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Just one note here -- I wrote this before I knew Steve McNair was retiring. If the Ravens do select a QB in the first round, I'd like you all to remember that and honor me appropriately with beer and steak.


My Mock Draft

I've really never followed college football. In any given season, I may have watched a maximum of five games. It's just not something that interests me all that much, despite the fact that the NFL stars of tomorrow will be found in the ranks of the college players of today. Mind you, I love the enthusiasm of the fans and the sheer joy and excitement on the faces of the players -- but there are generally just too many teams for me to follow. I have a passing interest in some of the teams (generally, I like to know how teams from Indiana are doing... also, Ohio State, USC, and Syracuse), but my interest is usually piqued only about this time of year.

So I can't pretend to know much about the college stars. I can tell you what I've read, and that's about it. I have virtually no opinions of my own about these stars. This is all stated in the interest of full disclosure.

However, I'm a sucker for a project -- so when I was asked if I was going to create a mock draft... well, I had to try it. I based my determinations on a lot of reading. I consulted the mock drafts of several experts, explanations of team needs, and considered everything I think I know about the teams and personnel responsible for making the selections, and read up on a lot of the players, too. Essentially, my opinions are based on the most compelling logic I could find amongs the opinions of others, sprinkled with a little bit of my own ideas. It remains to be seen if I could have written a better mock draft while drunk.

Bear in mind as I write this draft that I am limiting myself to the order as it currently stands. I think there is a very good chance that the Patriots will not pick seventh due to a trade, for example, but that's where they are right now, so that's where I'm putting them.


1. Miami Dolphins
Although they certainly can't be convinced that John Beck is definitively the quarterback of the future, I have a hard time believing that Bill Parcells will look at the available QBs and decide that any of them are so much better that they deserve the first overall pick. It's not that Miami doesn't need a quarterback, and I expect them to pick one up later -- probably the third or fourth round, I would expect. Their NFL.com depth chart shows the only backup as Cleo Lemon, but he's signed with the Jaguars, so they've got to be looking. They just won't be looking this early in the draft. The rumor mill indicates that the Fins are in discussions with Tom Condon, who is the agent for players such as Peyton Manning, Brady Quinn, and potential draft star Jake Long. Considering Parcells doesn't tend to build from the O-Line out (although I personally think he should), and considering Parcells is looking for a player who will immediately make an impact and be a team player, I'm going out on a limb and stating that I think he will definitely take Long... just not Jake Long.
My prediction: Chris Long, DE

2. St. Louis Rams
This team needs some serious overhauling, and their offensive line was the weakest point of their attack. So many OL players were injured last year that it was nearly impossible for their offense to pull it together. Jake Long is considered the best OT in the draft, and I have a hard time imagining the Rams passing on him, unless for some reason they see Ryan Clady as a better fit. Pretty unlikely.
My prediction: Jake Long, OT

3. Atlanta Falcons
The popular thought here is that the Falcons must must MUST use this pick to get their quarterback of the future. After the trouble they had last year, the fans want a superstar they can rely on. Last year, the Falcons had Byron Leftwich, Joey Harrington, and Chris Redman. They released Leftwich, who is still unsigned with any other team (due to concerns about his fragility). They released Harrington but re-signed him. Redman started the final few games with decent but unexceptional results. None of these guys are the superstar the Falcons want, so it makes sense that they might consider Matt Ryan or maybe even Joe Flacco or Chad Henne for this spot. In fact, the whole offense definitely needs overhauling. But I can't help but think that new head coach Mike Smith is a defense-oriented guy, and he could still have Vernon Gholston, Sedrick Ellis, and Glenn Dorsey on the board. Whether this pick is a QB or a DE / DT depends on who gets final say. The reason I'm not considering Darren McFadden here is that there are some questions of character, and I don't see Arthur Blank signing off on him. I know Blank would like another quarterback... but the defensive players on the board are more valuable than any of this year's quarterback prospects.
My prediction: Glenn Dorsey, DT

4. Oakland Raiders
Lots of experts seem to think that this is where Darren McFadden will get taken, but I'm just not sure they want a running back that badly. Their issues were with stopping the run last year, and Sedrick Ellis should fill that hole nicely.
My prediction: Sedrick Ellis, DT

5. Kansas City Chiefs
They say they like Brodie Croyle. I'm skeptical, but then again, Herm Edwards is quite possibly clinically insane. The players I see as most likely to fill a need here are solid cornerbacks or offensive line. And although I keep hearing Matt Ryan (QB) mentioned as a lock for this position, I think that would be a huge mistake: Peyton Manning couldn't survive behind this O-Line. Last year they couldn't get a run game going, and they gave up about a million sacks per quarter. They need someone to protect Croyle's blind side.
My prediction: Ryan Clady, OT

6. New York Jets
This one's tough to call. In free agency, the Jets have already signed: running backs Jesse Chatman and Tony Richardson; guard Alan Faneca; tackle Damien Woody; linebacker Calvin Pace; and cornerback Andre Woolfolk. There's no secret that the team is not completely committed to either Chad Pennington or Kellen Clemens as their starter, but there's also no secret that Mangini wants to improve the pass rush. I could also see them going for Darren McFadden, since he's widely considered the best player in the draft -- and Chatman and Richardson won't exactly be superstar performers. I think this comes down to McFadden or Gholston. And while I know it might be a little bit crazy to let McFadden move on by, here, I really think the opportunity to get a Merriman-type defensive player will override the popular demand of the fans to take Run DMC. To me, though, this could be the most interesting pick of the first round, if the Pats haven't traded out of the next spot.
My prediction: Vernon Gholston, DE

7. New England Patriots (from San Francisco)
I'm not convinced that the Pats won't trade with the Cowboys and swap the 7th pick with the 22nd, but working with the line-up as it stands right now... Right now they should be looking to cornerbacks and linebackers, and maybe some support for the middle of their O-line. There's nothing really wrong with their linebackers' skill levels right now, but you don't want to let them all die of old age before you start to bring in new ones. At cornerback, though, they've been seriously depleted and should be looking at every prospect very carefully to see who is a real team player who can fit their mold. However, upon further consideration, I've been missing one glaringly obvious possibility: Darren McFadden. The Pats don't necessarily need a playmaker at running back (Maroney and Faulk are decent), but he's by far the best player on the board and the Pats have no qualms about taking someone with character issues (see: Randy Moss, Brandon Meriwether). I still believe, though, that the Cowboys may try to get him away from New England through a trade -- either pre- or post-draft. And yes, I am beating a dead horse, here. And I also believe that if McFadden is still on the board at this point, there will be a large number of teams calling Bob Kraft and begging for a trade. I think the odds of the Pats getting pick number seven is pretty dang low. But if they do, they'll save their work on cornerback for later rounds.
My prediction: Darren McFadden, RB

8. Baltimore Ravens
They've got a lot of needs, frankly. They may need to replace Jonathan Ogden at OT, although he's expressed interest in playing for Harbaugh. They may need help at CB. But as many people agree, they need a new QB. Billick is gone, McNair is no longer viable, and Boller has never been what Billick thought he could be. They still have Troy Smith, but they don't have a lot of confidence in him. I think Baltimore will be the first team to take a QB in the draft, and although both Brohm and Flacco look like decent options, I'll go with the popular opinion that Matt Ryan is the best in this class.
My prediction: Matt Ryan, QB

9. Cincinnati Bengals
What this team really needs is a big guy in the middle to stop the run. With Dorsey and Ellis off the boards, though, there are no contenders left who are worth a first-round pick. Pat Sims comes close, perhaps, but it's hard to get past someone quitting on their team when the going got rough. (I know he returned to the team and paid his dues, but I don't think the Bengals want to risk it.) I think Cincy will aim for a linebacker instead; other than the overrated Dhani Jones, they might lose current players in free agency. Might as well get someone good here, and the best of the bunch is still on the board.
My prediction: Keith Rivers, OLB

10. New Orleans Saints
Their cornerback position is miserably weak, and the addition of Randall Gay won't turn it around entirely; they're going to need a new center; and they could also use a DT or an OLB. Considering which players are still available, I think this one's going to be filling their biggest need. One of my favorite websites, Football Outsiders, has shown mathematically that when the Saints messed up their zone coverage and a pass was made to the empty spot (Hole In Zone), the opponents got fewer yards than when they passed to a receiver being covered by Jason David. Let me restate that: Jason David was worse than no coverage at all. Football Outsiders and I disagree on what the Saints will do here, though. I think this is a big enough problem that they have to address it immediately.
My prediction: Leodis McKelvin, CB

11. Buffalo Bills
Trent Edwards didn't look too bad, but there are rumors that J.P. Losman may be traded away. If that happens, they might seriously consider getting a player like Joe Flacco or Brian Brohm. But they really need a top wideout -- one who's taller than their current roster (three of their wides are less than six feet tall) and can give cornerbacks a run for their money. I considered giving the nod to James Hardy, the tallest promising wideout in the draft, but I think in terms of someone who can solidly play the position, it comes down to Limas Sweed or Malcolm Kelly (both of whom suffered some injury last year but should be good to go this season.) Originally I put this pick as Malcolm Kelly -- but he may have shot himself in the foot at his Pro Day by blaming his school and yelling at some of the staff for his slow time in the 40-yard-dash -- despite the fact that the conditions in which he ran were the conditions requested by the scouts, he was upset that a coach had him run on a different surface than the one he'd practiced on. His comments afterwards reeked of paranoia, a me-first mentality, and an attitude that was very moneycentric. Sorry, Malcolm, but you're moving on down the line.
My prediction: Limas Sweed, WR

12. Denver Broncos
They need a defensive tackle, but it's hard to find a first-rounder left on the board. Maybe Kentwan Balmer? They need a safety to help transition out John Lynch, but they can pick up a good one in the second or even third round. Matt Lepsis resigned, though, so they've got to be thinking about their left tackle position. This might be a stretch, but... there is one guy who knows Cutler really, really well. He protected him at Vanderbilt.
My prediction: Chris Williams, OT

13. Carolina Panthers
Good Lord -- what don't the Panthers need? They could use upgrades at quarterback, offensive tackle, safety, linebacker... I think they ignore linebacker for now because the prospects aren't that good for first-rounders once Rivers is off the board. I think they have to strongly consider that decent quarterbacks will still be around in round two. And although it's got to be tempting to take a safety, if they're concerned about their O-Line, it's got to take priority. Word is that although Jeff Otah is more familiar with the OT position, Branden Albert (OG) is versatile enough to play multiple line positions. The Panthers have got to love that.
My prediction: Branden Albert, OG

14. Chicago Bears
Come on, Bears. It's time to stop pretending. You need a quarterback. Joe Flacco looks like a Grossman type, and you don't need two of those. You're going to have to gamble, and although he's been described as "boom-or-bust," you know that Brian Brohm was once talked about as a potential number one pick. He's got a hell of a lot of promise, and he makes very few mistakes. Won't that be a nice change? And yes, I know, that gives you three fairly young guys on your roster, and you could probably use help in the secondary as well, but come on -- Brohm could have been a top-ten pick last year if he'd gone into the draft. He really hasn't regressed.
My prediction: Brian Brohm, QB

15. Detroit Lions
Lots of needs, here. The top needs, I think, are for a right tackle and a running back. The next three best running backs on the board are Rashard Mendenhall (backup until last year), Jonathan Stewart (backup until last year), and Felix Jones (backup to Darren McFadden). None of them are bad picks, really, but there's still a possibility of a premier right tackle. All of the RBs there ran a "spread" offense in college; that's not going to help much with the Lions' offensive schemes.
My prediction: Gosder Cherilus, OT

16. Arizona Cardinals
It's not that I think Matt Leinart is the savior-to-be. It's that I don't think Coach Whisenhunt is going to address this problem until it's clearly a quarterback problem and not a system problem. There are too many other needs. Right now they've got nothing to speak of at cornerback; I'm amazed they haven't tried to address this in free agency yet. They could also use a solid RB to back up Edge, but I still maintain that RB's are the most over-drafted players in the league; you can get a real good value on them in lower rounds.
My prediction: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB

17. Minnesota Vikings
They're still banking on Tavaris Jackson (and possibly a backup like Sage Rosenfels or J.P. Losman, if they can tear them away from the Texans or Bills respectively). What they need is a defensive end -- theirs are injured (Erasmus James' knee problem continues) and ill (Kenechi Udeze has been diagnosed with leukemia and is undergoing treatment).
My prediction: Phillip Merling, DE

18. Houston Texans
They really need a left tackle, but there aren't any more real guaranteed first-rounders. I think they'll face the same thing when considering outside linebackers. And remember that this is Kubiak, a disciple of the Shanahan "anyone-can-run" school of thought, so they'll pick up an RB later in the draft. I think they're going to go out on a limb and spring for a safety, even with RB Felix Jones still on the board.
My prediction: Kenny Phillips, S

19. Philadelphia Eagles
They already drafted a QB last year as the eventual successor for Donovan McNabb, so they're not going to do it again. Various positions that I have seen listed as "team needs" for the Eagles: Middle linebacker; Safety; Wide Receiver; Offensive Tackle; Defensive End. That's a lot to pick from. So far, on my board, there are three DE's picked; four OT's picked; and one of each of the others. I was sorely tempted to give them WR DeSean Jackson due to his amazing speed, but the Eagles haven't shown themselves to be interested in top-tier wides since their T.O. experiment (EPIC FAIL), and it is also a commonly held belief in the NFL that it takes at least one or two years for a wideout to transition to the speed of the pro game. I'm going with Penn State middle LB Dan Connor. Linebacker U keeps on cranking out the hits.
My prediction: Dan Connor, ILB

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Despite Gruden's penchant for collecting QB's, it's almost universally accepted that he's got a severe need at wide receiver -- and there are lots of 'em left on the board. I personally think the Bucs need a big receiver who can block as well as catch a high pass, but I really think Malcolm Kelly will have bothered too many GMs to get picked even this early, and DeSean Jackson is still on the board.
My prediction: DeSean Jackson, WR

21. Washington Redskins
Much like the Bills, the Skins have a very short set of receivers. (Note: this prediction is also based on the Skins NOT getting Chad Johnson off the Bengals, which I recklessly predicted a few months ago.) Unfortunately for them, Limas Sweed is already off the board. Devin Thomas is still available, but his slight speed advantage is lost to the height advantage of the next-best receiver on the board, who is known for being fantastic in the red zone...
My prediction: James Hardy, WR

22. Dallas Cowboys (from Cleveland)
Even if the Cowboys pick up Pacman, they're going to want to supplement the cornerback position, but they'll do that later. Here, they're going to want to get a one-two punch player paired up with Marion Barber. With another first-round pick in their pocket and a two-back system in place, the Cowboys can afford to take a risk by going with a RB that's only had one year of experience in leading a team.
My prediction: Rashard Mendenhall, RB

23. Pittsburgh Steelers
Alan Faneca is gone, and they definitely need a stud OG to replace him. With Branden Albert off the board, they'll have to look for the next best option.
My prediction: Chilo Rachal, OG

24. Tennessee Titans
They're not about to give up on Vince Young anytime soon. But they need to give him someone to throw to. With Limas Sweed, DeSean Jackson, and James Hardy off the board, the Titans are going to have to think hard about whether they want to take a chance on Malcolm Kelly's potentially bad attitude, or the ever-so-slightly less impressive play of Devin Thomas. My feeling is that if you can keep Kelly happy, he'll be productive -- and that he's more prepared for a transition to the NFL than Thomas is.
My prediction: Malcolm Kelly, WR

25. Seattle Seahawks
This is where I really start to struggle to figure out what a team will do. The Seahawks could really use a tight end, but neither Dustin Keller nor John Carlson really seem like a great fit. Other positions I've seen listed as "need" for Seattle: wide receiver, running back, offensive guard, defensive end, defensive tackle. I think this is too early to take OG Roy Schuening, even if they do still need a replacement for Steve Hutchinson; I think they've filled their running back needs with Julius Jones; and DT Kentwan Balmer might be a bit inconsistent. I'm not convinced there's a huge need for a first-round wide receiver. That leaves me with DE -- and Derrick Harvey is, by all accounts, pretty fearsome.
My prediction: Derrick Harvey, DE

26. Jacksonville Jaguars
That thing I just said about Kentwan Balmer being potentially inconsistent? Jack Del Rio is a better coach to fix that than Mike Holmgren (or Seattle's heir-apparent, Jim Mora). With the hits the Jags have taken on their D-Line, they need a DE and a DT, and all the premier DE's are now taken.
My prediction: Kentwan Balmer, DT

27. San Diego Chargers
There is no "concensus" pick among the experts as to what the Bolts will do here. There are a lot of positions that could use a little improvement. I've been a little surprised to hear cornerback mentioned so much, because they've shown a pretty good propensity for interceptions at this position. I think one of their weakest spots right now is safety; Marlon McCree isn't as impressive as I thought he'd be. The solution? Reggie Smith, who can also play CB if needed.
My prediction: Reggie Smith, S

28. Dallas Cowboys
They still have needs at both wide receiver and cornerback, where their players are aging not-so-gracefully. The top three remaining cornerbacks are Aqib Talib and Mike Jenkins (who both have some character issues) and Patrick Lee, who just isn't a first-rounder. And although the Cowboys have made it clear that they don't have a problem with players with character issues (see: T.O., Tank Johnson, possible pick-up of Pacman), the question remains: how many character issues do you want on a team? And how many do you want at a certain position? I think they'll go for a wide receiver instead, and Devin Thomas is still on the board. He'll take some patience, but they've got a little bit of time yet.
My prediction: Devin Thomas, WR

29. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis)
There's a real need at wide receiver, but the top five are already taken. The Niners had no pass rush; this is the next place they should be looking to fill holes. One intriguing option is a DE who also plays OLB; his reputation is that he's inconsistent, but shows a lot of promise. Nolan might as well take the leap. This is boom or bust.
My prediction: Quentin Groves, DE

30. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are basically drafting a backup, here. They could use a backup tight end; a backup cornerback; a backup offensive tackle; and a backup safety. The players they have in place range from adequate (Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher at OT) to decent (Atari Bigby at S) to incredible (Al Harris and Charles Woodson at CB), but there's no depth chart to speak of behind them. Considering the tight ends this year aren't all that much to brag about and the safeties still available just aren't first-rounders, they're basically looking at Jeff Otah (OT) or a CB like Mike Jenkins or Aqib Talib. Considering the expectation many experts have of Jeff Otah, it's actually surprising I've still got him on the board.
My prediction: Jeff Otah, OT

31. New York Giants
Although he's listed as an ILB, Jerod Mayo could easily play OLB instead of the stop-gap Mathias Kiwanuka (who really ought to go to the front line instead). He's got a lot of promise, provided they teach him how to blitz.
My prediction: Jerod Mayo, ILB

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