Hey everybody, time for my last stab at a mock. You can see my previous one from roughtly five weeks ago here:
As you can see just from the headline, I've come over to the dark side, as it were, because all signs indicate the Detroit Lions will indeed be selecting Matthew Stafford from the University of Georgia at No. 1. I don't agree with the pick, but I'm not the Lions GM. And hey, at least they're not taking Michael Crabtree...
A lot has changed in the last five weeks: players have fallen, risen, and held steady. A couple of names who I had pegged as second rounders creep into the first round here.
I will be keeping "trade tabs" on a few picks, which I will give reasoning for. After I missed on guessing where Jay Cutler would go, I'm not quite so inclined to put myself out there as I was the last time around...
In any case, here is the mock, and with the understanding that maybe half of these picks will be right if I do really well, please enjoy, and I would appreciate any feedback, as well!
1. Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
I do not think the Lions should be making this pick, as I've already outlined. They have too many needs on their roster to pass up on a franchise OT. However, all signs point to the Lions taking Stafford and my job is to predict the picks, not to make the picks for these teams. Therefore he appears at No. 1.
Don't get me wrong, Stafford is a great prospect with a cannon arm, but he has inconsistent decision making and isn't necessarily the most accurate passer.
Couple that with the fact that underclass QBs typically fail at the next level (see: Ryan Leaf), and I'm just not convinced this guy is going to be what the Lions need him to be, ESPECIALLY with a leaky offensive line in front of him. The Lions had better hope they hit on their later OL picks, or this has bust written all over it.
2. St. Louis Rams: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Smith is my top overall prospect in this draft because he's a great pass blocker with a mean streak to move the pile in the running game and doesn't have any off the field issues to speak of.
To me, that makes him the clear No. 2 overall pick, given that the Lions are passing on him, and it's practically a lock now that the Rams have released Orlando Pace. This is still Steven Jackson's team, and he needs blockers; in addition, there should be some good WRs left when the Rams pick early in round 2 if they're interested in replacing Torry Holt.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
50 percent possibility of a trade.
I've had Aaron Curry penciled in here since the NFL combine and I don't see any reason to move him around now; he's tops on the draft boards of several teams, even as Eugene Monroe's draft stock rises.
However, I don't really envision Curry coming off the board at No. 3. Why? First, he's not a pass-rushing LB, which is where LBs make their money these days, and second, the Seattle Seahawks have indicated a willingness to take Mark Sanchez at No. 4 overall.
Couple that with Scott Pioli's lack of a second round pick in this year's draft, that is a recipe for the Chiefs moving down.
I predict that Mark Sanchez will be gone at No. 3, but if the Chiefs stay put, I think Curry is the pick—Tyson Jackson fills a bigger need, but I don't think Tyson Jackson is worth this selection.
4. Seattle Seahawks: Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern California
In one mock that I did (not published on BR), I had Sanchez falling all the way to the Jets at 17. Then his stock set on fire and I finally bought into the Sanchez hype, just as I gradually bought into the Stafford hype, though the latter came first. I do think that if a team wants Sanchez, they're going to have to move up and get him: without Matt Hasselbeck, the Seahawks were a pretty awful team.
As for why the Seahawks want him, Mark Sanchez is most certainly a scheme-fit in Seattle and he has great intangibles. At the combine he did a "full workout," even doing the 60-yard shuttle, which is basically an endurance test that virtually no QBs perform.
He essentially showed teams he was willing to do whatever it took to win and he comes across similarly in interviews. NFL personnel always need QBs, and they're buying Mark Sanchez. End result: Sanchez makes lots of money on draft day.
5. Cleveland Browns: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
The two-time Biletnikoff award winner is far and away the best wideout in the draft, and the likelihood that Cleveland will take him on draft day seems to have been increasing for a long time.
I do believe that Braylon Edwards will be a New York Giant before the end of draft day—I've been waiting to publish my mock for that reason—and that further strengthens my conviction that Crabtree will be the pick here.
The Browns' success hinges on getting their offense to click, and they desperately need a top-flight WR for whichever QB ends up winning the starting job (possibly by default if one of them is traded).
6. Cincinatti Bengals: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
The Bengals will be jumping for joy if Eugene Monroe lasts until No. 6 overall; Monroe is a gifted pass-protector, perhaps even more so than Jason Smith, but I don't believe he can run block as well as the Baylor product, therefore I believe he's the No. 2 tackle in the draft.
Just as the Browns fire on all cylinders when the passing game is working, so too do the Bengals, even without T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Bengals absolutely must keep QB Carson Palmer upright; he's an elite talent when healthy.
Frankly, I think the Bengals will take the best LT available, even if it's Andre Smith or Michael Oher—it's too great of a need.
7. Oakland Raiders: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
I have no idea what to do with this pick. The Raiders need a WR like Jeremy Maclin (or Darrius Heyward-Bey, if they want to reach so far), an OT like Andre Smith, and a DT like B.J. Raji, all of whom are still on the board.
I ended up giving them Smith because he is a mauler in the run game and was maybe the No. 1 overall pick at the end of the regular season before all the question marks came up.
Even though the Raiders almost always target the fastest player in the draft, I just think it's too much of a reach even for Al Davis to take Heyward-Bey here, and Tom Cable wants an elite O-line, which will make the entire offense look better.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
90 percent possibility of a trade.
Someone is going to want this pick, even with Mark Sanchez already off the board, because Michael Oher is the last elite LT in the draft, B.J. Raji is also still there, and Tyson Jackson is starting to look pretty good. But if the Jags stay put, Jack Del Rio needs to win NOW to save his job.
The Jags D hasn't been the same without Marcus Stroud, and I think they look to replace him and recreate that physicality on defense. Jeremy Maclin is a possibility, but I think the signing of Torry Holt means the Jags aren't looking WR with this pick.
A real steal for the Jags to have Raji fall to them, but man, big ouch for Green Bay.
9. Green Bay Packers: Tyson Jackson, DE, Louisiana State
Green Bay NEEDS a big body on their defensive line in the biggest possible way, and Tyson Jackson's draft stock is on fire. He's the only elite 3-4 DE (five technique) in the draft, and with Green Bay switching to the 3-4 defense, they can't afford to pass up a big 3-4 lineman with this pick, whether it's Raji or Jackson.
I believe they should go up and get one of those two players at No. 7 or No. 8 if one of them is already gone. A great pick for the Packers, even if Raji would have been a better one.
10. San Francisco 49ers: Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas
Orakpo's stock hasn't so much cooled off as he's been overshadowed recently by the likes of Tyson Jackson, B.J. Raji, Mark Sanchez, and Michael Crabtree based on needs in the top 10.
San Fran needs a pass rusher, and Orakpo fills that void. However, they also need an OT, and with Michael Oher still on the board I wouldn't be surprised to see them take the last elite LT or even trade down if another team is looking to move up and take Oher here.
As it is, I don't think the 49ers can pass on probably the best edge rusher in the draft.
11. Buffalo Bills: Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
The Buffalo war room would probably erupt if this scenario played out. The Jason Peters trade creates a giant net for any tackle that somehow drops out of the top 10, and in this scenario that's exactly what has happened.
I'm not sure they even listen to trade offers here with such a pressing need- Buffalo fans should celebrate if this plays out like I've outlined. On top of that, Oher is most definitely NOT a reach here, he's a tremendously talented player, if he is sometimes a bit inconsistent.
12. Denver Broncos: Rey Maualuga, LB, Southern California
40 percent possibility of a trade.
Tough luck for the Broncos, a week ago it looked like Raji might fall to Green Bay and Tyson Jackson might fall to them. As it is, though, they're both already gone, and so Denver needs to add the next best thing: a thumper in the middle of their defense.
Their failure to pick up a D-lineman with this pick means that they're probably looking to trade back and at some point select Boston College DT Ron Brace. He doesn't carry a first-round grade, but there's no disputing that Brace can hold up at the point of attack in the run game and is probably ideally suited for a 3-4 defensive alignment.
Maualuga is the best inside linebacker in this class and is tremendously physical, especially against the run. I don't buy that he isn't a 3-down linebacker, so picking him so early is no problem for me. Especially with someone to protect him up front, he's a great pick for Denver.
13. Washington Redskins: Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
Ayers is probably the best 4-3 DE in this year's draft and the departure of Jason Taylor creates a need at this position. Ayers's stock has been rising steadily since the combine and I think he both fills a need for the 'Skins and grades out as a top-15 talent.
Great pick here by the Redskins, especially because Ayers will be even more effective playing on the same line as Albert Haynesworth- I'm not sure Haynesworth was worth what they paid him, but there's no denying he makes everyone on that defense better.
14. New Orleans Saints: Malcolm Jenkins, DB, Ohio State
I wish Malcolm Jenkins could run a 4.4. If he did, he'd be a slam-dunk for a top 10 pick. As it is, I'm not sure he grades out as a top-flight corner, but he is a GREAT player who makes plays. The Saints have a desperate need for a playmaker in the defensive secondary and Jenkins might have the best ball skills of anyone in the draft.
I don't care whether New Orleans thinks he's a corner or a safety, because frankly, they have needs at both positions.
Beanie Wells is also in consideration here, but if the Saints want a thumper at RB, they can get one in round 2, particularly since Wells's continued presence on the board will push down the other RBs. Shonn Greene would be a great pick for NO in round 2.
15. Houston Texans: Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
Butler might be the most highly rated CB in this draft for teams that don't think Malcolm Jenkins is fast enough to play the CB position, and Butler's stock has steadily been rising in recent weeks with a great pro day workout and questions surrounding Vontae Davis, who is the most talented corner.
I thought long and hard about whether to give the Texans Davis anyway, but his older brother Vernon is pretty much a bust in San Francisco and Davis doesn't always give his best effort, so Butler gets the nod because he, too, is a great player and should help the Texans immediately.
16. San Diego Chargers: Brian Cushing, LB, Southern California
I think the guy the Chargers want is Rey Maualuga, but the Broncos needed him at 12 so they may have reached by a couple of picks to go get him. End result is that Cushing falls to the Chargers, who might be the most talented team in the league, and will take Cushing, who is the best player available.
SD should run away with the AFC West this season, regardless of what happens in the draft. Just throwing it out there that if they don't Norv Turner should be fired. With a team this talented, they absolutely MUST win.
17. New York Jets: Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Georgia
Before the Thomas Jones contract situation, I think the Jets would have taken Josh Freeman, but Thomas Jones isn't worth any new contract that he gets, so it's time to move away from a 30-year-old running back and toward maybe the best RB on the board.
New head coach Rex Ryan is the type that will want to win games 10-7 rather than 17-14, so don't rule out a defensive player here, but with so many free agent signings on the defensive side of the ball, I just don't think the Jets have a lot of needs on defense and Wells is a great value pick that in this scenario has just kept on sliding.
Time for that madness to stop: he's a great back with awesome power and can carry the rock 25-30 times a game.
18. Denver Broncos: Clay Matthews, OLB, Southern California
Assuming no trade at No. 12, 60 percent possibility of a trade.
The Broncos continue to re-tool their defense with the selection of their second USC linebacker of the day. I do think they would like to trade out of the pick, and I thought about giving them Ron Brace here anyway, but I just don't see him going this early under any circumstances.
Matthews is a self-made athlete with off-the-charts intangibles and he was USC's best pass rusher- plus you know he'd be excited at the chance to stay with Maualuga. He's probably the best "money-down" linebacker left at this point, and I think that will be reflected in Denver's selection.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
The second DT should come off the board here. Jerry is plenty good enough to be the under tackle in a 4-3 defense and it's said that the Bucs are really high on him. The signing of Byron Leftwich, in my opinion, means that the Bucs should not be targeting Josh Freeman, even though he's still on the board, because they need to protect Barrett Ruud from a swarm of blockers if they're going to stop the run.
Raheem Morris is a defensive guy; he'll see the value of this pick.
20. Detroit Lions: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
I don't care if Jim Schwartz is a defensive coach, if they're serious about taking a QB with the No. 1 overall pick, the Lions are obliged to protect him. Eben Britton is the best OT left on the board and is plenty good enough to play the LT position, kicking Jeff Backus inside to guard.
Despite the Lions needs on defense, it does appear that they seem to be intent on fixing their offense first by taking Stafford and pairing him with Calvin Johnson. For those two to be effective, the Lions need to upgrade their line, and I think that's what they will do here.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Philly's decision to go get Jason Peters was a great one. He's an upgrade over Tra Thomas at LT and will move the pile on runs. What the Eagles need out of this pick is a wideout for McNabb to hit, but I just don't see Andy Reid listening to McNabb and going after a true No. 1 WR here.
Instead, they'll pick up Moreno who can spell Westbrook and be his eventual successor. Don't get me wrong, Moreno is a great pick here as far as talent, but the Eagles are one piece away from being a truly dominant team.
22. Minnesota Vikings: Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
You'll see that in my first mock Percy Harvin went at No. 13 to the Redskins. I still think the Redskins need another playmaker on that offense, but Harvin has had some character issues come up and several teams have taken him off their board.
Having said that, I can't imagine how elated the Vikings would be if Harvin fell to them, he's a top-10 talent without question. The Vikings do have a strong locker room, so it's worth taking a flier on someone so talented.
23. New England Patriots: Larry English, DE/OLB, Northern Illinois
I'm trying to figure out how English's stock has been so constant relative to the other rush linebackers in this draft. He stared as a 2nd round pick, peaked at maybe the early 20's, fell back to the second round, and with the fall of Aaron Maybin and Everette Brown down draft boards has come back to the early 20's.
I think the guy the Patriots are targeting here is Clay Matthews, but he's already long gone so Larry English is the next-best option as the Patriots transition from an older to a younger linebacking corps. English is a great pass rusher and should provide an immediate impact.
24. Atlanta Falcons: Evander "Ziggy" Hood, DT, Missouri
I've had Brandon Pettigrew penciled in here for ages, but the Tony Gonzalez trade means that Pettigrew is still falling down draft boards, unfortunately for him.
Gonzalez frees the Falcons to address a gigantic need along the defensive line, and Hood is very clearly the third defensive tackle in the draft. As a result of this pick start looking for Denver to make a move and go get Ron Brace later in the round, or he could get snapped up by the Lions at No. 33 overall.
Hood is a classic 3-technique player who might need to get a little bit better against the run, but he's certainly talented, even if he might be a bit of a reach in terms of his talent relative to a couple of other players still on the board.
25. Miami Dolphins: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
The most talented corner in this draft and doubtlessly the most talented player remaining on anyone's draft board, Vontae Davis will get snapped up by Bill Parcells as both the best available player and a need-filling pick for the Dolphins.
I can see the "Tuna" targeting a wideout with this pick, but I just think that Davis is too good of a value at a need position for Parcells to pass up. The Dolphins, like the Vikings, do have a strong locker room and so it's worth the risk to pick up such a talented player.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
The fastest player in the draft, "DHB" is the last of the really elite talents at WR in this class at a position the Ravens need. Brandon Pettigrew could also be in play here, but I just think that if DHB falls to Baltimore they almost have to take him.
I do not think that Anquan Boldin will be coming to the Ravens because the Cardinals' price will be too steep, but the Ravens do need a wideout and the idea of having a 4.3 WR for Joe Flacco's big arm is very appealing to any Ravens fan—there hasn't been a vertical passing game in this town since Raymond Berry was catching passes from Johnny Unitas.
27. Indianapolis Colts: Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State
I think the Colts really want Peria Jerry or Evander Hood, but they're both off the board here and so Bill Polian will take the guy who can step in for Marvin Harrison. Everything about the Colts starts with their offense, and Robiskie is a great player and a very safe pick here, even if he might be a slight reach.
Kenny Britt or Hakeem Nicks would also make sense here, but it seems like they've fallen behind Robiskie and perhaps even into the second round from sources that I've been hearing around the league (though you'll see both of those names here).
28. Buffalo Bills: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
A week ago I would have said this would never happen: Pettigrew falling all the way to 28. I still think that if Heyward-Bey goes before the Ravens pick at 26, Pettigrew will be gone then, but I do think that DHB is higher than Pettigrew on Ozzie Newsome's draft board.
Pettigrew is the clear-cut top TE in this draft and fills a real need for the Bills at 28. If the Bills can get both Michael Oher and Brandon Pettigrew with their first-round picks, their draft is almost a success already. An ideal situation for the Bills outlined here.
29. New York Giants: Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
The Giants proved at the end of last year that they just weren't the same team without Plaxico Burress. They've upgraded their defensive line further (if that was possible anyway), and they still have probably the most talented team in the entire NFC. Still, I think they're probably an 11-5 team right now without a game-breaker at WR.
Hakeem Nicks might be the most NFL-ready receiver in this year's draft and while the window for the Giants to win again isn't really closing just yet, they have a great team and need to aggressively try and win right now, whether that's trading for Braylon Edwards or selecting a big WR (Kenny Britt is also in play here) with this pick.
30. Tennessee Titans: Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
I think this is a classic best-guy-left scenario. The Titans' best playmaker is the guy they hit on last year, Chris Johnson. At the time of the draft I couldn't understand the pick, but now it seems brilliant.
Still, what about a WR here to complete the offense? The Titans don't have a go-to guy in the passing game and Britt is the last really elite talent still on the board here, and as a bonus it's at WR. He's a big guy, so he fits the Jeff Fisher mold of being physical, and I think he'd be a great pick here.
31. Arizona Cardinals: Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut
The Cards need a replacement for Edgerrin James- Tim Hightower isn't going to cut it- and Donald Brown has slid a little bit past where I think he could be valued. I think the Eagles would consider Donald Brown at 21 if Moreno and Wells aren't there, so the fact that he's fallen to the Cards ten picks later is pretty remarkable and I don't think they can afford to pass on him.
I did consider Michael Johnson here, the DE from Georgia Tech, but I think Brown is a much safer pick and also fills a bigger need.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alex Mack, C, California
There's a debate about which center is the best one in this year's draft class, but my vote is for Alex Mack, and so that's who I think the Steelers will take.
An All-American center and an Academic All-American as well, Mack is a very talented, smart player, exactly in the mold that the Steelers will like at a position of relative need. Max Unger, I think, would be the other choice here if the Steelers think that Unger is more versatile, or it's also possible that Pittsburgh would take William Beatty, one of the guys who was an absolute force as a senior at OT.
I do think that Pittsburgh will take the best offensive lineman on their board here, unless a really remarkable player falls to them.
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