With the NFL Scouting Combine set to begin at the end of the week, many players' draft stocks will be more solidified.
Many scouts and fans hope to see many of the draft's questions answered:
- Will Gerald McCoy overcome Ndamukong Suh as the projected top pick?
- Will Sam Bradford be the first quarterback off the board?
- Can Tim Tebow throw like a legitimate NFL quarterback?
- Will someone pick safety Eric Berry in the top five?
This mock draft tries to answer those questions—and many others—as the combine approaches. Here is what the NFL draft looks like in the week leading up to the combine:
1. St. Louis Rams—Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Suh is the best player on the board, so he should be the first player selected. He will make an immediate impact in the interior of a St. Louis defense that gave up the sixth-most rushing yards in the NFL.
Suh grades out as better against the run than McCoy—and he will likely be picked first for that reason.
2. Detroit Lions—Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
It's a simple story: two bad defenses at the top of the draft; two great players that can immediately make those defenses better. McCoy is the second-best player in the draft, and the Lions need him.
An incredibly versatile player, McCoy is great against the pass and will help a Lions defensive line that had just 24 sacks in 2009—good for fourth-worst in the NFL.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
In hindsight, the Bucs may be wishing that they had lost a few more games in 2009 so they could have a shot at drafting Suh.
Tampa Bay had the worst run defense in the NFL last year, and they need help at defensive tackle. However, with the top two defensive tackles gone, the Bucs should take the best player available in Eric Berry.
The Tampa pass defense was nothing great last year, either. Despite giving up just 206 yards per game, the Bucs gave up 28 passing touchdowns. A ball hawk like Berry won't let 28 passes get by him for scores.
4. Washington Redskins—Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
Davis is the best pass blocker in the draft and will be a staple for years at left tackle for the Redskins. Washington gave up an astounding 46 sacks in 2009—fourth-worst in the NFL.
The Redskins will take a good look at Bradford and Clausen, but there are too many question marks around those players to draft them this high. Davis is a safer pick and a great pick here.
5. Kansas City Chiefs—Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
2010 is the year of the tackle: On both sides of the ball, this draft is loaded. Okung is a great pass blocker and is solid against the run.
The Chiefs were as bad at protecting the quarterback as the Redskins in 2009, giving up 45 sacks. Okung can cut that number way down all by himself.
6. Seattle Seahawks—Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
Many will call for Bradford or Clausen with this pick. However, one of those two will likely be available when Seattle picks again at 14. On top of that, it is often better to build a great offensive line before finding a great quarterback.
Young quarterbacks adapt much better to the NFL when they don't get sacked five times a game. The Seahawks are another team at the top of the draft that couldn't protect the quarterback in 2009, giving up 41 sacks.
7. Cleveland Browns—Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Franchise cornerbacks are hard to come by, so when you need one and identify one, you draft one.
Haden is the only player in the 2010 draft with potential to be that franchise corner. Haden is an athletic freak with great coverage skills, and he is a phenomenal open-field tackler.
8. Oakland Raiders—Taylor Mays, S, USC
The first real surprise pick of the draft is here at No. 8. While draft experts will point to offensive line needs for the Raiders, we can't really expect the Raiders to make a smart pick, can we?
Once considered a top-10 talent, Al Davis probably still considers Mays a top-10 talent. Mays is Davis' prototypical player: an athletic freak who lacks football instincts.
Mays will likely run a great 40 time, put up freakish bench press numbers, and jump a mile high in the vertical leap. All three of those combined will outweigh (for Al Davis) hours of tape showing Mays providing lackluster coverage at safety for USC.
9. Buffalo Bills—Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
The player the Raiders should have picked falls right into the Bills' lap. The Bills couldn't block anyone in 2009, giving up 46 sacks, tied for fourth-worst with the Redskins.
The Bills may be tempted to take Bradford, but history shows that first building a solid offensive line is key to rebuilding a broken passing game.
Williams is the last of the offensive tackles worthy of a top-10 pick, and the Bills should rush to the podium to grab him.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars—Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
Morgan is a gift for the Jaguars at the 10th overall pick.
Before the 2009 season was over, many talked of the Jaguars reaching for Tim Tebow in an effort to bring in a "hometown hero." Tebow is not a first-round pick, though.
Morgan can come in and contribute immediately as the best pass rusher in the draft, and he is easily worthy of a top-10 selection. The Jaguars put together one of the worst seasons ever in the pass rush, with just 14 sacks. Morgan will definitely bring that total up, as he could post double-digit sacks as a rookie.
11. Denver Broncos—Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
This is a case of simply drafting the best player on the board for the Broncos. They will likely say goodbye to Brandon Marshall, who despite his incredible ability, has been a major distraction on and off the field.
Trading Marshall will open up a need at wide receiver, and Bryant fills that need. Despite missing most of the 2009 season, he is the best wideout in this class and will make an immediate impact.
12. Miami Dolphins—Jason Pierre-Paul, DE/OLB, South Florida
Inside linebacker is a need for the Dolphins, so Rolando McClain is an option, but Pierre-Paul is a Florida product—and the Dolphins have a need at 3-4 OLB with Joey Porter on his way out.
Pierre-Paul has loads of potential, and his stock will likely go up after the combine, because he is expected to work out very well. He would be a solid pick for the Dolphins, who will look to maintain their great pass rush with Pierre-Paul's help.
13. San Francisco 49ers—Earl Thomas, S, Texas
The biggest needs for the 49ers are the secondary and offensive line. In Thomas, they get a great young player who could potentially transition to cornerback at the next level.
After Berry and Haden, Thomas is the best defensive back available, and he will step in and make an immediate impact for a 49ers secondary that is aging.
14. Seattle Seahawks—Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Bradford likely would have been a top-five pick last year had he entered the draft. Despite right shoulder concerns, Bradford still has the talent to be a premier NFL passer.
After solidifying the offensive line, the Seahawks should feel comfortable with Bradford. He likely won't start until the 2011 season, and he would be protected on the blindside by Bulaga.
15. New York Giants—Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
The Giants need a replacement for Antonio Pierce at middle linebacker, and McClain fits that bill.
The best middle linebacker in this class, McClain will start and contribute immediately for a Giants defense that needs help. This is an absolutely great pick for the Giants at 15.
16. San Francisco 49ers—Mike Lupati, OG/T, Idaho
Scouts love Lupati, who was a guard in college but could transition well to right tackle.
With Thomas earlier, then this pick, the 49ers solve their two biggest needs in the first round without sacrificing quality. Bruce Campbell of Maryland is also a possibility, but he would be a bit of a reach at No. 16.
17. Tennessee Titans—Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida
Despite character concerns, Dunlap is a great talent. Getting him at No. 17 could prove to be an incredible value.
If Dunlap can make like fellow Gator Percy Harvin and leave his baggage behind, he could very well end up being one of the best picks in this draft. If not, Dunlap will be a distraction.
This is a risk—but not too big of a risk—at pick 17, considering the potential reward.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers—Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee
The Steelers have needs at cornerback and safety, but after Berry, Haden, and Thomas, the defensive back class is thin.
Had Al Davis (see Raiders pick) not gone mad, Mays might have been the pick here. Instead, the Steelers will go for a less significant need, but a solid value in Williams.
In some minds, Brian Price is the better prospect at defensive tackle, but Williams fits much better as a nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme, and he is dominant versus the run.
19. Atlanta Falcons—Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
Defense, defense, defense. The Falcons must draft defense with this pick.
Cornerback is easily the biggest need for the Falcons, and Jackson is a solid prospect at that position. He will provide immediate help to one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.
20. Houston Texans—Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech
This pick is a reach considering where most scouts grade out Dwyer, but the Texans need to solve their running back problems—and they will with this pick.
Dwyer's stock has a solid chance of improving as well, considering he has good athleticism and should perform well at the combine.
Dwyer has limited ability as a pass catcher, but Steve Slaton is already a great pass-catching option. Adding Dwyer would allow the Texans to use Slaton in a more limited role as a third-down back.
21. Cincinnati Bengals—Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Gresham is hands-down the best tight end in this draft—and the Bengals could use him, as they lack a legitimate receiving threat at tight end.
Gresham is a phenomenal receiver and is also a good blocker in the run game. This is a must-pick for the Bengals.
22. New England Patriots—Brandon Graham, OLB, Michigan
The Patriots could use another pass-rushing outside linebacker for their 3-4 base defense.
Adalius Thomas had just three sacks last year, and Pierre Woods had zero sacks. Those are poor totals for two players who saw a lot of action in 2009.
Graham is a solid pass rusher who could contribute immediately in getting to the quarterback.
23. Green Bay Packers—Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland
The Packers were the worst in the NFL at protecting the quarterback in 2009, giving up 51 sacks. The left tackle position was particularly vulnerable for the Packers.
Campbell needs some coaching on his technique, but he has the tools to become a solid starting tackle in the NFL.
The Packers will take the best offensive lineman available with this pick. Luckily for them, the first round is deep with offensive line talent.
24. Philadelphia Eagles—Navorro Bowman, OLB, Penn State
Everyone knows the Eagles need a safety, but there isn't one worth taking with this pick.
The Eagles could also use depth at defensive end, but Everson Griffen is the best available, and he is a reach here.
Bowman is the best outside linebacker available, and he fills a need for the Eagles. There are scouts that mention Bowman as a good fit for the Eagles system.
25. Baltimore Ravens—Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois
The Ravens need playmakers for Joe Flacco. Derrick Mason is not up to being a go-to receiver anymore, and the Ravens lack a true downfield threat.
Benn is a phenomenal athlete who can solve both of the Ravens receiving needs. At 6'1" and 220 pounds, Benn is a physical receiver with good hands who also possesses good downfield speed. This pick is a no-brainer.
26. Arizona Cardinals—Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Wilson is a guy that is moving up draft boards in a hurry. He had a phenomenal Senior Bowl and showed a lot of promise as a solid cover corner.
The Cardinals secondary was exposed badly in the playoffs when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie went down with an injury. They need depth at the position and another player besides Rodgers-Cromartie who can lock down a receiver.
Wilson also has the ability to make a splash in the return game. The biggest need for the Cardinals at this point is OLB, but there are none available at pick 26 who fits their need for a good pass rusher.
27. Dallas Cowboys—Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida
The Cowboys need safety and offensive tackle help, but they're not going to get it at the end of the first round.
Dallas lacks depth at inside linebacker, and Bradie James' fellow starter Keith Brooking is 34 years old.
Spikes is a value pick here for the Cowboys, who would rather have a safety or tackle—but reaching for those two positions would be a mistake. Spikes has great instincts and has potential to eventually anchor a defense.
Not many others have the Cowboys making this pick, but this is a smart pick for them.
28. San Diego Chargers—C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
Many mock drafts have Spiller going in the top 20, but that is a definite reach for Spiller. Any running back that is less than 200 pounds carries significant risk coming into the NFL.
Players like Chris Johnson, who is a small every-down back, are incredibly rare. There is no indication yet that Spiller can be a feature back.
However, the Chargers will take him here because he is the best running back available and is definitely a playmaker. They will need to look for a bruiser later in the draft because the Chargers don't have an inside runner on their roster.
29. New York Jets—Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
The Jets need wide receiver help for Mark Sanchez. At the bottom end of the first round, there are a number of options.
Thomas is a big target at 6'3" and 225 pounds, and he is a great downfield threat. He would immediately help a lackluster Jets receiving corps.
30. Minnesota Vikings—Maurkice Pouncey, OC/G, Florida
Many will argue for defensive tackle Jared Odrick at this pick, but that is not the direction the Vikings should go.
Pat Williams is likely returning for another season, so DT is not an immediate need. On top of that, Odrick is not the best available player, and the Vikings have taken the best available player in the first round each of the past few years.
Pouncey is an underrated talent who is versatile and very intelligent. The Vikings need help at center and right guard—both positions that Pouncey can play immediately.
31. Indianapolis Colts—Brian Price, DT, UCLA
Price has been projected all over the first round in various mock drafts. He slips to this position mainly because a lot of teams that need a DT are 3-4 defenses and/or they need a run stuffer.
Price is weak for a DT at defending the run, but he is a great pass rusher. The Colts' starting tackles combined for just 1.5 sacks, so at worst, Price is a great third-down pass rusher.
32. New Orleans Saints—Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri
The Saints need help at outside linebacker because they lack playmakers at the position. Weatherspoon is very athletic with great speed, and he is great in coverage.
He is the best playmaker left at outside linebacker, and he would make an immediate impact for a defense that likes to force turnovers.