The NFL Draft airs its first round in prime time for the first time this Thursday on ESPN, and by now, every analyst and fan is trying to predict how things will turn out.
However, the draft is about more than just drafting the most hyped player or the player analysts think is the best on the board. It’s about knowing the value of your picks and knowing which positions you need to improve the most.
As a result, this is my take on the mock draft. In each slide, I’ll be listing both what I think is the smartest move for each team along with what will most likely happen with each pick. Enjoy and don’t hesitate to leave feedback of what you’d do differently.
The Rams were awful last season, and hence have a lot of holes to fill. The only productive player they had on offense was Steven Jackson, who still managed to rush for over 1400 yards last season, but only crossed the goal line on the ground four times.
Donnie Avery wasn’t bad at wide receiver, catching five touchdowns, but he doesn’t look like a legitimate No. 1 receiver to me. Bulger, Boller, and Null were all pretty terrible at quarterback, and combined to be sacked 44 times.
The defense wasn’t great either, but when you barely average 11 points per game, I think the offense becomes your top priority. The Rams will probably take quarterback Sam Bradford first overall, but I think it would be a mistake.
If they draft Bradford, they’re taking a big risk by drafting a quarterback recovering from surgery on his throwing shoulder. Not only that, but he’ll likely be thrown right into the fire from day one and history tells us that doesn’t normally work out well (see Joey Harrington).
If it was my call, I would try to trade down to get a pick between fourth and eighth overall. I don’t think it’s a strong quarterback class, and this team needs a lot of work.
If they’re still this bad next year, they’ll have the opportunity to draft Jake Locker from Washington, who looks like a much stronger pro prospect.
Trading down enables them to get a few more picks later in the draft, and still allows them to draft a solid offensive lineman to help protect which quarterback takes over the starting job from the recently-released Bulger. Trade down and take Russell Okung.
I really like the improvements Detroit made over the previous season. Burleson is a solid free agent signing at wide receiver. Stafford looks like he could be the real deal at quarterback, and with a monster like Calvin Johnson to throw to, I don’t think their offense is in such bad shape.
I also love the addition of Kyle Vanden Bosch via free agency. He brings some much-needed experience and veteran leadership to a bad defense, and can help anchor the defensive line.
For this pick, I agree 100 percent with the analysts: the answer is defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. If you can build a strong defensive line, you can both stop the run and pressure the quarterback; the latter of which is a specialty of Suh.
While the offensive line needs a little bit of help on the blind side, I think it’s too hard to pass up on a force like Suh. If he’s there, they have to take him.
I think Tampa is in worse shape than any other team in the draft. Their defense is getting older, they don’t have a solid running back or wide receiver, and I don’t see any potential in Josh Freeman. This team is in dire need of a playmaker.
I still don’t think this is the right fit for Bradford, and I don’t believe there’s a good enough running back or receiver to merit a pick this high. That just leaves defense, and when I think defensive playmakers, I think Eric Berry.
As guys like Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed have proven, a great safety can be a defensive playmaker and can not only shift momentum in a game, but are capable of scoring as well.
A lot of teams think it’s too risky to take a safety this early, but Berry looks ready. The team is probably considering Gerald McCoy more, but without anyone else on the defensive line able to draw some pressure away, the pick doesn’t make sense to me.
Berry, on the other hand, as a safety, has the entire secondary at his disposal, and if he makes smart enough reads, can easily disrupt an opponent’s passing game. He could make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time.
The acquisition of Donovan McNabb has drastically altered the Redskins’ draft plan. No longer needing a quarterback, Sam Bradford should be out of the picture as far as Washington is concerned.
The transition to a 3-4 defense has shaken things up, especially since Albert Haynesworth has said he doesn’t want to play nose tackle. He could still be moved at some point (possibly with a few other draft picks) for another first-round pick this year, which would give the Redskins the picks to draft both an offensive and defensive lineman.
But since his contract may be difficult to move (even in an uncapped year), the smartest decision would be an offensive lineman. Since Chris Samuels retired, there is a hole at left tackle, and that’s a more pressing matter.
Every defense in the NFC East fiercely pursues the quarterback, and McNabb needs someone to help protect his blind side if the Redskins are going to have a chance at keeping their offense productive.
As a result, I agree with analysts that the only pick that makes sense here is to take Trent Williams from Oklahoma. Anchor the offensive line and protect your quarterback.
The Chiefs could have a few interesting options at this point. With the hiring of Charlie Weiss and Romeo Crennel, this won’t resemble in any way the team put on the field last season.
This team is quickly rebuilding, and within a few years could challenge teams like Denver and San Diego for the AFC West.
If Eric Berry is still available, the Chiefs would snatch him up without much thought. That’s what the analysts seem to expect. If he’s gone, however, adding some help to the offensive line to protect Cassel and opening more lanes for breakout running back Jamaal Charles would make just as much sense.
Bryan Bulaga is a massive offensive lineman and the Chiefs’ coaching staff reportedly likes his character. I don’t see why they wouldn’t take him with the fifth overall pick.
Again, this is a team in bad shape. Their receiving corps isn’t great even with last year’s addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and the offensive and defensive lines could both use some help.
There’s also talk of taking another running back at some point in the draft to supplement Forsett, but none of those are the right pick at this point.
This is the time to draft Sam Bradford.
It’s the perfect situation. Hasselbeck is an aging quarterback that still has enough left in the tank to mentor a replacement, and it allows Bradford more time to make sure his shoulder is 100 percent before being thrown right in and expected to win games. It also gives him more options to throw to, with the solid Houshmandzadeh and the extremely talented John Carlson.
Bradford could take the Aaron Rodgers route if he’s drafted by Seattle and spend his first two or three years learning the pro game. If he really has as much potential as people think, that’s the most responsible thing you could do with him.
Seattle has another pick at 14, so they can fill another one of those needs later in the round.
I’m on the fence about the Browns. On one hand, I like Mike Holmgren’s taking over the team as GM since he has previous success building teams.
On the other, Mangini may have been a fluke coach in his first year with the Jets, and the signings of Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace don’t inspire confidence at quarterback.
However, Josh Cribbs is an offensive and special teams playmaker, and Jamal Lewis is still a pretty decent running back, so there are some good players on offense to work with. The Browns desperately need help on the defensive end, especially in the secondary.
As far as my picks go, Gerald McCoy would still be available, and if he’s still around this late, analysts would tell you he’s a steal and you should take him because he’s the best player still on the board.
Personally, I don’t care if you’re the best on the board if it’s not a top-three team need, so I would pass on McCoy at this point.
Safety Earl Thomas from Texas would be a smart pick at this point. It’s a good year for safeties at the top of the draft, and while he doesn’t have great size like the next best safety (Taylor Mays) does, he has great speed and can break up passes at will. And since your safeties are your last line of defense, I’d say that’s a good combination of abilities and he could become the anchor for Cleveland’s secondary in a short time.
Let’s all point and laugh for a second to get it out of our systems. I’ll wait. Feel better now? Good, then let’s address the many needs of an NFL franchise that isn’t getting any better.
It looks like Al Davis is finally realizing what a big bust JaMarcus Russell is, but a quarterback wouldn’t be a wise decision here. Oakland has many more holes to fill first, so cross Jimmy Clausen off the list. He doesn’t fit here.
Louis Murphy showed signs of life last year, and arguably played with more heart than any other player on the Raiders. I won’t be able to forget the highlight of him fighting a defensive player off, dragging himself across the goal line to get a touchdown.
Davis is easily the biggest problem in Oakland. Everyone knows his knack for drafting the fastest players he can find. But since he owns the team, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
I think this is the right place for Gerald McCoy. He could complement Richard Seymour well and bring some credibility to the defensive line. And you never know how things will work out. Clausen might still be around by the Raiders’ next pick at 39.
Most people will tell you the Bills need a quarterback first and foremost. Considering how dominant Marshawn Lynch can be when he stays out of trouble, I disagree with that.
Honestly, Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick aren’t terrible quarterbacks. I think they can afford to wait until the third or fourth round before taking a signal-caller.
The Jets and Dolphins have made drastic improvements this off-season, and the Patriots haven’t got any worse. As is the case with the NFC East, the only way to stay competitive in the AFC East is a strong defense. Analysts project the need to take an offensive tackle, but I already have three gone by this point in my mock draft.
The defensive line could use some work, and considering Chan Gailey is the new head coach, I can see them drafting Derrick Morgan at defensive end. Gailey coached him at Georgia Tech and an effective pass rusher to put pressure on Brady, Henne, and Sanchez would make a great addition to Buffalo’s defense.
Signing Aaron Kampman at defensive end this offseason should turn out to be a great move. The Jaguars underachieved last season, so they need to fill a major need with a can’t-miss player. Easier said than done, right?
Luckily, at the tenth pick, the Jaguars are in a great position. They need a quarterback, but hometown hero Tim Tebow likely won’t be in the running until the second or third round.
Adding someone to help Kampman on the defensive line would be a priority as well, but by the tenth pick, the best defensive tackles are already gone.
At this point, a great linebacker seems like the smartest move, and Rolando McClain from Alabama is still on the board. He dominated in the SEC last season, and I think he could fit in well as a run-stopper for the Jaguars.
Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton are solid running backs in the division, as is Joseph Addai when he’s healthy. If the Jaguars take McClain, he could be the most effective solution for stopping the run.
This one is really a no-brainer. The Broncos traded away Brandon Marshall, so they don’t have a legitimate No. 1 receiver for Kyle Orton/Brady Quinn to throw to. The solution? Dez Bryant.
Bryant is easily the best receiver in the draft, and I don’t see any team in the top 10 needing a receiver badly enough to snatch him up before Denver gets the chance. In spite of not playing last year due to a NCAA ruling, Bryant shouldn’t have missed a step.
Analysts see linebacker as the biggest team need, but with no No. 1 receiver and no legitimate star at running back, the Broncos desperately need an offensive playmaker. If they don’t take Dez Bryant, expect a fair amount of boos and backlash from their fans.
By adding Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins have made huge improvements this season by adding a legitimate playmaking linebacker and wide receiver. This is a team that almost made the playoffs last season, and having a pick this early is more of a luxury than anything else.
The defense could always use a boost, and that’s likely the direction that will be taken with this pick. Jason Ferguson is an aging defensive tackle, and will miss half of this season because of a league suspension.
Dan Williams from Tennessee might be a good fit. At 6’2’’ and 327 pounds, Williams has elite size for a defensive tackle and his 40 time isn’t bad either. He could easily become the nose tackle of the future in Miami.
ESPN has quarterback listed as the 49ers’ biggest team need, but I completely disagree. Alex Smith finally showed potential last season, and I don’t think they’re ready to give up on him yet.
There’s also talk of drafting a running back, but with Frank Gore rushing for over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, I don’t see any problems there.
Consider also that Mike Singletary is a defensive-minded coach, and I expect this pick, their first of two in the first round, to be used for an outside linebacker.
Brandon Graham from Michigan makes sense. Scouts say he would be a great pass rusher in a 3-4 system, much like that of the 49ers. For an improving defense, Graham should be able to fit in well and be a dangerous pairing with Patrick Willis. If the Dolphins don’t take him first, the 49ers have to.
This team desperately needs an offensive line. John Carlson is the only decent blocker they have, and they need him to be able to make plays as a tight end.
A lot of people think they need a running back, and that CJ Spiller would be a smart pick here, but he wouldn’t be able to go anywhere if there aren’t players to open the holes first.
Also, you can get a solid running back late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent. It shouldn’t be top priority for the Seahawks. The defense could use some work, but I think they can start addressing those needs with their second round pick.
Back to the offensive line. The Seahawks have three options at this point. They could take a tackle (Anthony Davis), a guard (Mike Iupati), or a center (Maurkice Pouncey). Iupati and Pouncey are ranked as the best player at their respective positions, and either player would be a reasonable pick.
I think guards are a bigger commodity in the league, especially ones with a 6’5’’, 331 pound frame. Iupati should be the logical choice.
The Giants could potentially be in a lot of trouble. Brandon Jacobs was miserable last year, and Ahmad Bradshaw wasn’t any better. Running back will certainly be a need to fill, but the defensive front seven should be top priority.
Umenyiora and Kiwanuka are good defensive ends, so I would turn attention to the linebackers. Rolando McClain won’t last this long, so the next best option is Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle.
His speed and agility make him a threat to both quarterbacks and running backs, and in a tough division like the NFC East, your defensive players need to be well-rounded.
A lot of analysts think they’ll go with an offensive lineman, but an outside linebacker will help the most at this point, and Kindle is the best available at this point. He could contribute right away.
Defense is the biggest need for Tennessee, having lost Kyle Vanden Bosch. Jason Pierre-Paul could be a steal at this point for a team in need of a defensive end.
At 6’4’’ and 270 pounds, he has great size. Also impressive is his 4.64 40 time at the NFL combine. He’s best used as a pass rusher, and will have to rely more on his speed than strength, only having average strength.
He doesn’t have character issues, so Jeff Fisher should be able to coach him well enough. With some dedication to strength training and patience, he could be a solid defensive end for years to come.
Having solved a defensive need with Brandon Graham with an earlier pick, the 49ers can now focus on adding some support on the offensive line. ESPN expects SF to draft a right tackle, and Anthony Davis has great size. But I don’t think he’s the right pick here.
Maurkice Pouncey is a Rimington winner as college football’s best center, and has experience at the guard position while at Florida as well.
He has great size at 6’5’’, and the ability to play multiple positions makes him a smarter pick than Davis, who has character issues and a difficulty maintaining weight.
Pouncey has remarkable toughness as well. He played in the Sugar Bowl back in January just hours after suffering from kidneystones and receiving four bags of IV fluids. He’s also great with pass rushing out of the shotgun, which makes him an attractive option for the 49ers. He’s more well-rounded than Davis, and more dedicated.
If things go like I expect, the Steelers will have a difficult time making a decision between two players at this pick. They need to add some secondary help, and Joe Haden would be a great addition.
At the same time, Willie Parker is no longer around, so running back help in the form of CJ Spiller to complement Rashard Mendenhall is another option.
Ultimately, in spite of the great playmaking ability of Spiller, I think Haden is too good to pass up at this pick. The Steelers are a more defensive-minded team, and in addition to being great in the secondary, Haden is also quick to read the offense and pressure the run as well.
Haden is the right pick for the Steelers here. He fits their team-first mentality and is a great defensive threat. Not to mention there are plenty of other solid running backs available later in the draft. The Steelers could possibly draft Toby Gerhart to add some power to Mendenhall’s speed.
Atlanta doesn’t have too many needs. They improved their secondary in free agency this year, and can focus on the defensive front seven or the offensive line.
Mike Smith is a patient coach, and I think he could handle Anthony Davis at this pick. Because of his size and strength, there’s talk that Davis could be moved to guard, which sounds like a good career move. He’s also a great run blocker, which could give some great support to Michael Turner.
Analysts think Jerry Hughes, the linebacker from TCU, would be the likely choice here, but I think Davis is the better pick. His size alone will ensure he doesn’t drop any further.
This team is finally taking steps in the right direction after achieving their first winning record last season.
With Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, the Texans have the passing game under control, and Steve Slaton works well as a pass catcher out of the backfield. But his fumble issues got him benched last season in favor of Ryan Moats, and that’s enough cause for concern to look at CJ Spiller.
Analysts think the Texans will go defensive with the first pick, looking for help on the defensive line to stop the Jaguars and Titans from running, or a cornerback to try and stop Peyton Manning. I just don’t think Kareem Jackson, Kyle Wilson, Jared Odrick, or Everson Griffen is good enough to merit passing on Spiller.
Spiller has elite speed and can hold his own up the middle, able to shake off tackles well for a player of his size. His breakaway speed is great for attempts to the outside, and he doesn’t have character issues. Spiller can bring balance to the Texans offense if given the chance.
There’s talk of drafting Taylor Mays to give the secondary a much-needed upgrade, but I think it’s still far too soon for that. The defensive line has issues too, as does the tight end position, which I think will be filled with this first round pick.
The defensive line needs some work, but I think the better linemen will have already been selected. The Bengals can fill that need in the second round.
Jermaine Gresham is a balanced tight end, dominant as a blocker and a great route runner as well as having the vertical jump ability to make some great catches in traffic. Carson Palmer could use a great tight end to throw to, and Gresham should be that player.
I still don’t really understand last year’s trade of Richard Seymour, and New England needs to find a replacement defensive end soon. They’ll probably take Everson Griffen from USC, but I honestly don’t like that move considering CBS Sports’ draft analysis.
Griffen is strong in the weight room, but still gets pushed around on the line. He doesn’t put forth consistent effort, and has problems off the field. He even has a hard time keeping his eye on the football.
It doesn’t sound like there’s any good reason to draft this guy to me. He sounds like a good college player that will be a bust in the NFL.
Instead, I think Jared Odrick is the better move. He’s fast, agile, and overpowering at the defensive tackle position. He’s got perfect size, and has equal skill at both rushing the pass and stopping the run. He could become a prototype 3-4 nose tackle for the Patriots.
Green Bay loves to build through the draft, and the defense is top priority. Aaron Rodgers has the offense dominating, but seeing how the new 3-4 defense played against Arizona in the playoffs sends up red flags. They could use another outside linebacker to complement Clay Matthews, as well as a young corner to eventually replace Al Harris.
For the Packers, I like Jerry Hughes from TCU. He’s got solid speed, running a 4.65 40-yard dash, and excellent strength, having 26 reps at 225 pounds. The strength of a 3-4 is the play of the outside linebackers, and Hughes seems like a good fit.
He has great work ethic, he’s well-liked by his teammates, and his ferocity is unmatched. Even if he can’t make the sack, he’ll still try to strip the ball even when double teamed. In a division with young quarterbacks still trying to find their footing, Hughes could become an absolute nightmare.
The Eagles no longer have to worry about wide receivers with the emergence of DeSean Jackson last season.
In spite of trading McNabb, they don’t have to worry about quarterback either, having Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick on the roster. Even releasing Brian Westbrook doesn’t hurt them since LeSean McCoy did so well last year.
This should be a heavily defensive draft for Philadelphia. Most analysts are projecting an offensive lineman as their first round pick, but the defense needs the boost more. Linebacker, safety, and defensive line are big needs at the moment, and I like Daryl Washington from TCU at this pick.
He recovers quickly when he makes mistakes, his speed is an asset, and is great at blitzing inside. While not quite as good as Jerry Hughes, his teammate and fellow linebacker, Washington is coachable and willing to pitch in on special teams. He could be a quiet leader in a few years time.
The Ravens have greatly improved their offense by adding Anquan Boldin at wide receiver, and should be in the market to work on their defense instead.
Having lost Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards in free agency, a lot of people expect the Ravens to improve their defensive line. However, I don’t think they’ll do it in the first round.
The secondary is aging and that should be the first hole to fill, which is why I think the logical pick here is cornerback Kareem Jackson from Alabama. He has the versatility to play both bump and run and zone coverage, tackles well, and is equally aggressive as a run stopper.
His competitive spirit and character make him even more attractive to the Ravens. He spends a lot of time in the film room, and refuses to allow anything to distract him. The only drawback is his recovery speed, but with Ed Reed still around somewhere, that shouldn’t be too big of a problem.
I think the Cardinals are absolutely screwed.
First, Kurt Warner retires, leaving no real starter. Matt Leinart still acts like he’s in college with the partying, and Derek Anderson had one great season that looks like it may have been a fluke. Then free agency rears its ugly head and they lose both Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle, and end up trading Anquan Boldin.
They also forgot to pick up an offensive tackle, which is probably what they’ll end up filling with this first round pick. Rodger Saffold and Charles Brown are both experienced at left tackle, but the question is which one is the better fit.
Both tackles have problems with foot movement, and are prone to laziness while pass blocking. With run blocking, Brown isn’t great with leverage and Saffold sometimes loses his balance.
Ultimately, Saffold has better initial quickness, more of a mean streak, and isn’t afraid to take on a leadership role and fire up his teammates. He makes more sense for Arizona.
Dallas really doesn’t need too much. They just released Flozell Adams about three weeks ago, so I agree with the analysts that another left tackle should be their top priority rather than looking for a replacement linebacker for Keith Brooking.
If the Cardinals take Saffold, the Cowboys will take Charles Brown and vice versa. Brown is by no means a bad lineman, but Saffold has more upside. However, Brown has good athleticism as a converted tight end, and could be a solid asset to the Cowboys.
Having released LaDaininan Tomlinson, there is only one logical first round pick for the Chargers: running back. Fresno State’s Ryan Mathews should still be available, and I think he fits well with the Chargers.
He excels at inside running and breaking tackles, which is far different from his predecessor. Like LT, however, Mathews has great hands and can be effective as a receiver out of the backfield as well. He has great work ethic and no problems with character.
The Chargers are Philip Rivers’ team now, and Mathews could step in and be a role player. He can even pass block when necessary. A well-rounded player like this is exactly what San Diego needs to remain competitive in a changing division.
Rex Ryan has completely changed the culture of this team. In his first season, the Jets reached the AFC Championship game on the strength of his defense and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Jets brought in Antonio Cromartie and LaDainian Tomlinson as well this offseason, and are looking for a front seven defensive player.
The Jets don’t seem to be happy with Vernon Gholston, so drafting Sean Weatherspoon makes the most sense. The linebacker from Missouri has received great feedback from scouts, and would be a steal if he’s still available this late, especially since both the Falcons and Giants are reportedly interested in him.
Weatherspoon is a great blitzer, emotional leader, run defender, and pass rusher. It would even be worth the Jets to trade up to get this kid if they can.
If Rex Ryan can afford to move up a few spots like he did last year to get Mark Sanchez, this great defense is going to get even scarier.
Cornerback is the team’s No. 1 need, and I still have Kyle Wilson from Boise State on the board here. If he is, the Vikings would be out of their minds to pass him up.
A four-year starter for Boise State, Wilson is an aggressive leader on the field. Unlike corners likely to be drafted before him, he’s a pure cover corner rather than a run stopper. Wilson is an absolute ballhawk and equally dangerous as a kick or punt returner.
It just makes sense. If he’s here, the Vikings have no choice but to take him. Not many potential draft picks can read defenses and time interceptions like he can.
The Colts are another team without many draft needs, mostly on the offensive and defensive line. Experts say they need a franchise left tackle, but I have another idea.
As great as he is when he’s healthy, Bob Sanders is not a reliable safety. He gets hurt too often, playing only eight games in the last two seasons. The Colts need someone who can stay healthy and get the job done. I think Taylor Mays from USC would be a good fit.
He may not be great at intercepting the ball, but he can cover lots of ground in zone coverage and lay big hits reminiscent of Roy Williams his last few years in Dallas. He also has incredible speed when going deep, and won’t allow many catches. He might be the missing piece for another Colts Super Bowl victory in a year or two.
When you win the Super Bowl, there’s not a whole lot you have to improve on, so draft picks are normally more of a luxury than anything else. However, losing Mike Bell leaves a pretty gaping hole at the running back position, and the Saints need to find a replacement to balance with Pierre Thomas.
Jahvid Best from Cal is ranked as the best remaining running back at this point, but consistency issues have me questioning whether or not he would be a good fit. Instead, I like Dexter McCluster from Ole Miss.
Last year when Jevan Snead crumbled under pressure time and time again, it was McCluster dominating on the ground that kept Ole Miss in games.
He even threw for touchdowns when needed. They could even possibly trade down into the middle of the second round and still be able to draft him, as well as gaining a few extra picks.