1. St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma – While Ndamukong Suh may be the best player in the draft, the Rams desperately need a franchise quarterback as they build for the future. The Rams released Marc Bulger earlier this month, giving yet another indication that Bradford will be the pick. Bradford showed at his pro day that he has an accurate cannon for an arm despite his shoulder surgery last fall.
2. Detroit Lions – Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska – Despite trading for Corey Williams, it’s still a lock that the Lions will take a defensive tackle with their first pick. Suh’s numbers the last two seasons at Nebraska were phenomenal, and he capped it off with two dominating performances in the Big 12 championship game and the Holiday Bowl. Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy is the other option, but Suh’s physical domination, athleticism and versatility should make him the guy. Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung is also an option.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma – While the Bucs prefer Suh, McCoy’s is not a bad consolation prize. Regarded by some as the best player in the draft, McCoy’s skills have been compared to former NFL great Warren Sapp. He’s not as strong as Suh, but McCoy’s ability to attack and penetrate makes his NFL future bright.
4. Washington Redskins – Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State – This is where the draft gets interesting. The Redskins traded for Donovan McNabb, and could go with Okung to protect their new, aging signal caller. Okung would also be a nice replacement for the now-retired Chris Samuels. But they could also have McNabb tutor a young Jimmy Clausen to groom him as his successor. The Redskins may want to trade down with Buffalo, which really covets Clausen. But as it stands, with the fourth pick, Okung makes the most sense now for Washington.
5. Kansas City Chiefs – Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa – The Chiefs paid a lot of money to get Matt Cassel from New England. Now it’s time to make sure Cassel remains healthy. Bulaga can bolster a line that gave up 42 sacks last season, causing Cassel to fumble 14 times. Tennessee safety Eric Berry is also an option here.
6. Seattle Seahawks – Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State – The Seahawks would have loved to land Denver wideout Brandon Marshall, but Denver traded him to Miami. Even after a poor workout, Bryant is still the top receiver in the draft. Some character and durability issues exist with Bryant, but his talent on the field is undeniable.
7. Cleveland Browns – Eric Berry, S, Tennessee – Berry is easily the best defensive back in the draft class. Berry is a big, fast clone of Ed Reed, who can cover and isn’t afraid to come up and help in the run game. USC safety Taylor Mays gets praise for his hard hitting, but Berry does more than hit – he tackles. Berry does not need to come off the field in any situation because he’s great against the pass and the run, and can even play the nickel.
8. Oakland Raiders – Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland – Campbell might have been the most impressive physical specimen at the Combine. He possesses rare athleticism for a guy who weighs 314 pounds. While green, Oakland owner Al Davis loves workout warriors, and Campbell is that. But he also is a tremendous run blocker. While his pass-blocking technique and footwork need some help, his 36-inch reach will help keep pass rushers at bay. Bruce Campbell in the Silver and Black? It’s like the new Army of Darkness.
9. Buffalo Bills – Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame – As stated earlier, Buffalo really likes Clausen. If a deal cannot be worked out where the Bills trade up, Clausen should still fall to No. 9. After passing on Michael Oher last year, going offensive line is an option for the Bills. But grabbing their franchise QB of the future has to be the priority.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida – There were, and still are, many draftniks who think the Jaguars should take Tim Tebow to put butts in seats. While Tebow would undoubtedly increase ticket sales for a financially fledgling franchise, he would also be a huge risk with the 10th overall pick. The safer option is to select another dominating Florida player, who wouldn’t be a reach and actually fills a need. Jacksonville had just 14 sacks in 2009 and signed free agent Aaron Kampman away from Green Bay. Kampman is coming off a torn ACL, but if healthy, the bookends of Kampman and Pierre-Paul could have the Jags back in the playoffs sooner rather than later.
11. Denver Broncos (from Chicago) – Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama – The Broncos need help on the defensive front, at linebacker, and in the secondary. But trading up to get Suh, McCoy or Berry carried too big of a price tag. Denver released linebacker Andra Davis, making room for a dynamic talent like McClain in Denver’s 3-4 system.
12. Miami Dolphins – Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee – A big run stuffer with a lot of upside, Williams is a top 10 talent. At 6-2, 320 pounds is an upgrade at the nose over 35-year-old Jason Ferguson. Throw in the fact that Ferguson is suspended for the first half of the 2010 season, and it makes nose tackle a much more pressing need. Williams isn’t great at shedding blocks, but what he does is occupy blockers, making way for the linebackers to make plays. Williams is the textbook definition of a run stuffer. Bryant is also an option here.
13. San Francisco 49ers – Joe Haden, CB, Florida – While the rumors about the Niners being interested in Dez Bryant are running rampant, one must remember that Mike Singletary was one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the game. It must have been painful for the coach to watch his defense get shredded week in and week out. There is no questions that Alex Smith’s game improved with a new, young playmaker in Michael Crabtree to throw to, and adding Bryant to Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis would certainly give him another receiving option. But the 49ers have not selected a defensive back in the first round since Mike Rumph in 2002, and have only taken three this century higher than the third round. As a result, San Francisco had the NFL’s 21st-rated pass defense last year.
14. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) – Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma – With their new No. 1 receiver, the Seahawks now turn their attention to replacing Walter Jones, who has said he will retire. Williams can play either tackle position and is a fluid athlete. At 6-5, 315 pounds, Williams’ athleticism makes him a perfect fit for the zone-blocking scheme of new Seattle line coach Alex Gibbs.
15. New York Giants – C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson – The Giants running game is at its best when it has two different backs. There was “Thunder and Lightning” with a young Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber in 2000. Coupled with bruising back Brandon Jacobs, Spiller would be the new “lightning” to Jacobs’ “thunder.” Spiller is about as versatile as playmakers get. A phenomenal tailback, Spiller is the NCAA record holder with eight kick returns for touchdowns. He holds 31 schools records and several ACC records. Spiller joins Reggie Bush as the only backs in NCAA history with 3,000 career rushing yards, 1,500 kick return yards, 1,000 receiving yards and more than 500 punt return yards.
16. Tennessee Titans – Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech – The Titans lost their two best pass rushers this offseason in Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jevon Kearse, creating a huge need. Morgan is a prototypical defensive end with enough athleticism to play outside linebacker. He’s 6-3, 266 and his football instincts led to 18 tackles for a loss with 12 sacks last season, and 10 fumble recoveries over the last two seasons.
17. San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina) – Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho – With two extremely talented receivers in Crabtree and Davis, and a new cover corner selected earlier in the first round, the Niners can turn their attention to the offensive line. Iupati may be the most versatile offensive line prospect in the draft. Big, strong, tough and physical, Iupati is a natural fit at either guard, but also got in some time at tackle during Senior Bowl week. If San Francisco is going to give Alex Smith a chance at shaking his bust status, then bolstering the offensive line is a good start.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers – Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida – Ben Roethlisberger has been hit more than most quarterbacks since he came into the league. Some of that is his fault by holding onto the ball too long, but some of it has to do with an aging offensive line. Pouncey is a rare talent at center, who plays into that blue-collar mentality the Steelers franchise has always been about. With immeasurable intangibles, Pouncey’s upside is tremendous and he could be the anchor of the Steelers line for the next decade.
19. Atlanta Falcons – Brandon Graham, LB/DE, Michigan – Graham was one of the most impressive players at the Senior Bowl following a season in which he led the nation in tackles for a loss. Undersized, but blessed with an unstoppable motor, Graham’s work ethic and willingness to learn are a coach’s dream. Adding youth at defensive end is a priority for the Falcons, and Graham could be the perfect fit.
20. Houston Texans – Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State – The Texans appear to want Mathews more than any other player. Big (5-11, 223) and fast (4.4 40), Mathews would be a perfect compliment to Steve Slaton. While he has a history of nagging injuries, Mathews exploded on the scene last year with 19 touchdowns and a 6.6 yards-per-carry average.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Taylor Mays, S, USC – Mays is a hard-hitting safety with questionable tackling abilities. What is unquestioned is that Mays is a ball hawk, and can significantly upgrade a Cincinnati secondary that had just five turnovers from the safety position. Mays is also familiar with Cincinnati’s top draft choice from a year ago, linebacker Rey Maualuga.
22. New England Patriots – Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma – Even after coming off a significant knee injury, Gresham is still the top tight end in the draft. At 6-5, 260, Gresham has a prototypical build, but with the pass-catching ability of Tony Gonzalez or Kellen Winslow. Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas is also an option, but Gresham provides the versatility of a player who can run block in tight, as well as split out and stretch the field vertically.
23. Green Bay Packers – Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers – Ted Thompson learned the error of his ways early last season, watching Aaron Rodgers take a beating. Thompson wisely brought back right tackle Mark Tauscher. But Tauscher and left tackle Chad Clifton, while talented, are no spring chickens. Thompson loves to build for the future through the draft and there is no bigger future need for the Packers than at tackle. The Packers are also getting older at cornerback, but protecting Rodgers has to be the top priority.
24. Philadelphia Eagles – Earl Thomas, S, Texas – The Eagles lost their unquestioned leader in safety Brian Dawkins a year ago. With their linebacker need met in the trade for Ernie Sims, the Eagles turn their attention to another pressing need - replacing Dawkins. Thomas was a stud for the Longhorns, leading them with eight interceptions, bringing two back for scores against Colorado and Oklahoma State. In just two years, Thomas has 10 picks with five forced fumbles and 134 tackles from the safety position.
25. Baltimore Ravens – Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State – Baltimore’s lovefest with Wilson began in Indianapolis, where the team’s personnel staff was impressed with the 5-10, 185-pound corner. Wilson ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, posted a 38-inch vertical leap and was near perfect in agility drills. All that after impressing coaches with his maturity during interviews. At Boise, Wilson was a three-year starter and All-American while posting 11 career interceptions and five touchdowns. He also returned kicks his junior and senior seasons.
26. Arizona Cardinals – Sergio Kindle, LB/DE, Texas – Playing second-fiddle to last year’s defensive rookie of the year, Brian Orakpo, Kindle has played under the radar to anybody not familiar with Big 12 football. What Kindle is is a 6-foot-3, 250-pound tweener end capable a sliding into any 3-4 scheme and dominating. Blessed with great speed and a knack to get to the quarterback, Kindle could be an excellent fit in Ken Whisenhunt’s 3-4 defense.
27. Dallas Cowboys – Vladimir Ducasse, OT, Massachusetts – Following the release of Flozell Adams, the Cowboys need to replace him. A Haitian native fairly new to football, Ducasse may be the most physically gifted tackle in this draft class not named Bruce Campbell. Ducasse’s upside is tremendous and, can play inside at guard if needed. He was impressive at the Senior Bowl, and his talents did not go unnoticed. His impressive size, 6-5, 330 pounds, are an added bonus to a player who could be Tony Romo’s blindside protector for years to come.
28. San Diego Chargers – Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama – The Cowboys released “Flozell The Hotel” and the Chargers follow Dallas’ selection of Ducasse with “Mount Cody.” With both C.J. Spiller and Ryan Mathews off the board, the Chargers turn their attention to another need. At 6-4, 350 pounds, Cody is the huge, block-eating nose tackle the Chargers need in their 3-4 defense. San Diego ranked 20th against the run last year. For a team that went 13-3 last year and won the AFC West, adding Cody to stop the run should make a very good team even better.
29. New York Jets – Jerry Hughes, DE/LB, TCU – What do you get the NFL’s No. 1 defense? How about a freakishly gifted athlete who lives in the opponent’s backfield. Hughes has 26 sacks over the last two seasons while leading what has been one of college football’s top units. With three career interceptions – one returned for a score – he has the athleticism to drop in coverage in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme. Georgia Tech’s Thomas is an option here as well, but the Jets won last year with their defense and don’t expect Rex Ryan to change his mentality any time soon.
30. Minnesota Vikings – Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers – Antoine Winfield is 33, and Cedric Griffin is recovering from a torn ACL. McCourty is big (5-11, 193), fast (4.38 40) and athletic and could provide the Vikings with their shutdown corner of the future. Also an asset in special teams, McCourty blocked seven kicks for the Scarlet Knights.
31. Indianapolis Colts – Charles Brown, OT, USC – Colts president Bill Polian was openly critical of the Colts offensive line play after the Super Bowl. Tony Ugoh was a second-round bust from the 2007 draft, and Polian wants to fill the need at left tackle. Brown seems like the perfect fit this late in the draft. He’s the best tackle available here, and his superb footwork and agility give him tremendous balance and change-of-direction skills.
32. New Orleans Saints – Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida – The Saints are interested in the recently-released Alex Brown after James Hall spurned his hometown team to return to the Rams. Dunlap is a gifted athlete and looks great without a shirt on. He’s 6-foot-5, 271 pounds and ran an impressive 4.71 40-yard dash. But he’s raw and has off-the-field issues. By the same token, his upside is limitless. Defensive end is probably the biggest need for the Saints. Even if they sign a veteran like Brown, getting a young stud for the future is always smart.
This mock draft can also be read at The Alton Telegraph.