
It would probably benefit the 49ers to take a quarterback, but I don’t believe that Sanchez is worth a top ten pick. That being said, the 49ers need help on defense, so they will take the best defensive player left: Everrette Brown. With a little bit of coaching and technique refinement, Brown could become one of the more dominant 3-4 linebackers in the league.
11. Buffalo Bills: Brandon Pettigrew, TE Oklahoma State
The Bills started off hot last year, but fell off as Trent Edwards’ play declined. Pettigrew can help smooth out Edwards’ transition by providing a big target (at 6-5, 260) for short and intermediate passes. He is also a very good blocker (both as a run blocker and pass blocker) who will help open up holes for RB Marshawn Lynch and provide protection for Edwards.
12. Denver Broncos: Tyson Jackson, DE LSU
It’s no secret that the defense was part of the reason the Broncos didn’t make the playoffs. They were ranked second in the league in total offense, but just 29th in total defense. Jackson provides an elite run stuffer and a decent pass rusher that will help the Broncos make the transition to a 3-4 defense.
13. Washington Redskins: Andre Smith, OT Alabama
Some people say that Smith’s lack of maturity and weight problems could be a problem. However, it’s hard to argue with results: he started all 49 games of his three-year career at Alabama, was a consensus All-American his junior year and won his Outland Trophy winner this past season. Smith is a classic mauler who will be able to help open holes for Clinton Portis.
14. New Orleans Saints: Malcolm Jenkins, CB/S Ohio State
There’s no doubt that the Saints need help on defense. While Jenkins’ stock dropped after a bad combine, he is still the best defensive back prospect in this year’s draft. He has the game knowledge to line up at safety and corner, he works hard, and is a great student of the game.
15. Houston Texans: Robert Ayers, DE Tennessee
The Texans need to get some help to line up opposite All-Pro Mario Williams. Ayers had a good senior season at Tennessee and an even better Senior Bowl week to skyrocket up draft boards. Ayers should be able to make a fairly quick impact and help take the pressure off Mario Williams.
16. San Diego Chargers: Rey Maualuga, ILB USC
The Chargers need help on defense to match their offense, and what better to do it with a local product at middle linebacker. Maualuga is a ferocious hitter and has good instincts at the inside linebacker position. After playing in a pro-style defense at USC, Maualuga should be able to come in and help immediately.
17. New York Jets: Percy Harvin, WR Florida
If they don’t know who the quarterback is going to be, they might as well get the weapons ready for whoever is going to play quarterback. Harvin is a Reggie Bush-type that can make plays in many different ways. He will provide a speedy, versatile option for whoever plays quarterback.
18. Chicago Bears: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Maryland
It’s pretty clear that for the foreseeable future, Kyle Orton is the quarterback. That being said, the Bears need to get some weapons for Orton to work with. Heyward-Bey has a good combination of speed and size to help the Bears spread out the field along with Devin Hester.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Freeman, QB Kansas State
The Bucs quarterback situation is one that consists of two complete ends of the spectrum: Brian Griese, and old pocket passer, and Josh Johnson, a second-year scrambler. Josh Freeman should be the answer for the Bucs. He is athletic and has a live arm that can make all the NFL throws.
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas): Michael Oher, OT Mississippi
The Lions took a quarterback No. 1 overall instead of OT Jason Smith, and they’re not going to let a second one get away. Oher is a good mix of a pass and run blocker that has had great durability over his college career. He should be a stalwart on the Lions offensive line for as long as Stafford is the quarterback.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia
With all the two back systems coming up in the league, it’s time for the Eagles to get one. Brian Westbrook is without a doubt one of the best playmakers in the league. However, he is just not big enough to take the load by himself. Also, Moreno has the versatility to eventually be Westbrook’s successor.
22. Minnesota Vikings: Hakeem Nicks, WR North Carolina
The Vikings haven’t had a playmaker at wide receiver since Randy Moss, and Hakeem Nicks can fill that void. He started 11 games his true freshman season, and has been productive all three years at UNC. If whoever plays quarterback for the Vikes can get him the ball, he will help spread the field and take some of the pressure off the Vikings’ running game.
23. New England Patriots: Clay Matthews, OLB USC
Matthews has quickly risen to the top of draft boards since August. He is versatile and has a non-stop motors, all of which are qualities that the Patriots look for. The Pats linebacker corps is getting older by the year, and Matthews will team up with last year’s first round pick Jerod Mayo to form a younger core of their linebacker squad.
24. Atlanta Falcons: Vontae Davis, CB Illinois
The Falcons need some help in their defensive backfield, which was ranked 27th in the league in interceptions last year. Davis could be considered the best corner in the draft, in the sense that Malcolm Jenkins could be a safety. Davis has ideal height and weight, and can not only cover receivers, but is also aggressive in run support.
25. Miami Dolphins: Brian Cushing, LB USC
Cushing very well could be gone by the time the Dolphins get to pick, but if he does fall this far, the Dolphins should grab him. He is versatile in the sense that he can play both inside and outside linebacker, which fits well into the Dolphins flexible defense.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Darius Butler, CB Connecticut
The Ravens probably want a receiver here, and might trade up to get one. But if they stay here, Smith wouldn’t be a bad pick either. Injuries in the defensive backfield was a major reason the Ravens weren’t in the Super Bowl last year. Butler is aggressive going for the football, which fits well in the Ravens defense, and also has the ability to shed blocks and get to the football when covering the run.
27. Indianapolis Colts: Peria Jerry, DT Mississippi
The Colts need a force in the middle of their defensive line to help take the pressure off their ends as well as to stop the run. Jerry has the play-making ability to both rush the passer and to help plug up the middle and stop the run.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina): Eben Britton, OT Arizona
Tre Thomas signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this off-season which leaves a hole at the left tackle spot, one of the most important positions on the field. Britton’s size (6 feet 6 inches, 309 pounds) and quick feet may make him a better option for Philadelphia than Winston Justice to fill that void.
29. New York Giants: Kenny Britt, WR Rutgers
No one knows what is going to happen with Plaxico Burress and his legal issues, and last season proved that the Giants are thin at receiver without Burress. Britt has good height and size and has strong hands. He has a lot of potential, which is a good fit for the Giants, who aren’t necessarily in need of any certain position.
30. Tennessee Titans: Alex Mack, C California
The Titans don’t have any glaring needs other than maybe wideout, but at this point, there aren’t any wideouts worth drafting. So, it’s time to get a replacement for 38-year old Kevin Mawae. Mack is the best center in the draft. He has great awareness, and is equally effective as both a pass and run blocker. He will be a great replacement for Kevin Mawae whenever he decides to leave.
31. Arizona Cardinals: Chris Wells, RB Ohio State
Chris “Beanie” Wells is arguably the best natural back in the draft, and that is exactly what the Cardinals need. They obviously have the passing game, and a back like Wells will provide the balance that the Cards need. At 6-1 235 pounds, Wells has a great combination of size and speed, and should take a lot of the pressure of the passing game.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alphonso Smith, CB Wake Forest
Since offensive line isn’t as much of a problem as it once was, and that Alex Mack is off the board, the Steelers are going to get a corner with this pick. Smith is the best corner left and uses a great combination of physicality and ball skills to shut down receivers.