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With NFL salary slotting looming, this year’s draft should be the equivalent to the NBA’s 1984 draft.
1. St. Louis: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Unless negotiations break down, the Rams will draft Sam Bradford. Bradford had an amazing Pro Day, and his added weight appears to have the Rams sold on durability he hasn’t shown in college.
2. Detroit: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Through the draft process things are revealed, or overemphasized at points by prior knowledge. Ndamukong Suh is a better player, but a healthier history makes McCoy a safer prospect.
3. Tampa Bay: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
As a prospect alone, Suh may be the closest thing we’ve seen to Warren Sapp since the standout DT was drafted by the Bucs. Suh has amazing physical ability but a short resume and a concerning injury history.
4. Washington: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
Some like Trent Williams here because he fits the old Denver zone-blocking scheme better than Okung. Alex Gibbs, the architect of that scheme, is in Seattle, and Okung has much more scheme versatility.
5. Kansas City: Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee
Another disaster scenario for Scott Pioli. He passed on Aaron Curry (and B.J. Raji, for what it’s worth) in favor of a trenchman—Tyson Jackson. He has no legitimate nose tackle, and while Williams is a reach, he’ll be productive early in his career.
6. Seattle: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
A dream scenario for Pete Carroll, who likes ball-hawking versatile safeties. Berry can do almost anything asked of him, and will improve the Seahawks secondary immediately and considerably.
7. Cleveland: Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Proponents of the 40-time won’t love Haden, but he’s the best corner available. Mike Holmgren will pass on Jimmy Clausen and any tackles because he has been successful finding players at both positions in later rounds.
8. Oakland: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE/34OLB, South Florida
Pierre-Paul is an amazing athlete with a short resume and questionable maturity. None of the latter two player a role in Raiders scouting, at least apparently, but the former is very important.
9. Buffalo: Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
I am not in love with Clausen’s skills, and I predict that his transition from college to the pros, despite playing in a pro-style offense, will be harder than expected. But the Bills need a franchise player, and Clausen is safe and plays an important position.
10. Jacksonville: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
The Jags need Tim Tebow in their uniform, but he’d be an awful pick here. Morgan is a solid talent, and while he’ll never be in the class of Julius Peppers or Mario Williams in terms of pure athleticism, he has the skills and size to play all downs.
11. Denver – from Chicago: Rolando McLain, ILB, Alabama
Denver has needed linebacker help for what seems like the better part of a decade. They’ve built their defense around solid athletes and versatility, but Andra Davis is gone. McLain fits those needs.
12. Miami: Brian Bulaga, OT/OG, Iowa
The Dolphins aren’t hurting for a tackle, having drafted Jake Long first overall a few years ago, but they could use depth. Bulaga is slated as a tackle presently, but much like Robert Gallery, he may be more guard, or at least a right tackle.
13. San Francisco: Taylor Mays, S, USC
Mike Singletary clearly puts a lot of stock into player attitude, but seems comfortable coaching players up. Mays was a leader on the 2009 USC team, but needs coaching to become an elite safety, one thing that can’t be coached, though, is athleticism.
14. Seattle – from Denver: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
There is a lot of hype around Williams right now. He’s the more polished of the two workout warriors from the combine (Bruce Campbell is the other). He lacks a nasty streak though, and doesn’t fit every scheme, so he will probably slide.
15. New York Giants: Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia
The Giants need a middle linebacker like nobody’s business, especially now that Antonio Pierce is gone, but there isn’t a good value here. Atkins is athletic, and may be able to play end on run downs, and he has been a monster this offseason.
16. Tennessee: Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas
The Titans are well known for drafting guys with great measurables, and in terms of long speed and explosiveness, Kindle fits the bill. The Titans also need help on their defensive line and linebacking corps, and Kindle can help in both places.
17. San Francisco – from Carolina: Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
Iupati is a relentless run blocker, and Mike Singletary wants to move closer to a ball-control, run-first offense. Iupati can play tackle if necessary, but in a run-heavy offense, he’d excel at guard.
18. Pittsburgh: Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland
Campbell is a workout warrior who needs a ton of refinement to be an effective NFL tackle. Most of the other positions the Steelers draft in the first round (offensive skill positions, defensive line) they are pretty solid at, but need tackle help.
19. Atlanta: Everson Griffen, DE, USC
Carlos Dunlap has a much higher ceiling, but the Falcons are sensitive about off-the-field issues, and Dunlap has plenty of them. Some question Griffen’s consistent effort, but he’s a non-criminal gifted athlete.
20. Houston: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Wilson has gained a lot of momentum as a first -ound pick. Houston needs corner help after losing Dunta Robinson (but were wise not to sign Robinson to huge money).
21. Cincinnati: Earl Thomas, DB, Texas
The Bengals have been quick to draft defense in the past half decade, using four straight first-rounders on defense until last year, when they drafted Andre Smith. Thomas is a versatile player, and the Bengals need help at DB.
22. New England: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
Spiller is an elite level athlete, but his diminutive stature makes him less valuable, and running back positional value has been on a decline recently. New England needs a spark in their running game, and Spiller will complement Laurence Maroney well.
23. Green Bay: Charles Brown, OT, USC
The Packers have needed help for a long time on their offensive line. Brown is a solid fit for any West Coast offense, and fits the Packers model for athletic offensive linemen.
24. Philadelphia: Jerry Hughes, OLB, TCU
A lot of people seem to write Hughes off as a 3-4 OLB only. In a blitz heavy 4-3, Hughes can excel in the pass rush, and in run support, and with coaching is athletic enough to cover most tight ends. He can also play end.
25. Baltimore: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
I’m not in love with Dez Bryant as a person (evidenced by his meteoric fall), but Joe Flacco lacks a consistent target he can grow with. Bryant isn’t an eye-popping athlete, but he works hard to get separation.
26. Arizona: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
The Cardinals will have questions at quarterback this year, but whoever ultimately gets the job (I predict Derek Anderson, who I think is a fantastic fit in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense) will need a safety valve at tight end.
27. Dallas: Carlos Dunlap, DE/34OLB, Florida
The Cowboys are unafraid of drafting players with off-field issues. Dunlap is somewhat akin to Greg Ellis, in that he’s probably big enough to play 3-4 DE, but is athletic enough to play rush linebacker, and will intrigue Jerry Jones.
28. San Diego: Terrence Cody, NT, Alabama
After releasing Jamal Williams, perhaps expecting an equally experienced nose tackle to end up on the market, the Chargers have left themselves with little choice. Cody is the only first-round worthy nose tackle left.
29. New York Jets: Jared Odrick, 34DE, Penn State
The Jets need to improve their pass rush, and secondary play, both may be accomplished by building up the trenches. There will be rush linebackers available throughout the draft.
30. Minnesota: Brian Price, DT, UCLA
It’s possible that Pat and Kevin Williams will be suspended for the first four games of next year. Regardless, Pat is 37 years old, and Price would be a nice replacement in the long term.
31. Indianapolis: Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan
The paradigm for pass rushers, typically tall and large for leverage purposes, is something the Colts care very little about. Graham adds depth behind Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, and may make Raheem Brock expendable.
32. New Orleans: Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri
“Spoon” deserves to be drafted higher. But this year’s draft class is really good, and with so much scheme conversion in the NFL, 4-3 OLB’s positional value is at an all -ime low. The Saints luck out, and Weatherspoon finds a good home.