Sunday, April 19, 2009

2009 First Round Mock Draft, v3.0

The 2009 NFL Draft is now less than a week away, so I thought it was important to post my second-to-last mock draft.

As always, this mock draft is subject to change, and I'll definitely be giving myself up until the point Roger Goodell walks out to that podium next Saturday afternoon to tweak is some more.

Enjoy!

1. Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia

It's a toss-up between Stafford, Aaron Curry or one of the top two left tackles, but indications are Stafford will be the guy when it's all said and done. Not a bad choice either, since Daunte Culpepper probably don't have much left in the tank.

2. St. Louis Rams - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor

With Orlando Pace out of the picture, a young franchise left tackle is greatly needed. The Rams' front office is reportedly split between the Smith and Eugene Monroe, but Smith gets the nod due to upside and health concerns with Monroe.

3. Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest

Curry is the best defensive player in the draft and will be a great fit in Kansas City's new 3-4. The presence of veteran Zach Thomas will help Curry develop and will allow him to be brought along a little more slowly next to Derrick Johnson inside.

4. Seattle Seahawks - Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia

The Seahawks claim they still have Sean Locklear pegged as Walter Jones' heir at left tackle, but Locklear has had a rough few years and isn't nearly on Monroe's level when it comes to talent. The Seahawks would do well to draft arguably the best tackle in the draft to eventually replace Jones.

5. Cleveland Browns - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech

This pick assumes Cleveland ends up shipping Braylon Edwards to the Giants. If that happens, the team will have a huge need at receiver and would be wise to select to best player at the position in Crabtree. A pass-rushing outside linebacker and even Mark Sanchez are other possibilities, but Crabtree has to be the pick of Edwards is dealt.

6. Cincinnati Bengals - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama

The Bengals have never been one to shy away from a player due to character concerns, so they seem like the perfect landing spot for Smith, who has had one of the worst pre-draft periods in recent years. Levi Jones has fallen out of favor in Cincinnati, and if they can get Smith under control he could be a quality replacement.

7. Oakland Raiders - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri

With Crabtree already off the board in this mock draft, Al Davis doesn't even have a choice to make when it comes to picking a receiver. It's just as well, as we all know Davis loves speed and gets his man in Maclin.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars - Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern California

Wide receiver is a bigger need for Jacksonville, but there's not one still available worth taking at this spot in the draft. The Jaguars don't seem to be entirely sold on David Garrard as the long-term quarterback, so they very well may pull the trigger on Sanchez.

9. Green Bay Packers - B. J. Raji, DT, Boston College

A lot of people have the Packers taking a 3-4 end like Tyson Jackson or pass rusher like Orakpo or Everette Brown, but neither of those positions is as difficult to find as a quality nose tackle. Raji is by far the best in the draft and would anchor the Packers' 3-4 for years to come.

10. San Francisco 49ers - Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi

With the top two quarterbacks off the board, the 49ers will opt for a franchise left tackle in lieu of Josh Freeman. Word is the Niners love Oher, and his presence would allow the solid but not elite Joe Staley to move back to right tackle. A pass-rushing outside linebacker like Orakpo, Maybin or Brown might be more likely, but Oher's my pick.

11. Buffalo Bills - Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State

Buffalo's pass rush has been nonexistent lately and with plenty of quality ends left on the board the Bills will grab one here. Maybin's a boom-or-bust prospect but certainly has the physical tools to be Buffalo's top sack artist.

12. Denver Broncos - Brian Orakpo, LB, Texas

One of the many teams converting the 3-4 scheme this offseason with little of the necessary pieces, the Broncos can get their first pure pass-rushing outside linebacker if they take Orakpo here. A legit top-10 talent, Orakpo would be a great value here and could really thrive in Denver's new scheme.

13. Washington Redskins - Everette Brown, DE, Florida State

The Jason Taylor trade was a bust and the Redskins are desperately in need of some pass rush. Brown has great speed and athleticism and would be a great addition to Washington's line. Another strong possibility is offensive tackle if one of the top four is still on the board.

14. New Orleans Saints - Malcolm Jenkins, FS, Ohio State

Jenkins' speed might hurt his chances of being picked higher as a cornerback, but he's still the top defensive back in the draft and has the talent to be an elite free safety. Darren Sharper is the short-term fix there in New Orleans and Jenkins would be a fine long-term solution.

15. Houston Texans - Clay Matthews, LB, Southern California

The Texans filled their need at defensive end by signing Antonio Smith, freeing them up to go after a linebacker in the draft. Matthews has had the best pre-draft period of all three USC linebackers (despite the whole "White Nation" incident) and would be a great fit at outside linebacker for the Texans.

16. San Diego Chargers - Rey Maualuga, LB, Southern California

The Chargers don't have many immediate holes to fill, which is why they can afford to take the local California product here. Although he has some maturity issues and bust potential, Maualuga's a quality talent and would be a great fit at inside linebacker in San Diego's 3-4.

17. New York Jets - Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State

The Jets clearly aren't sold on Brett Ratliff and Kellen Clemens are starting quarterbacks and there's a huge dropoff in talent after Freeman in this draft class. A wideout like Heyward-Bey will be tempting, but the Jets won't pass up on their chance to grab a franchise signal-caller.

18. Denver Broncos - Tyson Jackson, DE, Louisiana State

Another pick for their new defensive scheme, Jackson is a prototypical 3-4 end and by far the best in the draft at the position. Assuming they don't take him at No. 12 and lasts to this pick, the Broncos would be crazy not to jump on him here.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech

The perfect example of a workout warrior, many teams have soured on Johnson due to lack of consistent productivity in college. Still, the Bucs love the guy and there's no doubting his physical tools, so perhaps they can team him with Gaines Adams and turn him into a quality pro.

20. Detroit Lions - Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee

The Lions already have their franchise quarterback in Stafford and all the elite left tackles are off the board, so Detroit will have to turn elsewhere at No. 20. There's a huge need at linebacker, but they can probably grab James Laurinaitis at No. 33 so they'll opt for a defensive end instead. Ayers doesn't have impressive collegiate numbers, but he's a fast-rising prospect and a quality overall end.

21. Philadelphia Eagles - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia

The Eagles filled their need at tackle by signing Stacy Andrews and acquiring Jason Peters, allowing them to look elsewhere with their now lone first-round pick. Moreno would be a great complement to Brian Westbrook at running back, and could eventually take over the job from the soon-to-be 30-year-old with a history of injury problems.

22. Minneosta Vikings - Eben Britton, OT, Arizona

The Vikings are looking to upgrade over Ryan Cook at right tackle, and Britton is the clear-cut best tackle left on the board. He'll be a great fit on the right side, helping open holes for Adrian Peterson and protecting the Vikings' quarterback if they ever decide to mix it up a bit and get a talented one.

23. New England Patriots - Brian Cushing, LB, Southern California

Jerod Mayo was a great pick in the first round last year, but the Patriots still need some talent and youth at both inside and outside linebacker. Cushing's a talented player with the versatility to play anywhere in New England's 3-4. A cornerback like Darius Butler is also possible here.

24. Atlanta Falcons - Evander Hood, DT, Missouri

The Atlanta offense is looking strong led by Matt Ryan and Michael Turner, but the defense has holes throughout. It's hard to pick for Atlanta here because they could feasibly take any position on that side of the ball. In the end, I settled on Missouri defensive tackle Evander "Ziggy" Hood, who provides an immediate upgrade at the interior defensive line.

25. Miami Dolphins - Sean Smith, CB, Utah

A lot of places have Smith has a second-round pick, and that may very well happen. Still, the more I think about it, the more I think a 6'3" corner with excellent ball skills and sub-4.5 speed is certainly worth a first-rounder. Everyone's talking about Miami needing an upgrade at outside linebacker, which they do. Still, I don't see a more pressing need on the team than cornerback, where the only proven starter (Will Allen) is in the last year of his contract.

26. Baltimore Ravens - Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland

General manager Ozzie Newsome is a big proponent of taking the top guy on the board, and if things unfold similarly to how I have them above, Heyward-Bey would be that guy. Derrick Mason's not getting any younger and there's little depth beyond Mason and Mark Clayton, so Heyward-Bey would be an excellent new weapon for Joe Flacco.

27. Indianapolis Colts - Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi

The Colts don't have a ton of needs, but defensive tackle has consistently been a weak spot for them in recent years and Jerry would go along way to remedy that. Jerry's size and athleticism makes him the perfect fit for Indy's defensive scheme, so he's the pick.

28. Buffalo Bills - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State

The Bills upgraded their pass rush with their own first-round pick, and luck out here as the top tight end falls to the pick they acquired from Philadelphia in the Jason Peters deal. Buffalo is in desperate need of a tight end, and one has to imagine they'll take the top player in this year's class if he's still on the board.

29. New York Giants - Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina

This is a hard team to pick for because they have very few holes and really have the luxury of taking the best player available. Even if they acquire Braylon Edwards from Cleveland, the Giants will likely still give up a receiver (Hixon?) in return and could still use another young talent. Nicks would certainly provide that and is a definite upgrade over Mario Manningham, David Tyree and Sinorice Moss.

30. Tennessee Titans - Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut

Another team with very few holes, the Titans could use another young corner to team with Cortland Finnegan. Butler is on the cusp of the first round and gets the nod over Vontae Davis, who has some red flags on his scouting report.

31. Arizona Cardinals - Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State

Tim Hightower certainly showed ability as a rookie and is a capable short-yardage back, but he's nowhere near as talented and complete as Beanie Wells. The Cardinals need another young back to team with Hightower now that Edgerrin James is on the way out, and the Cardinals get a steal here toward the end of Round 1.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois

Attitude and motivation concerns cause Davis to drop to the bottom of the first round. It works out well for Pittsburgh though, who lost Bryant McFadden to free agency and could certainly use a good, young corner. If anyone can turn Davis into a good player, it's Steelers' defensive guru Dick LeBeau and former defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin.