As we approach the NFL Draft, the early picks have been dominated by defensive players in mocks from around the web. Much of the year, the talk has been about which defensive tackle will be selected first, Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. But the general consensus is that the Rams will pass on both with the first overall selection and go the route of Sam Bradford.
Picks 1-3 are supposed to be a lock at this point, but the Detroit Lions will throw a wrench in that logic; a ripple effect will be felt. A debate rages on over the landing spots of many of the draft's top talent, and that isn't going to change until day one is in the books.
There will be some surprises, that much is a certainty. Several big names will drop further down the charts than you'd think and some hot commodities will get even hotter, going earlier than expected.
This is a deep and talented draft, full of prospects at almost every position. There will be a lot of quality players selected in the later rounds, but for now the focus will be on how round one is shaping up.
1. Saint Louis Rams: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
The Rams have passed on a quarterback the past two seasons. They took Chris Long at No. 2 in 2008 and let Matt Ryan slip to the Falcons, then in 2009 selected Jason Smith over Mark Sanchez. Neither pick has really worked out for them while Ryan and Sanchez are blossoming into potential studs.
Saint Louis has holes all over its roster, but they've been desperate for a quarterback for awhile now and won't keep making the same mistake.
2. Detroit Lions: OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
The Lions did some work to improve their defensive line in the trade for Corey Williams, so the need at DT isn't as great as it was earlier in the year.
Detroit’s offensive line was terrible in 2009, allowing 43 sacks. Matthew Stafford needs better protection than that if he’s going to have any success developing into a quality quarterback.
Okung is the top offensive tackle in the draft. Detroit will lock him down and scratch left tackle from their list of needs for years to come.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
The Buccaneers will jump at the chance to sign either of the draft’s top defensive tackles, so regardless of what the Lions do they’ll get what they want.
Luckily for them, they’ll have their pick of either prospect. In a close call they’ll go with Suh over McCoy, but both of these guys will be working out for the Bucs before the draft so this could flip-flop by the time they’re on the clock.
4. Washington Redskins: QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
With Albert Haynesworth collecting the big bucks to clog up the middle of the Skins defense, they’ll opt to go the offensive route with the fourth pick.
Jason Campbell just hasn’t worked out at quarterback, and the general consensus is it’s time to make a change. Washington will reach a little and select Jimmy Clausen. He has the potential to be a superb NFL quarterback. It’s a risky pick, but one the Redskins won’t be able to pass up.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
The Chiefs have bigger needs than defensive tackle and might opt to go the route of offensive tackle, but McCoy is too good to not select here.
He’s ready to step in immediately, and from what he’s shown in his time at Oklahoma and his strong showing at the Combine McCoy is the real deal. He’s a future star and a steal at No. 5.
6. Seattle Seahawks: OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
Walter Jones is a question mark for next season, and at 36 years old there might not be much left in the tank for this future Hall of Fame left tackle. The Seahawks need to find his replacement or suffer another year of collapsed pass protection.
Bulaga has the size and strength to develop into a quality left tackle; he needs to improve his footwork though. Seattle might try to hold off on selecting a tackle until they’re back on the clock at 14, but that’s a risky move.
Tackles go quickly in round one, so they’ll have to make the pick here rather than risk it.
7. Cleveland Browns: S Eric Berry, Tennessee
Eric Berry is a stud and one of the most talented players in the draft. He’s the top-rated safety in the draft by a decent margin and if he drops all the way to seven, Cleveland will have to put all plans on hold and make the selection.
He’s got All-Pro talent written all over him and will do wonders for the Browns secondary that struggled mightily in 2009.
8. Oakland Raiders: DE/OLB Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida
Oakland is the most unpredictable team when it comes to mock drafts. Just look at the Darrius Heyward-Bay selection from a year ago; no one saw that coming. With Al Davis at the helm you never know what you’ll get out of the Raiders.
Bruce Campbell has been mentioned as a possibility here, and while that might be the case, Pierre-Paul will be too enticing for Davis to miss out on.
He and Richard Seymour would thrive together, and we all know how much the Raiders love big, athletic players.
9. Buffalo Bills: OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma
Buffalo might defense here with a lot of good names on the board, but Williams is the best tackle left on the board, and they have a big need on their offensive line.
He’s probably the most versatile offensive lineman in the draft, and can play either tackle position. If needed to, Williams could probably line up inside as well. The Bills need talent like that more than any defenders available.
10. Jacksonville Jaguar: CB Joe Haden, Florida
No, Tim Tebow will not be the pick here despite popular demand. But the Jaguars will grab his teammate Joe Haden and be happy they did.
If it isn’t Haden it’ll be Dez Bryant, but with the emergence of Mike Sims-Walker, receiver isn’t nearly as big a need as cornerback. Jacksonville had one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL in 2009 and got lit-up for big plays way too many times.
Haden is the top cornerback in the draft, and while he didn’t live up to expectations in the Combine, that won’t dissuade the Jags from selecting him to round out the top ten.
11. Denver Broncos: WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
The Broncos get the man they’ve had their eye on for months. Dez Bryant would be a top five pick if not for his season-long suspension in 2009 for violating NCAA rules.
Despite the off-field issues, though, Bryant is an exceptional talent who’s drawn comparisons to Andre Johnson. He’s not at Johnson’s level right now, but in a couple years he might be.
There might not be an offensive player capable of making a greater impact in his rookie year than Bryant. Look for them to move Brandon Marshall as a result of this pick as well.
12. Miami Dolphins: DT Dan Williams, Tennessee
If Dez Bryant is off the board, it will come down nose tackle and safety for the Dolphins. Those positions are the greatest needs on this roster. With Jason Ferguson suspended for half of next season, though, Miami will have to find an answer in the middle of their defensive line sooner rather than later.
They really liked him from what they saw at the Senior Bowl. Williams is ideally-sized to play the nose and has all the intangibles you look for at the position. He has excellent lower body strength, and gets a great push at the point of attack.
It will probably come down to Williams and Earl Thomas, with Big Dan taking the edge. For Thomas, getting passed over by Miami will begin a free-fall.
13. San Francisco 49ers: RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson
The 49ers hold the 13th and 17th picks in round one, so they'll have a lot of options when they get on the clock their first time around. They'll be targeting a few positions with this pick: running back, right tackle, and pass rusher.
C.J. Spiller might appear to be a reach here, but if San Francisco passes, Seattle will jump all over him with the next pick. He's a rare blend of speed and power, the type of game-breaker that just doesn't come around very often. Not to mention is sky-high potential as a return man; at the very least he’ll make an immediate impact there.
With durability concerns over Frank Gore, the 49ers will take Spiller here rather than risk waiting until they’re back on the clock in four picks.
14. Seattle Seahawks: DE/OLB Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech
Seattle misses out on their first choice in C.J. Spiller, but they steal the 49ers next target and take Derrick Morgan to shore up their pass rush. They need a lot of help and Morgan is a player capable of stepping in and making an immediate impact.
He’s big enough to play defensive end with a hand in the dirt or slide over and line up on the outside at linebacker. Morgan is consistent and reliable, and Seattle won’t find a better pass rusher on the board. He's a great value with the 14th pick.
It's not C.J. Spiller, but it's the greater need anyway.
15. New York Giants: ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama
New York gets one of the steals of the draft when they get on the clock with the 15th pick and see Rolando McClain available at the top of their draft board. Arguably a top-tier talent and by far the best inside linebacker in the draft, McClain will be a front runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The Giants could really use the help at linebacker and while McClain is probably better suited for the 3-4, as he’s made public in recent comments, he's versatile enough to make the transition.
The only knock on the Bama Backer is his speed, but game film tells a different story. He makes great pursuit angles and has great closing speed. He could be the next Patrick Willis.
16. Tennessee Titans: OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas
The Titans are in need of someone to help bolster their pass rush now that Kyle Vanden Bosch is gone. Sergio Kindle is a somewhat undersized to fill that role, but with more bulk he could become a real force on the outside.
It may be a bit of a reach to take him this early, but its close enough where the need meets demand.
Everson Griffen or Brandon Graham are also options here, but most experts have them rated as inferior prospects. Once the Titans start bringing these guys in, we'll have a better idea what they think about that.
17. San Francisco 49ers: OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland
San Francisco goes back on the clock, and while Derrick Morgan would probably have been their first choice here, he's gone so they'll have to settle for much needed help on the offensive line.
The 49ers are desperate for a right tackle, its been an issue for over a year. Bruce Campbell is one of the strongest and most athletic tackles in the draft. He's a workout warrior with a ton of potential, but is still raw.
With some work he can be molded into a quality tackle capable of playing on either side of the ball. He's projected to go as early as No. 8 to the Raiders and as late as the second round, but it's hard to believe he'd fall past the 49ers here.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: G Mike Iupati, Idaho
The Steelers run game was stagnant at times last year, and the smash-mouth style that characterized them so well in the past just wasn't there. A big reason for that was a poor push up front, especially along the interior of the line.
Iupati is listed as an OT/G, but he's undersized for a tackle. As a guard however, he's drawn comparisons to All-Pro left guard Steve Hutchinson.
Guards aren't usually selected this high, but Iupati is a superb talent capable of playing at a high level from day one. He'll do the dirty work in the trenches and help get Pittsburgh’s run game back on track.
19. Atlanta Falcons: DE/OLB Brandon Graham, Michigan
The Falcons may go cornerback here, but pass rushers are always a hot commodity in round one and the need is definitely there. Atlanta was 26th in the league in sacks a year ago and could really use help up front.
They weren’t able to get a consistent pass rush all year, and as a result the defense crumbled down the stretch. Graham is a tackling machine that finds his way in the backfield often. He’s better against the run than the pass, but he should be able to learn to make that talent translate.
They may go the route of Everson Griffen, but he is more of a pure defensive end, while Graham has more versatility and could play either end or linebacker; that gives him the edge.
20. Houston Texans: CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State
With Dunta Robinson lost in free agency, the Texans will need to find a replacement at corner back. Wilson is a great talent with all the intangibles to succeed in the NFL.
He’ll make an impact right away as a play-maker; something Houston desperately needs. Even with Robinson, they were ranked 18th against the pass in 2009. That cost them several games.
Wilson is the real deal; he’ll help turn the secondary around.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: S Earl Thomas, Texas
The Bengals have several more pressing needs, but this is a pick they won’t be able to avoid. Talent should be selected over need, at least that’s the philosophy the great teams follow.
In the case of Thomas, talent trumps all. Cincinnati could really use a wide receiver and there are several options available, but that need can be addressed later in the draft. Safeties as good as Thomas just don’t come around often.
He has great cover skills and is one of the better ball-hawks in the draft. Thomas isn’t far behind Eric Berry in terms of talent, but he falls all the way to 21 because of concerns over his size and speed.
Thomas has top 10-15 talent; down here he’s the steal of the draft.
22. New England Patriots: DE Everson Griffen, USC
Everson Griffen is the next Richard Seymour in New England. After struggling to get consistent pressure up front after trading away their All-Pro defensive end, they find his replacement late in round one.
Griffen is extremely athletic for his size with a nice array of speed moves. He’s strong enough to bull-rush with power moves and has the potential to get even better if he continued to bulk up.
This late in round one, Griffen is a superb value. New England’s pass rush issues could quickly go away with a selection like this.
23. Green Bay Packers: OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers
Davis was expected to be one of the top tackles in the draft earlier in the year, but he’s shown off-field issues that are troubling. He’s gone through a couple suspensions, missed practices, shown up to camp overweight, and raises concerns over whether he’s capable of handling the pressures of NFL life.
But his talent can’t be denied; Davis is a powerful blocker with good instincts. The Packers need help at tackle, and while there might be safer picks here, none provide the same level of talent.
It’s late enough in the round where the Packers won’t have to invest too much money; that makes the risk worthwhile.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida
Pouncey can play left guard, right guard, and center. He’s not the most powerful blocker, which means he might struggle against the league’s big nose tackles, but he’s smart and is great at directing the offensive line.
The Eagles offensive line needs a lot of help and Pouncey fills a great need at a nice value. The pick makes a lot of sense anyway you look at it.
25. Baltimore Ravens: TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
They got their receiver in Anquan Boldin, now they get their tight end; Gresham is the only first-round talent tight end in the draft. He’s an excellent pass-catcher and provides Joe Flacco with yet another talent to toss the rock to.
Gresham really saw his stock rise at the Combine. The Ravens won’t be able to pass up this opportunity to improve a passing game that already has seen a major improvement this offseason.
It’s time for Todd Heap to move over.
26. Arizona Cardinals: S Taylor Mays, USC
Antrell Rolle might be in New York now, but the Cardinals find his replacement here. Taylor Mays is the biggest of the top safeties in the draft and is known for his big hitting. There probably isn’t a player with a better size/ speed combination in the draft, and for that reason he’s a highly regarded prospect.
There are concerns over his coverage skills and ability to make plays in pass protection, but this late in the Draft there really isn’t any risk.
Mays won’t be as good as Rolle right away, but he might be one day.
27. Dallas Cowboys: WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois
Flozell Adams is on his way out in Dallas, and might not have more than a year or two left in the tank. The Cowboys are in need of a replacement, but there just isn’t a talent available worth reaching for at this point.
Arrelious Benn, however, is the second-rated wide receiver in the draft and would look great paired with Miles Austin. Roy Williams hasn’t worked out and Patrick Crayton is too inconsistent to count on. Dallas needs to bring in additional help.
A trio of Austin, Jason Witten, and Benn would be truly potent.
28. San Diego Chargers: RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State
The Chargers might have a bigger need at running back than any team in the league. They cut L.T. loose and everyone knows Darren Sproles isn’t big enough to be an every-down back. Someone needs to take the bulk of the carries and right now that person isn’t on San Diego’s roster.
Ryan Mathews is a big, powerful bruiser who likes to punish defenders. He can carry the ball 20-25 times a game and provide an excellent yin to Sporles yang. The fit is perfect.
29. New York Jets: OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
Rex Ryan loves to blitz and he loves pass-rushing linebackers. Sean Weatherspoon is an excellent addition to an already talented line backer core. He and Calvin Pace will cause havoc on the edges.
Weatherspoon is very athletic and ran well at the combine. He’s a natural pass-rusher who would pick up the Jets defense in a hurry.
It might be a bit of a reach to select him this high, as he’s a fringe first-round talent. But most of the players at the top of their board have likely been selected and the Jets will be faced with reaching a little for a need or trading down.
30. Minnesota Vikings: DT Brian Price, UCLA
Pat Williams may very well retire before the start of the 2010 season and put an end to the Vikings impenetrable Williams wall.
Price may not be a Williams, but he can beat down offensive linemen with a great power game and excels against both the run and pass. He's about as durable as they come, so injury concerns shouldn't come up either.
He needs to work on his footing and lower body strength, but at 30 he's a great value pick.
31. Indianapolis Colts: DT/DE Jared Odrick, Penn State
Price would have been Indy’s first choice, but the Vikings snagged him up just before they could. Defensive tackle is the biggest need on this Colts team and with Minnesota seeking the same thing a pick before them, don’t be surprised to see Indy trade up to make sure they get their man.
If they can’t make a move, they’ll settle for Odrick, who by many accounts is the superior talent anyways.He presents a well-rounded set of skills and appears to fit the bill. There are concerns about his durability as well as some off-field issues that question his character, but his natural talent is evident.
There’s may be some red flag, but he's the best defensive tackle available and this late in round one the risk isn't very high.
32. New Orleans Saints: CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers
The Saints secondary ranked 26th last season, and that was with All-Pro Safety Darren Sharper cleaning up a lot of the mess in centerfield. Sharper may not return, though, which would put a lot more pressure on New Orleans’ cornerbacks to start producing.
The reality is they need help though, and that’s where Devin McCourty comes in. He’s one of the players who’s name started getting hot at the Combine. He’s fast and changes direction better than any other cornerback in the draft.
He needs to work on his ball skills, but the potential is there for him to be a solid cornerback.
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