One of my favorite sporting events (not just in the NFL universe) is the annual NFL draft. Every season, hope springs eternal for most teams. Not the St. Louis Rams, but most teams.
Every team hopes they can add a few big pieces to their puzzle. Some teams are a few players away from contending for the Super Bowl while others bring up the rear in the standings every season.
Often, teams have varying draft strategies, as well. Some opt for the best available player, no matter the team need. Other teams draft for need, whether to replace a departed free agent or to upgrade the talent on the roster. And, also, some teams lie somewhere in the middle.
No matter how you slice it, the NFL Draft is a headline event and something to look forward to every year.
With that being said, let's take a look at how I see things unfolding.
1. St. Louis (1-15) The Rams would be foolish not to at least listen to overtures for the top pick in the draft. However, unless they are blown away with an offer, they should stay at number one.
The Rams have opted not to select franchise quarterbacks in the past two drafts in favor of offensive and defensive linemen. Not to disparage the players or positions, but the Rams have remained at the bottom of the standings since then. This is the year they take a potential franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford. Did you know he's part Native American?
2. Detroit (2-14) Nndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy? That's the question the Lion's brass is likely to face early in the evening of April 22nd. It seems that either way, the Lions will add a top notch tackle to their defensive line.
Both are ranked among the best tackles in recent years, but play in slightly different fashions. McCoy is more in the Warren Sapp mold, a disruptive one gap tackle. He would be tailor made for a Cover-2 type defense that looks for pressure solely from the defensive line.
On the other hand, Suh is a two gap monster who can also get after the passer. His pass moves are seemingly less developed than McCoy's, but that could also be because of the college schemes each played in.
Keep in mind Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz coached Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee before coming to Motown, so look for the Lions to select Suh over McCoy.
3. Tampa Bay (3-13) The beneficiary of Bradford's shoulder strength and passing prowess, the Bucs fall near-blindly in McCoy. McCoy is the disruptive presence the Bucs need to regain their former swagger. Offensive tackle is also a possibility, but McCoy is simply too talented to pass up here.
4. Washington (4-12) Under new coach Mike Shanahan, are the Redskins going to select an NFL ready passer in Jimmy Clausen to take over for Jason Campbell? Or is solidifying the offensive line in the wake of Chris Samuel's injury a more pressing need?
Unless the Redskins fall in love with Clausen, look for them to take the top-rated tackle in the draft, Oklahoma State's Russell Okung. He has the footspeed and long arms to hold down the blind side for a decade. Okung is also a good run blocker.
There are second round talents available at quarterback such as Texas' Colt McCoy. Clausen, with questions about his leadership, may slide in the draft.
5. Kansas City (4-12) GM Scott Pioli has said he's not a fan of drafting safeties high in the draft, so look for Eric Berry to slide past number five. Adding a top notch offensive tackle can allow the Chiefs to slide Brandon Albert to the right side.
Oklahoma's Trent Williams can anchor the left side and protect potential franchise quarterback Matt Cassell. Shoring up the offensive line can help the Chiefs take the next step from frisky to playoff challenger.
6. Seattle (5-11) With a new coach in Pete Carroll and an aging quarterback in Matt Hasselback, the Seahawks could be a landing spot for Clausen. Clausen did play in a pro-style offense at Notre Dame and could take over under center in a year or less.
Carroll seemingly has no emotional ties to Hasselback, who has had injury problems in recent seasons, which could lead the Seahawks to pull the trigger on Clausen. Another option could be Clemson's CJ Spiller to electrify the offense.
7. Cleveland (5-11) The Browns are a tough team to handicap, as they have needs all over the roster. They don't need a left tackle, as Joe Thomas is a keeper.
Is recently acquired 31 year old Sheldon Brown really going to keep the Browns from passing on the draft's top corner back Joe Haden? I don't think so. Look for Haden to go to Cleveland. Another option is Eric Berry.
8. Oakland (5-11) Jason Paul-Pierre is a work out warrior, and we all know how Al Davis falls in love with work out warriors. In all seriousness, Paul-Pierre has out of this world athleticism and can potentially develop into a top-notch pass rusher in the pass happy AFC West.
9. Buffalo (6-10) Drafting Iowa's NFL-ready Brian Buluga could cover up last season's mistake of trading Jason Peters to the Eagles. A passing offense is only as good as it's left tackle, and (Karl Malone's son) Demetrius Bell, last season's starter, is not ready to hold down the left side yet.
10. Jacksonville (7-9) Alabama's Rolando McClain is an NFL-ready heat seeking missile who can shore up the middle of the Jaguar's defense for ten years. He has sideline to sideline speed, excellent awareness and is a sure-tackler. In short, McClain is the top linebacker in this year's draft.
11. Denver (from Chicago 7-9) Eric Berry, who slides out of the top ten in this mock draft, is the best safety in this year's class. Whether he's worth taking in the top five is up for debate. That's he's a great player is not. Denver can plug in Berry to patrol centerfield from day one. Berry is a great counter weapon to San Diego's high flying passing attack.
12. Miami (7-9) Dan Williams is perfectly built for the nose tackle position in the 3-4 defense. Short and squat (for an NFL defensive linemen, of course), Williams can hold up at the point of attack and anchor the middle of the Dolphin's defense. A 3-4 defense cannot succeed without a great anchor. Jason Ferguson, last year's starter, is 35 and is suspended for half of 2010. Taking Tennessee's Williams can keep the Dolphins defense in attack mode.
13. San Francisco (8-8) CJ Spiller out of Clemson is a homerun threat. The 49ers need a top notch back to pair with Frank Gore. Gore has had multiple major knee injuries and is not a speed merchant by any stretch. Glen Coffee is a solid player, but, like Gore, is not going to run away from many defenses.
Mike Singeltary's team will run the ball and play defense. Sadly, so will any NFL team quarterbacked by Alex Smith if it has any chance to make the playoffs. Spiller and Gore can play much like Carolina's Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. That is, not so much compliments but partners in the running game.
14. Seattle (from Denver 8-8) Bruce Campbell could be the heir apparent to All-World tackle Walter Jones. Campbell is athletic but raw. Learning for a year under Jones could greatly benefit him and the Seahawks, as could playing inside for a year before taking over on the left side.
15. New York Giants (8-8) Derrick Morgan, out of Georgia Tech, could be the next in a long line of superior Giant pass rushers. Considering New York won the Super Bowl with a dominant defensive line so recently, adding talent to the defensive line is a surprising need. The team never recovered from Michael Strahan's retirement and Osi Umenyora is not the same without Strahan on the other side.
16. Tennessee (8-8) Texas' Earl Thomas could be the top safety in this class. He has the ability to play cornerback and the range to play safety. Not only that, but he's a sure tackler and a monster close to the line. Sure, he's a bit under sized, but it hasn't held him back yet. Look for Thomas to join th growing Longhorn contingency in Nashville.
17. San Francisco (from Carolina 8-8) Sergio Kindle has the potential to be a dominant 3-4 rush linebacker. He has an uncanny ability to get to the quarterback, has the speed to get around offensive lineman and also has the strength to go through them. Simply put, he's the top 3-4 outside linebacker in the 2010 class. And we all know he can hit. Just ask Taylor Potts .
18. Pittsburgh (9-7) The Steelers want to get back to Pittsburgh football, and that means running the ball and playing solid defense. Adding Idaho's Mike Iupati to the mix will allow the Steelers to pound the ball behind an improved offensive line. Iupati can play at right tackle or at either guard spot.
19. Atlanta (9-7) Matt Ryan is an emerging quarterback. He has a few weapons in Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, but adding an undeniable talent (and possible headcase) Dez Bryant can allow the Falcon offense to take the next step. In my opinion, Bryant is supremely talented yet remains a risky pick. Sure, he's never been in trouble with the law, but he's been in plenty of hot water with the NCAA. He could be something like this season's Randy Moss, a talented player who slips because of off-the-field concerns.
20. Houston (9-7) The Texans are a team on the rise, after making incremental steps in each of the past three seasons. The talent is there, undoubtedly. The playoffs must be the next step for Gary Kubiak to keep his job.
The Texans need a top flight corner back. This is perhaps the biggest need facing the team. Boise State's Kyle Wilson is a top flight cornerback. He has the quickness and speed to play on the outside and the long arms to deflect passes. For a team that has only defeated the Colts once in its history, adding a cover corner is simply a must.
21. Cincinnati (10-6) Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham is an interesting prospect. Before his injury plagued 2009 season, Gresham was simply uncoverable. He's too big for defensive backs and too fast for linebackers. Adding him to the mix in the Queen City will allow Carson Palmer and the Bengals to reach the playoffs once again with a potent passing attack.
22. New England (10-6) Michigan's Brandon Graham is in the mold of Lamaar Woodley, a shorter defensive end who has the potential to develop into a fierce outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. New England is a team in need of pass rushers who fit their system, and this looks like a dream match up. New England can continue its defensive youth movement and still aim for the playoffs in the second half of Tom Brady's career by adding Graham.
23. Green Bay (11-5) Taylor Mays, out of USC, is slipping on some draft boards. Sure, he's fast and hits like a truck, but there are some concerns. His quickness is average, as is his football IQ. He disappeared on last season's USC defense. Nonetheless, he has the physical ability to develop into a great safety. Whether he turns into Roy Williams or Troy Polamalu is up to him.
The Packers can afford to take a chance on Mays turning into a star. Another option, however, is to select an offensive tackle such as Anthony Davis, to groom behind their aging tackles.
24. Philadelphia (11-5) Eagles' coach Andy Reid frequently selects offensive and defensive linemen in the first round of the draft. Seemingly, he follows Bill Parcell' "Planet Theory." The Theory said that there are only so many athletes who can move around and play football at 300 pounds on the planet. If you can find one, sign him.
Point being, the Eagles are likely to draft a linemen of some sorts in the opening round of 2010. UCLA's Brian Price, a defensive tackle, would look good in a Philadelphia uniform. USC's Everson Griffin, while not 300 pounds, is a rock solid defensive end and would help the Eagles next season and beyond.
25. Baltimore (9-7) Baltimore could add a player to its front seven on defense, or could add a skill position player to help Joe Flacco. You know that with Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens are likely to add a great player in the first round of the draft. Jared Odrick out of Penn State would be a good addition to the Raven's 3-4 defensive line. Pairing him with Haloti Ngata would be a fearsome wall in front of ageless Ray Lewis.
26. Arizona (10-6) Jerry Hughes played defensive end at TCU, but has the quickness and speed to play as an outside linebacker in Arizona's attacking defense. Adding a linebacker after losing Karlos Dansby is a must. Another option in the first round, however, is a corner back such as Devin McCourtey out of Rutgers.
27. Dallas (11-5) Having just parted ways with longtime standout Flozell Adams, the Cowboys are in the market for a offensive tackle such as Anthony Davis. Is Doug Free, last year's top backup, the long term answer? Or does adding a monster like Davis rank high on Jerry Jones' wish list? I'd bet on Davis becoming a Cowboy.
28. San Diego (13-3) Ryan Mathews out of Fresno State is one of the premier backs in this year's class. San Diego, having just parted with living legend LaDanian Tomlinson, is in need of a top notch runner. Fears that Darren Sproles is not an every day back seem justified because of his size. Adding Mathews to the mix would allow the Charger's offense to keep on humming.
29. New York Jets (9-7) Does Rex Ryan roll the dice on mammoth nose guard Terrence Cody? Kris Jenkins was injured last season and the defense took a bit of a turn for the worse without him. In a strong locker room, can Cody maintain a playing weight that allows him to be on the field for more than a few plays at a time. There are no real holes on this Jet defense, so taking a chance on Cody is not unreasonable. The Jets could also look to add a wide receiver such as Arrelious Benn out of Illinois.
+ 30. Minnesota (12-4) Devin McCourtey is one of the best corner backs in this draft class and adding him would allow the Vikings to add depth behind Antoine|
31. Indianapolis (14-2) Florida's Maurkice Pouncey is an intelligent and tough player. He can play guard for a few seasons until center Jeff Saturday retires. Pouncey has the smarts to play center for the Colts and call out the protections, as well as adjust to Peyton Manning's histrionics and audibles.
32. New Orleans (13-3) Everson Griffin out of USC would be an excellent addition to the Super Bowl champion Saints. He could be part of the end rotation as a rookie and play on passing downs before taking over full time in 2011. He has the size to play against the run and the speed to get to the passer.