(This is a three part article).
This article is not technically a "Mock Draft" but rather an article on my approach to writing a mock draft, because the reality of most mock drafts is that fans write mock drafts with a desired outcome in mind, and seem to think that their team will get the player they want, no matter how improbable.
Obviously, as a fan I cannot say that I'm above it all.
Despite DHB's lackluster rookie performance, the Raiders had other receivers emerge, including fourth-round rookie Louis Murphy.
Nevertheless, I have been generally closer in my mock drafts than others have been.
Realistically, if you nail 5-8 first-round selections and come close on others—you did well. I define "come close" as, the respective team chose the position you predicted but not the specific player; or if you correctly predict that a player will go higher or lower than most expect.
For instance in 2009, I had USC's Mark Sanchez in the Top 5, and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin falling. Funny thing is, I thought that Seattle should take Sanchez to start Jim Mora Jr's tenure, and look what happened. Mora Jr was canned after one season, only for Seattle to hire Pete Carroll from USC as coach.
In all, I nailed six picks in the first round; came close on seven others; and accurately predicted that Sanchez would rise, Maclin would fall, linebacker Brian Orakpo would fall; yet I whiffed in saying that Cleveland would take halfback Chris Wells.
Ironically, Orakpo proved to be the best pick from the first-round with Sanchez and a few others close behind, but I think that Orakpo fell for fear that he would be another Vernon Gholston.
I detailed that in order to put my cred on the line, not to gloat. I do believe that I have a better grasp of how the Draft will usually shakes out.
Part of understanding the Draft, is to understand some psychology: Putting yourself in the shoes of a GM and how he might view the situation.
If the GM is worried about his job, he might lean towards a "safe pick" only to get burned, because the player he opted against made an impact. On the flip side, a GM rolls the dice on a project player and gets burned when the safe pick makes an impact.
Moreover, a fan cannot superimpose what he or she would do, but must think about what the team is likely to do, because fans do not have any direct control over franchise decisions. But also, to not think wishfully on what a team picking ahead of their team will do, just to create a scenario in which their team gets the player that they want.
This article then is about what teams need, in order to give writers a better idea of how things could shake out. Sometimes you can predict a reach, because in the absence of a player that deserves to go at that spot and one whom fits a need, a team is likely to reach if a) there's a run on that position, or b) the team likes its prospects at other positions and has a gaping void at the position that the team seeks to fill.
Thus, for segment one of this article I will detail what I believe will be the direction the teams in the Top 10 of the 2010 NFL Draft.
1). St. Louis Rams
Most people seem to think that quarterback is the most significant need for the Rams, or at least, the need that should be the top priority.
The Rams however are bad on both sides of the ball. Some promising spots have been halfback Steven Jackson, the offensive line, safety OJ Atogwe, cornerback Ronald Bartell, safety James Butler, and linebacker James Laurinaitis.
Though quarterback Marc Bulger was injured for much of the season, Bulger has been a Pro Bowl caliber player when healthy. Thus, the Rams pick will be a reflection on what the Rams think of Bulger's future.
If the Rams still believe that Bulger can lead the Rams or find someone else in free agency (ex, Chad Pennington), then the best pick for the Rams would be on the defensive line, which *could* include Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh.
From measurables, Suh seems a better fit to play defensive-end. Though former top pick Chris Long has underachieved, the Rams may still be committed to Long, because Long's underachievement is due in part to a lack of support on the defensive line.
Defensive tackle is a void for the Rams.
A tackle like Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy might be a shocker to draftniks, but McCoy is potentially a dominant three-technique tackle, which is valuable for a turf-team like the Rams.
That said, Ndamukong Suh would also be a valid pick, but like I said, his size could force a shift to defensive-end, so the decision between the two depends on the direction that the Rams want to go in.
Ideally for the Rams, they could trade down and select receiver Dez Bryant.
Conclusion: Quarterback would be the popular pick, but defensive lineman is a bigger need with a player available who is worthy of being the top pick.
After the Lions finished 0-16 in 2008, anyone involved with the Lions or passive observer would know that the Lions were more than a few changes away from bubbling up.
It has been my personal philosophy that once a team solidifies one unit (offense, defense, special teams) that the impact will have a ripple effect that improves others by diffusion, so to speak.
In the case of the Lions (because this is not always the case), Detroit should stick with the offense and building around quarterback Matthew Stafford. If the Lions were to take a defensive player, they would still need about another three to five effective players on defense before that unit will be functional.
On offense however, the Lions are closer to having a functional offense than they are to having a functional defense. Thus, the Lions should do what many thought they should do a year ago and take an offensive lineman.
And you Lions fans out there should be happy that Detroit opted against tackle Jason Smith a year ago, because he barely played as a rookie for the Rams. Now that Stafford has a year under his belt, the Lions are closer to having a legit quarterback than they would have been if they had waited.
A tackle like Oklahoma State's Russell Okung would be a solid fit for the Lions at left-tackle.
Conclusion: The Detroit defense is a mile away, but the offense also needs work. The offense though is close to at least making the Lions fun to watch, and so, I would load-up on offense, if I were with the Lions.
Unless Suh and McCoy go one and two, then the Bucs will surely select a defensive lineman at third overall.
If both are gone, then the Bucs could consider a different DT (ex, Brian Price) or linebacker.
As of now, Rolando McClain would be out of place in Tampa's system, because ILB Barrett Ruud is the established starter in the middle.
So unless the Bucs decide to switch base defenses, then I think the Bucs could take a wide receiver at third overall, such as Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State.
That said, the Bucs might covet a defensive lineman like Suh so badly that they'd be willing to trade up with the Rams in order to select him.
Suh would be an ideal fit for the Tampa defense.
Conclusion: The defensive line needs the most work, but the Rams and Lions could force the Bucs hand by taking defensive-linemen. If that occurs, then the Bucs should do the next best thing and select a weapon for 2009 rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.
This pick will be determined by what Washington thinks of the state of the offensive line and quarterback Jason Campbell.
Former left tackle Chris Samuels retired and was replaced by ex-retiree Levi Jones.
Mike Shanahan's offense however is predicated on the offensive-line. OT Russell Okung or Rutgers OT Anthony Davis would be a solid pick for Washington.
That however depends on whether Washington re-signs Campbell, whom is expected to hit free agency. Campbell has improved lately, but the 'Skins might think that a different quarterback is a better long-term option.
Shanahan may also want a rookie quarterback to groom, as offense minded coaches generally prefer quarterbacks that tow their line, but also to buy time as head coach.
Thus, quarterback Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford could be a possibility for Washington at fourth overall.
Conclusion: Washington has invested heavily into the defense thus far, while the offense is clearly the priority, now that Shanahan is in and Jim Zorn is out. Thus, I expect Washington to take an offensive-lineman, but would not be surprised if Washington selects a quarterback.
5). Seattle Seahawks
More than likely Seattle will have the chance to select a top quarterback and would be remiss to opt against a passer once again.
Matt Hasselbeck surely thinks he can still play, and since I believe that most quarterbacks have an enormous ego—don't expect Hasselbeck to willingly be the tutor for a rookie.
Hasselbeck would probably be more content as a backup to an established starter than he would be as a tutor.
Hasselbeck appears to be done as the franchise passer for Seattle; nevertheless, he could be a serviceable starter somewhere else.
Yet, Seattle needs more than a serviceable starter to begin the Pete Carroll era, and so, quarterback Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford would be the likely choices.
Conclusion: With Pete Carroll in as head coach, the Seahawks should kick off a new era and move on from Hasselbeck; nevertheless, it would be wise to explore possible trades.
7). Cleveland Browns
The Browns could go a number of different ways with this pick: defensive line, safety, linebacker, right tackle and wide receiver would all be sound picks at seventh overall.
Defensive-tackle Brian Price from UCLA has the right measurables to play end in the 3-4, but the Browns could be more interested in an immediate starter with no question marks.
Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain or safety Eric Berry of Tennessee would also make sense at this spot.
Even if Dez Bryant is still available, the Browns may opt against Bryant, because receivers usually take two to three seasons to develop.
Moreover, the Browns took Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie in the 2009 with the intentions of those two being the starting receivers.
Realistically, the Browns could solidify the foundation of the offense with another tackle for the right side, such as Anthony Davis.
Conclusion: The defense needs more help, but the Browns could accentuate the presence of halfback Jerome Harrison and protection for the quarterback by solidifying the offensive line, but a pick for the defense would be a valid choice. Nevertheless, if the Browns want to build on the late season momentum, then the Browns need to solidify the offense in order to clear up the biggest issue of quarterback.
8) Oakland Raiders
Even I, a Raider fan, can be befuddled by the workings of Al Davis.
Rarely (if ever) does Davis trade down, so I'll defer from speculation on that.
Well, I'll add that the 49ers could covet DT Brian Price as an end in the 3-4 and might be willing to trade the two 1st-round picks in order to get into the top 10. Knowing Davis, he would likely stand pat, regardless.
Observers know that Davis prefers rare athletes, college champions, or an outside the box pick.
From my perspective, nose tackle, right tackle and center need the most work, while safety and cornerback are also possibilities, and linebacker could become a need if Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard both leave in free-agency.
However, 2010 free agency could be different than it has been, and both Howard and Morrison could be retained as RFAs.
The best defensive lineman for the Raiders to take would be Alabama's Terrence Cody, while an offensive tackle would also be a sound pick. However, I think Cody's measurables will make him highly appealing to Davis, even if Cody goes higher than most expect.
Conclusion: The offensive line is the problem on offense, but a good nose tackle could cure a number of ills on defense.
9). Buffalo Bills
If a quarterback falls to the Bills at ninth overall, the Bills will take him, no question.
Moreover, it would not surprise me if the Bills trade-up with Detroit or Washington if the Bills think that Washington is interested in a quarterback.
That said, the Bills could also go a number of ways here: quarterback, left tackle, linebacker, defensive end, or even tight end.
Linebacker Rolando McClain would be a great pick for the Bills, however Paul Posluzny is established in the middle. That said, the next coach could switch to the 3-4 base defense, which would be an ideal fit for the Buffalo personnel. If that turns out as the case, then the Bills would be wise to take McClain.
Conclusion: The Bills badly need a quarterback but could address that in free agency (ex Chad Pennington), because unless one falls to ninth overall, the Bills should keep the picks and solidify other areas, such as the offensive line and linebacking or by taking the best available player. The Bills could also be a candidate to trade down.
10). Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars still have a gaping hole at defensive-end, so I would expect that DE is the top priority for the Jags.
There are a few other possibilities here, but defensive-end is such as huge hole that the Jags will surely take an end.
Conclusion: Defense needs depth at linebacker and cornerback, but the lack of a pass rusher will surely force the Jags hand, unless the Jags opt for the best available player at a different position.