As we all know, you can't put much stock in anything from an NFL Draft perspective before this week's Combine in Indy. But, just for fun, I wanted to take a look at things right now and try to project how the first round might play out.
Feel free to chime in with any opinions/disagreements you may have. One thing is for sure, the draft always provides great discussion.
1) St. Louis Rams-Ndamukong Suh, DT Nebraska.
I know. Me and everybody else, right? If it's the guy, then it's the guy. You can't help that.
The only other player who is even an option here is Sam Bradford. And I promise you that Bradford would have to be off the chart exceptional and prove that he is completely healthy in order for the Rams to even consider deviating from Suh. This kid was as dominant in 2009 as any defensive lineman has been in a generation.
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Eric Berry, S Tennessee.
4) Washington Redskins-Russell Okung, OT Oklahoma St.
Here is where I staunchly disagree with most other draft pundits. I do not see the Redskins going QB at this spot. Mike Shanahan's greatest successes have come with brilliant offensive lines and Washington's is far from that level.
Drafting Okung gives them an immediate starter at left tackle and still leaves the opportunity to pick a quarterback like Colt McCoy or Dan LeFevour later on in this draft. Okung rates higher than any of the OT's from 2009 and has the tools to be a ten year NFL starter and multiple time Pro Bowler.
5) Kansas City Chiefs-Rolando McLain, ILB Alabama.
The Chiefs have so many holes to fill, they could conceivably go in any direction here. However, many folks had them penciled in for LB Aaron Curry last season and they instead took a gamble on DE Tyson Jackson from LSU.
Look for Scott Pioli to correct that apparent mistake by grabbing this 'Bama beast to play inside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. McLain has it all. Size. Speed. Smarts. Talent. At best, he could be part Urlacher, part DeMeco Ryans. At worst, he's still a solid starter.
6) Seattle Seahawks-Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma.
Despite having huge needs at OT and DE with the apparent retirements of Walter Jones and Patrick Kerney, Pete Carroll simply cannot pass on the undisputed best QB in this year's draft with this pick.
In my mind, Bradford is the only quarterback this year with the stuff to become elite a la Peyton, Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers. His accuracy is excellent, he has good zip on his passes, and is adequately mobile in the pocket. Best of all, Bradford should have at least one season to sit and learn under starter Matt Hasselbeck.
7) Cleveland Browns-Joe Haden, CB Florida.
This seems to be another consensus among those of us who try to predict the draft. Haden certainly inspires some very lofty comparisons. Darrelle Revis? Really? I'm not THAT high on him, but I see him having Antoine Winfield type potential for sure. And that's not too bad.
Pair him with Eric Wright and the Browns will have the talent at corner to expand their blitz packages and play more man coverage.
8) Oakland Raiders-Jason Pierre-Paul, DE South Florida.
I called it last year at No. 7 with Darrius Heyward-Bey and I'm calling for another hyphenated last name with crazy measurables again. I actually have Derrick Morgan rated higher at defensive end, but that won't stop the crazy old madman, Al Davis, from taking the guy he falls in love with at the combine and in workouts. The Raiders need help all over the field, but DE will probably be the priority here.
9) Buffalo Bills-Bruce Campbell, OT Maryland.
Campbell is fairly inexperienced, but he is by far the most physically gifted OT on the board and the Bills are in dramatic need of tackle help. This "workout warrior" will remind many in Buffalo of former LT Jason Peters in terms of athletic ability, but it remains to be seen if he'll develop the same way. Mark my words, Campbell will be the OL mover after the combine and workouts.
10) Denver Broncos-Dez Bryant, WR Oklahoma St.
Four guys from the state of Oklahoma in the first ten picks. And it's very likely to happen.
The Broncos appear to be done with Brandon Marshall and Bryant is the only guy in this draft at WR with the size and ability to possibly replace him. Dez is more of an Anquan Boldin type, but could be a steal here at No. 10 because I rate him higher than I had any receiver in the 2009 Draft.
11) Jacksonville Jaguars-Taylor Mays, S Southern Cal.
Despite all of the Tim Tebow/Derrick Morgan speculation, I think the Jags will go with the most enigmatic player in this draft instead. Mays is a physical freak, possessing the size and skill set not seen in the defensive backfield since Sean Taylor roamed the field for the Washington Redskins. However, his on-field production has never matched his talent.
Jacksonville's recent early draft history has been sketchy with guys like Derrick Harvey and Reggie Nelson not playing up to expectations, so I see them going away from the "safe" pick and grabbing a fellow Trojan for head coach Jack Del Rio to try and inspire.
12) Miami Dolphins-Brandon Graham, OLB Michigan.
With Bryant off the board, I anticipate Bill Parcells looking to add a combo LB at this spot. The hot guy after the Senior Bowl, practices and game, is Graham. He was looked at as an early to mid 2nd rounder previously, now he looks like the number one 3-4 OLB and, according to me, will be drafted as such.
I know 'Fins fans are hoping for a bigger splash, but take a look at how successful last year's first round OLB's (Orakpo, Cushing, Matthews) were. Graham could have a similar impact as long as he plays with same motor he displayed in Mobile.
13) San Francisco 49ers-Trent Williams, OT Oklahoma.
It seems to be a sure thing that the Niners go with an offensive linemen here. The only question is which one? I say Williams right now.
That could definitely change post-Combine, but for now I'll take the kid who compares favorably to two other recent Sooners, Phil Loadholt and Duke Robinson, who are now solid starters in the NFL. Williams could allow San Fran to move Joe Staley to the right side, where he's better suited, or they could leave Staley alone and draft another guy to man the right side.
14) Seattle Seahawks-Anthony Davis, OT Rutgers.
This is why the Seahawks were allowed the luxury of picking Sam Bradford at No. 6. There are certainly enough first round quality offensive linemen that they could take that chance at QB and still be rewarded with a solid player here at No. 14.
Davis makes the most sense for them despite questions about his commitment. He's a big dancing bear a la the guy he'll be replacing, the aforementioned Walter Jones, and he's actually my number three offensive lineman this year. If things go this way for Seattle, 'Hawks fans and their new coach should all be ecstatic.
15) New York Giants-Derrick Morgan, DE Georgia Tech.
What the hell happened to the Giants' vaunted pass rush last year? Quite simply, Osi Umenyiora was not himself and many in the organization feel that he never will be again. In fact, Osi is talking retirement right now.
That makes Morgan, a very productive pass rusher in college, the logical choice. He provides great value at this spot, too, since many have Morgan projected as a top-10 player.
16) Tennessee Titans-Carlos Dunlap, DE Florida.
At first glance, this pick makes no sense. Dunlap's character is questionable and the Titans have a Pro Bowler at defensive end in Kyle Vanden Bosch. Look deeper and you'll see how much sense it makes, however.
Dunlap is a top-5 player strictly based on talent and Vanden Bosch, along with Jevon Kearse, is up there in age. Look at the history of supremely talented players who fell in the 1st round due to character issues. Warren Sapp come to mind? How about Randy Moss? Or Ray Lewis? I'm just saying, Dunlap's worth the shot here.
17) San Francisco 49ers-Sean Weatherspoon, ILB Missouri.
This, too, is a bit of a luxury pick for another NFC West team. Weatherspoon is not an immediate need, but a player of this caliber has to be gobbled up at this point. The Niners still have Takeo Spikes beside Patrick Willis, the premier ILB in the league, but Spoon would give them a young future star and free up Spikes to play some OLB as well.
This pick could give Mike Singletary the NFC version of the Jets duo, Bart Scott and David Harris.
18) Pittsburgh Steelers-Mike Iupati, OG Idaho.
Have you ever seen anyone sprint to the podium to submit their pick? Well, pay attention to the Steelers execs if Iupati falls to them, because this guy gives them the replacement for Alan Faneca they've been seeking for two seasons.
In actuality, they'll work the phones the full time to see if anyone wants to trade up for a guy like Jimmy Clausen or C.J. Spiller, but this kid from Idaho is definitely the player Pittsburgh will covet.
19) Atlanta Falcons-Sergio Kindle, OLB Texas.
Why not? The Redskins hit a home run in '09 with another combo OLB/DE from Texas and Kindle has primarily played 4-3 OLB in his career. Consider that Mike Peterson is now 34 years old, and it makes that much more sense.
You probably have a vivid memory of Kindle from the national championship game and, if you don't, I promise you that Alabama QB Greg McElroy does after Sergio terrorized him all night.
20) Houston Texans-C.J. Spiller, RB Clemson.
In all likelihood, Spiller will not fall this far because someone will trade up to take him. But in my draft, with no trades, the Texans get a steal. Steve Slaton fell all the way out of favor with coach Gary Kubiak last season and Houston owner Bob McNair has clearly stated, "We need a running back."
Spiller would give them a Chris Johnson/Reggie Bush type player to pair with late season starter Arian Foster and turn a weakness into a strength for a team looking to make a big splash and finally make it into the playoffs in 2010.
21) Cincinnati Bengals-Dan Williams, DT Tennessee.
For a defending AFC North champ, the Bengals still have a ton of holes to fill. They need help at TE, S, WR, and DT.
Williams, of all the remaining players at these positions, charts the highest, just ahead of S Earl Thomas from Texas. Wilson has been a fast riser since the season ended and now rates as the number three defensive tackle on many teams' boards. He's good at occupying blockers and also collapsing pockets. Cincy coach Marvin Lewis will hope Williams becomes as good a player as another former Vol defensive tackle, Albert Haynesworth.
22) New England Patriots-Jared Odrick, DT Penn St.
For the first time in a while, the Patriot organization has many significant needs and concerns. Not the least of which are the defense and Vince Wilfork's impending free agency. Odrick's a great pick here because he can play some nose if they lose Wilfork or, preferably, slide over to DE in their 3-4. Odrick's an active athletic defensive lineman who already uses his hands well and should work well within the Bill Belichick assignment heavy defense.
23) Green Bay Packers-Bryan Bulaga, OT Iowa.
Bulaga fits with the Pack. They need offensive line help and the Iowa product can play tackle on the right side or either guard spots. His stock may actually be hurt by the past failures of similar type players from the Big 10, but he should be a solid NFL starter for many years to come.
When you have a commodity like Aaron Rodgers at QB, you want to make sure to protect him. This guy helps do that and should help Ryan Grant and the running game in Green Bay too.
24) Philadelphia Eagles-Navorro Bowman, OLB Penn St.
Philly needs help at LB in the worst way. Bowman is a great fit for them. He's an incredible athlete, good in coverage, suited for OLB only in 4-3 schemes. But the Eagles play a blitz heavy 4-3 and can utilize all the strengths of this kid from "Linebacker U".
Combined with a healthy Stewart Bradley back in the middle, Philadelphia will be extremely fast in the second level, play tough sideline to sideline, and be improved against opposing tight ends.
25) Baltimore Ravens-Earl Thomas, S Texas.
The Ravens have a perennial need at wideout, but this draft isn't exactly deep with surefire talent at that position. After losing Jim Leonhard to the Jets prior to last season and with Ed Reed talking retirement, Thomas would be a fantastic add for Baltimore.
He's a ball hawking playmaker in the mold of Reed and, retirement or not, will be a plus addition to a secondary in need of help. Thomas is a bit undersized for a safety, but makes up for it with his cornerback level coverage skills and could even play some nickel CB if Reed decides to return.
26) Arizona Cardinals-Jermaine Gresham, TE Oklahoma.
This pick could be a DT, but if Gresham falls to them the Cards should snap him up. With the retirement of Kurt Warner and the possible loss of WR Anquan Boldin, Gresham could give Matt Leinart a security blanket over the middle and help speed up the team's offensive transition.
This kid is wide receiver fast and built like a young Tony Gonzalez but needs to really work on his strength if he's ever going to become a good blocker. Gresham's a top-15 talent and the knee injury he's coming off is the only reason he'll slide this far.
27) Dallas Cowboys-Brian Price, DT UCLA.
The Cowboys may have the fewest needs of any team in the NFL. Price provides terrific value along the defensive front. He would come in and start immediately for most teams, but with Dallas he'll play behind Pro Bowler Jay Ratliff at the nose and Igor Olshansky at 3-4 defensive end. This pick could turn out to be a steal because you can never have enough talented big players on the D-line and Price definitely has talent.
28) San Diego Chargers-Jonathan Dwyer, RB Georgia Tech.
This is a hit-or-miss pick. The Chargers need a running back to replace all-time great LaDainian Tomlinson and Dwyer has all the talent to fit that bill. He's solidly built and much faster(4.3 range?) than people realize...yet.
A solid combine and/or pro day performance could lead to Dwyer becoming a fast riser in the weeks leading up to the draft despite his inexperience as a pass blocker, receiver, and in a pro-style offense. I liken this kid's upside to that of Ronnie Brown, but without the injuries.
29) New York Jets-Kyle Wilson, CB Boise St.
Rex Ryan made no bones about it after the Jets' loss to the Colts in the AFC Championship game, he needs more help at DB. Wilson provides it. He's only 5' 10" and he hasn't played much against top flight competition, but this kid can play. He's great in man coverage, has fluid hips, and doesn't back down from anyone. He works hard and should be an ideal fit in New York.
30) Minnesota Vikings-Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame.
Just as with Spiller earlier, Clausen will probably not be here, but this is a MOCK draft and it's a good pick for the Vikings. Whether Brett Favre returns or not, Tarvaris Jackson was not the answer before and will not be the answer moving forward.
Besides, T-Jax is a free agent likely to be gone anyway. Enter young Clausen. He has a little of Favre in him too. He's fearless, hangs in the pocket, and is experienced in trying to lead comebacks. I personally think this is just about the perfect spot for Clausen, but I know some teams have him much higher on their draft boards.
31) Indianapolis Colts-Maurkice Pouncey, OG/C Florida.
This pick is really a crap-shoot. Indy is another team without a ton of faults but, since the draft encourages nitpicking, they could use a future replacement for Jeff Saturday, a better playmaker at DT and a better man coverage CB. Obviously, I'm going with the center here.
Pouncey is big enough and strong enough to do a plus job of neutralizing 3-4 nose tackles. And since the growing trend in the league is the 3-4 defense, well you see the value here.
32) New Orleans Saints-Patrick Robinson, CB Florida St.
Good in man or zone, great closing speed, feisty enough to play against the run, and nice size all make Robinson just what the doctor ordered for the newly crowned Super Bowl champions. At the very least, he'll provide the Saints with a nickel CB and allow them to slide 2009 1st rounder Malcolm Jenkins over to safety where he's better suited. Robinson gives New Orleans great DB depth and addresses the one big problem this team had.
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