Third & Long

It's that time of year again, so after a long hiatus, what better way to hop back on FN than doing a Mock Draft. My picks might not be what actually happens, but more or less what I would do if I was picking for these teams.

Pick 1 - Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford - QB - Georgia

While I think the Lions need help in the trenches much more, I feel like they can easily get a solid tackle with their other pick in the first round, so this pick should be Stafford. I'm not sure if he's as good as everybody is saying he is, but I do think they need to draft for the future, let him ride the bench behind Daunte Culpepper for a season or two, and plug him in when an offensive line and running game is established. No matter how good your team is elsewhere, it's rare that you can win without an adequate - at least - quarterback, and the Lions need some stability at the most important position in sports.

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

The Rams have to solidify that offensive line if they ever want to see anything close to The Greatest Show On Turf again. A lot of people have Smith rated as one of the safest picks in the draft, and he projects as Orlando Pace 2.0 for the Rams. Draft him, and watch a ten year career begin.

Pick 3 - Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry - LB - Wake Forest

The Chiefs, like a lot of teams picking early this round, have holes everywhere and this pick could go to any number of positions. But with no pick in the second round, they can't afford to miss here, and Curry makes the most sense because he's a lock to contribute right away. He could play just about anywhere in their 3-4 defense, and he'll bring a hard working mentality to a team that needs it.

Pick 4 - Seattle Seahawks - Eugene Monroe - OT - Virginia

I'm not feeling Seattle taking Mark Sanchez here. While it's certainly possible and would be a good pick for them, it wouldn't surprise me to see them 'faking' interest in Sanchez so they can spark a bidding war for this draft spot, and reap the benefits if a team is willing to trade a lot to nab him. But, as it stands now, I feel like Monroe is the right pick. Despite a poor season in 2008, I don't believe Seattle is in full-on rebuilding mode like some of the other teams picking tyhis early, so they can feel free to draft Monroe, who will have a much more immediate impact than Sanchez. Monroe can play guard beside left tackle Walter Jones for a season or two, then make the switch when he retires.

Pick 5 - Cleveland Browns - Brian Orakpo - DE - Texas

 While Cleveland was bad everywhere last year, the consensus is that they need help on defense badly. Orakpo has been turning heads in his workouts and really appears versatile enough to come in and take over retired OLB Willie McGinest's spot immediately. He could easily go earlier on draft day too, but if they get him here, Cleveland is getting a great player. It's almost a given now that Cleveland will take Orakpo or Curry, but if both of them are gone, don't be surprised if they go for Michael Crabtree, especially if they deal Braylon Edwards.

Pick 6 - Cincinnati Bengals - Andre Smith - OT - Alabama

Smith's draft stock took a big hit when he wasn't allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl, and when he ducked out of the combine early, without participating. But his on field performance could save him anyways, and he's had a quiet few months since then. Smith looks like the best run blocking tackle in the draft, and his pass blocking isn't bad either. He was almost a lock for being the top tackle in this draft before his fall from grace, so even though it might not be pretty, the Bengals could get extreme value for getting him at this spot. For their sake he better stay out of trouble.

Pick 7 - Oakland Raiders - Michael Crabtree - WR - Texas Tech

There's been buzz about the Raiders liking Jeremy Maclin more than Crabtree, but I think they don't pass on this phenom if he's there. JaMarcus Russell will never play like a first overall pick without weapons in the passing game, and Crabtree gives them a solid receiver who can help him right away. He may not stretch the field like a speedster would, but he's still an upgrade at that position, and a great, great value at seventh overall.

Pick 8 - Jacksonville Jaguars - Michael Oher - OT - Ole Miss

While the Jaguars could take Sanchez here, I think the extension they gave David Garrard will stop them. Don't look at his 2008 season as a complete waste, most of his offensive line was injured by week four and you can't expect a quarterback to do much without protection, especially when he has nobody to throw to. They signed Torry Holt to a three year deal recently, so they have to fix that offensive line for any of their players to succeed, including Maurice Jones-Drew, who also just got a new deal done.

Pick 9 - Green Bay Packers - BJ Raji - DT - Boston College

I do not have Raji falling this far because of any off-field issues. As we all know, his drug test that came back positive for marijuana was falsely reported, and I think GMs and coaches know that too. Raji is far and away the best defensive tackle in this draft, and for a team transitioning to the 3-4 defense, they need a strong presence in the middle.

Pick 10 - San Francisco 49ers - Mark Sanchez - QB - USC

Ah, and the Slide of Sanchez comes to an end in my mock. No current quarterback on the Niners roster looks like the future, so insert Sanchez. He can come in without major expectations to play right away, get ready for the NFL, and start when the franchise around him is more stable. If he's gone by this spot, look for San Francisco to target a tackle.

Pick 11 - Buffalo Bills - Eben Britton - OT - Arizona

After trading Jason Peters, the Bills have a big need at tackle. Britton is already drawing Joe Thomas like comparisons, and he's a huge body they need to protect their quarterbacks and Marshawn Lynch. While Britton may not actually be rated this high, with the run on tackles going on before them, Buffalo may need to take him here for fear of losing out on a top tackle by the time their other first rounder comes along. If not, they'll go defensive end here and tackle later.

Pick 12 - Denver Broncos - Tyson Jackson - DE - LSU

 Jackson didn't get a lot of sacks in college, only four his senior year, so while he might not be an elite pass rusher in the NFL, with his size and athleticism he could be a very good end in a 3-4 defense. Jackson isn't as flashy as other defensive ends, but he's big and will finally stuff the run game that has hurt the Broncos for so long.

Pick 13 - Washington Redskins - Aaron Maybin - DE - Penn State

Washington has been lacking pressure off the edge for several seasons now, and with the pick of Maybin they can finally get it. He's a huge prospect and his first step is so explosive he could get double digit sacks for many years to come. Pairing him up with Albert Haynesworth will make him look like a star immediately.

Pick 14 - New Orleans Saints - Chris "Beanie" Wells - RB - Ohio State

Remember in 2006 when New Orleans turned the franchise around and made the playoffs behind a high scoring offense? The key component that they lack now is a solid, between the tackles runner who can pick up tough yardage and keep drives going, as well as giving Drew Brees a much bigger threat to use play action The Saints had it in 2006 with Deuce McAllister, and they'll get it again with Beanie Wells. The Reggie Bush Experiment is over. The performances of guys like Pierre Thomas late last year proved he's not a feature back, but he can be a huge threat as a compliment to a power runner. While the Saints certainly need help on defense as well, they've made some free agency moves to help there, so I think this pick goes to a guy who could have easily been a top ten pick had he stayed healthy his last year in Columbus.

Pick 15 - Houston Texans - Vontea Davis - CB - Illinois Houston needs help in the secondary, and Davis projects as more of a pure corner than some other top defensive backs. He ran a 4.49 at the combine, and also plays the run well, something Houston needs facing the run-heavy Titans and Jaguars twice a year.

Pick 16 - San Diego Chargers - Rey Maualuga - LB - USC

Before the emergence of Curry, Maualuga was a lock for the first linebacker gone in the draft. Him going this far back in the first round isn't a knock on his skill, many teams just don't have a huge need for an ILB as they do other spots. Maualuga is an absolute steal halfway through the first, and he'll bring an endless motor and punishing hits wherever he goes.

Pick 17 - New York Jets - Josh Freeman - QB - Kansas State

I don't know how I feel about Freeman. I keep hearing he needs a ton of work to be a starter in the NFL, and if that's the case, NY may be a bad place for him because they have little experience at quarterback and he may be starting too often. I also hear he has a huge potential to explode and develop into a great player, and that could be the selling point for the Jets.

Pick 18 - Denver Broncos - Brian Cushing - LB - USC

Cushing can line up at any linebacker spot for the Broncos, and they need to keep building that 3-4 defense to be competitive. Pair him with DJ Williams and watch their tackles rack up. The Broncos could also go defensive tackle here, and if somehow Sanchez or Freeman is available, they might take either one to develop as well.

Pick 19 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Peria Jerry - DT - Ole Miss

If Tampa misses out on Sanchez or Freeman, they need to get young on defense fast. Jerry is a big defensive tackle with great quickness for being near 300 pounds, so he can come in and help them the defensive line immediately.

Pick 20 - Detroit Lions - Jamon Meredith - OT - South Carolina

After addressing quarterback with the first pick, Detroit now needs to fix the offensive line. Meredith is a solid pick who had some of the best running times during the combine, and he will come in and work hard right away for the Lions. If they don't go offensive tackle here, expect them to fix the defensive line instead.

Pick 21 - Philadelphia Eagles - Knowshon Moreno - RB - Georgia

Now that the Eagles have a long term guy at left tackle with Jason Peters, they can look elsewhere. I think they'd love to take a guy like Beanie Wells because he can get those tough yards they struggled with last year, but with him gone Moreno isn't a bad consolation prize.

Pick 22 - Minnesota Vikings - Jeremy Maclin - WR - Missouri

While I think a big, possession receiver would fit better with what they have, Maclin at this spot is a huge steal that they won't pass up. With over 200 yards of total offense last year at Missouri, he can come in and be an immediate upgrade in the return game, as well as a home run threat for the offense. Whoever starts at quarterback needs weapons or protection, so if they don't go receiver here they may also target an offensive tackle.

Pick 23 - New England Patriots - Malcolm Jenkins - DB - Ohio State

The Patriots love versatility, and that's what Jenkins gives them. He can play corner or safety at the next level, and while some have questioned his speed, his play in college speaks for itself. New England may also go with a linebacker or defensive linemen to add some youth to their front seven, but this pick should focus on defense.

Pick 24 - Atlanta Falcons - Everette Brown - DE - Florida State

Brown is an explosive player who lived behind the line of scrimmage last season. He had a ridiculous 21.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks last season, and he'll bring his intensity to the NFL for Atlanta. He's a steal at this spot in the draft.

Pick 25 - Miami Dolphins - Hakeem Nicks - WR - North Carolina

Nicks is a big receiver who gives the Dolphins exactly what they need. Chad Pennington needs options, and Ted Ginn Jr. needs somebody on the other side of him to take pressure away. Receiver should be a priority here for the Dolphins, but they may decide to fix the perimeter of the defense should these possession receivers be gone.

Pick 26 - Baltimore Ravens - Darrius Heyward-Bey - WR - Maryland

The Ravens need to get Joe Flacco more weapons in the passing game, and after he worked Heyward-Bey out he was singing his praises, so it appears he is there first choice at receiver. He has good size at 6'2" 210 lbs and ran the fastest time for receivers at the combine at a blazing 4.30. He's a bit raw when it comes to things like route running, but he's a freak physical specimen who could develop into a great NFL receiver.

Pick 27 - Indianapolis Colts - Evander Hood - DT - Missouri

The Colts need a strong presence in the middle of the defense to slow down run games and allow pass rushers like Dwight Freeney to run free, so Hood falling this far is perfect for the Colts. I also feel like they'd love to grab Nicks or Heyward-Bey at this spot to replace Marvin Harrison.

Pick 28 - Buffalo Bills - Larry English - DE - Northern Illinois

English had 31.5 sacks during his time at Northern Illinois as he won the MAC Defense Player of the Year twice. A lot of scouts have him playing OLB in a 3-4, so a team that needs pass rushers on the outside would fit English perfectly. He was good size and speed to be a consistent pass rusher off the edge.

Pick 29 - New York Giants - Kenny Britt - WR - Rutgers

With Plaxico Burress gone, the Giants need a receiver, should they still have this pick by draft time. Britt can give Eli a big target, something he struggled without late last season and in the playoffs.

Pick 30 - Tennessee Titans - Darius Butler - CB - Connecticut

Butler ran a 4.46 at the combine, so his speed is solid, and with four years as a starter he's seen a lot of game experience. Tennessee could use a corner to pair with Cortland Finnegan, especially with several of their defensive backs approaching 30 years old.

Pick 31 - Arizona Cardinals - Donald Brown - RB - Connecticut

Brown is one of the most NFL-ready backs coming into the draft. He catches well out of the backfield on top of being a good blocker. He's just a solid all-around football player. Edgerinn James may still be on the roster, but he's too old, and Tim Hightower hasn't shown enough to take the role as a feature back, especially when guys like JJ Arrington started outperforming him last last year. Brown gives them a do it all back who can slowly be integrated into the offense.

Pick 32 - Pittsburgh Steelers - Max Unger - C/G/T - Oregon

Whle I think Cal's Alex Mack may be the better center, Unger is such a versatile player he may just be more valuable. He earned All Pac-10 honors at both left tackles and center, and because of this Pittsburgh could use him everywhere. They won it all last year despite having a shaky, on-and-off offensive line all season, but if they want to get back into the Super Bowl, Big Ben can't take as many hits and they have to improve there.

Well, there she is. Like I said, I doubt I'll be right on many picks, but this is how I see things shaking down. I almost feel bad for letting guys like Jenkins and Maclin fall so far, but that's just the way my mock ended up.



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