This is one of the most exciting times of the year for anyone. The NFL Draft brings new hope to teams, but also causes fans from other teams to pull their hair on some picks. The Combine will not have a huge effect on some prospects, but there are others who can truly benefit.
NOTE: I do not predict trades, even though it is bound to happen.
1. St. Louis Rams- Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
DT has a high bust rate among top picks. Guys like Jonathon Sullivan, Dewayne Robertson, Michael Gaines, Glenn Dorsey have struggled in the transition from college to the NFL. One of the biggest problems is that these defensive ends never learned to play with technique--they dominated on straight power and athleticism. That all changes when you come to the NFL.
Is DT the best pick for the Rams, from a franchise standpoint? No, but at No.1, the Rams must take the best player available. Suh uses his hands as well as any defensive tackle to ever come out. He is powerful and a true playmaker.
2. Detroit Lions- Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
This is going to be a surprise pick. In my opinion, Gerald McCoy makes the most sense, but the Lions know how they need to protect Matthew Stafford. Davis has a ton of momentum moving forward, and, if he tests well at the Combine, could be moving up. He needs to play at a higher level more consistently, but no one can deny the physical tools.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
People want to plug in Eric Berry here. I wouldn't see a problem with that--until Gerald McCoy falls into their lap. McCoy is a truly disruptive player who attacks the quarterback. He has an explosive first step and would have caught more people's eyes had Suh not been so remarkable. He needs to check out well medically, but he has the opportunity to be a great interior player.
4. Washington Redskins- Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
The Redskins miss out on Anthony Davis, but they still get a really solid tackle who can step in right away. Okung has been battle tested and should stay around the top 5 unless he falls flat on his face at the Combine. Mike Shanahan might take a QB like Bradford here--if he checks out well. However, it won't matter who's playing QB if there's no one to block for him.
5. Kansas City Chiefs- Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
The Chiefs cut ties with Bernard Pollard last year because he didn't fit in their scheme. However, picking up a versatile player in Berry is a great move for Todd Haley to keep building his defense. They would have loved for Okung or Davis to fall, but Berry is a great consolation prize.
6. Seattle Seahawks- Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
Bulaga is a fast riser on teams' draft boards. He is expected to test out very well at the Combine. With Davis and Okung already off the board, the Seahawks need to assure themselves a top LT because Bulaga will not last until the 14th pick. Bulaga is great in all phases, but has a few durability concerns that need to be cleared up.
7. Cleveland Browns- Joe Haden, CB, Florida
This pick seems to be a match made in heaven. The Browns need a physical corner opposite 2008 2nd rounder Eric Wright, and Joe Haden is one of the best corners to come out in the last few years. If Haden runs well, he could generate a lot of buzz from other teams who may want to trade up into the top 10.
8. Oakland Raiders- Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
The player who runs one of the fastest 40 yard dashes will be automatically slotted here based on Al Davis' love of speed. However, it's time for Oakland to wise up and take the best player on the board.
Morgan isn't an explosive athlete, but he is incredibly instinctive and versatile. He can start right away if the team cannot sign Richard Seymour to a deal. It's important that Oakland makes the most of this pick because their 1st rounder in 2011 is headed to New England.
9. Buffalo Bills- Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
Buffalo is bound to stir a lot of criticism for this pick, passing up Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford for Clausen, who won just 6 games last year. However, the Irish had a TERRIBLE defense and Clausen was trying to score 40 points a game. He's a competitor, comes from a pro-style offense, and can really make a difference. He knows how to play from behind and put the team on his back because of a lack of defensive talent--something Bradford never did.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Southern Florida
Is this guy the next Mario Williams, or is he going to be more like Derrick Harvey? Taking Pierre-Paul here means that Jacksonville screwed up on that pick because Harvey hasn't progressed as the team would hope. I'm not a huge fan of him because he doesn't have a lot of experience, but his athleticism is going to excite a lot of scouts. Keeping this kid in-state is a nice bonus.
11. Denver Broncos (from Chicago Bears)- Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Is Kyle Orton really the answer in Denver? Better yet, how about Chris Simms? Josh McDaniels did a nice job with this team last season despite the epic collapse. He knows that moving forward he will need a franchise QB. Bradford is the best player on the board and could be a really nice fit in McDaniel's offense. He's accurate and can move around, plus he won't have to worry about taking a lot of hits. Denver has one of the top offensive lines in football. Dez Bryant would make sense here, but I think McDaniels is going to value QB here instead of WR.
12. Miami Dolphins- Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
It wouldn't surprise me if he went higher. I think he is going to have a great Combine and Pro Day workout and make GMs feel good about his situation last fall when he was suspended. The Dolphins have a good offense and a good young nucleus with Chad Henne, Ronnie Brown, Davone Bess, and Anthony Fasano at the skill positions. Adding a playmaker like Bryant to the mix may help the Dolphins reach the playoffs again.
13. San Francisco 49ers- Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
The Niners have a lot of options here at number 13. The offense has been building well the past few years with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan, Joe Staley, Michael Crabtree, and Alex Smith. The right tackle position has to be filled soon because the Niners have a revolving door there. Williams is a better prospect than 2009 2nd-rounder Phil Loadholt. Bruce Campbell could be an option because of his physical tools.
14. Seattle Seahawks(from Denver Broncos)- CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson
The Seahawks landed a top OT prospect in Bulaga earlier and land the top RB in this draft with CJ Spiller. Spiller has amazing game-breaking ability in the run and return game. He's not a carry-the-load back, but teaming him up with Julius Jones could make a solid tandem. Expect the Seahawks to address the pass rush and backup QB issues in the next few rounds.
15. New York Giants- Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida
This is a high-risk/high-reward pick for the Giants. Dunlap certainly has some immaturity issues to answer to, but there may not be a better coach at whipping a young player into shape than Tom Coughlin. This is a tremendous value for the Giants, who could get a top-5 talent at the 15th pick. Hopefully, he fares better than other early entry Gator DEs (see Jarvis Moss, Derrick Harvey).
16. San Francisco 49ers(from Carolina Panthers)- Taylor Mays, S, USC
This could certainly be a reach because of Mays' lack of discipline and inconsistent play, but the physical tools are phenomenal and Mike Singletary will get in the youngster's face when he is slacking. Mays has great potential, but he also has a high bust rate.
17. Tennessee Titans- Rolando McClain, LB, Alabam
The Titans' defense got bad in a hurry. They need some youth and athleticism at the LB spot. McClain was a great MLB at Alabama, but also has the potential to play all 3 LB spots on any scheme because of his size and athleticism. Need meets value here.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers- Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
This is a great fit for both parties. Williams plays the run extremely well, and Pittsburgh could really use an upgrade at nose tackle, especially if Casey Hampton leaves for free agency. He is a beast in the middle and very hard to move, which is exactly what you want in zero-technique. He will allow these talented Pittsburgh LBs to continue to make plays.
19. Atlanta Falcons- Everson Griffen, DE, USC
Griffen is really steady on a lot of boards and should really have a great workout. The Falcons really struggled getting to the QB last year. Former top 10 pick Jamaal Anderson moved inside to DT, so there is a significant void at one of the DE spots.
20. Houston Texans- Earl Thomas, S, Texas
Bernard Pollard turned some heads last year and played extremely well for the Texans. However, they need a versatile player in the back end to continue to build this young but really talented defense. Thomas is undersized for a safety but is extremely productive and a ballhawk.
21. Cincinnati Bengals- Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
The 4th Oklahoma player in the 1st round is another extreme talent who is overcoming a serious knee injury. The Bengals really struggled against the Jets when Darelle Revis blanketed Chad Ochocinco and had no one else to throw to. When he's healthy, Gresham has tremendous ability to get up the seam and create mismatches because of his size and speed.
22. New England Patriots- Mike Iupati, G, Idaho
The Patriots could potentially lose Logan Mankins to free agency, but this is also a tremendous value pick. Iupati blew up the Senior Bowl and dominated the competition despite being from a small school. He has the size, strength, and toughness to be able to handle some of the bigger DT in the AFC.
23. Green Bay Packers- Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland
The Packers had a revolving door at the offensive tackle position and would love some stability. Though young and raw, Campbell has the potential to develop into a top-10 OT in this league. Keeping Aaron Rodgers upright is going to be the biggest concern for an offense that cannot afford to lose him.
24. Philadelphia Eagles- Sean Witherspoon, OLB, Missouri
The Eagles faced some injuries at the LB spot last season and would love to grab a young insurance policy here in the 1st round. Most people would think of a RB since the release of Westbrook, but LeSean McCoy looks to be a good player. Witherspoon is expected to have a great Combine and really be on the rise. He flies to the football and is a leader.
25. Baltimore Ravens- Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame
The Ravens are always linked to getting a #1 WR and will need to this off-season in order to take the next step. If they can't get a hold on Brandon Marshall, expect this pick to be Tate. Tate has the potential to be an OROY candidate because of his toughness and versatility.
26. Arizona Cardinals- Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan
Graham made a lot of money with a dominant Senior Bowl performance and should be a solid 1st rounder. He isn't huge, but he's ultra productive and can get to the quarterback. The Cardinals could use a replacement for Karlos Dansby, who is leaving for free agency.
27. Dallas Cowboys- Charles Brown, OT, USC
This may be a reach, but the Cowboys need some depth at the offensive tackle spot. Brown needs some time to grow and get stronger, but he certainly has the upside to be a very good tackle. Doug Free should be able to man one of the tackle spots, and Brown should be the guy for the future. OT always go on a run towards the end of the first round.
28. San Diego Chargers- Jonathon Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech
The Chargers are in a bind at the running back spot. The team just released LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles isn't an every-down back. Dwyer is an excellent between-the-tackles guy. This may be a reach because he isn't going to run a blazing 40 time, but he's ultra productive and runs hard. A dark horse for this pick could be Terrence Cody.
29. New York Jets- Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
The Jets had a tremendous run to the AFC Championship Game. Darelle Revis is the best corner in the NFL. However, the Jets could use an adequate 2nd corner to really lock down their offense. Wilson is a fast riser after an excellent week at the Senior Bowl. The Jets could also use another WR to give Sanchez more weapons.
30. Minnesota Vikings- Brian Price, DT, UCLA
The Vikings were so close to the Super Bowl but fell to the Saints in overtime. They could be in the running for a QB if Favre decides to not come back, but it seems as though Favre would come back after a bitter ending. Price is a disruptive player who would be the rotational tackle behind The Williams Wall. This is a tremendous value for Price, who many peg as a top-20 pick.
31. Indianapolis Colts- Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
It seems as thought the Colts are always pegged to take a DT in the 1st round. They have a revolving door and need a consistent force. Odrick gets lost like Price in this deep defensive tackle class. He does have some weaknesses in his technique, but he is a big body who can free up some blocks for Freeney and Mathis.
32. New Orleans Saints- Navarro Bowman, OLB, Penn State
The biggest priority for the Saints will be upgrading the athleticism and depth at the LB spot. Bowman has some off-the-field issues he will need to address, but this guy is a playmaker and comes from The Linebacker U.
I would love to hear your feedback about your favorite teams/players. I am fine with people bashing my picks, but let's not make it personal ;)