With the NFL Draft less than a month away, it's time to look at my first mock draft. So, without hesitation:
1. Saint Louis Rams - Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Bradford is almost certainly going to be the No. 1 pick in this year's draft. The NFL is a passing league, and the Rams can't pass him up.
A quarterback will sell more shirts and bring in more fans than a defensive tackle, but how well will Bradford do with a poor offensive line and very little to throw to?
Bradford was seen as a better prospect than Matthew Stafford last year, and he will help St. Louis solve their QB issues.
His impressive pro-day means he is closing in on the No. 1 slot overall, as he quashed any fears that his shoulder injury will hamper his performance. Bradford goes first, and will establish himself as an exceptional quarterback in the NFL once the Rams can protect him.
2. Detroit Lions - Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Suh is the best player in this year's draft and would be first overall if it wasn't for the NFL's reliance on quarterbacks.
The Lions would be delighted should Suh fall their way, as they took their franchise QB in last year's draft.
Detroit is still giving serious consideration to offensive lineman Russell Okung, as they look to protect Stafford, who was sacked 43 times last year. This pick is by no means a lock.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Tampa Bay has been hoping for months that the Rams take a QB, and they will get their wish, as McCoy falls to the Bucs. If Detroit should take Okung instead of Suh, then they'll have a choice between the top two players in the draft.
McCoy is perfect for a 4-3 defense, and the Buccaneers will be delighted to get the chance to grab him.
4. Washington Redskins - Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
Mike Shanahan will give serious consideration to Jimmy Clausen, but in the end Okung is too good to pass up. With him protecting Jason Campbell, the QB will have at least another year to save his job. Okung will help tremendously.
Okung can be a starter immediately, and he is just what the Redskins need.
5. Kansas City Chiefs - Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
Just like Okung, Berry is too great a talent to pass up. Many say taking a safety at five is too high, but Berry is not your average safety. He could start immediately.
Berry is a playmaker, and the Chiefs need him to shore up their defense. He will be a great safety for years to come, and Kansas City won't let this opportunity pass them by.
6. Seattle Seahawks - Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
This pick is still up in the air.
Seattle could go with CJ Spiller at this spot, and might consider Clausen, although the trade for Charlie Whitehurst makes this look less likely.
The Seahawks grab Bulaga to protect their QB, whoever it is next year.
7. Cleveland Browns - Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Despite a poor 40 at the Combine, the Browns like Haden. They have replayed the game tape over and over, and they will go with the cornerback.
They need a corner to shore up their secondary, and Haden will be the pick.
8. Oakland Raiders - Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
Another pick from Oklahoma, as the big offensive tackle goes to Oakland. Williams will offer more protection for the Raiders quarterback, and if it's JaMarcus Russell he'll be grateful for the extra time.
Forget Taylor Mays or Jason Pierre-Paul with this pick, even Al Davis won't take them that high...right?
9. Buffalo Bills - Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
The Bills aren't happy with their current quarterback depth, and they still haven't identified their starter. With Clausen still on the board, they pull the trigger on a man who threw just four picks last season.
Now all he needs is someone to pass to...
10. Jacksonville Jaguars - Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
At 10, the Jags take local boy, and Florida Gators' QB, Tim...nah, only joking.
Jacksonville goes for someone to play opposite new signing Aaron Kampman and immediately upgrades their pass rush.
11. Denver Broncos - Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
I genuinely have no idea who this pick will be. It could be Dan Williams, Rolando McClain, Sergio Kindle, or Dez Bryant.
Bryant seems to be the man most likely to replace Brandon Marshall when he's eventually traded. It wouldn't be a surprise, however, if Bryant's stock fell and he went later in the draft.
12. Miami Dolphins - Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas
Miami has big needs at nose tackle, safety, and receiver, but with Bill Parcells unlikely to draft a wide receiver—even if Bryant is on the board—they will address a pressing need at linebacker.
Kindle has the speed and size that Miami loves, and he will help upgrade a pass rush that has just seen the departure of Joey Porter and, potentially, Jason Taylor.
13. San Francisco 49ers - Anthony Davis, OL, Rutgers
6'5'', 323 pounds. Davis is the offensive lineman that San Fran needs. This pick is a must for the 49ers, as it will allow Alex Smith more time to justify his first round selection.
The first of two first round picks San Francisco will take Davis out of necessity, which will allow them to keep their options open when they pick again at No. 17.
14. Seattle Seahawks - C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
After showcasing his abilities at the Combine, Spiller is going to be the Seahawks object of desire.
Spiller could become great in the NFL, and would be a serious upgrade from the current class of running backs in Seattle.
The only question is whether the Seahawks take the risk and snap up Spiller at No. 6, or hope he falls this far. That would change the entire Draft's complexion!
15. New York Giants - Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama
While he has all the talent to break into the top 10, not performing at the Combine did hurt his draft stock.
Miami is known to like him, but if they pass, the Giants will upgrade their linebacker corps by taking him.
This would be the logical fit for McClain, as he could replace the released Antonio Pearce at inside linebacker. He also has the ability to play outside.
16. Tennessee Titans - Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
Finally somebody takes a chance on the greatest physical specimen in the draft besides Taylor Mays.
Pierre-Paul offers a real risk-reward dilemma. He could be a huge bust with just one year of experience in college, or he could reward the Titans big.
17. San Francisco 49ers - Earl Thomas, S, Texas
Thomas has the skills to become an exceptional safety, and the 49ers would be delighted if he falls as far as their second first-round pick.
Thomas is capable of making big plays and could play cornerback for San Francisco if need be. This would be a great pick, a real value at 17, and he would immediately upgrade the secondary.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers - Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
Pittsburgh selects the top guard in the draft with this pick. Iupati will be a top NFL player and could start right away if required to.
He already has the size and skills to play, and he would be a great pick. Iupati could be taken higher, but most NFL teams don't see guards having enough value to be an earlier pick.
19. Atlanta Falcons - Brandon Graham, LB, Michigan
How the top outside linebacker in the draft lasted this long we will never know. Graham is a top player and will be a thorn in the opponent's side for the next decade or so.
He would offer incredible value at this pick, and his speed would cause real problems when Graham sets his sights on the quarterback.
20. Houston Texans - Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Having seen a lot of mocks with a running back at this pick, Kyle Wilson would be a much better fit. Why would the Texans replace Steve Slaton when they need to replace Dunta Robinson?
A cornerback is a huge need for Houston and Wilson would solve that problem. The Texans hope Wilson can replace Robinson and finally help them secure that playoff birth they are closing in on.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Gresham's injury problems will not prevent him from going in the first round. The Bengals need a safety, but won't bring themselves to pull the trigger on Taylor Mays.
Instead, the tight end from Oklahoma is the pick. He can stretch the field while giving Carson Palmer another option on offense. Gresham, Antonio Bryant, and Chad Ochocinco are a mouthwatering trio of targets for Palmer.
22. New England Patriots - Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida
This DE/OLB hybrid will be a good fit for the Patriots, although 22 might be a little high for him.
New England will consider Sean Weatherspoon, Ricky Sapp and Jarid Odrick with this pick, but they're likely to go for Dunlap. The Pats will ultimately pass on Weatherspoon because he can't play defensive end and will choose Dunlap instead.
23. Green Bay Packers - Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
The Packers have depth at cornerback, but with Al Harris coming off a season-ending injury it's time to look for his replacement. Harris is also 35 years old, while Charles Woodson, who is still at the top of his game, is 33.
This would be a great situation for McCourty, as Harris and Woodson would be perfect teachers for him to learn from and improve his own game.
24. Philadelphia Eagles - Taylor Mays, S, Southern California
The Eagles need a safety, and they snap up the best available with both Berry and Thomas gone.
Mays showed everyone what we already knew at the Combine. Physically, he is a monster; however, Philly needs a safety with solid cover skills, and Mays will have to work on this or he will be exposed quickly.
25. Baltimore Ravens - Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee
Williams could end up being the big loser on draft day if Miami passes on him and McClain is on the board when the Giants pick. Due to varying team needs, Williams could end up falling right into the hands of Baltimore or San Diego, who picks at 28.
If chosen here, the Ravens could push Haloti Ngata to defensive end and groom Williams to be the man in the middle, creating an unstoppable young duo on the defensive line.
26. Arizona Cardinals - Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
The Cardinals pick up a great talent at 26, if New England passes on him. Weatherspoon showcased his abilities at the Combine, and he has some real ability.
His size—6'1'' and 239 lbs—will keep him from being a higher pick, but he makes up for it with his ability to read the game. He plays hard and fast and identifies plays very quickly. Weatherspoon will be a top OLB for years to come.
27. Dallas Cowboys - Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
The Cowboys don't have far to go until they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They need a safety, but the top three in the draft are already gone.
With no safety available at this pick, Dallas will opt for defensive lineman Odrick, who can play either defensive tackle or a defensive end.
28. San Diego Chargers - Ryan Matthews, RB, Fresno State
With a rushing average over 150 yards per game last season, Matthews steps in to fill the (large) void left by LaDainian Tomlinson. Running a 4.45 at the Combine, he supported his worth.
29. New York Jets - Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
Note to the rest of AFC: Watch Out!
Rex Ryan adds another receiver, making his offense one of the most dangerous in the league. Thomas has been going as high as 10 in some mocks, and the Jets will get real value with this pick.
New York will now hope that Braylon Edwards can step up and that Mark Sanchez can show the consistency he showed at the end of last season. Adding Thomas to an already strong receiving corps the Jets will look set to wrestle control of the AFC East from New England.
30. Minnesota Vikings - Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State
Providing Brett Favre sticks around, cornerback is the only real area of need that Minnesota needs to address. Robinson is a top talent, excellent in coverage, and he was a top special teams performer in college.
Questions over his size and attitude remain though, and his limited experience have led to his projection as a late first or early second round pick. However, the Vikings won't hesitate to nab him as Haden, McCourty, and Wilson are already off the board.
31. Indianapolis Colts - Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
With limited needs, the Colts opt for Pouncey who has the ability to be a top center in the NFL. Pouncey is capable at guard, and this is where he will play. He'll bide his time there while waiting to become Jeff Saturday's eventual replacement.
This will give him NFL experience while also allowing him to learn from one of the top centers in the game. Pouncey offers huge value at this pick and will be a steal for the Colts at 31.
32. New Orleans Saints - Everson Griffen, DE, Southern California
With Weatherspoon off the board, the Saints look to Griffen, a defensive end that can also play outside linebacker.
Griffen is an immediate replacement for Charles Grant, addressing the main concern the Super Bowl winners have this offseason.
Questions still remaining in the second round of the draft, including who will draft Tim Tebow? Everybody wants to know, and he should land somewhere in round two. Should the Bills miss out on Clausen, Tebow is a possibility.
The Rams might look to one of the offensive lineman in round two to help Jason Smith and protect their new golden boy, Sam Bradford.
If Mike Shanahan does choose Okung at four, he might look to Colt McCoy to challenge Jason Campbell in Washington.
Terrence Cody is almost certainly on San Diego's radar, and might find himself heading west in the second round.
The Miami Dolphins have a chance to address their needs at wide receiver, with Golden Tate, Aurellious Benn, and Brandon LaFell still on the board.
Finally, the New England Patriots have three picks in the second round. Who will they choose in the hope of brushing off the Jets' challenge in the AFC East?
This year's draft class is one of the deepest in recent years. Plenty of second and third round choices will become established talent in the NFL, meaning teams can ill-afford an early round draft bust, when there is such a great deal of ability on offer.
Nevertheless, the draft is promising to be an intriguing prospect, and it's under one month away.
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