And so the season ends. Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints on their first ever Super Bowl victory.
Now us fans have six months of speculating and predicting our team's chances for the 2011. But with the chances of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement getting exponentially slimmer by the day, teams have to focus more on the draft for help. This could lead to a rise in teams trading up, as they look to draft players who can provide immediate help for the next season. Only time will tell.
This year's crop is features an especially strong junior class. The draft is especially strong in the trenches, lacks top-end quarterback prospects, and its secondary (aside from the best safety prospect since Ed Reed) is heavy on second round talent.
I appreciate any comments anybody may have, and if you like my predictions, be sure to say so or hit "like" so I know what you people think. Because I'm very superficial like that.
2009 stats: 92 tkls (23 TFL), 12 sacks, Consensus All-American, Outland Trophy winner, Nagurski Trophy winner, and Bednarik Award winner.
One of the most talented defensive prospects in years, Suh is a once in a lifetime talent.
I previously had the Rams taking Clausen here, but I've decided that HC Steve Spagnuolo, being a former defensive coordinator, would not be able to pass up such a talent, especially with a better QB class next year.
Top overall pick Matthew Stafford missed some time last year with injury, and that's not what you want to see when your franchise hasn't seen a playoff game in ten years. They need someone to protect him, and Okung is the most polished OT in the draft.
This isn't the same old Lions who will take the top WR again. They're smarter, savvier, and make the right move here.
2009 stats: 34 tkl (15.5 TFL) 6 sacks
The Buccanneers need to regain their identity as a smashmouth defensive football team. As the players who helped make the Super Bowl run earlier in the decade leave, they haven't been replaced with playmakers, and now Tampa Bay finds themselves picking in the top 3. A lot of drafts don't have McCoy available here, but if one of the top two teams don't go DT, he will. You can't go wrong with McCoy, as in any other draft he'd be the top DT available.
2009 Stats: 28 TDs, 4 INTs, 3,722 YDs, 68.0 pct.
The Redskins need a QB. They've given Jason Campbell long enough, and I think Shanahan will be looking to put his stamp on the franchise immediately.
So QB was the automatic pick here. I decided to go with Clausen over Sam Bradford for a two reasons.
1. Clausen was healthy all of last year.
2. Clausen played in a pro-style offense.
I think Clausen comes with less risk because of these two things, and that's why he gets the nod.
2009 stats: 83 tkls (7 TFL), 2 INT, Consensus All-American, Jim Thorpe Award Winner, Jack Tatum Award Winner
In my opinion, the most talented player in the draft. You don't see safeties go this high every year, but Berry's the exception. I think he's a more talented Ed Reed, and that's saying something.
Berry had a down year last year, intercepting only two passes after seven his sophomore year. He currently leads all NCAA players in INTs, INT yards, and INT TDs. He's a member of the Sports Illustrated All-Decade team.
I expect some team to trade up for the right to get this guy. I'm thinking Giants or Cowboys, because this kid is good.
2009 stats: 52 tkls (18 TFL), 12.5 sacks, 2 FF, All-American
The Seahawks were an interesting team to pick for. I couldn't find a glaring hole, rather they have solid/below average players everywhere.
Pete Carroll has already expressed his satisfaction with Matt Hasselback at QB, and they have young running backs to develop (same with TE and WR).
There's no OT I think worth taking here, especially with another fist round pick in their hands.
On defense, the linebacking core is solid, anchored by Lofa Tatupu and last year's top pick Aaron Curry. Deion Grant is a solid starter at safety.
That left two options: D-line and cornerback. Morgan or Joe Haden.
I decided that QB pressure makes coverage better, so Morgan was the choice.
2009 stats: 87 tkls, 3 INT, All-American
Haden is head and shoulders the best CB in the draft, with much of the talent being in the second-third rounds.
The Browns showed promise at the end of last season, but the secondary still needs a lot of work.
Forgive me for making the sensible pick, but I think that Al Davis actually goes with the safest pick this year. Jamarcus Russell needs protecting, and the running backs need lanes to run through.
Bruce Campbell has health concerns, so I give Davis the nod.
2009 stats: 2 TD, 0 INT, 562 yds, 56.5 pct (2 games)
2008 stats: 50 TDs, 8 INTs, 4720 yds, 67.9 pct
The Bills are filled with uncertainty at the QB position, with Brian Brohm, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Trent Edwards. They need help at the position, and I think they throw another name into the mix with Bradford.
H's got the accuracy to succeed in the pros, and this team needs anything they can get. Bradford proved he could win games as a QB, and I think that will make him the pick here.
2009 stats: 35 TDs (21 passing, 14 rushing), 5 INTs, 3805 yds (2,895 passing, 910 rushing), 67.1 pct.
This goes against everything I believe about Tebow and his talents, but the Jaguars need Tebow as a business more than they need someone more talented as a football team.
I could go on and on about every reason I think Tebow would fail, but the fact of the matter is they need to sell tickets, and drafting the hometown "golden boy" is the quickest way to do that.
2009 stats: 17 rec, 323 yds, 4 TD (suspended by NCAA)
2008 stats: 87 rec, 1,480 yds, 19 TD
This pick depends entirely on the Brandon Marshall situation. If he goes—and that's my bet—Bryant's his replacement. Not a speed-dominant receiver, but deceptively quick with good hands and route-running.
If Marshall miraculously is still in Denver by April 22, Rolando McClain's the pick.
2009 stats: 105 tkls, 4 sacks, 1 FF, 2 INT, Consensus All-American, Butkus Award Winner
This pick also depends on the Broncos pick, as McClain will probably be gone if Brandon Marshall stays.
Miami desperately needs ILB help, and McClain is not only the most athletic LB in the draft, but his size is a huge boost (6'4").
If McClain's gone, they may reach for Brandon Spikes, or go D-line with a guy like Jared Odrick, Brian Price, or Dan Williams.
2009 stats: 42 tkls, 6 sacks.
Pass-rusher is an area of need the the 49ers, and Pierre-Paul is shooting up draft boards. He's currently No. 5 on Mel Kiper's board, and he's an athletic freak who should be able to make the transition to 3-4 OLB.
OT could also be the pick here, but they should be able to grab either Brian Bulaga or Bruce Campbell at the later pick.
After addressing the D-line with Morgan, the Seahawks need to stay in the trenches and go O-line. I stated in their first pick that they only went with Morgan because of the talent that would be available here, so the only thing to think about here was Bulaga or Bruce Campbell.
Campbell has durability questions, and Bulaga could be the best pass-blocker in the draft. Not only that, but the move allows the 'Hawks to move Sean Locklear to RT, his natural position.
C.J. Spiller could be an option, but I think this organization likes Justin Forsett enough to see what he can do next year.
2009 stats: 71 tkls (5 TFL), 8 INTs, Consensus All-American
The Giants' holes in the secondary were exposed against their division rivals, particularly the Eagles when DeSean Jackson scored at will. Kenny Phillips coming back from injury will help, but they need more help that that.
Thomas is a pure cover corner who will help the pass defense immensely. I also wouldn't be surprised if they traded up for Eric Berry.
2009 stats: 34 tkls, 9 sacks
Dunlap is another one of those athletic freaks. He's an absolute load at 6'6", 297 lbs., and his agility rushing the passer is unquestionable.
What is questionable is his character issues, but I think playing for a coach like Jeff Fisher, that won't be a problem. The Titans need a pass-rusher, especially with Kyle Vanden Bosch's decline.
Like the Seahawks, the 49ers grabbed a pass-rusher with their first pick and an offensive tackle with their second. The QB question is not solved for the 49ers, but since there is potential in Alex Smith and Nate Davis, this organization is doing everything they can do put whoever is under center in a position to succeed.
With Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Vernon Davis, and Frank Gore, they have the skill players, so OT is the only major hole on this offense.
Campbell has the highest ceiling of the remaining tackles, and the most ablity. He does have injury questions, but if those check out, he'd be a steal at this point.
Price is pehaps the best of all this year's DTs for the 3-4 NT position.
Casey Hampton, longtime prototype NT and NFL's strongest man, is getting old; he's 33 and a free agent. Pittsburgh would love to take an OT here, but I'm not sure there's one taking at this point that would be that much better than one they can get in the second round.
2009 stats: 92 tkls, 3 sacks, 2 INT
This pick came down to OLB or CB, and given the CB depth in the second round, OLB is the choice.
Then it was down to Sean Weatherspoon or Bowman. I figure the two players are pretty interchangeable; both are good leaders and sideline-sideline players.
My decision was made because of their school. Penn State is the "Linebacker U", so Bowman (I think) is the safer pick.
2009 stats: 212 att, 1,212 yds, 5.6 avg, 12 TDs. 36 rec, 503 yds, 5 TDs, All-American
The Texans would love with secondary here, but with Earl Thomas off the board, they would have to reach to take a corner or safety.
Spiller may not fall this far, but I see every other team before this as having more immediate needs. Steve Slaton didn't perform last year; that may have been a sophomore slump or a true step back.
Either way, Spiller is a back who fits perfectly into Houston's system, and I think he's too talented to fall past here.
2009 stats: 57 rec, 792 yards, 11 TD
I have LaFell as my second-best overall receiver in the draft behind Bryant. It's clear that the Bengals need a WR threat opposite Ochocinco, and with the unfortunate passing of Chris Henry, that need is even more pronounced. Andre Caldwell showed some glimpses of greatness, but not enough to be the No. 2 WR to start the year.
Arrelious Benn could be the pick here, as he may be more talented, but LaFell provides no character issues and the height Carson Palmer would love to throw to.
2009 stats: 64 tkls, 10 sacks
Graham's a guy who had second-round status before the Senior Bowl; I think that game has catapulted his stock to the first round. His size is of some concern, but the fact that he got two sacks against offensive tackles that will be going to the NFL says that he should be able to handle it.
That's why the pick isn't Sergio Kindle here, like some have; Kindle looked overpowered against Alabama's OTs in the BCS championships, and I think he'll struggle to get good pressure against NFL tackles.
2009 stats: 54 tkls, 11.5 sacks, Consensus All-American, Lott Trophy winner, Ted Hendricks Award winner
Hughes has been a bit overshadowed by Graham in the weeks following the Senior Bowl, but I think he'll end up making the better overall 3-4 OLB.
A converted running back, Hughes has the athleticism to drop back in coverage if needed to (3 career INT as a DE, 1 for a TD), but can also get to the QB (26 sacks in past two years).
The Packers need a pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews, as well as an OT and secondary help. Like I've stated so many times before, the cornerback depth is good enough that the Pack can wait till the second or third round to take one.
Charles Brown will probably be the pick if they decide to go the OT route.
2009 stats: 52 tkls, 3 sacks, 2 INT
The Eagles struggled to find ILB consistency all year long because of injuries and poor play by replacements. Spikes is a natural leader and has the speed to fill in at all three LB spots.
Without Brian Dawkins, the Eagles need a vocal guy to lead the D, and Spikes could be that guy.
Sean Weatherspoon could be the pick here, or they could go with a DE.
2009 stats: 38 rec, 490 yards, 2 TD
Benn is a great talent at WR, but the question is the character. I think Baltimore would be willing to risk that, because let's face it: how long would an attitude problem last when Ray Lewis is on defense every practice?
All humor aside though, the Ravens need a threat to take over for Derrick Mason. Benn has the skills to go higher, but I think his statline is enough to drop him a bit, maybe out of the first.
2008 stats: 66 rec, 950 yds, 14 TDs, 2008 All-American
Gresham's easily the top TE prospect in the draft. Teams may be weary with him coming off his injury, but the Combine should show he's fully healed.
The Cardinals would love to go with a pass rusher, and that may be the case with Sergio Kindle still on the board, but I think they try and put Matt Leinart in the best situation they can with another receiving threat.
The Cowboys don't have a glaring hole on the roster, and you can't go wrong in the trenches. He's certainly got the strength, size, and demeanor to play guard, and that's what Jerry Jones looks for in his picks.
2009 stats: 62 tkls (8.5 TFL), 2 sacks
Williams is a prototypical 3-4 NT; he's got a ferocious bull rush, and can penetrate easily with it. Jamal Williams is 34 and coming off an injury, so this might be the route they go.
Ryan Matthews from Fresno State has been thrown around, as well as Mike Iupati. Taylor Mays might go here, but I think if Williams falls here, SD won't be able to pass him up.
2009 stats: 43 tkls., 7 sacks, All-American
The reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year, Odrick has the size of the prototypical 3-4 DE (6'5, 296). He may be the most versatile of the defensive lineman in this draft, and Rex Ryan will find a way to utilize him.
The Jets need to find a way to pressure the QB without compromising coverage, and Odrick can penetrate using agility or strength.
2009 stats: 42 tkls, 1 sack, 3 INT, 2 TD
The Vikings need to upgrade the corner position. Antoine Winfield, as good as he is, is old and coming off injury.
Cedrick Griffin is solid, but not spectacular.
Benny Sapp was impressive in limited time, but he's not the long term answer.
Wilson's stock has skyrocketed after Senior Bowl week, and he has pretty much established himself as the second best corner in the draft.
2009 stats: 63 tkls, 3 sacks, 1 INT, All-American
Early word out of Indianapolis is that Gary Brackett might not be back next year, in which case they'll need a replacement at MLB. Bill Polian seems to value speed over size, which makes Washington the perfect fit. He's a sideline-sideline player who's a sure tackler.
The area in which the Colts struggled most in the big game was defending Pierre Thomas, whether it was running the ball or catching the screen. Washington would be a huge boost to that part of the defense.
2009 stats: 103 tkls, 3 sacks, 1 FF, 1 INT
Weatherspoon was the vocal leader of the North team during the Senior Bowl, and I 'm not sure he'll fall this far.
He definitely won't make it past here, because the Saints need a replacement for Scott Fujita next to Jonathan Vilma. Weatherspoon would provide some consistency and solidity to an aggressive and opportunistic defense that isn't exactly bend-but-don't-break.