This is my first mock draft I have published, and after waiting for much of free agency to play itself out, I thought it was time to give it a go.
With many risers and fallers, sleepers and risks, every team has their own draft board, and that it important to keep in mind when doing mock drafts.
I have spent time researching draft histories of general managers and coaches and have looked at recent trends in order to try to guess how the draft on April 22 will shape up.
Please leave any comments you may have, and please enjoy.
1. St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
All of the Ram's offseason moves point to selecting Bradford with the inaugural pick to this year's NFL Draft, especially releasing Marc Bulger. They are obviously making room, and while many analysts believe the Rams may trade down to take Jimmy Clausen and add picks, the Rams usually like to stay put. They do so here, and Bradford becomes the quarterback they can build their offense around.
2. Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Suh gets the edge over Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung here not because of need, but because of value. Suh is arguably the best player in the draft and Jim Schwartz needs an Albert Haynesworth-type of player to anchor his defensive line.
The Haynesworth trade rumors are still milling about, but I doubt the Lions make a play with so many needs that trading draft picks could be detrimental to the building process. They take Suh.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Tampa Bay is thrilled when the No. 1 prospect according to many scouts falls to them at No. 3. Not only is McCoy the best player available, but he also fills a team need.
Ever since parting ways with Warren Sapp the Buccaneers have missed him. McCoy potentially adds that kind of presence. Tampa needs a pass rusher and a run snuffer; McCoy's penetrating ability gives the Buccaneers all they could ever want.
4. Washington Redskins: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
They need to protect the new guy in town. Mike Shanahan realizes the importance of a strong offensive front. His offseason moves point toward taking the best tackle available, whether that be Okung, or if he is gone, Trent Williams. They have signed running backs and traded for a quarterback. They may even trade for wide receiver Brandon Marshall (according to rumors). These moves point towards addressing the line in the draft.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
Many consider this a reach, and even a bad pick, with players such as teammate Eric Berry and offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga still on the board. General Manager Scott Pioli likes to build in the trenches, and while many say "Well, then they are going to take Bulaga, obviously," I say look at the history.
While with New England, Pioli invested first round draft picks in all three starting defensive lineman on the Super Bowl winning teams. More recently, many considered it a reach last season in selecting defensive end Tyson Jackson. Pioli is going to start with the defensive line just as he did when building the Patriots. Dan Williams will be his nose tackle and will complete the line that already has two other first round draft picks in Jackson and Glenn Dorsey.
6. Seattle Seahawks: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
I had thought that Seattle would take C.J. Spiller with this pick since day one of the offseason, but the Seahawks have yet to address their need on the offensive line thus far, and have even traded away players (OG Rob Sims). So I change my pick to Trent Williams. They are in perfect position to take one of the elite offensive tackle prospects in this draft and take advantage of it.
7. Cleveland Browns: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
The Browns need a guy that can lead and make plays on their defense. Eric Berry is the best playmaker in this year's draft, and that includes both offensive and defensive players. Mike Holmgren will not hesitate to take the immensely talented Berry.
8. Oakland Raiders: Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland
As soon as I saw him run that 4.80 second 40 I said, rather jokingly, "The Raiders are going to take him." And then, after giving it more thought, I came to the sad realization that maybe it was not as much of a joke as I thought.
Campbell has fallen down many scouts' boards, but Al Davis has proven time and time again that his board looks much different than most (click, filter, 40 times).
9. Buffalo Bills: Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
This is where I go away from trends and go with my gut. Chan Gailey, during his two years with the Dallas Cowboys, selected two North Carolina defensive ends with his first round picks: Greg Ellis at No. 8 and Ebenezer Ekuban at 20th. So while his history points towards trenches and defense, two years is still hardly enough to base Gailey's draft future from. Gailey can't resist the NFL-ready Clausen.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
ESPN's Mel Kiper predicted this pick in his mock draft, and for once I agree with him. I also read reports that the Jaguars were interested in the Clemson game-breaker.
Adding some explosion to that offense and special teams would be a good move for Jacksonville. Spiller would also serve as a great compliment to the physical Maurice Jones-Drew. After taking care of their defensive end need with Aaron Kampman, they can safely make this pick.
11. Denver Broncos: Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
They are still in the rebuilding process of that defense and McClain will anchor that defense for years to come. The pick could very well be Dez Bryant here, but I believe that if Marshall is moved, it will not be until the first round is over, or at least after Denver makes this pick. After which Josh McDaniels will find another way to compensate for the departure, either through the draft or free agency (Terrell Owens?).
12. Miami Dolphins: Jason Pierre-Paul, OLB/DE, South Florida
It is time for Parcells to get his linebacker, and Pierre-Paul resembles the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, and Demarcus Ware the most, both physically and in ability.
The pick could be Texas safety Earl Thomas as well (whom they have met with three times), but Parcells has always built the same way, and like I said, I like trends. He always gets his corner, and he always gets his linebacker. Miami selected cornerback Vontae Davis last season.
CB, check. Time for a linebacker.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
With recent shifts in the front office, the 49ers are in an interesting situation here. Who will be calling the shots on draft day is still a question. The 49ers play it safe and go with the best player available, Bryan Bulaga. The 6'5" tackle also fills a need and plays a position where busts are rare. A safe, solid choice by the front office.
14. Seattle Seahawks: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
If the Marshall trade does not happen before the draft, or Seattle is not the team that lands him, then Pete Carroll gets impatient with the process and takes Dez Bryant to add playmaking ability to his offense.
15. New York Giants: Joe Haden, CB, Florida
The Giants have a need at inside linebacker, and while Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon would be a solid choice here, Joe Haden still remains on the board. The Giants tend to select the best available player, and Joe Haden would be an immense upgrade at the cornerback position and could step in and contribute right away to the retooled secondary.
16. Tennessee Titans: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech.
Jeff Fisher and Chuck Cecil get the type of high-motor player that they love to have on their defensive front. Morgan will fit in nicely while replacing the recent departures of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon Kearse, and last season's Albert Haynesworth.
17. San Francisco 49ers: Earl Thomas, FS, Texas
Again, they go with the best available player and select Earl Thomas. He will also fill a need in the defensive backfield. He can cover the deep field and can be relied on in pass coverage. He will line up nicely next to the more physical Dashon Goldson, who had 94 tackles and two sacks last season playing strong safety.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
The Pittsburgh Steelers have two main needs—interior lineman and cornerback. If you pay any attention to recent trends you can see that the Steelers will always favor defense. Also, Mike Tomlin is an ex-defensive back, so you can bet he realizes the importance of a strong defensive backfield, especially in a division that just acquired Anquan Boldin.
The Steelers need to bulk up on cornerback depth and do so by selecting Kyle Wilson, a solid cover corner.
19. Atlanta Falcons: Brandon Graham, OLB/DE, Michigan
The Falcons could use an upgrade at both defensive end and outside linebacker. Graham could potentially upgrade both positions. He will give Mike Smith some creativity on defense and could play a role similar to what Brian Orakpo did last season with Washington.
20. Houston Texans: Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
Houston could go defensive tackle or running back here, but the hole left by Dunta Robinson is too great to ignore, which they have done thus far in free agency. You draft to your division and in a division that includes, well, Peyton Manning, corner must be a top priority to remain competitive.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
Cincinnati's defense made great strides last season, so they can afford to go offense in the first and spend picks later to improve the defense. Carson Palmer needs to be protected so that he may return to his elite form. The Bengals grab a great talent here to solidify the interior line. Iupati could also eventually move to an outside tackle position.
22. New England Patriots: Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
The Patriots could go with an offensive playmaker here such as Jermaine Gresham or a pass rusher like Sergio Kindle, but if they feel that Odrick can transition well into their system, he will be the pick. This really comes down to their private research. If they feel Odrick will not transition well then I think Gresham will be the pick, but for now, I will stick with Odrick to help rebuild the defense.
23. Green Bay Packers: Ryan Matthews, RB, Fresno State
The Pack already has one good, though not stellar back in Ryan Grant. But this is a two back league and Matthews can really add a great dynamic to an already good, young offense. Can you say "The Ryan Brothers?"
24. Philadelphia Eagles: Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas
The Eagles are rebuilding a linebacking unit after a disastrous season plagued by injuries at the position. Sergio Kindle is the kind of linebacker that the late Jim Johnson would have wanted on his defense: physical, a top-notch blitzer, and productive.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
Baltimore could draft Weatherspoon here. After all, Ray Lewis is not getting any younger and they will need someone whom he could mentor to replace him when he retires.
But Baltimore has always done a good job finding linebackers in later rounds (Bart Scott, Jarret Johnson). They will rely on their scouts later on to find a linebacker, but for now corner is a more pressing need. McCourty is a fast riser and will be a huge upgrade to the current unit.
26. Arizona Cardinals: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
The Cardinals have been searching for a TE for a while, and after the loss of Anquan Boldin they can compensate with Gresham as a mid-field threat and fill the need. In the past they have typically drafted for need so Weatherspoon, again, could also be the pick. After past failures in drafting for need, however, they may change their drafting approach.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
Dallas will take Davis in a heartbeat when he is still on the board at No. 27. He is not only one the best players available but fills a gaping hole at offensive tackle where Flozell Adams once stood and kicked opposing defensive ends. Davis will add all the talent without the penalties.
28. San Diego Chargers: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech.
The Bolts love big receivers and are obviously building around quarterback Phillip Rivers. They recover from the loss of LaDanian Tomlinson not by drafting a running back, but by adding another receiving threat for Rivers to throw to.
29. New York Jets: Taylor Mays, S, USC
After trading Kerry Rhodes, the Jets have a minor need at safety. You better believe Rex Ryan is going defense in the first round and Mays will prove to be the biggest upgrade they can get at this spot after all the other solid first-round pass rushers come off the board by now.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State
The Purple People Eaters suffered casualties at cornerback last season during the playoffs and need to solidify the group with some young talent. Patrick Robinson is the best corner left on the board.
31. Indianapolis Colts: Maurkice Pouncy, C/OG, Florida
Indianapolis will always favor offense over defense. Bill Polian already blamed the offensive line for the Super Bowl loss, and he is right. They should have played better and can use some extra talent on the front. For a team so completely built around Peyton Manning, Pouncy is a high football I.Q. player that will fit in nicely at guard and can eventually replace Jeff Saturday.
32. New Orleans Saints: Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Weatherspoon falls to the Saints after slipping by the likes of the Giants, Eagles, and Cardinals. Gregg Williams will appreciate the 6'1", 240-lb. athlete that can play any linebacker position. He is the best defensive player left on the board an could be the best linebacker on the roster in a few seasons.