The NFL Draft is coming up soon, less than a week actually, and this one is harder to predict than recent drafts, in my opinion. The first pick is particularly difficult since the best player in the draft, Darren McFadden, is a running back which the Dolphins don't need and teams are worried about off the field issues. Glenn Dorsey used to be a popular pick, but he has fallen off. Then there was Chris Long, now there are many other players up at the number on spot like Jake Long and Vernon Gholston. Like my past mock drafts, I will not include trades. I know no one will agree with all of my picks, but refrain from insults and please just give some helpful advice. Keep in mind; this is my first year doing mock drafts. I will give insight on each of my first round picks and if I decide to do more rounds, I'm afraid there won't be time for explanations. Also, do you like the way I set it up? Or should I make it more obvious right away who was picked instead of having to search for the bold name?
1. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have already signed Jake Long, the offensive tackle from Michigan. Jake Long has agreed to a five year, fifty-seven million dollar contract.
2. Saint Louis Rams
The Rams pick, I believe, is dependent on the Dolphin's. Whether the Dolphins pick Chris Long or Jake Long, the Rams will pick the other. That is why I have the Rams selecting Chris Long with the second pick of the draft. Chris Long, son of Howie Long, is the most NFL ready player entering the draft, if you ask me. At the combine, despite already being considered among the top players in the draft, Long impressed scouts and coaches. Then at his pro day Long practiced as a linebacker, therefore showing his versatility. Many believe that Chris Long is going to follow his father's footsteps to stardom and even the Hall of Fame. Long has the ability to play in the 3-4 or the 4-3. Long had such an impressive college career that his number was retired before he graduated. He works hard and his motor is non-stop. He is terrific against the run and his fourteen sacks this season shows that he can reach the quarterback. He doesn't have very much upside, but I love the leadership he provides.
3. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are facing huge problems. At quarterback, of course, offensive tackle with the release of Wayne Gandy, and nose tackle. There are very many options. I believe Matt Ryan isn't good enough to be taken at this spot in the draft and Ryan Clady isn't worthy of a number three pick either. Someone who I believe is worthy and still fills their needs, that man is Glenn Dorsey. Thomas Dimitroff, the new general manager of the Falcons, came from the New England Patriots who like to take defensive lineman in the first round, Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork for example. Dorsey is very athletic, especially at 310 pounds. His effort is remarkable, as is his explosiveness. He can stop the run and reach the quarterback. One bad thing is his short wingspan, but he sheds blocks well.
4. Oakland Raiders
Once again the Raiders are near the bottom of the league. This year, instead of the first pick of the draft, they ended up with the fourth. I wouldn't be surprised to see superstar Darren McFadden go here, but the Raiders have enough running backs already. They could use an offensive tackle, defensive tackle, and a defensive end the most. With Vernon Gholston still left on the board, the Raiders should take him. I remember reading that the Raiders loved Gholston and paired with Derrick Burgess they could be a formidable duo. Gholston has great speed and an ability to sack the quarterback. He tied Jake Long's 37 reps, which I was very surprised about. He can play either the 4-3 or 3-4.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs need help at every single position along the offensive line. Larry Johnson was shut down and they let up a large number of sacks. Before they can take a future franchise quarterback they need to get him some protection. In my opinion, Ryan Clady doesn't belong in the top five, however there is another offensive lineman. He isn't a tackle, but a guard. He is Branden Albert from Virginia. He has a great frame for an offensive lineman plus he is a great athlete. His strong and physical style of play goes along great with his nasty streak. He is a leader for his team and his intangibles are very good. He has the ability to improve, especially in the running game. His pass blocking is already excellent. He is an uncommon sight, a first rounder that is an offensive guard.
6. New York Jets
The Jets absolutely need to get pressure on opposing team's quarterbacks especially against their division rival, the Patriots, with their great passing game. In the entire season last year the Jets had a total of twenty-nine sacks. Unfortunately, the next pass rusher I see being take is Derrick Harvey and he is a bit of a stretch at number six. Therefore, why not going with the best player in the draft? I see the Jets taking Darren McFadden if he is available. Everyone knows who McFadden and has heard about his off the field issues, but I don't see those issues making the Jets question taking him. This two time Heisman runner up had an unbelievable college career. He clearly has the skills to get it done at the next level. The only reason he will be drafted so low in the top ten is that none of the teams really need a running back. McFadden is fast, elusive, tough, and he loves contact. What more can he have? Well, how about great size, good burst, the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, and a nasty streak. Talk about a great player! I didn't even mention his four touchdown passes. McFadden is a great pickup here for the Jets and will be a star in the NFL.
7. New England Patriots (from San Francisco)
They could trade down with this pick, don't count that out. However, I'm not doing trades in this mock draft. I don't really like thee Patriots situation here, unless they do trade. They could go with Keith Rivers, whom they reportedly are enamored with, Derrick Harvey, which I think is unlikely, or even a cornerback, even more unlikely considering Bill Belichick has only picked one cornerback in the first round and he didn't pan out. I see Keith Rivers being drafted here and after some research I'm feeling more confident about this pick. Rivers has a unique combination of size and speed that the Patriots love. He is a very good all around player without one specific great attribute. At his pro day, Rivers ran a very impressive 4.51 forty yard dash with a forty-two vertical. Rivers is a great pass rusher, which the Patriots could use. The Patriots had nearly no pressure the Giants during the Super Bowl and all throughout the playoffs. He will add some youth to an aging linebacker corps with all starters over thirty years of age.
8. Baltimore Ravens
I believe the Ravens will get a good value pick here even though it is still the top ten of the draft. I, like many others, predict Matt Ryan will be taken as the eighth pick of this year's draft. The Ravens could have a good quarterback in Troy Smith, but it doesn't seem like they are going to take their chances. Ryan was the leader of a successful Boston College team. He can read a defense well and he appears as a very smart player. He doesn't have great speed, but neither does Tom Brady, they both can make time for themselves in the pocket. He is very tough, as he broke his foot as a junior and still managed to play in twelve games. Lucky for him, Boston College runs a pro style offense and his coaches taught him good mechanics. I'm not completely sold on Ryan as an NFL quarterback, but he does seem to be pretty well equipped to excel.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals had a dismal season this year. Their defense was just horrendous. They need to stop the run and get to the passer. I think I know who they can draft to solve both of those problems, well, partially. That player is Sedrick Ellis. I watched the Senior Bowl and Ellis impressed me, I love the way he plays. He gave it his all every play and got to the quarterback early and often. He was too quick for any of the lineman put against him. His first step is amazing, and to go along with that he is very strong. His athleticism allows him to get to the quarterback on almost every play. Like Dorsey he has a non stop motor and he works hard. He uses his hands well and understands leverage. I can't wait to see Ellis play at the next level and see how he does. His instincts help him sniff out the ball carrier. Unfortunately he might not be a fit for every team, but I believe he can make it work in the Bengal's organization.
10. New Orleans Saints
The Saints round out the top ten in this year's draft, but don't be surprised to see the Saints either move up to take a player like Sedrick Ellis or trade this pick to get Jeremy Shockey from the Giants. The Saints need help defensively, almost everywhere. They need help in the secondary above all. Their pass defense was the second worst in the league. They did add Randall Gay, but he isn't a number one cornerback in the NFL. For these reasons I have the Saints drafting Leodis McKelvin out of Troy. McKelvin has natural cover skills and he can return kicks. His size is good as well. Most impressive, however, is his playmaking abilities. He can tackle well, especially for a quarterback, but he never had many interceptions. That might have been because teams avoided him or he doesn't have good hands.
11. Buffalo Bills
The Bills need a complimentary receiver for Lee Evans. Lucky for them, they are the first team in the draft that needs a receiver. That leaves the board wide open for them. I can see them drafting Devin Thomas from Michigan State. Thomas is the biggest riser in this year's class of receivers. He has gone from a JUCO transfer to the possible first receiver taken. He burst onto the scene this year, showing his athletic ability, great speed, and the ability to return kicks. His upside is incredible even though his hands are solid and his elusiveness is remarkable. Thomas is no guarantee though. There is a very good chance that he is either a bust or a one year wonder. He has only had one successful year in college, but the season before that he wasn't even the starter. Thomas is a huge risk.
12. Denver Broncos
The Broncos defense was not as good as usual last season. They could definitely use a new defensive tackle, but I think the next tackle, Kentwan Balmer, is a stretch here. Instead they should go with Ryan Clady to play left offensive tackle. Despite playing in a different style of offense Clady still belongs in the first round. He is very big and he is athletic. He works hard and plays with a nasty streak. His pass blocking is outstanding and he fits well into the Bronco's zone blocking scheme, which I believe they use. That's good since Clady plays in that scheme. He has very long arms, but he is still occasionally pushed back when he isn't overly powerful. Clady is a very good pure talent and could be taught to be a great lineman one day.
13. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers could really use a free safety and a defensive tackle. They are not necessarily in need of a quarterback and they should be satisfied with a second round value pick at that position. The need for a free safety is above defensive tackle and I don't see Kentwan Balmer going thirteenth overall. I see Kenny Phillips of Miami replacing Deke Cooper. Phillips is very athletic to compliment his good size and frame. He was the leader of his team's defense and led the way with his physicality and aggressiveness. He can cover zone and man fairly well while covering a good amount of ground. He is a big hitter and his speed is good as well. Whoever drafts him will be hoping that he is the next Ed Reed.
14. Chicago Bears
The Bears could use help at quarterback and running back as well as offensive tackle and guard. In order to have a good passing game and running game they need a good blocker. Therefore I am choosing them to take Jeff Otah to pave the way and provide space. Otah is massive, but he is still very quick for a three hundred twenty pounder. He is strong and that pays off with his physical play. He has a little bit of versatility with a huge amount of upside. You never know, but if Otah becomes a great tackle then Grossman could start throwing less interceptions and Benson could start racking up some more yards. Besides, the Bears can always address those problems in the later rounds and still have success.
15. Detroit Lions
The Lions need help at running back since Kevin Jones is injured a lot, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, and linebacker. They could use a good pass rusher to help them up and that is why I see the quickly rising Derrick Harvey going to the Lions to help their linebacker corps. I had a tough time choosing between Derrick Harvey and Rashard Mendenhall here, but I think that Harvey is a smarter choice. The only player on the lions who had over six sacks last season was Shaun Rodgers, who was traded. Harvey is extremely versatile and is a hybrid between defensive end and outside linebacker. The position that turns out worse for the Lions will be Harvey's NFL position. Do not be fooled by his disappointing forty yard dash, this guy has speed and he can reach the quarterback.
16. Arizona Cardinals
Rashard Mendenhall is so difficult to pass up, especially at pick sixteen. At two hundred twenty-five pounds he ran a 4.41 forty yard dash, that is one special player. However, in case you didn't notice, Mendenhall's name isn't highlighted. With the Cardinal's cornerback issues I am going with Domique Rodgers-Cromartie. There were questions about the lack of competition Cromartie faced, he answered those questions with a dominating performance at the Senior Bowl against some of the best seniors in college football. Rodgers has great instincts to go along with the speed that one him the Ohio Conference Valley Championship in the sixty yard dash. He is what you would call a playmaker with ball skills. His confidence aids him in his aggressiveness. The downside: he doesn't offer much in run support, but most corners don't.
17. Kansas City Chiefs (from Minnesota)
The Chiefs have already drafted Branden Albert, therefore addressing their issue on the offensive line. Now they move to another big need of theirs, cornerback. Who could they take? Well, there are Mike Jenkins and Brandon Flowers, but I see the Chiefs going after an impact player with Aqib Talib out of Kansas. Talib is a playmaker not only for his interceptions, but also because he can be a receiver. He is excellent in zone coverage and pretty good man to man as well. His natural instinct for the game of football is what I love most about this intriguing prospect. Talib is a shutdown corner in the making and to have a great cornerback changes the opposing team's entire approach. Teams hate to throw to this guy and that is why he should be drafted by the Chiefs.
18. Houston Texans
In my first mock draft I had the Texans drafting Jonathan Stewart. I am still going to be picking a running back, but I left out one very obvious player. That player is Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall. Ahman Green is getting old fast and he is not even close to what he used to be. Mendenhall is big and fast, very big and very fast. I can't believe he is still on the board at pick eighteen. Mendenhall is a tough and durable back who can pick up the extra yards and do the dirty work. He didn't become a workhorse until this season so you know he isn't worn out. He is a triple threat, a good blocker, a great runner, and a decent receiver out of the backfield. He is one of my favorites and I can't wait to see him compete.
19. Philadelphia Eagles
Is it me or are the Eagles going all out this year? They are attacking free agency and Andy Reid is spending much more money than usual. This leads me to believe that he will stray from his usual practice of not drafting a receiver in the first round of the NFL draft. The Eagle's receiving corps is abominable. It needs a lot of help. Also, I have heard from Eagles fans that they need a kick returner. What does this add up to? DeSean Jackson, the amazingly athletic receiver and returner from Cal. I just flat out want to see this guy play on Sundays. He is so exciting to watch with his quickness and elusiveness. His speed and playmaking ability just makes it fun to watch him. He may be short, but give him the ball in the open field and just sit back and watch him fly.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Above everything else the Bucs could use an offensive tackle. Maybe wide receiver, but mentioning Joey Galloway's age is just dumb, no offense. You could say cornerback, but Ronde has a few years left. Therefore I'm going with Chris Williams of Vanderbilt. Am I the only one who sees the similarity to Tony Ugoh? I won't bother going into it. Williams is an excellent, and when I say excellent I mean excellent, pass protector. He allowed two sacks in the last two seasons combined. He also helped the Commodores rack up one hundred fifty rushing yards per game. He is a big guy with room to get better. Williams is very good, unfortunately for him this is a talented class of offensive lineman.
21. Washington Redskins
Man, I wish Kenny Phillips was available right now. I would love for the Redskins to get the Hurricane's safety, but I just don't see it happening. However, I don't see them taking a safety. I believe they should go after a defensive end. Phillip Merling from Clemson would be my choice here. Merling is yet another defensive lineman with good instincts and a non stop motor. He is strong and nasty like the others as well. His bulk is impressive, as is his arm length and quickness. He is versatile and can play more than one position. Once he has his hands on you, good luck getting loose. He is a natural pass rusher, but he lacks good speed off of the edge. He is a more all around version of Gaines Adams, in my opinion.
22. Dallas Cowboys (from Cleveland)
This is the Cowboy's first of it's two first round draft picks. I wouldn't be surprised if Dallas traded these two to move up in the first round to nab a player like Darren McFadden. The ‘Boys could use a new cornerback, possibly a receiver, and a running back. I say just forget about drafting a receiver, I would be more worried about a running back since Marion Barber has been in a two back tandem since college, but worry about cornerback the most. That's why I think the Cowboys will take cornerback Mike Jenkins with this pick of the draft. His combination of speed, quickness, movement, and instincts impress me. He is not a polished talent, but does have good awareness. Oh, and did I mention instincts? He is a good cover corner. He is very competitive and the scouts love it. He has good instincts too.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers
Like plenty of other teams, the Steelers need some help along the offensive line and this is a good year to have those needs with so much depth at that offensive tackle in this draft. Even at pick twenty three the Steelers can still draft a skilled lineman, like Gosder Cherilus. Cherilus didn't have a great game at the Senior Bowl, but he did show that nasty demeanor that the scouts and writers are always talking about. He seems like a Steeler type player. He comes from Boston College, known for making great NFL offensive lineman, where he faced top notch competition. He gave a lot of space to Matt Ryan and provided Challenger with plenty of running room. Do not pair this guy up with speedsters, that spells disaster.
24. Tennessee Titans
The Titans need a receiver, they need one. And what a good year to get one! Vince Young would be happy with who I'm choosing. Can you guess? Of course it is Limas Sweed from Vince Young's old college. Sweed is a big target that Young can throw to. With Sweed's size and jumping ability, he will be catching a lot of balls no matter where he goes. His body control is remarkable and his hands are soft. He will trick you with his speed, he is much faster than he appears. You can't jam him either, he will beat it with ease. He will run up the middle of the field and go up the sidelines, however, he needs to work on separating from corners and concentrating more. If Vince Young has any say in this draft pick, you know what he will be pleading for.
25. Seattle Seahawks
In my previous mock draft I foolishly chose a running back here despite the Seahawks having numerous backs on their roster already. Now I see that the Seahawks having needs at tight end and along the offensive line. A less pressing need is defensive tackle because they have adequate tackles right now. However, any lineman or tight end would be a stretch at this spot in the draft and that leaves the Tarheel, Kentwan Balmer. Balmer, unlike the other lineman, does not have a non stop motor, but he does have impressive size with even more room to get bigger. He does have upside. He will hold his ground since he is so strong. He isn't easily motivated, but once he is motivated good luck stopping him.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars defense last season was very, very impressive. However, when I look at their needs, the first two are defensive positions. They could get a pass rushing defensive end or a strong safety. First of all is defensive end and I know just the guy to draft, Calais Campbell. Campbell is huge, he is 6'8" and that means he will fit in well with the Jaguars' defensive players. He is good against the run and almost as good at reaching the passer. He plays much faster than his forty time states. He seems to fit in very well with the Jaguars; he is very big and bulky, he has a great motor, and he is durable. Plus he went to college in Florida. He can be inconsistent, but he can be coached through that especially with such good examples among him in Jacksonville.
27. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have been great in the regular season for the last few years, but they haven't produced in the postseason. Their back up cornerback could be improved, as could depth at strong safety. That is why I could see them drafting Reggie Smith who is good enough to play safety and corner. He doesn't have very much experience as a cornerback, but he has terrific instincts. He is a physical player who can contribute in stopping the run. He is a good athlete with size to go along with it. He is a great tackler and he piled up over one hundred sixty tackles in three years in college. He may be the most versatile defensive back entering this year's draft. He won't be able to keep up with the extremely fast receivers in the NFL, but if he is put in the right situation, he can succeed.
28. Dallas Cowboys
This is the second pick of the first round for the Cowboys and they already addressed their cornerback problem. Now there remain other issues. In my opinion, running back is an issue. They could use a good back up for Marion Barber. I like Barber and I think he is a great player, but he was in a two running back tandem with Julius Jones and in college with Laurence Maroney. I am not completely sure if he can carry the load by himself. Therefore, I see the Cowboys taking Felix Jones. I put Jones ahead of Jonathan Stewart because Jones went to Arkansas, like Jerry Jones did. Also, don't be surprised if this pick is traded. Jones is fast and explosive, which is why he is not only a good running back, but also a dangerous return man. He is better at catching the ball out of the backfield than both Mendenhall and McFadden. He was in a two running back tandem with McFadden in college and now he would be drafted into one, seems like a good fit to me.
29. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis)
The 49ers came into the season with high expectations, but they disappointed. They should have the seventh pick in the draft but they traded that away to the New England Patriots. Now they could use a wide receiver to play alongside Isaac Bruce and an offensive tackle to play opposite of Joe Staley. They could also use a defensive end to compliment Justin Smith and Marquess Douglass. I believe any receiver would be a bit of a stretch here and they need to provide some time in the pocket for Alex Smith, therefore why not draft Sam Baker? Baker is a big, athletic guy with great feet. He understands how to use his hands and how to gain leverage. At USC he faced a lot of good competition and that will help him plenty. He is versatile as he started his college career at guard and moved to tackle later on.
30. Green Bay Packers
As you saw in the playoffs, the Packers have some terrific cornerbacks. However, I think they still need help there considering Charles Woodson and Al Harris are both over thirty. They are another team that could take an offensive tackle as well as a defensive tackle. I think they will take another guy I am impressed by, Antoine Cason. Cason knows how to anticipate the ball and he is tough and aggressive, like Harris and Woodson are. He is another playmaker at cornerback with ball skills and the hands to catch the ball. He is confident in his abilities, but that doesn't mean he doesn't work hard to improve. He is a leader on and off the field. He has good character, which you can tell from him starting the Cason Cares organization to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
31. New England Patriots
Forfeited because of the Spygate scandal.
32. New York Giants
What could the defending Super Bowl champions use? They seem to have done well in the draft recently, nabbing Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, and David Tyree. They could continue that this year David Diehl, who plays tackle, is better suited at guard so they could draft a new tackle. They could go with a cornerback or possible a number two receiver. I don't see any offensive lineman that should be taken here without being a stretch, but Tracy Porter could be a good cornerback to play opposite of Aaron Ross. Porter is very, very fast and he can run with the fastest receivers step for step. However, he isn't physical so he could have some trouble going up against the bigger receivers. He may be the second biggest playmaker in this draft behind DeSean Jackson.
1. (32) Miami - Xavier Abidi, OLB, Virginia Tech
2. (33) St. Louis - Duane Brown, OT, Virginia Tech
3. (34) Atlanta (from Oakland) - Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
4. (35) Kansas City - Chad Henne, QB, Michigan
5. (36) New York Jets - Dan Connor, ILB, Penn State
6. (37) Atlanta - Frank Okam, NT, Texas
7. (38) Baltimore - Justin King, CB, Penn State
8. (39) San Francisco - James Hardy, WR, Indiana
9. (40) New Orleans - Jerod Mayo, ILB, Tennessee
10. (41) Buffalo - Fred Davis, TE, USC
11. (42) Denver - Pat Sims, DT, Auburn
12. (43) Carolina - Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware
13. (44) Chicago - Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon
14. (45) Detroit - Carl Nicks, OT, Nebraska
15. (46) Cincinnati - Charles Godfrey, FS, Iowa
16. (47) Minnesota - Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech
17. (48) Atlanta (from Houston) - Oniel Cousins, OT, Texas-El Paso
18. (49) Philadelphia - Patrick Lee, CB, Auburn
19. (50) Arizona - Jamaal Charles, RB, Texas
20. (51) Washington - Chilo Rachal, OG, USC
21. (52) Tampa Bay - Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma
22. (53) Pittsburgh - John Greco, OG, Toledo
23. (54) Tennessee - Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue
24. (55) Seattle - John Carlson, TE, ND
25. (56) Green Bay (from Cleveland) - Trevor Laws, DT, ND
26. (57) Miami (from San Diego) - Tom Zbikowski, SS, ND
27. (58) Jacksonville - Brad Cottam, TE, Tennessee
28. (59) Indianapolis - Marcus Harrison, DT, Arkansas
29. (60) Green Bay - Martellus Bennett, TE, Texas A&M
30. (61) Dallas - Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan
31. (62) New England - Tyvon Branch, CB/S, Connecticut
32. (63) New York Giants - Andre Caldwell, WR, Florida