As the NFL Draft quickly approaches (only four months away!) it’s time to take a look at teams in the top 14 and whom they may be targeting.
There is no doubt which team will hold the No. 1 overall pick this year. The Detroit Lions will be in the market for a number of positions this season, but with the No. 1 pick, one could only imagine them taking a quarterback.
Sam Bradford and Matt Stafford will be the hot names at the QB position this year, and there is large debate over who is No. 1. Stafford is a once-in-a-while type QB with amazing arm strength and decent mobility. He is also a prototype NFL pocket passer.
Bradford’s strength can be found in one place: his accuracy. He is the most accurate QB in the draft when it comes to making the throws necessary for the NFL and can change a game with his toughness and mobility. It will be interesting on how that situation turns out.
The St.Louis Rams are a team that has one glaring weakness at a position once held by one of the greatest to ever play it. They need a left tackle in the worst way, since Orlando Pace can’t seem to stay healthy, and when he’s out, Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson suffer.
Michael Oher is the No. 1 player on my board because of the one thing the Rams truly lack and that is good pass protection. Oher has extremely quick feet to go along with extremely good hand placement and strength.
He is not as good of a run blocker as Andre Smith, but Oher’s motor is always going and would be a great addition to a team that needs offensive lineman. Note: It’s widely known they would have pounced on Jake Long had he fallen to them at No. 2 last year.
The third overall pick belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs, who have done a fantastic job of drafting the past two years. They can get a step closer here by adding more depth on the lines. But which one?
Brian Orakpo would bring a pass rushing presence to a defensive line that doesn’t have any. He would be a great addition to the Chiefs but I see them making the wiser move and taking the aforementioned player in Andre Smith.
I’m concerned with Smith’s motor and feet but his dominating run blocking and decent pass protection make him one of the best prospects in the draft. With the addition of Smith, the Chiefs can kick Branden Albert back to left guard and have a tandem reminiscent of Willie Roaf and Will Shields.
Seattle holds the fourth overall pick in what has to be a disappointing season for the Seahawks. There should be no doubt in whom Seattle should take and that man is Michael Crabtree. He is easily the No. 1 wideout prospect in the draft and should go in the top five.
Seattle doesn’t have any receivers for the future beyond Deion Branch, who has chronic injury problems, so a wide receiver with Crabtree’s prospects should be a no brainer.
Cleveland obtained the fifth overall pick with a six-game losing streak, which included no touchdowns in that span. The Browns have three glaring weaknesses: cornerback, running back, and a pass rushing, 3-4 linebacker. They could go with one of the local products in All-American corner Malcolm Jenkins or stud running back Chris Wells out of Ohio State.
I see them addressing the pass rushing element of their team and going after Brian Orakpo. He is a workout warrior that can terrorize a quarterback’s dreams. Kamerion Wimbley has disappointed since his rookie year, and Alex Hall is just a pass rush specialist who I don’t think is an every down type of guy. In the end, it will probably be a toss up of the three so things could change.
The seventh overall pick will belong to the Oakland Raiders, and I for one am shocked that they are this high. Al Davis has ruined everything that is good in Oakland and should be kicked out of the league.
But with that said they have a very nice foundation to build on that includes JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, and Zach Miller on offense. That said, their receiving corps is horrendous, with not one starting-caliber receiver worthy of mentioning (sorry Javon Walker and Ashley Lelie).
With that said, I am a firm believer that Mario Henderson, their third-round pick in last year’s draft, will be a fine left tackle in this league and showed potential early on this season. I see them targeting the defensive side of the ball and picking Ohio State corner Malcolm Jenkins.
If Jenkins manages to run a high 4.3 or low 4.4 at his pro day/combine, he will be a sure-fire top 10 pick and with the loss of DeAngelo Hall, they need a top flight corner.
What a year Jacksonville had. A Super Bowl sleeper turned top-10 pick keeper has to hurt. Even with that said, there are still positives to look at with Maurice Jones-Drew, David Garrard, and Reggie Nelson to build on. What they do need is another top corner, a stud middle linebacker, or offensive line depth.
My top defensive prospect right now is Rey Malauga and for good reason. He is a bigger version of Ray Lewis, with the same tenacity and intensity. He is a simple skull crusher who can knock a player out of the game with one hit. With that said, he does over pursue and misses some tackles, but he is a natural down-hill ‘backer who can change a football game.
The Green Bay Packers are a team with few offensive holes but could very well target that side with the ninth overall pick. Two players on offense the Packers could be targeting in April are Virginia’s left tackle Eugene Monroe and Georgia’s running back Knowshon Moreno.
Monroe would make financial sense in that a left tackle can anchor a line for 10-12 years. Moreno is perfect for a zone-blocking scheme, with his vision and cut-back ability and would bring a big-play threat.
But defense will most likely be the pick at cornerback, defensive end, or defensive tackle. If Brian Orakpo falls to them, he would be the selection. Also look for Everette Brown of Florida State and Vontae Davis out of Illinois to be possible picks.
The surprising late surge of the San Francisco 49ers knocked them out of the top eight, but, barring a trade, they could land either Matt Stafford or Sam Bradford. J.T. O’Sullivan, Shaun Hill, and former No. 1 pick Alex Smith are the current quarterbacks on the 49ers' roster and none of the three have proven themselves as successful, full-time starters and one of the top two quarterbacks would be ideal.
If both are off the board look for San Francisco to choose a left tackle like Eugene Monroe or a safety like in state product Taylor Mays.
The Buffalo Bills will be selecting 11th for the second straight year after picking Leodis McKelvin in the 2008 Draft. Two positions the Bills will be targeting heavily will be outside linebacker and a pass-rushing defensive end.
I see them selecting Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry. A terrific athlete at his size makes him one of the more coveted prospects in this year’s draft. He is very productive and has huge potential at all three linebacker spots, though strong-side linebacker seems to be his final destination in the pros.
The Mike Shanahan-less Denver Broncos have the 12th overall pick this year, where they selected Ryan Clady out of Boise State in last year’s draft. Defense will be the main focus in the front seven and in the secondary, most notably outside linebacker, defensive tackle, and safety.
Then why do I have them picking Knowshon Moreno in my latest mock draft? Because Moreno could run for 2,000 yards in a zone-blocking scheme as established as Denver’s. He has the cut back ability and the vision that is required for a ZBS and the toughness to lead the league in yards after contact.
On the defensive side of the ball, look for Taylor Mays, Aaron Curry, or Gerald McCoy (if he declares).
The Washington Redskins hold the 13th pick this year at 8-8 and look to improve their interior lines. With pass rushers like Jason Taylor and Andre Carter already on board I see them going for 6’7" Michael Johnson out of Georgia Tech.
He might be more suited for right end, but Daniel Snyder love’s his pass rushing defensive ends and he’ll probably take one look at Johnson and say, “Man! He ran a 4.6 at 6’7" and didn’t go No. 1?! I must draft him!” though he will be totally oblivious to the fact that he hasn’t lived up to that in college, let alone the NFL.
At pick 14, New Orleans will be targeting one player, whom I have slipping to them, causing overwhelming joy in southern Louisiana. Taylor Mays is the impact safety that the Saints have been missing for years. At 6’3", 220 lbs, he has everything you look for in an NFL free safety.
He is who scouts like to describe as a player who hits like a linebacker but runs like a corner. At USC, he cuts the field in half for opposing quarterbacks and causes terror on safety blitzes. Best safety prospect since LaRon Landry.
This is all for now, but look for more in the coming months. This is far from final. In fact, this probably won’t look anything like my final mock draft in April since you have to take in to account early declarations, the Senior Bowl, and the ever so important Scouting Combine. Stay tuned for more draft analysis in the coming months!