(Philadelphia, Pa) – Draft Day is right around the corner and it is time for my final Mock Draft, so we can see how close I to the actual selections
1. Detroit Lions – QB Matt Stafford, Georgia (Jr)
Record: 0-16 | Needs: QB, OT, CB, S, DE
Stafford will be standing next to the Commissioner Roger Goodell on April 25th. The Lions are said to be negotiating with Stafford’s Agent Tom Condon, so expect the first overall pick to sign a deal for around $40 guaranteed. Stafford (6-3, 236) has shown natural ability (arm and footwork) since his high school days, but now he will be playing against the big boys each week. Stafford put up good numbers of 235-383 passes for 3,459 yards and 25 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 2009, but his team was inconsistent. Particularly looked terrible against eventual National Champion Florida in ’09, losing 49-10 while throwing for pedestrian numbers of 18-33, 265 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs (one returned for a touchdown). The former Texas high school gunslinger has all the quarterback measurables of instincts, vision, footwork, arm and a tough attitude, but you have to wonder if he is the next Jeff George – disappointing first overall selection in 1990. Stafford finished his career with numbers 564-for-987 for 7,731 yards, 51 touchdowns, and 33 interceptions in 39 games at Georgia.
2. St. Louis Rams – OT Jason Smith, Baylor (Sr)
Record: 2-14 | Needs: OT, QB, CB, OLB, WR
The Rams must replace former first rounder left tackle Orlando Pace and get someone to clear the way for running back Steven Jackson. The Rams select Baylor cat-quick offensive tackle Jason Smith (6-5, 305). After converting from tight end to tackle in 2006, Smith showed that he was a natural tackle. Though he missed 2007 with a knee injury, Smith finished his college career with 39 starts including twenty-four at left tackle and seven at right tackle. J-Smooth, as Smith is nicknamed, had a great combine doing well in interviews running 5.22 seconds in the forty, banging out a tackle-high 33 reps on the bench, and showing the best agility of all O-linemen in bag drills. Smith only gave up 4 ½ sacks in his career as a left tackle and the Chiefs will love his attitude. Smith said of competition, “I take a lot of pride in physically assaulting somebody when I’m on the field.”
3. Kansas City Chiefs – OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia (Sr)
Record: 2-14 | Needs: OT, G, CB, LB, WR
The Chiefs have struggled with finding a tackle since Willie Roaf retired, so they will select big athletic Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (6-5, 315) to solidify their front five. Monroe will team with former teammate and ’08 first rounder Branden Albert to form a nice nucleus on the O-line. Monroe battled back from a 2007 knee injury and showed impressive durability, footwork, strength, and “punch” in 2008. The former All-ACC pick, who many say was better than Albert at UVA, is a prototypical left tackle with good height, long arms and a strong anchor. Look for the surprisingly nimble big man to lead the way on running plays and get after linebackers and defensive backs downfield. There are some concerns about an old knee injury, but the Chiefs will still grab him.
4. Seattle Seahawks – QB Mark Sanchez, USC (Jr)
Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, LB, QB, RB, G
With NFL-ready linebacker Aaron Curry on the board, the Seahawks pull the first surprise of the draft by grabbing Matt Hasselbeck’s future replacement in Sanchez (6’3, 225). The All-PAC 10 junior eligible led his team to a dominating win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl last year. In his only full season as a starter in 2008, Sanchez led the Trojans to a 12-1 record displaying a good arm, excellent footwork, and mental toughness. The former USC star comes from Pete Carroll’s Pro Style offense displaying great anticipation, accuracy and throws a good ball. In 2008 after coming back from a knee injury, Sanchez completed 214 of 366 passes for 3,207 yards and 41 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. Will need to see how “NFL-ready” he is after only 16 starts in college.
5. Cleveland Browns – DE Brian Orakpo, Texas (Sr)
Record: 4-12 | Needs: RB, CB, LB, S
The Browns will think about Curry for a few minutes after Seattle pulls the surprise. But given the choice between Orakpo and Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, the Browns will select Orakpo. Apparently Crabtree had a bad visit earlier this week thus making the trade easier. The Browns find a partner for OLB Kamerion Wimbley with Orakpo (6-4, 260, 4.73). The former Longhorns defensive end won the Lombardi, Hendricks and Nagurski awards in 2008 making him the most honored defensive lineman in college. Orakpo (11 sacks in ’08) is solid against the run and the pass plus demonstrated a tough play in college. Mangini will need to ensure that Orakpo is properly motivated, as sometimes he does not display the intensity needed.
6. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Andre Smith, Alabama (Jr)
Record: 4-11-1 | Needs: OL, DE, RB, S
With Aaron Curry still sliding, the Bengals grab insurance for Levi Jones continuing to underachieve by selecting huge offensive tackle Andre Smith from Alabama. Though red flags have been plentiful with Smith (6-4, 340) including recently having an average Pro Day (ran with no shirt…bad decision given his physique), leaving the combine early, his weight fluctuating, and being suspended for the 2009 Sugar Bowl there is no doubt he is a talented player. The Bengals, who are known to take chances on question mark players will give Smith a shot to live up to his huge potential. The 2008 Outland Trophy as the country’s top lineman, Smith played since his freshman year and was dominant. The first-team All-SEC pick is a dominant run blocker who has surprising agility as a pass blocker.
7. Oakland Raiders – WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (Redshirt Soph)
Record: 5-11 | Needs: WR, OT, DE, S
Though many are saying speedster Jeremy Maclin is the pick here, I still believe the Raiders will not pass on the game-breaking skills of Michael Crabtree (6-3, 214, 4.54). The former two-time Biletnikoff award-winner will be strong-armed quarterback JaMarcus Russell’s new best friend as the Raiders find their new combination. Though he is recovering from a foot injury, Crabtree is considered to be the next Larry Fitzgerald. In his two years at Texas Tech, Crabtree was a man amongst boys producing 231 receptions for 3,127 yards, and 41 touchdowns. Crabtree has great ability to start-and-stop in routes, superior hand-eye coordination, good body control and is an aggressive run-after-catch guy.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars – OLB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest (Sr)
Record: 5-11 | Needs: WR, OT, CB, QB
Former NFL linebacker and Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio knows how important a game-changer at linebacker is, so he will select Curry (6-3, 247). A four-year standout who is an aggressive enforcer on the field, Curry is probably the most NFL ready player in the 2009 Draft. The 2008 Butkus award-winner is prepared for the NFL both mentally and physically, with an exceptional knack for diagnosing plays. A very fluid player with great change of direction, Curry had a great combine and has the stats (105 tackles, including 16 for lost yardage and 2½ sacks, and three fumble recoveries in 2008) to back-up comparisons to Titans LB Keith Bullock.
9. Green Bay Packers – DE Tyson Jackson, LSU (Sr)
Record: 6-10 | Needs: LB, DE, S, CB
The Packers try to finally get it right on the D-line by picking a player, who is a natural fit as a 3-4 defensive end. With starter Aaron Kampman not well suited for the 3-4, the Packers select Jackson (6’4, 295). The former All-SEC player is a stout two-way defensive end who can also slide inside if needed. Jackson has excellent size and strength at the point of attack plus has good enough quickness to shed blocks. However there have been questions regarding Jackson peaking earlier in his career and whether he is an underachiever. After exploding on the scene in 2006, producing a team-high 8.5 sacks for the Tigers, Jackson sack totals fell to 3.5 in ’07 and 4.5 in ’08. It will be interesting to see if Packers defensive Dom Capers can turn Jackson’s size and potential into being a solid pro.
10. S.F. 49ers – DT B.J. Raji, Boston College (Sr)
Record: 7-9 | Needs: QB, DT, OLB, DE
For their new 3-4 scheme, the Niners select the best nosequard type defensive tackle in the draft with the selection of Raji (6-2, 337). The Niners will get their two-gap protector who they will be able to funnel their defense through and open up tackling lanes for Patrick Willis. After sitting out in 2007 for failing to fulfill academic obligations, the big All-ACC fire hydrant performed with a vengeance in 2008 and seemed unblockable at times. Raji was the most dominant interior defensive lineman in the country with 16 tackles for loss and eight sacks. The Senior Bowl practices are where he really shined by dominating in trench drills. The 337-pounder followed up his strong Senior Bowl performance by next standing out at the combine producing 33 reps at 225 and running a solid 5.2 forty time.
11. Buffalo Bills – OLB/DE Aaron Maybin, Penn State (Redshirt Soph)
Record: 7-9 | Needs: DT, RB, DE, TE
With the Bills first of two selections in the first round, head coach Dick Jauron grabs an outside pass rusher to go along with stay-at-home linebacker Paul Pozluzny. Maybin (6-4, 248, 4.67) brings the requisite off the edge skills that the Bills need to cause turnovers. He displays tenacity and great closing speed, which allowed him to lead the Big Ten with 12 sacks plus an additional 20 tackles for a loss in ’08. Though Maybin is smallish for a true NFL defensive end, look for him to get bigger and stronger as he matures into his NFL body.
12. Denver Broncos – DE Everette Brown, Florida State (Jr)
Record: 8-8 | Needs: RB, OT, LB, CB
Armed with two first round picks, I believe new Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels will attempt to build up one of the NFL’s worst defenses in 2008. McDaniels’ first pick will be Brown (6-4, 252, 4.65). The former FSU star will help to strengthen a weak defense that didn’t get enough pressure last year. The explosive former Seminole pass rusher knows how to get after the quarterback, as shown by his 21½ tackles for loss and 13½ sacks in 2008. Brown has speed, uses his hands well and has excellent balance in taking on larger offensive tackles. Look for him to bulk up in the pros.
13. Washington Redskins – DE Robert Ayers, Tennessee (Sr)
Record: 8-8 | Needs: DE, OT, LB, CB
Who knows what “Mr. Fantasy Football” Daniel Snyder will do next in his quest to “Buy a Championship”. After failing to land quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez, the Redskins will continue remaking their defense by adding Ayers (6’5, 270) to free agent big fish Albert Haynesworth. The former Volunteers defensive end has had a meteoric rise this draft season after an impressive Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. Ayers is a classic 4-3 end, who plays strong at the point of attack against the run and has some dropback skills. Known more for being an all-around defensive lineman and not a pure pass rusher, Ayers in 12 games during the 2008 season only recorded three sacks. However he did produce 49 tackles, 15.5 tackles-for-loss and intercepted one pass. Is a quicker player than “explosive” fast, but playing next to Haynesworth should help. Needs to get stronger and there is a red flag for a college fight incident.
14. New Orleans Saints – CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State (Sr)
Record: 8-8 | Needs: LB, DE, S, OL, WR
The Saints secondary has had some difficulty with big plays for some time, so secondary help in the draft is a must. New defensive coordinator Greg Williams will get his man as the Saints grab top defensive back, Jenkins (6-1, 201). As a senior, Jenkins won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back and he definitely has a nose for the ball. The former All Big Ten selection has great quickness and explosion to the ball plus he will provide the versatility to the Saints beleaguered secondary. Jenkins was the leader of the Buckeye secondary that ranked #1 against the pass in ’07 and he had 11 career interceptions at OSU.
15. Houston Texans – CB Vontae Davis, Illinois (Jr)
Record: 8-8 | Needs: OL, RB, TE, LB, S
The Texans have a dilemma in that they have a borderline Pro Bowl corner in Dunta Robinson, but the former first rounder was recently franchised and he is very unhappy. The Texans select Davis (6-0, 204, 4.42), who is an athletic, aggressive, and sticky cover-corner. Like his older brother, San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Vontae will need to be pushed in the NFL to live-up to his immense talent. Davis is a heavy hitting corner with big play ability, who plays like a shut down corner on the outside yet he is a dangerous weapon in the return game and likes to come up to lay a blow in the running game. A Day 1 starter in college, look for this early entry to have an immediate impact in the NFL.
16. San Diego Chargers – ILB Rey Maualuga, USC (Sr)
Record: 8-8 | Needs: DT, WR, CB, DE
Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and head coach Norv Turner The Chargers continue to rebuild their defense by adding a big physical inside linebacker Maualuga (6-2, 254, 4.7) to help superstar LB Shawne Merriman (knee). NFL’s next great run stuffing inside linebacker can play all three downs and has a nose for the ball plus his “stay at home” mentality will allow Merriman and Shawn Phillips to make plays on the outside. Maualuga plays with a nasty disposition and wants to make every tackle. He had a tremendous week at the Senior Bowl producing 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and forcing a fumble in the game. Though he pulled his hamstring at the combine, Maualuga should bounce back to be a great downhill NFL linebacker. The one negative on the USC star is he over-pursues and will need to get better at learning to read play-action.
17. New York Jets – QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State (Jr)
Record: 9-7 | Needs: DE, WR, QB, G, RB
After missing out on the Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez sweepstakes, the J-E-T-S select quarterback Josh Freeman (6-5 3/4, 252 pounds). The former Kansas State super recruit was thought to be a second round pick, but recently I have heard the Jets want a quarterback to build around and with Stafford and Sanchez gone, Freeman is their man. The draft riser does have some negative marks on his resume like having eligibility remaining (learning curve), 34 career interceptions, and a 14-18 record as a starter at Kansas State. But he could very well be this year’s Joe Flacco as he is tall with a very strong arm. Last season he became K-State’s all-time leader in completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns (44) and total offense, while throwing 20 touchdowns versus eight interceptions. Freeman reminds me of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in that he also adds that extra dimension of mobility. Had a very good NFL Combine where he wowed scouts with his size, throwing well in drills, and broad jumping 9-11 inches to lead all quarterbacks.
18. Denver Broncos (Traded from Bears for Cutler) – OLB Brian Cushing, USC (Sr)
Record: 8-8 | Needs: RB, OT, LB, CB
With picks at spots #12 and #18, the Broncos continue to rebuild their terrible defense with the selection of playmaking outside linebacker Brian Cushing (6-3, 243, 4.7). The former USC stalwart is an explosive player, who moves forward well especially when blitzing. At this year’s Senior Bowl, Cushing showed that he was the best of USC’s outstanding trio of linebackers at the event. Cushing had only one tackle in the game, but all week everyone was impressed with his size, recognition skills, and downhill playing style. This versatile athlete should fit-in well in the Broncos new attacking defensive scheme, but any team taking Cushing will need to watch against injuries (high ankle, knee and shoulder problems during his career). Recently ran a 4.68 forty at USC’s Pro Day. If available the Broncos may take a look at Josh Freeman at this spot.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (Jr)
Record: 9-7 | Needs: CB, RB, QB, LB
Buccaneers new head coach Raheem Morris grabs a downfield receiver to help new quarterback Byron Leftwich and replace departed speedster Joey Galloway. Maclin (6-1, 200, 4.38) is a straight burner, who is a homerun threat whenever he touches the ball. Though he has some work to do in terms of route running, the former All Big 12 player will be able to contribute right away in the return game, on trick plays (reverses/Wildcat/receiver passes), in the slot and on the outside. Maclin returned from a serious knee injury in 2006 to become one of the Big 12’s most explosive players over he past two seasons. In a spectacular 2008 campaign, Maclin had 102 catches for 1,260 yards and 13 touchdowns as a receiver and 306 rushing yards with 2 TDs. Had an additional 270 yards on punt returns including one touchdown with an 11.7 average and a 24-yard average and one touchdown on kickoffs.
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas) – OT Michael Oher, Mississippi (Sr)
Record: 0-16 | Needs: QB, OT, CB, S, DE
The Lions grab a protector for quarterback Matthew Stafford with their second first rounder. By selecting Oher (6-5, 309) the Lions can move veteran right tackle Jeff Backus to guard and further fortify an iffy O-line. The Lions will now have their bookends of the future with the All-SEC pick and last year’s number one Gosder Cherilus. A reserved guy off the field, Oher (pronounced “Oar”) carries a nasty streak on the field. The Ole’ Miss standout can either out-quick or manhandle opponents as he has a great punch and decent footwork. The former Ole Miss star will need to continue to work hard in the pre-draft period as some scouts have worried about his technique and demeanor. At the Senior Bowl, Oher showed an ability to be a dominant run blocker. However he also showed that work is needed on his pass-blocking skills, particularly not reaching for an opponent and playing with leverage. The big natural right tackle was the subject of a book called the “Blind Side” in high school.
21. Philadelphia Eagles – RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (Soph)
Record: 9-6-1 | Needs: OT, TE, RB, S, WR
After trading the 28th overall pick to the Bills for Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters, you knew it was not going to be another humdrum “Take a Lineman” Eagles draft. The Birds will decide it is time to find RB Brian Westbrook’s eventual replacement by selecting Moreno. The former All-SEC running back is an explosive player, who can both move the chains and take it the house on long runs. Moreno (5-11, 208, 4.6) is quick, has great hands catching the ball, and has cutback moves similar to Chargers super back LaDainian Tomlinson. With Moreno, Westbrook, 2nd year receiver DeSean Jackson, and new starting TE Brent Celek, quarterback Donovan McNabb will have more weapons around him. Moreno had career numbers of 498 rushes for 2,859 yards and 30 touchdowns plus he also caught 53 passes for 645 yards. Possibly watch for former Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew at this spot if Moreno is unavailable.
22. Minnesota Vikings – OT Eben Britton, Arizona (Jr)
Record: 10-6 | Needs: QB, S, CB, WR
Expect Vikings offensive-minded head coach Brad Childress to bring in more help for new quarterback Sage Rosenfelds and old quarterback Tarvaris Jackson through the draft. Britton (6-6, 310) has the skills to become an excellent NFL tackle, though some thought that he could have used another year in college to hone his skills. The Wildcats junior-eligible road grader uses his size, strength and athleticism to be a force on the edge. Britton started 37 straight games since entering the lineup as a freshman, lining up at right tackle for the first 24 contests before shifting to left tackle in 2008. Britton is a high-character and hard worker type of player who was a team captain. But he was will need watch playing too upright and maintaining an aggressive attitude in the pros.
23. N.E. Patriots – OLB Clay Matthews, Southern California (Sr)
Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, CB, TE, OL, RB
The Patriots continue the overhaul of their linebackers with the selection of Clay Matthews III (6-3, 246, 4.76). The USC standout is a high-energy linebacker who is an NFL legacy player — father, Clay Jr, was a linebacker with the Cleveland Browns under Belichick; his uncle Bruce was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman; and his grandfather Clay Sr. was with the 49ers in the 1950s. Matthews went from a walk-on to a top PAC 10 defender after four years of work. As full-time starter for the first time last year, Matthews delivered with 56 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss (3rd on team), and 4.5 sacks (2nd on team). Should be very effective playing behind Haloti Ngata and next to Ray Lewis. Should be an immediate hit on special teams as he ran a 4.57 forty at USC’s Pro Day.
24. Atlanta Falcons – S William Moore, Missouri (Sr)
Record: 11-5 | Needs: OT, LB, S, WR
The Falcons secondary needs a makeover with CB Domonique Foxworth leaving for the Ravens and veteran safety Lawyer Milloy being released. Though lately not too many safeties have gone in the first round, the Falcons can’t pass on hard hitter William Moore (6′, 221) from Missouri. The big David Fulcher sized hitter recently rebounded from an injury-plagued senior year and inconsistent Senior Bowl to have a monster Pro Day (4.49 in the 40, a 37 ½ inch vertical and a 10-foot-6-inch broad jump). The most complete safety in college football, Moore led the NCAA in picks in 2007 with eight. Always has a knack for the big play in run support and in pass coverage. Had his best game in the 2008 Cotton Bowl against Arkansas recording 13 tackles, causing a fumble, and returning an interception 26 yards for a touchdown. As mentioned before injuries (torn labrum in ’07 and a bum ankle in ’08) maybe a factor in where Moore is selected.
25. Miami Dolphins – OLB Larry English, Northern Illinois (Sr)
Record: 11-5 | Needs: DE, WR, OL, LB
With veteran Joey Porter getting along in age, the Dolphins will add the versatile English (6-2, 254, 4.76) to help out their pass rush. The MAC defensive player of the year the past two years is a high-motor player with an explosive first step that should help him make the transition from college football defensive end to NFL 3-4 outside linebacker. English with his superior straight-line speed totaled 23 sacks the past two years and he has been working hard on his agility to help him in pass coverage. At the Senior Bowl amongst bigger names, English overshadowed higher profile guys in practices and in the game. The main areas where the former All-MAC player will need to improve are getting stronger at the point of attack and cutting down on his head faking when rushing the passer.
26. Baltimore Ravens – WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland (Jr)
Record: 11-5 | Needs: CB, OL, LB, TE
The Ravens badly need a receiver and it appears they are unwilling to meet the Cardinals price for Anquan Boldin. John Harbaugh’s team stays in their backyard by selecting Heyward-Bey (6-2, 206, 4.37) from Maryland. The junior-eligible has the rare combination of size, athleticism and speed to make an instant impact in the NFL. Because there were not many defenders in college that could stay with Heyward-Bey, he will have to learn the nuisances of the receiver position including route running to excel at the next level. Heyward-Bey ended his career ranked second on Maryland’s all-time list in receiving yards (2,089). The former Terrapin wowed everyone at the NFL Combine running the forty in a combine-low 4.30 seconds and looking fluid while showing consistent hands in receiver drills.
27. Indianapolis Colts – WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina (Jr)
Record: 12-4 | Needs: WR, OL, RB, LB, CB
I believe Colts new head coach Jim Caldwell will grab Nicks (6-1, 210), because he needs a receiver to team with Reggie Wayne. Because other receiver Anthony Gonzalez is better suited for the slot. The former All ACC first teamer is a physical receiver with sticky hands and an over-the-middle the middle mentality. Nicks had 68 receptions for an ACC leading 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2008. He only needed three seasons to set 14 school records and he is a YouTube legend for his incredible catches in the 2008 Meinke Care Bowl against West Virginia. May have the best pure football skills (route running, size, smarts, and hands) of any receiver in the draft.
28. Buffalo Bills (from Eagles) – RB Chris “Beanie” Wells, Ohio State (Jr)
Record: 7-9 | Needs: DT, RB, DE, OT
With multiple questions abounding about troubled running back Marshawn Lynch and not many backup options select a running back with their second first rounder. Bills head coach Dick Jauron continues to rebuild his offense by selecting bruising Ohio State running back Chris “Beanie” Wells. Wells (6-1, 237, 4.53) is the tough between the tackles runner to push the troublesome Lynch out the door. He is a north-south runner who hits the hole quickly and can either run passed or through a defender. The junior eligible likes the to use the stiff-arm, but he will need to watch injuries after three injury-filled seasons at OSU – injured ankle nagged him in 2008 and forced him to miss the Buckeyes huge game against USC. Even with injuries, Wells is a franchise back and should make an immediate impact as a rookie. In his college career, the former Buckeye put up numbers 585 rushes for 3,496 yards and 30 touchdowns.
29. New York Giants – CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt (Jr)
Record: 12-4 | Needs: WR, CB, S, OT
Though I think this pick will eventually land with the Cleveland Browns via a trade (WR Braylon Edwards for 1st round pick), I will act like the Giants still hold it. There will be a temptation to “reach” for a second tier receiver like Kenny Britt, but I think the G-Men will try to bolster their secondary. Big Blue will select playmaking corner DJ Moore (5-10, 184, 4.45). The versatile corner from Vandy has the athleticism and instincts to be a top-tier cornerback in any draft. Moore exploded onto the scene as a playmaker in ’07 with six interceptions and an average of 25.7 yards on kickoff returns (had 100 yards in kickoff returns three times). In 2008, the tough junior-eligible had 5 INT’s and made plays on the offensive side of the ball too. Moore has great man-to-man coverage skills and will also help out in run support. But he is still a young player who may need to mature as a player in the NFL, but he should help out in nickel/dime coverage and on special teams.
30. Tennessee Titans – WR Percy Harvin, Florida (Jr)
Record: 13-3 | Needs: WR, DT, CB, C
The Titans think long and hard before deciding they are willing to take a chance on the draft’s biggest falling prospect. The Titans select college football’s version of Reggie Bush in mercurial Florida speedster Harvin (5-11, 195, 4.36). The junior eligible from this year’s National Champs has dazzling talent where he can be used on the outside, in the slot, in the backfield, in the “Wildcat” and help out on special teams. Most dangerous in the open field, Harvin in three years with the Gators had 133 receptions for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns and 194 carries for 1,852 yards and 19 scores. Amazingly Harvin scored at least once in 15 consecutive games, which was the longest streak in the nation. There are two huge question marks about the diminutive receiver/running back is whether he going to be able to handle off the field issues after an alledged failed drug test at the NFL Combine and his durability.
31. Arizona Cardinals – CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest (Sr)
Record: 9-7 | Needs: OL, FS, RB, CB, DT
The NFC Champs get Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie some help with the selection of Smith (5-9, 193, 4.45). Though not the biggest corner in the draft, this All-ACC pick stands out due to his great instincts, quickness and agility. Smith is the NCAA’s all-time leader in interceptions with 21 career picks and he also returned a NCAA record four interceptions for touchdowns. Senior Bowl week was a special one for Smith as he clearly was the best corner in practices providing blanket coverage and fighting for every pass. Also can contribute on special teams by returning and covering kicks plus he even had 3 receptions on offense in the bowl win versus UConn in 2007.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers – OT William Beatty, Connecticut (Sr)
Record: 12-4 | Needs: OT, G, CB, LB, DE
The Steelers with the 32nd slot will try to fortify an offensive line that allowed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to be sacked an NFL high 51 times in ’08. With an eye toward keeping Big Ben upright, the world champion Steelers will take Beatty (6-6, 307). The former All-Big East offensive tackle has the feet, agility and strength required to be a very good left or right tackle in the NFL. Beatty was the Huskies most consistent O-lineman only allowing 6½ sacks over the past two years. The NFL Combine was Beatty’s finest hour as he joined Jason Smith, Monroe, Oher, and Davis in top tackle conversations. At the combine, Beatty came in at 307 lbs (weighed only 291 pounds at the Senior Bowl due to the flu), ran an exceptional 5.12 forty, had a very good 33.5 vertical jump, and showed good athleticism in the o-lineman drills. The only area where the Steelers will need improvement from Beatty is his strength as he failed to put up 30 reps of 225 pounds.
Teams not owning a first round pick
Carolina Panthers – Record: 12-4 | Needs: DT, LB, QB, WR
The Panthers traded their 2009 first round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2008 NFL Draft to select offensive tackle Jeff Otah (19th overall). Even though they do not have a top pick in 2009, you have to say the trade worked for the Panthers. Otah and Jordan Gross have formed one of the NFL’s best young bookend tandems plus the Panthers running game was one of the NFL’s best (152.3 yards per game – Ranking of 3rd overall). However the NFC South Champions should think about finding a young quarterback of the future and improving their play at the defensive tackle position in the 2009 draft. The defensive line was not as stout after the trading of DT Kris Jenkins to the Jets in ’08 and quarterback Jake Delhomme was too inconsistent (5 INTs in playoffs to the Cardinals). Also watch for the Panthers to possibly move disgruntled “franchised” defensive lineman Julius Peppers for a first round pick before or during the draft.
Dallas Cowboys – Record: 9-7 | Needs: CB, WR, OT, S, Backup QB
In an October 2008 trade deadline deal, the Cowboys traded away their 2009 first round pick along with a third and a sixth-round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for a seventh-round pick and WR Roy Williams. For their efforts the Cowboys received 19 receptions for 198 yards (10.4 ypc) and 1 TD from Williams and missed the playoffs. By not having a first rounder, The Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones will be counting on Williams to be the man in ’09. The former University of Texas start will not only have to produce because of his high price trade, but also there will be the added pressure of replacing volatile Number #1 receiver Terrell Owens who was cut and now resides in Buffalo. The Cowboys will also probably be looking for secondary help as they have openings for a cornerback and strong safety due to additional off-season cuts.
Chicago Bears – Record: 9-7 | Needs: WR, OL, DT, S, Backup QB
The Bears got their man by grabbing Broncos malcontent quarterback Jay Cutler and 5th rounder in ’09 for the steep price of two first round picks (’09 and ’10), a 3rd rounder in ’09. Now that the Bears have the passer that they wanted, firepower at the receiver position is desperately needed. Currently returner turned receiver Devin Hester is Lovie Smith’s best option so they need more. Also watch the linebacker position as MLB Brian Urlacher is entering his 10th season. This is a make or break season for head coach Lovie Smith, so he better hope Cutler is ready and that there is some help on the way at receiver and safety in the draft.
Others First RD Potentials
WR Kenny Britt*, 6’4″ 205 Rutgers
RB Donald Brown*, 5’11” 214, Connecticut
DT Peria Jerry, 6’2, 300, Ole Miss
DE Michael Johnson, 6’7″ 247 Georgia Tech
LB James Laurinaitis, 6’2, 240 Ohio State
RB LeSean McCoy*, 5’11” 205 Pittsburgh
CB Mike Mickens, 6’0″ 165 Cincinnati
TE Brandon Pettigrew, 6’6″ 260, Oklahoma State
OG Duke Robinson, 6’5″ 330 Oklahoma
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)