Holding the top pick in Thursday's first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams are on the clock—for now.
Trade rumors abound, as is the case every April as the draft draws nearer. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, and Miami Dolphins are a few of several teams reportedly looking to move down in the first round.
This year, most of them should find a partner. The unsteady draft stock of potential elite players such as wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back C.J. Spiller, and quarterback Jimmy Clausen could pique the interest of teams slotted below the typical range for such talents.
With these potential moves in mind, this mock draft is a departure from the typical "pick where you're slotted" thought exercises churned out by sports news outlets this time of year. The NFL's rookie class of 2010 is jam-packed with talent, from an abundance of elite prospects to a strong "middle class."
Simply put, there are plenty of targets for a trade up and plenty of reasons to value later picks in a trade down. This first round could get crazy.
(As early as the Rams' pick, in fact...)
Let the madness begin.
Cleveland GM Tom Heckert recently acknowledged that the Browns have contacted the St. Louis Rams to discuss trading for the first overall pick. Team president Mike Holmgren described the price involved in moving up from pick seven as steep enough that "you'd have to mortgage the ranch."
With ten picks in this year's draft, including three third-rounders, Cleveland's pockets might be deep enough. If Holmgren, Heckert, and head coach Eric Mangini are willing to part with next year's first-rounder, a deal could be done.
New regimes generally mean new quarterbacks, and there's little doubt that the Browns have their eyes on this year's consensus best.
Last year, the Lions drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford first overall, signing him to a record-breaking contract with over $41 million in guarantees to be the cornerstone of their franchise.
Problem was, they left him to be battered behind their inept offensive line. Detroit gave up 43 sacks, landing Stafford on injured reserve in December.
Stafford's injury happened on a hail-mary pass, but poor blindside protection by tackle Jeff Backus did little to stop the punishment in the rookie's 10 starts. Publicly, the Lions have expressed confidence in Backus as a starting offensive lineman.
Realistically, they need to move him to a position with less disastrous consequences for poor pass blocking. As this draft's premier pass protector, Okung would provide an athletic presence at left tackle in Week 1.
For those clinging desperately to media draft experts' value boards, this pick would be a shocker with defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy still available.
Tampa Bay owner Malcolm Glazer, however, has a different point of view. With his finances divided between the NFL and England's Manchester United—a club facing growing debt—the last thing Glazer will want is to pay top dollar to a player who won't sell tickets for him.
Joel Glazer, his son and Tampa Bay's executive vice president, recently dismissed the possibility of picking a top offensive lineman due to lack of fan appeal.
But Bryant, an electric talent whose 1.50-second 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash at his pro day would have been tops at the NFL Combine, would fill the void at receiver left by departed free agent Antonio Bryant and increase the Bucs' entertainment value, win or lose.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has given the keys to his franchise to new head coach Mike Shanahan, who seems determined to implement a hybrid 3-4 defense in Washington.
Veterans Andre Carter and Rocky McIntosh are reportedly on the trading block, former first-round safety LaRon Landry is bulking up to 240 pounds for his new role closer to the line of scrimmage, and pricey 2009 free agent Albert Haynesworth is learning multiple new positions on the defensive front.
The Redskins would do well to improve their pass protection for newly acquired quarterback Donovan McNabb with this pick, but Suh's potential as an all-purpose lineman in a defense utilizing both three- and four-man fronts is too tempting to pass up.
With experience in Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini's "read and react" defense, Suh will be ahead of the learning curve at defensive end in the 3-4.
Reports from the Niners' early offseason team activities have suggested that 2006 first overall pick Alex Smith isn't throwing the ball as well as recent free agent acquisition David Carr—himself a former number one pick.
Members of San Francisco's brain trust have expressed tepid confidence in Smith, but his biggest source of support left with ousted GM Scot McCloughan, who presided over the Niners' 2006 draft.
In his stead, director of player personnel Trent Baalke has taken over the reins. With two first-round picks, and because head coach Mike Singletary has yet to add "his guy" at quarterback, San Francisco could well decide that the solution is to move up for a new top prospect.
The Kansas City Chiefs won't charge much, if last year's draft is any indication; GM Scott Pioli is rumored to have offered Detroit the third overall pick for less than first- and second-round compensation.
This year, as in the 2009 draft, the Seahawks end up waiting patiently as a consensus top three talent falls into their laps.
Luckily for Seattle, new head coach Pete Carroll's "elephant" defense is designed to put both McCoy and linebacker Aaron Curry to good use.
The scheme relies on strong players at defensive end and nose tackle to hold their ground face-up on blockers, freeing up the "elephant" linebacker (Curry) and the under tackle (McCoy) to take advantage of one-on-one situations.
Considering their revolving door at left tackle in the wake of former All-Pro Walter Jones' injury struggles last season, the Seahawks will consider one of this draft's top linemen at this spot.
With two first-round picks, though, they can afford to put off that need for an elite prospect like McCoy.
Though slightly miffed to have missed out on Clausen, the Rams would jump at the chance to select this draft's biggest home run hitter with one of the two first-rounders given them by Cleveland.
As consolation, St. Louis can look forward to multiple top picks in the 2011 draft, which is shaping up to be a better year for quarterbacks. A year from now, the Rams will likely have their ownership situation in order and be ready to pony up the big guaranteed money demanded by top signal-callers.
Judging from his Wonderlic score (10 out of 50) or a YouTube search for his interviews, Spiller won't be drawing any comparisons to legendary St. Louis running back Marshall Faulk as an analyst.
On the football field, though, the former Clemson track star is the ideal "lightning" to 6'2", 236 pound starter Steven Jackson's "thunder".
In the first two rounds of the 2009 draft, the Raiders made two head-scratching reaches that have mock drafters flummoxed as to which direction they'll go with the eighth pick this year.
This high—and with tackles Bryan Bulaga, Anthony Davis, Trent Williams, and even Bruce Campbell available—Iupati certainly qualifies as a surprise pick.
Working in his favor, the Raiders have one of the NFL's smallest scouting contingents. As such, most of their information comes either from coaches' visits with prospects or events such as the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.
Head coach Tom Cable, an alumnus from (and former coach at) Idaho, has described Iupati as a "terrific player" in interviews. Oakland's depth chart has a glaring hole at left tackle, and Iupati, at 6'5" and 331 pounds, is considered athletic enough to make that position switch.
In a recent question-and-answer session, new Buffalo GM Buddy Nix remarked that the Bills are looking to draft a player who can contribute immediately with the ninth pick.
Translation: Buffalo won't simply call the name of the best offensive lineman available here.
Should Bulaga be drafted before the Bills go on the clock—a distinct possibility, given his experience in Iowa's zone blocking scheme and the Seahawks' dire need at left tackle—expect Buffalo to take a long look at Tennessee's Dan Williams as the starter at nose tackle for this year's transition to a 3-4 defense.
Bulaga, though, is a top-tier prospect in the Hawkeye tradition of NFL-ready linemen and a candidate to start at either tackle spot right away.
The Eagles have reportedly been scouting this year's top safeties, holding private workouts with Berry and USC's Taylor Mays. Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been engaged in ongoing trade talks with several partners in their bid to move down and recoup a second-rounder.
Considering Philadelphia's bundle of early selections—picks 24, 37, 55, 70, and 87 in the first three rounds—this match seems made in heaven.
Berry's combination of athleticism, ball skills, and physical tackling has drawn favorable comparisons to All-Pro safeties such as Ed Reed and the late Sean Taylor.
Still, factors of positional value and team need beyond his control could cause a fall down the top 10 picks Thursday—where the Eagles, in search of an impact player for their talent-strapped secondary, would swoop in.
Looking to shore up one of the league's worst run defenses, Denver added free agent linemen Jarvis Green, Justin Bannan, and Jamal Williams this offseason.
All three have been solid starters in the 3-4 defense—Green at end for the New England Patriots, Bannan at end and on the nose as a Baltimore Raven, and Williams as an All-Pro nose tackle for the San Diego Chargers.
Still, neither Williams nor Green will be counted on to play every down, and returning veteran Vonnie Holliday's best playing days as an end are behind him.
Almost every team in the NFL with a base 3-4 defense has expressed interest in Odrick, who, like third overall pick Tyson Jackson last year, has drawn comparisons to prototype end Richard Seymour.
Regardless of his current projected draft stock, Odrick is 2010's best of a coveted type of player and will go early.
Bill Parcells, Miami's executive vice president of football operations, has an extensive history of prizing defensive end-esque size in the outside linebackers for his teams' 3-4 scheme.
From legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor, who stood 6'4" and weighed 245 pounds when Parcells' New York Giants drafted him in 1981, to 2005 first-rounder DeMarcus Ware (6'4", 260 pounds) and even former CFL star Cameron Wake (6'3", 250 pounds) who stepped up for Miami in limited playing time last season.
That the Dolphins have scouted Morgan (6'3, 265 pounds) as a potential converted defensive end, then, should be no surprise. Reportedly, the athleticism Morgan displayed in pre-draft workouts is up to Miami's standards.
Should the potential top 10 pick fall this far, he'll be tabbed to help the Dolphins replace departed veterans Joey Porter and Jason Taylor.
In 2009, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli left draft exports from every major network and news source flabbergasted when, unable to find a trade partner for the third overall pick, he chose defensive lineman Tyson Jackson to key the Chiefs' transition to a 3-4 defense.
This year, holding a slightly cheaper pick in another two-quarterback draft, he shouldn't have trouble finding a partner for a move down.
Kansas City might be tempted here by Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams at this spot, a fast-rising standout in the Volunteers' version of the "Tampa-2" defense who could fill a need at nose tackle.
As a fit for the linebacker-needy Chiefs, though, McClain is nearly perfect. His lack of top-end speed for the position is offset both by the smaller range inside in the 3-4 and by his exceptional instincts and unmatched tenacity in coverage and run defense.
As Seattle's new head coach, Pete Carroll hasn't shied away from players he coached while leading USC to elite status in college football. Former 10th overall pick Mike Williams—one of the Detroit Lions' many failed first-round picks spent at the wide receiver position—has emerged from the depths of ignominy to rejoin his college coach with the Seahawks.
If Carroll is willing to bring in a 26-year-old receiver who once ate his way to 270 pounds and out of the NFL, don't bet against him valuing the Trojan he once described as a "big-time left tackle" over Oklahoma's Trent Williams, the consensus best available here.
Offensive line coach Alex Gibbs was recruited to Seattle by Carroll for his past success in coaching a unique brand of zone blocking scheme. In notes leaked over the Internet, Gibbs has been quoted as prizing athleticism above all in his tackles.
Brown, a converted tight end, certainly isn't lacking in that respect.
The Giants made two big investments in the middle of their defensive line before the 2009 season, signing free agents Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty to take over a position muddled by an inconsistent rotation.
Unfortunately for New York, neither player panned out as expected, combining for 1.5 sacks and 33 stops and merely fitting into the team's preexisting mess at defensive tackle.
General manager Jerry Reese, interestingly, has commented that, instead of using the 15th overall pick to address an area of need, he'd like it to create training camp competition.
Williams' college production skyrocketed in former NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's scheme. By throwing him into the mix, Reese could create a dog-eat-dog situation on his depth chart among last year's underachievers.
As one of the NFL's more-talented teams on paper, the Titans' mercurial 8-8 campaign in 2009 was mystifying to anyone who didn't witness the sad-sack collection of replacement level talent in their secondary first hand.
After sinking so low as to allow over 300 yards to the Jacksonville Jaguars' mediocre passing attack in an October loss, Tennessee's need for more options at defensive back behind former All-Pro Cortland Finnegan is glaring.
Coincidentally—and to the dismay of their AFC South divisional rivals—this draft's first 15 picks involve a combination of team needs and valuable talent that could drop the consensus best cover corner into the Titans' laps.
Tennessee's biggest area of need is arguably at defensive end, but position coach Jim Washburn has been known to do more with less. Pairing Haden with Finnegan would turn the Titans' 31st-ranked pass defense into a promising unit.
Having traded up to land Clausen, the quarterback the Niners hope will kick their talent-laden offense into overdrive, this pick might seem better used to shore up any of several weak points in San Francisco's defense.
The team's second priority after securing a franchise signal-caller, though, should be to upgrade his protection. Incumbent starter Adam Snyder graded out as one of the NFL's worst starting tackles in pass protection, allowing a reported 9.5 sacks.
Left tackle Joe Staley, one of San Francisco's two first-rounders in 2007, recently signed a six-year contract extension and looks to be a fixture on the Niners' line.
In adding Davis, whose elite instincts, incredible athleticism, and powerful punch are rivaled only by the questions surrounding his motivation, San Francisco would provide Clausen with a pair of young, promising bodyguards.
Head coach Mike Singletary has been in contact with Davis recently and would make any short list of his best possible NFL mentors.
As though the season-long absence of All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu wasn't enough, the Steelers' secondary was plagued by inconsistency in 2009. After ranking in the NFL's top three against the pass in each of the last two seasons, Pittsburgh's pass defense dropped to 16th last year.
Faced with the prospect of a training camp depth chart of up-and-down veteran Ike Taylor and disappointing youngsters William Gay, Keenan Lewis, and Joe Burnett, the Steelers are the fortunate beneficiaries of Kareem Jackson's surprising offseason showing.
Considered one of this year's most physical cover corners, Jackson blew the ceiling off his draft stock by running a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February, erasing concerns about his straight line speed and joining Joe Haden and Kyle Wilson as a top prospect at the position.
Atlanta's interest in Weatherspoon is as well-documented as the team's need for a backup plan behind starting linebacker Mike Peterson, who'll turn 34 before the upcoming season.
"Spoon" has raved about his meetings with the Falcons' brass in interviews, and Atlanta should be equally eager to add this draft's top sideline-to-sideline linebacker to a run defense that ranked among the NFL's worst. A capable blitzer, Weatherspoon would also be a significant upgrade over Peterson for the Falcons' inept pass rush.
Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham has also visited with Atlanta and might seem to be a better option for improving on last year's meager 28-sack output. But, as defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-07, head coach Mike Smith sought out prospects with prototypical size. Graham, who stands 6'1", doesn't quite measure up to the standard for an NFL end.
With the draft's 20th pick, the Texans are rumored to be deciding between Thomas and Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews.
Having watched veteran Chris Brown fail repeatedly in his role as a goal-line back, Houston could well be in the market for a strong, north-south change of pace complement to shifty 2008 rookie Steve Slaton.
The Texans' most pressing area of need, though, is in their secondary. Between the departure of cornerback Dunta Robinson in free agency and the questionable presence of oft-injured safety Eugene Wilson, an infusion of talent is needed to keep the last line of Houston's improving defense on track.
Considered a candidate to switch to cornerback in the NFL, Thomas provides unique versatility in the defensive backfield. A smart, savvy presence on the field, he'd be a steal at this spot.
Amidst a string of reportedly unimpressive interviews, Pierre-Paul came away enthusiastic from his meeting with Cincinnati.
"I love the style of [the Bengals'] defense," he told reporters. "I could rush the passer or stand up and play outside linebacker. My game would be ridiculous."
After free agent signing Antwan Odom's torrid eight-sack start last season was halted by an ACL tear, Cincinnati might well be in need of a replacement at defensive end.
The Bengals' scouting department is rivaled in its small size only by that of the Oakland Raiders.
Owner Paul Brown leaves the offseason leg work of evaluating draft prospects to his coaching staff and is actively involved in the team's draft-day war room, resulting in picks that correlate eerily with the "best available" according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper—which could be Pierre-Paul this year at 21.
The Ravens aren't shy about trading up for "their guy". They've done so in each of the past two drafts, moving 18 spots back and eight up for quarterback Joe Flacco in 2008 and skipping three places in line to nab offensive tackle Michael Oher last April.
This Thursday, should Boise State playmaker Kyle Wilson drop past the Houston Texans' 20th overall pick, expect Baltimore to look into a move up in front of the corner-needy Green Bay Packers. In this case, the New England Patriots gain a pick or two—as they tend to do in every draft—by accommodating the Ravens.
Across from emerging starter Domonique Foxworth, Baltimore's cornerback situation was a bad mix of the overmatched (Chris Carr) and the under-talented (Frank Walker) giving up big gain after big gain.
In Wilson, the Ravens want an aggressive playmaker with the speed and instincts to turn space in coverage into turnovers.
Perhaps this draft's most aggressive pass-rushing force, Graham's stock has been among the hardest to pin down since his standout performance at the Senior Bowl in February.
On one hand, he projects best as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, where his lack of length would be less of an issue than as a down lineman in a four-man front. But most NFL teams with defensive schemes that could accommodate Graham are typically hesitant to invest a high pick in a player making a position switch.
This far into the first round, though—and with room on their depth chart across from 2009 rookie Clay Matthews—the Packers will take solace in Graham's history at linebacker in high school and the success LaMarr Woodley, another Michigan defensive end, in switching to a stand-up role. His value here would be much too high to pass up.
Considering general manager Gene Smith's stated preference for "base hit" selections in the first round over "home run" fliers on high-potential prospects, Jacksonville's pick could easily be Florida center Maurkice Pouncey, who might replace veteran Brad Meester as early as this upcoming season.
Mays, though, is a special athlete—even among his NFL-caliber peers—at a position where the Jaguars are sorely in need of a talent infusion.
Having traded down from the 10th pick with Tennessee safety Eric Berry available, they're lucky to find Mays waiting at pick 24, past several teams in between who could fall in love with his rare upside.
Praised for his all-football, all-business mindset, Mays fits Jacksonville's high-character mold perfectly.
As mentioned with the Green Bay Packers' selection of Brandon Graham, some NFL teams are particularly picky about which college pass rushers they'll try to convert to outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense.
The Patriots, who have never drafted an outside linebacker in the first round under head coach Bill Belichick, are certainly one of those teams. In studying Texas' Sergio Kindle, though, New England may find an exception to that rule.
Having played significant reps at both defensive end and linebacker in the Longhorns' defense, Kindle offers the same experienced versatility that 2009 Pro Bowl rookie Clay Matthews brought to the Packers.
His contributions on special teams in college and NFL potential in that phase further distinguish him as the kind of "multi-tool" player coveted by the Patriots.
With former free agent prize Adalius Thomas all but gone, Kindle will get the next shot at holding down this demanding job.
In 2009, two highly-touted Oklahoma offensive linemen (guard Duke Robinson and tackle Phil Loadholt) endured significant falls on draft day, uncharacteristic of the program which had produced recent draft risers Jammal Brown, Davin Joseph, and Chris Chester.
This recent crop of Sooners, though bigger, faster, and stronger than their predecessors, failed to impress NFL teams with the positional instincts and fluid in-game movements that can't be measured at the scouting combine.
Williams, like Robinson and Loadholt, has been proclaimed a high first-rounder after an offseason full of impressive performances in drills and workouts, including a 4.88-second time in the 40-yard dash.
Still, his game tape shows little of the pro-ready smoothness exhibited by the other top tackles in this draft class. The Cardinals, who could use an upgrade at left tackle, will take a chance at this point, but Williams is far from a top 10 lock and could fall hard on Thursday.
After the Cowboys' surprising release of veteran left tackle Flozell Adams earlier this month, 2007 fourth-rounder Doug Free received several lukewarm votes of confidence from the team's front office and coaching staff.
Owner Jerry Jones described Free as "more left tackle-ish than right tackle-ish," and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett confirmed that left tackle is Free's best position.
Whatever optimism exists in Dallas for the heir apparent to Adams, it hasn't been sufficient to obscure the memory of his whipping at the hands of Jared Allen and the Minnesota Vikings in the Cowboys' 34-3 season-ending playoff loss last season.
Among the prospects invited to the team's Valley Ranch headquarters in Irving, Tx., February scouting combine star Bruce Campbell sticks out like a sore thumb.
Free might be in line to take over on Romo's blindside, but Jones can make a splash with this pick to give him significant competition.
As far as the Chargers are concerned, departed veteran LaDaininan Tomlinson may as well have left last season. The former All-Pro's yards per carry dwindled to a mere 3.3, forcing San Diego to rely increasingly on the talents of undersized speedster Darren Sproles.
Not surprisingly, the Chargers are rumored to be seriously considering the 6'0", 218-pound Mathews, were he to fall to them at 28 after boosting his draft stock considerably at the NFL Combine in February.
Running a 4.45-second 40-yard dash stripped away one of teams' main concerns about the hard-running Fresno State product, whose toughness and tackle-breaking strength on inside runs have never been in question.
Still, Mathews' history of nagging knee and foot injuries will likely cause him to be passed over in favor of later-round backs with less mileage on their tires. For San Diego, though, he's the pro-ready starter needed to complement Sproles in a committee backfield.
When multiple teams picking late in the first round and early in the second round give a prospect a solid second round grade—as the Jets, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and other teams running 3-4 defenses have reportedly done with Sapp—it's not unusual for him to find his way into the first.
Recent examples include Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco in 2008, whose value as a franchise prospect rose steadily that offseason, and Northern Illinois defensive end Larry English last year.
This Thursday, should New York fail to land veteran free agent pass rusher Jason Taylor, the team's only chance to tab Sapp to fill a depth chart vacancy at that spot will be in the first round.
Experienced in a stand-up role in Clemson's "bandit" defense, Sapp is a more likely choice than undersized project end Jerry Hughes.
The hurt from the Vikings' NFC championship loss to the New Orleans Saints extends into the 2010 season, with cornerback Cedric Griffin working to rehab his knee from the ACL tear suffered late in that game.
Poised to win only as long as veteran quarterback Brett Favre's window of leadership and direction under center remains open, Minnesota can ill afford to be undermined by the potential loss of one 2009 starter.
Enter Robinson, whose talent for making plays is as exceptional as it is inconsistent. Coupled with a four-game suspension in 2008 for his involvement with the recent academic scandal at Florida State, Robinson's hot-and-cold game tape has dropped him behind this year's top prospects at cornerback—but not past the corner-needy Vikings, whose focus on talent landed them troubled talent Percy Harvin in the 2009 draft.
Though the Colts are commonly considered to need an upgrade at left tackle to protect franchise cornerstone Peyton Manning, team owner Bill Polian has been quoted as expecting to land a talented skill position player at this draft spot after this draft's top five or six tackles go early.
If there's one team poised to overlook super-productive defensive end Jerry Hughes' lack of ideal size, it's Indianapolis. All-Pro ends Dwight Freeney (6'1", 260 pounds) and Robert Mathis (6'1, 245 pounds) have whipped most of the pass blockers they've faced in spite of a significant size disadvantage.
At 6'3" and just over 270 pounds, USC's Everson Griffen gives the Colts a versatile talent more reminiscent of current lineman Raheem Brock and, arguably, the highest upside of any player available with the 31st pick.
After this draft witnessed three trades in its top ten picks, it wouldn't be complete without one last swap of picks. The Patriots, who have tended to trade down in recent drafts to amass mid-round selections, have 12 picks as ammunition to move in the draft order for their targets in this talent-loaded class.
When star slot receiver Wes Welker was lost for the season with MCL and ACL tears in his left knee in Week 17 last year, New England quarterback Tom Brady was left without his primary possession target.
Special teams contributor Sam Aiken showed well in seven starts, flashing deep threat ability with two long touchdowns, but the Patriots need a reliable short- and mid-range target to keep their offense in rhythm.
Big-bodied receiver Demaryius Thomas could more than fill that role, and is intelligent enough (34 on the Wonderlic) to catch on quickly.