The NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, only a mere 16 hours away as I begin to type this. Although I'd like to give myself up to the minute of the draft begins tweak the mock, I figured I might as well put it up now and give people the time to see it.
Therefore, this is my final mock draft, as it will undergo no more changes from the moment it is published. Just for reference, I've gotten nine picks right the last few years (with a high of 11 right in 2005) so hopefully I can at least match that success this year. (It might not seem high, but it's consistently been better than Kiper and McShay!)
Enjoy the mock, and enjoy the draft later today! May all your teams fill their needs wonderfully, unless of course those teams are in the AFC East and not named the Dolphins!
1. Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Not the safest pick, but certainly a need position and Stafford has all the tools to be a successful quarterback. Only time will tell if he's able to survive in Detroit.
2. St. Louis Rams - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
The Rams need a replacement for Orlando Pace and get their man here as Smith edges out Eugene Monroe to be the top tackle off the board.
3. Kansas City Chiefs - Tyson Jackson, DE, Louisiana State
The Chiefs would love to trade out of this spot and grab Jackson a little later, but since I'm not predicting trades I'll have to keep them at No. 3. Jackson is by far the best 3-4 end in the draft and gives GM Scott Pioli his own Richard Seymour for the new defensive scheme.
4. Seattle Seahawks - Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Quarterback, wide receiver and offensive tackle are all strong possibilities, but in the end I think the 'Hawks take the best defensive player in the draft to team with Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill.
5. Cleveland Browns - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Despite the Braylon Edwards-to-Giants talks reportedly being "dead," I think they could start up again today during the draft and I think he might eventually end up being moved. If that's the case, Crabtree has to be the pick. I'm also not buying the talk that Cleveland doesn't like Crabtree.
6. Cincinnati Bengals - Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
The team has reportedly soured on Levi Jones at left tackle and thus will need someone new to protect Carson Palmer's blind side. I've long had Andre Smith here, but with Monroe falling into their laps the Bengals would be crazy not to go the better and safer route instead.
7. Oakland Raiders - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
I'm not buying the recent Heyward-Bey talk for Oakland. Maclin's plenty fast for Al Davis' liking and he's also a much better prospect than DHB. He has to be the pick if Oakland goes wide receiver.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars - Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern California
The Jaguars will be fielding all kinds of trade offers if Sanchez is on the board, but since I'm not predicting trades I'll say they'll take him for themselves. David Garrard is 31 now, came back down to earth in 2008 and doesn't offer nearly as much upside as Sanchez.
9. Green Bay Packers - B. J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Other 3-4 guys like Jackson and Orakpo will get consideration if they're on the board, but Raji is an elite player at the toughest position to find in football to find. The Packers often surprise people with their picks, but this just makes too much sense not to project.
10. San Francisco 49ers - Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
A quarterback or outside linebacker would make sense here, but the Niners really like Oher and he has as much upside as anyone in the draft. This move would allow them to move Joe Staley back to right tackle and give them two talented young guys on the edges.
11. Buffalo Bills - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
The Bills certainly need a tackle after trading Jason Peters and word is they really like Smith. He's talented enough to play left tackle, though he could start on the right side before taking over for Langston Walker down the road.
12. Denver Broncos - Brian Orakpo, LB, Texas
The Broncos don't really have any edge rushers for their new 3-4 scheme, so it only makes sense for them to take the best one in the draft here. Of course, a fall by either Raji or Jackson would totally change this.
13. Washington Redskins - Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
The Redskins could definitely use a pass rusher and Maybin fits the bill. He has some bust potential to him, but certainly has the physical tools to be a great player.
14. New Orleans Saints - Malcolm Jenkins, FS, Ohio State
One of the best bets in the draft, the Saints have a big need in the secondary and Jenkins is the best defensive back in the draft. A linebacker or even running back is also possible, but the Saints seem poised to draft Jenkins, who could contribute immediately at either cornerback or safety.
15. Houston Texans - Clay Matthews, LB, Southern California
The Texans are in need of linebacker help, and Matthews appears to have edged out his Trojan teammates in terms of draft stock. He'll be a great fit next to DeMeco Ryans and should be a productive player for years to come.
16. San Diego Chargers - Brian Cushing, LB, Southern California
And the next Trojan 'backer quickly goes off the board. Cushing is a safer bet than Maualuga in my opinion and has the versatility to play inside or outside in San Diego's 3-4.
17. New York Jets - Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Josh Freeman will have to garner consideration, but in the end I think they'll look to trade for a quarterback (Jason Campbell, anyone?) and take Harvin here. He fills their wideout need, while his return skills could give them leverage in negotiations with Leon Washington.
18. Denver Broncos - Rey Maualuga, LB, Southern California
The Broncos got their outside linebacker in Orakpo at No. 12, and now get a man for the inside here with Maualuga. Free agent addition Andra Davis is just decent and a short-term fix, while Maualuga is a prototypical 3-4 inside 'backer with immense talent.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
They just signed Byron Leftwich, but gave him no bonus and thus can cut him without penalty. The team reportedly loves Freeman and will likely jump on him if the Jets pass.
20. Detroit Lions - Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
Linebacker is a bigger need, but there's a good chance they can grab James Laurinaitis at No. 33. Ayers is a quality overall end and fills a need for the Lions because, well, they have needs everywhere.
21. Philadelpia Eagles - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Brandon Pettigrew would fill a bigger immediate need, but Moreno would still be a great pick pick in terms of talent and value. He'll be scary teamed with Brian Westbrook and may even wrestle away the starting gig eventually.
22. Minnesota Vikings - Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
My most confident pick in this mock draft (now watch it be wrong), the Vikings would love to upgrade over Ryan Cook at right tackle and Britton's the perfect man for the job. The only thing that could mess that up is Percy Harvin falling to No. 22.
23. New England Patriots - Everette Brown, LB, Florida State
A talented pass rusher who could go much higher, Brown injects some youth into the Pats' aging linebacker corps. It also wouldn't surprise me to see them pick UConn corner Darius Butler, but Brown's just too good of a value here.
24. Atlanta Falcons - Evander Hood, DT, Missouri
Now that the Falcons' addressed their tight end need with Tony Gonzalez, there's little doubt they'll go defense with this pick. (Of course, I've long had them going D here anyway because I'm amazing, brilliant and handsome.) Any position on that side of the ball could feasibly be picked, but "Ziggy" Hood's my pick because he certainly upgrades their interior line.
25. Miami Dolphins - Sean Smith, CB, Utah
Linebacker is the most popular choice for the Dolphins in the mock draft world, and that may very well happen. Still, cornerback is a bigger need for Miami. I like the second-round linebacker talent over the cornerback talent, so I'm taking Smith here in the first.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
A team with few needs takes the best player available and gets a quality replacement for an aging Derrick Mason down the line.
27. Indianapolis Colts - Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
The Colts have the talent to be able to take any position in the draft, but they get both value and a need here in Jerry. He's the perfect fit for a Colts defense that utilizes athletic, undersized defensive tackles.
28. Buffalo Bills - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
It's no lock he'll fall this far and the Bills might even take him at No. 11 to ensure they get him, but they'd be ecstatic if Pettigrew fell this far. Should that happen, you could bet your life (or not, up to you) that they'll grab him here.
29. New York Giants - Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
Braylon Edwards trade or no, the Giants could still use another wideout and Nicks is probably the best on the board. Local product Kenny Britt could also draw consideration, though I like Nicks better as a prospect so he's the pick.
30. Tennessee Titans - Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
The Titans certainly don't have many holes, but could definitely use a corner to team with Cortland Finnegan. Butler's a safer pick than Vontae Davis, so he gets the call here.
31. Arizona Cardinals - Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
A Top-10 talent, the Cardinals would love if this guy fell into their laps and would surely grab him here. Tim Hightower is solid, but Wells is special is an absolutely fantastic value the end of the first round.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
His talent says he should go much higher, but character concerns cause him to fall to the end of the first round. He'll help the Steelers replace Bryant McFadden and could thrive in the league's best defense.