1. St. Louis Rams (1-15): Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
When it comes to picking first overall in a rookie draft, it usually comes down to a quarterback, tackle, or a defensive end. The last time an NFL team went against the grain was in 1996 when the New York Jets drafted Keyshawn Johnson. I highly doubt the Rams will buck that trend in 2010. Within the last three years, the Rams have selected a tackle and two defensive ends in the first round. Therefore, offensive tackle Russell Okung and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh drop off this list. Suh is not an end, but he is a special talent that could be considered a franchise changing defensive lineman. All things considered, quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford are the only options here for the Rams.
Injury concerns could and should scare the Rams from selecting Sam Bradford first overall. In my opinion, Clausen is more polished and NFL ready, especially playing in a pro style offense under Charlie Weis. Clausen has solid arm strength, knows how to read coverage, which results in more accurate passes and he is confident.
Marc Bulger, Kyle Boller, and Keith Null are nothing more than backup quarterbacks for any NFL franchise. If the Rams want to compete in this league soon, they absolutely must improve at the most important position on the field. Clausen is a franchise quarterback who will help open up this offense along with Steven Jackson. For me, this is a no-brainer, but I’m not calling the shots in the Rams war room on April 22, 2010.
2. Detroit Lions (2-14): Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Despite the Lions ranking 24th in sacks allowed this year, Jim Schwartz and company proved last year that they draft value over need. Ndamukong Suh is the number one talent on most draft boards, which leads me to the Lions selecting Suh over Okung. The Lions drafted quarterback Matt Stafford to lead the offense last year, so I believe they will choose Suh to be the leader on defense despite their woes on the offensive line. They could have a solid offensive lineman fall on to their laps at the beginning of round two.
Suh is a monster who keeps getting bigger as he feeds off of opposing offensive lines. He has a solid work ethic that includes a great motor, something the Lions locker room needs, to make it to the next level. He is extremely productive, explosive and disruptive. If you have any questions about how Suh plays against solid competition, just watch the Big 12 Championship game versus Texas. That was one of the greatest performances by a defensive lineman in the history of college football. My only real concern about Suh is that early in his career, he had multiple knee injuries. That could affect how long he can play at a high level or at the next level. It doesn’t appear to be an issue now, but the fact remains that it was an issue at one point.
Currently the Lions best defensive tackle is 36 year old veteran, Grady Jackson. His career is basically over and should only be kept to be a mentor to the younger guys. They also have a few solid young defensive tackles, but they are all better suited as a number two behind a dominate tackle like Suh. While in Tennessee as defensive coordinator, Schwartz had Albert Haynesworth clogging up the middle for his defense. Suh will do the same for him in Detroit if they draft him.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13): Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
The Buccaneers ranked 27th in team defense and started to show signs of life offensively after Josh Freeman took over the reigns. They ranked well in pass defense, but I feel that is the result of teams having no respect for the run defense. I’m not sure what defense the Buccaneers will be using in 2010, but it appears that Raheem Morris wants to revert back to the Cover 2. Most people think defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will be the choice here due to Tampa’s terrible run defense. I feel they will select one of the biggest play making safeties in recent history. As a former defensive backs coach, you would think Morris would grab a lesser prospect that he can develop at safety and grab a position he is less familiar with. Again, I disagree because the lust for Berry will be too hard to pass on and Berry was coached by long time Buccaneer coordinator, Monte Kiffin.
Berry is extremely productive and is a tremendous athlete. Berry can play both safety positions and also is great in pass and run coverage. His instincts are off the charts which makes him an elite play-maker. Every interception he gets, has a chance to be taken to the house. Some people feel he is the next Ed Reed. While I’m not going to put him in that class just yet, but whatever team drafts him will not be disappointed.
Currently the Buccaneers have Tanard Jackson and Sabby Piscitelli at the safety positions. Jackson is a solid start for the Bucs but Piscitelli is nothing more than the last line of defense who will most likely make the tackle. As the NFL becomes a pass happy league, Piscitelli isn’t good enough, teams need play-makers in their secondary.
Mike Shanahan inherits a solid defense and an offense that shows flashes of brilliance. I’ve seen multiple mocks that have quarterback Sam Bradford going here because Jason Campbell sucks and Daniel Snyder likes the big names. In my opinion, Sam Bradford sucks, Jason Campbell just needs a coach to believe in him and Daniel Snyder doesn’t call the shots anymore. I believe Campbell will return as quarterback next season, as Shanahan will realize, Campbell has been through many coordinators, his receivers are average at best and the offensive line has broken down. No receiver is worth taking at 4 and I like John Gustafson’s opinion on the Redskins making an offer to Denver for Brandon Marshall. Denver might as well get some picks for him because after 2010, there is no way Marshall is a Bronco. That all leads me to working on that horrific line that allowed 46 sacks in 2009.
Okung has been and remains the top offensive lineman in this class. Okung has ideal size and is very durable, starting in 46 straight games for Oklahoma State. Okung is a patient pass blocker and a punishing run blocker. He is intelligent and understands how to create lanes and angles for the offense. With Okung as a starter, the Cowboys led the Big 12 in rushing every season and only allowed one sack in his senior campaign.
With the rumblings of Chris Samuels possibly retiring in the off-season after a neck injury; this leaves the offensive line in really bad shape. Even if Samuels can come back, he probably won’t be able to play at the pro bowl level the team was used to. As for the rest of the offensive line, Russell Okung is a major upgrade over all of them. Okung could see early success like Joe Thomas and Ryan Clady.
For the third year in a row, the Chiefs will be drafting in the top 5. Their last 3 top ten picks have been defensive linemen, and none of them have proved to be worthy. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is the best available player at this point, but I simply don’t see them drafting a defensive lineman 1st, three years in a row. With young defensive linemen failing for the Chiefs as of late, I can see Scott Pioli looking to free agency for a dominate additon (Wilfork or Hampton). With the recent signing of Charlie Weis, they should look to bolster their offense. Matt Cassell could use another target, but he also needs time to throw the ball. Cassell is not anything special, but under Haley and Weis, he should succeed given time and weapons. After Okung, it becomes a little cloudy as to whom is the next best offensive tackle. Bruce Campbell (No not that, Bruce Campbell) is an option, but durability issues may drop him lower than a more durable, less talented tackle like Williams. I consider tackles Anthony Davis and Charles Brown reaches in the top 10.
Trent Williams has ideal size to be a left tackle at the next level. He is a better pass protector than he is a run blocker. He is light on his feet and does well at taking the right angles to protect his quarterback. He needs to become more aggressive in the run game to become an elite tackle. With the right coaching (Haley and Weis), he should be a solid left tackle for many years in the NFL. The Chiefs expect to open up the pass game much more, which caters to Williams playing style.
Branden Albert is the Chiefs best option at left tackle, but he is better suited to play guard or right tackle. Outside of Albert, Brian Waters is the only solid player, but is on the wrong side of his career. Drafting Williams will certainly cut down on the 45 sacks surrendered by the Chiefs in 2009.
6. Seattle Seahawks (5-11): Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
The Seahawks can go in various directions with this pick. The possibilities include quarterback Sam Bradford, offensive tackle Bruce Campbell, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, defensive end Derrick Morgan, or cornerback Joe Haden. Last year, Seattle drafted value over need by passing on quarterback Mark Sanchez for linebacker Aaron Curry. I believe they will take the same approach this season, but that all depends on who takes over as general manager. The two best prospects off of that list would be Bradford and McCoy . I don’t see the Seahawks paying that much money for two quarterbacks. Gut feelings also tell me that the Seahawks will wait for local product, Jake Locker in 2011. McCoy is left as the best available player and my selection for the Seahawks at pick 6.
Gerald McCoy has great athleticism for his size and is explosive off of the snap. He has a good head for the game and has great vision to get to the ball carrier. McCoy sheds blocks very well on a consistent basis and keeps the motor running. At times he struggles to penetrate the line against larger linemen, which ranks him lower than Suh in a 3-4. All in all, he is a disruptive force that could turn in to a future pro bowler.
Defensive line is certainly not the Seahawks greatest concern, but they could definitely use an upgrade at the tackle position. Cory Redding, Brandon Mebane, and Colin Cole aren’t going to exactly strike fear in to opposing offenses. McCoy would anchor the line for years and would open up opportunities for the less talented players.
7. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Weeks ago, I wrote an article on how the Browns had the 1st overall pick and should select Jimmy Clausen. Well, since then the Browns have rattled off four straight victories and no longer are in position to draft Clausen. In addition, I have received feedback from multiple Browns fans who feel quarterback is not their biggest need (have you seen Brady Quinn throw a ball). If you start Derek Anderson, I would agree quarterback is not your biggest concern. With Sam Bradford being the next best quarterback, I agree not to write in a quarterback as the Browns selection. Bradford and Quinn are both highly overrated and basically the same quarterback except Bradford has better decision making. At this point, I’m left believing that running back C.J. Spiller, receiver Dez Bryant and cornerback Joe Haden are the targets. They could go after a Leon Washington in free agency as Eric Mangini did draft him and also retain Jerome Harrison who has played well as of late. Holmgren and Mangini both seem to value shut down corners over play making receivers. Therefore, Joe Haden attempts to become Mangini’s next Darrelle Revis.
Joe Haden has the ability to be a top shut down cornerback in the NFL. Much like Revis, Haden has all the physical tools to be an elite corner coming out of college, if he can work on his instincts and awareness. He has good hands and stellar closing speed. Haden is not afraid to take on blocks and is physical at the line of scrimmage. Haden should certainly be as productive as Leon Hall and could be as good as Darrelle Revis, both of which are the two best corners to come out in recent years.
Eric Wright is a solid corner, but is more suited to be a number 2 corner and Brandon McDonald should be a nickel back at best. Later in the season, the Browns were able to get to opposing quarterbacks. A shut down corner would buy even more time for the front 7 to do some damage. Haden would give one of the worst pass defenses in the league a boost from day one.
Predicting what Al Davis is going to do in a draft is like picking the winning lottery numbers . Therefore, I will not go in to full detail on an Oakland draft pick. Most people think Al will draft the fastest player in the draft and that may be true. I’m mocking Campbell for the simple fact that they drafted all offense the last three years in the 1st round; a quarterback, a running back, and a receiver. A left tackle is next since even Al Davis wouldn’t draft a tight end this high in the draft. All in all, Al Davis will say “Bruce Campbell, that guy is a superstar, I loved his work in Evil Dead and Burn Notice. I can’t believe the seven teams drafting prior to me didn’t take this guy.”
Bruce Campbell would be ahead of Trent Williams if it weren’t for his injury history. If there is a team that would ignore all that, it would definitely be the Oakland Raiders. Campbell has ideal size and athleticism to be a left tackle in the NFL. He also is a solid pass and run blocker. Campbell has lots of potential, but the fact that he was only a starter for 18 games could raise some eyebrows.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
My initial thoughts are that the Bills have an awful offensive line. Then I start thinking about it and I realize that the word awful is not correct. I should really be thinking that they are very inexperienced. Their starters have a combined 91 career starts amongst them and the next closest is at 157. Each starter would have to start another 13 games each to make that mark and that’s almost a whole season. So would another young offensive lineman help their situation? I’m going to say no; give these guys another season to see if they can gel with one another. I’m not a big fan of Sam Bradford, but I feel that the Bills will be excited if he is still there at pick 9. Whoever the coach is, come draft day, would also probably like to put his own stamp on this franchise with a quarterback.
Sam Bradford reminds me of a skinnier version of Brady Quinn. He’s accurate when he is not under pressure, but fails to throw a solid ball down field. Bradford is smarter than Quinn and has more of an understanding of the game. Bradford is patient enough to hang in there and wait for a receiver to get open, but his frame can’t support hits like a Roethlisberger can. He doesn’t have a smooth delivery resulting in a possibility of getting picked off frequently. Jason White was a great quarterback at Oklahoma too, but look at his pro career. Alright, Bradford is better than him but you get my point. Not my favorite player, but I can see why a franchise would take a shot on him, I guess.
Brian Brohm was more overrated than Bradford coming out of college, so at least Bradford is an upgrade. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a nice backup to have on your team, but he is not a true number one starter. Trent Edwards is the best of this group but he is like a Trent Dilfer, where he is solid with a solid team around him. Unfortunately, the defense is good, but not good enough to dominate and win games. The offensive line is still too young, and they lack play makers. Bradford is an upgrade overall, but like Edwards, he will need weapons to succeed (Terrible Owens isn’t going to stay in Buffalo either).
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9): Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
The Jaguars were the worst team in the league at putting pressure on the quarterback. The end result; they miss the playoffs and fans don’t show up to the games. There is a lot of rumors out there stating the Jaguars will draft Tim Tebow here to put fans in the seats. I personally believe there are many reasons for the Jaguars not to do that. Jack Del Rio is not creative enough to use Tebow properly and what will the fans do if Tebow sucks? They would not show up if Tebow played like the average joe. Therefore, the Jaguars must make the best football decision, not the best business decision. If they want Tebow that bad, trade a 2011 pick to get a late 1st rounder or early 2nd rounder for him (which is more of a reasonable place to draft him).
Derrick Morgan averaged 3/4 of a sack per game in his two seasons as starter at Georgia Tech. Morgan plays well against the pass and the run while also being able to play both end positions. He has a quick first step that is crucial to turning into a star at the next level. Morgan has a great motor and a will to finish the job. He is willing to constantly improve his game after having a monster junior year. Morgan doesn’t seem to be suited for a 3-4 defense, but he is the best 4-3 end in 2010. Starting only 27 games in college will be a concern for some teams, but his raw skills are unmatched.
Quentin Groves is proving to be a wasted pick for the Jaguars and shouldn’t be starting in the NFL. Derrick Harvey is still raw, but appears to only be a decent run stopper as he has been terrible in the pass rush. Harvey had similar traits to Morgan coming out of college. Both are young and don’t have a tremendous amount of experience. Morgan is better and further in his development than Harvey. Also, under Urban Meyer, Florida has not produced many solid pros. His system works very well in college, but that doesn’t always translate to success in the NFL.
11. Denver Broncos from Chicago (7-9): Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
This pick will highly depend on whether Kyle Orton and Brandon Marshall return next season. If the two of them leave, the Broncos will be set back another couple of years. Despite starting the season 6-0, the Broncos weaknesses were exposed in the second half of the season. They could get better at every position except for running back and offensive tackle. Until we see how the Broncos handle their free agency situation, I will have them mocked as drafting the best available player. McClain was a stud and a leader all year for the Crimson Tide defense.
McClain is a beast because of his size and instincts. At times, it seems as if he was in the offensive huddle because he is there for the tackle before the play develops. McClain is a natural born leader with a high motor. He is great against both the pass and the run. He has a great tackling technique and does a wonderful job at shedding blocks. Some feel that he is better suited for a 3-4 defense, but in my opinion whoever drafts him will be extremely happy for years to come. In the last 3 years we have seen Willis, Beason, Harris, Mayo, Lofton, and Laurinaitis. I certainly put Rolando McClain in that group of middle/inside linebackers.
D.J. Williams is in his prime and would help McClain make the transition to the pros. Andra Davis is average at best despite recording 90 tackles in 2009. McClain would add so much more to the defense than Davis. Other than Davis the Broncos don’t have much else to speak of at inside linebacker. If the Broncos can re-sign Elvis Dumervil, they would have one of the best linebacker corps in the league after drafting McClain.
I think that of the players remaining, Dan Williams and Dez Bryant are the only two options for the Dolphins here. They could also use this selection on a 3-4 linebacker, but nobody is worth a top 12 selection other than Rolando McClain. The Dolphins averaged under 200 passing yards per game and could certainly use a big target such as Bryant. The history of Bill Parcells tells me that they will choose Williams over Bryant. If Parcells listens to Tony Sparano, then the selection will be Bryant. Parcells has had monster nose tackle Jason Ferguson for most of his recent gigs and his career is coming to a close. That is enough for me to believe Parcells will get his next big thing at nose tackle. If Bryant had better speed, I could see him going with Sparano on this one, but Bryant doesn’t have game changing speed.
Dan Williams did himself a huge favor by recording nine tackles and a sack in the Chick-fil-A Bowl versus Virginia Tech. Much like Eric Berry, Williams benefits from playing at Tennessee for the Kiffin’s in a pro style defense. He would be a great nose tackle at 6-3″ 327 lbs. Improved every week in his senior season demonstrating his ability and willingness to learn. Equally impressive against the pass and the rush; good stamina for such a big guy and has extremely powerful legs that gives him an advantage in the leverage battle.
As I stated before, nose tackle Jason Ferguson is nearing the end of his career and has followed Bill Parcells to lead his defenses since being drafted in 1997. Paul Soliai is a solid nose tackle, but is not in the same league as Jason Ferguson and is not a dominating tackle that the Dolphins need to succeed. This could all change if Vince Wilfork decides to play in the city he grew up in and went to college.
The 49ers were one of the teams I thought could finally break in to the playoffs in 2009. After seeing them play a full season I have realized that they are too inconsistent and have many holes on both sides of the football. On offense the biggest problem is the offensive line especially at right tackle. Outside of Davis and Crabtree, they don’t get much help from receivers. On defense, they need help at all three areas; defensive line, linebackers, and secondary. Coach Mike Singletary is a good enough coach that I believe he can sacrifice drafting defense here and solidify his offensive line. Anthony Davis of Rutgers is equally talented and could be drafted here instead.
Bryan Bulaga missed three games due to a thyroid condition, but still managed to be named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. Bulaga was one of the main reasons Iowa was able to finish in the top 10 this year and knock off Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Bulaga has a big frame at 6-6″, 312lbs and has great strength. He could play anywhere on the line except for center if he had to. His run blocking skills should make him a solid right tackle for the niners. Starting as a true freshman gave him valuable experience as I think he made the right decision to leave school early.
Tackles Tony Pashos and Adam Snyder are decent right tackles, but shouldn’t start for a team more than one year. They are good enough to hold you over until you find bigger and better tackles. Bryan Bulaga and Anthony Davis are both far better than both of them. Either one would help out the offense get to the next level. Either one could also start in place of David Baas at guard if he decides to leave via free agency.
14. Seattle Seahawks from Denver Broncos (8-8): C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
As I write this mock draft over the course of a few days; already a change has occured since I wrote pick six. Pete Carroll has taken over as coach after the firing of Jim Mora. I feel even more confident now that they will draft the best player available over a need. Carroll is the type of coach that won’t be fired after one season, they have a lot invested in him. Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive end, and secondary are all options. With so many possibilities, best available player is the way to go. I also thought they would wait for 2011 to grab Jake Locker, I’m even more convinced now that Carroll is the coach. Former assistant Steve Sarkisian can groom Jake Locker for another year preparing him for Pete Carroll. It makes too much sense to me. As for Spiller, he is a game changer coming out of college like Reggie Bush was Carroll at USC and happens to be the best player available.
C.J. Spiller is a dynamic runner that could take it to the house any time he touches the football. Spiller has above average hands and will certainly be used like Reggie Bush except Spiller is a better runner. Despite being a better runner, he tends to try and kick it outside too much. He has the awareness and elusiveness to succeed in the NFL and should be the number one back off the board come draft day.
Julius Jones is signed for another couple of years, but should not be playing in the NFL unless it is as an emergency back. Justin Forsett had a solid season and showed improvement throughout the course of it. Carroll might not be sold on Forsett but even if he is, most teams run with two backs anyway. Don’t be surprised if Carroll takes a look at LenDale White as he is a free agent and would be a goal line option for the Seahawks if they don’t use Forsett in a prominent role.
At the beginning of 2009, I would have never guessed the Giants would finish at .500 and picking 15th in the draft. Losing Steve Spagnuolo proved to be far worse than anyone in the Giants organization could have imagined. Despite Antonio Pierce only being an average player at best, when he was lost for the season, the defense lost leadership and a coach on the field. I’d personally love to see the Giants go after Kirk Morrison, DeMeco Ryans, or D’Qwell Jackson during free agency to lead this defense. Defensive tackle is a major need here, but they can move Justin Tuck inside if they have to. With Kenny Phillips being out, the secondary took a huge blow and with his future in question, that becomes their biggest need. Earl Thomas and Taylor Mays are the two best remaining options at safety.
Earl Thomas was the recipient of the 2009 Defensive Back Trophy and earned All-American honors. Thomas posted 143 tackles, (96 solo), eight tackles for loss, 10 interceptions, five forced fumbles and a blocked punt for his career. Thomas doesn’t have great size, but is a defensive play-maker with great awareness. He has soft hands that enable him to make the interception and has good tackling technique. Taylor Mays is the better athlete but Thomas is the better football player.
There is no timetable as to when or if we will see Kenny Phillips return to the field for the Giants. That leaves a huge void in the secondary if he doesn’t come back soon. C.C. Brown is complete garbage and shouldn’t be a Giant next season. Michael Johnson is a decent player but is too inconsistent. Terrell Thomas is more of a nickel-back than anything and with Kevin Dockery being a free agent, he will most likely assume that role. Aaron Rouse is average and often over pursues tackles and coverage.
It appears as if the Titans will be re-building their defense in 2010. Players that could be leaving via free agency include Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon Kearse, Tony Brown, Keith Bulluck, Stephen Tulloch, Nick Harper, and Roderick Hood. Vanden Bosch and Bulluck have been the leaders of this defense for many years, but might not be in the Titans future plans. They could be too expensive to retain for a team that saw a five win drop off from the year prior. The team played very well with Roderick Hood in the starting lineup and I will assume he will return. In my opinion, no linebacker currently on the board is worth taking in the top 20. Pierre Paul is the next best defensive end on the board and soared up draft boards as the season progressed.
Jason Pierre-Paul has tremendous upside but lacks experience. His upside and the ability of the Titans coaching staff are the only reasons I have him going this early. He has a great first step and is very capable of getting to the quarterback. I feel he is best suited for a 4-3 defense and would benefit having a solid veteran play on the opposite side of him as a mentor. We haven’t seen enough of him to see how good he is going to be but at the end of the day, but he is an athletic freak. Speaking of freak, thus far I like him to match the productivity Jevon Kearse had with his first stint as a Titan.
Kyle Vanden Bosch’s productivity has slipped in each of the last two seasons. That leads me to believe he will not be back in Tennessee in 2010. Jevon Kearse is average at this point in his career and is also on the wrong side of 30. Jacob Ford is a former 6th round pick and doesn’t appear to be a full time starter after two seasons of play. Williams Hayes managed four sacks in 2009 and would be a formidable starter if the Titans need him to be as he has the most upside of any end for the them.
17. San Francisco 49ers from Carolina Panthers (8-8): Taylor Mays, S, USC
In my opinion this pick comes down to a defensive tackle, cornerback, safety or Dez Bryant if he is still available. It’s unlikely that Dez Bryant would go to the 49ers, but that would make for a nice trio to go along with Davis and Crabtree for Alex Smith. Singletary would know for sure what he can get out of Alex Smith if he drafted Bryant. Again, unlikely due to the fact that Crabtree was a 1st round selection last year. After Joe Haden, there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut number two corner. The niners might run a 4-3 defense, which would then eliminate Terrence Cody from this discussion. It comes down to Taylor Mays and Brian Price. Without knowing for sure what defense they will run, I’ll go with Taylor Mays, even though I feel he is overrated.
Taylor Mays is without a doubt a very athletic talent. He has a linebacker mentality and top notch speed. If someone can teach him how to play the game of football, he has all the tools to be great. The problem is he just runs around the field like a maniac looking for a big hit. This cuts in to his interception ability because he is always looking for the big hit. He also has below average hands and is awful in pass coverage. He doesn’t have a great tackling technique, but he is able to make plays because he is so physical. He reminds me of Danny Bateman from The Replacements, but not as smart. With the right coaching that could be a good thing having a maniac on your team.
Michael Lewis is a solid safety, but he doesn’t create turnovers like a safety in this defense should. He has too big a contract to justify sitting. Dashon Goldson managed four interceptions, but I don’t really think it was much of his doing or skill that earned them. If any coach could get Mays to reach his full potential it is Mike Singletary and his disciplined ways.
The Steelers have three options here; offensive and defensive tackles or a cornerback. Casey Hampton is a huge part of this defense and if he leaves via free agency, the Steelers must replace him. In addition, the Steelers seem to always pass on offensive lineman and would probably look to free agency for a cornerback as opposed to reaching for one in the draft. I strongly considered Anthony Davis from Rutgers here, but as we have seen, defense is more important to the Steelers. If Hampton decides to return to the Steelers, Anthony Davis becomes the selection.
Terrence Cody is a monster when it comes to his size. He is extremely powerful and would draw a bunch of double teams. He Has good ability to clog up running lanes as he can create havoc for a man of his size. Cody comes out of a great system in Alabama and should catch on quickly to the pro game. Being as big as he is, stamina is an issue late in games and you also wonder how long he can support that much weight. The team that drafts him would have to have a solid backup to substitute in to keep Cody fresh and productive.
Casey Hampton is still one of the most productive defensive tackles in the league. The Steelers certainly will make an offer for Hampton to stay. Chris Hoke is the backup and should never be more than that for any team in the NFL. Ziggy Hood could play nose tackle for the Steelers, but I haven’t seen enough from him to be overly confident that he could.
19. Atlanta Falcons (9-7): Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
I could see the Falcons going one of three ways here; wide receiver, offensive line or cornerback. After Joe Haden, I’m not impressed with any of the cornerbacks in this year’s draft. Therefore, I pass on one and work on the offense. Offensive Line is only an option if Tyson Clabo and/or Harvey Dahl leave the team via free agency. I imagine of all the players that could leave Atlanta this season, these two are the top priorities. That leaves me at wide receiver and the best available player remaining. That player remaining would be Dez Bryant. If Clabo and Dahl re-sign, could you imagine this offense and the points they could put up?
Dez Bryant is the number one receiver on most draft boards. Dez has the size that NFL teams crave at 6-2″ 215lbs. Fellow RookieBlitz.com writer, Brandon LaClair, is right on when he says Dez Bryant goes up and attacks the football at its highest point. He is always determined to come down with the football. He has solid hands and is an asset in the run game like a Hines Ward as he is simply a bigger version of the Steelers’ star. Dez will also contribute to the return game, something Ward can’t do. Neither will run away from you with their blazing speed, but both have great vision and elusiveness to make things happen.
Roddy White has established himself as one of the top receivers in the game. He is also locked up long term, which could form a dynamic duo with Bryant for years to come. Tony Gonzalez might have another year or two left in the tank, so it would be wise for Atlanta to start grooming another receiver as they won’t find another Tony Gonzalez at tight end. Michael Jenkins is currently the number two, but he is nothing more than a number three. If the Falcons go this route, Matt Ryan will be a very happy man, especially if Clabo and Dahl re-sign.
20. Houston Texans (9-7): Damian Williams, WR, USC
This is is going to be one of the harder selections to mock this far in advance. Houston has many needs, but unfortunately most of their needs would end up being reaches at this juncture. They could use a running back, receiver, tight end, guard, defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, and safety. I don’t see any tight ends, linebackers, corners or safeties being worth a top 20 selection. Guards aren’t typically taken in the top 20 even though Mike Iupati appears to be headed for a great NFL career. Brian Price is an option at defensive tackle as is running back Johnathan Dwyer. I feel Damian Williams is a better player than Dwyer even though the running game is awful and they could use him. Damian Williams would be an early candidate for rookie of the year if he was paired up with Andre Johnson. The NFL’s best passing attack just got better.
Damian Williams has great hands and doesn’t drop many passes. He is not a burner, but is very quick and makes precise cuts to confuse defenses. The best route runner in this class and understands coverages. Like Dez Bryant, Williams is not afraid to go up and get the ball with his above average leaping ability. If you haven’t seen it, just watch the highlights of the Emerald Bowl and you will know how special he is. He dominated the game posting 12 receptions for 189 yards.
Andre Johnson is locked up long-term and is one of the best receivers in the game. Kevin Walter could leave via free agency, but he is not a typical number two anyway as he is more of a product of the system. David Anderson and Andre Davis are average at best. Jacoby Jones has yet to reach his potential and I’m not sure if he ever will. He is best suited as a number three until he can prove otherwise. Tight end Owen Daniels is a free agent as well, but will most likely stay, but Houston has proven they could move the ball without him.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame
Despite losing in the wild card round to the Jets, the Bengals can consider their 2009 season a success. The tragic loss of Chris Henry leaves a void at receiver and the Jets shut down the pass offense in week 17 and in the wild card game. Like every year, the Bengals would benefit from grabbing a tight end. Even though the offensive line played very well, they could use help at guard. That is an unlikely selection in the 1st round because guards don’t go this early and they drafted offensive line in the 1st round last year. They could use depth at defensive tackle, which would mean Brian Price. They could upgrade the linebacker unit and safety position, but nobody is worth taking here. If the Bengals could re-sign Tank Johnson, defensive tackle can be looked over. Tate would add a whole new dimension to this offense.
Golden Tate is a mixture of the Giants Steve Smith and Percy Harvin. Tate is not a big guy, but is strong for his size. Tate has good hands and rarely drops passes. He is not a speed demon like Harvi,n but has great vision that enables him to make something out of nothing. He has great awareness, but doesn’t run routes as good as he should be playing a pro style offense in college. Won’t project as a number one receiver, but will make plays and contribute to the return game.
Chad Ochocinco is not an elite receiver anymore. He is on the wrong side of 30 and lacks help from the number two receiver. Ochostinko will continue to run his mouth, but Tate will be the guy that makes all the noise. Laveranues Coles is not a productive receiver anymore and only checks in as a number three receiver, especially for a playoff contender. Andre Caldwell, Jerome Simpson, and Quan Cosby won’t get any respect from opposing defenses.
I referred to New England Patriots fan and RookieBlitz.com founder, Bryan Fontaine, to help me with this pick. We both agreed that guard and a pass rusher were the top two priorities. Jerry Hughes makes a ton of sense here as he would fit right in to their 3-4 scheme at both defensive end and rush linebacker. Once again, it is unconventional to grab a guard in the first, but the Patriots did it five years ago by drafting Logan Mankins. It happened twice since then or three times if you count Brendan Albert, who we knew would play tackle for a few years. If any team in the NFL is unconventional, it is the Patriots. Therefore, I am finally confident to have Mike Iupati come off the board.
Mike Iupati is a beast at 6-6″ 330lbs. He was pretty much an unknown coming in to the 2009 season. Iupati was a consensus All-American and led Idaho to their first bowl game in over 10 years. He is a great run blocker and should be an average pass blocker at the next level. He didn’t allow a sack in 2009, but is still a little raw and I question how good his competition was in the WAC. Overall, he gains good leverage and takes the proper angles to create plays and open lanes for the offense.
Logan Mankins and Stephen Neal are both free agents this off-season. Mankins being five years younger than Neal would appear to be the higher priority to re-sign. Being a protector of Tom Brady, I don’t see the Patriots allowing Mankins to walk. At Neal’s age, he is replaceable and will most likely leave as they will probably low-ball him like they do most players. Backup Rich Ohrnberger is still raw and has seen limited playing time.
I have recently talked to some Packers fans and they have all told me “we don’t need to draft an offensive lineman in the first round.” I got news for you all, Aaron Rodgers was sacked more than any other quarterback this season. Yes, Chad Clifton did improve with the rest of the line as the year went on, but Clifton is 33 and a free agent. I wouldn’t feel too confident with that situation. Sure, you need a few pass rushers and depth in the secondary, but who is worth taking here? Rush linebackers are hard to predict and I feel that the cornerbacks are solid, but not 1st round talents outside of Haden. Anthony Davis could, however, be a dominate left tackle for Aaron Rodgers for a long time.
Anthony Davis is that prospect that could go top five or could fall to the end of the first round. He is gifted physically being 6-6″ 325lbs. As big as he is, he is a versatile lineman that could play tackle or guard in the NFL. He punishes opponents with his run blocking skills. He has a quick first step to get leverage in the run game. He also takes great angles and has a smooth back pedal to stop the pass rush.
As I stated before, Chad Clifton will be a 33 year old free agent this off-season. Even if they were to re-sign him, they must find an eventual replacement. Allen Barbre has gained some experience this season, but is not a future left tackle or a starter. Mark Tauscher played half of the season at right tackle but is also on the wrong side of 30 and won’t get any better. T.J. Lang is still raw and could start in the future, but is not the prospect that Davis is. They have the quarterback of the future; now they need the blind side protector of the future.
The Eagles could really use an outside linebacker, but this is not the spot to select one. They could also really use another safety, but the three worth taking in the first round are off the board as well. Brian Westbrook is becoming less productive every week, therefore, they could use more depth at running back. Jahvid Best and Jonathan Dwyer are options here, but after spending a 2nd round selection on LeSean McCoy in 2009, this seems unlikely in the 1st round. That leans me towards them selecting depth for the defensive line. Despite my beliefs that Carlos Dunlap will be a bust in the NFL, I am confident that someone will take a shot on him late in the first round. The Eagles are a good choice as they showed with the Michael Vick signing, that they aren’t afraid of players with a troubled past.
Carlos Dunlap was easily the top rated defensive end at the start of the 2009 season, but now we question if he will be selected in the first round. The biggest reason is him being charged with a DUI and then on top of that he is said to be lazy with a poor work ethic. Since Jevon Kearse was drafted in 1999, all defensive linemen out of Florida have been mediocre. I don’t expect Carlos Dunlap to buck that trend. He is physically gifted with size, speed and strength, but at the end of the day, he is lazy. Andy Reid is not a motivating head coach, therefore, Dunlap is going to be just as clueless as Derrick Harvey as a pro.
Despite the Eagles finishing third in the NFL in sacks, they could use the defensive line depth. Trent Cole is currently in his prime and is one of the best pass rushers in the league. He is the biggest reason for their success at pass rushing. He creates opportunities for the other players as Juqua Parker and Darren Howard wouldn’t be nearly as productive without Cole. Parker and Howard are also on the wrong side of 30. Chris Clemons and Victor Abiamiri are not every down players. Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson are both above average tackles.
25. Baltimore Ravens (9-7): Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
The best wide receiver under contract for the Ravens in 2010 is Marcus Smith. Despite that information, I don’t see the Ravens taking a receiver here as Brandon LaFell and Arrelious Benn are the best available. I don’t see either of them as being first round talents. The Ravens could try and make a deal with one of the stud restricted free agents; Brandon Marshall could help propel this team to at least the AFC Championship game if they could work out a deal. Todd Heap is average and should be replaced. The Ravens could use depth on the defensive side of the ball, but it is not a pressing need like a receiver or tight end. Despite Gresham’s injury, he is still a value here at pick 25 with tremendous upside.
Jermaine Gresham has the size and strength to have a productive NFL career. He has very good concentration as he rarely drops passes. He doesn’t have elite speed like a Vernon Davis, but he has good vision to pick up extra yards. He is tough to defend and creates opportunities for others. Not a solid blocker but the right coaching could fix that glaring issue to transform him into an average blocker. Vernon Davis wasn’t a great blocking tight end out of college, but is one of the better ones now. Gresham is not a great route runner either, but he isn’t sloppy. If he can get over his injuries, he is well worth the 25th pick for the Ravens.
Todd Heap finished the year with 6 touchdowns and that was a result of a dynamic rushing attack. Heap is on the wrong side of his career and hasn’t been the same since his injury of 2007. A physical specimen like Gresham could have easily finished with 10 touchdowns in this offense. Improving the pass game for the Ravens will make the rushing attack even better while it is already very good.
I think that 2010 will be a step back for the Arizona Cardinals. Kurt Warner is sure to retire and Matt Leinart is a huge question mark. Anquan Boldin will probably be gone; the line is not very good and the defense is going to have multiple free agents. Karlos Dansby has to be re-signed or the defense could be in serious trouble. Rush linebacker is a huge need for the Cardinals, but if Leinart is going to be taking over, the organization must find a way to protect the youngster to keep his confidence intact. Leinart is not Kurt Warner so he won’t always be able to get rid of the ball to avoid a sack. Warner was the biggest reason the Cardinals only suffered 26 sacks in 2009. Warner did take 93 hits, which would be at least 40 sacks on a less experienced quarterback.
Charles Brown is extremely athletic as he is a former tight end. He possesses very good strength, but could use a few extra pounds at the next level. He could be a left tackle, but would be better suited as a punishing run blocking right tackle. He plays a very physical style of blocking and has good instincts. He is a smart player and is very consistent. If he can bulk up more, he will certainly go in the first round. if not, he could go early second round.
Levi Brown and Reggie Wells are the only two starters that are under contract for the 2010 season. The 93 hits allowed by the Cardinals in 2009 was amongst the league’s worst. Mike Gandy, Deuce Lutui, Jeremy Bridges, and Lyle Sendlein can all be upgraded through the draft and via free agency. The Cardinals should look for at least one veteran lineman to help protect Leinart in addition to drafting Brown.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a position where they don’t really have any glaring holes. They do have weaknesses, but none of them are anything to truly panic about. Outside of quarterback, running back and tight end they could go in any direction here in round one. Receiver is an option despite the emergence of Miles Austin. The contract of Roy Williams is too costly for the Cowboys to snag a receiver in round one. At this stage, there are no more 1st round offensive lineman to draft. Defensive lineman Jared Odrick is an option, but doesn’t seem to be a solid fit for them. The secondary needs some help, but everyone would be a reach here. Rush linebacker Jerry Hughes is an option, but I see Jerry Jones grabbing a bigger name like Brandon Spikes.
Brandon Spikes appears to have hurt his draft stock in 2009, but will probably still be chosen in the first because of his raw talent. Spikes is a major league hitter, but that sometimes results in over pursuing and missed tackles. He has solid speed, but not elite speed out of the inside linebacker position. Very good in stopping the run, but a liabilty at times in pass coverage. I’m not totally sold on Spikes, but he would benefit greatly from learning behind Keith Brooking.
Bradie James and Keith Brooking both had very good seasons for the Cowboys in ’09. Both are signed through 2011 and should be productive until then, but the Cowboys should find their future replacements, sooner rather than later. Bobby Carpenter is not capable of being a starter in the NFL and Jason Williams is still very raw and unpredictable.
28. San Diego Chargers (13-3): Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech
The Chargers could use a running back, receiver, offensive tackle, nose tackle, or rush linebacker. They don’t want to reach for a pick, so the tackles are no longer a choice. They drafted Larry English last year, therefore, rush linebacker could wait. If Vincent Jackson comes back next year then receiver becomes a lesser priority. That leaves running back as the selection. LaDainian Tomlinson is slowing down and Darren Sproles is a speedy pass catching back. Dwyer is a better option than Jahivd Best because he can be a bruiser. The Cowboys, Saints, and Ravens used more than two backs during the year and it turned out very well for all three teams. Tomlinson, Sproles, and Dwyer are all different types of backs to change the pace of the game and that philosophy will keep Tomlinson fresh.
Jonathan Dwyer has nice bulk and strength for a running back as 235 pounds constitutes as a bruising type back. He is patient and has great vision to allow lanes to open up. Doesn’t have game breaking speed, but accelerates well through the hole. You won’t see him as a feature back in the NFL, but will be solid for 15 carries a game. San Diego will be a great fit for Dwyer and they should make him a better player than he really is.
Tomlinson has slowed down the last two years, but can still contribute if used correctly and well rested. Darren Sproles is not a very good runner and should always be used in a similar role to Reggie Bush. Even if they draft Dwyer, they will need to find a speedy back to replace Tomlinson when he is ready to hang up the cleats.
Congratulations to the NFL’s 2009 Cinderella Team. The Jets eat up clock with a solid run game and wear down defenses. Then, they pound you on defense and get the ball back taking very little chances. Most feel they need a wide receiver, but I don’t really think that is the case. Drafting a receiver this high won’t turn them into a pass happy team. They must continue to have a dominating defense to return to the AFC Championship in 2010. After seeing Vernon Gholston fail miserably, the Jets will probably shy away from drafting a rush linebacker early as doing so would make the fan base very upset. Cornerback is also an option, but after Joe Haden, there is a huge drop off in talent. Jared Odrick had himself a nice season and would help immediately while also serving as the future replacement of Shaun Ellis.
Jared Odrick is extremely quick and agile for his size. Odrick always seems to be around the ball and has the instincts to get to take down the runner. He has a good motor and solid technique to penetrate the line. Odrick is a better pass rusher than a run stopper, but that is in no way an insult to him. Odrick registered 40 tackles and 6 sacks in 2009, he could put up similar numbers in his rookie season under Rex Ryan.
Shaun Ellis led the defensive line in sacks with 6.5, but after him there is not much worth mentioning. Marques Douglas played well against the run, but was not much of a presence against the pass. As the Colts proved in the second half of the AFC Championship, the Jets need to get more pressure on the quarterback from the d-line.
Will he or won’t he? Everyone knows who and what I’m referring to here. No matter what he decides, I don’t think that will impact who the Vikings draft in the first round. Outside of Clausen and Bradford, no quarterbacks should be drafted in the 1st and I’m sticking to that. David Carr and Kyle Orton would be very intriguing options in my opinion for this team. Who are we kidding though? It won’t matter because he will play until he wins another ring or until nobody wants him. A replacement for Pat Williams would also be an option here, but the injury to Cedric Griffin has me leaning towards cornerback.
Brandon Ghee is an interesting prospect at the cornerback position because of his height and size. He is 6’0″ 190 pounds and very explosive. He has great closing speed and very good instincts. He can and will deliever the big hit. He is impressive stopping the run and does a great job at shutting down receivers. Sometimes he can be beaten on the deep ball, but can be coached to correct. I think this is a name that will come up in conversation more frequently leading up to the draft.
Antoine Winfield missed nearly half of the 2009 season and has obviously lost a step in his game. Winfield is still a very good tackler, but allows too many catches that a faster corner could have defended. He will be 33 years old in 2010 and could be upgraded. Cedric Griffin has a torn knee ligament and could miss the beginning of the 2010 season. Even if he were to return in time for the season, they need depth. Asher Allen was a third round pick last year and appears to be totally clueless when it comes to covering a pro receiver.
Most of the pieces will still be there on offense in 2010. They have a very opportunistic defense that could lose a few pieces. They over-achieved as a defense anyway, therefore, they can approve upon their current squad. Outside of Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma, everyone can be upgraded. Darren Sharper is due to be a free agent, but I feel they will re-sign him as he has meant a lot to the defense. Brian Price and local safety Chad Jones seem to be the best choices, but Price is the better prospect and would fill a bigger need.
Brian Price has good size for a 4-3 defensive tackle and is very strong. His bench press at the combine could determine where he is drafted come draft day. Price is explosive and does a great job at getting into the backfield. He has above average awareness and is able to move well laterally to make the play. Productive college career, but still somewhat of an unknown. Some might be cautious about spending a first round pick on him, but I think he sneaks in.
Sedrick Ellis has yet to live up to his potential and who knows if he ever will. Anthony Hargrove was a solid addition, but you wonder if he can play well in 2010. The bottom line is, neither guy is good enough to stop the Saints from trying to upgrade the tackle position. Adding Price would allow the Saints to bounce Hargrove back and forth from tackle to end.
When you pick 32nd in the NFL Draft, you can pick whoever you want and not be questioned about it. The biggest needs for the Colts are on the offensive line and at defensive tackle. In my opinion, there aren’t any defensive tackles worth taking here. Price would be the selection if he fell one more spot, but he didn’t. So, a center you ask? Yes. Jeff Saturday will be 35 years old next season and the most important thing to the Colts is going to be keeping Manning upright. Depth at defensive end, linebacker, and cornerback are also options.
Maurkice Pouncey started his college career as a right tackle and ended up as a center. In fact, he finished his college career as the best center in the nation. I normally wouldn’t mock a center in round one, but his versatility allows him to sneak in to round one. He has great size at 6’5″ 318 pounds and is very quick for his size. He is equally impressive in pass and run blocking. Has good awareness and takes the proper angles to create lanes for the ball carrier. Pouncey is very strong and a solid combine should propel him into the 1st round.
As I stated before, Jeff Saturday is going to be 35 years old. They should search for his replacement and I think the time is now. They could use him at right guard for now or even at right tackle and move Tony Ugoh to the left side. After all is said and done, they must improve at least one portion of this line in 2010.
2010 NFL Mock Draft 1.0
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