With championship Sunday almost upon us, it's time to see an early projection of how the draft could play out. The highlight of the draft will be the defensive linemen, since as many as 10 could go in the first round. This year's quarterback talent pool is only two deep, and there is a shortage of running back talent as well. Here are my top 10 projected picks in the 2010 NFL Draft:
#1 St. Louis Rams (1-15): QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
Ndamokung Suh is far and away the best player in the draft, but the quarterback position is the most vital. Clausen had a great year for the Irish, throwing for 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Marc Bulger is not a serviceable quarterback any longer, and it's time for the Rams to move on.
#2 Detroit Lions (2-14): DT Ndamokung Suh, Nebraska
The best player available in this draft, Suh is the total package. He can rush the passer, stop the run, and lead a defense. We all saw his domination in the Big 12 Championship when he fearlessly manhandled the Texas offensive line. Luckily for the Lions, the top player also fills a need, as current starter Grady Jackson just turned 37.
#3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13): FS Eric Berry, Tennessee
Eric Berry is a playmaker who offensive coordinators must account for in every game. This ball hawk had 14 career interceptions and single-handedly gave Tennessee the 12th best pass defense in the country. He is a force, and could give the Bucs an Ed Reed type of impact.
#4 Washington Redskins (4-12): OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
Mike Shanahan knows how valuable offensive linemen are in the draft. If he wants to win more than four games in 2010, he must acquire players who will actually contest defensive linemen and give their young quarterback Jason Campbell some time. If Shanahan doesn't think Campbell is a franchise QB, watch out for Sam Bradford from Oklahoma.
#5 Kansas City (5-11): DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
McCoy possibly could have been the first defensive lineman chosen in last year's draft had he declared early, but he is still a top 10 lock. I know Kansas City has Glenn Dorsey, but they have experimented with playing him as a DE in their 3-4 defense and McCoy is just too talented to pass up here. Trading down is also a possibility, in that case look for them to target an offensive tackle like Bruce Campbell or Anthony Davis.
#6 Seattle Seahawks (5-11): QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
Like I said, this year's quarterback class is only two deep, so Seattle must choose whether to take Bradford here or wait until next year. Bradford is one of the most accurate passers the draft has produced over the past couple of years, and most likely could have been the top pick in the 2009 NFL draft had he declared early. Pete Carroll should draft his future signal caller right away, and give him a year to develop under Hasselbeck.
#7 Cleveland Browns (5-11): CB Joe Haden, Florida
I'm sure Eric Mangini would love it if Bradford or Clausen falls to this selection, but in my mock draft, this is not the case. Haden would provide a solid presence in the secondary to a team that desperately needs it. The top-named defensive back not named Berry is also the best player available here.
#8 Oakland Raiders (6-10): DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida
We all know Al Davis loves workout warriors. Dunlap, who weighs close to 290 pounds, is a freakish athlete who can get after the quarterback. There are some character concerns about Dunlap (DUI), but he could provide the Raiders some much needed pressure on the opposing quarterback since Derrick Burgess left. He will be a boom or bust type of player.
#9 Buffalo Bills (6-10): LB Rolando McClain, Alabama
McClain is the top linebacker in this year's draft class. He has great leadership abilities, shown by making Alabama a force. The Bills desperately need a personality on defense and a run stopper, considering they rank 30th in the NFL in rush defense.
#10 Denver Broncos (8-8) from Chicago: WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
It seems Brandon Marshall may have worn out his welcome in Denver, as his feuds with Josh McDaniels resulted in two suspensions in the 2009 season. If he is traded or released, Dez Bryant would be the best option at reciever for the team. He is a big target at 6'2 and 220 pounds, and an explosive playmaker. He was suspended for the majority of the 2009 NCAA season for violating NCAA rules by refusing to disclose his meetings with Deion Sanders, but is still seen as the best wide reciever in the draft.
I will post picks 11-20 once the NFL combine starts.