The NFL Draft is less than two weeks away and now is as good a time as any to make some final predictions as to how it will all play out. Most of the pro days are finished, though teams are still bringing in prospects for private workouts and a few more, last minute medicals.
All that's left, really, is analysis, discussion, and plenty of second-guessing. I will be doing just that as I wrap up this final mock draft. Let's start with our first team, the Detroit Lions:
1. Detroit Lions - QB Matthew Stafford of Georgia
This is Detroit's guy. Though I believe Mark Sanchez will have a better pro career, the Lions have to take Stafford because he's got more potential. Ever since the Lions' new coach declared the necessity of having a face for this franchise at the quarterback position, there's been no doubt in my mind that the pick will be a quarterback.
Many have argued that Detroit has so many holes that they should choose the best talent in the draft, and that that player would not be Stafford, but the fact of the matter is a team must have a guy they can rely on at quarterback for the team to be successful.
It's the most important position on a football team and should be valued that way. That means if, for arguments sake, Aaron Curry is thought to be a much better linebacker than Stafford is a quarterback, or that Jason Smith is a much better left tackle than Stafford is a quarterback, a team like Detroit should still go with Stafford.
It's simple: the quarterback's impact on a team is increasingly greater every year than any other position on the team, what with the evolution of the passing game and the rule changes favoring the offense and the quarterback in particular. The Bears know that.
That's why they gave up what they did to get Jay Cutler. It has been highly agreed upon that the Chicago defense is what cost the team opportunities to collect more wins last season, but they went out and got themselves a quarterback instead of a pass rusher or a coverage guy.
Kyle Orton wasn't great, but he wasn't awful either. Yet, the Bears gave up the chance to improve on their defense through the draft by trading away three high draft picks so that they could upgrade the most important position on their team.
Detroit has to follow this mentality and draft Stafford. Right now, they are losing the race in their division at that position, with young stars Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler having established themselves as supreme talents at quarterback with long, bright futures still ahead of them.
Not that I wasn't convinced before that this should be the pick for the Lions, but I think I re-convinced myself just now.
2. St. Louis Rams - LT Jason Smith of Baylor
With the obvious decline of Orlando Pace and then the subsequent release of the future Hall-of-Famer, the Rams are in need of a left tackle.
It's been thought that they could move Alex Barron over from the right side to the left side, but when recently asked about such a move, he seemed surprisingly hesitant and even concerned about such a move.
He stated that it would be quite the adjustment and that he would have to relearn playing the left side when he manned that position back in college.
Marc Bulger is starting to get up there in age and has been dinged up the last few seasons, but when healthy he is still very effective and efficient and isn't even halfway through the ginormous contract he received just a few years ago.
And since receiving that contract extension, Bulger really hasn't done much so I'm sure the Rams' organization would like to give their signal-caller the chance to make good on that investment.
To help him do that, St. Louis needs to start drafting for the offense, for Marc Bulger. Pace and Torry Holt have been let go this offseason, Issac Bruce before that, and their star running back Steven Jackson was nicked up for a good part of the season last year, as too was the offensive line.
With those players still on the roster getting healthy, and maybe an infusion of youth and talent on the offensive line with Smith and a playmaker like maybe Jared Cook at tight end in the second round, Bulger might be able to return to form.
He has proven himself to be a pro bowl quarterback and even the MVP of the pro bowl when he is surrounded by talent. The Rams should focus this draft on getting him a talented supporting cast like the one he had once upon a time.
3. Kansas City Chiefs - LT Eugene Monroe of Virginia
The Chiefs have an unhappy Larry Johnson right now and there is not a trade-market for the high-priced veteran, so that means he is staying a Chief. Johnson is simply unhappy, though, because of the lack of production from the run game last season. I'm sure the Chiefs are also unhappy about this reality.
What Kansas City needs to do is start building the offensive line back to prominence when they had the combination of Priest Holmes and Johnson running to pay dirt multiple times a game with the likes of Will Shields and Willie Roaf leading the way.
Obtaining Monroe and shifting Brandon Albert inside to guard or to the other side at right tackle could give Johnson some holes to run through.
Regaining a strong running game could make Matt Cassel's first season as a Chief a lot easier too, forcing teams to keep a safety in the box and opening things up for Gonzo and Bowe.
4. Seattle Seahawks - LB Aaron Curry of Wake Forest
The Seahawks could go in a number of different directions here, like Sanchez, BJ Raji, or Michael Crabtree, but I think getting the highest rated player on many teams' boards would be too good to pass up here.
Besides, with Hasselbeck starting to throw again and the offseason acquisitions of Colin Cole, Corey Redding, and TJ Houshyamamma, as well as the loss of Julian Peterson, linebacker seems to be the more attractive position to fill at this point.
Curry has everything a team could want in a linebacker and can play any position, though Seattle currently has a vacant spot at strong-side linebacker after the trade of Peterson. Well what a coincidence, because that's where Curry played most of his college career at.
He can make an immediate impact and seamless transition to the position, especially now that Seattle has beefed up the front four so that their linebackers may be protected and may roam free to the ball.
Obtaining Curry could also give the Seahawks some leverage in contract talks with their franchised linebacker Hill and some insurance in case Tatupu has another injury-riddled season.
At the very least Seattle can get some immediate returns from Curry as the last few years have proven with linebackers winning defensive rookie of the year honors.
5. Cleveland Browns - WR Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech
With the possibility of a Braylon Edwards trade lingering, the trade of Kellen Winslow already in the books, and Donte Stallworth most likely out of the picture, this Browns offense needs to start acquiring some talent rather than ridding themselves of talent.
It would be a good idea to take Crabtree at this point, even if they keep Edwards, as they have a young stud at left tackle, former Wisconsin Badger Joe Thomas, who will protect the blind-side of eventual starter Brady Quinn.
This foursome could create all kinds of havoc for opposing defenses with Edwards running deep, Crabtree running shallow and Thomas giving Quinn all the time he wants to find whomever he wants.
Give the Browns Crabtree and I'm sure the "Mangenius" will find a way to get him open and make him productive.
If anything, taking Crabtree at five will prevent their divisional and state rival Bengals from getting him, an opportunity which I think Cincinnati would jump at with the loss of Houshyamamma and Chad being Chad.
6. Cincinnati Bengals - BJ Raji of Boston College
The Bengals just barely missed at the chance to acquire a top talent at defensive tackle last year when the Saints leap-frogged them in the draft and took Seddrick Ellis out of USC. Ellis had a pretty good rookie year for New Orleans, though he did miss a few games with a knee injury.
But when Ellis was on the field, he was everything the Saints hoped he'd be, and everything the Bengals wished they had. Well now the Bengals have an opportunity to make up for missing out on Ellis by taking the top-ranked defensive tackle in this year's draft in BJ Raji.
Raji does come with some slight baggage, but after putting up a fairly believable front that they were done with those kind of players, jettisoning many from the team in recent years, they were right back at it with the resigning of Chris Henry and the signing of Tank Johnson this offseason.
They just never learn, though I'm not saying Raji is on par with the troubled athletes the Bengals have been known for.
The mammoth tackle from Boston College has incredible quickness and pass rush ability for a man of his size. That's a plus for a team to gain with Raji because he weighs more than 330 pounds and has proven to be a force against the run as many would expect at that size.
He's also versatile enough and willing to play either tackle position in the 4-3 or 3-4 and even defensive end, which he's played before at Boston College.
Cincinnati has been hurting for a really good defensive tackle for a long time now as their defense has been notorious over the years for giving up a lot in the run game. After addressing their back seven in the last few drafts, now is the time to address the all important front four group.
Raji should be a no-brainer here if he's still available.
7. Oakland Raiders - WR Jeremy Maclin of Missouri
One of the reasons I'm sticking with Maclin here for Oakland is that I want to see if all the Raiders fans that responded last time have warmed up yet to the idea of Maclin catching deep passes from Russell. This pick, though, could just as easily be the speedy turtle from Maryland, Darrius Heyward-Bey. You know Al Davis loves speed.
Not only that but Davis showed last year that he has no reservations about taking a player high if he already has a few intriguing players stocked at the position already (of course Davis doesn't really show any reservations about anything).
In last year's draft, everyone thought Davis would go with McFadden because of the speed and home-run ability McFadden brought to the table.
But then there were others who assumed McFadden wouldn't be the pick since they had Justin Fargos and Michael Bush. Well, Davis took McFadden and now the Raiders have arguably the best trio of running backs in the league, hands down.
The Raiders already have a speedy receiver who doubles as a return man in...ah gee, what's his name Raiders fans? Well, they got him, and Javon Walker, but like I said, with Davis picking up McFadden last year can you rule out him picking Maclin this year? Besides, can either of those two guys be trusted to perform at wide receiver?
The only legitimate threat Oakland has in the passing game is Miller.
Coach Cable has come out and said that he would like to incorporate more deep throws into the offense for 2009. A strong running game behind their trio of backs would really open up those deep passes off some play-action, and Russell will have no problem throwing those deep passes with his strong arm.
The question is, will someone be there to catch those throws? The answer is yes, and the who is Maclin.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars - LT Andre Smith of Alabama
It's hard to imagine the Jags passing on any offensive lineman prospect, especially one that was once projected to go No. 1 overall.
Yes, we've all heard the negatives about this guy, but what has been forgotten are the positives, and that's because the positives are what this kid does on the field and he hasn't been on the field since the end of the college regular season, so it's been a while since we've seen Andre do something good.
Running the 40 at his pro day I think everyone could have done without seeing, but going through an NFL offseason will help tighten all of that up.
What I take into careful consideration is how many coaches and people who know Smith have backed the youngster, saying he has merely taken some bad advice as of late but that he's a good kid at heart, is very coachable, and wants to succeed.
Smith wasn't given the Outland Trophy, an award given to the nation's best lineman, not left tackle, not offensive tackle, not offensive lineman, but lineman. Smith earned the Outland Trophy. He earned it with his play over the course of three seasons at Alabama in the tough and rugged trenches of SEC play.
He constantly shows a nastiness when he engages a defender, often blocking him into the ground. Smith is a mauler who finishes his blocks and completely dominates as a run-blocker.
The Jags lost three starters on the line very early in the season last year. An offensive lineman was always going to be the pick here, though some think it should be a wide receiver. If Maclin was still available, I would think about changing this pick to the Missouri wide receiver, but he's not available.
The next best wide receiver available is probably Darrius Heyward-Bey, but taking him at No. 8 would be too big of a reach in my mind. Andre Smith could do what Jeff Otah did for the Panthers last year and really inject some life into the run game with his power-blocking on the right side of the line.
Smith will produce immediately for a team. I know "pocket Hercules" would like this pick, along with a raise.
9. Green Bay Packers - LT Michael Oher of Mississippi
If the draft plays out like I have it playing out so far, I seriously see a trade back into the middle of the first round as the move Green Bay makes here. Not only are the guys they would have liked to be available to them at this pick gone (Raji and Andre Smith) but Mark Sanchez is still available.
With San Fransisco picking at 10, teams enticed with Sanchez will be scrambling to jump ahead of the 49ers in order to acquire the talented thrower from powerhouse USC.
If I have to pick a player for the Pack at this point, however, I believe it would come down to a three-man race with Michael Oher, Tyson Jackson, and Brian Orakpo all being in the discussion.
Oher is a player at a position of greatest need for the Packers. In all likelihood, they will be moving on without Mark Tausher manning the right side of the line, and Chad Clifton has only a few more years at best on the left side.
Clifton's contract is also up after the 2009 season so it is anyone's guess whether he will even be brought back.
There's not a whole lot waiting in the wings. Breno Giacomini was drafted out of Louisville a year ago and the coaching staff seems to think he has a future at right tackle for the team after improving immensely over the course of his first NFL season.
However, he was downright awful and barely made the team before the season began, so how good is he after improving so much from being absolute crap to start? He also had offseason surgery on his ankle so it's up in the air if he'll even be able to participate much in offseason workouts.
Josh Sitton is another second year player who has impressed. He graded out so well during minicamps and training camp that he was slated to start the season opener before he was injured.
He played right tackle in college at Central Florida, blocking for Kevin Smith, but the coaches seem to want him playing at guard and are done with the constant flip-flopping that has been going on with the offensive line in past years.
For most of the same reasons, Darren Colledge won't be an option at tackle either. He's proved he can slide out to left tackle in a pinch if Clifton is hurt, but as with Sitton, the coaching staff would prefer to leave Colledge at left guard where he has shown steady progress over the course of his young career.
So, that really leaves no one on the roster to fill that tackle spot. Those three guys mentioned are the options right now, but obviously are not the preferred options for right now. Getting Oher would fill the immediate need at right tackle and possibly the future need at left tackle when Clifton leaves.
When that happens, maybe Giacomini will be groomed well enough to man the right side.
When talking about the five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, the Packers have a lot of question marks. However, they do have A LOT of questions marks, being that they have plenty of bodies that can fit the mold of a defensive end in the 3-4. They just don't know if those guys will pan out or not at the position.
Cullen Jenkins, Johnny Jolly, Justin Harrell, Mike Montgomery, and Alfred Malone all stand to get a look at that spot, with Jenkins and Jolly the projected starters. But will any of these guys emerge from the pack, learn and figure out the position, stand out and produce?
Jenkins is coming off a season-ending injury, while Harrell has never been healthy since entering the league it seems. Jolly has a very elusive trial date hanging over his head after getting busted for codeine abuse and it is unclear whether Goodell will hand him a suspension or not.
Montgomery has to add some weight but he has the frame to carry additional weight and he did improve dramatically last year, especially against the run. Malone was a late add to the roster off free agency and the Packers aren't quite sure what they got in him yet.
So yes, lots of questions but there is some intrigue with that group as they all have proved to be effective in the previous scheme when healthy.
The Packers' pursuit of Chris Canty in the first week of free agency, however, seems to suggest they are a little bit more weary of their options at defensive end than I am. That is why Tyson Jackson becomes a possibility for Green Bay at pick No. 9.
The LSU star has great strength and a good work ethic along with the perfect body type to not only play the 5-technique but to shift inside and rush the passer when the Packers switch back to an even front in certain scenarios throughout the season.
As for the outside linebacker position in the 3-4, the Packers are set with Aaron Kampman on one side, but have an opening to fill on the other side.
While there has been a tendency to find plenty of guys to fill such a position later on in the draft as colleges produce more and more of those undersized defensive ends who project to rush linebacker in the NFL, it'd be hard to pass up a talent like Brian Orakpo.
Orakpo brings an intensity that teams are enamoured with and has the versatility and willingness, much like Raji, to play in either the 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.
Being that it will be the first year the Packers try to implement the 3-4 scheme into their defense, it would be a big plus to gain a player who could play in both schemes as Green Bay is likely to be switching between the two schemes all season as they make the adjustments to playing a new defense.
Orakpo has good size, strength, and ability to rush the passer. He's a team player first and foremost, and he will play through injury if he feels he can still be effective and help the team.
The only problem is that he has been injured a little too much in college and teams are concerned about his ability to stay healthy in the NFL, where the season is longer, the offseason is even longer, and the players will downright pulverize each other. His attitude and character, I believe, should be enough to make up for those durability concerns.
As it stands, though, the Packers just invested a ton of money into Aaron Rodgers and are about to do the same for Greg Jennings. For those two to keep connecting with each other, Rodgers must stay upright and the odds of that happening begin to dwindle if Green Bay does not address the tackle position in this draft.
The future of this organization is Aaron Rodgers, and his future is Michael Oher.
10. San Francisco 49ers - QB Mark Sanchez of USC
The 49ers would like to believe that Alex Smith could prove he was worth taking No. 1 overall, but the fact is he was not and the team needs to move past that.
Taking Sanchez here would be the smart thing to do, just admit mistake after having taken Smith and start over with a guy like Sanchez who could be gotten only at the No. 1 overall pick next year if he were to have stayed for another season at USC.
He has the talent which he showed off when he lit up the Nittany Lions' defense in the Rose Bowl, but what teams love about him are his intangibles. He has a natural ability to lead, he is a very hard worker and will study his craft and that of his opponents, and he is just an overall nice, likable guy.
This is a guy the fans will grow to adore and they could sure use a guy like that, being without one since Steve Young.
Sanchez could also fit in to the San Fran offense rather nicely as they have the talent right now to not get him killed or booed to start his career.
Vernon Davis and their first round tackle of a few drafts ago are guys Sanchez can enjoy a long and fruitful career with, while vets like Issac Bruce and Frank Gore can provide some early leadership and supporting roles for Sanchez before he takes over as the guy everyone turns to.
Scouts are convinced Sanchez has that "it" factor. The 49ers would be much better off grabbing him from the 10 spot rather than trying their luck with the guys they currently have in Smith and Hill.
Once the organization comes to the realization that neither of those two will lead them to a Super Bowl, then they can feel comfortable and excited about taking Sanchez.
11. Buffalo Bills - LB Clay Matthews of USC
Here's a surprise pick. I don't understand the debate that Buffalo needs a defensive end since, as far as I'm concerned, they already have two serviceable ends in Schobel and Kelsay. What they need more than an end is another linebacker to team with Posluzny.
Matthews would provide the Bills with a three-down linebacker as he showed he can tackle well and provide pressure as a blitzer off the edge, but he also has incredibly fluid hips for a linebacker and has the speed to run with backs and tight ends.
He was a former safety back in high school and it shows in his ability to cover. Matthews will be a valuable commodity on a defense that desperately needs more playmakers.
Some teams worry because he was a late bloomer, but I'm anxious to see how much better he can become. I think he has an incredibly high ceiling and with his bloodlines, I am confident he will achieve the utmost of his potential.
12. Denver Broncos - DE Tyson Jackson of LSU
This one is pretty easy. The Broncos are switching to the 3-4 and lack a lot of big guys to play the odd front. Jackson is a perfect fit for the scheme at end and with BJ Raji gone, Jackson is the next best prospect for their defense.
He's got incredible length and has the ability to occupy multiple blockers from his end position. Not only that but he's a high character player and after the whole deal with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall constantly causing a scene, getting a top-notch individual like Jackson would be a pleasant pick-up.
The Broncos sorely need defensive help and strong defenses are always built with good big men up front.
13. Washington Redskins - DE Brian Orakpo of Texas
Orakpo's plummet down the draft stops at 13. With teams having other areas of interest or possibly being scared away by his injury history, the Redskins land a steal in this draft at a position of greatest need.
A very proud player, such a drop down draft boards could actually leave Orakpo with a chip on his shoulder, giving him extra motivation to dominate his competition and prove just how good a player he is, not that he needs anything extra to motivate him.
Not only that, but being able to team up with Albert Haynesworth could spell trouble for opposing teams' offensive lines.
Haynesworth will most likely get the double teams each game so Orakpo can work his craft one-on-one every game, every snap, just about.
The trade for Jason Taylor last year failed miserably and cost them dearly after giving up two draft picks (including a second rounder) for a year's service from a once great defender who offered next to nothing for the season they had him. The trade, though, showed how desperate they were to acquire a talented pass rusher.
They also made a trade for the Vikings' Udeze, which hasn't proven to have been worth it either. There are plenty of talented pass rushers in this draft, and in this scenario Washington gets their pick of the litter.
14. New Orleans Saints - RB Chris Wells of Ohio State
I believe this pick comes down to OSU teammates Wells and Malcom Jenkins. The Saints have a big need for both, and while Jenkins can offer the versatility to line up at corner or safety, both needs for New Orleans, Wells offers that compliment they once had for Bush when Reggie was a rookie and had a healthy Deuce softening opposing defenses.
That offense was never better than that year when both Deuce and Reggie were healthy and complimenting each other's skill sets with their own.
Wells offers the size McAllister had, but he can also run away from defenders, something Deuce couldn't do. He has been nicked up way too much in his career at OSU, but he has shown the ability to play through some of those injuries too.
The only thing that really matters is the ability that Wells brings to the table. He's huge, can bulldoze defenders, and can out run them too if he so chooses.
The way to effectively run the ball in today's game is to have two backs that complement each other well: the Jets' Jones and Washington, Carolina's Williams and Stewart, San Diego's LT and Sproles, the Giants' Jacobs and Bradshaw, Atlanta's Turner and Norwood, Minnesota's Peterson and Taylor, Miami's Brown and Williams, Dallas' Barber and Jones, Tennesse's White and Johnson, etc.
The Saints know this, had this, and will once again get back to this.
15. Houston Texans - DB Malcom Jenkins of Ohio State
The idea behind taking Mario Williams first overall a few years ago was that Houston had to play Indy twice a year. Now, for the same reason, they will take Jenkins. The Texans need a presence across from Robinson, or insurance in case they can't get a contract done with their star corner.
Houston could also use a playmaker at the safety position, which they might feel Jenkins could provide them instead, or in addition to his services at corner.
Either way, this team needs some help in the secondary to combat the arm of Peyton Manning and getting a hard-nosed, smart, versatile playmaker like Jenkins would fit that need. Not only is Jenkins solid in coverage and run support, but he knows what to do with the ball in his hands and he knows how to put himself in that position.
Rarely have I seen Houston's defense scoring any points for their team off of turnovers but with Jenkins collecting hurried throws off a super-Mario-pressured Peyton Manning, that could change in a hurry.
16. San Diego Chargers - LB Rey Maualuga of USC
Though Mr. Maulaluga's stock has been dropping with concerns of his hurt hamstring, his questionable character, and his less-than-stellar instincts, I think the Chargers swoop him up to be a thumper for them in the middle of their 3-4.
The team has a couple of guys in the middle that are serviceable, but they're just a couple of guys, nothing special.
Maualuga doesn't always use the best technique when tackling or angling his pursuit of a ballcarrier, but those things can be coached up. What's important is that he can lay the wood on a player. He'll deliver punishment to those with the ball and he'll be nasty about it.
He seems like a perfect fit to play next to Merriman, who has a similar aggressive and intimidating personality and the two could thrive together.
17. New York Jets - QB Josh Freeman of Kansas State
As it stands now, the Jets are in the market for a wide receiver. It so happens, though, that they've already found one in Miles Austin.
They are prepared to offer the Dallas wide receiver a contract and give the Cowboys a second round pick if they don't match the offer, which they probably won't be able to as it has been rumored they are going to throw a "poison-pill" into the contract, much like the Vikings did with Steve Hutchinson and then the Seahawks did with Nate Burleson.
If these rumors hadn't come up, I was prepared to make this pick Heyward-Bey. But lets say they get Austin and give up a second round pick to acquire him. Once that is taken care of, I believe they target Freeman to be the future of the franchise.
The Jets brought in Rex Ryan from Baltimore and he personally watched a quarterback of similar size come from a similar small-school program and excel for his team. Freeman also has a similar arm to Flacco's, it's just his mechanics and decision-making that don't compare to the Raven's quarterback, at least not right now.
But if Ryan likes Freeman, then he'll probably get Freeman. New coach. New quarterback. His quarterback. His hand-picked quarterback. That's usually how it goes, right McDaniels?
18. Denver Broncos - DE/OLB Aaron Maybin of Penn State
Here the Broncos get a steal at 18, much like the Redskins got at 13 with Orakpo. With Maybin they get to add another piece to the complex and hard to fit puzzle of the 3-4 defensive scheme.
Maybin plays light, but he plays fast and he plays through the whistle. He's got an incredible first step, allowing him to gain the edge when rushing from the end of the line of scrimmage.
As far as playing the run goes, or getting engaged with an offensive lineman, there's not much Maybin will be able to do besides get dominated until he can add more weight, keep the weight, and play with the weight while still retaining that explosion he has.
Some might be worried that he was a one-year wonder, but he's also coming out as a redshirt sophomore. I think one-year wonders become the case more so in a player like Robert Ayers, who had a great senior season but did nothing before that.
Maybin simply hasn't played that much, which is a little concerning in itself, but that shouldn't give him the label of a one-year wonder.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - LB Brian Cushing of USC
With their guy Freeman gone at this point, Cushing would be a smart pick up after letting their former star linebacker Brooks go. Coach Morris is now in charge, and I'm sure the defensive-minded coach would like to add a young stud to his defense that now is merely a shell of what it once was.
The Bucs' age really showed on defense during its primetime matchup against division rival Carolina when the tandem of Williams and Stewart just ran all over the Tampa defense, highlighted by a wicked stiff arm on former All-Pro Ronde Barber by rookie running back Jonathan Stewart.
Cushing would not only bring talent to the linebacking unit, as well as to the pass rush, but he'd bring an attitude, an attitude he acquired from the Trojan defense that no one would embarrass his team, the defense he is playing for like that ever, ever.
Playing the run isn't always a numbers game, a technique thing, or everyone knowing their assignment. It's a mentality, and Tampa's defense needs Cushing to bring that mentality with him to Florida.
20. Detroit Lions - DE Robert Ayers of Tennesse
Trying to copy the Atlanta Falcons last year by getting their quarterback early and then coming back to the offense with their second first rounder and selecting a tackle is probably what Detroit would like to do, but reaching for one here would not be reasonable. More likely, they'll use their 33rd overall pick to address the line.
Instead, they'll try to provide themselves a pass rush, which I don't recall them ever having.
Ayers was a fast riser once the college season ended, but he only had one productive season in college, that being the 2008 season. That being said, he did participate in the Senior Bowl and performed very well against his fellow college seniors. That was enough for some scouts to believe this guy was the real deal.
Ayers has a lot more size than most of the defensive ends coming out these days. He can anchor against the run and penetrate the backfield to take ballcarriers down for losses.
He also is quite effective as a pass rusher, making him a great addition for Detroit as he can be left on the field on every down in every scenario. He's even big enough that he might be kicked inside on obvious passing downs to provide pressure from the interior.
21. Philadelphia Eagles - RB Knowshon Moreno of Georgia
If Moreno is available to the Eagles with their first pick, I think they have to take him. He's a well-known player, Knowshon is, and will immediately please those always stubborn fans of Philadelphia who've been begging for years for the Eagles to add someone to compliment/spell Westbrook.
Moreno is a tough, physical runner who loves to dish out punishment to defenders and his style of play will really be appreciated by the fans. Even though it's not advisable to pick a player based on the needs of the fans, in this case, I think it would be acceptable.
After the very unpopular move of letting Brian Dawkins go to Denver via free agency, the Eagles need to grab someone who will please the fans.
Running backs are contributors early in their careers, so an immediate return on the money and pick they use to get Moreno should be satisfying to not only the fans but to the organization as well.
Running backs are also likely offensive rookie of the year picks so again, getting Moreno could potentially be a very popular move.
Not only would Moreno provide the Eagles a tough runner between the tackles but he's an excellent receiver out of the backfield with superior quickness and flashy moves that allow him to make the first defender miss almost every time.
Flashy moves also mean SportsCenter highlights so again, popular pick here. Andy Reid can get his lineman later. This pick should definitely be reserved for Moreno.
22. Minnesota Vikings - RT Eben Britton of Arizona
Instead of wide receiver, which is what everyone thinks they should get, I think Minnesota will go after Britton to play right tackle for them and maximize the talent they have in the backfield with Adrian Peterson and Taylor.
The Vikings have been looking for a right tackle for a while and have failed miserably finding one. Cook isn't the answer and will probably be tried at center now. Johnson isn't going to cut it either. They must inject the position with some new talent, a new prospect.
Britton, many feel, is a good fit for the right side because he's not that athletic or quick on tape, but in recent workouts he has shown surprisingly quick feet and has impressed scouts with his mobility.
An underclassman, Britton might have a rough go at it if he is thrown in as a starter right away, but within a year or two he could learn and improve to become a solid contributor for Minnesota and help anchor one of the top running games in the league.
23. New England Patriots - DE/OLB Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech
With the interest New England seemingly has in Julius Peppers, I think they might try to gamble with the supremely talented but notoriously underachieving Johnson.
I don't think they give up what Carolina wants for Peppers, mostly because the Panthers really don't want to get rid of Peppers to begin with and have therefore jacked the asking price for his services.
It is not for a lack of effort or discipline that explains why Johnson didn't produce like his talent shows he could. His coaches praised his ability but also his work ethic and his desire to contribute to the team. Maybe it's just a lack of good coaching that has stunted Johnson's progression.
If the Patriots believe at all that something like that is the case with Johnson, you better believe they go after him, what with the mindset that Belichick can coach anyone.
It seems to me, though, that they would just like to add a freakish athlete to team with Adalius Thomas to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. It's not like Peppers has proved himself as a rush linebacker, but he has proved himself as one hell of a freakish athlete.
24. Atlanta Falcons - TE Brandon Pettigrew of Oklahoma State
Matt Ryan turned this franchise around in a single season, along with Michael Turner. The best way to thank both of those guys is to take Pettigrew at number 24 if he's still available.
He can provide a big, athletic target for Ryan or give Matty Ice more time in the pocket as he has held his own against defensive ends like some of those being drafted ahead of him so far in this mock draft (either Orakpo or Ayers I think he held at bay one-on-one several times in a game last season).
Pettigrew can block with the best of them and Turner would love to be carrying the ball with a tight end like him dominating his assignment play-in and play-out.
His abilities to separate from coverage and effectively block will also allow for Pettigrew to remain on the field for as long as his stamina holds up, which is a great return on a first-round investment at the tight end position.
An offensive coordinator won't be limited to certain play packages as some are with tight ends who are merely undersized pass-catching tight ends or unathletic blocking tight ends who either can't separate from defenders or can't catch the ball, or both.
25. Miami Dolphins - CB Vonte Davis of Illinois
Miami has to come out of this draft with a cornerback, so why not take a chance on the troubled but talented Davis? If anyone can coach this guy, it's the guys Parcells brought in.
I think man-to-man coverage is the best scenario for this guy, and if he's allowed to solely focus on one receiver, then he could shut his assignment down once he improves his technique.
He has also got the size to be very effective in run support, which I'm sure would please Parcells.
Watching him play against Wisconsin early in his career, I saw him get burnt on a double move but caught back up to the play on a slightly underthrown ball and make the interception. His talent is undeniable. If he can get coached up he could be great.
26. Baltimore Ravens - WR Kenny Britt of Rutgers
Baltimore likes what they have gotten initially from Ray Rice, so why wouldn't the Ravens go back to the program that produced Rice to get their deep threat for Joe Flacco?
Britt has great speed for his size, and with his size he can easily out-muscle or out-jump defensive backs for the ball downfield. Being a deep threat isn't just about being fast, it's about being able to separate from the defender and being able to make a play for the ball in a position where the defensive back can't.
Britt's height and long arms allow for this. He made a living at Rutgers catching the long ball from Teel.
27. Indianapolis Colts - WR Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina
This team loves its quarterback. That is why this pick will be Nicks. Indy will get all that it can from its future Hall-of-Famer by providing him with as much talent as possible.
With Marvin Harrison gone, the team could use another wide receiver to play the flanker position so that Gonzo can slide back into the slot and Dallas Clark isn't forced to play there.
Nicks would also provide a receiver for Peyton that he hasn't really had before, a possession wide receiver.
Nicks will run those unpopular routes over the middle without hesitation, clearly the opposite to what Harrison would run, hugging the sideline most of the time or going down as soon as he caught the ball if he ever strayed from the sideline.
Manning could really enjoy having a wide receiver of Nicks' skill set and body type and will find ways to make him excel, just as he has done with every first round draft pick the Colts have given him at the skill positions.
28. Philadelphia Eagles - LT William Beatty of Connecticut
Well, we knew this was coming eventually. Andy Reid just can't help himself. He must draft a lineman every year. Of course, in this case, the Eagles desperately need some youth at the tackle spot.
They let Tra Thomas sign with Jacksonville and haven't brought back Runyan. All the while, they have floated Winston Justice around in trade offers, though I don't know who would want a tackle that got whipped for six sacks in a single game.
The Eagles could also look at Phil Loadholt here too, but Beatty is the more athletic of the two and the better fit for the left side. They have a temporary fix for the right side in Stacey Andrews, but they need to address the left side fast.
With Reid loving the big guys and Peria Jerry starting to drop a bit, I thought about making him the pick here, but the offensive line is more of an issue and the Eagles are stacked at defensive tackle right now with Patterson, Bunkley, and Laws.
29. New York Giants - TE Jared Cook of South Carolina
Here the Giants were probably hoping Britt would drop to them, because let's face it, Burress not being there anymore hurts more than anyone on that team would like to admit. With Brian Robiskie from OSU, you have a similar body type to what you had with Plaxico, but not the speed and certainly not the ability to threaten a defense deep.
So, why not take Jared Cook? He's an undersized tight end with incredible athleticism and speed for his size and was split out wide a lot for the Gamecocks. He also averaged something like 16 yards a catch I heard?
Maybe Cook doesn't fill exactly what the Giants had in Burress, but no one really will because Plaxico was a special player. Cook will at least present similar mismatches for the Giants and give Eli another big target to throw to.
30. Tennessee Titans - WR Percy Harvin of Florida
Still in the bidding for Tory Holt, the Titans could go for Perry here if they do indeed land the former Ram since they have a huge hole to fill after letting Haynesworth go.
However, Harvin is exactly what they are looking for, a playmaker at the wide receiver position, and even if they do land Holt they still might take Harvin if he falls to the number 30 pick in the draft.
Though he still has to learn how to run a route tree, he has incredible skills for the position. He is fast and explosive out of his cuts and has great hands for someone who never really hunkered down as a wide receiver in college, mostly just receiving pitches and shovels from teammate Tim Tebow.
He does come with quite a bit of baggage, but so did Haynesworth and so did Pacman. Fisher will take a chance on a player if he feels he can be a tremendous addition to his team, which Harvin can be for the Titans.
As he did in college, Harvin can also handle the ball out of the backfield and potentially could serve as a return man for Tennessee. His versatility is a plus and the Titans will find ways to use him effectively.
31. Arizona Cardinals - DE/OLB Everette Brown of Florida State
Here the Cards get a potential steal considering some feel Brown should be a top-10 pick, but I think this is more where he belongs. He has exceptional character and dominated in certain games with multiple sacks in those outings, but the big knock on him is that he's short, does not have elite speed, and he's a Florida State pass rusher.
Florida State is well-known for producing busts at the defensive end/pass rusher position. The most obvious example is Jamal Reynolds who, sadly, Ron Wolf of the Packers selected fairly high back in the early part of this decade. He didn't last too long.
There's a tendency at Florida State to allow their pass rushers to simply rush the passer and do nothing else. No responsibilities defending the run. No attention paid to running backs running open in the flats.
Just find the guy who starts with his hands under the ass of the guy who starts with the ball and go get 'em. That kind of stuff just doesn't fly in the NFL.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - C Alex Mack of California
I have no doubt in my mind that the Steelers will be taking an offensive lineman with their pick, most likely one of the top three centers in this draft. The problem is, I can't figure out which one.
Alex Mack and Max Unger went one-on-one at the Senior Bowl with the likes of players like BJ Raji, who basically man-handled them both. But Mack was at least man-handled to a lesser extent than Unger was.
Unger, however, offers the versatility of playing every position on the line aside from left tackle. That kind of versatility could be very valuable for Pittsburgh with the injuries they've had along the line as well as their inability to retain the better players they've had at those positions.
Eric Wood of Louisville, the third center in this mix, is an underclassman I believe, but he is arguably the toughest and most physical of the three who likes to play with a mean streak and has shown the ability to play through injury throughout his career.
One of these three guys should be with the Steelers by the end of the month, but it's anyone's guess as to which one it will be.
Well, that does it for this final mock draft for the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. I would just like to note that if the Packers do not get Raji with their first pick, they must do everything in their power to make his teammate at Boston College, Ron Brace, a Green Bay Packer.
As of now, there is only one true player on the team who projects to playing the all important position of nose tackle and he's got two bad knees and one year left on his contract.
Another possibility for Green Bay in the second round is Larry English who projects nicely to the rush linebacker position opposite Kampman. He has all the physical tools to excel at the next level at that position and graded out very well at the Senior Bowl when he was asked to play that spot.
I'm also expecting to see a lot of action between teams in the top-ten and those picking in the middle of the first for the rights to draft quarterback Mark Sanchez and/or one of the top tackle prospects in this year's draft. Got about 12.5 days to go! Who's psyched!?!