It's never too early for a mock NFL Draft in my eyes, which is why I am unveiling my "rough draft" for 2010 in November.
The draft order is starting to shape up and there are even a few juniors putting their names in the mix. To remove (or increase) speculation I am putting all draft-eligible players in the pool.
All of the talent on the board led to a few players getting a first round shaft, but that's how the mock draft goes.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
The Bucs need a lot of help in a lot of places, but on the bright side they have their QB of the future. Although bulking the O-line would be nice, nothing helps a young QB win games like a competitive defense—something Tampa does not have right now.
Suh has a great combination of playmaking skills and consistency. He isn't surrounded by All-Americans to deflect attention, which makes what he's doing all the more impressive. Suh could be even more successful than Warren Sapp was for Tampa.
The Monte Kiffin pipeline will have the Bucs looking at Eric Berry, but Suh will have a chance to impact more plays, especially in the run game, and I'm not sure the NFL is ready for a safety as the top pick.
2. Cleveland Browns: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
The draft situation in Cleveland is one of the hardest to predict right now because of all of the uncertainty surrounding the decision makers. If Eric Mangini is still around, there is a strong chance they would try to trade down here for someone looking to grab their top QB prospect.
The Browns could draft a QB, but I think if Brady Quinn had a real team around him he could be a competent NFL starter. In other words that's not their biggest need.
Berry is a dynamic playmaker and he will add an instant spark to the Browns' defense. An innovative defensive coordinator will be able to move him all around the field on defense, mixing the best of Bob Sanders and Ed Reed.
3. Detroit Lions: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
The Lions still need a lot of help in a lot of areas. They have spent the last three years investing in a WR, RB, and QB—now it's time to protect them.
Okung projects to be a stud left tackle, he has elite size and thrives in pro-pass situations. Scouts have been impressed with his work ethic and how he finishes off blocks.
If the Lions want to wait to upgrade their O-line, they could go for either Carlos Dunlap or Gerald McCoy to add a playmaker to their defense, but they looked at tackles hard last year and I anticipate them drafting one in 2010.
4. St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
This may be a shocker to many, and for the record I have Jake Locker as my top QB prospect, but I can see Bradford going first, and he is still the top guy for many scouts.
The Rams are in a situation where they can bring up a QB prospect behind Marc Bulger for a year or two, and whoever drafts Bradford should not risk starting him as a rookie after his season-ending shoulder injury.
The Rams are grooming Jason Smith on the line, and by the time Bradford starts they should have enough around him, and in front of him, that he won't be struggling just to earn first downs.
It seems like a high pick to draft a non-starter, especially with all of the defensive talent, but the Rams don't look to be competitive for a few years anyways.
5. Oakland Raiders: Taylor Mays, S, USC
I made jokes about Al Davis drafting Darrius Heyward-Bey at seven last year because of his awesome physical attributes—I've learned my lesson.
Until Mays runs his 40 at the combine I will have him going to the Raiders and if he runs better than a 4.45, I will keep him in the spot.
The only problem with the pick is that it might actually help the Raiders. I expect Mays to be much more active in the NFL than he is for USC this season because he will be asked to do more than play centerfield. This is a rare athlete and he projects to be a Pro Bowler for many years to come.
6. Washington Redskins: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
I am under the impression that the Redskins want to win a Super Bowl—they spend big money and do what they can to upgrade their roster every year in terms of talent.
I am also becoming convinced that Jason Campbell will not be re-signed after this year. If you produce the way he has in a contract season there is no way you're someone who will lead your team past the NFL's elite.
Of all of the QB prospects Locker is the one who will be able to do the most with the least talent. His ability to use his legs will produce key first downs and he has displayed elite arm strength and accuracy this season.
The Skins could also use a left tackle to replace Chris Samuels, but there doesn't seem to be a qualified candidate at this point in the draft. I anticipate a new coach in Washington—maybe Jon Gruden—any he will want a QB he can groom into the franchise leader.
7. Tennessee Titans: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
The Titans didn't make many changes between 2008 and 2009 but their records couldn't be more different. The absence of Albert Haynesworth shows how important an dominant defense tackle is, and the Titans can quickly fill that need by drafting McCoy.
Using the pick on Dunlap would be good too because of their inability to get to the quarterback this season, but the Titans need a player who can demand a double team to free up the outside rush.
McCoy's ability to make active plays on the defensive line shouldn't be overlooked either.
8. Kansas City Chiefs: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama
KC's defense is terrible and GM Scott Pioli knows that defense wins championships. Assuming both elite safeties are off the board, the pick comes down to McClain, CB Joe Haden, and NT Terrance Cody.
The reason they will opt for McClain is because he can have the most impact on the most plays. Cody looks like a two-down player and Haden won't do much to help the Chiefs improve their rush defense.
McClain is a big, athletic playmaker who will have racked up over 250 career tackles by the time his junior season his over. At 6'4", his ability to intercept passes and get to the quarterback make him ideal for any defense looking for the total package at the linebacker position.
9. Buffalo Bills: Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
Is it time to name the Trent Edwards era a failure yet?
If the Bills want to continue with their no-huddle offense they will need a quarterback who can make all the throws. As a bonus, Clausen has been very effective in the no-huddle. While his mobility is an issue, he does a very good job of surveying the field.
If the Bills are not interested in investing in a QB this early in the draft, a left tackle like Bryan Bulaga would be a great fit—and depending on how many QBs leave school, he could be the Bills' best option.
10. San Francisco (From Carolina): Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida
The defensive-minded 49ers should be thrilled if Dunlap falls this far in the draft. They have been competitive in sacks this season but a player like Dunlap or a hybrid pass rusher could put them with the league's elite.
In the 3-4, Dunlap will lineup primarily in the five-technique, and he could potentially develop as a Richard Seymour-type player at that position.
The Niners could use a player who is going to help them shut down the pass, but getting pressure on the quarterback could have as big an impact as putting a rookie corner on an island.
11. Seattle Seahawks: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
It has been painful to watch the offensive line of the Seahawks this season and with Walter Jones' career coming to an end, it's time they draft a player who can replace him at left tackle.
Williams has played both right and left tackle while at Oklahoma, and he is ready to start for the Seahawks today. Offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp likes to control the game with the run, and Williams has the mean streak in the run-game that is common in Sooner linemen.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joe Haden, CB, Florida
To say the Jags have struggled against pass this year is an understatement. Injuries and a lack of talent have led to one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.
With good size (5'11", 190) and blazing speed, Haden can be effective in one-on-one matchups. He does not gamble as much as some prospects, which is why his six INTs in three seasons aren't eye-popping. But he rarely makes a mistake and is effective in run support.
13. Miami Dolphins: Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida
Although the eye-gouge is a blemish on his resume, the personnel decisions of the Miami Dolphins have me thinking they will have no problem adding an elite defender like Spikes.
Not only is Spikes equally impressive against the pass as he is the run, his three touchdowns on five career interceptions are especially attractive to NFL clubs.
After drafting some very good corners last year, the 'Phins will address their front seven in the draft. A hybrid rusher or run-stuffing defensive lineman would also fit their needs, but teaming Spikes with former-Gator Channing Crowder would be a devastating duo in the middle.
14. San Francisco 49ers: Jerry Hughes, DE/LB, TCU
Many thought the Niners would add an outside pass rusher in last year's draft but they opted against it. Can they really go two years without adding a speed rusher?
It doesn't look like Manny Lawson will ever develop into an elite edge guy, and Hughes could tally more sacks than any player in the 2010 Draft by the time it's all said and done.
As a junior, Hughes posted 15 sacks and two interceptions, and despite added attention this year, he has recorded nine sacks in nine games. He isn't as tall as most of the elite hybrid prospects, but that 6'2" range has been a functional size for many Pro-Bowlers at his projected position.
15. Houston Texans: Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida St.
The Texans' secondary has more question marks than any other position group on their team.
Top corner Dunta Robinson was franchised this year, but he is looking for a big contract and is unhappy with his current situation. To make things worse, the Texans can't find a legitimate corner to start opposite of Robinson, let alone replace him.
Much like Dunta, Patrick Robinson is a speedster and a ball hawk. After a six interception sophomore campaign, teams have been avoiding him as much as possible.
Although they have needs, the Texans seem like a team that will entertain a trade because of their current salary cap situation.
16. Denver Broncos (From Chicago): Terrence Cody, NT, Alabama
Many scouts are dogging on Cody because he is a two-down player and is considered overweight—even by NFL standards. I believe that 16 is the absolute floor for Cody, but because of how low scouts are on him I have him sliding in the draft much further than his big board position.
Elite rush defenses need a monstrous nose tackle to anchor them and Cody cannot be moved by one man. Even if he only plays two out of every three downs, you can be assured they will be with maximum effort.
On top of clogging the middle, Cody uses his long arms to swat at pass attempts and he is a game-changer on special teams with his ability to block kicks.
After dominating Senior Bowl practices, I think it will be hard to keep Cody outside of the top 10.
17. Green Bay Packers: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
After incurring a few injuries to the offensive line, my initial thought was the Packers needed to add depth there, but those injuries were temporary and the lack of a playmaker in the backfield is still an issue for Green Bay.
The last time the Packers had a kick return for touchdown was 2000. This season Spiller has returned three kicks and a punt for touchdown. His kickoff skills alone are worth drafting, but Spiller is equally devastating as a rusher and receiver.
Spiller isn't currently being projected as an every down back, which can make his draft position difficult to project, but teams would be foolish to pass on him, especially as the league moves towards more shared backfields.
18. San Diego Chargers: Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
The Chargers would love if they could get their hands on a nose like Cody, but he should be gone by the time they hit the clock. Their next major concern is protecting Philip Rivers.
Bulaga is a major reason why the Hawkeyes have overachieved this season and he continues a long line of elite Big Ten tackles.
Although he's a junior, Bulaga appears strong enough to succeed at the point of attack in the NFL, and he is clearly athletic enough to fit in anywhere on the offensive line.
19. Atlanta Falcons: Navorro Bowman, LB, Penn St.
The Falcons have struggles against the pass this season, but they have a young secondary that should progress from last year to this. On top of that Bowman's value is hard to pass at this point in the draft.
As a sophomore Bowman cracked the 100-tackle mark and his 11 tackle, one INT, one sack game against Michigan is one of the most impressive defensive performances of the college season.
If a corner or safety prospect improves his stock, he could be the man for the Falcons, and you can never have too many quality defensive linemen, but Bowman looks like he would have a bigger impact than any of those prospects on the board.
20. New York Jets: Sergio Kindle, DE/LB, Texas
Time is ticking for Vernon Gholston to produce, and with the Jets becoming serious contenders, they aren't going to sit around and wait.
I expect NY to take their top outside-rush prospect in the first round, but they could also target a down lineman.
Kindle has been as productive as his former teammate Brian Orakpo, but he is built in a slightly different mold. As a taller and leaner player, Kindle fits as more of a speed rusher, but he has a good nose for the run and also can play the pass in limited situations.
21. Baltimore Ravens: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma St.
The Ravens have crashed and burned with first round receivers in the past, but if they can get the top WR prospect in the first round, it will be hard to pass.
During the draft I doubt many will have a problem with Bryant's suspension, and his rare blend of size and speed make him a tough matchup.
Joe Flacco will need a new go-to receiver down field once Derrick Mason decides to hang up his spikes, and the NCAA has been the only thing to stop Bryant in a while.
22. Dallas Cowboys: Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois
Jerry Jones always likes to make a splash in the draft and grabbing one of the elite receivers in this year could be the way to go. The emergence of Miles Austin has been a relief, but the Cowboys still need more big plays from their receivers.
This is a difficult pick to project though because the Cowboys could just as easily bulk their front seven or even pick a backup to Tony Romo that they could groom for the future.
Despite never playing with a passing quarterback, Benn has over 150 catches and 2,000 yards through three years of college ball.
23. Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
Without a doubt the surprise team of the season has been the Bengals. Although they are doing great against the run, a disruptive tackle like Austin can be a dangerous piece in their rotation to bring added pressure on passing downs.
The Bengals could go a lot of ways with this pick, Javhid Best is a very realistic option as is a corner or offensive lineman.
The Bengals may have had the best draft of 2009 and I am confident they will pick from the top of the talent pool in 2010, making their team even stronger.
24. New York Giants: Earl Thomas, S, Texas
The Giants secondary was already a little suspect, and after the injury to Kenny Phillips it's clear they need more depth at the position.
Thomas hasn't solidified himself as a first rounder. In fact, the redshirt sophomore could very easily head back to school to add bulk and experience, but if he does come out he will get a lot of quality looks because of his ability to cover in addition to his staunch run support.
If he does decide to return to Austin, his reputation will make it hard for him to top his six interceptions (and counting).
The Giants could draft a tight end, linebacker or a corner here, but if Thomas enters the draft his upside makes him a great pick.
25. Seattle (From Denver): Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
It is time the Hawks start preparing a QB to take over for Matt Hasselbeck and I anticipate them drafting one late in the first or early in the second round, depending on how many juniors put their name into the mix.
McCoy hasn't displayed elite arm strength, but it hasn't stopped him from being extremely successful at an elite level.
His accuracy and intangibles are more important than his ability to gun the football, and while McCoy may not be able to run as much in the pros, he will still be able to scramble for key first downs.
McCoy may be able to start as a rookie but he would be best off learning how to play from under center opposed to the shotgun.
26. Arizona Cardinals: Greg Hardy, DE, Mississippi
The passing attack of the Cards has their defense facing just as many passing situations and they need to be able to get to the quarterback if they want to finish teams off.
Hardy is an interesting prospect, talent-wise he could be picked 15 spots higher but his lack of effort at times has actually led to him being benched. Another concern has been Hardy's health, including foot surgery in 2008.
Ultimately Hardy's ability to get to the QB will keep him in the first round. If he has a strong predraft process, Arizona may have to trade up if he's their guy.
27. Philadelphia Eagles: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
The Eagles need a rusher to play opposite of Trent Cole and Morgan's style of play is a perfect fit for the Eagles defensive scheme.
Not only can Morgan beat the tackle, but he is also devastating on stunt movements and effective against the run.
Although their defense has been making a lot of big plays, they still have some holes at all levels that need to be filled. A linebacker would be a great pickup late in the first round as well.
28. New England Patriots: Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Between injuries and lack of production, the Pats were hurting for backers so badly that they had to sign Junior Seau again.
New England could also use defensive linemen but a tough-nosed, highly-productive player like Weatherspoon could be plugged in to the Pats' scheme instantly.
Not only does Weatherspoon use his thick frame to play the run exceptionally well, he also has the speed to shut down running backs and tight ends in the passing game.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Arthur Jones, DT, Syracuse
Another player who could be drafted much higher, Jones' toughness and play against the run give him a high floor, but his injury history will have teams scratching their heads when they are on the clock.
The Steelers love big defensive lineman that can play multiple positions and although Jones hasn't been noted for his pass rushing, he can still get to the QB.
In this mock there are still good offensive line prospects on the board that may catch Pitt's eye, but the injury to 33-year-old Aaron Smith shows they still need to protect their D.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
From JuCo to the NFL, it has been an interesting path for South Florida's Pierre-Paul, and a breakout 2009 has him ranking amongst first round prospects.
Pierre-Paul hasn't been a force getting to the QB, but he's effective in that area and he is disruptive against the run by registering tackles for loss.
The Vikings rush D is still very good, but it has been getting busted at times this year, which is why I have them drafting Pierre-Paul over one of the pass rush-type DEs on the board.
31. Indianapolis Colts: Charles Brown, OT, USC
The Colts desperately need depth, and even starters, all over their defense—so why go offense?
Because that's what the Colts do, they draft the best players on the board that will help their ball club and right now the Colts need to make sure they have depth on the offensive line.
They could easily draft a corner, defensive tackle like Jared Odrick, or even a receiver here, but there is a premium on protecting the QB and setting things up with the run.
Brown is a very athletic lineman, he could play any tackle or guard position if needed and he could develop into a good starting left tackle.
32. New Orleans Saints: Eric Norwood, DE/LB, South Carolina
The Saints' defense has done a great job of forcing turnovers and they have some solid players to play the run. While Norwood looks like he will work best in the 3-4 scheme, I feel he is versatile enough to play up on first and second down then move to the D-line in pass rushing situations.
Norwood has really emerged this season and has a great motor. The Saints also need depth in the defensive backfield, but if Norwood can play the 4-3 linebacker he should be a first-round pick.
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