No. 1—St. Louis Rams—Sam Bradford—QB from Oklahoma
This is an obvious choice.
The Rams have passed on franchise quarterbacks (Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez) in two previous drafts for offensive and defensive lineman (Jason Smith and Chris Long, respectively). When you don’t already have a franchise quarterback, moves like that will get your franchise sold.
They cannot afford to pass on Bradford. He would have gone first overall last year had he come out. The Rams need to give the fans hope for the future.
No. 2—Detroit Lions—Ndamukong Suh—DT from Nebraska
You can’t go wrong picking the best overall talent in the most loaded draft of the past 25 years.
Suh is a beast and he fills a need along the Lions’ front four. He is powerful, agile, and hungry to succeed. He can absolutely rag-doll inferior offensive lineman. He’s a three-down player, and he’s got an incredible motor to go along with his superior skill set.
It’s a lot of money to pay a defensive tackle, but he’ll be good for it.
No. 3—Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Gerald McCoy—DT from Oklahoma
Just below Suh in overall talent, McCoy can bring an immediate impact to the pass rush up the middle.
He’s extremely quick with an exceptional first step; combined with his athleticism and technique, McCoy will collect impressive sack numbers from the get-go.
No. 4—Washington Redskins—Russell Okung—OT from Oklahoma State
Okung isn’t the most athletic offensive tackle in this class, or the most talented, but he offers the best overall package in the draft.
He excels in both the pass game and run game while showing no signs of concern medically. He also had the best showing of strength at the combine when he put up 38 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press with 36 inch arms.
He’s got plenty of game experience and shows nastiness in his game that offensive line coaches love to see. The Redskins desperately need help along the offensive line after the retirement of Chris Samuels and the overall decimation of the line last year due to numerous injuries.
No. 5—Kansas City Chiefs—Eric Berry—S from Tennessee
Berry is an elite talent the Chiefs can ill afford to pass up at this point.
He offers anything and everything you could want in a safety: range, instincts, athleticism, ball skills, and the ability to knock the snot out of people.
He’s also of high character, played a year under Lane Kiffin, and is being compared to Ed Reed. Realistically, he should go second overall in this draft as the next best talent behind Suh, so getting him at five, in essence, is a steal.
No. 6—Seattle Seahawks—Trent Williams—OT from Oklahoma
With Walter Jones expected to retire, the need for a blind-side protector is obvious and the position is in high enough demand that the Seahawks cannot wait until their next pick in the middle of the first round to attain one.
Williams was thought to be a great prospect with okay athleticism, until he tested in the combine and finished near the top at many of the drills including the 40-yard dash, where he posted a time in the 4.8 range.
He’s extremely versatile, playing both tackle positions and even center. He’s extremely productive as a run blocker and now that his athleticism has been confirmed through his workouts, he has earned the right to be the second offensive tackle drafted in his class.
No. 7—Cleveland Browns—Jimmy Clausen—QB from Notre Dame
Now that Mike Holmgren has cleared space on the roster on the quarterback position, the path for drafting Clausen is wide open.
He would come into the perfect situation with Jake Delhomme offering the chance for Clausen to sit and learn for two years before being given the keys to the car.
Like the Rams, the Browns desperately need a face to their franchise and the quarterback is almost always that face. Clausen has experience in a pro-style offense and brings a greatly competitive mindset to this organization. He wants to win and he’ll motivate his teammates to rally behind him and get wins for this franchise.
No. 8—Oakland Raiders—Bruce Campbell—OT from Maryland
If Al Davis has told us anything from last year’s over-drafting of DHB, it’s that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks; he’ll draft the most impressive physical specimen at a position of need for his team, and Campbell is just that.
Besides his top performances in the combine drills, he’s absolutely shredded. He doesn’t look like an offensive lineman because he’s all muscle. He has the talent, and really, the Raiders have the coaches to get the most out of their offensive lineman, so besides the expectations from being drafted so high, this would actually be a pretty good situation for Campbell and the Raiders.
No. 9—Buffalo Bills—Bryan Bulaga—OT from Iowa
The Bills felt the effects from the departure of Jason Peters last year, or should I say, their quarterbacks felt the effects.
Gaining a blind-side protector is a must for the Bills and everyone knows it’s hard to find them after the first round. Bulaga is the offensive tackle of this draft most capable of starting right away.
Where he lacks in talent he makes up for in toughness and sound play. He’ll help solidify a young offensive line for the next decade of Buffalo football.
No. 10—Jacksonville Jaguars—Joe Haden—CB from Florida
The Jaguars used to be pretty confident in the secondary when it was led by a healthy Rashid Mathis, but he has been nicked up the past few years and is reaching the end of his career.
Haden is the top prospect at his position and can add immediate help in the passing game. He has very good instincts for the position and though some question his timed speed, he has shown on tape that he can cover deep and close quick.
The Jaguars would be wise to take Haden here after his slow 40 times allowed him to be available to them at this spot.
No. 11—Denver Broncos—Dez Bryant—WR from Oklahoma State
While some may think trading Brandon Marshall and drafting Bryant might be a head-scratcher, considering Bryant’s reported “bad character,” it makes less sense to ignore a player whom some scouts boast is better coming out of college than Michael Crabtree was.
The loss of Marshall creates an absolute need at the position and his talent makes this pick appropriate. The character questions stem from lying to the NCAA about his conversations with Deon Sanders, not from arrests, drug use, or acts of violence.
Drafting Bryant is not as big of a risk as everyone seems to think it is.
No. 12—Miami Dolphins—Derrick Morgan—DE/OLB from Georgia Tech
Miami gets a great value pick at this point in the draft with a supreme talent like Morgan.
He led his conference in sacks and is an excellent defender against the run. He is strong and big enough to take on offensive lineman, but agile enough to run and cover.
Morgan could’ve gone to Seattle at No. 6 overall, but their need for Williams and every other team’s lack of need for Morgan allows for his slight fall down the draft.
No. 13—San Francisco 49ers—Rolando McClain—LB from Alabama
McClain could combine with Patrick Willis to create a ferocious and intimidating presence in the middle of the 49ers defense.
He has excellent instincts for the position and had tremendous production from his position at middle linebacker in college. He’s a big body and tackles well. Mike Singletary would welcome the physicality McClain brings to his defense.
No. 14—Seattle Seahawks—CJ Spiller—RB Clemson
The Seahawks could desperately use a defensive end at this point, and if Derrick Morgan were available he probably would be the pick here.
Spiller offers way too much to not take at this point however. Giving the Seahawks an explosive player in the run game, pass game, and return game instantly improves the team’s ability to generate points.
Pete Carroll knows the kind of impact a player like Spiller can have, when he had Reggie Bush playing the same role for him at USC. It would be hard to pass up a player who can impact the game like Spiller.
No. 15—New York Giants—Jermaine Gresham—TE from Oklahoma
Rolando McClain is the player the Giants are most likely targeting, and if he’s not here, Gresham could be their guy.
Since Jeremy Shockey was traded, the Giants have received adequate production from Kevin Boss, but not nearly at the level Shockey was producing.
Gresham has questions about durability, as he sat out the entire 2009 college season with a torn ACL. However, he is a big target with soft hands and can stretch the middle of the field with his speed and route running ability. He easily would have been drafted ahead of Brandon Pettigrew last year and he has the size to become a serviceable in-line blocker if he works at it and gets stronger.
As a pass-catcher, he is easily the best this draft has to offer.
No. 16—Tennessee Titans—Jason Pierre-Paul—DE from South Florida
Pierre-Paul is a freakish athlete along the defensive line and coupled with the loss of Kyle Van den Bosch, defensive end is a huge need for the Titans.
Pierre-Paul brings raw ability, but instant, explosive talent to the team. He also has a great motor and can only get better through coaching.
In a division that includes Peyton Manning and Matt Schuab, pass-rushers are a must.
No. 17—San Francisco 49ers—Mike Iupati—G from Idaho
Iupati is as physical an offensive lineman as you can get and Coach Mike Singletary will enjoy having him open up run lanes for Frank Gore.
Iupati has an incredibly violent punch and can land defensive lineman on their backs with one jolt to the chest. Strength is his game and he will absolutely maul defenders in the run game.
He’s athletic enough that people are considering him as a tackle prospect, but when he dominates the game from his position at guard the way he does, there is no reason to move him elsewhere.
He will dominate defensive tackles upfront and linebackers at the second level. This guy will be an All-Pro soon in his career and the only reason he doesn’t go higher is because his position is undervalued.
No. 18—Pittsburgh Steelers—Maurkice Pouncey—C from Florida
The Steelers are set on the edges at tackle, but along the interior of their offensive line they need help.
Iupati would be the pick if he’s here but if not, Pouncey is the future at the center position for the Steelers.
Nick Hardwick is still serviceable but not elite. Pouncey can easily play guard and produce at a high level until moving and excelling at center once Hardwick is gone.
Pouncey is a heady player and is athletic for the position he plays. He did well to neutralize a lot of the top talents he faced in the SEC and is far and away the top center prospect in this draft.
The next center to come off the board could possibly be as late as the fifth round. Pouncey fills a need for the Steelers and allows them to take a step closer towards getting back to playing hard-nosed football led by the run game.
No. 19—Atlanta Falcons—Sergio Kindle—DE/OLB from Texas
A player who lives on the other side of the line of scrimmage, Kindle can instantly improve a pass-rush that was lacking in 2009 for the Falcons.
The defense for Atlanta was exposed against the pass last year so they must improve in the secondary as well, but getting a player to combine with and eventually replace John Abraham would be the better decision.
Kindle is adept at rushing the passer but also is an excellent defender of the run and has been lauded as a better player than his former teammate Brian Orakpo was coming out last year. Kindle immediately helps out the Falcons’ defense.
No. 20—Houston Texans—Earl Thomas—S from Texas
A steal at this point, Thomas provides the Texans a ball-hawking presence in their secondary and could fill in as a nickel back in a pinch.
He doesn’t have great size, but he possesses tremendous speed and quickness for the position and his instincts put him in place to often make plays on the ball.
The Texans don’t have a great player at the safety position, so getting Thomas would fill a need the Texans have had since their organization first entered the league.
No. 21—Cincinnati Bengals—Rob Gronkowski—TE from Arizona
Much like the Giants, the Bengals have had minimal to adequate production from their tight end position.
Adding a talent like Gronkowski would give Carson Palmer an element in the passing game to rely on that he hasn’t had there in Cincinnati.
Gronkowski can stretch the field and create separation from defenders, offering himself as an easy target for the quarterback to throw to. He’s a terrific route runner and has great size to get open in the red zone. He could start right away for the Bengals.
No. 22—New England Patriots—Brandon Graham—DE/OLB from Michigan
The Patriots badly need some life injected into their defense and Graham can provide that.
He’s got an incredible motor and great ability to make plays as he led the nation in tackles for loss last year. He’s a guy the Patriots have to have on their team, as he has the potential to not only play the game well but become a leader in the locker room.
The defense is void of players who are willing to speak up and lead the defense, so Graham could really offer a lot to this team. That being said, his ability to rush the passer and pursue the play will greatly benefit the Patriots’ defense.
No. 23—Green Bay Packers—Anthony Davis—OT from Rutgers
Davis is an extremely talented prospect, arguably the one with the most upside in this draft. He drops this far down because of concerns about his character and work ethic.
The Packers though, have a huge need for a left tackle of the future and Davis’ talent is too great not to take a chance on at this point in the draft.
He is probably the most polished pass-blocker in the draft as of right now and protecting the face of the franchise in Aaron Rodgers is of the highest priority for the Packers. The team cannot continue crossing its fingers if Rodgers is to get sacked 50 times again this season. They got lucky he didn’t get seriously injured from that kind of abuse.
Davis is a risk, but a very talented risk, and his love for the game is not in question. He has always performed well on the field, specifically versus Pittsburgh’s Greg Romeus (a projected first round pick in next year’s draft) who had no impact whatsoever in the game between the Scarlet Knights and the Panthers, thanks to Davis.
The potential Davis has to be great is so valuable to the Packers that they might even consider trading up for Davis.
No. 24—Philadelphia Eagles—Taylor Mays—S from USC
The Eagles sorely missed the presence of Brian Dawkins in the back-end of their defensive secondary, so getting an intimidating player like Mays with his outstanding size/speed combination makes sense here.
The team also has an extra pick at the top of the second round to address other needs such as linebacker and offensive line, so taking a risk on Mays here is worth it.
The risk comes with Mays’ ability to diagnose plays, take good angles, and secure the tackle. He tries too hard to make the punishing hits and therefore misses a lot of tackles. He also shows great speed but a lack of agility, as he has trouble changing direction efficiently.
However, if Mays can overcome a lack of instincts and some hip tightness, he can be a great player for this team. He’s a high character guy who works hard and will succeed if he’s capable. If anything, his size and speed could be a great asset on special teams.
No. 25—Baltimore Ravens—Kyle Wilson—CB from Boise State
No more Rolle and no more McAllister mean the Ravens need help at the corner position and Wilson fits the bill here.
He’s a feisty corner who will support the run and challenge wide receivers at the line. He’s aggressive when going after the ball and can hit with some force.
He’s exactly what the Ravens look for in their defenders and will fit in nicely.
No. 26—Arizona Cardinals—Dan Williams—NT from Tennessee
The Cardinals have been running a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense for a few years but are trying to transition fully to the 3-4. One glaring hole they have is a true 3-4 nose tackle.
Williams is a sturdy, powerful force in the middle and can eat up blockers with ease. He’ll do his job as a nose tackle.
No. 27—Dallas Cowboys—Roger Saffold—OT from Indiana
The release of Flozell Adams means the Cowboys have a need at left tackle. They played Doug Free there when Adams was out, but he had some trouble manning the blind-side.
The Cowboys would do well for themselves if they can pick up a left tackle prospect in the first round.
Though it’s a tad bit high for Saffold, they cannot afford to wait until the second round. Saffold has been rising up draft boards and proved athletic enough in drills and testing, that scouts believe he can adequately man the left side.
No. 28—San Diego Chargers—Terrence Cody—NT from Alabama
The Chargers have a huge need at nose tackle after the release of Jamal Williams. When he went out with injury last season, the defense suffered greatly from his absence.
Cody offers exactly what any 3-4 team needs: a massive presence in the middle of the defensive line who will simply not move and can eat up blockers.
Cody might not be in the best of shape, but he doesn’t need to be to not move. He merely needs to anchor and hold his own on the line, allowing the linebackers freedom to roam.
No. 29—New York Jets—Demaryius Thomas—WR from Georgia Tech
It was unfortunate Thomas injured his foot before the combine, or else he would have gone a lot higher in the draft.
Even so, teams recognize the impressive size and speed he has. He can run away from defenders in the secondary, win any jump-ball, and provide an enormous target downfield for his quarterback.
To average over 25 yards per catch is just outrageous, but that’s what he did. He’s a big play waiting to happen and has the ability to adjust beautifully to the ball while it’s in the air, much like former Yellow Jacket Calvin Johnson.
Once Thomas learns the route tree in the NFL, he’ll be a difficult receiver to cover.
No. 30—Minnesota Vikings—Tim Tebow—QB from Florida
It’s dangerous business relying on Brett Favre to come back every year, especially when he makes that decision later and later each year.
The Vikings need to draft for the time when the old man finally hangs it up for good. Out of the QB prospects after Bradford and Clausen, Tebow is the one worth swinging for because his intangibles could make him great.
He has his risks, especially with his throwing motion and ability to progress through his reads, but at this point every quarterback has his issues.
If Tebow doesn’t pan out at quarterback, he could possibly make a switch to tight end or a short-yardage ball carrier.
No. 31—Indianapolis Colts—Charles Brown—OT from USC
Colts’ higher ups have called out the offensive line and admitted the need for improvement.
Manning needs his back protected and Brown is the man to do it. He has athleticism and experience, though some scouts think it might take him some time to develop.
Nevertheless, he’s the best prospect at the position left on the board and the Colts simply have to take him, or possibly make a trade for Baltimore’s Jared Gaither.
No. 32—New Orleans Saints—Sean Weatherspoon—LB from Missouri
The Super Bowl Champions can sit back and wait for the best player available to drop to them.
The Saints have been aching for an upgrade at linebacker for quite some time and this year they will get it from the addition of Weatherspoon. He provides a level of intensity and excitement to the defense, will lead the team in smack talk, and can run sideline-to-sideline.