Last update: Friday, April 24, 2009.
Hunter is a freelance writer who has been published by ESPN the Magazine. He runs Draft Zoo.com
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Detroit Lions: Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia
I don't really think there is any need to explain this pick. All those who hate it have made that quite clear. And all those who love it have done the same. Bottom line: It's the best pick Detroit can make. Matt Stafford has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback, and the fact that he is actually excited about going to Detroit should be reason enough to take him here. Aaron Curry would have to man the middle of the 4-3 now that Julian Peterson is on the strong side, and I don't think that's a great fit for him. The Lions can get a starting-caliber left tackle at 20.
St. Louis Rams: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
I've seen a lot of mocks go with Eugene Monroe here lately, and that's a valid pick, but Jason Smith is the No. 1 tackle on my board. Even though he may not be as polished, Smith has everything you look for in a dominant left tackle. He's got great size, excellent athleticism and a nasty attitude. I think he can do more to get the running game going than Monroe could. It would be kind of neat to see Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson stay healthy one more time. What would that look like?
Kansas City Chiefs: Aaron Curry, ILB, Wake Forest
Zach Thomas is old. Really, really old. Anyone who thinks his signing means that Aaron Curry won't be the pick here is lying to themselves. With the Chiefs switching to the 3-4, this is a perfect fit for the former Wake Forest star. They won't draft a right tackle this high, and Branden Albert is entrenched on the left side. It just makes too much sense to take perhaps the best overall prospect in the draft, especially when he fits perfectly on the inside of your new defense and should start from moment one.
Seattle Seahawks: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Again, not buying all of the offensive tackle talk. Walter Jones is coming off of an injury, but he's still Walter Jones. And he's got some time left. After watching what the Cardinals did with two great wideouts, why not give Matt Hasselbeck, who also has a few remaining years in the tank, another awesome weapon in the passing game? I really think grabbing a guy like Crabtree makes every facet of this offense better. Watch the running game bounce back when teams have to worry about T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Crabtree. Not to piggyback Matt's mock, but he said it best about the Hawks being better off with Jones and Crabtree than with Deion Branch and Eugene Monroe/Jason Smith.
Cleveland Browns: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Calm down everyone, Aaron Maybin is gone from this slot. And in his place? Mark Sanchez. I don?t know exactly how this will go down, but I do feel pretty confident that Eric Mangini will find a way to make Sanchez a Brown. I don?t like it, and I think it?s worthless to get rid of Brady Quinn, but Mangini seems set on saying goodbye to every accomplished player on the Browns? roster. If he gets rid of Braylon Edwards and Crabtree is available, he?ll be the pick. If he deals Quinn away, then it?ll be Sanchez. I really wouldn?t be surprised if he takes the 1-year wonder even if he can?t give Quinn to someone else because he?d probably just release him. Someone please tell him that his Mensa newsletter keeps getting sent to my house. Oh wait, that?s mine.
Cincinnati Bengals: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
The Bengals pretty much announced that they wouldn't take B.J. Raji here when they signed Tank Johnson, and they seem to have some confidence in Pat Sims. Carson Palmer, like most quarterbacks, is much better at throwing the ball when he's standing, and if the Bengals want any offensive production next year, they'll grab one of the top two tackles at this spot. Monroe is a very refined guy, and the fact that he was good enough to keep Branden Albert at guard in college speaks volumes about his talent. The only way I see Cincinnati going another way here is if both Jason Smith and Monroe are off the board. Of course, they'd probably just take Andre Smith if that happened.
Oakland Raiders: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
Just to toot my own horn, and no that's not a euphemism - I'm using both hands to type - I've had Darrius Heyward-Bey going to Oakland for about three weeks. But if the situation above plays out like this, I think Orakpo will be too tempting to pass up. The Raiders could definitely use some help rushing the passer, and Orakpo has the athleticism that causes Al Davis to call a nurse to change his track suit.
For now, with the former Texas defensive end still on the board, he's the pick. Derrick Burgess won't be around much longer, but he probably has one or two good seasons left in the tank. Burgess will have a much easier go of it with someone like Orakpo wreaking havoc on the other side. I'm still concerned about his injury history and limited strength, but he has the potential to be a great pro and he definitely fits the mold Davis is looking to fill.
Jacksonville Jaguars: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Yeah I still have Jacksonville staying put here, but this time I have a valid reason. With Mark Sanchez off the board, I don?t know who would be willing to trade up to the eighth pick. Looks like Jacksonville will be stuck in the top 10. There?s no way they go offensive tackle in Round 1 with the William Tra Thomas signing. I don?t see this pick being a receiver anymore after paying Torry Holt $20 million dollars. And I don?t think that they?ll reach for Darius Butler or Vontae Davis here. Of course, Derrick Harvey might disagree with me. If Butler would be considered a stretch, Harvey was a full yoga routine.
Anyway, B.J. Raji makes some sense. He has a spotty history, but his drug test results show that he has the ability to stay away from trouble for at least a few months. The Jags will be wary of gambling on another risk in that area, but the fact that Raji would team with John Henderson to give Jacksonville a formidable tackle duo seems too tempting to pass up. Raji will be a good fit in Jack Del Rio?s front.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn State
Wake the kids, no more Malcolm Jenkins projection here. I still don?t think he?s an impossibility, but I don?t feel like opening that can of worms again, and this time there are better options. Aaron Maybin is my highest rated DE, and I don?t mind going out on a limb and saying that I think he?ll be better than Brian Orakpo. So kudos to Green Bay for being lucky enough to get him in my mock.
Tyson Jackson is a consideration here, but I?m not as high on him as some, and I think he?ll drop out of the top 10. The Packers need a better pass rush, and since they appear to be switching to the 3-4, that will likely come from the outside backers. Maybin has the athleticism and speed to be worth the gamble that he?ll develop into a dangerous rush linebacker.
San Francisco 49ers: Malcolm Jenkins, S, Ohio State
Hey, here?s Malcolm Jenkins. Before you choke, hear me out. The 49ers aren?t a lock to ignore the OT position even with the signing of Marvel Smith, but it makes that selection less likely in my mind. The other glaring need seems to be a pass rusher, and Mike Singletary has publicly stated that he wants one early in the draft, but I don?t think there are any worth the pick here. Reaching for Everette Brown or Larry English, or even Michael Johnson doesn?t seem like the right move after Parys Haralson?s nice season and subsequent bag of money.
Mark Roman was flat-out awful last year, and I?m an LSU guy, so if I think that, then you know it was bad. Jenkins has the skills to be a great free safety, and his presence over the top should ease the load on the corners. I just think he makes the most sense here as far as value and need. At least I don?t have him going to Green Bay anymore.
Buffalo Bills: Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
The Bills pretty much telegraphed this pick when they lost Jason Peters to the Eagles. They can't afford to gamble that a top tackle will be available with the 28th pick. I think Michael Oher is much better than a lot of people do, and I would take him 1,000 times before I took Andre Smith. Oher should step in from Day 1 and help replace the most overrated offensive lineman in the entire league. Hey, maybe they'll end up with one of the most underrated guys. Crazy, right?
Denver Broncos: Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
With B.J. Raji off the board, Denver should turn their attention to Tyson Jackson. Jackson is the best pure 5-technique in the draft, and Denver could certainly use a guy like that to build their new defensive line. They signed a few scrubs like Ronald Fields and Darrell Reid, but Jackson is an immediate upgrade up front. He plays the run well when he gets good position, and he has the size and strength to man the position effectively.
I?m in the minority that thinks Josh McDaniels believes he can win with Kyle Orton, so I don?t see them trading up here. And I definitely don?t see Denver moving above the Browns to get Sanchez. Of course, I live in Denver so I probably don?t know what I?m talking about.
Washington Redskins: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Not much need to explain this pick either. I do think that Daniel Snyder is souring on Jason Campbell and is probably dumb enough to dump him in order to move up and select yet another first-round quarterback. Of course, I have them staying put, and Andre Smith is a perfect pick for a guy who loves big names. If Smith lives up to his potential, he'll be a great one. If he doesn't, at least Redskins fans will be used to it.
New Orleans Saints: Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
Let me preface this by saying that I hate this pick. The Saints should trade down, or take a safety or corner here if Malcolm Jenkins is available. But I lived in Louisiana for a long time, and the word on Bourbon Street - and actually all the streets in New Orleans - is that Chris Wells is looking more and more like the pick. Sure, I heard this from a few guys who collect change outside of the Hustler club, but I also heard it from some guys who usually have a good read on the Saints' draft plans.
After losing Deuce McAllister, there is a need for a powerful back. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are good players, but neither is a pile pusher. I wish I could mock this more intelligently, but it appears that Sean Payton believes his secondary can be successful with the additions of Jabari Greer and Darren Sharper.
Miami Dolphins: Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
Here?s another surprise for you. Miami has two second rounders, so they have the ammo to move up here and get their guy. I agree with Matt McGuire that Darius Butler is the best pure corner in the draft, and I think that Miami needs a corner about as bad as Dog the Bounty Hunter needs a lifetime supply of Paul Mitchell products. This pass defense ranked 25th last year, and after losing Andre Goodman to the Broncos, I don?t see it getting any better without a top-tier corner. Butler should find himself as a starter Week 1.
Jason Allen struggled to play safety, and I just don?t believe that he can be an effective starter at cornerback. Miami can give up the 56th pick and still have one in every round. I think Houston would rather drop back and grab some extra selections while still being able to pick up a top safety in Round 2. Maybe it?s a stretch to mock Miami trading here, but I definitely think Houston would be willing to move out of the spot.
San Diego Chargers: Evander Hood, DE, Missouri
The Chargers need to build the right side of their offensive line, but with all of the tackles worth the 16th pick off the board, they will turn their attention to defense. San Diego has thrown a few curveballs in Round 1 before, so it wouldn?t be a huge surprise to see Evander Hood come off the board here. I think Hood can be a solid end in the 3-4, and the Chargers have needed an upgrade over Igor Olshansky for a while. Now he?s gone, so the timing seems perfect.
Eben Britton could be the guy, and right tackle is an area of concern, but I think he?s a reach at 16th. I?m not particularly high on Hood (I mean, did anyone see the Missouri defense last year?) but he looks like a better fit as a 5-technique to me than he does as a DT.
New York Jets: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
After missing out on Jay Cutler, it seems like the Jets would be in prime position to pick up Josh Freeman here. I'm going against the grain. Knowshon Moreno is the top back in this class by a mile in my opinion, and with the way the Jets defense is shaping up, I think Rex Ryan can win with a strong running attack and a quarterback who doesn't lose every game. The Ravens have made that formula work plenty of times in the past, and the Jets may actually be willing to give it a try. At the very least, it's hard to imagine them taking someone like Freeman who might actually make a few fans happy. But with Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and Knowshon in the backfield, they should be able to move the ball pretty effectively. And when Jones finally leaves, Moreno will be the man. Of course, after watching a similarly skilled Joe Flacco lead Baltimore to the playoffs last year, maybe taking Freeman will be the call.
Denver Broncos: Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
Everyone and their dog has the Broncos going with a pass-rushing outside linebacker here to help boost the pressure in the new 3-4. But I honestly believe the Broncos are willing to give Elvis Dumervil and Jarvis Moss a chance on the outside. The situation there could be worse. I think that getting Rey Maualuga is the smarter pick. Sure they added Andra Davis, but Maualuga would be a perfect fit inside in the new scheme.
The Broncos have played with tiny backers for so long that Maualuga might look funny in blue and orange, but they really need to add some size to solidify the middle now. I just don't see them passing on a talent like Maualuga if he's still around at this spot.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
Byron Leftwich is not the answer. I know that the Bucs probably don't think he is either, but bringing him in shouldn't stop them from taking Josh Freeman if he makes it past the Jets and the Redskins. Don't laugh. I wouldn't be too surprised if Daniel Snyder drafted him if they get rid of Jason Campbell and miss out on Mark Sanchez.
Anyway, the Bucs have a nice group of possibly decent backups, and they can maybe afford to let Freeman ease into the starting role. But if a guy like this is an option here, they really shouldn't pass. Because if they do, they might not be able to pass all season. Yeah, it looks like Freeman will be gone by this point, but in this scenario he makes the most sense for Tampa.
Detroit Lions: William Beatty, OT, Connecticut
If the Lions take Stafford first overall and don't draft a left tackle to protect him then he's bound to end up drinking High Life with Joey Harrington on Ryan Leaf's screen porch. That'd be a cool picture though, especially in an old-timey sepia tone.
Anyway, look at what Atlanta did last year. They took Matt Ryan and then traded back into Round 1 to grab Sam Baker. Sure, Baker was injured for a good part of the season, but he did a nice job of giving Ryan time when he was on the field.
There are plenty of holes on the defense, but Detroit has done a nice job through free agency of filling most of them, and they have a better shot of waiting until later rounds to address that side of the ball than they do of crossing their fingers that Beatty or Eben Britton falls to the 33rd pick.
Philadelphia Eagles: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
The Eagles seem content to crosshair Donovan McNabb behind Stacey Andrews and Jason Peters, so the chance that they'll go offensive tackle in Round 1 has disappeared. The least they can do is give him a big target to heave the ball up to on his way to the ground. I think Brandon Pettigrew has got to be the guy here. He's big enough to help out with blocking in the ground game, and he should provide the Eagles with a sizeable red-zone target for the first time in about a century. There's always a chance that this pick is defense - any pick that can in no way help McNabb is never something to rule out.
Minnesota Vikings: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
The Vikings could go with an offensive playmaker here like Percy Harvin or Hakeem Nicks to ease the load on Adrian Peterson, but I don't see it. No matter what Mel Kiper says. Ryan Cook is nothing special at right tackle, and I'm being nice, plus he could be moved to center to give John Sullivan some competition. So with one of the top tackles still available, the only good option is to draft him. Eben Britton should be able to man the right side from Day 1. Imagine what Adrian Peterson can do when he doesn't have to cut every run back to the left side.
New England Patriots: Clay Matthews, DE/OLB, USC
The Patriots linebackers are getting pretty old. Sure they brought in Tully Banta-Cain, but that's kind of like patching your car tire with bubble tape. Brian Cushing is an option here, but I think his ability to play more than one linebacker spot is less a testament to his versatility than it is to his inability to excel at any one spot. Walt pointed out that New England managed only 31 sacks last season and Clay Matthews should help out in that area with his rushing ability from the OLB spot. Matthews is a hard worker who walked on at USC, and he seems like a good start on a younger linebacker corps when coupled with Jerod Mayo.
Atlanta Falcons: Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois
The Falcons would love for Brandon Pettigrew to fall to this spot, but with only one first-rounder now I think the Eagles will grab him. They could go after a safety here, but that still seems like a reach. Defensive tackles like Peria Jerry and Evander Hood don't fit what Atlanta is looking for in my mind, and the Falcons can probably find a run-stuffing defensive tackle later in the draft. What they can't find is a pass-rusher like English. Jamaal Anderson has been a major bust so far, and someone has to start applying pressure opposite John Abraham. Worst case, English can play some outside linebacker for them after losing Michael Boley and Keith Brooking. Bolstering the pass rush seems like the best way to go here value-wise.
Oakland Raiders: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
TRADE! Maybe I have a crush on the Raiders today, but if Al Davis would stop winking at me, and it looks like he?s installing a stripper pole. He's just so cute with that drool running down his wattle, so it's hard not to give them their top two guys in Round 1.
Anyway, the Texans are the team that would be dropping out of this pick, and that?s another long shot maybe, but they could end up with three selections in Round 2, and the one from Oakland would likely be high enough to still select William Moore. The Raiders would likely want to get this selection in before Baltimore picks. Darrius Heyward-Bey is going to be a Raider from what I can tell, and even though Oakland rarely pulls draft day trades, this year could be an exception if DHB is still on the board here. I just think Davis would be too scared of missing out on him not to give up his second- and third-rounders.
Baltimore Ravens: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
I wanted to give the Ravens a corner like Vontae Davis, but after paying Dominique Foxworth and Chris Carr, and re-signing Samari Rolle and Evan Oglesby, I don't think they'll spend first-round dollars on another corner.
Percy Harvin is apparently on a quest to supplant Spencer Pratt as the world?s biggest tool, so Jeremy Maclin seems like the best choice. Joe Flacco recently went to workout with Darrius Heyward-Bey, so you know he?s looking for a speedster to take advantage of his big arm. That rules out Hakeem Nicks, in my opinion. Maclin can immediately contribute on special teams, and will give the offense another weapon to work with while keeping this receiving corps afloat after Derrick Mason retires. He may not drop this far, but his route running needs work and he?s no lock in the first round.
Indianapolis Colts: Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
I think the Colts will consider Percy Harvin if he's still on the board, but they might take Peria Jerry regardless. They were awful against the run last year, and likely lost their playoff game due to their inability to stop Darren Sproles. Jerry should be a great fit in Indy's one-gap system. He has the quickness to disrupt plays in the backfield, and he's strong enough to hold the blockers up allowing the linebackers to roam free. I don't see the Colts going with anyone else, except for maybe Evander Hood. I just like Jerry better than Hood. A good defensive tackle should make the entire defensive line better.
Buffalo Bills: Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
The Bills' decision to take an offensive tackle with their first pick looks to have worked out here. Michael Johnson is a beast of a man, and should immediately bolster the Bills' pass rush if he plays like he can. He said his stats took a hit due to the fact that he was asked to do so many things for Georgia Tech last year, but they weren't that bad in my opinion anyway. The 28th pick is the perfect spot to gamble on a guy who is built like a top overall choice. If this pick happens and it works out, the Bills will look like geniuses.
New York Giants: Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
Barring a trade for Braylon Edwards, the Giants will go wide receiver with their first choice this year. Eli Manning has made it clear that the passing game needs a big, reliable target in order to succeed. Kenny Britt is a little more flash than he is possession, but he has great size and good speed. He should be the wideout that Manning needs to open things up. It's time for the Giants to spend a first-round pick on this position. The defense looks pretty good to me, and this could be the final piece on offense.
Tennessee Titans: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
The Titans need a corner. Pacman Jones' character concerns didn't scare the Titans when they were picking sixth, so why would they be afraid of Vontae Davis at the 30 spot? Davis is the most physically gifted corner in the draft, but he is plagued by inconsistency and has a reputation as a prima donna. I think that he is worth the risk this late in Round 1, and it's not impossible that a team picking earlier will roll the dice on him. Nick Harper is getting old, and if Davis is around here, the Titans would be wise to take the risk and add a strong corner who could star for years.
Arizona Cardinals: Everette Brown, DE/OLB, Florida State
I'm not that down on Everette Brown, but I don't think he's the second coming either. There's always one guy who takes a big fall on Draft Day, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Brown could be in for an embarrassing drop. Call it a hunch, but he got so many sacks in college working against air that teams might be hesitant to draft him higher than this. The Cards have no problem taking physically gifted guys who don't have great film, and they certainly need pass-rushing help. Brown is probably too small to play defensive end, but if he?s going to do it at all, it will have to come in a 3-4 defense. I think he?s athletic enough to play linebacker with some coaching, which would fill a need as well.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Max Unger, OL, Oregon
Okay, I have no problem admitting that I went with Unger over Alex Mack here partly just to be different, and Alex Mack could very well be the pick. I just think that Unger is an incredibly versatile player who could help the Steelers' line from a variety of positions. He did a great job playing multiple positions for Oregon while paving the way for one of the most successful ground games in the country, and he should boost the Steelers' power running game. His time at left tackle is a good testament to his pass-protecting prowess as well.
Still, this could be Mack. Could be Eric Wood. Could even be a cornerback. But I'm going with Unger. Maybe someone will help me pull my foot out of my mouth if I'm wrong.
Hunter is a freelance writer who has been published by ESPN the Magazine. He runs Draft Zoo.com
Send Hunter an e-mail here: firstname.lastname@example.org
All other e-mail, including advertising and link proposals, send to: email@example.com
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